Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

а

distinguished: so, in our times, most unhappily, multitudes have run from one extreme to another; and, not discerning the difference between two of the unlikest things in the world, when well compared, false religion and true, have, in a great measure, if not absolutely, rejected both together. Declaring in general the highest honour for virtue, they slight and even ridicule piety: the inward feeling of it, under the name of enthusiasm; the outward marks of it, under that of superstition. Yet plainly, if sentiments of duty and affection to our fellow-creatures be necessary ingredients in a good character: want of them towards our Creator, must (where means of instruction are afforded) be a certain argument of a bad one. And, if our regards to our fellow-creatures ought to be shewn by visible tokens, not only that they may be sensible of our proper dispositions, but that by exercising them we may improve in them, and others be excited to imitation: then our reverence to our Creator ought likewise to be manifested openly; because though he sees the devout thoughts, that lie hid in our hearts, yet by expressing them, we shall both strengthen them in ourselves, and set an useful example to those around us. Indeed the connection of religious duties with moral is so very close, that, as the religion of those is always false, who think meanly of virtue: so the virtue of those is never uniformly, if at all, true, who think meanly of religion. For the belief of a God, who observes and will recompense, being in all cases the greatest, and in some the only, support of right conduct: they who either disbelieve or disregard him, must frequently fall into wrong conduct, amidst the various temptations of life. And the truth is, the generality of those amongst them, who talk the most of virtue, appear to concern

[ocr errors]

themselves very little farther about it, than to oppose it, in their talk, to religion. Such indeed cannot be really, in any degree, serious. But many who, in some respects, are such, and imagine they are in all, would assuredly find, on a careful examination, that they are dangerously deficient in this respect : and that cultivating and exerting dutiful affection to the Author of their being, is not only in itself the first and great Commandment, but hath a most powerful influence on the practice of that second, which is like unto it*, and of every other human obligation. .

II. We are bound to observe the precepts of revealed religion, as well as natural. That God can make known to us many truths, of which we were ignorant, though greatly interested in them, will not surely be doubted: for we can make known such very often one to another. And that from these truths corresponding rules of behaviour may flow, is equally plain. Those relations and duties therefore to our Redeemer and to our Sanctifier, which the Holy Scripture alone discovers to us, are not, on that account, at all the less real, than those to our Creator, of which reason informs us. Further : as God is the Sovereign of the world, there is no more room for question, whether under the general laws of his moral kingdom, he may not establish, from time to time, particular and different institutions and forms of religion ; than whether, under the general laws of human society, earthly sovereigns may not establish particular and different institutions and forms of government. And lastly: As God knows perfectly well, both the nature of our circumstances, and the proper method of treating us; that he may possibly have very important motives for some of his appointments, of which

Matth. xxii. 37, &c.

[blocks in formation]

motives we can discern scarce any thing, is much more certain, than that a wise man, well acquainted with any affair, may perceive many steps to be fitting in relation to it, which a weak man, uninstructed in it, doth not.

Whatever precepts then are contained in revelation, since none of them, rightly understood, are contrary to reason, it is our indispensable duty to observe them, though ever so implicitly, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless *. We know not what we do when we reject or slight any one of them : only this we know, that we disobey that authority which enjoins the whole : a consideration worthy of being laid seriously to heart by all those, (for too many there are,) who, either presumptuously, or thoughtlessly, neglect or depreciate some of the institutions of Christianity, while they profess to reverence others; and, as any shadow of argument or groundless imagination leads them, determine with themselves, that this they will do, that they will not; this they will look on as a matter of moment, that as a trifle. It cannot be, that any of the laws of Christ, our Lord and Master, are to be treated thus. And yet some of them are treated thus by such numbers, (who notwithstanding, call themselves by his name, that they must be mentioned in particular.

The sacrament of baptism, the leading part of our Saviour's commission in the text, is not indeed thrown off, but frequently attended with scarce common seriousness. The obligation of parents and masters to bring up those under their care in the nurture and admonition of the Lord t, is both cruelly and unwisely forgotten. The apostolical and very useful ordinance of confirmation, is too often omitted, and still

[blocks in formation]

oftener considered as an empty form : private devotion practised, it may be feared by very few, at least with any attention: pious reading and meditation by fewer still: family prayer almost intirely laid aside : and the public service of God, by some avowedly scorned, by others, both thought and spoken of with a contemptuous indifference; as if it might well be left to fancy and chance, when and how often, or whether almost at all, they should condescend to join in that worship of him who made them, which himself hath prescribed. The day, which he hath directed to be kept holy, is lamentably, and in many places openly, profaned, not only by the omission just mentioned, but by needless worldly business, improper diversions, and what is yet worse, intemperance and debauchery. Nay, the far greater part, even of such as observe other institutions with no small appearance of conscientiousness, astonishingly overlook, in spite of continual admonitions, their Saviour's injunction of commemorating, at the holy table, his dying love, delivered nearly with his dying breath. Experience hath proved to a shocking degree, that in proportion as disregard to duties, peculiarly Christian, increases, disregard to all duty increases too: and what the end of it will be (unless through God's grace our timely reformation put a happy end to it) I know not how we can better judge, than by our blessed Lord's own words, which he hath verified so dreadfully on those once shining lights, the churches of Asia, to whom they were primarily directed. Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works : else I will come unto thee quickly, and remove thy candlestick out of its place, except thou repent *.

* Rev. ii. 5.

III. Being bound to whatever Christ hath commanded us, we are bound to perform the most laborious and unwelcome, as well as the easiest, of his commands. We may be sure, he hath enjoined us nothing, but what he will make possible, nothing but what he hath a right, nothing but what he hath cause, to enjoin. And therefore, the difficulty of his precepts can never be an excuse for not obeying them. Sometimes this difficulty is but imaginary: and what we apprehend that we cannot do at all, would we but try in a proper manner, we should do with great ease. Sometimes it is real indeed, but of our own creating Slight inclinations have grown, by indulgence or negligence, into settled habits : wilful wrong conduct hath put obstacles in the way of acting right: and then we think it very grievous, that we must be at pains to bring ourselves out of a condition, that we need never have brought ourselves into. Or, supposing any virtue originally hard to practise, do we not often obey extremely hard injunctions of men? And why not therefore those of God ? Be the labour ever so great; still, both in the nature of the thing, and by the appointment of Heaven, no one can become happy, that doth not become good : and no one is truly good, who purposely or negligently lives in the omission of any duty, or commission of any sin. Difficulty is a reason for nothing, but exerting ourselves, and applying to God for help: which whoever doth in earnest, will find opposition serve only to strengthen his Christian graces by exercise here, and augment the reward of them for ever hereafter.

IV. We must observe those commands, which relate to the government of ourselves, no less than those which respect our fellow-creatures. Men are

« AnteriorContinuar »