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and thirst after Righteousness

XLVII. Live peaceably with all men

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SERMON XXII.*

CHARITY-SCHOOL SERMON.

Acts xx. 35. Ye ought to support the weak, and to remember the rords of the

Lord Jesus, how he suid, It is more blessed to give than to receive.

To men of cultivated and enlarged understandings, who separate correctness from refinement, and piety from superstition, Christianity never appears with fuller lustre than when they compare the harmony that subsists between the speculative and the practical parts of it, and trace out the subserviency of both to the improvement and happiness of their species. In the speculative, we see a series of præternatural events employed to establish the credibility, and to exalt the dignity of a religion, the professed object of which is to make us the heirs of eternal life. In the practical, we meet with the most salutary directions and engaging persuasions for cherishing such sentiments as promote our temporal well-being, such as adorn our social state, and elevate to the highest perfection of which it is capable, our reasonable and our moral nature. In contending, however, for the truth of the Gospel, we think it not necessary to maintain, that it inculcates what was totally unknown; but we give no mean proof of its importance, if we shew that it teaches more exactly, and enforces more powerfully, what was already known —that it disentangles our duty from the misrepresentations of insidious sophistry, and purifies it from the adhesions of corrupt custom. Philosophy indeed has loosened the principles of that virtue which it seems to extol, and, in the pursuit of imaginary precision, has perplexed what is suggested by common sense, and explained away what is evinced by common experience. Thus, the indolence of one sect relaxes all the springs of vigorous and generous exertions in the human mind. The austerity of another blunts the tenderest feelings of the heart, and affects to dignify insensibility with the name of fortitude. A third would strip benevolence itself of all its moral properties, and resolve the suggestions of it into an indirect and lurking selfishness. Hence a revelation would have some claim to our attention and our gratitude, if it professed only to prevent the mischievous effects of such mistakes, and to bring men back to those habits of thought and action which nature prompts and which reason warrants. It betrays, therefore, a strange perverseness of judgment to represent the simplicity of the Gospel morality as a mark of an original merely human ; and the complaint proceeds, I think, with singular impropriety from those who expatiate on the absurdity of its speculative doctrines, as an argument against its divine authority.

* July 1787.

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