« 上一頁繼續 »
psalm that a broken heart is acceptable, and in another that God is not hungry, and regards not the blood of beasts as having any value, in comparison with a thankful heart and a rightly-ordered conversation. That was the truth which Isaiah saw when he called oblations “vain," and incense “ abomination," and a solemn meeting “iniquity," and when he elsewhere taught that a true fast involved the dealing bread to the hungry, and clothing the naked, and bringing the outcasts in. And Joel taught this when he said that the heart must be rent as well as the garments. And Micah, when he declared that neither “ thousands of rams,'
tens of thousands of rivers of oil” could be compared with justice, and mercy, and humility. And these are but few out of many passages which rest upon the same doctrine. So that St. James, when he said that mercy and love were the true service and ceremonial of a Christian, was only drawing out to its full glory what prophecy and psalm had all along been vainly preaching, amid the burdens of a cumbrous ceremonial, and the scrupulous formalities of the Jewish ritual and law.
But, not to dwell on this, it is certain that no mere outward service, divorced from inward holiness and obedience, has any value in the eyes of God. To come to church, to say prayers in private, to read the Bible, to attend upon the Holy Sacrament, without thinking of that which is done, and without an earnest desire to serve and please God in them, and without self-inspection and vigorous efforts to conform the life and daily conduct to the will and law of God, in thought, word, and deed, is only to belong to that class of religious professors who,
saying, “ Lord, Lord,” but not doing God's will, shall hear at the great day, “I never knew you.” The mere going through such forms, as forms, will do no man any good, and will do him harm, because it will increase his damnation. Mere profession, mere lip-service is of no use. It may deceive a man into thinking himself safe when he is lying in the extremity of danger, but it will do him no good whatever when God shall come to judge the world. Formality in religion is mere hypocrisy, and no man will suffer more, as no man deserves to suffer more, than the hypocrite who is all knowledge and has no obedience and love. It is not the doing of a certain religious act which makes a man truly good and truly religious, but it is the doing it in a right manner, in an earnest spirit, with a good purpose, from love to God and in a temper of obedience. This is quite certain.
But observe, my brethren, when we say this and learn this from Samuel the prophet, we do not say and we do not learn from Samuel, that forms are nothing, or that ceremonies, and rites, and sacraments are of no use, and are things to be despised by perfect Christians. Samuel did not say to Saul, “You must not sacrifice.' But he said, 'You must not sacrifice thus. You must not be a hypocrite ; you must not offer this empty, and disobedient, and hypocritical sacrifice. You must not pollute so good a thing as sacrifice, by mingling it with rebellion and stubbornness, which are as bad as witchcraft and idolatry. Sacrifice is good, but you are bad and are defiling sacrifice.' Men sometimes think to exalt religion by making light of forms, and of all that belongs to outward service. They might as well think to elevate the soul by despising and reviling the body. The forms of religion are as essential to religion as a man's body to a man. They are not the soul of religion, but they are its outward form and manifestation, and they are full of dignity and glory when they are filled, as they ought to be filled, with a spirit of life. The way to make men good and use the outward service of God rightly is not to revile these, as though matter was evil, and a religious man was a being who has a soul only, and can do without those forms which are needful for the sense. Men will never be made religious thus. But to make men religious we must say to them, 'Be not formalists, but put life into your forms. Be good in heart as well as good in lip and outward service. Think not of forms only, as if forms alone sufficed; talk not of faith only, as though faith was opposed to works; but live as sons of God indeed. Obey God, and hearken to His voice. Think not yourselves religious if you only attend at church on Sunday, and profess faith, and read your Bible, and come to the Lord's table. All this is well. All this is needful and essential. But this alone is insufficient. The most perfect service, the most exact profession of faith, if it be mere formality, if it is all on the surface, if it is only lip-deep, is nothing. Obedience is the test of righteousness. The love of God, and the love of your brother, is the touchstone which proves your real character in God's sight. If this is the fire of your sacrifice its flame will mount to Heaven. But if this be wanting all besides has no value. If you have not this, you are but like the foolish virgins who had the lamp of profession and formality, but not the oil and the burning light of practice and obedience. “As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without
works,” and, we may add, sacrifice without obedience, “is dead also.”! This is how we must speak, not depreciating forms, but wedding them to love and obedience as their inward spirit and life.
I will add two precepts which may assist you in learning the lessons which we are here taught.
1. Be much afraid of wilfulness. Wilfulness was the great sin of Saul and Saul's people. They would have their own way. Nothing that God could do to them or say was able to convince them that selfwill is not a good thing. They would be independent. They would be like the other and sinful nations round them. They would take their affairs into their own hands and have a king of their own. And human nature always likes to have its own way, until it learns that God's way is the best. Try to learn this. my brethren. Try to say, “ Not my will but Thine be done.” Try to say it in everything. Freedom is good; but what is freedom? Freedom does not consist in having our own way. Freedom consists in following God's way. God's “ service is perfect freedom," and no where else is freedom to be found, but only and alone in this,-in serving God and doing God's will. Oh how good would it have been for Saul and Saul's people if they had been obedient, obedient to God, and obedient to God's prophet Samuel, and obedient to all the precepts which God gave them, and all the persons whom God set over them. It is this foolish love of independence, and this hatred of all restraints, which makes men so wicked and so miserable. It is this tyrant self, and this spirit of wilfulness, which makes men chafe against the bit by which God would guide them to true happiness and endless bliss. Avoid wilfulness of spirit.
2. And cherish reverence of heart. Look up. It is by looking up above himself that man ascends. Reverence is the soil in which all good grows. Saul had no reverence, and therefore Saul had no religion. He cared neither for the outward forms of religion nor for its inward spirit. He respected neither sacrifice nor holiness. He looked upon both as popular delusions, to which he must show respect, lest he should offend the people. He had no faith in anything but himself. Be not like Saul. Irreverence, leading him as it did to contempt of forms and contempt of obedience, lost him God's favour and his kingly crown. Reverence would have preserved both. Be you reverent. Look up to all that is over you, to God and sacred things, to man and man's authority where God has given power to man. Respect whatever is good and great. Respect the forms and ordinances of religion ; those who yield obedience are also reverent to religious forms. Respect man's authority where man is over you; those who look up to God are also obedient to man. Reject not God, nor anything which God has made sacred. But look with awe on all that is high and venerable. So shall you act as becomes the sons of God. So shall you behave as men who have been made “kings and priests unto God.” So shall you retain the favour of your Heavenly Father, and not forfeit your birthright, or lose your everlasting crown.