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SERM. belong to, in the way they should go, our VII. several duties may be ranged under three
heads; namely, those that relate to religion, to justice, and common honesty, and to temperance or the government of our passions; on each of which heads, I shall have some short remarks to make. As to religion, if we neglect the public worship of God, or if, though we neglect it not, we live in private, contrary to what we profess in public, then children must learn from us to make a mockery of religion also, and immediately the door is opened for the entrance and admission of all manner of sin and wickedness. But surely we must confess that we make a mockery of religion, when pretending to acknowledge God to be the Lord of all the world, we yet openly and wilfully transgress his laws, blaspheme his name, and slight his authority. I shall mention three familiar instances of such mockery of God, for which no doubt we shall be called to strict account hereafter. All his laws are compréhended under these two heads, that we love God with all our hearts, and minds, and souls,
and our neighbour as ourselves. But when SERM. our children see us so wrapped up in our worldly possessions, as to postpone the duties of religion for the most common concerns of life, and, instead of loving our neighbours as ourselves, seeking to compass our own good, by circumventing and defrauding all we may have to do with, how can they learn from this, to fulfil either of those most comprehensive laws? Again, how can they learn to reverence God's name, if they hear those that are older, and more experienced than themselves, uttering the most horrid oaths and imprecations upon the most trifling and unworthy occasions? How can they learn to revere his majesty and authority, if they see those who have deliberately entered into covenant with their Maker, openly and shamefully flying from their vows? By our baptismal vows, we are all bound to renounce the world, the flesh, and the devil; not that, in regard to the two former, we are expected to renounce the world so far as to forego the necessary labours and occupations of life, or the flesh so far as to give up the innoT2
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
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 accumu lated 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→ munity.
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