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Again, Is neglecting prayer the way to improve in knowledge, and qualify you to perform it ?
Finally, May you not easily furnish yourselves with forms of prayer, which you may use as persons weak in their limbs do their crutches, till you can lay them afide. It is bigotry only that will say that you should neglect the substance of the duty, if you cannot perform every circumstance of it in the best manner.
3d Obječtion. I am ashamed.' .
But is this shame well grounded? Is it really a fhame to worship the God of heaven, and share in the employment of angels?
Are finners ashamed to serve their master ?
A little practice will easily free you from all this difficulty.
4th Objection. But, alas ! I know not how to begin it.'
Here indeed the difficulty lies; but why will you not own that you were hitherto mistaken, and that you would rather reform than persist obstinately in the omission of an evident duty ?
5th Objection. But my family will not join with me.'
How do you know ? Have you tried? Are you not master of your own family? Exert that authority in this which you claim in other cases.
6th Objection. 5 But I shall be ridiculed and laughed at.'
Are you then more afraid of a laugh or a jeer than the displeasure of God? Would you rather please men than him?
Will you never become religious till you can obtain the applause of the wicked for being so ? Then you will never be religious at all.
Think how you will bear the contempt of the whole universe at last for the neglect of this duty! .
Therefore wherever you have your habitations, there let Jehovah, may I fo speak, have an altar, and
there let morning and evening prayers and praises be presented, till you are called to worship him in his temple above, where your prayers shall be swallowed up in everlasting praise. Amen.
· THE RULE OF EQUITY.
MATTHEW vii. 12. Therefore all things whatsoever ye
would that men should do to you, do ye even fo to them ; for this is the law and the prophets.
NHRISTIANITY is not a fragment, but a com
W plete system of religion; and it is intended and adapted to make us good entirely and throughout; it teaches us a proper conduct and temper towards every being with whom we have any connection, particularly towards God and our fellow-men. A christian is a complete, uniform, finished character; a character in which there is the most amiable fymmetry and proportion; it is all of a piece, without chasms and inconsistencies. A christian is a penitent, a believer, a lover of God, conscientious in devotion, and diligent in attendance upon every ordinance of religious worship; he begins his religion with a fu. preme regard to God, the Supreme of beings, sensible that unless he begins here, he inverts the order of things, and that all his religion and virtue must be preposterous and vain. To love the Lord his God with all his heart, and to serve him from that exalted principle, is the first and great commandment with him; and he observes it as such. Religion, virtue, morality, and every thing that bears a specious name VOL. II.
among mankind, is a poor maimed thing, monstrous. ly defective, if a proper regard to God be left out of the system. It is shocking and unnatural for the creatures of God to be punctual in observing the duties they owe to one another, and yet entirely negligent of those radical fundamental duties they owe to him their common Parent, the highest excellence and the original of all authority and obligation.
But though christianity begins with, and chiefly consists in our duty to God, yet it extends farther; it also includes a proper conduct and temper towards men. A good christian is not only devout, but moral and virtuous :- he is not only a dutiful servant of God in matters purely religious, but he is an useful member of every society to which he belongs, and makes conscience of justice, charity, and all the good offices due to his fellow-creatures. He is a good ruler, or a good subject, a good neighbour, a good father or child, a good master or fervant; in short, he en. deavours to have a conscience void of offence towards God and towards men. I have made it the great object of my ministry among you to bring you to pay a proper regard to God, as he has revealed himself in the gospel of his Son; and for this purpose have inculcated the important doctrines of Faith, Repentance, Love, and those other graces which are efsential to every good man. But I must not forget another part of my office, which is, to teach you the second great command, or fummary of the divine law, namely, That you should love your neighbour as yourselves, and inculcate upon you those important duties which you owe to mankind; and it is very extravagant for persons to disgust these, through a pretended relish for the gospel and the doctrines of grace, since these are no inconsiderable parts of the gospel, and the lefsons of morality run through the whole New Testament.
When I would discourse upon the duties of social life, I cannot choose a text more pertinent or copious
owe to to disguft the doctrines et
than that I have read to you, which is a fundamental and most comprehensive rule of morality; all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even go to them ; for this is the law and the prophets. : In the illustration and improvement of this subject, I shall,
I. Offer a few things for the right understanding of this divine rule of social duty. : II. Confider the reason of it. * III. Open its excellency.. • IV. Mention fome important instances of particu·lar cases to which it should be applied. And, ..
Lastly, Shew the neceility and advantage of observing it. . 1. I am to offer a few things for the right understanding of this divine rule.
It is proper then to observe, that as there is a great diversity in the stations and characters of men, there
is a proportionable diversity in the duties which they . owe one to another; and self-love may make a man
very extravagant in his expectations and desires about · the conduct of another towards him. On these ac
counts it is necessary that we should understand this precept with these two cautions or limitations.
1. That we should do that to others which we · would expect and wish from them upon a change of : condition, or if they were in our circumstances and
we in theirs. Every man should be treated accorda ing to his character and station ; and therefore, that conduct which may be proper towards me in my sta. tion, may not be proper towards another in a differ
ent station : but let me suppofe myself in his place, : and he in mine, and then that behaviour which I . would expect from him, the fame I should observe · towards him. Thus, for example, a magistrate is bound to protect his subjects, and to behave towards them as he would desire a ruler to behave towards
him if he were a subject; but he is not bound to · yield that submission to his subjects while a ruler, which he may justly demand of them. The rule in such cases is, let every man act in character ; let him perform to others thofe duties which he would desire from others if they were in his circumstances, and he in theirs; and where there is a fameness of circumstances, there, and there only, his duty to others must be the same that he expects from them.
2. We should make only our reasonable and law. ful expectations from others the rule of our conduct towards them. A man may expect and with very extravagant and sinful things from others : he may desire another should give him all his estate, or gratify his wicked lusts and passions by some criminal compliance : such desires are by no means to be the rule of conduct; for we cannot indulge them, nor others comply with them, without acting wickedly and unreasonably. But those things which we may desire and expect from others, consistently with right reason, religion, and the laws of society, those things we ought to perform to them; those things which our consciences justify, and not those to which inordinate felf-love or some extravagant paffion may prompt us.
If we understand this precept with such limitations as these, we may fafely follow it as a general rule of conduct; and then it will not be liable to such objections as may be otherwise made against it. For example, a criminal may plead, “If I were in the place of my judge, and he in mine, I would acquit him, and grant him his life.' Or a judge might think, if I were in the place of that poor criminal, I should be glad my judge would forgive me; and therefore, if I would do as I would be done by, I must forgive him. Such thoughts as these, arising from wrong principles, are not to be the rule and measure of our actions or expectations; for our own consciences cannot approve of them in our sedate and impartial moments. I proceed,
II. To consider the reason of this precept.