Page images
PDF
EPUB
[ocr errors]

licentiousness, to maintain unblemished virtue, and uncorrupted integrity; in a public or private cause, to stand firm by what is fair and just, amidst discouragements and opposition; despising groundless censure and reproach; disdaining all compliance

; with public manners, when they are vicious and unlawful; and never ashamed of the punctual discharge of every duty towards God and man; — this is what shows true greatness of spirit, and will force approbation even from the degenerate multitude themselves. " This is the man,

,” their conscience will oblige them to acknowledge,

66 whom we are « “ unable to bend to mean condescensions. We see o it in vain either to flatter or to threaten him ; “ he rests on a principle within, which we cannot “ shake. To this man you may, on any occasion,

safely commit your cause. He is incapable of betraying his trust, or deserting his friend, or

denying his faith.” Thus his righteousness comes forth as the light, and his judgment as the noon day.

It is, accordingly, this steady inflexible virtue; this regard to principle, superior to all custom and opinion, which peculiarly mark the characters of those, in any age, who have shone as saints or heroes; and has consecrated their memory to all posterity. It was this that obtained to ancient Enoch the most singular testimony of honour from Heaven. He continued to walk with God, when the world apostatised from him. He pleased God, and was beloved of him; so that living among sinners, he was translated to heaven without seeing death; Yea, speedily was he taken away, lest wickedness should have altered his understanding, or deceit beguiled his soul.* When

Wisdom of Solomon, iv. 11.

Sodom could not furnish ten righteous men to save it, Lot remained unspotted amidst the contagion. He lived like an angel among spirits of darkness ; and the destroying flame was not permitted to go forth, till the good man was called away by a heavenly messenger from his devoted city. When all flesh had corrupted their way upon the earth, then lived Noah, a righteous man, and a preacher of righteousness. He stood alone, and was scoffed by the profane crew. But they by the deluge were swept away; while on him, Providence conferred the immortal honour, of being the restorer of a better race, and the father of a new world. Such examples as these, and such honours conferred by God on them who withstood the multitude of evil doers, should often be present to our minds. Let us oppose them to the numbers of low and corrupt examples which we behold around us; and when we are in hazard of being swayed by such, let us fortify our virtue, by thinking of those who, in former times, shone like stars in the midst of surrounding darkness, and are now shining in the kingdom of heaven, as the brightness of the firmament, for ever and ever. - As our honour is thus deeply concerned in our acting a stedfast and virtuous part, let us also consider,

In the fifth place, How little, in point of interest, can be gained by the favour of the multitude, and how much will certainly be lost, by following them to do evil. We may, thereby, render ourselves more agreeable to some with whom we are connected; and by artful compliances, may please ourselves with the prospect of promoting our fortune. But these advantages, such as they are, remain doubtful and uncer

a

tain. The wind of popular opinion is ever shifting. It will often leave us at a loss what course to steer ; and, after all our trouble and anxiety to catch the favourable gale, it may on a sudden forsake us. For the versatility of character, the meanness and inconsistency of conduct, into which a dependant on the multitude is betrayed, frequently render him, in the end, an object of contempt to those whom he sought to please. But supposing him successful in his views, no worldly advantages which are purchased by dishonourable means, can be either solid or lasting. They bring no genuine satisfaction to a man, who is conscious to himself of having given up his principles to serve the world. As long as he could be satisfied with his own conduct, he might bear up under un

. deserved discouragement; but when he becomes despicable in his own eyes, worldly honours lose their lustre. What can the multitude do for

you,
after

you have followed them in evil ? They cannot restore to you the

peace of an innocent mind, nor heal the sorrows of a wounded spirit, nor shield you from the displeasure of God. They can do little to support you in the hour of affliction, and nothing to deliver your souls in the day of death. Forsaken and disconsolate, the world, for the most part, casts off it's votaries in the end ; and when we compute the final amount, it will prove a very small consolation, that, as you have had sharers in guilt, you shall have companions also in punishment.

Look forward to the issue of things. The multitude of men possess now, in a great measure, the distribution of praise and censure, of success and disap

according to their caprice. But this confused and promiscuous distribution is not always to

pointment

subsist. The day cometh, when we all are to appear before a more discerning judge, and a more impartial tribunal. The day cometh when our Lord Jesus Christ shall descend from heaven in all the glory of his Father to unveil every character, and to render to every man according to his works. At that day how shall he lift up his head, who hath been all his life the slave of the world's opinion, who hath moulded his principles, and his practice, solely to please the multitude; who hath been ashamed of his Saviour and his words; and, to gain favour with men, hath apostatised from the native sentiments and dictates of his heart ?- To say all in one word: there is a contest now between God and the world. These form the opposite sides which divide mankind. Consider well, to which of these you will choose to adhere. On the one side, lie your allegiance, your honour, and your interest; on the other, lie your guilt and your shame. For the one, conscience and reason; for the

l other, passion and inclination, plead. On the one hand are the approbation of God, immortal honour, and divine rewards; on the other, -remember and beware !--- are the stings of conscience, endless punishment, and endless infamy.

[ocr errors]

SERMON LXX.

On the WISDOM of God.

1 Timothy, i. 17.

Now unto the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the

only wise God, be honour and glory, for ever and ever! Amen.

IT
T is of the highest importance to religious con-

duct, that our minds be filled with suitable conceptions of the attributes of God. They are the foundations of our reverence for him; and reverence is the foundation of religion. All the divine perfections are interesting to man. Almighty power, in conjunction with Eternity and Omnipresence, naturally inspire solemn awe. Infinite Goodness relieves the mind from that oppression which Power alone would produce; and from our experience of present benefits, and our remembrance of the past, creates love, gratitude, and trust. In the middle between these stands the contemplation of Divine Wisdom, which conjoins impressions of awe with those of comfort; and, while it humbles us into profound submission, encourages, at the same time, our reliance on that

* This concluding discourse was chiefly intended to be a general ecapitulation of instances of the wisdom of Providence, several of which have been more fully illustrated in other discourses contained in this or in some of the preceding volumes. VOL. III.

L

« PreviousContinue »