Page images

pose of a worldly man ; nor does he esteem theni as real offences in the sight of God. He considers not, that an inattentive nurse may as effectually dë. stroy a child, by withholding from it proper nourishment, as though she had obliged it to sip a pofsonous draught; that a soldier would be condemned' to death, if the enemy shonla surprize a town while he was sleeping on las post; equally as thougli-hie had been busy in opening the gates for their adnis. sion ; and that Christ represents the want of an holy fervour, as the grand reason why? Jukewarm chris. tians excite in him the utmost détestation and ab. horrence.' An entire chapter in the Gospel is ein. "ployed to teach us, that sins of omission will constitite the principal cause of a sinner's condemnation at the last day. The slothful servant is casi into outer darkness, not for having robbed another of his talent, but for the non-improvement of his own: the foolish virgins are excluded from the marriage feast, not for having betrayed the bridgroom, but because they were unprepared to receive him and. every christian is acquainted with that terrible sentence, which shall one day be pronounced upon the wicked....“ Depart from me ye cursed ; for I was an hungered, and ye gave me no meat," &c. To "have that « religion, which is pure and undefiled be. fore God," it is not only necessary, that we « keep ourselves unspotted from the world," but we must *** also visit the fatherless and widows in their af. fiction;" relieving the unfortunate to the utmost of our ability, and exerting our whole power in spread. ing truth and happiness among all around us."

Thus hunted, at length, from many a dangerous shelter, unhumbled sinners will presúme to adopt the following plea.... we pray; we fast, we - give alms, we receive the holy sacrament: and what more do you require ? Such was the founda. tion of the ancient pharisees' hope : but Christ and His Apowles overthrew their vain confidence, by the

scie? 12

: Dyns esame arguments, which evangelical ministers are

still obliged to turn against multitudes of religious professors, who indulge an exhalted opinion of their own contemptible merits. On The Gospel requiresi say these faithful pastors,

that, to the external marks of religion, you should be careful to add humility and charity, and if these

svo capital graces are wanting, your religion is but a body without a soul., You have received the holy sacrament of our church; but what salutary effects have they produced in your life and conversation? The circumcision, which saved the Jews, was not the circumcision of the flesh, but that of the heart:" and the baptism which saves christians, is not that by which the body is sprinkled with water, ?but that which purifies the soul. So the passorer, which was acceptable to God on the part of the Jews consisted not simply in eating the paschal lanıb: but in penetrating their souls with gratilude, on recollecting the many wonderful deliverances, which the Almighty had wrought for lis people. And the communion, which is acceptable on the part of christians, consists not merely in receiving the consecrated elements, as various classes of sinners are accustomed to do ; but in uniting themselves to the Lord by a living faiih, and to all his members by an ardent charity... You pray.... And did not the pharisees so? yea, they were remarkable for thetr long and zealous prayers : but, alas, while they acknowledged God." wiih. their lips iheir hearts were far from him.". You give alıns....but, if you mean with these to purchase Heaven, you do but deceive your own souls, while your pretended charity degenerates into insolence : or, if you merely seek tos precure the reputation of being charitably disposed; you have your reward. You fast....but, if you do this chiefly through custom, or through respect to the orders of your Prince, your fast can no more be counted religious, than'the regim¢n

prescribed you by a physician : and if these fasts have not produced in you a sincere repentance, and a true conversion, horvever you may regard them as acts of devotion, they are in reality no other than acts of hypocrisy. Moreover, the pharisees, fasted twice in the week ; while you, it may be, are among the number of those, who imagine they have made a valuable sacrifice to God, bý abstaining from a single repast in a year.

As pharisaical moralists « have sought out so many inventions,” to evade the necessity of an un feigned repentance; and as philosophizing christians rise up with one consent against this doctrine of the Gospel; we shall conclude this subject, by disclosing the sources of their common error.

1. There are phantoms of virtue, or virtues purely natural, which pass in the world for divine. But who ever imagined the dove to be really virtuous, because she is not seen like the eagle, to make a stoop at birds of a weaker frame than herself? or who supposes wasps to be generous insects, because they are observed mutually to defend themselves, when their nest is attacked? Is not the conjugal and maternal tenderness of the human species apparent, in an eminent degree, among various tribes of the feathered kind ? And do we not see, among bees and ants, that ardent patriotism which was so highly extolled among the Romans? Does not the spider exhibit as manifest proofs of ingenuity and vigilance, as the most industrious artist? And do not carnivorous animals discover all that fearless intrepidity, which is so universally boasted of by vain-glorious heroes ? Let us not mistake in a matter of so much importance; as nothing but charity can give to our alms the value of good works, so nothing less than the fear of God, and a sincere intention of pleasing him, can give, to our most valuable propensities, the stamp of solid virtues. If we could completely expose the worthless alloy, which worldly men are accustomed to pass off as sterling virtue, many of those, who now esteem themselves rich in good works, would be constrained to « abhor themselves, and repent in dust and ashes." 1 2. Many persons indulge too favourable ideas of the human heart, through their ignorance of that unsullied purity, which God requires of his intelligent creatures. They judge of themselves and others, as a peasant judges of a theme replete with solecisms, who far from expressing the discernment of a critic, admires, the vast erudition of the young composer. Thus, some external acts of devotion are applauded by un discerning christians, as commendable works, which in the sight of God, and before holy spjrits, appear altogether polluted and worthy of punishment.

3. If we are sometimes deceived by our own ignorance, we more frequently impose upon others by our innate hypocrisy. Unregenerate men, after having thrown a cloak orer their distinguishing vices, are anxious to make a parade of virtues, which they do , 'not possess. The proud man is, sometimes, observed

putting on the garb of humility, and with the most lowly obeisance, professing himself the very humble servant of an approaching stranger. Immodesty is frequently masked with an affected air of chastity and bashfulness ; hatred, envy, and duplicity, vail themselves under the appearances of good-nature, friendship, and simplicity : and this universal bypocrisy contributes to render its practitioners less outwardly offensive, than they would otherwise be ; as an unhåndsome woman appears less defective, to a distant beholder, after having nicely varnished over the ble"mishes of her face.. ^ .

4. It frequently happens, that one vice puts a period to the progress of another. Thus vanity, at times, obliges us to act contrary to t!e maxims of avarice, avarice contrary to those of indolence, and indolence contrary to those of ambition. A refined pride is generally sufficient to overcome contemptible vices, and may influence us to the perforinance of many exterior virtues. Hence; thesimpious and sordid pharisee went regularly to the temple: he prayed, i he fasted, he gave alıns ; and, by all these appearances of piety and benevolence, acquired the commendations of the world. Society makes a kind of gain by these acts of dissimulation, which are as the homage paid to virat tue by vicep and bys impiety to devotion. J But, notect withstanding every plausible appearance, that can posao sibly be put on, when the minister of the gospel de-? clares the fall of mann together with the absolute need of regeneration, he is supported at once, by revelation, reason, and experience... 20 anivad! 117,

5. If the moral disorder, with which human nature is infected, appears not always at its utmost height, it is because regeneration having commenced in many persons of every rank, the wicked are overawed by the influence of their example: Add to this, that God restrains them, as with a bridle, by his providence, and by those motions of conscience, which they vainly endeavour to stifle. It is notorious, that the fear of public contempt and punishments is some. times able to arrest the most abandoned in their vicious career; since they cannot discover what they really are, without arming against themselves the secular power. Thus the terror which prisons and gibbets inspire, constrains ravening wolves to appear in the garb of inoffensive sheep. But is it possible, that indiocence so constrained, should be accounted of any va. lue, even among heathens themselves ? 'It is impossible, since we find one of their own poets declaring.... ii

. Oderunt peccaré mali, formidine pæ klip The wicked abstain from mischief, through fear of punishment. And all the recompence, he conceives due to such guiltless persons, consists in not becoming the food of ravons upon a gibbet: '' BO.

"1" for a non pasces in cruce corvos. 6. If servile fear is sometimes the cause of our innocence, necessity is more commonly the cause of our apparent virtues. A youth of any modesty iss,

« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »