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But why should I spend time in establishing so plain a truth, especially when it is already confirmed by the highest authority ? Our blessed Lord himself expressly tells us, (Luke xii. 47.), that " the servant who knew “ his Lord's will, and prepared not himself, “ neither did according to his will, shall be “ beaten with many stripes."
The only question that remains then is, Whether this be a supposition that can be made ? Is it to be thought, that any man is capable of deliberately resisting his own conviction, and of declining obedience to a law which he both knows and believes to pe binding on him?
I confess, indeed, that a superior Being, if we could imagine him to be altogether unacquainted with human affairs, might reject this supposition as improbable. But surely we have no cause to object against the representation as forced, or beyond the life. Our own observation, unless we have been extremely inattentive, cannot fail to furnish us with numberless proofs of this determined neglect of duty. We need not go from home, to bring our examples froin
persons in high and public trust, who have been known to sacrifice the acknowledged interest and honour of a whole nation to their own private resentment or personal advantage. They are farther feen, for no other reason but because they are placed higher. The importance of their station renders their faults the more confpicuous, while a groaning community points out, as with the finger, the authors of its distress. But let each of us look into his own breast; and if conscience is not asleep, it will say to us as Nathan said to David, “ Thou art the “ man.” Thou thyself haft neglected the fairest opportunities of doing good, when thou hadst the strongest conviction that it was thy reasonable duty.
I mean not to pry into the secrets of your hearts, any more than to divulge the secrets of my own. But I speak from a thorough conviction, that all of us pafs too slightly over our omissions, even in the most serious review which we take of our conduct. We are, alas ! too fruitful in excuses, and too ready to glofs over our most culpable neglects, with the specious colour of ig
porance or incapacity. But God, to whom the night shineth as the day, knows the conviction of mind against which we fin; and our most dexterous arts of concealment cannot screen us from his penetrating eye. A just impression of this would prevent many fatal mistakes in our conduct. : .
I have now, for example, an opportunity of doing good: and my conscience tells me, that I ought to improve it. On the other hand, I have many strong temptations to neglect it. It would put me to too much cost or trouble; it would involve me in a train of action against which my indolence revolts; or it would divert me from other employments more agreeable to my inclination. On which fide shall I resolve? May I not fo' manage it, that the neglect shall escape the observation of my neighbour? Or if he should perceive it, may I not put a good face upon it, and find out some excuse to fave me from his censure ?--Ah! but here is the check. The Searcher of hearts knows my present conviction. In vain shall I at:: tempt to prevaricate with him. I may elude the cenfure of man; but I never can escape
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the just judgement of that God who is great er than my heart, and knoweth all things. Such reafoning as this, if it were once bew come habitual to us, would be a conftant and powerful incitement to all hoły obedience; and would prevent the deep guilt of neglecting to do good, even when we know the extent and obligation of the law of God, and are convinced that it is our duty to comply with it.
Having thus endeavoured to illustrate and confirm the two propofitions contained in my text, I proceed now to the practical improvement of the subject. —Andy *
1/1, This subject administers 'a tharp reproof to those who, in any case, atteinpt to evade their convictions of duty. « To him " that knoweth to do good,” faith the Apostle, “ and doth it not, to him it is fin.” For, consider whač kind of disposition this conduct betrays. Is it not evidently the difposition of a slavish and mercenary mind? You do no more in the service of God than you suppose to be necessary, in orde. to escape eternal misery; and this is the
only confi leration which deters you from open transgressions of his law. You have therefore no regard for him, but only a concern for your own fafety. Your plan of conduct is to offend God as far as you can, without incurring his vengeance : So that any appearance of goodness about you is nothing more than the effect of a natural timidity, Dosye thus requite the Lord, O foolish people and unwise? Doth this goodness challenge no better return from you, than merely to refrain from acts of open rebellion against him? Consider, I beseech you, the baseness and ingratitude of this conduct ; and if your hearts retain any spark of ingenuity, you will surely be persuaded to yield him a more faithful and generous service in time to come. But,
2dly, This subject administers reproof also to the lothful and inactive servant, who rests contented with low attainments in religion. You perhaps flatter yourself that although you are remiss in seeking out opportunities of doing good, yet you are not unfaithful to any known obligation. But in this case you greatly deceive yourself: