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Of such persons it was justly expected that they should be examples to others, that their lives might illustrate their doctrine. As they were supposed to know and pretend to more than others, so it would be reasonably expected that they should do more than others; and in what respects our Lord's disciples should chiefly endeavour to outdo others, he particularly informs them; and the instances that he mentions are indeed most worthy d our ambition. Thus to strive who shall cárry the generous virtues of benevolence, forgive. ness of injuries, and the desire to live useful lives, to the greatest height.
You have heard, says he, that it has been said, thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine ene.. my; but I say unto you, love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate youi; and pray for them that despitefully use you and persecute you. And as an incentive to a virtue so seemingly above humanity, he annexes this noble motive, that ye may be the children of your father : who is in heaven, who causes the sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and maketh his rain to descend on the just and on the unjust. Pursuing the same argument, he adds, for if ye love them that love you, what reward have ye ; do not even the publicans the
same; and if ye salute your brethera mily, what do ye more than others, do not even the preblieans so?!
Lastly, by way of conclusion, he repeats the motive above mentioned, that it might make the deeper impression upon the minds of his hearers, Be ye therefore perfect, cuen as your Father who is in heaven is perfect. To act in this manner with such true greatness of mind, and disinterested be. nevolence, is to act the part that the almighty and infinitely benevolent maker of all things continually acts, it is to be as the sons of God, doing the work of our heavenly father. Could a nobler principle or a nobler cause of action be proposed to mankind or could they be enforced by a more powerful and wor. thy motive. To be governed by these principles, and to aet in this manner is to approach as hear to the sentiments and conduct of Divinity, as is permitted to mortals. .i i i
The words of my text, you may observe, stand in a particular connexion : Our Lord is in this place enforceing a general undistinguishing regard to all persons, whatever be their characters or of fices. It is as if he had said, “ if you are only “concerned for the welfare of your friends, per“sons of the same family, nation, religion, and
“party with yourselves, those whom you usually " call brethren, where is your peculiar excellence ? “ This is no more than may be expected, and “ what is generally found, in the narrowest minds. " It is what even the Publicans, men of whose prina ciples and virtue you entertain the lowest opini. " on, are not deficient in.” Such is the meaning of the words as they stand in my text; but in discoursing from them I shall take a larger field, and shall consider. * I. The superior obligation to a holy life incumbent on all well instructed christians, such as professedly meet for the purpose of public worship in this place'; and
II. Ishall more particularly address myself to certain descriptions of persons, such as have én. joyed advantages not possessed by others, on which account still more is expected from them.
Let it, however, be observed, that though I shall speak of some persons as under gréater obligations than others to à virtuous life and conversation, I do not suppose that any are wholly excusable if they neglect their duty, though they be not so culpable as others who have more to answer for. No, my Bréthren to have the gift of reasoni only, to bé fórmed capable of knowing any thing,
though but obscurely, concerning the nature, perfections, and providence of God, is sufficient to lay us under indispensible obligations to serve him. To have a principle of conscience distinguishing right from wrong, applauding us for the one, and condemning us for the other, is to have a proper law within us, and to which we are obliged by the frame of our natureš to yield obedience. If men have nothing more than the use of their reason and conscience, though in other respects they should lie under every possible disadvantage, it is justly expected of them, the great being who gave them those powers expects it of them, that they should live as becomes rational and accountable creatures, as sensible that they are under a law to themselves, and to their maker, from whom they may perceive that they have some reason to expect to receive a recompence according to their works, though they cannot tell when, or 'where, or how. In this situation is the whole race of mankind, if they have the use of their reason only. We all owe obedi. ence to our maker, and are liable to be punished if we be not careful to pay it.
From this lowest step of duty and obligation, lèt us now observe how the scale of duty and obliga; tion, and consequently of a capacity for happiness; rises. Are all who have the use of their reason, and the possession of their senses, under obligation to glorify and serve God their maker, much morc are all those who to their natural reason have superadded to them the superior light of any revelation, though ever so obscure and imperfect. Is the untutored heathen under obligation to behave with justice and integrity towards men, and with reverence towards the supreme being, of whom he knows so little, much more is the Jew, the Mahometan, and the Christian. None of these are left to the mere light of nature to teach them a knowledge of God and of their duty. They are all instructed from above, concerning the perfections and providence of God, concerning their du. ty here, and their expectations hereafter. All these expect a righteous judgment to come. They are also informed, and believe, that the God who will be their judge at last intimately inspects their conduct now, is a witness to the secrets of their hearts, and will consign them to future happiness or misery, and the proper portions of these, according to their character and conduct in life. These general practical truths Jews, Mahometans, and Christians, are all acquainted with; and therefore the least enlightened of these are justly expected to