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God himself judges of your character. With this qualification, the truth of these assertions must, I conceive, appear evident to all.
Again This pair walked in all God's commandments and ordinances blameless. This, however, is not mentioned as something different or distinct from being righteous before God. It is rather mentioned as an effect and a proof of their being righteous. To be righteous, is to be conformed to the rule of right; and the only rule of right is the wili of God, as expressed in his commandments and ordinances. These two words, though nearly synonymous, are not perfectly so. The commands of God are his moral precepts, or those precepts which are designed to regulate our conduct on all occasions. By his ordinances are meant those religious rites and institutions which he has directed us to observe. Repent, believe the gospel, be holy-are commands; religious worship, baptism, and the Lord's supper, are ordinances. He that is righteous before God will observe both. In this respect many fail. Some pretend to obey God's commands, while they neglect his ordinances. Others visibly observe his ordinances, but neglect his commands.
Such is the example here presented for the imitation of all, especially heads of families. But, in order that the example should produce its full effect, it is necessary to show more particularly, what is now, under the Christian dispensation, implied in walking in all the ordinances and commandments of the Lord blamelessly.
1. It implies the exercise of repentance towards God, and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ. These are the two first and great commands of the gospel, on obeying which our obedience to all other commands, and our acceptable observance of all Christian ordinances depend. This was the sum of Paul's preaching; these were the first duties which our Saviour directed his disciples to press upon all their hearers, and which he himself inculcated upon all. Mark i. 15; vi. 12. When the Jews asked him, What shall we do, that we may work the works of God? his answer was, "This
is the work of God,
that ye believe on him whom he hath Until we begin to perform these duties,
sent," John vi. 29.
we cannot be righteous before God, nor walk in any of his commandments or ordinances, for inspiration hath declared, Without faith it is impossible to please him. Heb. xi. 6.
2. Walking in all God's commandments and ordinances. blamelessly, implies great diligence in seeking a knowledge of them. No man can regulate his conduct by a rule with which he is unacquainted. No man can walk in all God's commandments and ordinances unless he knows what they nor can any man know what they are unless he is familiarly acquainted with the Scriptures. As well might a mariner find his way to a distant port, without ever looking to his chart or compass. And the commands and ordinances of God are so numerous, that without daily and long continued attention, we shall certainly forget or overlook some of them, shall never obtain such clear, systematic views of our duty, as is necessary to its performance. That copy of the Old Testament which Zacharias and Elizabeth possessed, was doubtless worn with frequent use. It must have been their daily counsellor and guile.
3. Walking in all God's commandinents and ordinances blamelessly, implies a careful performance of all the duties which husbands and wives owe each other. These duties are summarily comprehended in the marriage covenant, in which the husband solemnly promises, before God and men, that he will love, provide for, and be faithful to his wife; and the wife, that she will obey, love, and be faithful to her husband. The duties which they thus solemnly bind themselves to perform, are no more than God requires of them in his word. He there commands husbands to love their wives, even as they love themselves, and wives to be subject in all things to their husbands. He commands them to make this union resemble that which subsists between Christ and. his church. "Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ loved the church, and gave himself for it. Wives, be subject to your husbands, as the church is subject to
Christ," Eph. v. 22-25. There must be but one will in a family, but every act of that one will must be prompted by love, love like that which Christ displays for his church. In no family are all God's commands obeyed, in which this love on the one part, and this submission on the other, are not found.
4. Walking in all the commandments and ordinances of God blamelessly, implies a careful performance on the part of parents, of all the parental duties which he has enjoined. He requires us to give them a religious education, to bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord, Eph. vi. 4; to teach them diligently his revealed will, speaking to them of it, in the house, and by the way, when we lie down, and when we rise up, Deut. vi. 7; and to restrain them when they would pursue vicious courses, 1 Sam. iii. 13.
5. Walking in all God's ordinances and commandments blamelessly, implies the maintaining of the worship of God in the family. In favour of this we have the example of good men in the Bible. God expresses full confidence that Abraham would maintain religion in his family, Gen. xviii. 19. Joshua's resolution was, "As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord," Josh. xxiv. 15. David, after the public exercises of religion were finished, returned to bless his household, that is, to unite with them in an act of worship, 2 Sam. vi. 20; and our Saviour often prayed with his little family of disciples.
6. Walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blamelessly, implies a suitable concern for the present and future happiness of servants and dependants. Their health must be regarded; more labour must not be exacted from them than we would be willing should be exacted of our own children, were they placed in similar circumstances; their rights must be held sacred. We are commanded to give unto our servants that which is equal and right, remembering that we have a Master in heaven. Col. iv. 1. Their feelings must not be trifled with. If they are faulty, let them be told of their faults with mildness;
but passionate, contemptuous language should never be addressed to them. Ye masters, forbear threatening, is the command of Jehovah. Eph. vi. 9.
7. Walking in the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blamelessly, implies a careful performance of all the duties which we owe our neighbours. Our Saviour has taught us to include in this class all our fellow-men, to whom we have opportunity of doing good. Luke x. 36, 37. He that is righteous before God will ever be a good neighbour. The present and future happiness of all his fellowcreatures will be dear to him, and he will promote it as far as his ability extends. Of course, he will never knowingly injure them in their persons, reputation, or estate. And in receiving and returning their visits, he will be governed, not by the sinful or foolish customs which the fashionable world has adopted, but by a regard to God's glory and their best good.
8. Walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blamelessly, implies a proper use of the temporal good things which are entrusted to our care. Nothing should be wasted, for God will require an account of all. Nothing should be employed to gratify the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eye, or the pride of life; for property so employed is much worse than wasted. We must use the world as not abusing it, and employ every portion of our property in a manner which God will approve, and to the purpose for which it was given. Luke xvi. 11. He that wastes his possessions, wastes God's property, and the poor's patrimony; he that consumes them upon his lusts gives them to swine.
In conclusion, permit me to ask each married pair that may read these pages, whether their family is such as has now been described? Are you both righteous before God? and do you walk in all his ordinances and commandments blameless? If not, whose fault is it? Is it the husband's, or the wife's, or the fault of both? In some families, doubtless, both are in fault, neither are righteous. Alas
that there should be such families, and so many of them among us! Alas that such persons should enter the married state, so totally unqualified to discharge all its most important duties; ignorant of the worth of the immortal souls committed to their care, and who will do nothing to effect their salvation! Is this the character of any of you who are fathers and mothers? and if so, shall it continue such? Remember, ye who are in this state, that, however happy you may now be, affliction will come, sickness will come, death will come; and what will you then do, ye who have made no provision for such events, ye who have no God to support and comfort you? Remember, too, ye who now love and rejoice in each other, that you must meet in another world, and that the fate of each in that world will depend much upon the conduct of the other. If you now encourage each other in neglecting religion, you will then meet as the bitterest of enemies, and load each other with reproaches and execrations. Each one will then say, Oh that we had never met! Had I not been connected with you, had I possessed a religious partner, I might now have been happy; but you tempted and encouraged me to live without God, and neglect my Saviour; and now I must, in consequence, be miserable for ever! On the contrary, should either of you now turn to God, you may be instrumental in effecting the salvation of the other; and then with what joy will you both meet in heaven! O then, repent, and live in such a manner that you may hereafter meet with joy; live as it becomes two immortal beings travelling hand in hand to judgment and eternity. Live together in this world as heirs of the grace of life, and you shall live together in heaven as happy participants of its bliss.
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