« ÎnapoiContinuați »
ciple. But he who combats his darling paffions, and gives up the fondeft wishes of his foul; who keeps a conftant guard upon all his thoughts, words, and actions; intrepidly withstands the most alluring temptations, and takes up his crofs to follow Chrift; this man cannot well be influenced by any thing but a ftrong fenfe of duty, and an undiffembled conviction that he is bound to obey even the fevereft precepts of the Gofpel. His good actions are neither feen nor applauded of men. They are performed in fecrecy and in filence, without oftentation, without reward, fave only the approbation of that all-feeing God, who is witness to the bitter conflicts of his foul, and will one day make him ample amends in the fight of angels and of men.
Let it not, however, be fuppofed, that any thing here faid is meant to depreciate that most heavenly virtue, charity, or to rob those that exercise it of that fair fame, that heartfelt fatisfaction, and those glorious rewards hereafter, which cannot fail to recompenfe their generous labours. May every branch and fpecies of benevolence for ever flourish and abound, May its divine
divine and bleffed influence fpread continually wider and wider, till it takes in every creature under Heaven, and leaves not one misery unalleviated, one grievance unredreffed. But all excellent as it is, let not this, let not any fingle virtue, engrofs our whole attention. Let us not confine ourselves to the easy, the delightful, the reputable works of beneficence, and neglect the other great branch of moral duty, SELF-DENIAL; no lefs neceffary and important, but much more difficult, and which, therefore, ftands in need of every poffible argument in its favour to recommend and support it. Let us no longer make invidious and unjust distinctions between these two kindred virtues. In nature, in reason, in the fight of God, in the Gospel of Christ, felf-government is of equal value with focial duties. They equally tend to the perfection of our own minds, and the comfort of our fellow-creatures. The fame rewards are in Scripture promised to both; the fame penalties are denounced against the violation of both; and there is fo ftrict and intimate a union between them, that the cultivation or neglect of the one, muft neceffarily lead, and has, in fact, always ultimately led, to the improvement
or depravation of the other. What then God and nature, as well as Chrift and his apostles, have joined together, let no man dare to put afunder. Let not any one flatter himself with the hope of obtaining the rewards, or even escaping the punishments of the Gospel, by performing only one branch of his duty. Let him not imagine, that the most rigorous severity of manners can excufe him from the exercife of undiffembled love to God and to mankind; nor, on the other hand, let him suppose, that under the fhelter either of devotion or of benevolence, he may fecurely indulge his favourite paffions; may compound, as it were, with God for his fenfuality by acts of generofity, and purchase by his wealth a general licence to fin. Let him not, in fhort, content himself with being only half a Christian. Let him vifit, as often as he pleases, the fatherless and the widows in their affliction, Let his piety be fervent, and his faith fincere. But let him, at the fame time, take care, as he values his salvation, that he keep himself unspotted from the world,
2 KINGS iv. I,
THY SERVANT MY HUSBAND IS DEAD, AND THOU KNOWEST THAT THY SERVANT DID FEAR THE LORD; AND THE CREDITOR IS COME TO TAKE UNTO HIM MY TWO SONS TO BE BOND-MEN.
HE unhappy fufferer, who makes this most moving complaint, was the widow of one of the fons of the prophets, whose distress Elisha immediately relieved by the miraculous increase of her pot of oil. It will not be eafy to find in any writer, facred or profane, a more piteous ftory, or a cafe more applicable to the occafion of the prefent meeting. I cannot therefore do better than leave it upon your minds in that concife and affecting fimplicity in which it is here related, whilft
* Preached at the anniversary meeting of the Sons of the Clergy, May 9, 1776...