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THE DUTY OF
LIVING TO OURSELVES.
For none of us liveth to himself, and no man dicth ta himself.
ROMANS XIV. 7.
It is the excellence of our rational nature that by it we are capable of living to some known end, and of governing our lives and conduct by some rule; whereas brute creatures necessarily live and act at random, just as the present appetite influences them. Let us then, my brethren, make the most of this our perogative, by proposing to oựrselves the noblest end of human life, and engaging in such a course of actions as will reflect the greatest honour
upon our nature, and be productive of the most solid and lasting happiness, both in the per. formance and review of them.
Agreeably to this, let the principal use we make of our understanding be to discover what the great
end end of life is; and then let us use the resolution and fortitude that is either natural to us, or acquired by us, in steadily conforming ourselves to it.
But as the regular investigation of the rule of life, from the light of nature only, may be tedious and perhaps at last unsatisfactory, let us, without waiting for the result of such an enquiry upon the principles of reason, take a more clear and sure guide, the holy scriptures, in so important a subject, and see, afterwards, whether reason and ex. perience will not give their sanction to that decision.
The great end of human life is negatively expressed by the apostle Paul in my text. None of us liveth to himself, and no man dieth to himself; and, if we attend to the connection of these words, we shall find what, in the apostle's idea, is the true end to which men ought to live.
The apostle is here treating of a controversy, which had arisen in the christian church, about the lawfulness of eating meat sacrificed to idols, and keeping holy certain days, together with some other ceremonious observances, and exhorting buth parties to do nothing that might give offence, or be a snare to the other, lest, by their means, any
one should perish for whom Christ died.
As the best foundation for mutual tenderness and charity, he reminds them that both parties acted, with regard to all ritual observances, as they imagined was the will of Christ. He that obseroeth a day observeth it to the Lord; and he that observeth not a day, to the Lord he observeth it not. And after giving his sanction in the fullest manner to this maxim, and deciding, with respect to this particular case, that all christians ought to act according to the will of Christ, and consult the good and the peace of their fellow-christians, he declares in general, that no man liveth to himself, and no man dieth to himself ; but whether we live, we live unto the Lord, or whether we die, we die unto the Lord ; that is, in all our actions our views should not be directed to ourselves, but to the interest of our holy religion. And as the christian religion has for its object the happiness of mankind (since Christ came to bless us in turning us away from our iniquities) it is the same thing as if he had said, the great scope of all our conduct should be the real welfare of all to whom our influence can extend.
We should therefore, my brethren, according to this apostolical maxim, by no means confine our
regards regards to ourselves, and have our own pleasure, profit, or advantage in view in every thing we undertake; but look out of, and beyond ourselves, and take a generous concern in the happiness of all our brethren of mankind, making their sorrows our sorrows, their joys our joys, and their happiness our pursuit : and it is in this disinterested conduct, and in this only, that we shall find our own true happiness.
That this is the true rule of human life, will appear, whether we consider the course of nature without us, the situation of mankind in this world, or take a nearer view of the principles of human nature. And we shall likewise find, that several considerations drawn from the holy scriptures will farther confirm and illustrate this maxim of human conduct which was first suggested by them. : ; : '1. This disinterested conduct of man is most agrecable to the course of nature without us. There is no part of the creation but, if it be viewed attentively, will expose the selfishness and narrowmindedness of men. Fot among all that infinite variety of things and creatures which present themselves to our view, not one of them appears to have been made merely for itself, but every thing bears a relation to something else. They can hardly be
said to afford any matter for contemplation singly, and are most of all the objects of our admiration when considered as connected with other things. The primary uses of things are few, bụt the secondary uses of every thing are almost infinite. In.. deed the secondary uses of things are so many, that we are lost in the multiplicity of them; whereas we can give no answer, if we be asked what is the primary use of any thing, but this general one, which will equally suit every thing, that every creature which is capable of happiness was made to enjoy that share of it which is suited to its nature.
Now what do we mean when we say that the several parts of nature are adapted to one another, but that they are made for the use of one another. I shall mention only a few of these mutual relations, and uses, beginning with those parts of nature which are the most remote from one another, and whose mutual relations and uses are the least obvious, and proceeding to those in which they are more obvious. ^ The sun, the moon, the planets, and comets, are strictly connected, and combined into one system. Each body, though so exceed. ingly remote from the rest, is admirably adapted, by its situation, magnitude, and velocity in its