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THE NECESSITY OF ZEAL IN MAINTAINING
John ii, 17. And his disciples remembered thut it was written, The,
zeal of thine house hath eaten me up.
THE occasion, which led the disciples of Christ to recollect and quote this passage from the sixty-ninth Psalm, was a bold and astonishing act of duty, which they saw him perform in the temple at Jerusalem. When he came to that city to attend the passover, which he never failed to attend at the proper time, “He found in the temple those that sold oxen, and sheep, and doves, and the changers of money sitting: And when he had made a scourge of small cords, he drove them all out of the temple, and the sheep and the oxen; and poured out the changers' money, and overthrew the tables; and said unto them that sold doves, Take these things hence; make not my Father's house an house of merchandize.” This was a surprizing act of zeal for the glory of God and the sanctity of divine institutions. The temple had been solemnly separated from a common to a sacred use, and consecrated to the peculiar service of God. No common or secular business ought to have been done in this sacred house; but some of the professed people of God had become so corrupt and presumptuous, as to buy and sell in it, even in the presence of the priests, whose sacred office required them to maintain the purity of holy places and of holy things. But though they neglected their duty, yet Christ determined to maintain the honour of his Father's house and the purity of his instituted worship. Having made a Scourge of small cor is, he boldly went into the temple, where he not only drove out the sheep and oxen, but the buyers and sellers, whom he reproved with so much authority and solemnity, that they lost all power to reply or to resist. “It is written, said he, My house shall be called a house of prayer; but ye have made it a den of thieves.” This extraordinary act of purging the temple, demonstrated his holy and ardent zeal to maintain all the positive precepts and institutions of his Father's house; and at the same time exhibited a bright example, which all his followers ought to imitate. They ought to maintain pure and entire all such religious worship and ordinances as God has appointed in his word. To explain and enforce the duty of christians, to be zealous in maintaining the positive duties of religion, it will be necessary,
I. To mention some of the positive duties of religion under the gospel.
II. To point out the distinction between positive and moral duties.
III. To consider how christians may maintain positive duties. And,
IV. To show why they should be zealous in maintaining these duties.
I. I am to mention some of the positive duties of religion under the gospel.
The duties of this kind were much more numerous under the legal, than they are under the gospel dispensation. Under the law, the times and places of publick worship, together with a multitude of sacrifices, purifications, rites, and ceremonies, were positively appointed. But all these positive duties, which the law's of Moses enjoined, are now superseded and abolished, by the christian dispensation. It is not easy, however, to determine how far some positive duties, which were given before the law and under the law, are still binding upon christians. But since there is no occasion, in this discourse, to consider any such doubtful cases, I will mention only some of the plain and principal positive duties, which are enjoined in the New Testament.
Here the first duty to be mentioned is the observation of the Sabbath, or the keeping of one day in seven as holy time. Our Saviour not only observed the Sabbath himself, but declared, that “the Sabbath was made for man,” plainly intimating its perpetual obliga• tion upon all men in the present life. With this duty the públick and social worship of God is intimately connected. Christ attended the duties of the sanctuary on the Sabbath, and undoubtedly commanded his apostles, and through them all his followers, to keep the first, instead of the seventh day of the week, as a day of sacred rest and publick worship. Accordingly we know his apostles, and his followers in general, have ever since his ascension, attended publick worship on the first day of the week, which is emphatically styled the Lord's day. Christ expressly required his friends to profess his religion before the world; which is a duty binding upon all who love the Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity. Christ commanded, that those who professed his religion publickly, should be baptized with water in the name of the sacred Trinity. Christ enjoined it upon his professed and baptized friends, to partake of bread and wine in commemoration of his death. And be moreover instituted a standing visible church, to be composed of such visible believers as can conveniently meet together in one place, to hear the gospel, observe its ordinances, and
to exercise that mutual watch and discipline over one another, which tends to promote their purity, peace, and edification. To sum up the whole in a word: to keep the Sabbath, to worship God in publick, to make a publick profession of religion, to be baptized, to commemorate the death of Christ, to form into a church or religious society, and to exercise a proper watch and discipline over one another, are the principal positive duties enjoined upon christians under the gospel dispensation.
II. The next thing proposed is, to point out the difference between positive and moral duties.
Though we inay properly divide all duties into moral and positive; yet we ought not to magnify this distinction beyond reasonable bounds. It is often said, that moral duties are founded in the nature of things, and that they differ from positive duties principally in this respect. That there is a reason in the nature of things for moral duties, prior to their being commanded of God, is readily granted. But it is equally true, that there is a reason in the relation of things for alt positive duties, prior to the divine precept which enjoins them. There is, indeed, some difference between the nature of things, and the relation of things. The relation of things is mutable, and the nature of things is immutable. But there may be as good a reason for a positive duty, arising from the relation of things, as for a moral duty, arising from the nature of things. As God is a being perfectly wise and holy, so he can no more act without reason, than he can act contrary to reason. He always sees a reason for every thing he does, before he acts; and he always sees a reason for every thing he requires, before he commands.
This holds equally true in regard to both moral and positive precepts. He requires moral duties, because he sees a good reason for them in the nature of things; and he requires positive duties, because he sees a good reason for them in the relation of things. He required his people of old to love him with all the heart, because he saw a good reason for it in the nature of things; and he required the same people to offer sacrifices, because he saw as good a reason for it in the then relation of things. God never acts capriciously or arbitrarily, from mere will or pleasure; but his will or pleasure in all his commands is founded in a solid reason, arising either from the nature of things, or from the relation of things, which renders his will or pleasure perfectly wise and good.
The proper distinction, therefore, between moral and positive duties is this: moral duties are founded in reasons, which we are able to discover by the mere light of nature; but positive duties are founded in reasons, which we cannot discover without the aid of divine revelation. This may be illustrated by a contrast between these two species of duties. The light of nature teaches us, that we ought to love God, but it does not teach us, that we ought to rest one day in seven from all worldly employments. The light of nature teaches us, that we ought to worship God; but it does not teach us, that we ought to worship him in a publick and social manner. The light of nature teaches us, that we ought to obey God; but it does not teach us, that we ought to bind ourselves to obey him, by publickly and solemnly engaging to obey him. The light of nature teaches us, that we ought to fulfil our engagements to God; but it does not teach us, that we ought to ratify our engagements by the rite of Bap? tism. The light of nature teaches us, that we ought to love One, who has died to save us; but it does not teach us, that we ought to commemorate his love, by