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“ he might finish his course with joy, and the “ministry that he had received of the Lord Jesus, “ to testify the gospel of the grace of God.”
They have also combined their influence in forming the characters, and directing the conduct, of that glorious army of martyrs, who, in different ages and places, have chosen to suffer the extremity of torture, and to expire on the rack or in the flames rather than deny the truth, dishonour the name, or violate the commands, of their beloved Saviour.
When such principles abound in the heart of a parish minister, or an ordinary pastor of moderate talents, they produce plain, faithful, affectionate preaching ; holy exemplary living ; benevolence to the bodies, as well as love to the souls, of his people ; a constant attention to the various parts of his important work, as the pleasure and business of his life ; a disposition to watch for opportunities of doing good ; perseverance, with meekness and patience, under discouragements, and amidst reproaches, contempt, and ingratitude ; and a mind contented with a very moderate subsistence, and evidently superior to the love of filthy lucre.When superior talents, or extraordinary circumstances, concur with them, they form the missionary and evangelist ; who must expect to struggle with difficulties, endure hardship, and encounter scorn and opposition, proportioned to the importance and usefulness of his peculiar station and service.
When they animate the breast of a king, they form a David, a Hezekiah, a Josiah, who employ their authority and influence, with unwearied attention, to promote the cause of God, the interests of piety, the peace of kingdoms, and the welfare of mankind, by all means consistent with the rights of conscience, and the precepts of God's word. They will influence the statesman and senator to devise, arrange, and execute with fortitude and perseverance, all such plans as he deems conducive to the same great ends. The man of affluence, or of large commercial dealings, will emulate the example before us ; and every one, down to the lowest mechanic, or menial servant if led by these principles, will fill up his circle and employ his ability to the glory of God, the ornament of the gospel and the good of mankind, by a conscientious obedience to the precepts of Christ, in the various relations and occupations of life. Nor will this, in any instance, be wholly without success; though in the higher orders of society the light of such examples will be more conspicuous and their beneficial effects more extensive.
It now only remains for us to conclude the subject by drawing a few important practical inferences.
1. Instead of looking upon the character before us as a sort of prodigy, to be gazed at with unmeaning admiration ; we should remember, that every man is equally bound, both to receive these principles by a lively faith, and to act upon them in this manner, according to his station in life, his abilities, and opportunities : nay, if we speak strictly on the subject, that even this is far less than is every man's bounden duty. The perfection of Christ's obedience unto death was no more than the holy law of God required of him as Man and Mediator, in his peculiar circumstances; and what followed of course from his loving the Lord with
all his heart, and his neighbour as himself. After his example, as St. John testifies “we ought to “ lay down our lives for the brethren :” this perfect law is the rule and standard of duty to every man; and all that comes short of it is sin, and needs forgiveness. And hence arises that humiliating yet animating doctrine, that we are “ justified “ freely by the grace of God, through the redemp“ tion that is in Christ Jesus." Though no man therefore perfectly obeys the whole law, in any part of his life, and no true Christian expects to be justified on the ground of his own good works, yet these principles form every one who receives them to an obedience of the heart, springing out of love to God in Christ, and causing him habitually to yield up himself to his service. If all men were influenced by them, they would be habitually upright, benevolent, pious, temperate, and useful, according to their abilities and opportunities : and did true Christianity abound, such characters would be common in the court, the senate, 'the city, the country, and among all ranks and professions in the community.
2. I observe, how effectual the principles of the gospel are in promoting moral goodness; and how they animate men of like passions and nature with the most sinful of the human race, to such a pitch of exertion in the service of God and of their fellow creatures, as no human system ever pretended to produce; and such as many, who know little of religion, seem hardly to have an idea of.
In support of this inference, we appeal to their genuine tendency, and we appeal to facts and characters. Nor need we go back to St. Paul or
the primitive Christians, or to ancient reformers and martyrs.
Even our degenerate days may boast of a Howard and a Thornton, who, in different ways, have caused astonished multitudes to applaud their disinterested and generous philanthropy: yet most of their admirers bave not understood that the love of Christ constrained “them" thus to act, and have never considered themselves required to imitate their examples. Indeed every town, village, and street, where these doctrines are taught, received, and understood, produce characters not so much inferior in intrinsic excellence, as in opportunities of exhibiting it upon a more conspicuous theatre : as those who are conversant with them can testify. It is indeed allowed that there are also vain talkers and deceivers, who profess some of the same truths, and distort them by extravagant representions, or disgrace them by gross immoralities. But this fulfils the scriptures, wherein it is foretold that men of this description would arise; and that when the good seed of the word was sown, an enemy would come and sow tares in the same field. Let then such persons as would know the truth endeavour to divest themselves of prejudices; and after careful examination let them decide, whether the greatest number of evidently good and useful men, of every rank and profession in the community, be not found among those who are zealous for the principles of the gospel, as they have here been proposed to the reader's consideration.
3. Let it be seriously inquired, who are the best friends of mankind; they who neglect these principles of the gospel, or perhaps even zealously oppose
them, that they may establish certain reveries and conjectures, which they dignify with the names of philosophy and rational religion; or they who call sinners to repentance, and faith in the Son of God; to the love of Him who died for us and rose again : to the love of their neighbours after his example and in obedience to his precepts; and, while they humbly rely only on his meritorious obedience and propitiatory sufferings, exhort men to prove themselves indeed his disciples by being zealous of good works?
4. Lastly,; Can Christianity, even as here feebly and imperfectly delineated, and as illustrated by an example, in which it was in some good measure reduced to practice, be denied to be beautiful, excellent, and beneficial to mankind? What then is wanting, but that those who believe and love these truths should aim to be such living sermons, as may convince all around them of the superior excellence and efficacy of their principles ; and to shew that “ the grace of God, which bringeth salvation, doth “indeed teach men to deny ungodliness and worldly “ lusts, and to live soberly, righteously, and godly “ in this present world ?”
Let us then call upon ourselves and each other, to “ let our light shine before men, that they may “ see our good works, and glorify our Father who “ is in Heaven;" and let us continually beg of him to communicate to us more abundantly his sanctifying Spirit, that we may “ adorn the doc“ trine of God our Saviour in all things.”—To Him, in three Persons, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, be all glory, honour, adoration, and thanks: giving, now and for evermore. Amen!