Page images

hath aught against thee ; leave there thy gift before the altar, and go thy way ;—first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift.' Leave all the positive duties of religion, till this reconciliation is effected :-for till then, God will accept neither sacrifice nor service. For this reason it is that our Church declares it to be a necessary qualification for worthily receiving the holy sacrament, that we should be in love and charity with our neighbours. This is a duty of eternal obligation, without which no positive part of religion, such as the sacra. ments are, can be acceptable to God,—especially, because in this spiritual participation of Christ's body and blood, we hope that the remission of our own sins will be ratified.

The greatness of the injuries done to us is the argument generally pleaded against the forgiveness of them. But before we adopt this fallacious plea against our brother, we should consider how greatly and how often we have sinned against God,-how lightly we have esteemed his honour and service,how little we have attended to his worship,-in how many instances we have undervalued the blessings of his grace, the gifts of his providence, and the continual extension of his loving kindness. Let us seriously reflect, whether we do not hope for and need a greater share of mercy and favour from God, than any one man can shew to another.

If we repent of our sins, and cordially forgive all the injuries that have been done to us, we may hope

that our heavenly Father will, for Jesus Christ's sake, be merciful to us, and abundantly pardon our sins.



2 SAMUEL xii. 7.

And Nathan said to David, “ Thou art the man !"


The notion of goodness, as applied to the characters and conduct of men in the present life, is founded only upon comparison ; for goodness itself-absolute, and debased by no shade of imperfection,—it is impossible to find in man. It exists, indeed, in almost numberless degrees ;-so that he who has many faults, may justly be regarded as a bad man ; and he that has the fewest, may, as justly, claim to be styled the best.

In Scripture, the character of David is frequently mentioned in terms of high commendation. The upright and ingenuous behaviour of his youth,—his undaunted resolution in the cause of honour and virtue, in opposition to a king who was grown tyrannical,—the innocence and integrity of the former


part of his life,--procured him the distinguished title of “ the man after God's own heart.” If he had always supported that character, he would have been a hero in a higher sense than any man whose name occurs in history. But the same Scriptures that display his virtues are also impartial in stating his imperfections. The height of power to wbich bis virtues had raised him, was so wantonly abused, that it sunk him afterwards to the lowest depths of crime. The affair of Bathsheba, the wife of Uriah, is an indelible blemish upon his character ;-and it should teach even the best of men to stand in awe, and to distrust themselves. One inordinate desire will, if it be not speedily checked, give rise to another ; and thus it is, that reason becomes weak, and passion grows tyrannical. David saw Bathsheba. He conceived an unlawful affection for her. He invaded her husband's bed. Conscious of being a foul adulterer, his cowardice, aided by the power of his high station, induced him to commit a still greater crime, with a view not only of concealing the sin of which he had already been guilty, but also of indulging in it afterwards without restraint or controul. He gave secret orders for taking away Uriah's life by treachery,--and thus he added murder to adultery.

Can we, for one moment, imagine, that David now was “the man after God's own heart?" No. We cannot admit so profane, so blasphemous a thought. The supreme Being, who is purity itself, could not but regard these crimes with displeasure. We, accordingly, find that the prophet Nathan was commissioned to represent to David the enormity of his conduct. He reproved the king, in the most artful but effectual manner. He did not aggravate and upbraid ; but he painted the crime in a distant aspect, and in such colours as were immediately calculated to excite abhorrence. He accosted David in gentle terms,-he stated to him a fictitious case, the incidents of which were so affecting, and so applicable to the purpose, that it made an immediate impression on the king, and convinced him before he was aware.

“ There were,” says Nathan, “two men in one city,—the one rich, and the other poor. The rich man had exceeding many flocks and herds ; but the poor man had nothing, save one little ewe lamb, which he had bought and nourished up: and it grew up together with him and his children ; it did eat of his own meat, and drink of his own cup, and lay in his bosom, and was unto him as a daughter. And there came a traveller unto the rich man; and he spared to take of his own flock and of his herd, to dress for the wayfaring man that was come unto him, but took the poor man's lamb, and dressed it for the man that was come to him.”

At so flagrant a violation of honesty, David was immediately exasperated, as it was natural that any one else should be. His mind was so intent upon the crime, that he did not pause to ask who was the sinner. His anger was greatly kindled, and he hastily replied, “ As the Lord liveth, the man that

« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »