Sidor som bilder
PDF
ePub

becomes glorious; the affections delightful; the conduct divine. In a community, governed by this principle, every individual, however great, or however small

, is honourable and lovely, both in his own sight, and that of others : every one is useful, also: every one is happy,

2dly. The great practical inference from this doctrine is, that doing good is the only proper Employment of man.

You, my Friends and Brethren, were created for this great purpose; not to gain reputation, learning, wealth, knowledge, power, honour, or pleasure; but to do good; not to gain even heaven itself, or immortal life ; but to ascend to heaven, and to acquire immortal life, that in that happy world you may employ the immense of duration in an endless diffusion of beneficence, and an endless exercise of piety and praise. Make, then, the end for which God designed your existence, and your faculties, the voluntary and proper end of all your wishes, designs, and labours.

With sober and affecting meditation set it before yourselves in form, and system, as the purpose for which you were made, endowed, preserved, and blessed hitherto; as the purpose, which is prescribed by the will of God; and as the purpose, to which you are, therefore, voluntarily, and supremely, to devote yourselves. Let each of you say to himself, “ I was formed for the great and glorious purpose of doing good. This was the will of my Maker; it is my own supreme interest; it is the supreme interest of my fellow-creatures in me. Be this, then, the ultimate end of all my thoughts, wishes, and labours; and let nothing hinder me from pursuing it always. While I lawfully seek for reputation, properiy, learning, eloquence, power, or any other earthly good, I am resolved to seek them, only in subordination to this great purpose ; as means, merely, to this end. To form, and to execute, this resolution, give me grace, wisdom, and strength, O thou Father of all mercies! that I may perform thy holy will, and in some measure resemble thy perfect and glorious character, through Jesus Christ. Amen."

This solemn proposition of the subject to yourselves would, almost of course, give it a distinction and importance in your view, which would induce you to keep it supremely, and habitually, in sight, and render it a standard, to which all your conduct would be referred for approbation or rejection; a moral scale, by which you would measure every thought, and pursuit; a touchstone by which you would distinguish every species of alloy from the most fine gold. It would, also, direct your aims to a higher mark; and give your efforts a nobler character. Men usually, even good men, rather compound in their affections with conscience, and the Scriptures, for a mixture of worldliness and virtue, than insist on observ. ing nothing, but the dictates of virtue. They aim at being virtuous; and not at being only, and eminently, virtuous. One reason for this is, they take it for granted, that they shall never cease to sin, in

the present world, and therefore, never mistrust either how practicable, or how important it is, that they should vigorously determine to avoid all sin, and practice nothing but virtue. Their designs are divided between their worldly business and Religion. These they consider as two separate, and in a degree incoherent, objects; both necessary, but still clashing; when they ought to consider their worldly business merely as one great dictate, and duty, of Religion; one great branch of the virtue, which they are to exhibit, and of the good, which they are to do. Worldly business is to be done; but it is to be done only as a part of our religion and duty. Even our amusements are always to be regarded in this manner; and are useful, and lawful, only as parts of our duty, and as means of enabling us better to perform other duties, of higher importance. From exact obedience to the great rule, Whether ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God, there is no exemption.

Were the solemn proposition which I have urged, to be formed, and habitually kept in sight; the character of man would soon be, not sinless indeed, but incomparably more holy, blameless, and undefiled, than we now usually find it. Human Virtue would be less clouded; would assume a brighter and more celestial aspect; and would be gilded with a clearer and more genial sunshine.

In whatever sphere of life you are placed, employ all your pow. ers, and all your means of doing good, as diligently and vigorously as you can.' Direct your efforts to the well-being of those who are within your reach, and not to the inhabitants of a distant age, or country; of a future generation, or of China or Peru. Neglect not a humble kind office within your power, for a vast and sublime one, which you cannot accomplish. The Scriptures require you to feed the hungry, and to clothe the naked; to instruct the ignorant, and reclaim the vicious. Philosophical philanthropy calls to the commiseration of nations, the overthrow of governments, the improvement of the vast society of Man, and the exaltation of this wretched world to freedom, science, and happiness. The only objection to your labouring in this magnificent field seems to be, that your labours will be to no purpose. On the Scriptural plan, you will at least do something; and your two mites will not be forgotten. Extend your efforts, however, as far as you can extend them, to any effect; to as many, and as great objects, as Providence places within your reach; and as many ways as you shall find in your power. Promote, as much as possible, relief, comfort, health, knowledge, virtue, and happiness, both as private and public objects. Promote them by your talents, your property, your influence, your labours, and your example. Let every day, when passing in review before the scrutinizing eye of conscience, present a regular series of beneficence, which will soften the bed of your repose, and rise as a sweet memorial before God.

As objects of your kindness, always select the most deserving. The Scriptures have directed you to do good unto all men, and especially to those of the household of faith. To the soundness of this precept common sense bears, also, the fullest attestation. It was reserved for philosophy to discern, that the true and proper scenes of employing benevolence were the galley and the gaol; and that its chief aim should be not to make men good and virtuous, but to prevent thieves, murderers, and traitors from coming to the dungeon or the gibbet, which they had merited. Let your favourite object be the honest, the industrious, the sober, the virtuous; and both feel, and relieve, their distresses. Refuse not others; but give to these an universal preference. When you relieve the sufferings of the vicious and infamous, close your beneficence with solemn reproof, and pungent counsel; and remember, if you withdraw them from vice to virtue, you render them a kindness, infinitely greater, than if you elevate them to wealth and honour. In this way you will save a soul from death, and cover a multitude of sins.

With all your resolutions and efforts, you will need, every day, assistance from God. Every day, ask it in humble, fervent prayer. No real blessing ever descends to man, but as an answer to prayer. Particularly this rich and glorious blessing of a life patiently spent in well-doing, cannot be expected unless it be asked for. Three times a day retire with Daniel to your chambers. God will be there, and will grant you a glorious answer of peace. To such a life can you want motives? Let me remind you,

that it is, and, I flatter myself, it has been proved to be, not only the most honourable, but the only honourable, character; the character, which secures the secret approbation of those who do not assume it; and the open esteem, love, and praise, of those who do: that it is the only character, which is truly and eminently happy; which possesses peace within, and enjoyment without; which is found in heaven, and constitutes the happiness of that exalted world : that it is the character of Angels, of Christ, and of God; the beauty of the divine kingdom, the glory of Jehovah, and the source of all the good, which is enjoyed in Immensity and Eternity.

It is the only character, which will endure. The world passeth away, and the lust thereof; but he who doeth the will of God abideth

for ever. The lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, the wretched inventory of a selfish, worldly mind, find all their poor, though boasted, gratifications on this side of the grave. Their miserable possessors riot, and dig, and climb, during their passing day; and then vanish, and are seen no more : where will they next be found?

He, on the contrary, who by patient continuance in well-doing hath sought for glory, honour, and immortality, will lie down in the bed of peace, will fall asleep in the Lord Jesus, and awake

with new life, and glory, beyond the grave. In the great trial, he will be found, and pronounced, to have well done, and to have been a good and faithful servant of his divine Master; and will be directed to enter into the joy of his Lord.

In the great and final day, he will be acquitted, acknowledged, and glorified, before the assembled universe; because, when the least of Christ's brethren was an hungered, he gave him meat ; when he was thirsty, he gave him drink; when he was a stranger, he took him in; when he was naked, he clothed him; when he was sick, and in prison, he ministered unto him. Of so high and valuable a nature will he find this beneficence, that it will be received, and rewarded, by Christ, as done to himself. To heaven he will be an acceptable inhabitant; and meet with an open and abundant entrance into that happy world. Glorified saints will there hail him as their brother : Angels will welcome him as their companion. There, also, will he find, that he has begun a career of excellence, which will never end. Endued, there, with stronger principles and nobler powers, in a happier field, with more desirable companions, and forming all his plans of beneficence for eternal duration, he will fill up the succession of ages with a glorious and immortal progress of doing good; and become daily a brighter, a more perfect, a more divine, ornament, and blessing, to the virtuous universe.

And now, my friends and brethren, I commend you to God, and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up in this evangelical character, and to give you an inheritance among all them that are sanctified. Amen.

SERMON XCVIII.

THE LAW OF GOD.-THE SECOND GREAT COMMANDMENT. THE

EFFECTS OF BENEVOLENCE ON PUBLIC HAPPINESS.

Acts xx. 35.—1 have shewed you all things, how that so labouring, ye ought to sup

port the weak; and to remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he said, It is more blessed to give, than to receive.

IN a preceding discourse, I considered, at length, the Influence of a disposition to do good on the personal happiness of him, in whom it exists; and attempted to show, that this disposition is more productive, than any other, of such happiness. It is now my design to prove, that it possesses a no less superior efficacy in producing Public happiness; or the happiness of Society in all its various forms.

Of this disposition, commonly styled disinterested Benevolence, and denoted in the New Testament by the word, Ayarn, rendered in our translation Love, and Charity, we have an extensive, most accurate, and most beautiful, description in the 13th chapter of the first Epistle to the Corinthians. In this chapter, it is exhibited to be superior to every natural and supernatural endowment, and to every acquisition made by man. It is proved to be the source of all good, natural and moral; or rather the source of all natural, and the substance of all moral, good. It is shown to be the only real excellence of intelligent creatures ; the means of their existence, and their continuance, in the kingdom, of God; and the only cause of his complacency in their character. Final. ly, it is declared, that this disposition shall endure until all other things, which are admired and esteemed by men, shall be forgotten; and, when they shall have ceased, together with their use and importance, shall brighten and flourish for ever.

Generally, it is declared, if I mistake not, in this chapter, that Love, in its various modifications and exercises, is the amount of all those, which are commonly called the

graces of the Christian spirit; or, as they are often styled, the Christian virtues. Particularly, it is exhibited to us as long-suffering, contentment, modesty, humility, decency, disinterestedness, meekness, charitableness, hatred of iniquity, love to truth, patience, faith, hope, and fortitude. With this, the most extended and the most detailed, account of the subject, furnished by the Scriptures, all the other exhibitions, contained in the sacred volume, perfectly agree. In them all, when connected together by the mind, as may without difficulty be perceived, this great truth is abundantly shown: viz.

« FöregåendeFortsätt »