You hypocrites! Isaiah prophesied correctly about you:
I. MAN-MADE RELIGIOUS RULES ARE ATTRACTIVE TO MEN. It may be said, to all men. It can with confidence be said, to some men. There are, in every age and society, persons who prefer to have their religion done for them; who cannot, and will not, bear the burden of personal responsibility. They ask to have their conduct arranged by rules. And there have always been those who were willing to meet their requests, and to claim authority for so doing. It is a seemingly easy way in which to get through the difficult business of religion, if only it could be made satisfactory; but that it can never be. In all ages, and today, the man-made rules are sure to "make the Word of God of none effect." They are sure to push God out of those direct and personal relations which he bears to each one.
II. MAN-MADE RELIGIOUS RULES ARE RUINOUS FOR MEN. If they could keep them as mere helps and guides, all would be well. But that is just what man has never been able to do. Man-made rules are always pushing out of their place, and into a place which does not properly belong to them. The following points may be worked out and illustrated.
1. Man-made rules shift the basis of authority in religion from God to man, from the true authority to an altogether false one.
2. Man-made rules exaggerate the place of self in religion. For the authority of man is only the authority of idealized self.
3. Man-made rules substitute a religion of hand (conduct) for the religion of the heart. - R.T.
This people draweth near to Me with their mouth.I. SHOW WHO THEY ARE WHO ANSWER TO THE DESCRIPTION IN THE TEXT. ALL merely nominal Christians. Formal, self-righteous persons. False professors.
II. EXPOSTULATE WITH THEM ON THEIR FOLLY. Is not conformity to Christ's demand of the heart practicable? Is not such consecration to Him necessary? Will not merely a feigned allegiance be disowned by Him? Shall we Hot wish at last that we had been sincere and upright?
I. The text DESCRIBES A GREAT PRIVILEGE.
II. POINTS OUT A SERIOUS ABUSE.
I. Endeavour to convince you, that a various and manifest contrariety actually appears between the sentiments which we express in the Divine service, and particularly at the ordinance of the Sacred Supper, and our conduct in the ordinary course of life.
II. Endeavour to represent to you the absurdity and the danger of such a contradictions and inconsistent behaviour.
(Zollikofer.)I. True sanctity consists not in THE KNOWLEDGE OF GOD and religion, however extensive, however just and perspicuous it may be. Although that knowledge may be necessary to sanctity, it is not, however, competent to it; and though it constitutes the basis of it, yet it is no more sanctity itself than the foundation of an edifice is the edifice itself.
II. Neither does true sanctity consist in A FURIOUS ZEAL FOR THE KNOWN TRUTH, or for the honour and glory of that religion which we profess.
III. Neither does true sanctity consist in the diligent or STRICT ATTENDANCE ON THE RITES AND CEREMONIES which religion prescribes; nor in the observance, nor in the multiplication of the devotional exercises to which it advises its professors; nor in voluntary penances and mortifications, which they impose upon themselves.
IV. Neither does true sanctity consist in our occasionally OMITTING SOMETHING WHICH GOD HAS FORBIDDEN US, OR DOING SOMETHING WHICH HE HAS COMMANDED US; nor in our occasionally performing single good actions, whether of justice or beneficence, or of abstinence. True sanctity is a reigning, constantly active, disposition and. bent of the soul, manifesting itself in the several parts of our inward and outward conduct, and making us always willing and ready to do what, and nothing else but what, is agreeable to God, and correspondent to His will.
(Zollikofer.)I. THE STATE DESCRIBED.
1. Marked by absence of sincerity and honesty.
2. Implies a state of alienation from God.
3. Try the meaning of the text by the common estimates we form of professed friendship. All stress is laid on motive and feeling.
II. THE LESSONS OF THE STATE HERE REFERRED TO.
1. The need of repentance.
2. That in the midst of religious ordinances there may be spiritual insensibility.
3. Yet though the heart be far off. the Good Shepherd seeks it.
(W. D. Harwood.)
I. Rest this matter on our Saviour's authority.
II. God is the supreme object of religious worship; and to Him all our devotions ought to be ultimately directed.
III. It is a matter of interest, as well as duty, for us so to do.
IV. The peace and wellbeing of mankind in general, and of every society in particular, are interested in it.
I. THE OBJECTS OF THIS CENSURE OR THE PERSONS SPECIALLY AFFECTED BY IT. The objects of the reproof were the scribes and Pharisees, the public authorized teachers of the law. There must be public teachers who shall command and instruct; but this authority is committed to them under restrictions.
II. WHEN ARE TEACHERS AND RULERS OF THE CHURCH GUILTY OF THE CRIME HERE REPROVED OF TEACHING FOR DOCTRINES THE COMMANDMENTS OF MEN? For the better clearing of which it will be of use to consider —
1. What is meant by commandments of men. They are three sorts:(1) Where the matter of the human command is the same action that God has enjoined by His law. For human authority ought to command what God has commanded; particularly in such a society as the Christian Church formed upon the laws of the gospel.(2) A second sort of commandments of men are such whose matter contradicts or interferes with the prescriptions of the Divine law. And such are not only those which expressly forbid what God has commanded, or invert the prescribed order of God's commands.(3) A third sort of commandments of men are such whose matter is actions in their nature indifferent, and neither commanded nor forbidden by God; such as the washing hands before meat.
2. Then teaching these commandments of men as doctrines is proposing them as precepts of the Divine law, or of equal authority with them, and obliging the conscience as such.Rules supposed to be indifferent but convenient and orderly may obtain in a society; but this authority may be abused:
1. When such things are prescribed as binding the conscience by direct obligation.
2. The prescription of indifferent things will be liable to the censure in the text, when it is taught that obedience to them will excuse disobedience to a law of God.
3. This censure will also be incurred when indifferent things are prescribed by men as means of grace, as having power to convey remission of sins, or any other spiritual or supernatural gifts of the Holy Ghost. They may he means of grace, but God only has authority to make them so.
III. WHAT OUR LORD HAS HERE PRONOUNCED, THAT THEY WORSHIP GOD IN VAIN.
(J. Rogers, D. D.)I. THE GREATNESS OF THE SIN. Proved by three general considerations: —
2. The more sincere any one is, the more he maketh conscience of his thoughts.
3. Carelessness in duties is the highway to atheism.Particularly: —
1. It is an affront to God, and a kind of mockery.
2. It grieveth the Spirit of God.
3. It is a spiritual disease.
4. It argueth the loss and non-acceptance of our prayers.There is a threefold distraction prayer: —
1. An unwilling distraction.
2. A negligent distraction.
3. A voluntary distraction.
II. THE CAUSES OF THIS ROVING AND INTRUSION OF VAIN THOUGHTS.
1. Satan is one cause.
2. The natural levity of our spirits.
3. Practical atheism.
4. Strong and unmortified lusts.
5. Want of love to God anti holy things.
6. Slightness and irreverence, or want of a sense of God's presence.
7. The curiosity of the senses.
8. Carking and distrustful cares.
III. THE REMEDIES.
1. GO to God and wait for the power of His grace.
2. Meditate on the greatness of Him before whom we are.
3. Mortify those lusts that are apt to withdraw our minds.
4. Before the duty there must be an actual preparation or a solemn discharge of all impediments, that we may not bring the world along with us.
5. Be severe to your purpose.
6. Bring with you to every holy service strong spiritual affections.
7. Remember the weight and consequence of the duties of religion.
8. Let every experimental wandering make you more humble and careful.
9. A constant heavenliness and holiness of heart.
10. Frequent and solemn meditation.
11. By use a man gets greater command over himself.
(T. Manton, M. D.)
(J. G. Pilkington.)I. THE TRUE OBJECT OF RELIGIOUS WORSHIP, which is here called drawing nigh unto God and honouring Him.
II. To DIRECT THE RIGHT MANNER OF PERFORMING RELIGIOUS WORSHIP.
1. God is to be worshipped in the way of His own appointment.
2. God is to be worshipped with the whole man, with our bodies and spirits which are His.
3. God is to be worshipped by the assistance of His spirit.
4. God is to be worshipped in the exercise of all suitable graces under the influence of His spirit.
5. God is to be worshipped with an eye to His glory, as our ultimate end.
6. God is to be worshipped in the name of Christ as our only Mediator.Reflections:
1. How must every one, more or less, stand reproved for defects in worship.
2. How becoming, glorious and delightful must it be to offer up such worship to God, as is agreeable to His will.
3. What glorious provision has God made in the gospel to assist this noble homage.
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