Imatges de pÓgina
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they are the persons who regulate the standard of man, ners among the sober classes of society. It has always been found necessary among civilized tribes of men, to introduce general rules for the direction of human conduct; to adopt certain regulations for domestic, social, and personal behaviour; and to avoid other practices which are base or dishonourable. These indeed do not comprehend the whole of our duty; and he would be a careless Christian who contented himself with adherence to the established rules of ordinary life. But he would be equally criminal, who disregarded all compliance with the modes and usages which are held sacred by the respectable and virtuous. If we would maintain our credit among those with whom we are connected, it will be found advisable to practise those things that are of good report, and conform to every ordinance of man for the Lord's sake, that in all things he may be glorified.

Finally, if we would study to approve ourselves in welldoing, by employing every occasion for the exercise of virtue; we are obliged to have regard to every laudable action which is in our power to perform. Many duties arise out of particular circumstances in which we are placed; and if neglected at the time, we may never afterwards have an opportunity of executing them. Therefore, if we would improve the dispensations of providence, and consider what virtue a present occasion or situation calls us to exercise; then shall we be led to abound in the work of the Lord, and proceed from one degree of goodmess to another, till we be filled with all the fruits of righteousness. In order that such an increase in holiness may be produced, the apostle exhorts us to think of these things. Let us then be persuaded, by way of application,

III. To ponder the path of our feet, that our doings may be established. We need never expect to establish settled habits of these several virtues, without frequent consideration of their nature, utility, and the proper manner in which they should be practised. If we have not a

natural aptitude to certain dispositions, they must be acquired by discipline and self-improvement. For this

purpose, I know no exercise so conducive to cherish in our souls the amiable tempers of the Christian character, as a claily train of thought on such duties as we would wish to perform. If we represented to our minds, at our leisure moments, or even during our hours of employment, the excellence of truth, honesty, justice, purity, holiness, piety, contentment, patience, brotherly-kindness and charity; and reflected on the motives for each of these virtues, we would soon be induced-to practise them in the course of our conduct. If we had a regular habit of meditation on the particular virtues in which we are defective, and considered with ourselves what are the occasions on which we fail in their observance, the advantages which would result from their acquisition, and form a resolution to engage in them as we have opportunity for the future; we would find ourselves disposed to run in the path of God's commandments, when he had thus enlarged our hearts. What subject is of such importance to engage our cogitations, as the state of our hearts, and the tenour of our actions! Surely, the world and the things thereof have a sufficient portion of our time allotted them; let us sometimes think what the Lord requires of us, in order to do his will and keep his commandments; let us reflect whether we are living in his fear, and walking in all his ordinances blameless; and let us consider that unless we renounce those sins which easily beset us, and acquire those virtues that are lovely and of good report; we shall fail in conformity to his statutes, and are in danger of falling short of his heavenly kingdom. Do such thoughts as these never engage your meditations? will you suffer every foolish idea to occupy your mind, but never inquire what you must do to be saved ? never study how you may make your calling and election sure? Be persuaded, it is only by thinking on your ways, that you will be induced to turn your feet unto the divine testimonies; it is only by meditating on whatsoever things are true and honest, just and pure, lovely and of good report, that you will make haste and delay not to keep God's commandments. Let us all therefore be induced to consider and lay these things to heart, that we may be wise for our latter end; and that by the exercise of holiness and virtue here on earth, we may be qualified at last for the enjoyment of heaven,

SERMON XX.

ON

RELIGIOUS & MORAL OBLIGATION.

MICAH VI. 8. He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good ; and what doth the Lord require of thee, but to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?

As God is our Creator, he hath taken care to provide us with the means of being happy, or shewed us what is good, both for our bodies and our souls. The things which are necessary to the former part of our nature, are health, fortune, and the conveniences of life. These may be called natural goods, since they are adapted to promote our welfare, as sensitive and corporeal beings. They have been always esteemed as requisite ingredients in the composition of human happiness; and both reason and scripture concur in ascribing to them a certain value: nay, a great part of mankind seem to think them the most desirable acquisitions which they can possess.—But there are other things of infinitely greater value to us as rational, accountable, and immortal beings. These are such as may be denominated, intellectual and moral; or the goods of the mind. Such are knowledge and wisdom, to enlighten our understandings; and holiness and virtue, to purify our hearts. These are more excellent in their nature, than enjoyments of a sensitive kind; because they dignify and ennoble our souls which are our better part, because they render us truly respectable in the present world, and qualify us for happiness in the world to come.

That we might be instructed in knowledge and virtue, God himself hath become our teacher; he hath shewed us what is good, and what objects are best fitted to promote our felicity. He is the author of our nature, and alone knows what is necessary to render us happy; and it is therefore a most important privilege, that we are thus guided by the direction of such an unerring legislator. The manner in which God hath condescended to instruct us, is by shewing us what things are conducive to our advantage ; and requiring certain duties, the practice of which is beneficial to our interest. Those are summed up in the text under the title of justice and mercy to our fellow-creatures, and piety towards God; “what doth the Lord require of thee, but to do justly, to love mercy, and walk humbly with thy God?” This being the general outline of our religious and moral obligations; it will be well deserving our consideration to inquire more particularly into the nature of that chief good, which is here represented in the text, as comprehending the substance of human duty. In treating of this subject, it is therefore proprosed to explain,

1. The means which God hath employed to shew us our duty, or what is good for us.

II. The distribution of these duties here enumerated, as comprehending the substance of practical religion.

III. Our obligations to perform these duties, from the motives furnished to us, both by reason and revelation.

1. Various means have been employed by the Almighty, to instruct men in the knowledge of their duty. Our minds are so constituted, as to approve of some actions, and disapprove of others; which is therefore one means by which we arrive at the knowledge of what is good. We may suppose, indeed, that we have acquired our pótions of right and wrong entirely from the revealed will of God, discovered to us in the sacred scriptures. But though these contain a more sure and perfect direction for human conduct, than could be deduced from the principles of reason alone; yet that part of mankind who never enjoyed the instructions of divine revelation, are

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