Imágenes de páginas

Serm.they join in the vices of the libertine;

^j^^j that they may not be reproached as per- • sons of a narrow mind, and still enslaved to the prejudices of education. How much reason is there to believe that, merely from this timidity of temper, many, whose principles are on the side of religion and virtue, are nevertheless found walking in the way of Jinners, and Jit ting in the chair of the scornful ?—Interest, too, often coincides with this weakness of disposition, in tempting such persons to follow the multitude. To fall in with the prevailing taste, to suit themselves to the passions of the great, or to the humours of the low, with whom they chance to be connected, appears the readiest way to rife in the world. Hence they are naturally led to relinquish the firmness of an upright character, for that supple and versable jturn, which accommodates itself to the times, and assumes whatever appearance seems most convenient for interest. Such are the daneers to which we are exposed, in times of corruption, of following the multitude to do evil; dangers S which require our most serious attention and care, in order to guard ourselves against them.—I proceed to lay such considerations before you as may be useful for that purpose.

. In the Jirjl place. Let ujr remember that the multitude are very bad guides; are so far from having a title to implicit regard, that he who blindly follows them, may be presumed to err. For prejudice* and paffion, are known to sway the crowd. They are struck by the outside of things; they inquire superficially, admire false appearances, and pursue false goods. Their opinions are for the most part hastily formed, and of course are variable, floating, and incon^ sistent. In every age, how small is the number of those who as e guided by reason, and calm inquiry? How few do we find, who have the wisdom to think and judge for themselves, and have steadiness to follow out their own judgment? Ignorance, and low education, darken


SERM.thc views of the vulgar. Fashion and

Xix. . .

K^-y-Lj prejudice, vanity and pleasure, corrupt

the sentiments of the great. The example of neither, affords any standard of what is right and wife. If the philosopher, when employed in the pursuit of truth, finds it necessary to disregard established prejudices and popular opinion, shall we, in the more important inquiry after the rule of life, submit to such blind guidance as the practice of the many j esteeming whatever they admire, and following wherever they lead ?. Be assured, that he who sets up the general opinion as the standard of truth, or the general practice as the measure of right, is likely, upon such a foundation, to build no other superstructure except vice and folly. If the practice of the multitude be a good pattern for our imitation, their opinions surely should be as good a rule for our belief. Upon this principle, we must exchange Christianity for Paganism or Mahometanism, and the light of the Reformation for the superstitions of


Popery; for these latter have ever had, s and still have; the numbers and the multitude on their side.—Our Saviour has sufficiently characterised the way of the world, when he describes the broad road in which the multitudes go, as the road which leads to destruction; and the path which leads to happiness, as a narrow path, which fewer find. From which it is an easy inference, that to have the multitude on our side, is so far from affording any presumption os our being safe, that it should lead us to suspect that we are holding the course of danger.

In the second place, as the practice of the multitude is no argument of a good practice, so it cannot afford us either justification, or safety, in what is evil.—It affords us, I fay, no justification. Truth and error, virtue and vice, are things of immutable nature. The difference between them is grounded on that basis of eternal reason, which no opinions or customs of men can affect Qr alter. Whether


S E R M. virtue oe esteemed, or not, in the world,


{^^^j this makes it neither more nor less esti'mable in itself. It carries always a divine authority, which men cannot impair. It mines with an essential lustre, which praise cannot brighten, nor reproach tarnish. It has a right to regulate the opinions of men; but by their opinions cannot be controlled. Its nature continues invariably the fame, though all the multitude of fools should concur in endeavouring to turn it into ridicule. Wo unto them, says the prophet Isaiah that call evil, good, and good, evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness;

that put bitter for sweet, andfweetfor bitter,—,,—Their rootjliall be as rottenness t and their blofj'oms sliallgo up as dufii be^ cause they have caft away the law of the Lordof.hofts, and despised the word of the; holy one of Israel*.

As the practice of the multitude furnishes,

. • Isaiah vV 20, 24.

« AnteriorContinuar »