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rity of principle, or from worldly motives ? SERMON Rise there no envy or malignity within you when you compare your own condition with that of others? Have you been as solicitous to regulate your heart, as to preserve your manners from reproach? Professing yourselves to be Christians, has the spirit of Christ appeared in your conduct ? Declaring that you hope for immortality, has that hope surmounted undue attachments to the present life?
Such investigation as this, seriously pursued, might produce to every man many discoveries of himself; discoveries not pleasing perhaps to vanity, but salutary and useful. For he can be only a flatterer, but no true friend to himself, who aims not at knowing his own defects as well as virtues. By imposing on the world, he may carry on some plan of fancied profit; but by imposing on his heart, what can he propose to gain ? He feedeth on ashes: A deceived heart bath turned him aside, that he cannot deliver his soul, nor say, is there not a lie in my right hand*?
* Isaiah, xliv. 20.
SERMON Thus I have set before you some of
those great objects which ought to employ your meditation in religious retirement. I have endeavoured to introduce you into a proper intercourse with your heart, concerning God, the world, and your own character. Let this intercourse terminate in fixing the principles of your future conduct. Let it serve to introduce consistency into your life. Nothing can be more wavering and disjointed, than the behaviour of those who are wholly men of the world, and have never been inured to commune with themselves. Dissipation is a more frequent cause of their ruin, than determined impiety. It is not so much because they have adopted bad principles; as because they have never attended to principles of any kind, that their lives are so full of incoherence and disorder. - You hover on the borders of sin and duty. One day you read the Scriptures, you hear religious discourses, and form good resolutions. Next day you plunge into the world, and forget the serious impression, as if it had never been made. The impression is again renewed, and again effaced; I 4
and in this circle your life revolves. Is SERMON such conduct worthy of creatures endowed with intelligent powers ? Shall the close of life overtake you, before you have determined how to live? Shall the day never come, that is to find you steady in your views, decided in your plans, and engaged in a course of action which your mind approves ? If you wish that day ever to arrive, retirement and meditation must first bring you home to yourselves, from the dissipation in which you are now scattered ; must teach you to fix such aims, and to lay down such rules of conduct as are suitable to rational and immortal beings. Then will your character become uniform and respectable. Then you may hope that your life will proceed in such a train as shall prepare you, when it is finished, for joining the society of more exalted spirits. .
Acts, X. 2.
SERMON THAT religion is essential to the wel
fare of man, can be proved by the most convincing arguments. But these, how demonstrative soever, are insufficient to support its authority over human conduct. For arguments may convince the understanding, when they cannot conquer the passions. Irresistible they seem in the calm hours of retreat; but in the season of action, they often vanish into smoke. There are other and more powerful springs, which influence the great movements of the human frame. In order to operate with success on the active powers, the heart must be gained. Sentiment and af- SERMON fection must be brought to the aid of reason. It is not enough that men believe religion to be a wise and rational rule of conduct, unless they relish it as agreeable, and find it to carry its own reward. Happy is the man, who, in the conflict of desire between God and the world, can oppose not only argument to argument, but pleasure to pleasure; who, to the external allurements of sense, can oppose the internal joys of devotion; and to the uncertain promises of a flattering world, the certain experience of that peace of God which passeth understanding, keeping his mind and heart.- Such is the temper and spirit of a devout man. Such was the character of Cornelius, that good centurion, whose prayers and alms are said to have come up in memorial before God. Of this character, I intend, through Divine assistance, to discourse; and shall endeavour, 1. To explain the nature of devotion; II. To justify and recommend it; and, III. To rectify some mistakes concerning it.