Oldalképek
PDF
ePub

mended by new motives of higher encouragements. For we are not to imagine, that together with Adam fell all the notions of good and evil: the great duties of man are of an eternal, unchangeable obligation, and would have remained in full force, even if we had had no revelation. But in the scriptures we see the stern rigour of duty softened by the graces of divine goodness. We there behold God, not in those beams of offended majesty, which no man dares approach unto; but in the lineaments of his original beauty, as our Creator, our compassionate Father, our most perfect Friend. We see every thing graciously pointed out by him, which is necessary to our perfection in virtue, and the promise of every thing which will make us perfect in glory.

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

Having, therefore, so great a light, let none. of us say that we cannot see it. Let us not say, that we have yet to enquire, which is the way to God in duty here, or which is the way to him in glory hereafter? The reasonableness of religion is so plain, and the particulars which compose it so clearly laid down, that willingness of mind is more wanted than reach of understanding; and he who cannot see his duty in the present day, may be assured, that it is not from any difficulty in the thing itself, but from an un

4

conquerable

conquerable blindness, arising from a viciousness of disposition.

· Thirdly, We may remark, that the good which God has shewed to man, and what lie requires of him, consists in justice, mercy, and humble walking with God. These he requires on aecount of their own intrinsic worth; and if he requires any thing besides, it is only with a view to promote the practice of these : for these only can perfect our natures, and, therefore, other things are only in order to the perfection of these. We may, therefore, justly here take occasion to observe, that all modes and ceremonies in religion, which håve occasioned so much heat and animosity in the world, are not that good which God has shewed to man, or which he will accept without a holy life. These can never make the observers thereof perfect, because they might, or might not, have been appointed: and whatever is variable in its nature, is not of the essence of religion: for true religion, is like God himself, unchangeable : but there have been different ceremonies in different ages of the world, even where God himself has been the appointer of religious worship: and therefore, what is not always a duty, cannot be the whole of what is necessary to moral perfection. i And, in fact,

we.

we know by woful experience, that men may attain to the utmost perfection of ceremonial observances, and yet remain wicked and unregenerate.

Here, then, we find the whole of religion summed up in three things, Justice, Mercy, and Humility in the sight of God; and we may assure ourselves that religion consists in nothing but these, because nothing but these is required of us: these are religion without other things, but other things are not religion without them.

And first, We must do justly; that is, in other words, we must give to every one their rights. To do justly, sometimes means to be attentive to the whole of religion, and includes the duty we owe to God, our neighbour, and ourselves. Sometimes it has a more restrained meaning, and only regards our neighbour in all his rights. And sometimes it is taken in a still more contracted sense, and means only, that we are not to steal or defraud. Here it seems to imply generally, that we are not in any shape or manner to defraud our neighbour: and this includes the following things; that we do not detain from any what is his property, whether it belongs to him by virtue of our word given, or of any, thing done for us: that we do not take from any one his right, whether it be in his own hands, or those of another: that we do not injure him by our tongues, either by malicious representations in private, or by false testimony in public: that we do not invade his property, either by private theft or open violence: that we neither look out through the envious eye to the things of others, nor wish them to be our own: for justice lays a restraint upon the mind, that it shall not covet, as well as upon the hands, that they shall not steal; and great is the reason for it; for they who once entertain unlawful desires will soon be tempted to break out into unlawful actions. These, then, are the great outlines of justice; and surely we cannot deny, that they contain a most fair and reasonable duty. We readily feel the propriety of other men's being just to us, and surely, then, there is the same propriety in our being just to them: the reason of the duty is the same in all: the relation we bear to one another calls for it, and the God who made us, and made us dependent upon each other, has an undoubted right to demand it from us.

from

Secondly, We must love mercy. This is, as it were, an enlargement of justice: for justice, in the common acceptation of the word, is the doing what we may be compelled to do by the laws of men; whereas mercy is shewing ourselves kind, where man cannot compel, though God has bound us by his laws. Or, in other words, we may' say, that mercy is an improvement of justice: for, in many cases, if we are not merci

laws

ful, we are not just. There is frequently someis thing due to our neighbour, which he cannot

legally demand from us, as well as something which he can demand. Thus justice demands the payment of a debt, but mercy requires the relief of misery. Justice says, that we ought to resign what is the property of another, but mercy goes farther, and declares that we ought to give up something of our own, in obedience to the command of God, though there should be no human law existing, by which we are compellable to do so.

Lastly, We must walk humbly with God; that is, we must entertain humble sentiments of ourselves, and not destroy the value of our excellencies, whatever they are, by making them too much our own. And, indeed, where is the foundation for a triumph, when we derive both our being and every perfection of it from another? Besides, whatever perfections we may have to boast, we have also enough of sin to bewail: humble then we should be, even in our best moral estate, and lamentation should fill

[ocr errors][merged small]
« ElőzőTovább »