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HYMN FOR SERMON XXVII.
Christian Morality, viz. Chastity.
THE Lord, bow great his majesty,
How pure are all his ways, Sinners unclean offend his eyes,
Nor stand before his face.
And everlasting fire,
Who follow loose desire.
I hear, I read the dreadful doom
of Sodom ; in thy word; And dares a feeble worm presume
Thus to provoke the Lord ? Dear Saviovr, guard me by thy grace,
From thoughts and words uoclean, Nor let temptation gain success
To draw my soul to sin,
Christian Morality, viz. a Lovely Carriage, &c.
Philip. iv. 8.-Whatsoever things are lovely-think on these things.
Οσα προσφιλη, &c. MAN was a lovely creature in his first formation and innocence, however he has been debased and dishonoured by the fall. Now there is nothing in all the religion of Christ but what tends to restore man to the excellencies of his original state, or to exalt him above them, and to render him all over amiable. To this end truth and sincerity are recommended to him in the gospel, with a venerable decency in all his conduct. To this end he is required to practise justice to his neighbour, and to keep himself pure and chaste from all the vices of sensuality. Thus far we have proceeded in improving the text. And the man who has attained thus far, has many lovely qualities belonging to him, such as lay a foundation for a good report, and deserve our praises.
Yet there are many things in human conversation, which do not directly fall under the commands of truth and gravity, justice and purity: These the apostle recommends to the Philippians, under the following characters, viz. things that are lovely, that are of good report, deeds of virtue, and worthy of praisc.
The things that are lovely, are such as look well among men, and have a good appearance in the eyes of the world: Those things that gain the love of our follow-creatures : Not merely such religious practices, as make us beloved by fellow-christians, but such a temper and conduct as commands the esteem and respect even of the ungodly, and those that profess not strict religion. This ought to be the carriage of the saints of the Most High, they should practise those things that are grateful and pleasing to human nature, so far as innocence allows : those things that may recommend our conversation to our neighbours, and procure the love of all men. Is it not a very desirable thing to have it said of any particular christian, all that know him love him; he hath no enemies but those that are unacquainted with
kim, unless it be such as hate him upon the same ground as the devil doth, and that is because of his piety and goodness ? But to explain this more fully, and impress it with more power upon every one of our consciences, I will descend to particular instances of a lovely carriage. And here I shall mention but these few, viz. prudence, moderation, humility, meekness, patience, and love.
I. Prudence is a lovely quality. This teaches us to speak every word, and perform every action of life at a proper time, in the proper place, and toward the proper person. It is prudence that distinguishes our various behaviour toward our fellowcreatures, according to their different ranks and degrees among mankind, or the different relations in which we stand to them. It is a very desirable excellency to know when it is proper to speak, and when it is best to keep silence; at what seasons, and in what company we should awaken our zeal, and exert our active powers ; or when we should hide ourselves, or put a bridle upon our lips, and sit still, and hear.
Prudence is of infinite use in all the affairs of life and religion : Nor is there any hour of the day, nor any place wherein we spend that hour, whether alone or in public, but gives occasion for some exercise of this virtue. It does not belong to human nature to possess this in perfection : Perfect prudence dwells with God alone, God the most lovely of beings : He that comes nearest to it, is the wisest of men, and he gains the love and high esteem of all that are near him; for his conduct in life is of singular advantage to those that converse with him, as well as to himself. This man is consulted by his friends as an earthly oracle, and by his advice he saves many from ruin. Thus he wins and wears their honour and their love.
There are many good qualities both of the natural and moral kind that must meet together, to make up a prudent man. He most be furnished with a memory of things past, and with just and proper observations made upon them, that he may know how to improve every opportunity and occurrence of life to the best purposes when the same occasions return. There is no prudence without some degrees of experience. But experience alone is not sufficient; he should have also a wide extent of soul, and be able to take a large and comprehensive survey of the concurrent circumstances of things present : And he must be blessed with a solid judgment, that by putting many things at once into the balance, he may find which outweighs the rest, and determine his present conduct thereby. He must have a degree of sagacity, to foresee future events, according to the usual consequences of things in this mortal state. The prudent man
foresees the evil, and hideth himself; but the simple pass on, and are punished; Prov. xxii. 3. that is, They suffer for their want of prudence and foresight. And besides all these, he should be a man of firm and steady resolution to go through difficulties, and to put in practice what his judgment has determined.
Rash and ungoverned passions are great enemies of this virtue. Both these push a man onward to a hasty and irregular conduct. His lips multiply folly, and his hands practise it through the impatience of his spirit. His unguarded talk, and precipitant actions plunge himself into snares, and sometimes involve his acquaintance in the same mischief.
There are other characters also inconsistent with prudence, such as an unthinking and an unsteady temper. The thoughtless person lives at a venture, walks always at random, and seems to aim at nothing. He enjoys the present hour indeed, talking and acting according to the mere appearances of things. He is content with a slight sudden view of any thing without recollection or forethought; and in a most literal sense takes no thought for the morrow. The fickle and inconstant man, he may aim at something indeed, and have honest designs in his head, but is ever changing the means to attain them, and pursues nothing with that steadiness that prudence requires, or that the necessity of human affairs demands of every man that would be wise and happy. Such men may be pitied as weak and silly, but they are seldom esteemed, or much beloved in the world, while prudence is so much wanting.
There is no necessity that I should cite special parts of the word of God, to encourage us to seek this most amiable quality, since the recommendations of true wisdom, both human and divine, are scattered up and down through all the sacred writings: And the Spirit of God has given us one or two books on purpose to teach us prudence; these are Ecclesiastes and the Proverbs of Solomon. Nor can I propose any better direction to gain universal wisdom, that to read the book of Proverbs often with diligence and humble prayer.
II. Moderation is another lovely quality. It teaches us to maintain a medium between those wild extremes, into which human nature is ready to run upon every occasion.
When a warm and imprudent talker adorns some common character with excessive praises, and carries it up to the stars ; the moderate man puts in a cautious word, and thinks it is sufficient to raise it half so high. Or when he hears a vast and unreasonable load of accusation and infamy thrown upon some lesser mistakes in life, the moderate man puts in a soft word of excuse, lightens the burden of reproach, and relieves the good name of
the sufferer from being pressed to death. When he sees oppression and violence practised among his neighbours, the justice of his soul directs him to take the part of the injured person, and his own moderation and goodness inclines him to do it in such a manner, as may calm and suppress the resentment of the oppressed, and soften and melt the oppressor into compliance with the rules of justice. Thus he reconciles them both, without giving offence to either.
When any sects of christians seem to be carried away with the furious torrent of some prevailing notions, or some unneccssary practices, some special superstition, or a contentious spirit, the moderate man tries to shew how inuch of truth and goodness may be found amongst each party, where all agree to hold Christ Jesus the head; though he dares not renounce a grain of truth or necessary duty, for the sake of peace, and he would contend earnestly, where providence calls him, for the essential articles of faith which were once delivered to the saints; for he knows the wisdom that is from above is first pure, and then peaceable ; James iii. 17. Yet he takes this occasion to prove that some truths or some practices, are articles of less importance to the christian life; that they are not worthy of such unchristian quarrels; and thus he attempts, as far as possible, to reconcile the angry disputers. Sometimes he has the happiness to shew them both that they fight in the dark; he explains their opinions and their contests, and puts the best sense upon both of them: And when he hath brought them into the light, he makes it appear that they are friends and brethren ; and that religion and the gospel are safe on both sides, if they would dwell together without fighting, but that it is sorely endangered by their battles. So St. Paul dealt with the Jewish and gentile christians, and assured them that they both belonged to the kingdom of God, and the church of Christ, though they quarrelled about flesh, and herbs, and holy-days. How lovely, how glorious, how desirable is such a character as this !
I confess when a party-spirit runs high among the different sects of religion, or the different divisions of mankind, this most amiable virtue is called by the scandalous names of indifferency, and lukewarmness, and trimming; and it sustains a world of reproaches from both the quarrelling parties. Moderation, though it is the blessed principle, which awakens and assists men to become peace-makers, yet at the same time when it enters into the battle to divide the contenders, it receives an unkind stroke from either side. This the reconciler expects, and be bears it for the sake of union and love. The moderate man in cases of private property or interest,