« PreviousContinue »
If you accuse me of applying too often to you on this subject, I answer, my importunity is your glory. You have affectionately habituated ine to see you accessible, and myself successful, when I speak to you on subjects of this kind. I hope I shall always find you the same; I hope yoų will not be weary in well doing, 2 Thess. ii. 13. I hope the voicc of so many wretched petitioners as beseech you by my mouth will not sound in vain in this christian assembly. Hear it, you happy natives of these provinces, whom God distinguishes by so many favours. Hear it, my dear countrymen, whom heaven' hath enriched in your exile, and who, after having yourselves been a long time in want of assistance, are now so able to assist others. Hear it, generous strangers, who sometimes mix your devotions with those, which we offer to God in this house; contribute to our charities, and share with us the blessings which they procure. God grant us all grace to do his will. To the Father, to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost, be honour and glory for ever, Amen. .
THE SMALI. DUTIES OF RELIGION.
. Matthew xxii. 2 3. Woe unto you, Scribes and Pharisees, hij pocrites! for ye · pay tithe of mint, anise, and cuminin, and hure omit
ted the weightier matters of the lawv, judgment, mercy
and faith; these ought ye to have done, and not to leave . the other undone.
ÝNorder to form a just notion of the little duties of reli
1 gion, of which we are about to treat, we must avoid a disposition to fastidious nicety, and an inclination to panics or groundless fears.
Nothing is moře opposite to the genius of religion than what I call a fastidious nicety, a sort of trifling spirit. It is incompatible with the greatness of God, whom we serve, and the excellence of rational creatures, to whom religion is proposed. It is inconsistent, too, with the importance of those engagements; to which the gospel calls us, and with the magnitude of those objects, which it proposes to our faith.
What condemns a trifling spirit censures also an inclination to groundless fears. For example, a christian seriously prepares himself for the Lord's supper; when he partakes of it, a wandering thought alarms him, and he is filled with terror, as if he had committed a high crime against God. But can we imagine, that God is setting snares for us, while he is giving us tokens of his love? Who' can presume to approach the table of the Lord, I do not say worthily, but possibly, if there were any ground for such panics as these? Do you think, you do honour to God by attributing to him a turn for such comparatively insignificant niceties, (forgive the expression, I cannot convey my meaning without it,) a VOL. IV.
disposition, disposition, I think, which you would hardly suppose in a sensible man? Can you suppose, that God loves you with less wisdom and less condescension than you love your children? Far from us be such odious thoughts! Remember, the spirit, which ye have received, is not a spirit of bondage to fear: but a spirit of adoption, Rom. vii. 15. Remember, ye are not children of the bond-woman; but of the free, Gal. iv. 31. Stand fast then in that inestimable liberty, wherewith Christ hath made you free, chap. v. l. Give of such things as ye have, and behold all things are clean unto you, Luke xi. 41. Be fully persuaded that in a religion of love, love excuses much infirmity, and sets a value on some seemingly inconsiderable actions, which appear to have only a very remote connection with the disposition, whence they proceed.
In what, then, you will ask, consist what we call small, or little duties? What are the less weighty things of the law, which Jesus Christ says we ought not to leave undone, after we have done the more weighty things? My brethren, the duties, of which we speak to-day, ought not to be accounted little, except when they are compared with other duties, which are of greater importance; and, as we said last Lord's-day, because they are consequences more reinote from original primitive right. However, though little duties do not proceed so directly and immediately, as great duties do, yet they do proceed from the same origin, and though, they are not the first links of the chain of christian virtues, yet they are as truly connected with the origin as the first..
Choose of the list of moral virtues any one, that seems the least important, and I will justify, my idea of it. For instance, to be affable and accessible, to give attention to the'tiresome tale of a tedious fellow christian in some difficulty, this is one of the very least duties that we can enjoin you, this is one of the less weighty matters of the law. Who will pretend to compare this with what you ought to do for this man in other cases ? You ought to supply his wants, when he is in a sick-bed, to defend his reputation, when it is attacked, to support and provide for his family, when it falls to decay. This first little duty, however, small as it may appear, proceeds from the same principle of pria mitive law as the last great duties dọ. This law, is expressed in these words, All things whatsoever, ye would that men should do unto you, do ye even so to them, Matt, vii. 12. Would any one of you be convinced of this ? Put
yourself yourself in the place of this man. Suppose à person elevated as much above you, as you pretend to be above him. Would it not mortify you, if he either refused to hear you at all, or gave you only a careless negligent audience? Let each of you, my brethren, enlarge this thought, and by applying it to himself, let him judge whether my proposition be not sufficiently clear.
I carry my propostion further still. I affirm, not only that there is no duty so small in the moral law as not to proceed from primitive original right: but that God névér prescribed an observance so insignificant in the ceremonial law as not to proceed from the saine origin. Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, Deut. vi. 5. this is the first principle of priinitive law. If we ought to love God with all our hearts, we ought carefully to observe all the means, which he hath appointed to cherish this love, Now, these means vary according to the various circuinstances in which they, to whom the means are prescribed, may be. A worship, charged with ceremonies, would serve only to extinguish emotions of love, if prescribed to people in sume conditions : yet the same sort of worship would inflame the love of other people in different circumstances, The Jews were in the last case. Born and brought up in slavery, employed, as they were, in manual occupations, they would have been destitute of all ideas under an æcono· iny without ceremonies. Surrounded with idolatrous na
tions, and naturally inclined, as they were, to idolatry, it was necessary, in order to prevent their copying such wretched exainples, to which they had strong propensities and inducements, I say, it was necessary, if I may venture to speak so, not to give them opportunity to breathe, to keep them constantly employed in some external action every moment of the time devoted to religion.
Christians, I allow, are in circuinstances altogether different. A mass of ceremonies would serve only to vail the beauty of that God, whom no man had seen at any time before the advent of Christ, and whom the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of his Father, hath declared, John i. 18. Whatever contributes to the concealment of the perfections of this God damps that love, which a contemplation of them inspires. Yet, as we are full of infirmities on this earth, we want a few signs to produce and cherish in us the love of God. Where is the man, who is