Imatges de pÓgina
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in order to learn what our duty is, and the religious government of the heart, aided at all times by fervent prayer for the gracious influence of the Holy Spirit, is absolutely necessary to enable us to fulfil it as we ought. Without this, we are in danger of enlarging the divine commands, or contracting them, according to the peculiar bent and character of our own minds. Religion might thus be made to encourage human frailties, instead of correcting them; and we might resemble those infatuated persons, whom St. Paul represents,

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as still seeking their own, not the things which are Jésus Christ's."

With respect to us, my Reverend Brethren, the usefulness of our character, and the efficiency of our labors, seem to depend, most essentially, on the strict observance of the law, which the great Jewish legislator has laid down: for, in the most important concerns of life, there is as much danger, and as much evil, resulting from one excess, as from another. We may be too strict, or rigid, in interpreting the laws of God; and we may be too lax, or indulgent. We may be too much addicted, also, to speculative tenets, and mere forms of worship, and not sufficiently attentive to the great practical duties of a Chris

tian; or else, forgetting the peculiar doctrines of the Gospel, we may be disposed to reduce its divine sanctions and authority to the mere morality of heathen philosophers, and the idle speculations of their different schools.

Farther, we may think too slightly of learning, or pride ourselves on it too much; and, indeed, unless it be made subservient to the true interpretation of the Holy Scriptures,-to the establishment of a sound faith, and right practice, in opposition to the disgusting profligacy and irreligion of the day, the display of it (in the pulpit at least,) must be ostentatious and illtimed, if not vain and useless.

With regard, also, to the different orders of the community, we are bound not to "have the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ with respect of persons." We must, therefore, exhort with long-suffering, and reprove with all gentleness, the rich and the poor, the young and the aged, the prosperous and the afflicted.

As far as relates to our temporal concerns, we should consider ourselves "as ministers of Christ, and stewards of the mysteries of God." In this respect, as well as in our spiritual office, we are servants, not masters;-stewards of the goods, which we dispense for the short period

of human life, and by no means lords of the in! heritance. Here, therefore, it behoves us to pay a sacred regard to the warning of the apostle, who observes, that "it is required of a steward, that a man be found faithful." God forbid that, in such times as these, any minister of Christ should be indifferent to the uncommon distress, which presses upon those with whom he is cons nected! But let him bear his own portion of it, without encouraging fraud, selfishness, and op pression. Be assured, no man is respected the more for being made the dupe of knavery and deceit, much less he, who is bound to teach men, among other things, the substantial duties of honesty and truth. On these occasions, also, we should consider others as well as ourselves. If we suffer the Lord's heritage to be wasted, or plundered, while we are its ministers and stewards, we shall hereafter be called to account for our sinful neglect. Our widows, or repre sentatives, perhaps, will be stript of their scanty pittance to repair the devastation, which we, as slothful servants, suffered to go on from year to year; and those who come after us may be deemed rapacious and oppressive, for no other reason, than that we were selfishly indolent, and by a sort of base timidity, under the cloke of

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peace and quietness, invited oppression and wrong.

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At the same time, the rule of right should, in our case, I apprehend, be always relaxed, rather than over-strained: but, remembering that, "Render unto all their dues," is the command of Holy Scripture, we should not suffer our dues to be fraudulently withheld, or frittered away; but should regularly claim them on all proper occasions, that we might teach those who are committed to our care to practise what is right;

that they might be grateful for what is after

wards given, or remitted;-and that our successors might not have any just cause to complain of our mismanagement and neglect; or of establishing customs productive of permanent loss, and ruinous litigation to the Church.

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But the admirable rule, which Moses prescribed to his people in the words of the text, is by no means confined to the right interpretation of religious doctrines, and the faithful discharge of ministerial duties;-it applies, with equal efficacy, to every obligation, which, as social and dependent creatures, we are required, in this life. of discipline, daily and almost hourly to fulfil. In the general conduct of life, the highest point of attainable perfection will be found to consist

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in that golden mean, which is equally remote from extremes; and there is not a more mischievous, or mistaken notion, than to suppose, that there are not blameable excesses even in the practice of our best virtues. The truth is, that every thing may be changed, and perverted from its right use and nature by addition, as well as by diminution; so that there is not a duty, or quality of the human mind, however natural and commendable in its proper degree, which may not thus be productive of folly, misery, and vice. Who knows not that generosity and friendship must be restricted to certain limits, by prudence and discretion, unless we fear not to waste the means of happiness, and occasionally, also, to reap the harvest of folly, while suffering the stings of ingratitude and self-reproach? Even the most natural of all duties,-the affection of a parent for his child, requires the sober guidance and control of religion to prevent its excesses from leading to evil. The consequence of fondness that is never restrained, and of indulgence that knows no limit, will generally be, the nourishment and growth of every vain, proud, and selfish passion. All notions of submission, docility, and obedience, are in danger of being lost, in the strong desire of liberty, and

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