Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

temporal hero and deliverer is received with a tribute of applause ; every heart 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 falvation, let us rejoice in the Saviour, saying with the Apostle, “ God forbid " that I should glory, fave 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 ftronger than death.

SER MON XXVI.

Proverbs xii. 26.

The righteous is more excellent than his neighbour.

THE sentiments of men concerning virtue, and 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 specics. Philosophers have differed about the origin of moral distinctions, and delivered vari. ous theories concerning virtue ; but the people who judge from their feelings, have no system but one ; and whenever right and 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 queftion 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, independent 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 fanction to the maxims of morality, and this volume was written to re. publish that law which is engraven on the heart.

The book from which these words are taken, was the work of a great king who fometimes 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 effectu. . al with the young, representing thein as the perfection of human nature, and the true excellence of man. " The righteous (says he) is more excellent than his “ neighbour.” With great propriet; 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 honorable, are then the objects of admiration and pursuit ; 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, “ Ye shall be 66 as gods ;” the allurements of pleasure were added, and the forbidden fruit recommended as “ good for “ food and pleasant to the eye.” If in opposition to these it shall be shown, 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 eftablished upon an everlasting foundation.

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

an

: There is no part of his nature in which man is so earnest to excel, and so jealous of a defect, as his un. 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 understand. ing, for it is his prerogative and his glory. This draws the line between the animal and the intellectu. al world, ascertains our rank in the scale of being, and not only raises us above inferior creatures, but makes us approach to a nature which is divine. This enters into the foundation of character, for without intellectual abilities, moral qualities cannot fubfist, and a good heart will go wrong without the guidance of a good understanding. Without the di. rection and the government of wisdom, courage degenerates into rashness, justice hardens into rigour, and benevolence becomes 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, confirms 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 have counted facred, 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, “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 furrender 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 finful pleasure becomes a purfuit that employs all the faculties, and absorbs all the time of its votaries.

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 pleasures become the masters and the tyrants of the mind; 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 cloud which vests the invisible world, where their mansion is fixed for ever. When the sons of the Siren call you to the banquet of vice, stop in the midst of this career, pause on the brink, look down,

Посе

« AnteriorContinuar »