Imagini ale paginilor

In our duties towards one another, it may he said, that our performances are more adequate to our obligation, than in our duties to God: that the subjects of them lie more level with our capacity ; and there may be truth in this observation. But still I am afraid, that both in principle and execution, our performances are not only defective, but defective in a degree, which we are not sufficiently aware of. The rule laid down for us is this, “to love our neighbour as ourselves.” Which rule, in fact, enjoins, that our benevolence be as strong as our self-interest; that we be as anxious to do good, as quick to discover, as eager to embrace every opportunity of doing it, and as active, and resolute, and persevering in our endeavours to do it, as we are anxious for ourselves, and active in the pursuit of our own interest. Now is this the case with us? Wherein it is not, we fall below our rule. In the apostles of Jesus Christ, to whom this rule was given from his own mouth, you may read how it operated: and their example proves, what some deny, the possibility of the thing; namely, of benevoPp 2


lence being as strong a motive as self-interest, They firmly believed, that to bring men to the knowledge of Christ's religion was the greatest possible good, that could be done unto them: was the highest act of benevolence they could exercise. And, accordingly, they set about this work, and carried it on, with as much energy, as much order, as much perseverance, through as great toils and labours, as many sufferings and difficulties, as any person ever pursued a scheme for their own interest, or for the making of a fortune. They could not possibly have done more for their own sakes, than what they did for the sake of others: they literally loved their neighbours as themselves. Some have followed their example in this; and some have, in zeal and energy, followed their example in other methods of doing good. For I do not mean to say, that the particular method of usefulness, which the office of the apostles cast upon them, is the only method, or that it is a method even competent to many. Doing good, without any selfish worldly motive for doing it, is the grand thing: the mode must be

regulated regulated by opportunity and occasion; tỏ which may be added, that in those, whose power of doing good, according to any mode, is small, the principle of benevolence will at least restrain them from doing harm. If the principle be subsisting in their hearts, it will have this operation at least. I ask therefore again, as I asked before, are we as solicitous to seize opportunities, to look out for and embrace occasions of doing good, as we are certainly solicitous to lay hold of opportunities of making advantage to ourselves, and to embrace all occasions of profit and self-interest ? Nay, is benevolence strong enough to hold our hand, when stretched out for mischief? is it always sufficient to make us consider what misery we are producing, whilst we are compassing a selfish end, or gratifying a lawless passion of our own? Do the two principles of benevolence and self-interest possess any degree of parallelism and equality in our hearts, and in our conduct? If they do, then, so far we

, come up to our rule. Wherein they do not, as I said before, we fall below it. When nog

only only the generality of mankind, but even those, who are endeavouring to do their duty, apply this standard to themselves; they are made to learn the humiliating lesson of their own deficiency. That such our deficiency should be overlooked, so as not to become the loss to us of happiness after death; that our poor, weak, humble endeavours to comply with our Saviour's rule should be received and not rejected ; I say, if we hope for this, we must hope for it, not on the ground of congruity or desert, which it will not bear; but from the extreme benignity of a merciful God, and the availing mediation of a Redeemer. You will observe, that I am still, and have been all along, speaking of sincere men, of those who are in earnest in their duty and in religion: and I say, upon the strength of what has been alledged, that even these persons, when they read in scripture of the riches of the goodness of God, of the powerful efficacy of the death of Christ, of his mediation and continual intercession, know and feel in their hearts, that they stand in need of them all.

In that remaining class of duties, which are called duties to ourselves, the observation, we have made upon the deficiency of our endeavours, applies with equal or with greater force. . More is here wanted, than the mere command of our actions. The heart itself is to be

regulated; the hardest thing in this world to manage. The affections and passions are to be kept in order ; constant evil propensities are to be constantly opposed. I apprehend, that every sincere man is conscious how unable he is to 'fulfil this part of his duty, even to his own satisfaction: and if our conscience accuse us, “ God is greater than our conscience, and knoweth all things.” If we see our sad failings, He must. God forbid, that any thing I say, either upon this, or the other branches of our duty, should damp our endeavours. Let them be as vigorous, and as steadfast as they

They will be so, if we are sincere; and, without sincerity, there is no hcpe: none whatever. But there will always be left enough, infinitely more than enough, to humble selfsufficiency



« ÎnapoiContinuă »