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should be known for what they are: and not enabled to pass themselves
mankind for worthy characters, by receiving the same regards with such in common speech and behaviour. He that saith unto the wicked, thou art righteous, him shall the people curse, nations shall abhor him. But, to them that rebuke him, shall be delight, and a good blessing shall come upon them. There is frequently no other weapon left against such persons, but public infamy. The punishments of human laws in multitudes of cases cannot reach them. Those of a future life some have brought themselves to doubt: many to overlook. But to the dislike and abhorrence of mankind few or none can be insensible: and every one that deserves it should be made to feel that he doth. Wickedness is the great disturber of the world : the bane of all peace and comfort, civil and domestic. Therefore every one hath a natural right to stand up and declare against it: a claim, that the disgrace which belongs to it, be inflicted on it. And in this cause good men should act with spirit; assume the authority, in which their character will support them; and not suffer guilt, which is by nature timorous and cowardly, to lift up its head : they should unite in the common concern of opposing its progress; and as the prophet expresses it, be valiant for the truth upon the earth t. A zeal, shewn uniformly by the virtuous against vice and that alone; kept free from all mixture of personal resentment or private interest; appearing by the steps which it takes, not to proceed from moroseness of temper, but from principle, and conducted by a moderate share of prudence, will easily rescue itself from wrong interpretations, secure to itself reverence from the world in general ; * Prov. xxiv. 24, 25.
+ Jer. ix. 3.
and produce much good, without proportionable hazard or difficulty.
It must, however, 'be confessed, that neither is every one qualified equally for such a work; some, by nature, being little capable of exerting themselves, or moving others, and some again of so warm passions, that they must not allow them scope, even in the best cause: nor will the situation and connections of every one always by any means permit him to appear against ill actions and ill people in the manner that he could wish. Yet no one is left without the means of doing somewhat towards it: and all that we are able to do, without neglecting other obligations, is our duty. Whoever can look with just the same eye on good and bad, provided his own present advantage be out of the question, hath no love of religion or virtue in him. And whoever takes no notice of the difference, will be shrewdly suspected of not seeing or not regarding it. The coolest spectator of other wrong things that are done thinks immediately, when any happen to affect himself, that all ought to interest themselves on his behalf, indeed can hardly do it too much. And therefore, when things are done, which affect the happiness of others, the welfare of society, the honour of our Maker, our Redeemer, and our Sanctifier, we ought to interest ourselves for these. Perhaps we may object, that our concern would be fruitless. And so, perhaps, was that of David, when he said, rivers of waters run down mine eyes, because men keep not thy law. My zeal hath even consumed me, because they forget thy words *. But certainly so was that of just Lot, who, dwelling among the inhabitants of Sodom, in seeing and hearing vexed his righteous soul from day to day with their unlawful
Psal. cxix. 136. 139.
deeds *. Yet they are proposed as objects, not to blame, but praise. And indeed uneasy sentiments on such occasions, however ineffectual otherwise, may improve us considerably, by reminding us, that we are of God, and the world lieth in wickedness t; provided we carefully restrain them, which itself will be a profitable inward exercise, from running into ex
Besides, whoever preserves this due medium between indifference and vehemence, as he will be always prudently seeking methods of reclaiming, or at least of checking the guilty, and consequently of securing the innocent; so he will find more than any one else can suggest to him: and though hated by the bad, or despised by the thoughtless, for this troublesome activity, will be esteemed by many fellowlabourers, many converts whom he hath helped to make, many ready to fall, whom he hath seasonably stayed and strengthened. Or let him have ever so much cause to say in other respects, I have laboured in vain, I have spent my strength for nought: yet surely his judgment is with the Lord, and his work with his God I. 1 * 2 Pet. ii. 8. + 1 John v. 19.
Isaiah xlix. 4.
LAM. III. 40.
Let us search and try our ways, and turn again to
The gracious and wise Creator of all things, as he hath made known to every creature, by a secret instinct, the way of life which belongs to its frame and condition : so to man he hath shewn, both by his affections and his understanding, what is good, and what he requires of him. Yet having placed him in a state of trial, in which these inward principles might be perverted and mislead him, he hath graciously super-added external manifestations of his will for our surer and completer guidance: thus making our rule of duty evident and obligatory in the highest degree. No course of action is more plainly suited to the nature of any agent, than religion and virtue is to ours. For what can be more evidently natural, than for a reasonable being to make reason his governing principle ; for a social being to do justly, and love mercy; and for a created one to walk humbly with his God *? Agreeably therefore to this peculiar destination, which allots to us employments worthy to fill up an eternal existence, whereas inferior animals arrive very soon, without contributing almost any thing to it themselves, at the small perfection of which they are capable, and there stop : man
* Micah vi. 8.
is qualified, and, as revelation fully assures us, designed, for .endless improvement in goodness - and happiness, but such as shall depend on his own care and industry, excited and assisted by the grace of God.
For this purpose, together with an inward perception of what is right and fit for us to do, and what is otherwise, we have also a faculty of self-reflection, which, presenting us to our own view, shews us, what we have been and are. The exercise of this faculty is expressed in the text by searching and trying our ways: and elsewhere by examining and proving ourselves *, and knowing the thoughts of our hearts t; which phrases have their peculiar import and use. For as the temper and state of our hearts is the great thing that we have to be concerned about in religion: so the consideration of our ways, or the actions in which our temper is exerted and shewn, must discover to us the motives that influence it: just as, in the material objects that surround us, we learn, from particular facts and appearances, the general laws by which the frame of things is governed.
This faculty of moral reflection, and the self-approbation or dislike arising from it, which we commonly call by the name of conscience, is the character that distinguishes man from the beings below him : it is the principle that God hath endued with an evident right to direct our lives : and, according as we employ or disregard it, we shall advance or go back in real religion.
The seeds of every virtue were planted in the soul of man originally, each in its due order and proportion, without any mixture of evil. Yet even then, for want of due cultivation by our first parents, they • 1 Cor. xi. 28. 2 Cor. xiii, 5.
+ Dan. ii. 3o. Gg