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- Very different is the character of him who is strong in the Lord. When he is assured he is in the right path, he sees no obstacles in the way. Nothing is difficult to a determined mind. Through the divine aid, resolution is omnipotent. To the unwearied ef. forts of persevering courage, art and nature have yielded : and there is a ladder by which the heavens may be scaled. Through Christ strengthening him, the man of God can do all things. No appearance of difficulty, no form of danger, no face of death, terrifies him from doing his duty. He gives up his possessions, his country, his parents, his friends, his wife and children, his own life also, rather than desert the post of honor assigned to him by Providence. “None of these things move me,” faith an Apostle, “ neither account I my life dear unto myself, so that 36. I may finish my course with joy. What mean you “ to weep, and to break my heart ? for I am willing “ not to be bound only, but to die at Jerusalem, for “ the name of the Lord Jesus.”
This was not the vain boast of men who were brave when the day of battle was distant, and who in the midst of tranquillity, talked of despising danger. It was the speech of one who acted what he spoke. To the confirmation of it, we can adduce a cloud of witnesses, an host of martyrs, multitudes of all nations, and ages, and conditions, for whom the flames of the tormentor were kindled to no pur. pose ; against whom the sword of persecution was drawn in vain ; who held fast their integrity, though they knew death to be the consequence, and followed their Redeemer in a path that was marked with blood. Among these martyrs, doubtless there were many who naturally were as feeble, and flexible, and timorous, as any of you are : but when they were inspired with this hidden strength, and were fupported by the everlasting arms, the timorous waxed yaliant, and the feeble became strong in the Lord.
Exod. xxiii. 2.
Thou shalt not follow a multitude to do evil.
CATION is one of the great characteristics of the human species. As the passion for society is strong in the breasts of all rational crea. tures, the gratification of it is fought after as one of the highest enjoyments of life. The same passion that impels us to fociety, impels us to take part with our companions in their interests and inclina. tions. Insensibly and without thought we fall into their customs and their manners ; we adopt their sentiments, their passions, and even their foibles, and follow the same course as if we were actuated by the same spirit. This principle appears in children even in the infant state. From their earliest years they love to mimic whatever strikes the organs of sense ; and soon as the young idea begins to shoot, and the embryo of the manly character to appear, they form themselves insensibly upon the model of their parents, and the persons with whom they converfe. To this, and not to any fancied physical cause, is owing that strong and striking resemblance, which we frequently find between the parents and the offspring ; a resemblance as remarkable in the temper and character, as in the features of the face.
This principle is not confined to individuals, it
extends to nations. There is a national character, a national spirit, and even a national mode of thinking, down the current of which we are insensibly carried. When any novelty, any improvement in art or in science, makes its appearance in a nation, it flies from man to man, and from place to place by a kind of contagion, till it has overspread the whole country. So powerful is sympathy, and the love of imitation among men : and thus are our minds framed by the hand of our Maker, to accord with those of others ; like the strings of musical inftruments in unison, when one is struck, the rest correspond to the impreffion, vibrate in the same key, and found the same note. As this principle is implanted in us by the Author of our nature, it must no doubt be intended for great and important pur. poses. It serves to strengthen the bonds of society, to promote friendship and love, and is the aptest and most successful means, not only to teach wisdom and goodness, but also to inspire them.
But as all principles have their unfavourable and vitious extreme, to which they may be carried, fo likewise hath this. Here, therefore, hath the Almighty interposed, and set bounds to it which it ought not to pass, and on the farthest verge of innocence hath engraven this inscription, “ Hitherto « shalt thou come, and no farther; here shall the s progress of thy imitation be stayed ;' or, as it is expressed in the words of our text, “ Thou shalt 66 not imitate men in their wickedness; thou shalt “ not follow a multitude to do evil.”
In further treating on this subject, I shall, in the first place, endeavour to show you by what means we are to keep ourselves from following a multitude to do evil; and, in the second place, adduce some arguments that urge the neceflity of this duty.
The first thing proposed, was to how you by what means we are to guard ourselves from the multitude that do evil.
And, in the first place, In order to this, let us be early and firmly established in the principles of our holy faith. When we look about us into life, and behold how many persons enter into the world, without having their minds instructed, or their hearts established in the great principles of virtue and religion, we cannot be surprised that they go aftray on occasion of the first temptation, and follow the, multitude to do evil. Perhaps they have acquired fome general knowledge of Christianity, but their knowledge of it is merely speculative, has played round the head, but has not reached the heart. Accordingly, as mere speculation is utterly unfit to combat the strength of passion, and the violence of temptation, they soon fall off and fink into all the corruptions of the world around them. This course of life is well described in the beautiful parable of the lower and the feed.--" Behold a sower went « forth to sow; and as he fowed, some seeds fell “ upon the stony places, where they had not much “ earth, and forthwith they sprung up, because they “ had no deepness of earth ; and when the sun was “ up they were scorched, and because they had no “ root, they withered away.” That is, they had received the knowledge of the Christian religion, but they had not attained to that true faith, which is not barely an affent of the understanding to specu.