Sidor som bilder
PDF
ePub

which it sometimes is, but much oftener affects to be, united. And the only way of putting a stop to this mischief, and of restoring that union which the text enforces, and which ought always to subsist between the two great branches of practical morality, is to show by our example (the most intelligible and convincing of all proofs) that BENEVOLENCE is then most lovely, when joined with its true ally, its proper companion, SELF-GOVERNMENT ; that, in order to form a pleasing character, it is by no means necessary to throw into it any impure alloy ; but that, on the contrary, a truly pious and strictly moral Christian, will not only be the most virtuous, but the most amiable of men.

Unhappily, indeed, a contrary opinion has too long and too generally prevailed amongst us; and licentious wits have taught great numbers to believe that purity of manners is a vulgar and a contemptible virtue, and that all pretence to it is in genefral nothing more than hypocrisy and grimace. But let us not be frightened by a few hard words and a little witless buffoon

ery, from pursuing steadily the invariable rule of moral rectitude. As sure as God himself is all purity and perfection, there is such a thing as real purity of heart and life; and it is one of the most exalted virtues that can dignify human nature. It gives that strength and vigour, and masculine firmness to the mind, which is the foundation of every thing great and excellent. It has produced some of the noblest struggles, and most heroical exertions, of soul, that the world ever saw, and is, perhaps, a more convincing, more unequivocal proof of our sincerity in Religion, than even benevolence itself. When it is considered how many inducements, how many temptations, there are to acts of humanity, to which nature prompts, to which fashion draws, to which vanity, interest, popularity, ambition, sometimes lead us, one cannot always be sure that they proceed from a truly Christian principle. But he who combats his darling passions, and gives up the fondest wishes of his soul ; who keeps a constant guard upon all his thoughts, words, and actions; intrepidly withstands the most alluring temptations, and takes up his Cross to follow Christ ; this man cannot well be influenced by any thing but a strong sense of duty, and an undissembled conviction that he is bound to obey even the severest precepts of the Gospel. His good actions are neither seen nor applauded of men. They are performed in secrecy and in silence, without ostentation, without regard, save only the approbation of that all-seeing God, who is witness to the bitter conflicts of his soul, and will one day make him ample amends in the sight of angels and of men.

Let it not, however, be supposed that any thing here said is meant to depreciate that most heavenly virtue, charity, or to rob those that exercise it of that fair fame, that heartfelt satisfaction, and those glorious rewards hereafter, which, through the merits of their Redeemer, cannot fail to recompense their generous labours. May every branch and species of benevolence for ever Aourish and abound. May its divine and blessed influence spread continually wider and wider, till it takes in

every creature under heaven, and leaves not one misery unalleviated, one grievance unredressed. But all excellent as it is, let not this, let not any single virtue, engross our whole attention. Let us not confine ourselves to the easy, the delightful, the reputable works of beneficence, and neglect the other great branch of moral duty, SelfDENIAL; no less necessary and important, but much more difficult, and which, therefore, stands in need of every possible argument in its favour to recommend and support it. Let us no longer make invidious and unjust distinctions between these two kindred virtues. In nature, in reason, in the sight of God, in the Gospel of Christ, self-government is of equal value with social duties. They equally tend to the perfection of our own minds and the comfort of our fellow creatures. The same rewards are in Scripture promised to both; the same penalties are denounced against the violation of both ; and there is so strict and intimate a union between them, that the cultivation or neglect of the one, must necessarily lead, and has, in fact, always ultimately led, to the improvement or depravation of the other. What then God and nature, as well as Christ and his apostles, have joined together, let no man dare to put asunder. Let not any one flatter himself with the hope of obtaining the rewards, or even escaping the punishments of the Gospel, by performing only one branch of his duty. Let him not imagine, that the most rigorous severity of manners can excuse him from the exercise of undissembled love to God and to mankind; nor, on the other hand, let him suppose, that under the shelter either of devotion or of benevolence, he may securely indulge his favourite passions ; may compound, as it were, with God for his sensuality by acts of generosity, and purchase by his wealth a general licence to sin. Let him not, in short, content himself with being only half a Christian. Let him visit, as often as he pleases, the fatherless and the widows in their affliction. Let his piety be fervent, and his faith sincere. But let him, at the same time, take care, as he values his salvation, that he keep himself unspotted from the world.

ways

« FöregåendeFortsätt »