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ness of consistency as well as alacrity in the course of your moral agency—you will set a very high value not only on the purity, but the dignity of a Christian life-you will cherish the wholesome fear and the animating love of God in singleness of heart—you will do what is your known and your bounden duty, not as unto men, but as unto the Lord; for both reason and religion will warrant you in the hope, that from the justice and mercy of that Lord, you will hereafter receive the recompence of your zeal for his honour, and your fidelity in his service.
Colossians iii. 23.
Whatsoever ye do, do it heartily as to the Lord, and not
In a former discourse, I explained to you the primary meaning of the text, as addressed by St. Paul to the servants of heathen masters. I pointed out a necessary distinction between their religious character, in which they had recently been delivered from the bondage of sin and the ceremonial law of the Jews, and their social character, in which they continued under lawful subjection to their earthly employers. I then stated that the language of St. Paul was capable of a larger and more important accommodation to the whole system of our behaviour, as creatures who are furnished with powers, and obliged by commands to execute the will of our almighty and righteous Master, who is in heaven.
After this introduction, I proposed, first, to consider the mingled rashness and meanness of permitting the love of worldly praise to constitute an exclusive principle of action ; secondly, the increased danger of that love when it becomes excessive, and obstructs the discharge of our most important duties towards God; and, thirdly, the exact influence which a regard to the opinion of the world may in some circumstances very properly and very meritoriously be allowed to have on our conduct. The first of these heads has been already discussed ; and you then saw the extreme folly, turpitude, and wretchedness of hypocrisy, whether it assumed the mask of religion, in order to impose on the wise and virtuous, or whether, in a contrary course, it affected an uncommon degree of vice and impiety, to captivate the sympathy of the wicked, and to excite the astonishment of the ignorant. But of what value, I would ask, is the praise of corrupt and deluded minds, when opposed to the contempt of the sagacious, and the detestation of the upright? How light too in the balance are the commendations even of the best of men, when our hearts secretly inform us that they are utterly unmerited — that they are bestowed on specious appearances, not on solid realities and that the dictates of our own serious conscience, and the sentence of an all-wise God, stand in direct opposition to the well-meant, but not well-founded applause of our fellow-creatures.
Recollect what I stated to you, not merely about the meanness, but the inconsistency of the hypocrite. Cowardly in adversity, and insolent in prosperity will be that person whom the Apostle points out to us as obeying the laws of God merely for eye-service, and as striving to please man by false pretences. If he sometimes endeavours to pay an external tribute of exterior homage to religion and virtue, his sentiments are cold, and his efforts are feeble. If he be tempted by pleasure, or oppressed by calamity, he has no regular and fixed principle to deliver him from the danger to which he is exposed. He enjoys no firm and sure satisfaction from reflection upon himself. He shudders at the prospect of detection and infamy from the world. He cannot look up with affiance to the favour, or even the mercy of heaven. On the contrary, he that is virtuous, and heartily religious, sustains a noble and uniform character amidst the sudden changes, amidst the uncertain chances, amidst the formidable perils, and the inevitable sorrows of this mortal life. He thinks without terror of death itself, and he enters upon eternity with faith that cannot be staggered, and with hope that cannot be depressed.
These plain, but I trust pertinent and simple observations, will recall to your memory the remarks which I made under the first head; and they will prepare you, at the same time, for the contents of the second, in which we are to consider the causes and the kinds of those obstacles, which an excessive fondness for human praise throws in the way of our obedience to the deity.
What, then, I would ask, is the declared will of God, even in the very loose, I grant, and very faint, but I contend also the unavoidable and unalterable, opinion of him who seldom refers to it as a rule in his choice of ends, or adaptation of means? It stands thus-Thou shalt not take the name of the
Lord in vain; thou shalt keep the sabbath holy; thou shalt not commit adultery; thou shalt not steal; thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour; thou shalt not say to thy brother, Raca - thou empty wretch ; Mora - thou stubborn and presumptuous. But the person to whom I am adverting, when kneeling before the altar, or summoned before a tribunal, will swear that good is evil, and evil is good, if there be any prospect for him to obtain credit, and upon that credit to found a claim for favour. He will scoff at the hallowed service prescribed for the sabbath, if by such derision he can flatter the intellectual pride of the scoffer, and be in his own turn complimented for exemption from vulgar superstition. He will triumph in his success over the ready compliance, and yet more in his victory over the long but ineffectual resistance of the seduced female ; and many he knows there are who will ascribe that success, and that victory, to the grace of his person, the elegance of his manners, and the fascinating eloquence of his persuasion. He will partake with the sceptered or the armed plunderer in the spoils which they have seized from the helpless, and with them he will farther share in the glory which is often obtained by skilfulness in contrivance, or hardihood in enterprize. He will accuse the innocent and insult the meritorious, if by such means he can secure the confidence of the inconsiderate, the concurrence of the envious, and the applause of the wicked. That he should thus act, “as unto men,” is indeed a point upon which he and they have a reciprocal