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Let the various Temptations that have been noticed, and many more which the world will present, and which will occasionally spring up in the human heart, be always considered by us, as so many snares, that would entangle our innocence, and so many traitors, that, under the promise of superior enjoyment, would rob us of happiness and peace. Let us strive, with all the fortitude that humán virtue can summon, to resist their insidious approaches, with some portion of that admirable promptitude and effect, which our holy Redeemer's conduct so eminently exhibited for our instruction. But feeble, it is to be feared, if not fruitless, will be our best efforts, if not strengthened by habits of self-examination, and retirement from the world, added to fervent and constant prayer for the gracious aids of the Holy Spirit. Let us then anxiously and earnestly seek them, as we are directed, and as one of our most essential duties; then we may indulge the comfortable assurance, that “God will not suffer us to be tempted above that we are able; but will, with the temptation, also make a way to escape, that we may be able to bear it.'
ON THE DUTY OF NEITHER ADDING TO THE
DEUT. IV. 2.
Ye shall not add unto the word which I command you, neither shall ye diminish aught from it; that ye may keep the Commandments of the Lord your God, which I command you.
UNDER the temporary dispensation, with which the Jews were favored, as God's chosen people,-as the depositaries of his revealed word, and the fulfillers of his Divine Will, every thing was calculated to impress them with reverence, and to enforce the great duty of obedience. The inspired Legislator himself was invested with miraculous power, which was exerted chiefly in punishing Pharaoh, and in
Preached as a Visitation Sermon at Swaffham, June 12th, 1823.
rescuing the people of Israel from the sufferings and degradation of Egyptian bondage. In addition to this, the manifestation of the divine Presence, both by day and night, assured them that they were under the especial protection of the Almighty; and the awful grandeur, which accompanied the delivery of the law from mount Sinai, gave a sanction to its authority, which alone must have distinguished the theocracy of the Hebrews from every other institution.
But, farther, Moses, knowing the frailties of the human mind, and the ardent temper of the Jews, shewed his consummate wisdom in marking, on various occasions, the just measure of their duty, and in guarding them equally against the errors of deficiency and excess. Aware of the excellence of that golden mediocrity, in which true wisdom and virtue consist, he warned his people against the presumptuous sin of adding to the word of God, and of “ diminishing aught from it," intimating, also, in the latter part of the verse, that we can only keep, or fulfil, the commandments of the Lord, by un. derstanding them in their just sense, and original purity,—equally free from the pernicious errors of extremes, and the many false biasses of human passions and infirmities.
Notwithstanding this providential care, and the frequent interposition of divine authority both for the spiritual and temporal welfare of this “ chosen people ;"-notwithstanding the striking feature of the Mosaic dispensation was, the pious belief and devout worship of Jehovah, the one true God; yet we learn, from the inci. dent of the molten calf, and other events in the early part of their history, as well as from the testimony of the prophets in later ages, that they indulged a strange, perverse, and unaccountable propensity to depart from the very first principle of their religion, and to adopt the gross practices and absurd superstitions of idolatry. When brought to a just sense of their past follies, and shameful apostacy, by the miseries of a long captivity, and the signal judgments of the Almighty, though they abandoned the worship of strange gods to the heathens; yet they were still unmindful of the admirable precept of their Divine legislator, adding to the word, which he gave them, and diminishing from it, just as selfwill, prejudice, and passion prevailed. "It is by no means necessary to mention the many foolish superstitions, with which the Phárisees encumbered the law, nor shall I notice the opposite extreme of the Sadducees, who made it subservient to their own worldly-minded passions, and reduced the whole to a sort of barren and unprofitable Theism :--it is sufficient to know, that the latter had derived no instruction from the inspired wisdom of the prophets, and that the former, in the time of our blessed Lord, had made the word of God of none effect through their traditions ; adding to it many absurd superstitions, many legendary fables, and many idle ceremonies, and, at the same time, diminishing its authority, its purity, and holiness.
But, to view the subject in a light that more nearly concerns us,—the impartial observer cannot help remarking how Christianity itself, pure and simple as it came from the lips of its Divine Author, was in a few centuries overwhelmed by the superstitious follies and fraudulent inventions of men. While we grieve, on the one hand, for the mass of corruption, and the great burden of idle rites and ceremonies, which the Romish church has added to the Gospel of Christ, we cannot, on the other, but contemplate, with extreme regret, the sinful presumption of the Socinian, who has dared to mutilate it, stripping it of some of its peculiar and essential doctrines, and depriving the sincere worshipper of some of its divine sanctions.