Billeder på siden
PDF
ePub

be reminded of the warning given to them in the Scriptures, “ If ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your heavenly Father forgive your trespasses. But he who looks upon sin with the eyes of a Christian, will here, as in all other things, strive, after his imperfect measure, to copy the perfections of God. He will be ready and eager to forgive, even as God, for Christ's sake, has forgiven him; but he will not be too indulgent to an offender, lest by a false kindness he should do him a real harm, and mar the sincerity of his repentance, by making all things appear smooth to him too suddenly : but he will most carefully watch himself, lest in his severity he should not be seeking God's honour, but his own; and he will remember that the character of a judge ill becomes him who has himself cause every night and morning to pray to God, the Judge of all, for forgiveness of his own offences.

It is remarkable, however, that while the Scripture enforces the most entire indifference to the censure of the world, and condemns so often and so justly the fear of man ; yet it teaches us to shock no man's opinion of us arrogantly, and to consider, in all trifting matters, as much as we can, how we may please others; not for our sake, but for theirs. So

[ocr errors]

nicely and beautifully drawn is the picture of Christian perfection, that it inculcates at once the most entire independence of mind, and the most delicate consideration for the feelings of others; and the same Apostle who had said

; that it was to him a very small thing to be judged of man's judgment, said also in the very same Epistle, “ that he had made himself servant unto all, that he might gain the more souls to Christ; that he was made all things to all men, that he might by all means save some.” But here is the excellence of Christian compliance, that it regards the favour of men, not as an end, but as a means : it does not covet it for its own sake, but that men, by learning to look upon Christians favourably, might be persuaded to become altogether Christians themselves. It is plain, however, that the path of our duty becomes here exceedingly difficult; and that we are in danger, the ministers of the Gospel particularly, of deceiving ourselves as to our real motive; and of loving popularity and the praise of men for its own sake, and not as a means of recommending to those who admire us the name and service of our Lord. Here then is a very anxious and important subject of inquiry, which may well deserve our separate consideration.

SERMON XX.

1 CORINTHIANS X. 33.

I please all men in all things, not seeking mine own profit,

but the profit of many, that they may be saved. At the end of my last sermon, after speaking of the utter mischief of following the opinion of men as a motive of action, I said that the Gospel did not permit us, nevertheless, needlessly to shock the feelings of others, but commanded us, on the contrary, to try to please other people, for their sakes however, and not for our own.

I said' too, that here the path of our duty became exceedingly difficult : because there was a great risk of our being led into false and wrong compliances, under pretence of winning over worldly persons to a love of the Gospel ; and thus, instead of gaining them, we might chance to lose ourselves. However, as a duty does not become less a duty because it is difficult, it will be my endeavour to point out the way in which by God's grace we may safely walk in it, without falling into error either on the right hand or on the left.

The first thing then which we should bear in mind, is the motive from which we should try to please our neighbours.

“ I please all men in all things, not seeking mine own profit, but the profit of many." This was the motive of St. Paul; and so long as he acted on it, he was in no danger of being led into any improper condescension or flattery. It was not for his own sake that he was anxious to please every one, but for their's ; it was not to gain favour, or to escape reproach and persecution, but simply that the Gospel might not be hindered from any

unamiableness or foolishness on the part of those who taught it. In this as in every part of our duty, what is called in Scripture“ a single eye,” or “ purity of heart," is the surest guide which we can follow. “ If our eye be single,” says Christ, “ our whole body

, shall be full of light.” For, as most of the difficulties in our practice arise not from any want of understanding, but from a fault of the heart, from a wish to serve at once both God and the world, so should we find it comparatively easy to do always just what we ought to do, if we really had a sincere and hearty inclination to do so.

If a man, therefore, wishes to avoid the danger of trying to please the world too much, he must set out in life with a full con

a

viction of that truth which I have tried to establish in my two preceding sermons, namely, that the praise or good opinion of men who are not really and practically Christians, is in itself utterly worthless. Till a man is convinced of this, the duty of not giving needless offence to any is not that of which he most needs to be reminded. I am aware, therefore, that the generality of mankind are more likely to do wrong by over compliance than by the opposite fault of over bluntness and indifference; yet there is a use sometimes in laying before our minds a picture of Christian perfection in all its parts, that we may see how fully it provides for every want of the human mind, and with what excellent wisdom it avoids every faulty extreme; and there may be some also who have suffered natural pride to wear the semblance of Christian firmness, and who delight to act without the least consideration for the feelings of others, not because they desire to please only Christ, but because they cannot condesçend to please any one except themselves. Yet more, there is a much larger class of persons, who in their conduct do not think enough of pleasing their neighbours, but who act rather from carelessness and thoughtlessness than from pride. They do not despise others, but they

[ocr errors]
« ForrigeFortsæt »