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SERMON Such high connections. Christ, as your forerunner, hath entered into the highest heavens; Him, it is your part to follow, in the paths of piety and virtue. In those paths proceed with perseverance and constancy, animated by those words of your departing Redeemer, which ought ever to dwell in your remembrance: Go to my brethren, and say to them, I ascend unto my Father, and your Father; to my God, and your God. In my Father's house are many mansions. I go to prepare a place for you. I will come again and receive you to myself, that where I am, there ye may be also*.
* John, xx. 17. xiv. 2, 3.
ROMANS, xii. 18.
If it be possible, as much as lieth in live peaceably with all men.
IT T cannot but occur to every one who SERMON has read the New Testament, even in a cursory manner, that there is nothing more warmly and more frequently inculcated in it, than peace and love, union and good understanding among men. Were a person to form to himself an idea of the state of the Christian world, merely from reading our sacred books, and thence inferring how they would live who believed those books to be Divine, he would draw, in his fancy, the fairest picture of a happy
SERMON Society: he would expect to meet with nothing but concord, harmony, and order; and to find the voice of clamour and contention for ever silent. But were such a person, fond to be himself a witness and a partaker of such a blissful state, to come amongst us from afar, how miserably, alas! would he be disappointed, when in the actual conduct of Christians he discovered so little correspondence with the mild and peaceful genius of their professed religion; when he saw the fierce spirit of contention often raging unrestrained in publick; and in private, the intercourse of men embittered, and society disordered and convulsed with quarrels about trifles? Too justly might he carry away with him this opprobrious report, that surely those Christians have no belief in that religion they profess to hold sacred, seeing their practice so openly contradicts it.
In order to prevent, as much as we can, this reproach from attaching to us, let us now set ourselves to consider seriously the importance and the advantages of living peaceably with all men. — This duty may be thought by some to possess a low rank among
among the Christian virtues, and the phrase SERMON a peaceable man, to express no more than a very inferior character. I admit that gentleness, candour, sensibility, and friendship * express a higher degree of refinement and improvement in the disposition: and that a good Christian ought to be distinguished by active benevolence, and zeal for remedying the miseries and promoting the felicity of others. But let it be remembered, that the love of peace is the foundation of all those virtues. It is the first article in the great Christian doctrine of charity; and its obligation is strict, in proportion as its importance is obvious. Blessed are the peace makers; for they shall be called the children of God †. -I shall first show what is included in the precept of living peaceably with all men; and next, what arguments recommend our obedience to this precept.
I. THIS precept implies, in the first place, a sacred regard to the rules of justice, in rendering to every man what is his due.
* Vide Discourses on these virtues in the preceding Volumes.
+ Matth. v. 9.
SERMON Without this first principle, there can be XV. no friendly commerce among mankind. Justice is the basis on which all society rests. Throw down its obligation, and at that instant you banish peace from the earth; you let rapine loose, and involve all the tribes of men in perpetual hostility and war. To live peaceably, therefore, requires, as its first condition, that we content ourselves with what is our own, and never seek to encroach on the just rights of our neighbour; that in our dealings, we take no unfair advantage; but conscientiously adhere to the great rule of doing to others, according as we wish they should do to us. It supposes that we never knowingly abet a wrong cause, nor espouse an unjust side, but always give our countenance to what is fair and equal. We are never to disturb any man in the enjoyment of his lawful pleasure; nor to hinder him from advancing his lawful profit. But under a sense of our natural equality, and of that mutual relation which connects us together as men, we are to carry on our private interest in consistency with what is requisite for general order and good.