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find that we cannot purge ourselves from carnal thoughts and desires, save by a strict course of abstinence and fasting? We are bound to circumcise our hearts by abstinence, and to lay down rules for our fasting. Do we find that amusements and going into company nourish the proud flesh within us, and fill us with vain and idle imaginations? We must circumcise our hearts by retirement, and must bind ourselves by rules to keep away from places of amusement. I say, we must bind ourselves; for in neither of these cases has God bound us. In all such matters he has left his people free. He has not said, like the Pharisees of old, Thou shalt fast so many times a week. He has not said, Thou shalt never go to a fair, or a merrymaking, or a cricket-match. But he has laid down the great principles, he has declared the all-embracing truths, that the poor in spirit shall inherit his kingdom, and that the pure in heart shall see him : and he has left each person to make out the bearings of these principles on his own case, and to seek these blessings of humility and purity by such methods, and according to such rules, as may be deemed best and safest, either by the man himself, or by the Church he is a member of. For the Church of each age and nation is bound in all such matters to help and guide its members in the interpretation and application of the principles laid
down in Scripture to their own particular need: and it is much to be regretted that the practice of the Church of England in these latter times has been to leave people almost entirely to their own unassisted discretion. I cannot but think that it would be a very happy thing, especially for the poor and ignorant, if a little of the godly discipline, which prevailed in the primitive Church, could be restored.
What has been observed of circumcision might be extended pretty nearly to the whole Jewish law, as compared with the excellency of our more spiritual religion. Moses, who had to provide for the wants of a particular people, at a time when religion, as I said above, was only in its childhood, was instructed to treat them as we treat children, and to give them rules: "Touch not, taste not, handle not." These rules St Paul in the text calls "the rudiments of the world;" thus likening them to the rudiments or elements of knowledge, as it were, to the alphabet, which children have to begin with, in order that they may learn to read, and get a footing in the land of knowledge. Jesus Christ on the other hand, the Word and the Wisdom of the Most High, who came to establish religion in the fulness of its strength, and to furnish it with all such good gifts as its riper age required,-Jesus Christ,
who spake for all men, for all nations, for all ages,did not lay down rules, like Moses,-did not say, "Touch not, taste not, handle not." No: by an exertion of his power and wisdom more marvellous to a thinking mind than any, even the greatest miracle he ever wrought, he at once, by a few plain words, set religion free from all her former swaddling-clothes and leading-strings: he skimmed off the cream, as it were, of the law of Moses: in the room of burthensome rites and formal rules, he gave us the law of faith and love, and thereby made his doctrine a doctrine of principles, living, active, pure, universal, and eternal.
Somebody however may perhaps ask me, What is the worth of these principles, unless they bring forth good lives? You might just as well ask me, What is the worth of seed-corn, unless it brings forth wheat, and flour, and bread? Good seed, if it be duly sown, and the care of the husbandman is not wanting, must, under God's blessing, bring forth a good crop of wheat, some thirtyfold, some sixtyfold, some a hundredfold. In like manner good principles, if they are planted in a heart that has been duly ploughed and weeded, must bring forth good deeds, some thirtyfold, some sixtyfold, and some a hundredfold. The only difference is, that God's blessing is sometimes denied to the grower of the corn: to him God now
and then sends a bad season, for a trial, it may be, of his patience, or to make him feel that he is wholly dependent upon Him who is the Lord of the harvest, and the Giver of all good things. But to the diligent grower of good principles, to the man who is anxious to raise up the goodly plants of faith and love in his heart, God's blessing is never denied. His crop is sure not to fail. Sooner or later it will spring up abundantly in a rich harvest of good works. Of this we may be sure; for our Lord himself tells us so. Every good tree, these are his words, bringeth forth good fruit.
But why, if this be so, do I lay so much stress on the principles, and not rather speak to you of the good works which are to come from them? Because, in the first place, the works without the principles are worth nothing. It is the motive, as we all know, that more than any thing else renders an action good or bad. However fair the look of an action may be, if the right motive is wanting, the action is hollow: if the motive be a bad one, the action is rotten at the Who cares for an outward seeming or show of friendship or affection, unless the heart be also friendly and affectionate? Who does not prize a rough outside, when it covers an honest inside, more than the most fawning fondness from a heart that is cold and false? Thus it is right to insist
on the principles for their own sake; because the principles give their value to the action, not the action to the principles. The principles are the gold on which the stamp is to be put: if the gold be not good, the stamp, though it may often deceive people, gives it no real worth: and he who graves the king's image on base metal, is sent to the gallows for forgery.
But further, it is right to enforce the principle rather than the action, because a good principle, as we have seen, is sure of producing good actions; whereas good actions, that is, actions which wear the outward show of goodness, are by no means sure of producing or fostering good principles. Take for example the giving of alms. There can be no doubt that he who loves his neighbour as himself for Christ's sake, will relieve his wants: therefore there can be no doubt that, wherever there is Christian love or charity, it must needs produce the giving of alms, and every other bountiful work. But is it equally certain that Christian love will grow out of giving to the poor? Does not the Gospel tell us of the hypocrites who did their alms in the streets, to be seen of men? Can you think that a person who gave alms from such a corrupt, selfish motive, would be made better by what he did? Can you think that it would render him more bountiful, more compassionate, more affec