Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

heavens are perior to the res, the merit of real guilt

latter end, in a peculiar manner, he endured the shame. He was betrayed like an impostor by one of his disciples, apprehended like a robber by a band of soldiers, led like a malefactor through the streets of Jerusalem, nailed like a murderer to the accursed tree, and, in the sight of all Israel, died the death of a traitor and a slave, that he might atone for the real guilt of men. In all these respects, the inerit of Jesus was infinitely superior to the heroism of men. As the heavens are higher than the earth, as the Most High God excels the offspring of the dust, so much superior was his love to their beneficence.

To conclude, Let me ask you, my brethren, what impression does the love of Jesus make upon your hearts, what influence does it exert upon your lives? They whose minds are dazzled with the ideas of false glory, with arms, and conquest, and fields of battle, and triumphal processions, and songs of victory, may not be disposed to relish those acts of heroism which have nothing of the sword in them. But to the mind that is freed from vulgar prejudice, and acquainted with true glory, the triumphs of Jesus will appear, the greater that they are the triumphs of peace, that they were not obtained at the expence of slaughtered thou. sands, nor erected on the ruin of nations, but rose on the basis of general happiness, and everlasting life to all good men. · Are you then actuated with a proper sense of gratitude to this Captain of our salvation? The temporal he. ro and deliverer is received with a tribute of applause ; every heari beats with admiration, and every tongue is vocal in his praise. Let us also celebrate the Prince of Peace, the Redeemer of our fallen race, who delivered us from everlasting wrath, and opened a way to the heavens by the blood of his cross. Beautified with his salvation, let us rejoice in the Saviour, saying with the Apostle, “ God forbid that I should glo"ry, save in the cross of Jesus Christ." Let us also love Him who first loved us. Let us give the chief place in our hearts to that Divine Friend of mankind, whose affection to us was stronger than death.

SERMON XI.

VI

RBS

PROVERBS xii. 26.
The righteous is more excellent than his neighbour.

HE sentiments of men concerning virtue, and À their own particular practice, form a very strange and striking contrast. Notwithstanding their own irregular or imperfect conduct, a general feeling, with regard to morality, pervades the human species. Philosophers have differed about the origin of moral distinctions, and delivered various theories concerning virtue ; but the people who judge from their feelings have no system but one; and whenever right or wrong become the subject of decision, if the fact be fully explained, the voice of mankind is uniform and constant.

Without this moral sense, or sentiment, the question with regard to virtue had never been started at all, nor exercised the ingenuity of the greatest and best spirits in every age of the world. For, indepen. dent of the national religions, men arose among the heathens who strove to improve, or reform their countrymen, the lights of one age shone to another, the great and the good not only left their example, but lifted up their voice to ages which were to come.

Religion gives its powerful sanction to the maxims of morality, and this volume was written to republish that law which is engraven on the heart. 5

The book from which these words are taken, was the work of a great king, who sometimes left the throne to adorn it the more, and, retiring from the splendid follies of a court, consecrated his hours to

The benefit of all posterity. It was addressed by Solomon to his son, and contains such ideas of religion, and urges such motives to virtue, as are most effectual with the young, representing them as the perfection of human nature, and the true excellence of inan. - The righteous," says he, “ is more excellent 6 than his neighbour." With great propriety is this picture set before the young ; for the love of excellence is natural to the youthful mind. What is manly, what is generous, what is honourable, are then the objects of admiration and pursuit į fired with noble emulation, each ingenuous disciple aspires to be more excellent than his neighbour.

The objections against a holy life have proceeded on maxims directly contrary to the text. The inducements to vice, which have been powerful in all ages, are the same that were presented by the tempter to our first parents. Wisdom was promised, “ Ye shall be wise to know good and evil ;” the attractions of ambition were presented; 66 Ye shall be as gods;" the allurements of pleasure were added, and the fora bidden fruit recommended as “ good for food and í pleasant to the eye." If, in opposition to these, it shall be shewn, that the righteous man is wiser, and greater, and happier than his neighbour, the objections against religion will be removed, the ways of Providence will be vindicated, and virtue etsablished upon an everlasting foundation. ,

In the first place, The righteous inan is wiser than his neighbour.

There is no part of his nature in which man is so earnest to excel, and so jealous of a defect; as his uno derstanding. Men will give up any part of their frame sooner than this, they will subscribe to many infirmities and errors, they will confess a want of temper, and the proper government of their passions ; they will even admit deviations with regard to the lesser moralities, but never yield the smallest iota in what respects their intellectual abilities.

No wonder that man is jealous of his understan
VOL. II.

z

for it is his prerogative and his glory. This draws the line between the animal and the intellectual world, ascertains our rank in the scale of being, and not only raises us above inferior creatures, but inakes us approach to a nature which is divine. This enters into the foundation of character; for without intellectual abilities, moral qualities cannot subsist, and a good heart will go wrong without the guidance of a good understanding. Without the direction and the government of wisdom, courage degenerates into rash, ness, justice hardens into rigour, and benevolence be. comes an indiscriminate good nature, or a blameable facility of manners. Where then is wisdom to be found, and what is the path of understanding. If you will trust the dictates of religion and reason, to be virtuous is to be wise. The testimony of all who have gone before you, confirins the decision. In opposition, however, to the voice of religion, of reason, and of mankind, there are multitudes in every age who reckon themselves more excellent than their neighbours, by trespassing against the laws which all ages haye counted sacred, the younger by the pursuit of criminal gratification, the old by habits of deceit and fraud.

The early period of life is frequently a season of delusion. When youth scatters its blandishments, and the song of pleasure' is heard, 6 Let us crown " ourselves with rose.buds before they are withered, « and let no flower of the spring pass away ;” the inexperienced and the unwary listen to the sound, and surrender themselves to the enchantment. Not satisfied with those just and masculine joys which nature offers and virtue consecrates, they rush into the excesses of unlawful pleasure ; not satisfied with those fruits bordering the path of virtue, which they may taste and live, they put forth their hand to the forbidden tree. One criminal indulgence lays the foundation for another, till sinful pleasure becomes a pursuit that employs all the faculties, and absorbs all the time, of its votar ies.

There is no moderation nor government in vice. Desires that are innocent may be indulged with innocence ; pleasures that are pure may be pursued with purity, and the round of guiltless delights may be, made without encroaching on the great duties of life. But guilty pleasure becomes the masters and the tyrants of the niind : when these lords acquire dominion, they bring all the thoughts into captivity, and rule with unlimited and despotic sway.

Look around you. Consider the fate of your equals in age, who have been swept away, not by the hand of time, but by the scythe of intemperance, and involved in the shade of death. Contemplate that clond which vests the invisible world, where their mansion is fixed for ever. When the sons of the Si. ren call you to the banquet of vice, stop in the midst of this career, pause on the brink, look down, and while yet one throb belongs to virtue, turn back from the verge of destruction. Think of the joyful morning that rises after a victory over sin ; reflection thy friend; memory stored with pleasant images ; thy thoughts, like good angels, announcing peace, and presäging joy.

Or, if that will not suffice, turn to the shades of the picture, and behold the ruin that false pleasure introduces into human nature. Behold a rational being arrested in his course. A character that might have shone in public and in private life, cast into the shades of oblivion ; a name that might have been uttered with a tear, and left as an inheritance to a race to come, consigned to the roll of infamy. All that is great in human nature, sacrificed at the shrine of sensual pleasure in this world, and the candidate for immortality in the next, plunged into the irremediable gulf of folly, dissipation, and endless misery.

[merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors]
« AnteriorContinuar »