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GOSPEL of St. Matth. Chap. v. Verfe
20. For I say unto you, That except your righteousness fall exceed the righteousness of the Scribes and Pharisees, ge Mall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven.
21. Te have beard, that it was said by them of old time, Thou Malt not kill: and whosoever fall kill, Mall be in danger of the judgment.
22. But I say unto you, that whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause, hall be in danger of the judgment : and whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, Mall be in danger of the counsel : but whosoever fmall say, Thou fool, pall be in danger of hell-fire.
23. Therefore, if thou bring thy gift to the altar, and there remembrest that thy brother haih ought against thee ;
24. Leave there thy gift before the altar, and go thy way, first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift.
The MORAL REFLECTION.
and tells them that unless their fanctity be more found and sincere, than that of the Pharisees, they will not be faved : Except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the Scribes and Pharisees ; je fall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven. Though the exterior of those leaders was grave and edifying, pride and hypocrisy lay within: they corrupted their law with false glosses, and abandoned God's commands to follow their own fancies; and thus, at once, they erred against faith and morality.
In the first place, they turned piety into hypocrify. Our Saviour often taxed them with this vice; Wo unto you bypocrites. They prayed, fasted, and gave large alms; but pride was the motive of these actions, not felf-denial or charity. They mortified their bodies, to procure efteem; and affifted their neceffitous brethren out of oftentation. These actions, performed out of so base a motive, will not entitle us to a reward in the next world, but to a punishment. Your righteousness then must exceed that of the Scribes and Pharisees : you must raise your intention above all temporal views, and expect the reward from God, without courting the applause of men.
Oh! the folly of those, who practise humility out of a principle of pride : who enrich the poor, to please their vanity, and undergo all the pain of fafting and mortification, for an empty esteem here, and real punishments hereafter! If you will take pains, make the most of your labour : curb your passions: relieve the poor : mortify the flesh for God's sake ; and give, at least, as much for the joys of heaven, as an hypocrite offers for the torments of hell.
It is certain nothing can be more unreasonable, and at the same time more irksome, than the conduct of an hypocrite: nothing more uncertain than the esteem he affects: nothing more contemptible, though he procures it. To labour as much for vice, as for the purchase of virtue, is irrational: to be continuaHy under a restraint, is difficult. The interior will appear in spight of all endeavours to conceal it; and then the affected praise will end in execration: for hypocrisy is not only abominable in the sight of God, but in that of men ; and even those, who are guilty of it themselves, are the first to dispraise it in others.
Let not therefore your righteousness, that is, your piety, resemble that of the Pharisees, which was nothing but oftentation and hypocrisy. Ab. ftain not from doing good out of a fear of pride,
nor do a good action out of a motive of vanity. Do not ill, out of an apprehension of being thought virtuous : leave people's opinion to themselves, and let your only care be to please God: wish that he alone saw your good works; and yet cease not by your life to edify your neighbour. Both are commanded: we must, as much as prudence will permit, conceal our virtues, and yet expose them to the eyes of the world, that the spectators may glo. rify God, to whom they are owing: Let your light so fine before men, says our blessed Saviour, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father, which is in heaven, Matth. v. 16.
O my Redeemer! I implore thy grace, that I may be pleasing in thy eyes by doing what thou dost command, and in the manner thou dost prescribe. I will never omit any part of my duty to avoid censure, nor comply with it, to be praised by men. Their blame will not hurt me, if I do well; nor their praise avail me, if I do ill. If I am grateful in thy sight, the disesteem of all creatures can never make me miserable; if displeasing, their esteem will not make me happy.
Secondly, the Scribes and the Pharisees taught, that the precept, Thou Malt not kill, laid no prohibition upon our thoughts and desires. So that if their hands were not stained with blood, though their heart was defiled with wicked desires, they supposed themselves innocent; but our Saviour declares, it is not sufficient to abstain from ill actions, but also from bad desires; that it is a sin to desire a neighbour's death, as well as to procure it ; to covet his wife, as well as to abuse her. With reason therefore did he declare ; that if our righteouf ness exceed not that of the Scribes and Pharisees, we Mall not enter into the kingdom of heaven; that is, unless our hearts be clean of revenge, as well as our hands, and of all ill desires, as well as of fin
ful actions. Our Saviour therefore commands, in this place, to conform the interior motions of the foul, to exterior observance of his law; to do good out of a supernatural motive; and to stand clear, not only of sinful acts, but also of delics: and therefore it is not only a sin to procure a considerable damage to our neighbour, but even to desire one; nay, and to rejoyce at his misfortune. Oh! how often have I fallen into these interior fins without scruple! I supposed myself innocent, so long as I broke not out into overt-acts against thy laws, O God! whilst in the mean time, I
gave full range to my thoughts, and no check to my desires. How often have I envied my neighbour's prosperity, and triumph'd at his misfortunes? how often have I taken a criminal complacency in those sins, I had not the impudence to commit? and thus have forfeited thy grace for a pleasure only in my imagination. Thou, O Lord, who dost number my hairs, doft alone keep a register of these crimes ; to pardon them, if I fly to thy mer cy by repentance; to punish them, if I remain obstinate. I implore thy mercy, deteft my folly, and confide in thy goodness. But why does our Saviour forbid so severely, not only murther, but even interior motions of anger? But I say unto you, that whosoever is angry with his brother, without a cause, mall be in danger of the judgment : and whosoever shall say to his brother, Racha, shall be in danger of the council. He forbids the least offences, because thy are sins; and though small, yet easily, and insensibly they draw us into greater, When passions grow warm, they immediately take fire, and carry us to the greatelt disorders. How often has one cast of the eye raised impure thoughts in the mind, which conversation has improved to the ruin of our fouls! a word, spoken without design, raises misunderstandings, quarrels, and dif
putes, which end in aversion and hatred. An innocent laughter proves often the source of railing and detraction, and a neglect of one point of our duty, often draws after it an omission of all the others. We must then pull up vice by the very roots ; lest, by growing upon us, it destroy the charity we owe our neighbour, and the compliance with all those duties, we owe God.
Thanks, O Saviour, for thy charity in teaching us a doctrine little understood, and practised less; yet necessary for all those, who intend to square their lives by thy commands. Alas! small defects are esteemed by deluded mortals heroick virtues ; and blindness canonizes those for faints, who are downright sinners. They never reflect, they expose themselves to great fins by committing with deliberation little ones: and that, if they give their passions a small liberty, they will soon take a greater. It is easy standing, if we keep off a precipice; but if we draw too near, one nip carries us to the bottom.
But if perchance we have injured our brother, how muft we make fatisfaction? Our Saviour tells us in the following words: Leave there thy gift before the altar, and go thy way, first to be reconciled to thy brother. We must, out of hand, employ all means possible to compose the difference, and to procure a reconciliation. If, in your prayers, you remember an offence against charity ; interrupt your devotion ; and immediately aik pardon. Prayers, that come from a rankled heart, are ungrateful to God. We must forgive our brother's offences, before God forgives ours, and be reconciled to him, if we intend a reconciliation with our Maker. You must lay aside all rancour, and not only abstain from doing, but even wishing him any harm: nay you must go farther, and resolve to do him all the good turns, your circumstances