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Preached at Princeton, September, 1775, the Sabbath pre
ceding the ANNUAL. COMMENCEMENT ; and again with Ad. ditions, September 23, 1787. To which is added, an AD. DRESS to the Senior Class, who were to receive the degree of BACHELOR of ARTS.
1 Thess. ii. 12.
That you would walk worthy of God, who hath called you
into his kingdom and glory.
HE present state was intended to be, and I think
must, by every person of reflection, be admitted to be a continual trial of the faith and constancy of a Christie an. It is therefore a duty we owe to others in general, but in a special manner, the elder to the younger, to give them faithful warning of the temptations and dangers, to which they must, of necessity, be exposed, if they mean to walk in the paths of piety and virtue. It hath often occur. red to me, in meditating on this subject, that as false mo. ney is most dangerous, when it is likelt to the true, so those principles, and that character, which approach the nearelt to true religion, if notwithstanding they are essen. tially different from it, will be most ready to impose on an uncautious and unsuspecting mind. Therefore, if there is such a thing as a worldly virtue, a system of principles and duty, dictated by the spirit of the world, and the stands ard of approbation or blame with the men of the world, and if this is at bottom, essentially different from, and sometimes directly opposed to the spirit of the gospel, it must be of all others, the most dangerous temptation, to persons of a liberal education and an ingenious turny of mind.
This, if I am not mistaken, is really the case. There are some branches of true religion which are universally approved, and which impiety itself cannot speak againit; such as truth and integrity in speech, honelty in dealing, humanity and compaffion to persons in distress. But there are other particulars, in which the worldly virtue, and the Christian virtue, feem to be different things. Of these I fhall select one, as an example, viz. Spirit, dignity, or greatness of mind. This seems to be entirely of the worldly caft: It holds a very high place in the esteem of all worldly men : The boldest pretensions are often made to it, by those who treat religion with neglect, and religious persons with disdain or defiance. It is also a virtue of a very dazzling appearance; ready to captivate the mind, and particularly to make a deep impression on young persons, when they first enter into life. At the same time, the golpel seems to stand directly opposed to it. The humility of the creature, the abasement and contrition of the finner, the dependance and self-denial of the beJiever, and above all, the shame and reproach of the cross itself, seem to conspire in obliging us to renounce it.
What shall we say then, my brethren ? Shall we say that magnanimity is no virtue at all, and that no such excellence belongs to human nature ? Or shall we admit that there is beauty and excellence in it-confefing at the fame time, that it does not belong to religion, and only fay, that though we want this, we have many other and better qualities in its place? To this I can never agree ; for every real excellence is consistent with every other ; này every real excellence is adorned and illustrated by
Vices may be inconsistent with each other, but virtues never can. And, therefore, as magnanimi. is an amiable and noble quality-one of the greatest or naments of our nature, so I affirm that it belongs only to true and undefiled religion, and that every appearance of the one, without the other, is not only defective, but falle. | The Holy Scriptures, it is true, do chiefly insist uponi what is proper to humble our pride, and to bring us to a juft apprehension of our character and state. This was wise and just, because of that corruption and milery into which we are fallen, the contraty would have been unjust. It is evidently more necessary, in the present state of human nature, to restraini pride, than to kindle ambition. But as the fcripture points out our original dignity, and the true glory of our nature, so every true penitent is there taught to aspire after the noblest character, and to entertain
the most exalted hopes. In the passage which I have chosen as the subject of my discourse, you see the Apostle exhorts the Thessalonians to walk suitably to the dignity of their character, and the importance of their pri. vileges, which is a short but just description of true and genuine greatness of mind.
My single purpose, from these words, at this time, is to explain and recommend magnanimity as a christian vir: tue; and I wish to do it in such a manner, as neither to weaken its lustre, nor admit any degree of that corrupt mixture, by which it is ofteni counterfeited,
and greatly debafed. Some infidels have in terms affirmed, that Christianity has banished magnanimity, and by its precepts of nieakness, humility, and passive submission to in jury, has destroyed that nobleness of sentiment, which rendered the aricients so illustrious, and gives fo muchi majelty and dignity to the histories of Greece and Rome. In opposition to this, I hope to be able to thew that real greatness is inseparable from fincere piety ; and that any defect in the one, must necessarily be a discernible blemishi in the other. With this view, I will, first, give you the principles of magnanimity in general, as a natural quality; fecondly, I will shew what is necessary to give it real value, as a moral virtue; thirdly, thew that it shines with the most perfect brightness as a Christian grace ; Vow. III.
and afterwards inprove the subject, by a practical, application of what may be said, for your instruction and direction.
First, then, let me state the principles of magnanimity, in general, as a natural quality. I think it must be admitted, that as there is a real difference between bodies, as to size and bulk, as well as other sensible qualities, so there is a real character of greatness, or meanness, applicable to the mind, distinct from its other qualities or powers. It is, however, I apprehend, a fimple impression, which cannot be explained, or further analysed, but may easily be felt, and is best illustrated by its effects. These may be fummed up in the following particulars: To magnanimity it belongeth to attempt, 1. Great and difficult things : 2. To aspire after great and valuable possessions ; 3. To encounter dangers with resolution ; 4. To tiruggle against difficulties with perseverance; and, 5. To bear fufferings with fortitude and patience.
1. It belongs to magnanimity to attempt great and difficult things. Those who, from a love of floth and ease, neglect the exercise or improvement of their powers, and those who apply them with ever so great assiduity and at. tention, to things mean or of small consequence, are plainly destitute of this quality. We perceive a meannefs and want of spirit in this respect, when particular persons fall below their rank in life; or when, as is too frequently the case in any rank, they fall below human nature itself. When a prince, or other person of the first order and im. portance in human life, busies himself in nothing but the most trifling amusements, or arts of little value, we call it mean; and when any man, endowed with rational pow. ers, loses them through neglect, or destroys them by the molt grovelling sensuality, we say he is acting below him. self. The contrary of this, therefore, or the vigorous exertion of all our powers, and particularly the application of them to things of moment and difficulty, is real magnanimity.
2. It belongs to magnanimity to aspire after great and valuable possessions. It is more difficult properly to illuftrate this as a branch of magnanimity, because of its fre