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mote, and hands ever ready to distribute to the good of his fellow-creatures, should notwithstanding be doomed to be an associate for ever with accursed spirits, in a place where benevolence never shed its kindly beams, but malice and anguish, and blackness of darkness, reign for ever and ever. No, the riches which we have given away will abide with us for ever. The same habit of love will accompany us to another world. The bud which hath opened here will blow into full expansion above, and beautify the paradise in the heavens.
MATTHEW v. 19.
Whosoever therefore all break one of these least com
mandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven.
THE Roman Catholics divide fins into two classes, the venial and the mortal. In the first class, they include those flight offences which, as they say, are too inconsiderable to offend the Deity, and, in the second, those great and aggravated transgressions which expose men to the Divine vengeance in the world to come. Although this diltination, which overthrows the law of morality, is abjured by all Protestants, yet something like it is still retained by great numbers of men. What the Papists call venial fins, they call sins of infirmity, human failings, imperfections inseparable from men. And their own favourite vices, whatever they be, they call by these names. Cruel is the condition of the human kind, say they, and rigorous the spirit of the christian law, if we are to lie under such terrible restrictions ; if breaking one of the least commandments shall exclude us from the kingdom of God. Will the Great Creator be offended by a few trivial transgressions ; with little liberties, which serve only for amusement ? If others take a general toleration, shall we not have an indulgence at particular times If we are prohibited from turning back in the paths
of virtue, may we not make a random excursion? If we are not allowed to taste the fruits, may we not at least crop the blossoms of the forbidden tree? While the waters of pleasure flow so near, and look so tempting, shall we not be permitted to taste and live? Will the Great Judge of the world condemn us to 'eternal punishment, for the indulgence of a wandering inclination, for the gratification of a sudden appetite, for a look, a word, or a thought ?
As this is the apology of vice, which, at one time or another, all of you make to yourselves, I shall now show you the dangerous nature and fatal tendency of those offences you call little fins. And in entering upon the subject, Christians, I must observe to you, that the attempt to join together the joys of religion and the pleasures of sin, is altogether impracticable. The Divine law regulates the enjoyments as well as the business of life. You are ney. er to forget one moment that you are christians. . The joys which you are allowed to partake of, are in the train of virtue. While you are pilgrims in the wilderness, if you return to Egypt again, you forfeit your title to the promised land. You have left the dominions of sin, you have come into another kingdom ; and if now you revolt to the foe, you are guilty of treason, and may expect to meet with the punishment which treason deserves. How shall we distinguish then, you say, between the fins of infirmity, into which the best may fall, and the violation of those least commandments which exclude from the kingdom of God? I answer, The text makes the distinction. Sins of infirmity proceed from frailty and surprise. The temptation comes upon men unexpected; the foe meets them unpre. pared ; and, in such cases, the most circumspect may be off their guard, and the best natures may fall. But those sins which exclude from the kingdom of God, are from deliberation and full consent of the mind. The persons who commit them, as the text says, “ teach men so ;" that is, they justify themselves in what they do, and sin upon a plan. Their evil intentions are not occasional and transient, but permanent and governing ; they sleep and wake upon their bad designs, and carry them along in their going out and coming in ; and thus forming evil habits, make their lives à system of iniquity. Who. ever does so, though it be only in the violation of what he reckons the least commandment, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; that is, shall be excluded altogether from it. It is proposed, at this time, to set before
the evil nature and dangerous tendency of the least transgressions. And, in the first place, it may be observed, That it is a series of little actions that marks the characters of men. Human life is not composed of great events, but of minute occurrences; and it is not from a man's extraordinary exertions, but from his ordinary conduct, that we form our judgment of his character. When a great event is transacting, a man is on his guard, he is prepared to act his part well, and often, on such occasions, in the hour of exhibition, he appears to the world a different person from what he really is. But in the series of little actions, in the detail of ordinary life, the turn of mind discovers itself, the temper unfolds, the character appears. It is then, when man is himself, the mask falls off, and the true countenance is display: ed. Human life, then, being a circle of petty transactions, and the temper of men being known from their conduct in little affairs, our character for virtue will depend on our performance of what the world calls the least of the commandments. This is not peculiar to virtue. What is it that constitutes the happiness of domestic life ? Not the fingular and uncommon situations, but the familiar and the ordinaty: not the striking events that fly abroad in the mouths of the people, but the daily round of little things, which are never mentioned. A miser may have a feast, and be a miser still ; he only is a happy man who has his enjoyments every day. With very great talents, and without any remarkable vice, a man may become a most disagreeable member of society, by his neglect of the attentions and civilities, and decorum of life. In like manner, without being guilty of any enormous sin, by the habitual neglect of inferior duties, and by the practice of little offences, a man may
sin unto death. A good life is one of those pictures whose perfection arises from the nice and the minute strokes. It is not one blazing star, but the host of lefser lights, which forms the beauty of the heavens. In like manner, How does the Great Judge at the last day decide the fate, and determine the characters of men ? You reckon sins of omission but little fins, yet, on account of these, the sentence of everlasting condemnation is passed. Because ye gave no bread to the hungry, no water to the thirsty, and no raiment to the naked, relieved not the oppressed, and visited not the prisoner, therefore “ depart into everlafting