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hardness of heart, mockery and contempt of God's Word and Commandment. We cannot be too earnest or too constant in applying to God for grace, to take His fatherly reproofs seriously. But there were son
among St. Paul's hearers who did not indeed directly scorn him, yet were little the better for his sermon, because they allowed themselves to put off considering it. They said, “We will hear thee again of this matter.” See here a true account, how it happens that so many Christians, not positively wicked and profligate, hear instruction week after week, and year after year, to so little profit. They want resolution and courage to do things, even when clearly convinced that it is their duty, and their straight and only way to be happy. I believe it is thus, not unfrequently, with those who are so unfortunate as to have got into a habit of talking profanely, mixing their conversation with oaths and curses. Again and again they resolve to amend, but have not the heart to set about it directly : to begin watching their words at once. So with respect to sottish and intemperate people; they do not become quite reckless at once : often and often they have misgivings, after their bad habit is formed, and when they hear the threatenings of God, the dreadful account they must one day give, of tinse, and substance, and health thrown away; of friends made miserable and a soul corrupted : when they think of these things, and what it will be to be turned out of Heaven for not overcoming a vile brutish custom, they cannot be quite contented with themselves : they wish they were better
and mean to be so some time or other ; but they want Chris. tian courage
and self-denial to resist the very next temptation : this once more, they say to themselves, they surely may and will venture; but they fully intend one day to “hear the Bible again on this matter;" they mean to be temperate and sober at last.
It is the same, more especially, in sins of omission ; leaving undone what ought to be done. A selfish, covetous man, suppose, hears or reads of our Blessed Saviour, how He went about doing good, and resolves to live less for himself, and more for other people's good; but the resolution comes to nothing, because he waits to “consider more of it,” instead of boldly putting it in practice. Another, who has lived in unkindness or in envy, is startled at finding what entire forgiveness the JUDGE of the world requires of him, and determines that he will one day be quite on
good terms with those whom he has quarrelled with : but he cannot bring himself to it as yet; he knows well enough it would be right, but he will hear a few sermons and chapters more, a few more reproofs from our Saviour, before he will put his charity in practice. And how stands the case in devotional duties ? You have allowed yourself perhaps to be inattentive to your prayers ; perhaps too easily to omit them altogether; or, having leisure and being able, you have not exercised yourself in devout reading; you have taken no pains to know, and to like, the pious writings of holy men. Or, again, having been invited, over and over, to the Holy Communion, and having fully made up your mind concerning the duty and necessity of remembering our LORD in His own appointed way, still you go on, month after month, and God sees you not at His Table. His Providence, one way or another, puts you seriously in mind of your fault in these respects, or in others like them. You wish it were otherwise; it makes you uneasy.
That wish, that uneasiness, is God's special grace towards you. Take care what
you do; take care that you be not chargeable with receiving such grace in vain. Take care of the thought, “ Another time;" To-morrow, or the next day, will be soon enough ;” but endeavour, by God's help, the very next opportunity, to be the better for the check He has given you. If your fault lie in your prayers, this very night strive to pray better. If you have been negligent of holy reading, set yourself a time for it this very day. If you have been careless of the Holy Communion, before night begin preparing for it in earnest ; and till you have fairly made that effort, let your difficulties and scruples (if you have any) alone.
After these plain instances, you cannot, I think, fail to understand the danger of saying, “I will think more of it," instead of doing what is right, and what will please our Saviour, at once. That danger is plainly enough hinted by St. Luke's relation in the text. Some mocked; some said, “ We will hear thee again of this matter ; and so Paul departed from among them.” Beware, lest while you are waiting and considering, or, still worse, while you are hardening your heart, the means of grace be taken away from you. Be sure of it, every hour of delay lessens your chance of final amendment.
Finally, as at Athens, so (one may hope) every where, a few
at least may be seen, whose daily life and conduct shew that they cleave to Christ and believe. Let not their good example be thrown away and lost upon you. They shew you, at least, what you may do, if you will : they shew you, in an age too fond of new things, too proud of knowledge and wisdom, how much better and happier it is to do right than to know all things. Stand
ye in their ways, and see, and ask for the old paths, where is the good way, and walk therein, and ye shall find rest for your souls."
LIFE AND DEATH IS IN THE TONGUE.
St. Matt. xii. 37.
“ By thy words thou shalt be justified, and by thy words thou shalt be
What is sooner past and gone, or more easily done, than speaking a word ? It is out of the lips in a moment, and in another moment the sound of it is over; it passes into the air, and no trace remains of it. Yet how much, even in matters of this life, may depend on one little word! Life or death, poverty or riches, reproach or good fame, health or sickness, sorrow or joy, may be the result of a very few syllables. It may make all the difference to us in life : and not to us only, but to all, be they ever so many, who depend on us. A king, for example, gives the word, and it determines whether there shall be war or peace, perhaps half the
In that crowd of Jews who were assembled round Pilate's judgment-seat, there might very likely be some one person, whose voice might determine the rest, whether they should cry, Crucify Him, or no. Think what unspeakable things hung upon that voice, upon that one word ! yet it took no unusual time to speak; it was out of the lips as soon as any common word, and as impossible to recall, when it was once spoken.
I have mentioned an awful example indeed; but let each one of us only reflect on the turning points of his own life, so far as it has hitherto passed. Surely we shall see more and more
reason, the more we consult our memories, to admire the won. derful power of words, and to believe that as they are well or ill ordered, all things will go right or wrong.
By this we may a little understand how in eternal things also very much may depend upon our words : how on the one hand the tongue may be, as the Psalms teach us more than once, the best member that we have; and that " if any man offend not in word,” the same must surely be, as St. James says, “a perfect man, and able to bridle the whole body :" and how, on the other hand, ill ordered and indulged, the tongue may be “an unruly member, such as no man can tame, full of deadly poison;" or, as he calls it again, “a fire; a world of iniquity, defiling the whole body, setting on fire the course of nature, and itself set on fire of hell.” Surely we ought to think more than we do of the importance of our words; we ought to watch and restrain what we say more carefully, when we know that Holy Scripture contains such warnings as these.
But we shall judge more truly of our duty in this respect, and feel our danger more completely, if we try to consider a little more distinctly the number and kind of duties which depend immediately on the tongue, and can only be performed by it ; the way
in which words bind us to every other part of our duty, and of God's will ; and the great positive sins which we are in danger of continually committing.
We are to recollect, first of all, that the tongue or gift of speech is a great and wonderful part of that awful Image of God, in which we were at first created, and which, sad as our downfall has been, is not yet quite blotted out by our sins and the sins of our forefathers. As God has His WORD, His own living and personal WORD, one with Himself, even His Son, begotten from everlasting of Him, by whom He manifests and declares Himself to all His servants, Angels and men; so He has given us the power of manifesting ourselves to others, and communicating, so to speak, our own thoughts and our own selves to them, by the gift of words and of speech. This part of our nature then, being a part of God's Image and Likeness in us, must of course bring with it many deep and serious duties. It must be an unspeakable talent, which we have to answer for. If we do not employ it as we ought, the error cannot be a light or trifling