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Necessity and Excellence of Family-Religion.
long, and yet do not know what to ask of God? Alas! what have you been doing ?
Again, Is neglecting prayer the way to improve in knowledge and qualify you to perform it ?
Finally, May you not easily furnish yourselves with forms of prayer, which you may use as persons weak in their limbs do their crutches, till you can lay them aside ? It is bigotry only that will say that you should neglect the substance of the duty, if you cannot perform every circumstance of it in the best man. ner.
3d Objection. 'I am ashamed.'
But is this shame well grounded ? Is it really a shame to worship the God of heaven, and share in the employment of angels?
Are sinners ashamed to serve their master ? A little practice will easily free you from all this difficulty. 41h Objection. But, alas ! I know not how to begin it.'
Here, indeed, the difficulty lies ; but why will you not own that you were hitherto mistaken, and that you would rather reform, than persist obstinately in the omission of an evident
5th Objection. But my family will not join with me.'
How do you know? Have you tried ? Are you not master of your own family? Exert that authority in this which you claim in other cases.
6th Objection. But I shall be ridiculed and laughed at.'
Are you then more afraid of a laugh or a jeer than the displeasure of God? Would you rather please men than him ?
Will you never become religious till you can obtain the applause of the wicked for being so ? Then you will never be religious at all.
Think how you will bear the contempt of the whole universe at last for the neglect of this duty !
Therefore, wherever you have your habitations, there let Jehovah, may I so speak, have an altar, and there let morning and evening prayers and praises be presented, till you are called to worship him in his temple above, where your prayers shall be swallowed up in everlasting praise. AMEN. .
THE RULE OF EQUITY.
NATT. 711. 12. Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that
men should do to you, do ye even 80 to them; for this is the law and the prophets.
CHRISTIANITY is not a fragment, but a complete system of religion ; and it is intended and adapted to make us good entirely and throughout : it teaches us a proper conduct and temper towards every being with whom we have any connection, particularly towards God and our fellow men. A christian is a complete, uniform, finished character; a character in which there is the most amiable symmetry and proportion; it is all of a piece, without chasms and inconsistencies. A christian is a penitent, a believer, a lover of God, conscientious in devotion, and diligent in attendance upon every ordinance of religious worship; he begins his religion with a supreme regard to God, the Supreme of beings, sensible, that unless he begins here, he inverts the order of things, and that all his religion and virtue must be preposterous and vain. To love the Lord his God with all his heart, and to serve him from that exalted principle, is the first and great commandment with him; and he observes it as such. Religion, virtue, morality, and every thing that bears a specious name among mankind, is a poor maimed taing, monstrously defective, if a proper regard to God be left out of the system. It is shocking and unnatural for the creatures of God to be punctual in observing the duties they owe to one another, and yet entirely negligent of those radical fundamental duties they owe to him, their common Parent, the highest excellence, and the original of all authority and obligation.
But though christianity begins with, and chiefly consists in, our duty to God, yet it extends farther ; it also includes a proper conduct and temper towards men. A good christian is not on. ly devout, but moral and virtuous : he is not only a dutiful servant of God in matters purely religious, but he is an useful member of every society to which he belongs, and makes conscience of justice, charity, and all the good offices due to his VOL. II.
fellow-creatures. He is a good ruler, or a good subject, a good neighbour, a good father or child, a good master or servant ; in short, he endeavours to have a conscience void of offence towards God and towards men. I have made it the great object of my ministry among you, to bring you to pay a proper regard to God, as he has revealed himself in the gospel of his Son ; and for this purpose, have inculcated the important doctrines of faith, repentance, love, and those other graces which are essential to every good man. But I must not forget another part of my office, which is, to teach you the second great command, or summary of the divine law, namely, That you should love your neighbour as yourselves, and inculcate upon you those important duties which you owe to mankind ; and it is very extravagant for persons to disgust these, through a pretended relish for the gospel and the doctrines of grace, since these are no inconsiderable parts of the gospel, and the lessons of morality run through the whole New Testament,
When I would discourse upon the duties of social life, I cannot choose a text more pertinent or copious than that I have read to you, which is a fundamental and most comprehensive rule of morality; all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even 80 10 them ; for this is the law and the prophets.
In the illustration and improvement of this subject, I shall,
1. Offer a few things for the right understanding of this divine rule of social duty.
II Consider the reason of it. III. Open its excellency. IV. Mention sone important instances of particular cases to which it should be applied. And,
Lastly, Shew the necessity and advantage of observing it.
I. I am to offer a few things for the right understanding of this divine rule.
It is proper then to observe, that as there is a great diversity in the stations and characters of men, there is a proportionable diversity in the duties which they owe one to another ; and selflove may make a man very extravagant in his expectations and desires about the conduct of another towards him. On these accounts it is necessary that we should understand this precept with these two cautions or limitations.
1. That we should do that to others which we would expect and wish from them upon a change of condition, or if they were in our
Bircumstances and we in theirs. Every man should be treated according to his character and station ; and therefore that conduct which may be proper towards me in my station, may not be proper towards another in a different station : but let me suppose myself in his place, and he in mine, and then that behaviour which I would expect from him, the same I should observe towards him. Thus, for example, a magistrate is bound to protect his subjects, and to behave towards them as he would desire a ruler to be bave towards him if he were a subject ; but he is not bound to yield that submission to his subjects while a ruler, which he may justly demand of them. The rule in such cases is, let every man act in character ; let him 'perform to others those duties which he would desire from others if they were in his circunstances, and he in theirs ; and where there is a sameness of circumstances, there, and there only, his duty to others must be the same that he expects from them.'
2. We should make only our reasonable and lawful expectations from others the rule of our conduct towards them. A man may expect and wish very extravagant and sinful things from others : he may desire another should give him all his estate, or gratify his wicked lusts and passions by some criminal compliance : such desires are by no means to be the rule of conduct ; for we cannot indulge them, nor others comply with them, without acting wickedly and unreasonably. But those things which we may desire and expect from others, consistently with right reason, religion, and the laws of society, those things we ought to perform to them ; those things which our consciences justify, and not those to which inordinate self-love or some extravagant passion may prompt us.
If we understand this precept with such limitations as these, we may safely follow it as a general rule of conduct ; and then it will not be liable to such objections as may be otherwise made against it. For example, a criminal may plead, ' If I were in the place of my judge, and he in mine, I would acquit him, and grant him his life.' Or a judge might think, if I were in the place of that poor criminal, I should be glad my judge would forgive me : and therefore, if I would do as I would be done by, I must forgive him.' Such thoughts as these, arising from wrong principles, are not to be the rule and measure of our actions or expectations ; for our own consciences cannot approve of them in our sedate and impartial moments. I proceed,
II. To consider the reason of this precept.
Now the reason or foundation of it is evidently this, namely, the natural equality of mankind. For notwithstanding the great difference in the capacities, improvements, characters, and stations of men, yet, considered as men, they share in the same common nature, and are so far equal ; and therefore, in the same cir. cumstances, they have a right to the same treatment. A superior, for example, should treat his inferior just in the manner in which he would reasonably expect to be treated himself if he was in a low condition and his inferior advanced to his station. If there be any reason why another should behave in such a manner to me, there is the very same reason that I should behave in the same manner towards him ; because he is to himself what I am to my. self, as near, as dear, as important. Is it reasonable my neighbour should make no encroachments upon my property ? It is equally reasonable that I should not encroach upon his ; for his property is as much his as my property is mine. Do I expect my neighbour should observe the rules of justice in his dealings with me? then certainly I should observe them in my dealings with him ; for he has as good a right to be treated according to these rules by me, as I have to be so treated by him. If it is reasonable that he should be tender of my good name, it is equally reasonable, that I should be tender of his. If he should relieve me in my calamities, certainly I am equally bound to relieve him when in the same circumstances. And the reason is plain ; he is to himself what I am to myself, and he is to me what I am to him therefore I am obliged to treat him as I would justly would treat me; we are equal, and consequently our are equal, and our duties mutual or reciprocal.T that this precept is the most reasonable thing in next business is,
III. To open the excellency of it.
And this appears (1.) from its compr all the social duties of life ; it is a sh divine law, as far as it refers to our excellency Christ himself points and the prophets; that is, it is the what you would have others do to that the law and the prophets, an the apostles require you to do. have the whole of our duty coll