Wash and cleanse yourselves. Remove your evil deeds from My sight. Stop doing evil!
I. IT WOULD BE MISCHIEVOUS TO ACCEPT THE HARDENED. Mischievous for the hardened themselves, who would be made yet harder by a goodness they could not fail to misunderstand. Mischievous for all others, in whose minds moral distinctions would be confused, and the Divine righteousness sullied. Under no pretence, by no equivocations, through no disguises, can God possibly accept the guilty and impenitent. In this, as in all else, the Judge of all the earth will do right.
II. IT IS HOPELESS TO ACCEPT MERE PROFESSORS. For they are self-deluded, and would be kept from awakening to their true state, if God accepted them as they are. The man who is satisfied with profession, and fails to aim at godly living, can never appreciate Divine acceptance or rightly respond to it. Divine acceptance is one great help to righteousness, and this the professor neither admires nor seeks. What good is it to accept professors? God cannot get beyond their fine outer shell. They are apples of Sodom, acceptable neither to God nor man. "He that doeth righteousness is righteous, even as he is righteous."
III. GOD ACCEPTS ONLY THOSE WHOSE PENITENCE FINDS EXPRESSION IN EFFORTS TO DO RIGHT. They only show that they are sincerely desirous of help; and they only are in a moral condition to receive, and to use well, Divine forgiveness and favor. Show how intensely practical the plea is in the text: "Put away just those very sins that you have been so freely indulging in. But do not be satisfied with any mere negation of evil; seek opportunities of doing justice; take care to blend justice with charity; do the right, and do the kind to all those who cannot right themselves." Goodness as a sentiment is of little value. Goodness as a life Gad looks for, and man asks from his fellows. "I will show thee my faith by my works." - R.T.
I. Its primary principle is, that REFORMATION SHOULD BEGIN AT THE SOURCE OF HUMAN CONDUCT. Change the springs of all action and you change every element of conduct. Ye must be born again. Out of the heart proceed all evils.
Cease to do evil; learn to do well.Psalm 34:14; Psalm 37:27; Amos 5:15; Romans 12:9; 1 Peter 3:11); and many express or imply the same doctrine, putting repentance before faith and obedience (Matthew 21:32; Mark 1:15; Acts 20:21; Titus 2:12, 13). Even heathen authors, in very distant ages and countries, have given the like direction. And indeed everyone must own the justness of it: but still very few appear to perceive or attend sufficiently to its importance: which, therefore, I shall endeavour to shew you —
I. IN RESPECT OF OUR CONDUCT IN GENERAL. It is plainly the natural and rational method to begin with removing what else will obstruct our progress, and to make unity within our own breasts our earnest care. He who hath only consistent pursuits may follow them with a prospect of success: but a mind, distracted between contrary principles of action, can hope for nothing but to be drawn backward and forward by them continually, as they chance to prevail in their turns. Things, indeed, that do but accidentally give some little hindrance to each other now and then, may be prosecuted together, and the due preference, when they interfere, be adjusted well enough. But sin and duty are so essentially opposite, that their interests can never be reconciled, They flow from different motives, proceed by different means, aim at different ends, and thwart one another perpetually. And it is to men's overlooking this obvious truth, that the miscarriage of their good intentions, the irresolution of their lives, the incoherence of their characters, in a great measure, owes its rise. Every one of us knows, in the main, what he ought to do: everyone feels an approbation of it; and so far, at least, a disposition to it. But then he feels also dispositions quite adverse: and though he sees them to be unwarrantable, yet it is painful to root them out, and not pleasing even to take notice of them. So, to avoid trouble, both sorts are allowed to grow up together as they can; and, which will thrive faster, soon appears. Perhaps but one or two sorts of wickedness were intended to be indulged: but these have unforeseen connections with others, and those with more. Or, had they none, when men have once yielded to do but a single thing amiss, they have no firm ground to stand upon in refusing to do a second, and a third: so gradually they lose their strength, God withdraws His help, and they fall from bad to worse.
II. IN RESPECT OF OUR BEHAVIOUR TO EACH OTHER. It is a remarkable thing in the constitution of this world, that we have much more power of producing misery in it than happiness. Everyone, down to the most insignificant, is capable of giving disquiet, nay, grievous pain and affliction to others, and often to great numbers, without the least difficulty; while even those of superior abilities in every way, can hardly discover the means, unless it be within a very narrow compass now and then, of doing any great good, or communicating any considerable pleasure. Besides, the effects of kindnesses may always be entirely lost: but those of injuries too frequently can never be remedied. And therefore we ought to watch over ourselves with perpetual care, examine the tendency of all our words and actions, and, not contented with meaning no harm, be solicitous to do none. The harm that we do through heedlessness is certainly not so criminal, as if it were purposely contrived: but may be almost, if not quite, as severely felt notwithstanding: or though it were but slightly, why should we be so inadvertent, as unnecessarily to cause but an hour's, nay, a moment's vexation or grief to one of our brethren; or deprive him of the smallest of those innocent gratifications, that help to alleviate the sorrows of life, and make the passage through it comfortable?
(T. Secker, LL. D.)
1. It does not set aside all forms of outward help — society, industry, family, church, but these are auxiliaries to the central endeavour of the human will.
2. It recognises, too, that the complete work is by stages, gradual — though the purpose may be immediate.
1. Right-doing is the way to cease wrong-doing. Ephesians 4:28 — not enough to stop getting by stealing, but must do that by learning how to get by working! The way to cure evil, is to set a current of contrary action.
2. The illustration of the inward government of mind — how feelings of one class rise or fall in answer to the excitement or somnolency of another.
3. The two faulty forms.
(1) (2) III. THE DIFFICULTIES OF VICE, OF HABIT, WHEN THEY ARE SIMPLY WATCHED AGAINST. 1. They leave men lonesome — unhappy. 2. The soul develops power to overturn evil only by inspiration of opposite virtues. IV. THE REASON SO MANY PEOPLE BECOME NEGATIVE, FEEBLE, AND UNINTERESTING WHEN THEY BECOME RELIGIOUS. V. THE REASON SO MANY ARE STRONG, NOBLE, AS WORLDLY MEN IN BUSINESS, BUT WITHOUT FORCE IN SPIRITUALS. They let loose their whole selves in the one case. They tie up the strong elements in the other, for fear of mischief — and do not let out any other. (Proverbs 3:13-18; also 8:11, etc.) VI. WHEN MEN TURN FROM EVIL LET THEM GO CLEAR OVER TO RELIGION! (H. W. Beecher.)
(2) III. THE DIFFICULTIES OF VICE, OF HABIT, WHEN THEY ARE SIMPLY WATCHED AGAINST. 1. They leave men lonesome — unhappy. 2. The soul develops power to overturn evil only by inspiration of opposite virtues. IV. THE REASON SO MANY PEOPLE BECOME NEGATIVE, FEEBLE, AND UNINTERESTING WHEN THEY BECOME RELIGIOUS. V. THE REASON SO MANY ARE STRONG, NOBLE, AS WORLDLY MEN IN BUSINESS, BUT WITHOUT FORCE IN SPIRITUALS. They let loose their whole selves in the one case. They tie up the strong elements in the other, for fear of mischief — and do not let out any other. (Proverbs 3:13-18; also 8:11, etc.) VI. WHEN MEN TURN FROM EVIL LET THEM GO CLEAR OVER TO RELIGION! (H. W. Beecher.)
III. THE DIFFICULTIES OF VICE, OF HABIT, WHEN THEY ARE SIMPLY WATCHED AGAINST.
1. They leave men lonesome — unhappy.
2. The soul develops power to overturn evil only by inspiration of opposite virtues.
IV. THE REASON SO MANY PEOPLE BECOME NEGATIVE, FEEBLE, AND UNINTERESTING WHEN THEY BECOME RELIGIOUS.
V. THE REASON SO MANY ARE STRONG, NOBLE, AS WORLDLY MEN IN BUSINESS, BUT WITHOUT FORCE IN SPIRITUALS. They let loose their whole selves in the one case. They tie up the strong elements in the other, for fear of mischief — and do not let out any other. (Proverbs 3:13-18; also 8:11, etc.)
VI. WHEN MEN TURN FROM EVIL LET THEM GO CLEAR OVER TO RELIGION!
(H. W. Beecher.)
(D. L. Moody.)
Learn to do well.
I. THE NECESSITY FOR MORAL LEARNING. Numerous definitions have been given of man, but he might justly be defined as the being who learns. Other creatures can scarcely he said to learn; whatever pertains to their species they do instinctively, immediately, perfectly. A lark builds its first nest as skilfully as its last, a spider's first embroidery is as exquisite as anything it spins in adult life, a bee constructs its first cell and compounds its first honey with an efficiency that leaves nothing to be desired. We know that naturalists are not altogether agreed on this point, but we may conclude that substantially instinct dispenses with that laborious process which we know as learning. It is altogether different with the human creature. If we are "to do well," taking that phrase in its noblest sense, we must "learn" to do it, acquiring the splendid power through attention, repeated endeavour, and manifold sacrifice. Take, e.g., the virtue of contentment. We, are persuaded of the reasonableness of contentment with the dispensations of Divine Providence; yet the folly of the soul is subdued only through much failure and discipline. Or, take the virtue of sincerity. This virtue, if it be not rather of the essence of all virtues, we all, to some extent, require to learn, some, however, finding in the learning of it the chief task of life. It seems paradoxical to say so, but some men are naturally theatrical; the temptation is always to act a part. Through repeated and hitter castigations of the soul do we master this passion for masquerading, and attain sincerity, simplicity, and thoroughness of life. Take the virtue of veracity. We have much to learn here — to speak the truth, to act the truth, to live the truth. Take the virtue of temper. There is a faculty of wrath in nature, and a faculty of wrath becomes noble men. but to harmonise this faculty with reason, and to be at once high-spirited and gentle, is a problem that may demand years for its solution. Or, take the virtue of kindness. We pass through much self-reproach, scourging, and shame in striving to reach the beauteous ideal. St. Paul bears witness of himself, "I have learned in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content." Let us remember in the training of our children that virtue is acquired much as intellectual life is.
II. CONSIDER THE METHOD OF THIS MORAL CULTURE. Three things are essential to the liberal education of the soul.
1. A pattern. "Looking unto Jesus." He is the supreme Pattern. Said an American artist, "I would give everything I have to see Velasquez paint for one week, one day." But the splendid privilege is given to us to behold the Lord Jesus live through years! "Learn of Me," says the Master, and a loving, thoughtful glance into the New Testament every day is a lifelong vision of perfection. Let us learn of Him in joy and sorrow, in work and leisure, in strength and weariness, in popularity and neglect, in success and failure, in life and death. He best teaches the art of life.
2. Power. We can never become holy except as we have a genius for holiness, and this genius in an adequate degree only the Spirit of God can impart. Let us in prayer seek for more inward vision, receptivity, and energy, more of the Spirit that worketh mightily in fully surrendered souls, and all things will become possible.
3. Practice. We learn to do well through doing well.
(W. L. Watkinson.)I. THERE IS NO ROYAL ROAD TO RENOWN. "You envy me, do you?" said a marshal (Lefevre) of France, to a friend complimenting him on his possessions and good fortune. "Well, you shall have these things at a better bargain than I had. Come into the courtyard: I'll fire at you with a gun twenty times at thirty paces, and if I don't kill you, all shall be your own. What, you will not come! Very well; recollect, then, that I have been shot at more than a thousand times, and much nearer than thirty paces, before I arrived at the state in which you now find me!" The marshal's friend saw only the success attained; he forgot the toil, the suffering and peril through which it had been achieved. The traveller with ardent love of beauty climbs the rugged hill whence his view, he fancies, will be unobstructed and complete; but the first ascent made, behold, another hill overshadowing him; and that surmounted, behold, still another frowns upon him higher yet. So with the hill of life. One arduous ascent made, one difficulty overcome, another presents itself, another, and still another. It is ever "Excelsior!" We would not have it otherwise. Without difficulty, there were no display of energy. Without temptation, there were no self-discipline. Without trial and suffering, there were no fortitude and resignation.
II. OBSERVE THE ENFORCEMENT OF THIS LESSON OF THE PART OF NATURE THE VERY BEGINNINGS OF LIFE. We begin life as "strangers in a strange land." We bring nothing with us into the world, either of wealth, knowledge, or experience. What we possess, we receive, acquire, or learn. We find the conditions of life already existing We must "accept the situation"; meet it as best we may, and each go on to act his part. Beginning to learn, we find nature and her laws fixed, inexorable, demanding recognition sad obedience. Observe these laws, heed nature's warnings, and she is a gentle mistress, a kind benefactress; but disregard them, disobey them, and she becomes a terrible avenger. The penalty she never fails to inflict. If not in youth, then in manhood; if not in manhood, then in old age. Though her voice be silent, still nature speaks. And this is her word: "Whatever and wherever your place in life's arena act well your part, — learn to do well." For the sake of your physical well-being; for the sake of your temporal happiness; for the sake of those to come after you — observe my commandments to do them!
III. CONSIDER THE UTILITY OF THIS LESSON AS TAUGHT BY SOCIETY AND EMPHASISED IN EVERY SPHERE OF LIFE. The household, the school, the college, the counting room tuitions, the business apprenticeships, civil and political laws and institutions — whatever factors enter in to develop and improve society — are but the outgrowth and exemplification of the precept of "learning to do well." They are nature's assistants, teaching us how to do well in life. What is self-denial? It is but another word for "learning to do well; that is, learning to forego the lesser for the sake of the higher good; denying the present moment for the sake of the moment that is to come — all which involves difficulty, cost, pain, persistent effort. Persistent effort in the mastering of difficulties lies at the basis of true advancement and success. Wisdom, skill, mastery in hall of trade or science, in field of politics or war, come not by wishing.
IV. BUT, ALONG WITH SELF-DENIAL "LEARNING TO DO WELL" INVOLVES SUBMISSION TO HIGHER AUTHORITY. Who could expect to become an able soldier without first submitting to a tactician's guidance? There must be days, weeks, months of weary taxation of eye and ear, nerve and muscle; there must be continued restraint of body and mind; there must be submission to another's will — obedience to a master's command. But — there it comes again — obedience, self-restraint, is difficult. And what is all this struggle with difficulty for? Why, simply for the sake of "learning to do well" — to drill well; for the sake of becoming a good soldier!
V. But the Bible declares that this life is a period of trial, on the issue of which turns the destiny of our future being. If, then, whatever is worth the having in this present life comes not without conflict with difficulties, IS IT REASONABLE TO SUPPOSE THAT THE ADVANTAGES OF THE FUTURE LIFE WILL ACCRUE TO US WITHOUT LIKE CONFLICT WITH DIFFICULTIES? Do nothing, and still inherit eternal life? It is not so cheap a thing as that.
VI. Beyond this, THE BIBLE NOT ONLY POINTS OUT THE DIFFICULTIES THAT OPPOSE US — IT SHOWS HOW THE DIFFICULTIES ARE TO BE MET. In the lives of its heroes the Bible individualises every virtue, but in no one of them does every virtue appear till we come to the perfect man, Christ Jesus. He is the Master of goodness. And He says, "If any man will come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me." If the way seem too full of obstructions, and old sins hedge us in, and our weakness is very great, He yet kindly says to us as to the apostle Paul, "My grace is sufficient for thee," etc.
(C. P. H. Nason, M. A.)
(J. Parker, D. D.)1. We must be doing; not cease to do evil, and then stand idle.
2. We must be doing good; the good which the Lord our God requires, and which will turn to a good account.
3. We must do it well, in a right manner, and for a right end.
4. We must learn to do well, we must take pains to get the knowledge of our duty, be inquisitive concerning it, in care about it; and accustom ourselves to it, that we may readily turn our hands to our work, and become masters of this holy art of doing well
( M. Henry.)
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