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of the Passover, the Jews appear to ship me, teaching for doctrine, the have regulated and conformed them- commandments of men.” And al.. selves to the new order of things, and though it was against the guides of to have carefully followed the ritual the people, rather than against the of Moses. And, if the people thus people themselves, that Christ thus took, as it were, their religion from levelled his rebuke, it is quite clear their rulers, appealing not to God's that, so far as they submitted impliword, but to their prince, as the stand- citly to the teaching of error, receivard of worship, it was put beyond the ing unhesitatingly man's word, when reach of contradiction, and according they ought to have taken God's, they with the statement of my text, that came under the same censure as the “their fear towards God was taught Scribes and Pharisees, and their fear by the precept of men.”
towards God was taught by the preNow, it was not only at a period cept of men.” when falsehood and truth were gain Now we gather from these ascering successively the ascendant, ac- tained facts, and the applicability of cording as successively advocated by the passage at different periods and the king, that the words of our text under different circumstances, that we were applicable to the Jews. The have fair right to consider it a possible nation relaxed not into idolatry after thing, that in every age the precepts the return from the Babylonish cap- of men may be exalted into a rule for tivity; and the form of worship that the fear of the Lord; and we cannot was instituted on the building of the mark the vehement indignation which second temple remained till the was excited against Judah, for this ploughshare of the Romans tore up substitution of human teaching for a the foundation of the sacred struc- divine, without perceiving, it must be ture. And though the Israelites had to ourselves a matter of life and death, declined, and themselves had mingled that we clearly ascertain, whether or the rights of the heathen with the no we have committed the offence ordinances of Jehovah, yet after that which produced, in olden times, this severe chastisement which consigned severity of rebuke. We think, morethem to seventy years banishment over, that the inquiry is one of no orfrom Jerusalem, the serving of false dinary importance, on the ground of gods could never again be reckoned its being of no ordinary difficulty. in the catalogue of their offences; We must admit, that when there are still we find that Jesus quoted the teachers appointed over a people, as passage before us
as descriptive of the case was with the Scribes and the Jews in the days of his minis- Pharisees, and these teachers prostitration. The Scribes and the Phari- tute their office to the advancement of sees had invented a variety of tradi- error, it is not easy to decide in what tions, and palmed them on the people degree the hearers may be blameas the written word of the Lord. On worthy, if they receive as truth, what, this account the Saviour declared, after all, is falsehood. To suppose that Esaias had expressly prophesied the parties instructed, capable, in of these teachers in the language now every case, of detecting what is faulty under review, “Ye hypocrites, well in the instruction, is to suppose them did Esaias prophesy of you, saying, well informed before-hand on all the This people draweth nigh unto me points on which they seek informawith their mouth, and honoureth me tion. We need not say, that such a with their lips; but their heart is far supposition goes far towards doing from me. But in vain they do wor- away with the necessity of public
teaching altogether, since it evidently district of the kingdom, and to obtakes for granted, the existence of re- serve, wheresoever there has been the sults which it is the object of this gathering of families into societies, teaching to bring round. We think and the clustering of cottages into it evident, that with the great number villages, a watchful superintendence of men, especially with the poor, and has provided that the rustic temple with those who must ply night and should be at hand, and that a pastor day to earn a livelihood, a vast propor- should be set over the tenantry of the tion of their knowledge must be de- valley, or scarcely accessible mounrived from Sabbath-day discourses, tain, and yet not be struck with admiand cannot be fetched, by dint of ration at the excellence of the artheir own searching, out of the store rangement, which is thus adapted to house of the Scriptures. And we see the transmission of a pure Christianity herein, most overpoweringly, the cause to every dwelling-place on the wide for admiring the wisdom and benevo- spread globe. But whatever the syslence of God, who hath abstracted a tem, by which spiritual instruction is certain portion of man's time from provided for the population, we are the toils and businesses of this pass- quite certain, on one point, that the ing state, and required that it should great mass of the population must be be dedicated to the obtaining acquaint. dependant on this system ; and that anceship with himself and his will. shut out, by temporal circumstances, There can be imagined no more beau- from the carrying on a rigid investitiful and effective system, than that of gation of truth for themselves, they a church which should have extended must take their knowledge secondits watchfulness into every corner of hand from those who are placed over the land ; and by sending, into every them as teachers; and we think that town and village, a faithful and self- in this very briefly lies the work of denying preacher of the Gospel, should the ordinance of preaching. It conhave provided for the spiritual instruc- sists not always with the demands of a tion of each member of a crowded toilsome occupation, that every man, population. It would come to pass, as it were, should be his own theolothrough the working of so well or- gian, and follow out, by a close and dered a machinery, that across the pains-taking study, the abstruse inlength and breath of the country, the quiries which are associated with relibusiness of the Sabbath would just be gion ; and, therefore, has it been apa counterpoise to the business of the pointed, that there should be set aside week; and the mechanic, who could an order of men, who, giving themscarcely catch a moment for his Bible selves exclusively to the investigation from the labour of his workshop; and of Scriptural truth, should bring forthe peasant, whom the duties of agri- ward the results, and communicate culture left no space for religion, them to their fellows in fixed solemn might come up to the sanctuary as to assemblies. So that if there were a a school, in which they were to be thorough and unwearied acting out, instructed in those great truths to among us, of the principle of a which at other times they could not church and priesthood, the business give forth their attention.
of the Sabbath would be the dealing We contend that this is precisely forth, to attentive congregations, some the design which is contemplated by new lessons which had been derived the establishment of a church. And from the prayers and searchings of we know not how it is possible, for a the week; and thus sending back the reflecting man, to traverse the wide multitude to their worldly occupations
with a portion over which they might fault of their own, into the state deponder until the church-bell called scribed in our text, having no fear tothem to another Sabbath gathering. ward God, but “the fear taught by
We are far, indeed, from implying, the precept of men.” that under any circumstances what- We shall make no attempt in setever, it would be right that men, tling the degree of allowance which placing all their dependence on public may, hereafter, be made for the uninstruction, should pass over private, faithfulness of our ministry.
We as altogether unnecessary. Let the know only, that where much has been ministry be the most faithful and lu- given, much will be required; and minous, we should still say, to those where the advantages have been small who are living in its enjoyment, that so also shall be the exactings. But there should be a taking advantage of whatever the measure according to each leisure moment to search the which a misled people shall be dealt Scriptures for themselves, and so draw with, we may be sure that a heaviness truth fresh from the fountain-head. of doom awaits him who has been their But we are simply arguing, that the false teacher. He is chargeable with condition of the great mass of man- being instrumental to the bringing a kind, makes them dependent neces- kingdom into that jeopardy in which sarily, for the main of their informa- the Jews stood when addressed in the tion, on public teaching. It is to his language of our text. Whatever the minister that the poor man, and, more vengeance which may be taken on the especially, the unlettered man, must people for having learnt the fear of chiefly look for instruction as to mat- God by the precept of men, he is reters of faith ; and being himself un- sponsible for the whole guilt of having skilled in argument, and unacquainted taught them the fear of God by the with the mysteries of controversy, he precept of men. We are assured that will, in all likelihood, take as correct, if ever an established church be put that system of doctrine which shall be on its trial, so that a nation sits in delivered him from the pulpit. And assize on its merits and demerits, then we say, indeed, that the organised its own pulpits shall be the great witchurch would be a splendid machi- nesses summoned to give evidence, nery, if in every ramification it and the sentence will proceed on the ried with it a sound and wholesome simple determination whether the instruction; so that, wherever the precept of men
the precept people met together for the Sabbath of God was uppermost in the inministration, there should be set forth struction provided for the multitude. to them nothing but the pure and un- We are free to say, with respect to sophisticated Gospel ; for we say there our own national church, there has is a point, up to which it will pratically been, of late years, so wide a revival hold good, that a people’s “fear to God of sound and Scriptural preaching, may be taught by the precept of men.” that notwithstanding there may be We see, therefore, that a vast portion many a melancholy instance of the of the nation must be, almost unavoid blind leading the blind, we believe a edly, thrown upon public teaching; verdict of approval must be passed, if and if there shall arise error in this the criterion of judgment were to be teaching, so that the precepts of men such as we have stated. You may become virtually substituted for the prove, if you will, that the system of precepts of God, why the mass of the tithes is unfavourable to agriculture; population may be gradually brought, you may prove that patronage is not and that too, as it would seem, without rightly disposed of, and that revenues
are not fairly divided; but you touch punishments, there would be done not the point of the church being un more towards the introduction of a adapted to the spiritual exigencies of universal lawlessness and profligacy, the kingdom, until you prove, on tak- than if the statute-books of the land ing the average of instruction, “the torn up, and the courts of fear of the Almighty is taught by the justice levelled with the ground. The precept of men.”
influence is not to be measured which Now, so far as the illustration of Scriptural truths possess over a nomiour text is concerned, we have done nally christianized nation, their being nothing by our preceding remarks no fairness in judging of the power but show you, that the case which it of religion by the amount of evil presupposes is still of most possible oc- vented; and if it be certain—and for currence. We may still have the pre- this our appeal is to the pages of his. cepts of men usurping it over the pre- tory—that Christianity hath ever been cepts of God; and still, therefore, the great mother of civilization, so find a people with just that fear of the that in her train have marched the Almighty which most excites his in- arts which adorn, and the charities dignation. But it will be for our ad- which sweeten human life ; then it vantage that we now break this truth must be altogther fair to conclude, into its component parts, and, ab- that the removal of Christianity would stracting ourselves from such views as cause civilization to retrograde, so that are national, confine thought to others an apostate kingdom would relapse which are more strictly individual. back into a barbarism, fiercer than that
We have now to show you, there from which it emerged on being evanmay be among ourselves such a thing, gelized. Therefore a legislature, if it as a fear towards God which is taught consult its own stability, has a direct only by the precept of men; and we interest in upholding true religion in are yet further required, by the con a country; the righteousness of the text of the passage, to prove, that this people being the only basis on which fear is especially calculated to excite civil institutions can rest without the the wrath of the Lord. Such are the momentary fear of being shaken by facts towards which our attention is the whirlwind of rebellion. We see, to be directed. The fact in the First then, that a government, on no higher place—THAT THERE IS A FEAR TO- principles than those of state policy, WARDS God which is TAUGHT BY might stand forward as the supporter
The fact in of religion, and provide for the good the Second place—THAT THE
maintenance of the fear of God $0 TAUGHT IS MOST OFFENSIVE TO amongst those over whom it presided. THE ALMIGHTY.
The most thorough act of suicide in a
government would be the advocacy of Now, it is unquestionable that, al- infidelity where no theories are prothough it is nothing but the reckless- fessed ; and that leader makes the ness of infidelity which would speak boldest assault on the throne who puts of religion as an engine of state policy, forth his hand against the religion of still no state policy can be effective a country. which looks not to religion as an aux But if religion be thus susceptible liary. If there could be taken off of being employed with advantage as from a community, those restraints an auxillary, there is a corresponding which are imposed on it by the doc risk of its being resorted to as a hutrine of the soul's immortality, and of man engine and not as a divine. We a future dispensation of rewards and have here, the most general example
THE PRECEPT OF MEN.
of a fear of God which is taught by might be swept from the land; and the precepts of men. One great safe there might, on the contrary, be seen guard of the land is, the piety of its on the whole outspread of the populastatesmen, and the godliness of its tion, appearances of the maintenance senators. We may have accustomed of that fear. But if when the rulers ourselves, indeed, to detach religion were acting on a sound principle, nofrom politics, just as though the two thing acceptable to God was produced, had no necessary companionship; but what may be looked for when the we may gather at once, from the sub- principle is either wholly or partially ject under review, that in so doing we unsound ? Surely nothing but a reprove ourselves miserably short- sult similar in kind, though aggrasighted. It is possible enough on the vated in degree. Religion may be ground already laid down, that men, upheld by an irreligious government; who have no religion, may appear as but so long as there is a want of perthe patrons and upholders of religion; sonal piety in the rulers of a people, there may be the issuing of laws for the that people, however disciplined into restraint of vice and for the promotion habits of good order and observance and the observance of the ordinances of the Sabbath, is just in the condition of Christianity, and so far it is well ; of having it said of it by God,“ their some advantage being gained to hu- fear towards me is taught by the preman society by the diffusion of the cept of men.” fear of God, however partial, or by Now, if you think this reasoning whatever fountain. But unless there comes not precisely to the point under be piety in the legislature, and the debate, forasmuch as it has to do with enactments for maintaining the fear the teachers rather than the taught, it of God are the direct offspring of needs only that we go somewhat more that fear as entertained by the law- into detail, and you will see that men giver, it would be in vain to contend, are wonderously influenced by those that the fear is taught by any thing above them, and those about them, in better than the precept of men. All the matter of religion. We shall thus inculcations of religion which are dic- make our inquiry more and more pertated by the consciousness that it is sonal, while all we advance will go politic to stand by religion, would towards the corroboration of our preturn into inculcations of infidelity the ceding statement. moment it should appear that it would Let us take the case of attendance be politic to stand by infidelity. No- on the ordinances of grace. We will thing, therefore, can be more evident not say that, even if the estimate of the than that, inasmuch as human policy godliness of this nation were to be deproduces the teaching, it is man's pre- rived from the respect it pays to pubcept to which it must be referred; so lic worship, such estimate would not that it is a possible case that rulers be found over-poweringly in its might do on the political principle favour; but we are ready to admit, what Hezekiah did on the God-fear- that our English people are, in a good ing principle—they might busy them- degree, a church-going people, and selves with exacting from their sub- where a place of worship is erected, it jects attention to the laws of the will ordinarily gather to itself a conAlmighty, and so might bring round gregation; and if we might place an great outward conformity to many implicit reliance on Sabbath-day apcommands of the Bible. The result pearances, the specific state of the in the two cases might be similar ; the account of the true fear of God by the tokens of the absence of God's fear throngings up to the sanctuary, and