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middle ranks of life, who form the great SERMON body of society, have little or no concern in it. But this is entirely a mistake. Splendid fortune, and high birth or rank, afford, beyond doubt, the strongest and most frequent temptations to the loose indulgence of every enjoyment. But throughout all ranks the danger extends, of being misled by pleasure in some of its forms. In this country, where wealth and abundance are so much diffused over all stations; where it is well known that the inferiour orders of men are perpetually pressing upon those who are above them, and following them in their manners, a life of dissipation is perhaps not less frequent among the middle, than among the higher classes of society. The modes of amusement may not be so refined. The entertainments and pleasures may be of a grosser kind. But in many an inferiour circle, there prevails as much love of pomp and show, as much proportional extravagance in expence, as much rivalry in the competition of passions and pleasures, as in the most fashionable and courtly assemblies. Sober reflections are as much laid aside; the gratification of vanity, and


SERMON and the indulgence of pleasure, are pursued with equal eagerness. Let us therefore, my brethren, in whatever rank of life we are placed, proceed upon this as our great principle, that to serve God, to attend to the serious cares of life, and to discharge faithfully the duties of our station, ought to be the first concern of every man who wishes to be wise and happy; that amusement and pleasure are to be considered as the relaxation, not the business, of life; and that if from those sentiments we depart, and give ourselves up to pleasure as our only object, even in laughter the heart shall be sorrowful, and the end of our mirth shall be beaviness.

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On the Conscience void of Offence.

ACTs, xxiv. 16.

Herein do I exercise myself, to have always a conscience void of offence toward God and toward men.


THESE words were spoken by the SERMON Apostle Paul, in the course of that manly and spirited defence which he made for himself, when accused of sedition and impiety before Felix, the Roman Governour. He vindicates himself from the charges brought against him; but boldly avows his principles, conceals no part he had acted, gives up no doctrine he had taught, and, with the firm consciousness of innocence, appeals to his enemies them

SERMON selves for the unblemished integrity of his life and character.


To maintain always a conscience void of offence toward God and toward men is a degree of virtue to which, in its full extent, none can lay claim. For who is there among the sons of men that can pretend, on every occasion, throughout his whole life, to have preserved a faultless conduct? How few days, indeed, go over our heads wherein something does not pass, in which our behaviour has not been altogether correct, or free from every offence? In the present imbecility and fallen state of human nature, he is the worthiest person who is guilty of the fewest offences towards God or towards man. But though the character referred to in the Text be not attainable by us in a complete degree, it is the character to which we must all study to approach; to come as near to it as the weakness of our nature admits ; so that neither in piety towards God, nor in social duties towards men, we may be found remarkably deficient. You will observe, that this great Apostle does not boast of having fully attained to a conscience void of every



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offence. His words are, that herein he SERMON. exercised himself; that is, this was his object and his study, to this he formed and trained himself, to have always a conscience void of offence towards God and men. Assuredly, there is nothing in human life, more amiable and respectable than such a character. Wherever it Wherever it appears, it commands universal reverence in every station, whether high or low. It is indeed what all men would wish to gain; at least, they wish that others should believe them to possess it. Even the most corrupt look to it, from afar, with a sigh; and however obliged to condemn themselves for having fallen short of it, cannot help esteeming and respecting others who are dignified by the attainment of it. Let us then consider, first, what is implied in exercising or forming ourselves to maintain the conscience void of offence; and next, what the effects will be of having, in some degree, attained it.

I. In exercising ourselves for this purpose our first care must be to have our conscience well informed, or properly instructed, as to what

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