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PROVERBS, xv. 8.
THE SACRIFICE OF THE WICKED IS AN ABOMINATION
TO THE LORD : BUT THE PRAYER OF THE UPRIGHT IS HIS DELIGHT.
THIS great truth, is equally the dictate
of natural and of revealed religion. It is the expression of a feeling divinely engraven on the heart of man, at least as early as his first recovery from the fall; and which, not even the worst consequences of that fall have ever been able entirely to deface. For at all times, under all dispensations, and amidst the most unfavourable circumstances, some efforts have been made, at least by a few distinguished individuals, to assert the pure and holy worship of a pure and holy God.
It is a delightful result and proof of the divine benignity, that, respecting this first concern of man, God left not himself without witness, during the gross delusions of the heathen world. Some seeds and embers of the patriarchal religion, some notices and feelings of the reverence due to the Supreme Governor of all, were kept alive by sages and · poets, the unconscious, but salutary
agents of Divine Providence. 66 As God, desiring the salvation of the Jews, gave them the prophets,” so, says an ancient Father of the church, (1) " he separated from the common mass, the most approved among the Gentiles ; raising up to them peculiar prophets, in their own languages, according to their capacity of receiving this heavenly benefit.”
To these sages and poets, whom this pious Father does not scruple to call prophets of the Gentiles, Saint Paul frequently refers. Sanctioned, therefore, by his authority, I shall produce from their writings, some illustrations of the text; (2) which may, perhaps, afford useful matter of reflection, even to a Christian congregation. For, should we not be provoked to a holy jealousy, by the just views, and elevated feelings of men, who had neither the light, the example, nor the spiritual aid, vouchsafed to us, through our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ ?
“ It is not,” says Plato, “ the nature of God to be actuated by gifts, like a dishonest usurer. It would be dreadful, if he regarded our gifts and sacrifices, and not the soul of the offerer, whether it be just and holy.”
“ The wicked,” says a great dramatic poet, “ have brought themselves to imagine, that by gifts and sacrifices, they may appease God. But they lose both their labour and expense. For, to Him, no supplications are acceptable from the perjurer. And the pious will obtain that ready pardon, which is with-held from the wicked. Therefore, I give you this admonition : You that are virtuous, you
that live a life of piety and good faith, persevere, that you may rejoice in your deeds.”
.“ Let not the impious dare,” says Cicero, “ to approach the Deity with gifts. For, can it be doubted what is the mind of God, when no good man would accept a present from a villain ?”
And to select one more passage, from a multitude equally impressive, “ Whoever thinks to honour God, except by the surrender of himself, makes this honour consist in profuse expenditure; offering not his own virtue, but things outward and ceremonial, a gift without a heart ; which not even a good man would willingly accept. But the simplest present, if it be only adorned with piety of mind, is preferred before the most sumptuous oblation. With piety, all things are acceptable in the sight of God; without it, nothing. The gifts and sacrifices of fools, are but fuel for the flames; their offerings are only the prey of the sacrilegious. But a divine temper, solidly established,
unites a man to God. Hence it is, that the wise man is esteemed the only priest, the only friend of God, the only proficient in prayer. For he alone knows how to honour God, who in the first place, makes an oblation of himself; and moulds his soul into a divine image ; and prepares his mind as a temple, for the reception of divine light. For God has not, upon earth, a more domestic sanctuary, than a pure and pious soul.”.
Thus, even in the Gentile world, we hear the voice of reason and conscience pronouncing, that “the sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination to the Lord : but the prayer of the upright, his delight.” This evidence might put many to shame, who profess and call themselves Christians. But we must remember, that such evidence is strictly subordinate. Our unerring guide is the Sacred Scripture. There God speaks. And who shall presume to countervail his words ?
“ Hear, oh earth ! Behold, I will bring