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SERM. cent and moderate indulgence of our na vii. tural appetites and desires, but we are
never to suffer either the affairs of the world, or the gratification of fleshly appetites, to draw us aside from the paths of virtue and sobriety. Besides our baptismal vows, there is another vow by which both sexes, according to the ordinances of all civilized states, and the laws of God besides, most deliberately bind themselves in covenant with their Maker; I speak of the marriage vow. By this the mighty God is called to witness the most solemn
promises of faith and fidelity that can be uttered by his creatures; promises, of such a nature, so sanctified by his especial presence, so fenced round with all that honor, friendship, and common honesty can add of security, that it is horrible to reflect on such corruption and depravity, as can tempt any to violate them; the crime itself is attended besides with such an example of abandoned principles, that the younger part of society are peculiarly endangered by it; it is, in short, in all its consequences, and certainly in its causes,
of so foul and hateful a nature, that we SERM. cannot wonder to find it made a test, as
VII. it often is, to distinguish barbarous from civilized countries. In this point, then, those who set the example of such hardened impiety, such bare-faced breach of honor and honesty, such base and abandoned principles, do more hurt to the morals of the rising generation than words are capable of describing, and the accumulated wickedness they will have to answer for hereafter, may well make us shudder for their fate: for matrimony is holy, and sanctified by God the Father, by Christ and his Apostles, and among its moral uses, is especially meant to prevent that corruption and dissolution of manners, which are most notoriously repugnant to the laws of Christianity, which, suffered to prevail without check and restraint, cannot but unfit the soul for all higher enjoyments, and which, therefore, wherever reason and religion prevail as they should do, is justly discountenanced by the censure, and marked disapprobation, of all the rational and enlightened part of the com
SERM. munity. Another point, in which we ought VII.
to be very careful about the examples we set, is in regard to justice and honesty in all its branches. Injustice and dishonesty, fraud and falshood, no man will tolerate in another. Deceit and craft overthrow all the securities of society; so that truth is sure to have this regard shewn it at least, that we are willing enough to correct falshood in others wherever it appears. But how can we do this with any propriety, unless we are continually upon our guard to keep ourselves within the bounds of justice and sincerity ? It is presumption in us to reproach others for a want of honesty, while we make no scruple of transgressing in this point ourselves; and yet undoubtedly it often happens, that while we would rebuke a child for telling a lie, we breed him up to manage his worldly concerns with such a narrow prudence, and such rules of caution and suspicion, as border upon craft. This is a contradiction, which I fear we could find frequent instances of, insomuch that it would appear as if a certain degree of artifice and cun
ning was absolutely requisite in the affairs SERM. of life, a man being thought fair prey, that is either so open, so ingenuous, or so unsuspicious, as to let his neighbour take advantage of him. How are young persons to learn to reverence truth and fair dealing, when they see a degree of merit attached to such worldly wisdom and cunning? The last point in which we ought to be very careful what example we set, is in the government of our passions. Though our passions and desires were all implanted in us for wise and gracious purposes, yet we should always remember, that it is by them more than any thing else, that we are to be proved and tried; they are ever to be kept under a restraint and check, for all excess is an abuse, and as they all have a respect to this life more than the one to come, to indulge them too far, is to prefer worldly pleasures and concerns to the joyful prospects of eternity. The laws of the second table afford us a general outline of our duty in this respect. If we would have our children learn to honor. us, we must remember there is an honor..
SERM. due to ourselves first, from ourselves; we VII.
must not expect to be really honored, if we only live to degrade ourselves in the eyes
of our family, by continual breaches of the laws of God, and frequent offences against the order and decorum of civil society; if we suffer them to see us daily gratifying our passions without restraint, and wantoning in riot and intemperance, All the other laws being positive injunctions, demand of us equal care and circumspection, if we would enforce them on our children; for how can young people think us sincere, in urging them upon them as the laws of God, if we, by our conduct, shew we are nevertheless not afraid ourselves to transgress them? To conclude; the importance of Example is most palpable and manifest: a bad example is of more danger, and may truly and unquestionably work more real ill, than any offensive weapon in the hand of a murderer; the blind
may be led astray by it, the innocent corrupted, the helpless deluded, the body contaminated, the soul destroyed; but a good example will have all the merit of