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found guilty of burying our talent in which it ought to be performed. In the earth. fact, the opposition of men, who All indeed have not the gift of have no habitual seriousness in reproperly introducing religious to- ligion, rather recommends, than pics in mixed companies, where forms an objection to pious disthey are too generally unwelcome, course: and surely we ought not to however prudently and seasonably neglect any part of our duty from managed but every man has a lit- that "fear of man which bringeth tle circle, in which he may speak a snare!" Thus saith the Lord, with freedom on the great concern of "Hearken unto me, my people, who salvation. Most persons have rela- know righteousness, in whose heart tives,and many have families, among is my law: fear ye not the reproach whom they are peculiarly bound to of men, neither be afraid of their communicate the knowledge of the revilings; for the moth shall eat gospel. There are also seasons, in them up like a garment, and the which almost any one will endure worm shall eat them as wool: but the serious and affectionate intro- my righteousness shall be for ever, duction of religious subjects; espe- and my salvation from generation to cially in times of peculiar affliction, generation." Isaiah li. 7, 8. or when death hath visited his They, who timidly and cautiously house. In some companies a man keep silence on these subjects, who is, as it were by common consent, leave men in ignorance and under called to take the lead in discourse, delusion even among their own acand may select his subject: and in quaintance, and make no effort to most situations some opening will enlighten them with saving truth, be found for a serious remark, lest they should be censured and which may be afterwards recol- stigmatized with some reproachful lected, if it do not at the time intro- name, must act in direct contradicduce further conversation. The tion to this solemn admonition. event of such reflections frequently Whereas a prudent and suitable give us reason to say, "A word attention to this duty forms one of spoken in due season, how good is the most efficacious means of difit!" And upon careful examina- fusing the savour of truth and piety, tion it will be found, that far more in families and neighbourhoods; good is done in this way, than is in and of opening a door of usefulness general supposed. to those who labour in the word and doctrines.
An objection, however, will naturally arise in the mind of many, There are indeed many vain talkfrom the consideration of the aver-ers, who disgrace the gospel; dission and contempt commonly ex- regarding relative duties, and every pressed for this kind of conversa- rule of propriety, by an ostentatious tion. But it is certain, that the zeal and officious boldness in disrules prescribed by the Lord him- puting about doctrines; while it is self to his people, could not be re- often too plain that the truth has duced to practice, without exciting little sanctifying effect upon their the same disgust and reproach. own hearts. It is therefore pecuDeut. vi. 6-9; xi. 18-21. Even liarly incumbent upon us to ask the conduct of Christ must be in-wisdom of God, in order to a right volved in the same censure: for he performance of this duty; and to hath set us an example of this be very careful that our religious duty, and also of the manner in discourse be recommended by the
ornament of a consistent behaviour | more exactly than before; when in all other respects. This is espe- they habitually give up their own cially the way to "let our light humour, interest, or indulgence, shine before men." Thus Peter, provided conscience be not conexhorting Christians to "have their cerned, to oblige and serve those conversation honest among the that are most prejudiced and unGentiles that whereas they spake kind; and when this conduct is adagainst them as evil doers, they hered to with meek perseverance, might by their good works, which notwithstanding discouragements they should behold, glorify God in and ungrateful returns: then the the day of visitation," inculcates excellency of evangelical religion the duties of subjects to their rulers; is exhibited in the clearest and "for," says he, "so is the will of most affecting light. In this manGod, that with well-doing ye may ner we ought to "adorn the docput to silence the ignorance of fool- trine of God our Saviour in all ish men. He then states the duties things." of servants, even to severe and fro- A conscientious exactness, as to ward masters; adding, "for what every part of our conduct in the glory is it," (what proof of grace or ordinary transactions of life, is likerecommendation of the gospel,) "if wise indispensably necessary: that when ye be buffeted for your faults, they may be conducted with the ye take it patiently? But if when strictest integrity, veracity, sinceye do well, and suffer for it, ye take rity, and punctuality. We ought it patiently, this is acceptable with to "let our moderation be known God; for even hereunto ye were unto all men;" it should be evicalled." Afterwards he exhorts dent, "that our conversation is "wives to be in subjection to their without covetousness;" and noown husbands, that if any obey not thing ambiguous or suspicious the word, they may without the should be observable in any of our word be won by the conversation dealings. A harmless and inoffenof the wives." And having men- sive deportment also is peculiarly tioned some other subjects, he thus necessary: we ought to keep at concludes the exhortation, "Hav- a distance from intermeddling in ing a good conscience, that whereas other men's affairs; from slander they speak evil of you, as of evil doers, they may be ashamed that falsely accuse your good conversation in Christ." 1 Pet. ii. iii.
and discord; and from every word and action, which may prove injurious to the interest, peace, reputation, relative comfort, or ease of any In like manner, magistrates, mas- other person; as far as this can be ters, husbands, parents, children, done consistently with other duties. and all others, have various rela- An evident disposition to kindtive duties to perform for the com-ness, benevolence, and compassion, mon benefit; and if they be known is another ornament, and recomto profess the peculiar doctrines of mendation to the gospel. Nor is the gospel, which are generally ac- affluence, or extensive liberality recused of tending to laxity of morals, quisite in order to diffuse this betheir conduct will be severely and nign light around us; provided our minutely scrutinized. But when exertions bear some proportion to believers study to understand, and our ability. A loving spirit may be aim to practise the duties of their manifested in a narrow sphere, by several relations, in all respects a continual, attention to little inci
dents, and by such beneficial actions, obliging behaviour with religious as are within the power of every constancy and fortitude; and stuwhose heart is properly dis-dying the proprieties of our several posed. stations, we may, I apprehend, comThese tempers ought to be asso-ply with our Lord's exhortation, ciated with forbearance and gentle- and "let our light shine before ness under insults and injuries, a men.' readiness to forgive repeated and most trying provocations, and a per- III. Then we proceed to consider severing endeavour to "overcome the object, which we ought to proevil with good." And when the be- pose to ourselves, in attending to liever is also willing to acknow- these duties.
ledge, without reserve, the mis- It hath been hinted, that our takes and faults, into which he hath light should shine before men, and been betrayed; and to make suit- not at a distance from human soable concessions and amends to all, ciety. They, who quit the active whom he hath in any respect offend-scenes of life to which providence ed; his "light shines before men" bas called them, that they may culin a very resplendent manner. Pa- tivate piety in privacy and retiretience and resignation also in those ment, too much resemble such soltrying circumstances, which excite diers, as decline the combat, and others to peevishness and rebellious refuse to face danger or endure murmurs; cheerful contentment at hardship in the service of their a distance from those pleasures, country. Some employments inwhich most men deem the solace deed are absolutely irreconcileable of life; moderation and regard to with a good conscience: but when expediency in the use of things this is not the case, it is generally lawful; indifference about distinc- the believer's duty to "abide in his tions, preeminence, or applause calling." Christianity suffices to and discretion in the management teach every man, from the monarch of secular affairs, contribute to re- to the slave, how to glorify God commend, and consequently to dif- and serve his generation, by a dilifuse the light of divine truth. This gent and self-denying performance is more especially the effect of a of the duties belonging to his stadiligent improvement of our talents, tion. And this is the best method according to our rank in life, or our of exhibiting before men the nature situation in the church; by em- and efficacy of that remedy, which ploying wealth, authority, influence, God hath devised for the disorders genius, learning, and every endow of this evil world.
ment, with a steady aim to promote Our Lord in this same sermon the cause of true religion in the warns his disciples not to do their world, and to render mankind" works to be seen of men:" yet wiser, holier, and happier, by every here he requires them to "let their means we can devise. light so shine before men, that they
By a combination of these dispo- may see their good works." Our sitions, and an habitual regard to actions, however good in themevery part of our conduct, accord-selves, are corrupt in their princiing to the brief hints here given; ple, if they spring from vain-glory, avoiding extremes, rashness, harsh-or are made known with ostentaness, and affected singularity; en- tion, as if we sought human apdeavouring to unite a courteous, plause. But if we abound in the
fruits of righteousness, and patient-fruits of the Spirit in the hearts and
good conscience; and that his con-
rially advanced by the change; they | plied, the light of life will be more are prepared to receive more fa- widely diffused; and the grain of vourably any hint he may drop con- mustard-seed will become a large cerning the salvation of Christ; to plant. read a book that he earnestly re- We cannot reflect seriously on commends, or to give the preachers this subject, without lamenting that of the gospel an occasional hearing. there are but few Christians, even Thus many are led to an acquaint-in nations professing Christianity.ance with the truths of Christianity The man who habitually hears an in the most attractive manner : their express command of Christ with aversion and contempt are almost contemptuous neglect, cannot reaimperceptibly removed; and one sonably expect to be thought his after another is brought to the know- true disciple; yet who can deny ledge of Christ, and faith in his that immense multitudes of problood. Then a new light is set up fessed Christians do thus treat the to shine before men, that others may exhortation contained in the text? see his good works also, and be won-Let none then be offended with over to join in glorifying our God us, for distinguishing between true and Father. believers, and those who say to The Lord alone, it is true, can Christ, Lord, Lord, but do not the open the understanding and change things which he commands: for as the heart but he almost always he will shortly come, and make a uses means and instruments; and complete and final separation, it is the pious example and zealous en- of the utmost consequence to every deavours of Christians are blessed one, that he learn his real character to the conversion of sinners, as well and condition, before the door of as the preaching of the gospel. mercy and hope be for ever shut Every believer therefore should ha- against him. bitually design and endeavour to be useful in this manner, within his proper sphere; and propose it to himself as the grand object of his of having believed and obeyed the future life, to which all other pur- gospel, which arises from a fervent suits ought to be subordinated, and desire that God may be glorified in if possible rendered subservient. the conversion of sinners, and from He should watch over his tempers, an uniform endeavour to let his words, and actions; and endeavour light shine before men," for that to regulate them in such a manner, purpose. If this be wholly wanting, that they may give the utmost energy the most exact creed, and the strictto his attempts, to recommend the est form of godliness will prove engospel to his family and acquaint- tirely unavailing. The Judge, at ance. It should be his constant aim, his appearance, will silence all such to strengthen the hands of faithful pleas, by saying with awful indigministers; and to show in his own nation, "Depart from me, all ye conduct, the reality, excellency, and workers of iniquity." In proporbeauty of pure religion, and its ten-tion as we are doubtful, whether this dency to render men happy and be indeed the ruling principle of useful. our hearts, and the plan of our lives, When this is carefully and gene- we should question whether our rally attended to, the number of real faith be living, and our hope warChristians will commonly be multi-ranted. We are, however, invited
Let each individual, therefore, seriously and impartially inquire, whether he hath that inward evidence