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consequence of such separation between morality and religion upon our spiritual life, would be an undue preference given to some habits of thought and action, while others equally, or perhaps more important are neglected—that decay in one quarter would be unperceived, while growth in another was over-valued—that tumour would be mistaken for strength, and the flush of excess for the glow of health. But from just notions of religion, mixed with enlarged views of morality, we should have no reason to dread the two evils, which the separation of them is professedly intended to avert; and indeed it is by such union only that we can arrive at that lively and constant sense of duty, which may enable us to resemble the blessed Jesus.
From the mechanical influence of custom, from the desire of worldly praise, from the fear of worldly censure, from a regard to our secular interests, from a terrifying expectation of future punishment, we may in a slight degree—we may in external appearance—we may on scattered occasions, perform some of the actions that are recorded of our Redeemer ; but in such a state of things, the will of God is not the food which sustains our spiritual frame. No; it is the habitual disposition of our souls, it is the insatiable hunger and thirst after righteousness, which alone can fix our character as real Christians; and happy it is, when all our exertions are directed to the completion of that work which is appointed for us by our God.
In the stillness of the closet, and amidst the solemnities of the sanctuary, I have sometimes doubted, whether solid wisdom or sincere piety be much promoted by metaphysical distinctions, or critical refinements, or enthusiastic declamations on what is called the personality of that being in whom we all unfeignedly believe, as the promised Messiah, as the beloved Son in whom God was well pleased, as the crucified Redeemer, to whom, after his resurrection froin the grave, and his ascension into hearen, hath been given a name that is above every other name. The disputant, whether heterodox or orthodox, may acquire renown for acuteness—the dogmatist may find opportunities for exultation-the zealot may be furnished with materials for annoyance; but the religionist is rarely improved in his reverence towards God, his good-will towards men, or even his personal conviction upon the general credibility of theism, or the practical efficacy of Christianity itself. Upon the nature of the ever-blessed Jesus, I am myself content not to be wise beyond that which is actually written for my learning in the hallowed oracles of God, and which, conscious of my responsibility to that God, I am accustomed to contemplate with firm assent and deep veneration. But his precepts, his actions, his virtues, these I contend, are perfectly intelligible to every attentive reader-they are perfectly credible to every impartial inquirer--they are most captivating when familiarized by reflection—they are most edifying when endeared by imitation.
Well then does it become us to look with reverence and thankfulness to a Saviour who hath done, and who hath endured so much for our sakes-who presents to us so perfect a pattern of goodness—and who holds up to us so magnificent a reward in the kingdom of his father. If, indeed, you seriously revere the majesty of God, and if you are heartily grateful to him for his love to you in your redemption-most earnest will be your inclination, most strenuous your endeavours, to manifest that reverence and that gratitude. You will then make that sound and comprehensive principle upon which Jesus obeyed the will of God, the sure and sole rule of
your own obedience.
As moral agents you will place moral rectitude, not in giving yourselves credit for the sufficient discharge of your duty by restraining one passion, while you suffer others to exercise a capricious and imperious sway; but in striving to gain and to preserve a vigilant and steady mastery over every appetite, and every affection, which may endanger your innocence. As believers of Christ, more especially will you place religion, not in an implicit and infuriate attachment to controverted dogmas, but in unequivocal and substantial actions—not in curiosity about mysteries, or zeal about ceremonies, but in devotion at once fervent and rational, which, acknowledging God to be a spirit, leads to a suitable worship of him in spirit and in truth-not in the professions of your lips, but in the sensibilities of your hearts-not in starts of fanaticism, but in habits of virtue-not in ostentatious sanctity, but in genuine charity-not in spurious humility, disguising Pharisaical pride, but in perpetual efforts never to think of yourselves more highly than you ought to think, and in
418 MY MEAT IS TO DO THE WILL OF GOD. tual resistance to those delusions which tempt you presumptuously to thank God, that by some peculiar and arbitrary illuminations of his grace you have been yourselves made what you do not suppose other men, and indeed nearly all other men living, to be-not, if I may be allowed to adopt the figurative allusion of the text, in the artificiai and luxurious repast which metapbysical ingenuity has prepared for the fastidiousness of the speculative, overheated enthusiasm for the sympathies of the visionary, or priestly cunning for the credulity of the ignorant, but in the more simple, and therefore more salubrious food, which the Gospel has provided for the gratification of our best intellectual and moral faculties, and for the sustenance of our benevolence and picty. Day after day, and year after year, you will love every Christian virtue more ardently, as you practise it more constantly-you will not only be strengthened in the spiritual constitution of the inner man by the good which you have already done ; but you will find an increased appetite for doing more, and an increased relish for it when done with sincerity and with alacrity. It will be your first and unceasing delight drink from that water of life which is offered to you here; and it will be your highest ambition to dwell hereafter with that Holy Being whose food it was to do the will of his righteous Father.
SERMON XL. *
ON GOOD FRIDAY.
Philippians ii. 5.
Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus. Ar the opening of that solemn season in which the great Redeemer of mankind is represented as persecuted, insulted, and crucified for your sakes, it cannot be improper to point out to your notice those wonderful instances of his love, and to draw from them such considerations as may confirm our faith, and engage our obedience.
Plunged as we are in the business, or hurried away by the follies of the world, we seldom give way to serious reflections. The best of men think of Christ's mercies to them with too much coolness, and the worst, alas, never think of them at all. The more decent among us are satisfied with a general acquiescence in the truth of Christianity, with a profession of our hope in its blessed author, and with a faint acknowledgment of the obligations we have to him. But even in this partial, this occasional service, the thoughts of our hearts seldom attend the words of our lips. If we confess our own
* 1771. VOL. VI.