Imatges de pÓgina
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his neighbour as he would by himself, be- SERM. cause, perhaps, he too truly knows that it is the last thing his neighbour would do by him. His heart is hardened, because he thinks that in similar circumstances his neighbour's heart would be hardened against him; and this too often satisfies his conscience.—I say too often ; for Christianity does not even admit of this excuse. Christianity does not lay laws upon us, which our passions are left to interpret. Her laws are meant to controul our own passions first, and not merely to coerce and restrain those of our neighbours. The laws of Christianity entirely regard the individual; the conduct of others will be no defence, nor afford any palliation, except in the case of absolute violence. What we ought really and solely to think of, is not, how bad others are, but how we can prove ourselves to be good and faithful servants of the blessed Jesus. And when we consider what the consequences really would be of every man's acting up to this rule, it is truly melancholy to think that men cannot agree upon a point so important. A Christian ought to

II.

do.

II.

govern

SERM. do good, though he should be only requited

with ill; but if all men would resolve to be Christians in heart, then every man in particular would be a gainer. While I tried to serve my neighbour, my neighbour would be trying to serve me.

The same principle would govern both; kindness would be repaid with kindness, friendship with friendship; my honesty and integrity would be his security, and his honesty and integrity mine; but if we will not ourselves by this principle, all is put out of order. When one man happens to act by another otherwise than a Christian should do, this second begins to waver also : one bad office is requited by another; and the first that goes astray, has the transgressions of both to answer for. Not that the latter is acquitted, but the first error is of so much more importance, as it operates to prevent and hinder the good intentions of others, and perhaps may be multiplied afterwards to the ruin and destruction of thousands. The true Christian, however, is bound to consider, that the laws of God are not to be set aside by the frowardness

of

II.

our own.

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of man. Perhaps it may seem to be a sort sERM. of defence dictated by nature, that we should retaliate injuries, and avenge ourselves. It would seem as if the holy Apostle, St. Paul, almost acknowledged this to be, if not natural, at least difficult to be resisted, because he has, in so strong terms, inculcated a different rule of conduct. He advises us to leave other men's actions to be judged by God, and have an eye only to

Be not wise in your own conceits;recompense to no man evil for evil ;" provide things honest in the sight of all men;" this is the surest ground to go upon; “ and if it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live

peaceably with all men.This is not spoken like a teacher who knew nothing of the world : he would seem from these very expressions to have known it full well. He probably knew that such is the wantonness. of human nature, that oftentimes the best and quietest men are not suffered to live peaceably with those around them, without submitting more, than as men, is to be expected of them. He only exhorts us to do

it

II.

as

SERM. it therefore, if it be possible, and as much

lieth in us." But how few of us comply with this! How suddenly impetuous many are, upon the slightest provocation! How in a moment are we stirred up to retaliate an offence! We give ourselves no time to weigh the circumstances; perhaps he who has offended us, may have done it unintentionally; perhaps he has been deceived; perhaps he has only done what we ourselves should have done in the like situation. These are points which a true Christian should weigh and consider before he condemns or blames others; and if he would do so, no doubt but the matter might be settled so as to endanger neither. Instead of this, we judge hastily, forgetful all the while that we ourselves are to be judged hereafter; nor is it to be doubted, that many live thus at variance with those around them, who yet know that their own trespasses against their Maker will only be forgiven, in proportion as they forgive those who trespass against them. It is amazing to think how difficult it is to make men

under

understand their own interest. Those who SERM. seem to us to understand it best, perhaps 11. understand it least of all. Religion, in fact, is the one thing needful; and yet too generally, instead of being thought needful, it is of all things most neglected, and postponed for every description of worldly pursuits. Those who do not wholly neglect it, trifle with it. They think it consists in a few ceremonies, a few prayers, and a few professions of belief; whereas it ought to be the prime business of life. Though we should have recourse to it, on particular and pressing occasions, to comfort us under sorrow, to support us under pain, to relieve us in any heavy distress of body or soul : yet this is but making it a remedy for evils that may be occasional and temporary ; but religion well understood holds out to us a prize for which we ever ought to be contending. And this prize is best suited to our wishes, be they what they may; for all our wishes, however diversified, must centre in this, that we alike desire to be prosperous and happy. Religion will accomplish the point for every

every one of us, if

we

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