« AnteriorContinua »
hoods, he henceforth loses the esteem of the world, and is ever afterwards suspected though he speaks truth. Therefore, if we would not forfeit the favour of God, the good will of men, and our own approbation, let us speak every one truth with our neighbours.
The next virtue which we are required to practise, is honesty in our general deportment. This term in its most extensive sense signifies, whatever is honourable and becoming in the station which we occupy. It is evident that there is a certain propriety expected of every one according to his rank, education, or profession; and that he cannot deviate from it, without degrading himself in the eyes of the public. There may be many actions which are not really criminal; but when committed by one who should exhibit an example of gravity and decorum, they are reckoned dishonourable to his character. Every man, therefore, who would act a dignified and irreproachable part, should be conscientious in maintaining his integrity, and preserving that demeanour which is respectable. The man of elevated condition should be an example of public-spirited generosity, and encourage every undertaking which may promote the general welfare. The man who is placed in the middle ranks of society, should endeavour to influence the manners of those who look up to him for a model of behaviour. And even the most obscure individual should regard vicious and idle practices as unsuitable to his character, and ruinous to his interest both here and hereafter.-If an honourable conduct is the duty of every one, whatever be his station; honesty in our dealings with one another is no less indispensable. There is indeed a principle of honour, which we are taught to cherish ; and by which we disdain to take advantage of the ignorance or simplicity of mankind. This, in most cases, is sufficient to maintain the rights of honesty, and induce us to deal fairly with all around us. But sometimes an opportunity may offer, whereby we shall gain some increase to our fortune, by over-reaching or defrauding the unsuspicious. Now, herein will the efficacy of moral principle appear, in teaching us the baseness of dishonesty and knavery; as we thereby impose upon a neigh
bour, and act towards him, as we would not wish he should do to us. This is a manifest injury, which will be visited upon those who are guilty of it with severe retaliation. For, sooner or later, the deceit shall be discovered, and the fraudulent dealer exposed to the scorn and contempt of all who know him. Or even though his villainy should remain unnoticed, still his conscience must accuse him bitterly; and he must suffer more mental inquietude from a sense of guilt, than all the gains of dishonesty are able to compensate. And he cannot divest himself of the apprehension that “no unrighteous person, nor covetous, nor extortioner shall inherit the kingdom of heaven.” While such is the consequence of deceit in our transactions; the man of integrity, on the contrary, procures a competency of this world's goods in a fair and honourable manner; enjoys them with a relish because they are his own; is thankful to God for prospering him in all his ways, and receives the congratulations of all who wish him well. Surely, an honourable conduct, and honesty in all our transactions is the most eligible and becoming, and therefore should be universally adopted by every one who would walk uprightly.
The next good quality which we should possess, and which bears some resemblance to what has been explained, is justice. This virtue is commonly described by moralists, as consisting in giving every one his due. It is one of the most comprehensive of all the duties, since it includes so many indispensable obligations incumbent on every one to perform. It teaches us to abstain from injuring our neighbour in any respect, whether in his individual or social capacity. Justice will not suffer us to harm the person or family of another, by any acts of violence or treachery. It will prevent us from encroaching on the property of a neighbour, or depriving him of the least article in his possession. It will engage us to act fairly in our mutual transactions, without failing in the least stipulations into which we have entered. - It will even teach us to respect the good name of others, and never to traduce it wantonly and without reason. In short, justice will be careful to avoid giving offence either
by word or deed, and incline us “ to live peaceably with all men.”—But these are mere negative acts of virtue, and do not include those many deeds of goodness and beneficence which the just man also deems indispensable. Thus, he will treat all those with whom he is connected with kindness and humanity, in order to render their condition as comfortable as possible. If he be a superior, jus. tice requires that he condescend to men of low estate; if an equal, that he esteem others as better than himself; and if an inferior, that “ he give honour to whom it is due.” If he be a parent, justice enjoins, that “he train up his children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord;" if a child, that he obey his parents in all things, and support them in the decline of life; if he have received favours, justice requires a grateful return; and if he has made a promise, that he perform it in due season.The just man will also endeavour to entertain as good an opinion as possible of his fellow-creatures, by exercising candour in his sentiments respecting them. He gives just allowance to the pretensions and merits of other men; even though they are his rivals and enemies. He will admit that they have good qualities, as well as bad ones! and will judge favourably of every one's actions.—The just man will likewise be affable and civil in his social intercourse. He will not speak in a harsh and disagreeable manner, nor injure the feelings of others by neglect and insult; but study that courtesy and politeness, which discretion will teach him to be necessary for living in good agreement with others around him. Thus in these various respects, may we practise whatsoever things are just.
The next virtue enumerated, which we should labour to acquire, is purity. This consists not only in abstinence from outward acts of sensuality, but also in having the heart free from irregular desires after forbidden objects. The man whose heart is pure makes no provision for the flesh to fulfil the lusts thereof; he never transgresses the rules of chastity, but keeps himself under subjection to the discipline of the most rigid self-denial. He considers that the law of nature and the law of God have ordained marriage as the only mode of connection betwixt the
seses, and therefore he is taught never to entertain any strong attachment, except towards the person with whom he wishes to form that sacred union. He reflects that God requireth uprightness in the inward part, and that none can be acceptable in his sight, unless they “ preserve their hands clean and their hearts pure.” He therefore never suffers foolish desires to obtrude them. selves into his mind; or, if they are occasionally excited by external objects, he banishes them instantly, by considering that every woman should have her own husband, and thus fortifies himself against the influence of every suggestion from within or from without. He whose heart is pure hates vain thoughts, and in order to guard against their entrance, he will “ avoid every appearance of evil;" watch over the illusions of the senses; abstain from the company of those who would entice him to vanity; and “ keep his heart with all diligence,” by entertaining serious thoughts of religious subjects, and by preserving himself unspotted from the world. He will also live in that state of temperance and moderation, so as to avoid those excesses of drunkenness, which render men susceptible of vicious inclinations wherehy they commit all iniquity with greediness.-If we would be upright and innocent from this great transgression, let us consider the pernicious consequences attending it. Indulgences of this kind impair the health, ruin the fortune, disgrace the reputation, and render a man wretched and odious in a high degree. They also destroy the principles of virtue within us, and thereby debase our character; which is followed by the loss of peace of mind, and the accusing remonstrances of a guilty conscience. They render us accessary to the ruin of those who are our partners in iniquity, and thus involve ourselves and them in present embarrassments and future misery. They expose us to the righteous in. dignation of God, who is particularly displeased with such profligate conduct; and if not repented of and speedily abandoned, will finally exclude us from the kingdom of glory. While such is the tendency of evil concupiscence, the pure in heart enjoy peace of conscience, and an honest fame, the favour of God, and the hope of heaven. They are happy here, and can anticipate happiness hereafter: “ blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God.” Let us therefore adopt their conduct, that we may partake of their present and future rewards.
But, not only must we possess that self-government, which consists in keeping our sensual appetites under the controul of reason; we should also cherish that amiable deportment, whereby we may be agreeable to others around us. Accordingly, the Apostle enjoins us to cultivate“ whatsoever things are lovely.” This comprehends the exercise of many excellent dispositions, which are of great importance in the discipline of a well-ordered life. In our intercourse with others, we shall find that conde. scension to every one with whom we have to do, affability in conversing upon ordinary topics, obliging attention to their opinions, and kind compliance with their several humours, will render us truly estimable among those around us. If also we are gentle to the weaknesses of our friends, and ready to overlook their faults; if we sympathize with them in affliction, and perform every little office of kindness as we have opportunity; such endearing tenderness is an amiable trait in the character of every one who possesses these engaging qualities. Is it not also lovely to bear the injurious treatment which we meet with from the froward, with calm composure; and to forgive the malice, the revenge, and rudeness of those who traduce and persecute us? Is it not lovely to contribute a share of our income to relieve the wants of the poor, and to speak comfort to those who are disconsolate? Is it not lovely to let our moderation be known unto all men in time of prosperity, and our resignation in the day of adversity; and so to use the world, as not to abuse it, since the fashion thereof soon passeth away ? Surely, if there be excellence in a human character, it must consist in such dispositions as these; which are so conducive to the welfare of others, and so important in promoting our own. For surely it is more becoming to be affable and condescending; gentle, and forgiving; humane and charitable ;-than to be haughty and forbidding; morose and implacable; hard-hearted and unfeeling : the former of