Imatges de pÓgina
PDF
EPUB

misery, from the constitution of things; and tlie express revelation of the will of God dictating to us what we should do, and what we should avoid ;-these means should be sufficient to induce us to practise what we know to be right, and abstain from whatever we discover to be wrong. We surely cannot plead ignorance of our duty, since so many lights are employed to instruct us in the knowledge of good and evil. If our consciences teach us that to do justly, and love mercy, and walk humbly with our God, is the part which we approve, let us act according to our convictions; if experience warns us, that to do justly is necessary to give every one their due, and promote mutual confidence, let us be just in our dealings with all around us; if it instructs us, that to shew compassion will relieve the distressed and promote their comfort, let us love mercy; and if it makes us feel that to walk humbly with God is a becoming disposition in dependent creatures, such as we are, then let us abound in devout affections and pious exercises.-If we are taught by the constitution of human society, that vice of every kind is punished less or more, and virtue rewarded; let us renounce the one, and cleave to the other, that we may secure the favour of our fellow men. If also the divine indignation has been declared from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness, should not this lead us to forsake every evil way, lest a worse punishment befal us if we continue impenitent; and to walk in the way of holiness, since God hath promised to bestow glory, honour, and immortality on those who continue in the ways of well-doing?

Particularly let us practise the various parts of justice, mercy, and piety already enumerated from the peculiar obligations which should enforce each of them respectively. The duties which we owe to one another as fellow-creatures, are kind treatment, love, and esteem; because these are necessary to promote our mutual happiness; whereas if we hate, maltreat, and slander each other, we shall produce disagreement and animosity:—The duties which justice requires of us as men connected by various relations, are also obligatory. Should not those in authority en

deavour to promote the welfare of society, because it is their province to ameliorate the condition of their inferiors ? and should not inferiors submit to their rulers and governors, because it is the only return they can make for the care bestowed in rendering them happy, as members of the community ? Should not masters give unto their servants that which is just and equal, because it is right and proper to render the condition of those who labour by the sweat of their brow, as easy as possible? and should not servants obey their masters in all things, because this is necessary to carry on the operations of active life, act the part assigned in the station which they occupy, and well-pleasing in the sight of God ? Should not husbands and wives be mutually helpers of each other, in bearing the calamities of life, in promoting their own edification, and in training up their children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord; because their matrimonial union was intended to promote these important ends? Should not children be subject to their parents; because they have a right to their filial regards, from the care and expense which they have incurred in training them up to usefulness and virtue ? Should not our benefactors and friends experience our gratitude and kindness, when we have received favours at their hands, which have contributed to increase our happiness? In short, let us consider the obligations under which we are to perform every act of justice to others, as their station and relation demand.

Moreover, should we not love mercy, both in ministering to the spiritual and temporal wants of others who stand in need of our assistance; because we might instruct the ignorant, reclaim the vicious, or console the wretched; and because we might bestow a share of our income or other superfluities, to relieve the wants of the poor and needy. They have a claim upon our bounty, as we are stewards of the gifts of providence, which were conferred on us to be distributed to others.

Finally, are we not bound to walk humbly before God, when we know that we are unworthy of his favour, and that it is of his mercies we are not consumed.

Let us

maintain upon our minds a sense of our dependence on him for all that we enjoy, pertaining both to life and to godliness; and endeavour to devote our lives to his service, by doing justly, loving mercy, and walking humbly before him all the days of our lives. Then shall we be qualified, through the merits of our Saviour, for entering into that rest, which God hath prepared for those who serve him and obey his commandments.

SERMON XXI.

ON THE

DIOTIVES TO CHRISTIAN DUTY.

PROV. III. 17. Her ways are ways of pleasantness; and all her paths

are peace.

HAVING in the preceding discourses illustrated some of the duties of Christianity; I intend at present to recommend the practice of them, by shewing how conducive they are to promote our happiness. The precepts of religion and morality are so suitable to human nature, and their observance is so advantageous to our true interest, as to be designated in scripture by the appellation of wisdom. Accordingly, the author of the Proverbs, from which our text is taken, speaks of widom or practical religion, as the chief thing which every one should be earnest to acquire; declaring that he is happy who finds it, and that all other sources of pleasure are not to be compared to it. The other inspired authors of sacred writ agree with Solomon in their estimation of the value of religion, and its tendency to produce the most permanent satisfaction. Thus, David testifies that “ great peace have they who love the law of God, and that nothing shall offend them.” Thus, our Lord affirms, that “ his yoke is easy and his burden is light,” and that those who obey his precepts shall find rest unto their souls. And thus St. John asserts that “it is the will of God that we keep his commandments, and his commandments are not grievous.” But, while goodness produces, on the whole, a great degree of

Gg

happiness to him who possesses it; yet there are various circumstances which diminish the satisfaction naturally resulting from the practice of righteousness.

For, as long as the best of men continue in the world, they feel a struggle betwixt the corruptions of their hearts and the principles of sanctity with which they are endowed; a law in their members warring against the law in their minds, and that when they would do good, evil is present with them. As they are conscious of their defects in the performance of duty, and the imperfections which attend their very

best services; hence they have daily cause of humiliation before God, and mourn over their transgressions in the bitterness of their souls. This is a source of uneasiness which never disturbs the minds of the ungodly, as they are insensible of the necessity of holiness; and unconcerned about the sins of which they are guilty, or the divine indignation to which they are thereby exposed. Nor do the irreligious suffer any mental infelicity, from the occasional loss of spiritual comforts, that sometimes overwhelms the souls of the pious with a degree of sorrow peculiarly their own. For there are certain seasons, when God withdraws the light of his countenance from his faithful servants, and when they walk in darkness, without experiencing those sensations of delight, which are the usual portion of the upright in heart. And often, also, they are in heaviness through many tribulations which are the unavoidable lot of humanity in this present state; and which, from the sensibility of their feelings, pierce them through with the bitterest anguish.

Yet still, the influence of religion is favourable to that equanimity and cheerfulness which are the chief ingredients of earthly happiness; because it affords the best grounds of comfort to the soul, by teaching us to rely on the divine benignity, by supporting us with the answer of a good conscience, and elevating our spirits with the hope of immortality.-- There are indeed some Christians who do not seem to feel much of that peace of mind which is ascribed to the practice of virtue: who are continually gloomy and unhappy, and are of all men the most miserable. But it should be considered, that frequently this

« AnteriorContinua »