Billeder på siden
PDF
ePub

salvation, require us to lay before you your fins and failings, and among them such particularly as are the most rife amongst us, which are the least condemned by the world, and in behalf whereof self-love, pride, custom, fashion, have invented the most excuses, and the most plausible palliations. It happens whenever we have to deliver to you such doctrines and precepts as are manifestly at variance with the prejudices of the times in which we live, with the prevailing manner of thinking and acting; and of such doctrines and precepts christianity, which derives its origin from heaven, and is or. dained to conduct us thither, comprises not a few. It happens especially whenever we labour to inspire you with the humble, the gentle, the compassionate, the heavenly difpofitions, which are the distinctive characteristics of the disciples of Jesus, and which yet are so rarely found among those who call them, selves his disciples. In these and the like cases, we are tempted at times to despondency, as having but little hope of reaching the aim of our exertions. And whence does this proceed? Our own fad experience but too strikingly informs us, how much the corrupted heart and the unruly passions of men, oppose these doctrines and precepts; and how soon the good impressions, they may occasionally make upon us in the house of the Lord, are obliterated in the tumult of the world.

But there are likewise other times, my beloved, when with confident and cheerful minds we appear before you, animated as we are with the pleasing expectation, that we shall effect our good designs, if not with all, yet certainly with many. In such a frame of mind, in such delightful hopes, I meet you in this sacred place to-day. I am to be the advocate, the intercessor, with you, for the poor, the friendless, and the wretched : I shall apply to you in their name ; in their name did I say, I shall apply to you in the name of Jesus Christ, who owns these needy for his brethren, and in the most forcible manner recommends them to you, in the name of that exalted and beneficent Lord, our unalterable Saviour, I shall intercede with you in their behalf. I shall in particular recommend to you

before

the encouragement of a very neceffary and useful institution ; I mean, the provision now set on foot for the cor. rection of the diffolute, and the maintenance of the

poor in this place : certainly an honourable and agreeable employment! Happy shall I be, happy will it be for you, if I execute it with that success I promise myself from your christian tenderness! Nay, I know that there are many compassionate hearts among you, to whom discipline and order, re. ligion and virtue, and the happiness of mankind arising from them, are no indifferent things. I have on similar occasions addressed

you

with similar pe. titions; and, to the honour of your christian

pro. fession, you have not been regardless of them. Why then

may I not hope, under the blessing of the Almighty, to reach my design to-day? In the mean

time, though I prefume upon these beneficent and generous dispositions in the generality of you, it will not be useless to employ the remainder of the time usually allotted to these discourses in endeavouring to confirm them in our hearts, and to awaken them in those with whom they are still dormant. And how can we better do this, than by calling to mind the blessedness of beneficence? To this end the consideration of the beautiful saying of our faviour in the text may greatly conduce : It is more blessed to give than to receive. We will first state to you the juftness of the assertion, and then reply to some objections that may be brought against it.

It is more blessed to give than to receive, is now become, as it were, proverbial among christians; so little is the truth of it in general called in question. Is it not then, may some one probably think, is it · not unnecessary to demonstrate a proposition which every one holds for proved and undeniable ? No, my friend, that is by no means the case with such general propositions and rules of conduct. In order that they should have a due influence on our behaviour, and on that everything depends, it is not enough that the truth of them is not doubted, the reasons should be often and forcibly stated why they are held to be true; we should examine the parti. cular ideas they comprehend, or the observations and experiences whereon they reft; we should bring home the application of them to ourselves; we should view them in a various and perfpicucus light, in order to be convinced, affected, actuated by them. And this is the purport

of

my following confiderations.

It is more blessed to give than to receive; since the former in the first place implies a happier condition than the latter. To the former belongs a certain degree of power, of affluence, of independence; the latter has weakness, want, penury, dependence, for its foundation. I will not say, that a man may not be happy in all stations. No, fear God; keep his commandments; maintain a good conscience; secure to yourself the grace and loving-kindness of the Almighty; follow temperance and contentinent; think and live like persons who have here no abid. ing city, and whose country is heaven: so will you never be deficient in true felicity, be you

otherwise high or low, rich or poor, in abundance or in want. But certain as this is, fo certain is it likewise, that he is still the happier who, with all these essential advantages, has also the means of doing good to others in a larger or smaller proportion. In what does the fupreme felicity of God confift? Undoubtedly in this, that his power of doing good is infinite, and that he continually exerts it in the best and most perfect manner. Undoubtedly in this, that, from his exalted throne, full streams of benefits and blessings incessantly flow down on every part of his immense domain, devolving light and life, joy, energy and bliss, on all the inhabitants of it. Wherein consists the happiness of the righteous

in

in the future world? An enlarged capacity of doing good and of communicating with others in the most useful manner, will undoubtedly compose a considerable portion of it. Here, my friends, it not unfrequently happens, that men of the most humane, the most benevolent, the most patriotic sentiments, are destitute of almost all the means for acting in conformity to them; and, if they had lefs veneration for the disposals of divine providence, would probably be often tempted to complain of the narrow limits that are prescribed them in these particulars. Yonder, in that better world, all these limitations will not indeed be removed ;

li they however will be considerably enlarged. There will these generous spirits unimpededly pursue their beneficent inclinations, and be able to apply in a far worthier manner all their faculties to the benea. fit of their less perfect fellow-creatures. As having been faithful in the administration of the little that was entrusted to them, they will be appointed to the management of much. They will reign with Christ, and share in his glory, his power of doing good. The more therefore a man can dispense here on earth about him in any respect to the benefit of his brethren; the more serviceable he can be to them; the less need he has to set bounds to his generosity ; the greater means he has of encreasing the secular or the spiritual, the temporal or the eternal welfare of his neighbour, and of diffusing comfort, satisfaction and joy around him : so much the

nearer

« ForrigeFortsæt »