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THE NEW IRISH PULPIT,
“ We preach Christ crucified
BY THE REV. HENRY IRWIN, A.M.
Luke xix. 8. “Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor; and if I have taken any thing
from any man by false accusation, I restore him fourfold.”
Nothing is more obvious than the But if it be a morality founded upon antipathy felt by some religionists to the Christian principle, and looking directly preaching of morality, as if it infringed to the will of God as its rule, and the upon the great doctrine of justification glory of God as its end, it is assuredly by faith. If, indeed, it be a cold, heartless, proper for the discussion of the pulpit, philosophic morality, detached from the and suited to the state of man as a fallen Gospel, and independent of its influence, creature. Men need to be reminded let it be rejected— let it not be brought that the Lord Jesus Christ “gave biminto the pulpit. Such a philosophy of self for us,” not only that he might morals presents erroneous views of the “ redeem us from all iniquity,” but also character of God, and the condition of purify unto himself a peculiar people, man, appeals not to the revealed will of zealous of good works.” God as the standard of right and wrong, In the narrative of which my text and enforces the obligations of virtue forms a part, we read that Jesus was rather from the considerations of feeling, passing through Jericho-a multitude honor, and interest, than from those attended him—and so great was the higher, nobler, purer motives, which crowd, that a certain man who was little Jehovah addresses to us in his word.- of stature, could not come near enough
to see him. He therefore ran before, stances, the strongest possible proof of and climbed up into a tree, that he might having become a disciple of Jesus_of obtain a sight of Jesus as he passed by. having been “ born again.” He stood The Saviour noticed him in this situation, forth, in view of heaven and earth, a new and said to him, “ Zaccheus, make man—not because he made any statehaste and come down, for today I must ment of the exercises of his mind by abide at thy house. And he made haste, which he had been brought to his present and came down, and received him joy- feelings and determination : not because fully.” This man was “chief among he told what is called his religious expethe publicans"-a class remarkable for rience (for it does not appear that he avarice, rapacity, fraud, and luxury- related anything of the kind) but because “and he was rich.”
his ruling passion was subdued—because Whatever might have been his views a spirit of self-denial had taken up its and feelings—whether mere curiosity or lodgment in his bosom, instead of selfsome better motive prompted his desire indulgence_because he was willing to “ to see Jesus," it is evident that the forsake that which was most dear to him, instructions of his Divine Teacher had a for the sake of Christ. And having thus, powerful effect on his mind, and produ- by the power of the Spirit, overcome the ced a striking change in his character | love of money—“the strong man armed,' and prospects. There is no doubt, that he would be able by the same Spirit, to hitherto he had been a worldling. Love subdue all the auxiliaries which had of money and desire of gain had been assisted the tyrant in maintaining a throne his ruling passion-he had made “gold in his bosom. his hope, and fine gold his confidence.” From this case I proceed to observe His supreme object had been to “lay up 1st. When the Gospel is cordially treasures on earth”—and not being scru- received and fully embraced, it subdues a pulous with regard to the means of man's ruling sin. increasing them, he had been successful. The particular disposition in Zaccheus, But from the time he received Jesus into which presented the greatest obstacle to his house and into his heart, his whole his becoming a follower of Christ, was character was changed. He became “a the first that was met and overcome by new creature.” Believing in Christ as the influence of religious principle. The his Saviour, he shewed the sincerity of Gospel had made a conquest of the man, his faith by a sacrifice of his former in. when it had slain his covetousness. clinations and habits. His avarice gave The principle here brought to view is place to liberality-a benevolent spirit exceedingly important, and should be entered his bosom and dethroned selfish- kept in mind whenever we enter on an nessmand from the promptings of his examination of the evidence of our changed heart, he said, “ Behold, Lord, Christian character. When a man yields the half of my goods I give to the poor, himself sincerely and cordially to the and if I have taken any thing from any influence of the truth as it is in Jesus," man, by false accusation, I restore him his strongest and most prevailing sinful fourfold.” Jesus who saw that this propensities will be held in check_they statement was made in single-hearted no longer give laws to the man, and honesty, immediately added, “this day domineer over him—they are as prisoners is salvation come to this house."
bound by one stronger than they. True In adopting cordially and effectively they may struggle for liberty and power, this determination, Zaccheus gave, con- and in their struggles may sometimes sidering his previous habits and circum- 'cause the man to stumble. But he is no longer their slave. He serves another cheering promise is made to every faithful master, “ who will not suffer him to be Christian in all ages of the world. tempted above what he is able to bear, 2nd. Evidence of Christian characbut will with the temptation make a way ter is to be sought, not merely in what a to escape.” Too often, in forming an man says, but in what he DOES. estimate of Christian character, is this It does not appear that Zaccheus important truth overlooked. Too often related any of the exercises of his mind, in judging of ourselves and of each | by which he had been led to become a other, “the sin which most easily besets" disciple of Jesus. No doubt he had is spared and tolerated, almost justified. mental exercises, was convinced of sin, As a kind of apology for the indulgence and found peace in believing. But inof some sinful habit or passion, it is said stead of coming forward with a statement to be natural, constitutional and there- of the feelings which agitated his bosom, fore it is taken for granted not only that and of the mental operations from which it will always adhere to the character, but he cherished the hope of a Christian, he that it is in some degree excusable. One simply said, “ Behold, Lord, the half of man is extremely irritable, on the least my goods I give to the poor, and if I provocation, and sometimes, without any, have taken any thing from any man by his angry feelings get the mastery of him. false accusation, I restore him fourfold." This man, while professing to be a disci. He thus gave the strongest possible proof, ple of Jesus Christ, often pleads the in his own case, of the subjection of his strength of his passion as an excuse for whole soul to the influence of the Gospel. its indulgence. Another man is avari- He renounced his idol, and resolved to cious—he cherishes a strong desire for honour God. He sacrificed at once his wealth, and makes this the all-absorbing love of the world, on the altar of Chrisbusiness of his life-his friends apologize tian benevolence. This is the test.for this worldly spirit as having been his Instead of living for this world, or for natural turn of mind, or he himself per ourselves, we must live for Christ.— To verts the language of St. Paul respecting him belong our time, our influence, our the duty of providing for one's own talents, our property. house, and says that he is only attending 3rd. On the disposal of property, there to his duty! Now all this is wrong, is a wide difference between the opinions deceptive, ruinous.—If the Gospel does of men, and the instructions of Christ. not exert its influence over the man who Instead of supposing that it would be professes to believe its doctrines and for the “ salvation" of his house, for discharge its duties, it is not in his case Zaccheus to give away his property as “the power of God unto salvation.”— he did, most men would think it the ruin It is not denied that the true Christian of his family. Were an event of this may be more beset and harassed with kind to take place at the present day, the what in his unregenerate state was his many would exclaim, what a foolish peculiar and predominating sin than with man!-give away half his property at any other. But it is true also, that at once !_why, the man is beside himself! this point of watchfulness and contest, he is plunging into poverty!_he is inthe principles of religion will afford him juring his family-bringing destruction their most efficient aid, for here he most on his own house ! But what said Jesus needs their assistance. In such circum- Christ on this occasion ? “ This day is stances of warfare and trial, St. Paul salvation come to this house." Zaccheus heard the Saviour say, “my grace is became a follower of the Lord Jesus, sufficient for thee." And the same and trusting in Him he obtained “ the promise of the life that now is, and of sible. Other cares may distract you. that which is to come.” He did not a sudden derangement of your affairs purchase salvation with money. No: may put obstacles in the way of executthe Lord doth not sell his blessings, he ing your projects—death may surprize freely bestows them ; he believed in you in the omission of this duty, and Jesus; this was the ground of his salva- then how shall you render your account tion. Then he showed the sincerity and to God? Zaccheus is a model to us the fruits of his belief, by letting go his of promptness of execution; he forms hold on the world, and making a volun- a fixed, vigorous resolution, which has tary and liberal sacrifice for the good of for its object not the future, but the his fellow-creatures, and for the honor of present_“I restore it"-even now I am religion. Such a sacrifice Christ com- ready to do it. He does more than mended. Such a sacrifice the world satisfy those whom he had wronged_he condemns. Here, the opinions of Christ, resolves to restore fourfold. Fearful lest and those of the world are at variance. he should not fully recompense them, But mark the determination of Zaccheus; his enlarged heart makes the resolution, not only to give half of his goods to the and his piety is ready instantly to execute poor, but thinking that in the exercise of it. Your restitution should be exact bis office, he may have committed many calculate the extent of the damage which acts by which justice was violated, and your injustice, or your imprudence has conscience wounded, he avows in the caused to your neighbour, the injury presence of the Saviour, that he which this loss of property has been to will make the most exact enquiries, him, the length of time that he has been “If I have taken any thing from any deprived of it, and the gain hindered by man by false accusation, I restore him your delay; and let your restitution be fourfold.” Do you in like manner | full and entire. impartially examine your past life, and Such is the nature of this duty, and recal your acts of wrong. Here you the manner in which it shall be performed. may have spread a snare for the sim- | But how many are there in the world, plicity of another, and abused his who altogether elude the obligation ? confidence—there you may have taken Some refuse, because they desire to beadvantage of his ignorance, or of his queath property to their children. But extreme need. These you may have how can they, in conscience, believe dazzled by fair promises, never per- that they owe to their children what formed : those, in some other mode, you their neighbour may rightfully claim ? may have disappointed. Allege not, for How can they lawfully leave to them your excuse, example, custom, the neces. what belongs to others ? God tells us sity of acting like others—all this is of that such property bequeathed to chilno avail now in the sight of Omnipotence dren, is an “accursed heritage.” Others - will be of no avail hereafter at the bar admitting the necessity of restitution, of God. It is true, and will be eternally are ashamed to make it. In acting as true, that whatever you may have ob- Zaccheus did, you proclaim not your tained from another by open violence or shame, but your honesty-not your insidious over-reaching, is his property ignominy, but your fearless determination not yours. Restitution should be prompt. to comply with the dictates of justice, Many persons content themselves with a and the commands of God. If the invague intention of restitution at some jury be private, let the restitution be future time. Remember, that in de private ; provided you do it effectually, ferring to make restitution, you render be as prudent in the manner of accom. it more difficult, perhaps,' utterly impos. plishing it as you please ; but do it, as you desire peace of conscience as you , defrauded, and to compensate them with regard the judgment day.
interest. The duty of restitution knows no other It is lamentable to think how few unobstacle than impossibility, and no other derstand, or seem willing to learn, the reserve than what is necessary for the elements of Christian morality on this support of life; it admits of no other doctrine of restitution ! Oh! what great excuse, than utter ignorance, and has no discoveries shall be made at the day of other bound, than reparation of the in- judgment! This world is a great theatre jury committed. And yet, how few acts on which too many act a borrowed charof restitution in a world of fraud, and in acter, conceal their motives, and by an a land of extensive commercial engage imposing exterior, cover most unworthy ments, do we witness or hear of! How acts. But “in that day” all frauds and few of those, whose hands were generally deceptions, artifice and dissimulation, supposed to be defiled with the accursed shall be revealed, when the secrets of thing, and who had grown rich by oblique the human heart shall be unfolded_all means, evading the customs and tributes their labyrinths penetrated --- all their enjoined by the laws of the land-how darkness dissipated-all their deep defew (1 appeal to my brethren in the signs disclosed. Then many who were ministry), how very few do we meet with regarded in the world as faithful, sincere, who, amidst their confessions of other generous friends, shall be found vile and iniquities, have the resolution to say on perfidious, without faith, or honour, or their dying beds, much of my wealth I conscience. Men who were esteemed as acknowledge with shame and confusion men of integrity and approved probity, of face, was acquired by means, of which shall be found to have abused the creduI now deeply repent ; ( now make res- lity of their neighbours, and been guilty titution to church and state, which I of the most humiliating dissimulation. wronged of their dues ; and I choose Then the mask of hypocrisy shall drop, rather to bequeath comparative poverty the cloak of religious profession be torn to my children, than to leave a patrimony off, and the true character be fully exunder a curse. And thus will they gain hibited. What confusion, what blackness, more by the example I give of sincere shall gather on their conntenance, what repentance, than they would by my anguish pierce their souls, when they unfair acquisitions,
look back to the possessions for which Some, by bequests to charitable pur- they bartered their salvation, and to the poses, suppose that they thereby can falsehood and injustice with which they silence conscience, and repair their frauds; raised themselves to distinction! “The and thus give to the poor only what they heavens reveal their iniquities, and the have obtained by wrong. Such men earth rises up against them.” seem to think God a judge whom they This subject should lead us to avoid can corrupt by a part of the booty, and the very beginning of sin, and to pay appear secretly to use to him the language the most scrupulous attention to the duties of those robbers mentioned in the book of truth and justice. “ He that is unjust of Proverbs, “thou shalt have thy lot in the least, is unjust also in much," and with us: we will all have one purse :' | incurs the condemnation of God as thus hoping to secure a sanction to their effectually as if he were guilty of the injustice and fraud. Not so Zaccheus. greatest injustice. If he has parted with Though he consecrates a large portion of his honesty at an inferior price, and his property to relieve the wants of the bartered it for a mere trifle, his guilt, far distressed, yet he reserves enough to from being lessened, is rather aggravated, compensate those whom he may have ' and the danger to which he is exposed