« PreviousContinue »
punishment less certain, or less severe. On the contrary, as it has given us a clearer and more extensive prospect of our duty, so it has expressly declared, that, to whom much is given, of him much will be required; and it has taught us, that the servant who offends, through a comparative ignorance of his Lord's will, shall be beaten with few stripes ; whilst that servant who knoweth his Lord's will, and prepareth, not himself, neither doeth, according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes. (Luke, xii. 47, 48.) This is the law. of equity, and it is the law of the Gospel. Both the covenants which God made with man were dictated by the same spirit--by that spirit which is the same yesterday, to-day, and for ever. Their difference with respect to the sanctions of obe, dience is only this ;---the Mosaic law, being designed for a single nation, which occupied a narrow territory, constituted the civil code of that nation. Its sanctions were, therefore, of a temporal kind, and the punishment of disobedience was public, and im. mediate. Whereas the Gospel, which embraces all the nations of the earth, is of a more spiritual nature. As it has, by
ascertaining the resurrection of Christ, demonstrated the certainty of a future state; as it has declared the responsibility of every man, at an appointed day of judgment, which is yet to come; so it has, for the most part, deferred the punishment of disobedience to the solemnity of that great day.
Consequently, enormous offences have been committed under the Gospel, with an appearance of temporal impunity. Thus, when one of our Lord's chosen disciples, with a seeming exertion of reason, and of zeal, in reforming abuses, and professing an extraordinary degree of sympathy with the poor, but, at the same time, forgetting that respect and submission which were due to his divine Master, presumed to blame an action which that Master both allowed and
approved ;-when this pretended reformer and philanthropist exclaims with indignationJVhy was this waste of the ointment made? for it might have been sold for more than three hundred pence, and have been given to the poor. (Mark, xiv. 5, 4);-we do not find that this act of disrespect and insubordination was immediately punish
ed.. The offender was dismissed, with this gentle rebuke - Let her alone ; why trouble ye
her? She hath wrought a good work on me.
you always, and whensoever ye will, ye may do them good; but me ye have not always : as much as if our Lord had said, “Ye have always an opportunity of exercising your benevolence to the poor ; but, let not that important duty interfere with the other claims of religion.”
The same disciple, on another occasion, approached his master at a time when he was in great affliction, and saluted him with apparent kindness and respect. This was, indeed, a preconcerted signal to point him out to his enemies, who were now seeking his life; but the private judgment of the offender
may have suggested to him, that he had now a fair opportunity of promoting his own interest at a trifling risk, and gratifying a feeling of resentment for the late rebuke; that the known goodness of his Lord would easily forgive him; that his miraculous power would immediately defeat the purpose of his enemies; and that he himself was only furnishing an occasion for
the display of that power.
have been his ideas; for it appears, from the sequel of his history, that he did not expect what really followed; and that, like a selfsufficient, rational Christian, he did not implicitly believe all the words that Jesus had spoken. But, whatever his thoughts may have been, the deed was done. The of fender was not immediately punished. His Lord only said to him-Friend, wherefore art thou come ! Betrayest thou the son of man with a kiss ?
Thus we see that, under the Gospel eco. nomy, the execution of wrath does not always immediately follow the offence. But, notwithstanding the gentleness and forbearance of our divine Law-giver, Judas, the rational Christian-the zealous reformer . the virtuous economist-the distinguished friend of the poor and the respectful greeter of his master, had no reason to con. gratulate with himself upon the prudent choice he had made: he fell a victim to the remorse of conscience. And it is but little consolation to those who, under the merciful dispensation of the Gospel, presume to disobey the laws of order; that
they have tłie prospecť of escaping, as he escaped.
Yet, that' no Christian might lose sight of the awful sanctions by which obedience to the law of holiness is enforced, the New Testament contains some remarkable instances of the temporal punishment of the disobedient. The conscience of Judas produced one of these examples: the history of Ananias and Saphira furnishes another ; 'which occurred at the very time when the apostolical church was first established. And here we are presented with a practical lesson. We are told, that, in the infant state of the church, as many as were possessors of lands or houses, sold them, and brought the prices of the things that were sold, and laid them down at the apostles' feet: and distribution was made untó every man, according as he had need. (Acts, iii.) -- This regulation, which arose from tempos rary expediency, does not appear to have been enforced by a general law of the church. Those who did not claim a share in the distribution, were not compelled to resign their property for St. Peter says to Ananias, while it remained, was it not thine own; and