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cause he sees a good reason for them in the nature of things, and he requires positive duties, because he sees a good reason for them in the relation of things. He required his people of old to love him with all the heart, because he saw a good reason for it in the nature of things, and he required the same people to offer sacrifices, because he saw as good a reason for it in the then relation of things. God never acts capriciously or arbitrarily, from mere will or pleasure; but his will or pleasure in all his commands is founded in a solid reason, arising either from the nature of things, or from the relation of things, which renders his will or pleasure perfectly wise and good.
The proper distinction, therefore, between moral and positive duties is this: moral duties are founded in reasons, which we are able to discover by the mere light of nature; but positive duties are founded in reasons, which we cannot discover without the aid of divine revelation. This may be illustrated by a contrast between these two species of duties. The light of nature teaches us, that we ought to love God, but it does not teach us, that we ought to rest one day in seven from all worldiy employments. The light of nature teaches us, that we ought to worship God; but it does not teach us, that we ought to worship him in a publick and social manner. The light of nature teaches us, that we ought to obey God; but it does not teach us, that we ought to bind ourselves to obey him, by publickly and solemnly engaging to obey him. The light of nature teaches us, that we ought to fulfil our engagements to God; but it does not teach us, that we ought to ratify our engagements by the rite of Bap tism. The light of nature teaches us, that we ought to love One, who has died to save us; but it does not teach us, that we ought to commemorate his love, by
partaking of bread and wine in remembrance of him. In a word, the light of nature may teach us every moral duty; but it cannot teach us any positive duty. This is the only distinction between moral duties and positive; and this distinction exists only in our minds, and not in the mind of God, who comprehends the relations as well as the nature of things, and who sees as good reasons for positive, as for moral duties. And could we as clearly see the relation and connexion of all things, as we see the nature of some things; we should see as good reasons for positive duties, arising from the relations of things, as we do for moral duties, arising from the nature of things, and should have no more need of a divine revelation to discover positive, than to discover moral duties. It is true, that some moral duties are more important than some positive duties; but since positive duties are founded in as much reason, and enjoined by as much authority, as moral duties, we are under no less obligation to obey all the positive, than all the moral duties required in the gospel.
This leads me to show,
III. How christians may maintain the positive duties, which the gospel enjoins upon them.
It properly belongs to professing christians to maintain all the institutions of the gospel. The great design of their being formed into distinct churches or religious societies, is to make them the salt of the earth and the light of the world. As God formerly committed his sacred oracles and positive institutions to the care and trust of the Jewish church; so he has since coinmitted his word and ordinances to the care and trust of the Christian church. “God hath set some in the church, first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, governments, and diversities of tongues.” Again we read, “God gave some, apostles; some, prophets; some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ." It appears from these passages, that all ecclesiastical power, as well as the word and ordinances of the
gospel, are given to the church, in the first place, and lodged in their hands for their edification and spiritual benefit. And upon this principle, the apostle calls the church, “the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth.” The members of every christian church are bound to use all their influence, to maintain the word and worship of God and all his sacred ordinances, in their primitive purity and simplicity. Here then I would observe,
1. That one way, by which every member of the church may do something to maintain the positive duties of religion, is by his own exemplary conduct. Zacharias and Elisabeth walked in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless. They strictly and constantly attended upon every divine institution, which had a direct tendency to maintain the honour' and practice of all instituted duties. While our Saviour tabernacled in flesh, he paid a sacred regard to all divine institutions. When he went to John to be baptized, the reason he assigned was, that he must fulfil all righteousness. He considered baptism as a positive duty, which, as a Jew and a priest, he was bound to observe. Being made under the law, he meant by his practice to maintain all its positive institutions. Accordingly, he attended not only the passover, but the publick worship of God, and all the rites and ceremonies of divine appointinent. This example all his professed friends ought to follow, and in this way maintain the publick worship of God and all his holy ordinances.
The more strictly and constantly every member of the church observes the Sabbath, attends publick worship, and practises all the positive duties of religion, the more he honours and maintains the special ordinances of the gospel. Every christian may have great influence, by his pious example, to render divine institutions truly amiable and respectable in the eyes of the world. Though the neglect of moral duties is a greater reproach to the professors of religion, than the neglect of positive duties; yet the strict performance of positive duties is a greater honour to their religion, than the performance of moral duties. It is by the strict observance of positive duties, that christians distinguish themselves from the rest of mankind, who generally, for their own reputation, pay regard to the common duties of morality. Men may be very moral and reputable, without paying any respect to divine insti. tutions; but men cannot be very religious, without pay. ing a sacred regard to all the positive duties of christianity. The very first step, therefore, which every member of the church should take, in order to maintain the honour and purity of divine institutions, is to walk in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless, which will give weight to every thing else he may be called to say or do to promote the same end.
2. The members of the church ought to cultivate mutual love and watchfulness, in order to preserve di, vine ordinances in their purity. They are mutually bound to love as brethren, and to promote each other's spiritual good. As members of the same body, they have engaged to meet together in the same place, to join in the same duties, and to unite in the same christian communion and fellowship. This gives them peculiar opportunities of exercising all the offices of brotherly love and watchfulness. Brotherly love will produce that brotherly care and watchfulness, which the word of God requires. It is written, “Thou shalt not hate thy brother in thine heart: thou shalt in any wise rebuke thy neighbour, and not suffer sin upon him.” The apostle also gives a similar admonition to christians. "Take heed, brethren, lest there be in any of
you au evil heart of unbelief, in departing from the living God. But exhort one another daily, while it is called To-day; lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin." If errors and deviations from the path of duty were seasonably checked and reproved, many great evils might be prevented from coming into and corrupting the church. Christian watchfulness has a direct tendency to prevent the spread of religious errors and corruptions among any church or religious society. This method Christ took to purge the temple. He sharply rebuked those, who presumed to profane his Father's house, and pour contempt upon sacred things. His rebukes carried conviction and produced the desired effect. It becomes the members of every church to be equally watchful and faithful. If they observe any of their brethren going astray, in respect to sentiment or practice, they ought to take. the first proper opportunity to converse with them in the spirit of love and tenderness, and faithfully warn them of their danger, and exhort them to reformation and repentance. The apostle suggests a most powerful motive to induce christians to exercise such faithfulness towards each other. "Brethren, if any of you do err from the truth, and one convert him; let him know, that he which converteth a sinner from the