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Son of God, might be brought to learn who he is, and to believe and to worship him in spirit and in truth! And, under God, there is no way so likely to draw them home, as for those who do know Christ, and believe in him and love him, to increase their knowledge and love more and more, and to bring their lives to more perfect conformity with his Gospel. That in many things we offend all, is a truth which the consciences of every one of us here assembled can abundantly confirm ; but that our offences may daily become fewer and less flagrant should be at once our labour and our prayer. And for all who in sincerity of heart do thus strive to increase their faith and knowledge of their Saviour, his words to the blind man are a most comfortable prophecy of what he will one day say to them," that they have seen him, and he has talked with them;" on earth, by his word and spirit; in heaven, by his presence revealed to them, when they shall see him as he is.
1 CORINTHIANS iv. 3, 4.
With me it is a very small thing that I should be judged
of you, or of man's judgment : yea, I judge not mine own self. For I know nothing of myself; yet am I nat hereby justified: but he that judgeth me is the Lord.
The great proportion of mankind are in the habit of reversing these words of the Apostle : “ With them it is a very small thing that they should be judged by the Scriptures, or by God's judgment; but he that judgeth them is themselves or the world.” For though God's word can give them no encouragement or hope, yet do they not feel hereby condemned, so long as the voice of the world or that of their own hearts, both equally deceitful, tell them that all is right with them. But what is more surprising is, that many people who, if we were to ask them which they most regarded, would be quite shocked at the thought of setting up the opinions of men against the word of God; yet in fact are, in their practice, much more
governed by their regard to the former than to the latter. The truth is, that the fear of man is a feeling which grows up with us from our infancy; and we are not aware, perhaps, of the full dominion which it possesses over us.
It is often encouraged by the very education which is designed to root out other bad habits; and it
; is so disguised under fair names, or mixed up with something that is amiable, or at least allowable, that we become enslaved to it without suspicion. Combined with this, it happens often that they who do read the Bible, pass over much too slightly those passages which speak of the friendship of the world being enmity with God; of its being a bad sign when all men speak well of us; and other things to the same effect: satisfying themselves with the explanation, that all this language referred only to the heathen world, and that in a Christian country it is not applicable. Yet it is too much to assume that the world is really become Christian, because the Gospel in this country is the religion established by law.
The mischief which arises from this habitual anxiety about the good opinion of men, is more than can be told. It is speaking strongly, but truly, to say, that it makes the whole of our life unchristian ; that it dethrones our Maker
from his lawful authority, and sets up an idol in his place; that it makes us heathens as completely, for all purposes of our souls' danger, as if we were to bow down and offer sacrifice to a graven image. Let us then first see what the case actually is amongst a very great number of people : and then examine what the Gospel requires it to be, and how far it allows or encourages that natural feeling which makes us desirous to win the good opinion of our neighbours, and which is the origin of those mighty motives of human action-the love of honour, and the fear of reproach.
The foundation of a great part of the evil iş the want of accustoming children, from a very early period, to be influenced by the love or fear of God. On the contrary, they have too often no other motives placed before them than those of pleasing their parents, of being thought well of by all their friends, of being liked by every body if they are good, and disliked if they are bad. In this manner they learn to attach a value to the opinion of others for its own sake, and without any distinction whether the world in general is capable of forming a just opinion or not. Besides, it is natural to wish to be thought well of by other people, because we often derive solid benefits from a good re
putation, and great inconvenience from a bad one; so that here is a great temptation not only to care too much for the opinion of men, but to care for it without any regard to the good or bad character of those who entertain it; because a bad man, no less than a good one, may have it in his power to do us harm if he thinks ill of us. The actual convenience or inconvenience of being well or ill esteemed by our neighbours is apt then to make us, of itself, too anxious about the praise and favour of men; and this tendency, instead of being checked by education, is too often encouraged by the keeping out of sight the higher motives of the love and fear of God, and by holding out the praise or favour of men, under one name or another, as the continual and chief excitement to good conduct. In some states of life, as in the army and navy, for example, this is carried to a still ,
, greater length; for there the maintaining an unblemished character in the eyes of men of his own profession, is really exalted into an idol to which every thing else is sacrificed ; and honour, which is but another name for the good opinion of men, is confessedly the very jewel of a soldier's life, and without which life, in his eyes, loses all its value. But here is a double evil: for not only is the fear of man put into the