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them? It would come better from one of your years than from me.”
“ Oh, what would be the use of it? It would be only casting pearls before swine."
The elderly gentleman turned back to his newspaper again, and the young men went on with their ungodly conversation even more loudly than before. They were presently hushed, however, by the calm voice of the younger traveller addressing them
“My friend here and myself are extremely sorry to hear you making use of such improper language. You are breaking God's commandments, and taking his holy name in vain, and talking of eternal damnation as if it were a matter for jesting. Your talk would offend all respectable
. people; and, what is of infinitely greater importance, God is offended at it, and will certainly call you to account for every idle and profane word.”
The young men appeared much surprised at this address, and were silent for a wbile. But presently one who appeared to be the leader began to talk again, using the same kind of language as before, and making remarks that were evidently intended to insult his reprover. The train shortly after reached a junction, where the young men got out.
“You didn't do much good by your reproof,” said the elderly gentleman, with a smile; “ I told you it would be only casting pearls before swine."
Just, then the carriage door opened, 'and one of the young men presented himself. Addressing the other traveller, he said
“ Thank you, sir, for the few words you so kindly spoke to us just now.
I am sorry for what we said ; it's a bad babit, sir; it isn't for want of knowing better. Some of us, anyhow, won't forget what you said. Good-night, sir.”
The old gentleman was answered. He turned once more to his newspaper, and the train went on.
“ Casting pearls before swine." How often spiritual sloth makes use of that phrase to excuse its indifference in the
presence of sin, and its carelessness with regard to the sinner. How often spiritual pride employs it, shutting
up in its own narrow enclosure, and saying, “ We are the children, and these are the dogs and the swine." How often spiritual cowardice takes shelter under this as an excuse for its feeble reluctance to bear a witness on
behalf of the Lord. It is true that the expression is borrowed from one of the Redeemer's own sayings, but he certainly never intended it to bear the meaning which many are willing to attach to it. There are numerous other passages of Scripture which very plainly set forth the duty of reproving sin (Lev. xix. 17; 1 Tim. v. 20; 2 Tim. iv. 2; Eph. v. 11), and on many occasions the Saviour himself did not shrink from it, even when the immediate and visible effect of his reproof was to bring on himself the derision and hatred of those whom he reproved. (Luke xvi. 14; xx. 19; Matt. xxi. 45, 46; Luke iv. 28). Such passages are to be compared together, and we are to gather, from the analogy of the whole, what is the true force and meaning of any single passage.
“Give not that which is holy unto the dogs, neither cast ye your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn again and rend you." Our Lord's injunction is intended to teach us a holy prudence in the exercise of this Christian duty, but by no means to relieve us of the obligation to discharge it.“ Dogs” mean men of quarrelsome and violent temper, who would oppose the truth with malignant fierceness, if it were set before them. “Swine are those who are so sunk in sensuality and corruption that they could not perceive its value. With such we are to deal with peculiar care; not exposing to them the mysteries of our holy religion, * nor submitting the precious jewel which has been committed to us to the risk of their evil treatment.
But (1) such characters are not so numerous as many are ready to suppose; there are few so utterly debased as this. A gentle reproof, well-timed and kindly meant, will usually be met with something like a corresponding feeling; or if the reproof be at the time ridiculed or resented, it may be only the expression of a kind of bravado. The shaft from the quiver of truth may have entered the heart when it seems only to have rebounded; and the effect may be permanent and for good, when at first sight it appears to be the reverse. We must not be too hasty in classing sinners amongst the “ dogs" or "swine.”
* The expression, “ that which is holy,” is supposed to refer to the flesh which had been presented to the Lord on the altar of sacrifice, and which had thus been connected with the most solemn religious observances. It would have been the greatest profanation to take this, is though it were common flesh, and give it to the dogs.
And (2) even when such characters are brought into contact with us, our Lord's injunction does not excuse us from the duty of making an effort for their benefit. We need not obtrude upon them the deep things of spiritual experience to call forth their abuse or scorn; but we can surely, by a gentle and faithful word, bring them, though it be but for a moment, under the powers of the world to
We may not set the shewbread of the sanctuary before them, but we can try to gain them by something better than the husks on which they feed. The purpose of our Saviour's precept, so often quoted and so much misunderstood, is doubtless to impress on us the necessity of Christian prudence in our dealings with them that are without, and to show us how to temper zeal with knowledge. There is a time to be silent, and there is a time to speak; but the silence should be that of caution, not of cowardice; and the speech should be that of prudence, not of presumption.
RECONCILIATION WITH GOD, We have learned from the Bible, which is the inspired Word of God, and whose testimony is as superior to all human reasoning as Divine authority is superior to human authority, that God-seeing that all men were under condemnation on account of their works, and that none of them, “no, not one,” could appear before him without being inevitably destroyed by his holy law-conceived, in order to justifying man before his own tribunal, a plan, wherein we know not which is most to be admired, the ineffable mercy, or the profound wisdom, that is there displayed. He has appointed a Mediator betwixt himself and man. He sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law” (Gal. iv. 4). It is he, it is this Son of God, who by an incomprehensible mystery is also Son of man, whom God has ordained to reconcile unto himself guilty and condemned man. Uniting in himself the Divine and human natures; possessing at once the perfections of the former and the innocent infirmities of the latter; eternal as God, born and dying as man; powerful as God, subject to fatigue and suffering as man; holy as God, tempted as man; in fine, Emmanuel, that is, “God with us," he placed himself betwixt God and us, to be condemned in our stead, and
thus to merit our absolution. He began by living as a man amid men, but without sin,-fulfilling the law, as we must have fulfilled it to merit eternal life by our works. Then he placed himself betwixt God and us on the cross. There he took upon himself our sins. It was on him that the law inflicted those stripes which our sins had rendered inevitable. And thus, at the same time that our conduct is condemned, the law is satisfied; and yet, oh miracle! we are acquitted. For the Mediator does not remain in the tomb: he rises from it the third day: and God thus declares that he acknowledges him for his Son, and that he accepts his sacrifice as an expiation of our sins. Then he ascends into heaven; he is seated at the right hand of God, and keeps by his intercession those whom he has redeemed by his death. Such is the work that Jesus Christ has accomplished as Mediator between God and men, as it is written: “God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them. For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him" (2 Cor. v. 21).—Adolphe Monod.
- TAKE HEED HOW YE HEAR.” HEAR with constant self-application. Hear not for others, but for yourselves. What should we think of a person who, after accepting an invitation to a feast, and taking his place at the table, instead of partaking of the repast, amused himself with speculating on the nature of the provisions, or the manner in which they were prepared, and their adaptation to the temperament of the several guests, without tasting a single article ? Such, however, is the conduct of those who hear the word, without applying it to themselves, or considering the aspect it bears on their individual character. Go to the house of God with a serious expectation and desire of meeting with something suited to your particular state; something that shall lay the axe to the root of your corruptions; mortify your easily besetting sin, and confirm the graces in which you are most deficient. A little attention will be sufficient to give you that insight into your character which will teach what you need, what the particular temptations to which you are exposed, and on what
feel most shame and humiliation before God. Every one may know, if he pleases, the plague of his own heart. Keep your eyes upon it while you are hearing, and eagerly lay hold upon what is best adapted to heal and correct it. Remember that religion is a personal thing, an individual concern;
for every one of us must give an account of himself to God, and every man bear his own burden. “Is not my word like a fire? saith the Lord; and like a hammer that breaketh the rock in pieces ?”—Robert Hall.