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II. PERSONS of the character I have described are ill fitted, not only for discharging the higher duties of life, but also for resisting the common temptations to vice. With good dispositions in their mind, with a desire, like the young ruler, in the text, to know what they shall do in order to inherit eternal life; yet when the terms required of them interfere with any favourite enjoyment, like him, they are sorrowful, and go away. The particular trial to which he was put, may appear to be a hard one, and to exceed the ordinary rate of virtue. Our Lord, who discerned his heart, saw it to be necessary, in his case, for bringing his character to the test. But in cases, where trials of much less difficulty present themselves, they who partake of a character similar to his, are often found to give way. The good qualities which they possess, border on certain weaknesses of the mind; and these weaknesses are apt to betray them insensibly into vices with which they are connected.
Good nature, for instance, is in danger of running into that unlimited complaisance, which assimilates men to the loose manners of those whom they find around them. Pliant and yielding in their temper, they have not force to stand by the decisions of their own minds, with regard to right and wrong. Like the animal which is said to assume the colour of every object to which it is applied, they lose all proper character of their own; and are formed by the characters of those with whom they chance to associate. The mild are apt to sink into habits of indolence and sloth. The cheerful and gay, when warmed by pleasure and mirth, lose that sobriety and self-denial, which is essential to the support of virtue. Even modesty and submission, qualities so valuable in themselves, and so highly ornamental to youth, sometimes degenerate into a vicious timidity; a timidity which restrains men from doing their duty with firmness; which cannot stand the frown of the great, the reproach of the multitude, or even the ridicule and sneer of the scorner.
Nothing can be more amiable than a constant desire to please, and an unwillingness to offend or hurt. Yet in characters where this is a predominant feature, defects are often found. Fond always to oblige, and afraid to utter any disagreeable truth, such persons are sometimes led to dissemble. Their love of truth is sacrificed to their love of pleasing. Their speech, and their manners assume a studied courtesy. You cannot always depend on their smile; nor, when they promise, be sure of the performance. They mean and intend well. But the good intention is temporary. Like wax, they yield easily to every impression; and the transient friendship contracted with one person, is effaced by the next. Undistinguishing desire to oblige, often proves, in the present state of human things, a dangerous habit. They who cannot, on many occasions, give a firm and steady denial, or
who cannot break off a connection which has been hastily and improperly formed, stand on the brink of many mischiefs. They will be seduced by the corrupting, ensnared by the artful, betrayed by those in whom they had placed their trust. Unsuspicious themselves, they were flattered with the belief of having many friends around them. Elated with sanguine hopes, and cheerful spirits, they reckoned, that to-morrow would be as this day, and more abundant. Injudicious liberality, and thoughtless profusion, are the consequence; until in the end, the straits to which they are reduced, bring them into mean or dishonourable courses. Through innocent, but unguarded weakness, and from want of the severer virtues, they are, in process of time, betrayed into downright crimes. Such may be the conclusion of those, who, like the young ruler before us, with many amiable and promising dispositions, had begun their career in life.
III. SUCH persons are not prepared for sustaining, with propriety and dignity, the distresses to which our state is liable. They were equipped for the season of sunshine and serenity; but when the sky is overcast, and the days of darkness come, their feeble minds are destitute of shelter, and ill provided for defence. Then is the time, when more hardy qualities are required; when courage must face danger, constancy support pain, patience possess itself in the midst of discouragements, magnanimity display itself in contempt of threatenings. If those high virtues be altogether strangers to the mind, the mild and gentle will certainly sink under the torrent of disasters.-The ruler in the text could plead, that his behaviour to others, in the course of social life, had been unexceptionable. So far, the reflection on his conduct would afford him comfort amidst adversity. But no man is without failings. In the dejecting season of trouble it will occur to every one, that he has been guilty of frequent transgression; that much of what ought to have been done, was neglected; and that much of what has been done, had better have been omitted. In such situations, when a thousand apprehensions arise to alarm conscience, nothing is able to quiet its uneasiness, except a well-grounded trust in the mercy and acceptance of Heaven. It is firm religious principle, acting upon a manly and enlightened mind, that gives dignity to the character, and composure to the heart, under all the troubles of the world. This enables the brave and virtuous man, with success to buffet the storm. While he, who had once sparkled in society will all the charms of gay vivacity and had been the delight of every circle in which he was engaged, remains dispirited, overwhelmed, and annihilated, in the evil day.
SUCH are the failings incident to persons of mixed and imperfect goodness; such the defects of a character formed merely of the amiable, without the estimable qualities of man.
It appears from this, that we must not place too much trust in the fair appearances, which a character may at first exhibit. In judging of others, let us always think the best, and employ the spirit of charity and candour. But in judging of ourselves, we ought to be more severe. Let us remember him whom our Lord beheld, and loved; and who yet fell short of the kingdom of Heaven. Let us not forget, that something more than gentleness and modesty, than complacency of temper and affability of manners, is requisite to form a worthy man or a true Christian. To a high place in our esteem, these qualities are justly entitled. They enter essentially into every good man's character. They form some of its most favourable distinctions. But they constitute a part of it; not the whole. Let us not, therefore, rest on them entirely, when we conceive an idea of what manner of persons we ought to be.
LET piety form the basis of firm and established virtue. If this be wanting, the character cannot be sound and entire. Moral virtue will always be endangered, often be overthrown, when it is separated from its surest support. Confidence in God, strengthened by faith in the great Redeemer of mankind, not only amidst the severer trials of virtue, gives constancy to the mind; but, by nourishing the hope of immortality, adds warmth and elevation to the affections. They whose conduct is not animated by religious principle, are deprived of the most powerful incentive to worthy and honourable deeds.
Let such discipline, next, be studied as may form us to the active and manly virtues. To natural good affections, we can never entirely trust our conduct. These, as has been shewn, may sometimes be warped into what is wrong; and often will prove insufficient for carrying us rightly through all the duties of life. Good affections are highly valuable; but they must be supported by fixed principles, cultivated in the understanding, and rooted in the heart. Habits must be acquired of temperance and selfdenial, that we may be able to resist pleasure, and endure pain, when either of them interfere with our duty, that we may be prepared to make a sacrifice of any worldly interest, when the voice of God and conscience demand it. Let us always remember, that without fortitude of mind, there is no manhood; there can be no perseverance in virtue. Let a sacred and inviolable regard for truth reign in our whole behaviour. Let us be distinguished for fidelity to every promise we have made; and for constancy in every worthy friendship we have formed. Let no weak complaisance, no undue regard to the opinions of men, ever make us betray the rights of conscience. What we have once, upon due consideration, adopted as rules of conduct, to these let us adhere unshaken. However the world may change around us, let it find us the same in prosperity and adversity;
faithful to God and virtue; faithful to the convictions of our own heart. What our lot in the world may be, is not ours to foresee or determine. But it is ours to resolve, that, whatever it shall be, it shall find us persevering in one line of uprightness and honour.
By such discipline, such attentions as these, we are to guard against those failings, which are sometimes found to stain the most engaging characters. Joining in proper union the aimiable and the estimable qualities, by the one we shall attract the good, and by the other, command respect from the bad. We shall both secure our own integrity, and shall exhibit to others a proper view of what virtue is, in its native grace and majesty. In one part of our character, we shall resemble the flower that smiles in spring; in another, the firmly rooted tree, that braves the winter storm. For, remember we must, that there is a season of winter, as well as of spring and summer, in human life; and it concerns us to be equally prepared for both.
A HIGHER and more perfect example of such a character as I now recommend, cannot be found, than what is presented to us in the life of Jesus Christ. In him we behold all that is gentle, united with all that it is respectable. It is a remarkable expression, which the Apostle Paul employs concerning him; I beseech you by the meekness and gentleness of Christ.* Well might these qualities be singled out, as those for which he was known and distinguished. We see him in his whole behaviour affable, courteous, and easy of access. He conversed familiarly with all who presented themselves; and despised not the meanest. all the infirmities of his disciples he calmly bore; and his rebukes were mild, when their provocations were great. He wept over the calamities of his country, which persecuted him; and apologised and prayed for them who put him to death. Yet the same Jesus we behold, awful in the strictness of his virtue, inflexible in the cause of truth; uncomplying with prevailing manners, when he found them corrupt; setting his face boldly against the hypocritical leaders of the people; overawed by none of their threatenings; in the most indignant terms reproving their vices and stigmatizing their characters. We behold him gentle, without being tame; firm, without being stern; courageous without being violent. Let this mind be in us which was also in Jesus Christ; and we shall attain to honour, both with God and with man.
2 Cor. x 1.
ON THE SACRAMENT OF THE LORD'S SUPPER, AS A PREPARA
TION FOR DEATH.
[Preached at the Celebration of the Sacrament of the Lord's Supper.]
But I say unto you, I will not drink henceforth of this fruit of the vine, until that day when I drink it new with Father's kingdom.-MATTHEW., xxvi. 29.
With these words of our blessed Lord the Evangelist concludes his account of the institution of the Sacrament of the Supper. It is an institution which, solemn and venerable in itself, is rendered still more so by the circumstances which accompanied it. Our Lord had now, for about three years, continued to appear in his public character, in the land of Judea. He had, all along, been watched with a jealous eye, by his enemies; and the time was come, when they were to prevail against him. A few friends he had, from the beginning, selected, who, in every vicissitude of his state, remained faithfully attached to him. With these friends he was now meeting for the last time on the very evening in which he was betrayed and seized. He perfectly knew all that was to befal him. He knew that this was the last meal in which he was to join with those who had been the companions of all his labours, the confidants of all his griefs; among whom he had passed all the quiet and private moments of his life. He knew that within a few hours he was to be torn from this loved society, by a band of ruffians; and by to-morrow, was to be publicly arraigned as a malefactor. With a heart melting with tenderness, he said to the twelve Apostles, as he sat down with them at table, With desire Ihave desired to eat this passover with you before I suffer.* And then, having gratified himself for the