« PreviousContinue »
feels, however involuntarily, for other and better men whom he perceives to act as unto the Lord. Now our religion, as was just now remarked, in all the bearings of all its precepts, appeals to the common and unperverted sentiments of mankind as operating in their common and manifest experience. It forbids us, no doubt, to pour forth our supplications, and distribute our alms in the open streetto court greetings in the broad market-place-to claim the first seats at the crowded feast, or in the hallowed synagogue; but it does not forbid us to be ardent, and, upon many occasions, exemplary in the exercise of devotion and charity—of that devotion, be it observed, which by the very constitution of our nature commands respect, and of charity which wins affection. “ Whatsoever things," says St. Paul, “whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report--if there be any virtue, or if there be any praise, think on these things.” Does not St. Paul here, in the most glowing terms, enumerate and extol the very same excellencies which Heathen moralists, in their happier moments, had luminously described, and eloquently enforced? Could he mean that his converts should think on these things without approving of them, or that approving they should not endeavour to practise them, or that practising them eventually, or even designedly with the approbation of men, they should upon that very account forfeit the approbation of God? Again, do we not read of Christ himself, that he increased in favour with God and man? And does not Theophylact thus interpret this striking passage,
“ Christ habitually did those things which were well-pleasing to God, and praised by men : ” Yes, my brethren, he who spake “as never man spake," was by his own immediate followers revered and beloved
upon earth, for the very same bright assemblage of excellencies which procured for him in heaven a name that is above every other name. By rational believers in every country, and of every society, in every succeeding age, he has been, he now is, and ever will be, revered and beloved for meekness, for humility, for unspotted holiness, for tender compassion, for patience under sufferings, for placability to enemies, for unfeigned, earnest, constant piety in ascribing glory, and honour, and power to that Being who sitteth upon his celestial throne for ever and ever. If
therefore endeavour to follow the example of your Saviour, depend upon it that the Christian graces, which obtain for you the good-will of unprejudiced and virtuous observers, will not obstruct you in your higher aims to merit an approving sentence from your judge at the
Doubtless, then, we shall conduct ourselves like men, who really believe, that their “ labour will not be in vain in the Lord,” if, in the arduous affairs of public life, our loyalty be without obsequiousness, and our patriotism without turbulence—if, in the humbler, but most valuable duties of a private station, we are temperate without austerity, and benevolent without ostentation-if, in the weightier and
sacred concerns of religion, our zeal does not degenerate into intolerance, nor our moderation into lukewarmness, nor our faith into fanaticism, nor our piety into superstition. By thus avoiding all unsafe extremes, and all unbecoming display, you will, on the one hand, have the merit of him who prayeth secretly, with the inward assurance of being rewarded openly; and, on the other hand, you will act up to the spirit of our Lord's injunction for your light so to shine before men, that they may see your good works; that seeing them, they may commend and imitate, but not flatter you, and thus intelligibly and acceptably glorify that Being, who has both exalted and disposed you to love virtue in your hearts, and to recommend it by your example.
To conclude, with a few practical remarks sug. gested by the topics that have come before us.“ Whatsoever thou dost," says the text, “ do it heartily.” Now suppose, my brethren, a man, before whom is placed some object, upon which his character, his prosperity, the health of his body, and the peace of his mind ultimately depend-suppose him endowed with sufficient understanding to appreciate the worth, and sufficient strength to secure the attainment of that object-suppose him to view it sometimes with ardent desire, and sometimes with listless indifference-suppose him to pursue it by irregular starts, and without any settled plan, when he should be continually advancing towards the highest prize that is set before him—after labouring yesterday, suppose him to trifle to-day, to slumber to-morrow, and on the next day to strike into some
long-extended and winding bye path of amusement to fancy, repose to indolence, or gratification to sensuality-would you not acknowledge the aggravated demerit of such a man? Would you pity his disappointment? Should you be surprised at his destruction? Yet such is the case of every man, who in regard to his religious interests, does not heartily strive to preserve them. What is the command ? Be faithful. Who is the author of that command ? An omnipotent and omniscient Deity. Where is the guide ? The infallible Gospel of Christ. What are the proffered wages to diligence and fidelity? Eternal happiness. Surely, if
these considerations, you will find no plea of extenuation for remissness, no scantiness of encouragement to exertion.
Again, the Apostle directs you, in all your doings, to keep your eye fixed, not upon the opinions of men, but upon the judgment of God. I have already told you the numerous and weighty reasons, which should determine your choice, when the one cannot be gained without the forfeiture of the other. Let us then never forget, that the love of praise, even from the most virtuous of men, must always, as a principle be subordinate to the desire of pleasing God—that an excessive impatience to please men is often the source of the most contemptible inconsistency, or the most odious guilt — that vanity leads to hypocrisy—that hypocrisy is always in danger of detection and scorn—that the momentary gratifications, which it experiences from success, are scanty compensations for inward dissatisfaction, and
ON THE LOVE OF WORLDLY PRAISE.
the unalterable dread of being understood, where the offender is not for the present even suspected, and of being despised, where he is now esteemed. Let us farther remember, that our motives and deeds even upon earth, though misconceived by the precipitate, or misrepresented by the malignant, are distinctly known, and will be justly appreciated by our unerring Judge, who is above-every struggle in which we resist our unruly appetites-every sacrifice, which we make of worldly profits, fame, and honours, when inconsistent with our character as Christians—every toil we endure, and every danger we encounter.
Singleness of heart, united with earnestnessactivity mingled with patience-good-will to our neighbour, animated by the love of God—these, my brethren, are the duties which the Apostle recommends to us, as moral and redeemed creatures; and then only we shall perform them effectually, when disdaining to act as men-pleasers, with mere eyeservice, and striving heartily to do what the Deity has commanded to be done, we aspire to immortality, as the precious inheritance of approved sons, and the glorious recompence of servants faithful to their Lord.