« AnteriorContinuar »
I Appeal to you, in the next place, Whether you are not bound to preserve and vindicate the character of the righteous, in opposition to, and that you may counteract the influence of, misrepresentation and detraction?
We well know that good may be evil spoken of: we well know that some men are exceedingly eager to grasp at, and to circulate, unfavourable reports of the pious, the wise and good. They leflen the worth of the righteous, they impute improper motives, to their best actions, and take delight in bringing them to their own level; or, if possible, to place them below themselves; foolishly imagining, that the errors and failings, and faults, they ascribe to others, withdraw attention from their own, and more than overbalance| their weaknesses; if they allow they are chargeable with any. Ill men envy the just, and rejoice in their depression and disgrace. Piety, and punctuality in celebrating the institutions of religion, has often been branded as hypocrisy. Almsgiving and attention to the necessities and comfort of the poor, is named ostentation. Liberality E 2 in. •
in its most generous deeds and exertions, has been represented as the most interested selfishness. Regular manners, are stiled want of spirit and penuriousness. If, my friends, we know that the righteous are so misrepresented and traduced, if, especially, they have qualified us to be vouchers and witnesses for their worth, by their friendship and good offices, are not we called upon to do them justice? Let us assert the purity of their principles, the genuineness, the regularity, and fervour of their devotions, their pure and active charity, and that, in a word, their behaviour was such as becomes that grace of God, the Gospel of Jesus, which denies "ungodliness and worldly lusts, and teaches "men to live soberly, righteously, and godly "in the world."
But you may do a great dea\ more than counteracting the tales of detraction and slander, in doing justice to the memory of the righteous. I exhort you to speak of their worth, and to exhibit their characters; that thereby men may be induced to admire and receive that blessed system, the excellence and power, and truth of which, are demonstrated strated in their attainments and worth, and happiness: for you are required to employ every method for affecting and impressing the minds of men, and of leading them to think seriously of their souls, of their duty, and eternity. Thus, our Lord urges his followers to manifest superior goodness for promoting the interests of religion: "Let your "light so shine before men, that they seeing "your good works, may glorify your Father "in heaven." St. Peter, also, encourages; Christian wives to distinguish themselves for female excellence, by it's tendency to win their husbands to the faith and obedience of
the Gospel, &c.: but, possibly you are
afraid to propose yourselves as models of excellence for the imitation of others, and of those especially whose best interests you have most at heart: to them too, your real character, possibly, is not sufficiently known: respecting you, they may remain under the influence of misrepresentation, prejudice, and suspicion. If these things are so, or if you only think your example labours under such disadvantages, you are bound the more to avail yourselves of the known worth and reputation of the righteous, for arresting
'the the attention and exciting the esteem of your friends, and gaining their hearts. From time to time, and as occasion offers, thus address those who are dear to you, "Come and see what this righteous man "was, what objects he pursued, what worth "he manifested. He preferred the service "of God. He sought the honour that "cometh from God. He was respected and "honoured in life. His memory is dear to "his surviving friends. He resisted thepre"vailing vices and temptations of the age, f and of his condition in life. He wirw nested for God. He adorned the doctrine "of God his Saviour," &c. By representations of this kind, and the reflections and expostulations they naturally suggest, much good may be done; your object may be forwarded and secured. Your friends are attentive, are affected; they arise and follow the righteous; they walk as they have them for examples.
Thus am I led to add, in the last place, See you preserve the memory of the just in honoured remembrance, on account of your duty to God, for promoting the honour of his name, and the interests of the kingdom of Christ. The glory of God, and the success of the Gospel, are connected with holding the righteous in high reputation.
On this subject we are authorized to employ a strong expression, because it is scriptural: In honouring the righteous, you are "workers together with God." The pen of inspiration is employed in recording the characters, and in publishing the honours of the excellent of the earth. If there was good reason for preserving the faith and holiness, the ifltrepidity and patience, in a word, the excellence of the saints of ancient times, there is good reason for preserving the memory of the same virtues and excellence still. To question this, is to blame the piety of the sacred writers, and the Spirit by whom they were moved. What the sacred writers did, we are bound to do, as we are called and enabled, in honouring the righteous. We have more than precedent, however: k is evidently our duty. Honouring the righteous, is to the glory of God, and the promoting of the interests of the Gospel: because, in them, in their attainment*