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Vassing at pleasure the character and the behaviour of those around them. With persons of this description every society too much abounds. — My brethren, no one ought to consider himself as insignificant in the sight of God. In our several stations we are all sent forth to be labourers in God's vineyard. Every man has his work allotted, his talent committed to him; by the due improvement of which he might, in one way or other, serve God, promote virtue, and be useful in the world. Occupy till I come, is the charge given to all Christians without exception. To be entirely unemployed and idle, is the prerogative of no one, in any rank of life.
Even that sex, whose task is not to mingle in the labours of public and active business, have their own part assigned them to act. In the quiet of domestic shade, there are a variety of virtues to be exercised, and of important duties to be discharged. Much depends on them for the maintenance of private (economy and order, for the education of the young, and for the relief and comfort of those whose functions engage them in the toils of the world. Even where no such female duties occur to be performed, the care of preparing for future usefulness, and of attaining such accomplishments as procure just esteem, is laudable. In such duties and cares, how far better is time employed, than in that search into private concerns, that circulation of rumours, those discussions of the conduct, and descants on the character of others, which engross conversation so much, and which end, for the most part, in severity of censure?
In whatever condition we are placed, to act always
in character, should be our constant rule. He who acts in character, is above contempt, though his station be low. He who acts out of character, is despicable, though his station be ever so high. IVhat is that to thee, what this man or that man does ? Think of what thou oughtest to do thyself; of what is suitable to thy character and place; of what the world has a title to expect from thee. Every excursion of vain curiosity about others, is a subtraction from that time and thought which was due to ourselves and due to God. Having gifts, says the apostle Paul, dislering according to the grace that is given us, whether ministry, let us wait on our ministering"; or he that Teacheth, on teaching; or he that exhorteth, on exhortation. He that giveth, let him do it with simplicity; he that ruleth, with diligence; he that showeth mercy, with cheerfulness.*
In the great circle of human affairs, there is room for every one to be busy and well employed in his own province, without encroaching upon that of others. It is the province of superiours to direct; of inferiours to obey ; of the learned, to be instructive; of the ignorant, to be docile; of the old, to be communicative; of the young, to be advisable and diligent. Art thou poor? Show thyself active and industrious, peaceable and contented. Art thou wealthy ? Show thyself beneficent and charitable, condescending and humane. If thou livest much in the world, it is thy duty to make the light of a good example shine conspicuously before others. If thou livest private and retired, it is thy business to improve thine own mind, and to add, if thou canst do no more, one faithful subject to the Messiah's kingdom. There is indeed no man so sequestered from active life, but within his own narrow sphere he may find some opportunities of doing good; of cultivating friendship, promoting peace, and discharging many of these lesser offices of humanity anıl kindness, which are within the reach of every one, and which we all owe to one another. In all the various relations which subsist among us in life, as husband and wife, master and servant, parents and children, relations and friends, rulers and subjects, innumerable duties stand ready to be performed ; innumerable calls to virtuous activity present themselves on every hand, sufficient to fill up with advantage and honour the whole time of man.
i Rom. xii. 6-8.
There is, in particular, one great and comprehensive object of attention, which, in the text, is placed in direct opposition to that idle curiosity reprehended by our Lord ; that is, to follow Christ. Follow thou me. What this man or that man does; how he employs his time; what use he makes of his talents; how he succeeds in the world; are matters, concerning which the information we receive can never be of great importance to us; often, is of no importance at all. But how our Saviour behaved while he was on earth, or how, in our situation, he would have behaved, are matters of the highest moment to every Christian.
The commandment given in the text, to follow him, includes both observance of his words, and imitation of his example. The words of Christ contain, as we all know, the standing rule of our life. His example exhibits the great model on which our conduct ought to be formed; and it is to this that the precept here delivered directly refers. — Examples have great influence on all. But by all human examples, we are in danger of being occasionally misled. We are ever obliged to be on our guard, lest the admiration of what is estimable betray us into a resemblance of what is blemished and faulty. For the most perfect human characters, in the midst of their brightness and beauty, are always marked with some of those dark spots which stain the nature of man. But our lord possessed all the virtues of the greatest and best men, without partaking any of their defects. In him, all was light without a shade, and beauty without a stain. — At the same time, his example is attended with this singular advantage, of being more accommodated than any other to general imitation. It was distinguished by no unnatural austerities, no affected singularities; but exhibits the plain and simple tenor of all those virtues for which we have most frequent occasion in ordinary life. In order to render it of more universal benefit, our Lord fixed his residence in no particular place; he tied himself down to no particular calling, or way of living ; but gives us the opportunity of viewing his behaviour, in that variety of lights which equally and indifferently regard all mankind.
His life was divided between the retired and the active state. Devotion and business equally shared it. In the discharge of that high office with which he was vested, we behold the perfect model of a public character ; and we behold the most beautiful example of private life, when we contemplate him among his disciples, as a father in the midst of his family. By such means he has exhibited before us specimens of every kind of virtue; and to all ranks and classes of men has afforded a pattern after which they may copy. Ilardly is there any emergency which can occur in life, but from some incident in our Saviour's conduct, from some feature displayed in his character, we are enabled to say to ourselves, “ Thus “ Christ would have spoken, thus he would have
acted, thus he would have suífered, if he had been * circumstanced as we are now.”
Instead, therefore, of thinking of thy neighbours around thee, and of enquiring how they behave, keep Christ in thine eye, and in thy whole conduct follow him. Follow him, in his steady and conscientious discharge of duty, amidst opposition from evil men and a corrupted world. Follow him in his patient submission to his father's will, and the calmness of his spirit under all trials. Follow him in his acts of disinterested benevolence, in his compassion to the unhappy, in his readiness to oblige, to assist, and to relieve. Imitate the mildness and gentleness of his manners. Imitate the afiability and condescension which appeared in his behaviour. Imitate the uncorrupted simplicity and purity which distinguished his whole life.
These are much worthier and nobler objects of your attention, than any of those trifling varieties which you can explore and discover in the character of those among whom you live. By lifting your view to so high a standard, you will be preserved from descending to those futile and corrupting em. ployments of thought, which occupy the idle, the vain, and the malignant. It is incredible, how much time and attention are thrown away by men in examining the affairs of others, and discussing their