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duty, that they propose to themselves a measure of conduct totally inadequate to the purpose. The boundaries which nature has assigned to human authority and control, the partial ends to which every legislator is obliged to confine his views, prevent human laws, even were they, what they never are, as perfect as they might be made, from becoming competent rules of life to any one who advances his hopes to the attainment of God Almighty's favour. In contradistinction, then, to these several systems which divide a great portion of mankind amongst them, we preach “ faith which worketh by love,” that principle of action and restraint which is found in a Christian alone. It
possesses qualities to which none of them can make pretensions. It operates where they fail : is present upon all occasions, firm upon the greatest ; pure as under the inspection of a vigilant Omniscience; innocent where guilt could not be discovered ; just, exact, and upright, without a witness to its proceedings ; uniform amidst the caprices of fashion, unchanged by the vicissitudes of popular opinion ; often applauded, not seldom misunderstood; it holds on its straight and equal course, through “good report and evil report," through encouragement and neglect, approbation and disgrace. If the philosopher or the politician can point out to us any influence but that of Christianity, which has these properties, I had almost said which does not want them all, we will listen with reverence to his instruction. But until this be done we may be permitted to resist every plan which would place virtue upon any other foundation, or seek final happiness through any other medium, than faith in Jesus Christ. At least, whilst an inclination to these rival systems remains, no good end, I am apt to think, is attained by decrying faith under any form, by stating the competition between faith and good works, or by pointing out, with too much anxiety, even the abuses and extravagances into which the doctrine of salvation by faith alone has sometimes been carried. The truth is, that, in the two subjects which I have considered, we are in such haste to fly from enthusiasm and superstition, that we are approaching towards an insensibility to all religious influence. I certainly do not mean to advise you to endeavour to bring men back to enthusiasm and superstition, but to retard, if you can, their progress towards an opposite and a worse extreme; and, both in these, and in all other instances, to regulate the choice of your subjects by the particular bias and tendency of opinion which you perceive already to prevail amongst your hearers, and by a consideration, not of the truth only of what you deliver, which, however, must always be an indispensable condition, but of its effects, and those not the
effects which it would produce upon sound, enlight· ened, and impartial judgments, but what are likely to take place in the weak and preoccupied understandings with which we have to do.
Having thus considered the rule as it applies to the argument of our discourses, in which its principal importance consists, I proceed to illustrate its use as it relates to another object,--the means of exciting attention. The transition from local to occasional sermons is so easy, and the reason for both is so much the same, that what I have farther to add will include the one as well as the other. And though nothing more be proposed, in the few directions which I am about to offer, than to move and awaken the attention of our audience, yet is this a purpose of no inconsi. derable magnitude. We have great reason to complain of listlessness in our congregations. Whether this be their fault or ours, the fault of neither or of both, it is much to be desired that it could by any
means be removed. Our sermons are in general more informing, as well as more correct and chastised both in matter and composition, than those of any denomination of dissenting teachers. I wish it were in our power to render them as impressive as some of theirs seem to be. Now I think we may observe that we are heard with somewhat more than ordinary advertency, whenever our discourses are recommended by any occasional propriety. The more, therefore, of these proprieties we contrive to weave into our preaching, the better. One, which is very obvious, and which should never be neglected, is that of making our sermons as suitable as we can to the service of the day. On the principal fasts and festivals of the church, the subjects which they are designed to commemorate ought invariably to be made the subjects of our discourses. Indeed, the best sermon, if it do not treat of the argument which the congregation come prepared to hear, is received with coldness, and with a sense of disappointment. This respect to the order of public worship almost every one pays.
But the adaptation, I apprehend, may be carried much farther. Whenever anything like a unity of subject is pursued throughout the collect, epistle, and gospel, of the day, that subject is with great advantage revived in the pulpit. It is perhaps to be wished that this unity had been more consulted in the compilation of this part of the liturgy than it has been. When from the want of it a subject is not distinctly presented to us, there may, however, be some portion of the service more striking than the rest, some instructive parable, some interesting narration, some concise but forcible precept, some pregnant sentence, which
be recalled to the hearers' attention with peculiar effect. I think it no contemptible advantage if we even draw our text from the epistle or gospel, or psalms or lessons.
Our congregation will be more likely to retain what they hear from us, when it, in any manner, falls in with what they have been reading in their prayerbooks, or when they are afterward reminded of it by reading the psalms and lessons at home. But there is another species of accommodation of more importance and that is the choice of such disquisitions as may either meet the difficulties or assist the reflections which are suggested by the portions of Scripture that are delivered from the reading desk. Thus, whilst the wars of Joshua' and the • Judges' are related in the course of the lessons which occupy some of the first Sundays after Trinity, it will be very seasonable to explain the reasons upon which that dispensation was founded, the moral and beneficial purposes which are declared to have been designed, and which were probably accomplished, by its execution; because such an explanation will obviate the doubts concern. ing either the Divine goodness or the credibility of the narrative which may arise in the mind of a hearer, who is not instructed to regard the transaction as a method of inflicting an exemplary, just, and necessary punishment. In like manner, whilst the history of the delivery of the law from Mount Sinai, or rather the recapitulation of that history by Moses, in the book of · Deuteronomy,' is carried on in the Sunday lessons which are read between Easter and Whit-Sunday, we shall be well engaged in discourses upon the commandments which stand at the head of that institution, in showing from the history their high original and authority, and in explaining their reasonableness, application, and extent. Whilst the history of Joseph is successively presented to the congregation, during the Sundays in Lent, we shall be very negligent of the opportunity, if we do not take occasion to point out to our hearers those observations upon the bene
volent but secret direction, the wise though circuitous measures of Providence, of which this beautiful passage of Scripture supplies a train of apposite examples. There are, I doubt not, other series of subjects dictated by the service as edifying as these ; but these I propose as illustrations of the rule.
Next to the service of the church, the season of the year may be made to suggest useful and appropriate topics of meditation. The beginning of a new year has belonging to it a train of very solemn reflections. . In the devotional pieces of the late Dr. Johnson, this occasion was never passed by. We may learn from these writings the proper use to be made of it; and, by the example of that excellent person, how much a pious mind is wont to be affected by this memorial of the lapse of life. There are also certain proprieties which correspond with the different parts of the year. For example, the wisdom of God in the work of the creation is a theme which ought to be reserved for the return of the spring, when Nature renews, as it were, her activity; when every animal is cheerful and busy, and seems to feel the influence of its Maker's kind
when our senses and spirits, the objects and enjoyments that surround us, accord and harmonize with those sentiments of delight and gratitude which this subject, above all others, is calculated to inspire. There is no devotion so genuine as that which flows from these meditations, because it is unforced and self-excited. There is no frame of mind more desirable, and consequently no preaching more useful, than that which leads the thought to this exercise. It is laying a foundation for Christianity itself. If it be not to sow the seed, it is at least to prepare the soil. The evidence of revelation arrives with much greater ease at an understanding which is already possessed by the persuasion that an unseen Intelligence framed