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side, and can settle our differences at a future season, when we are more disposed to listen to reason, than we are for the present.' Nay, we shall most likely find, that there was no occasion for that intemperate conduct which we were in danger of indulging; and maintain with others, the unity of the spirit in the bond of peace. Finally, Ict us act always as under the inspection of God, who must be displeased with that extravagant rage, which is so unbecoming in a man and a Christian. Let us imi- . tate the example of our blessed Saviour, who bore the greatest injuries with composure and dignity, “who when he was reviled, reviled not again; when he suffered, he threatened not, but committed himself to him who judgeth righteously. Let lis learn of him to be meek and lowly in heart, and we shall find rest unto our souls."
ON CHRISTIAN MORALITY,
PHIL. IV. 8. Finally, brethren, whatsocver things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any, virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.
THE religion which we profess inculcates the attainment of holiness, as indispensable in every one who would adorn the gospel of Christ, by a conversation suitable to its sacred character. No system of morality, either in ancient or modern times, ever delivered precepts so strict and equitable, as Christianity; and no philosopher ever prescribed so perfect a standard of duty, as Christ and his aposties have left us in the holy scriptures. There are many injunctions for leading an upright life interspersed in every page of the sacred oracles, to which we would do well to take heed for directing our conduct in every circumstance of our condition. These are sometimes enumerated separately, that every person may know the precise obligations required of him; and they are frequently combined together, that we may be instructed in the whole extent of our duty. The classification of the sereral virtues, and their connection with one another expressed in this verse, and various other places of sacred writ, is well calculated for our edification and instruction in righteousness; as they can be easily recollected and fixed in the memory for the direction of our conduct. Whoever
is accustomed to read such passages and them, can be at no loss to understand in wh ought to behave in the several instances he ed; and whoever considers that these duties by the authority of God, who would have all his statutes ;—will be thereby induced to la his heart, and endeavour to practise them as he has opportunity.
If any one, from a mistaken notion of Christian liberty, should conceive that faith and piety are the chief duties imposed by the gospel; he will be undeceived in his persuasion, by examining this enumeration of moral precepts, which are equally necessary to be observed, if we would act in conformity to the divine will. Nay, he will learn, that the dispositions which we should daily exercise in the intercourse of life, are those of the equitable and amiable kind, which render us good members of society, and agreeable in our relations with one another. Thus, it will be evident to any one who considers the genius of Christianity, that it is a religion intended to regulate the practice of mankind, and render it conformable to that standard of rectitude which reason teaches and utility approves. In short, the gospel of Christ is “ a doctrine
a according to godliness ;” and when received as a practical religion, will be found better adapted to amend the hearts and lives of men, than any other system of faith ever delivered to the world. If we were better disposed to imbibe its precepts, than dispute about its doctrines, there would be more virtue and less bigotry among mankind; and if we were more earnest to contend about holiness of practice, than difference of sentiment, this would be the only test of our being Christians not in name and in word only, but in decd and in truth. And we may be assured, that our profession of Christianity is unavailing, unless we produce in our lives the fruits of righteousness; for our Saviour declares, that it is in vain we call him, Lord, Lord! unless we do the things which he says. If we love him, we must keep his commandments, and observe his statutes to do them. Since our obligation to observe the divine precepts will not be questioned by any one, suffer Xe to elucidate in the remainder of this discourse the comprehensive injunctions contained in the text. In the prosecution of this subject, it is proposed to shew,
I. The nature of each particular virtue here recomimended.
II. Our obligations to the practice of them.
The first particular which requires examination is, whatsoever things are true. This may comprehend both right apprehensions of things in general, and acting in conformity with that knowledge which we thereby acquire. Truth has been defined by logicians, as consisting in adequate conceptions of the abstract essence of any olject of thought; and a correspondence betwixt the sentiments of our minds and the words of our mouths. If we fail in attaining correct notions of any subject of investigation, we are thereby liable to an error in judgment; and if we express in our speech what we do not believe in our heart, we are thereby guilty of deceiving others. In order to arrive at the right understanding of every truth, we should consider its particular nature, and the relations it has to other things with which it is connected. Thus, if we would wish to form an accurate idea of the divine nature, we must extend our researches as far as its perfections are exhibited in the works of creation; and supply any defect in our knowledge, from the discoveries unfolded in the volume of revelation. If we would comprehend the mystery of our redemption, there is no other authentic source of information, on this topic, but the scriptures, which explain this truth, as far as our limited faculties can apprehend it.-In like manner, there are certain moral truths which we should study to understand, and adopt as first principles in directing our conduct. Thus, if others are placed in a certain relation to us, whether as superiors, inferiors, or equals, it becomes our duty to behave to them in a manner suitable to their condition ; and we cannot neglect this obligation, without disregard to the truth of the case, which demands our observance of the laws of propriety. Also, if we feel
ourselves drawn away of our own lust and enticed to the commission of evil; conscience will remonstrate against our conduct, and reason teach us the true course which we ought to pursue. Let us, then, attend to the dictates of rectitude, and we shall be guided in the performance of our duty, without turning aside to the right hand or to the left.
While we thus endeavour to act according to the true state of every case in which we are concerned; it should also be our care to study veracity in all our declarations. Whatever is the subject of discourse, demands inviolable fidelity in reporting it to others; because they will trust to our affirmations, and if these be false they will be thereby deceived. If lying were practised among mankind, mutual confidence would thenceforth cease, and no credit could be reposed in the words of those with whom we are connected. The baseness of this vice will appear, from the usual occasions on which it is practised, and the motives which prompt men to its indulgence. Thus, some will falsify in the transactions of business, and recommend their commodities as more valuable than they really are. Others will depreciate the reputation of a neighbour, in order to lessen him in the esteem of mankind. Some will relate such accounts of their own exploits, as are much exaggerated, that those who hear them may conceive estimation for their talents or their virtues. And others will disguise the truth, in order to avoid that reproach which they justly merit for unbecoming behaviour. In all these and similar cases, falsehood assumes the appearance of truth, and deceives our fellow-men, by imposing on their ignorance and credulity. Such artifices are unbecoming and disingenuous, and will never be practised by any one who speaketh the truth as he thinketh in his heart. For he considers how odious lying is in itself, and how it exposes the person who commits it to the displeasure of God, and the obloquy of men. The scripture de
, clares, that “a lying tongue is an abomination to the Lord,” and that “ all liars shall have their portion in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone.” And experience testifies, that if one is detected in uttering false