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conduct, that, amidst the variety of cases and incidents which may happen, there is no other way of preserving a good conscience, and keeping up to one certain rule and tenor of life and conversation. And he that wants either the courage or the will to do this, knows not yet what it is to be a good Christian, or a good man. But,
3dly and lastly, It should be our especial care not only to forbear any thing tending to promote divisions, but to use our best endeavours to heal and reconcile them.
As there are none more sensible of these things than ourselves, or more likely to suffer by them ; so I beg leave to intimate, how hecoming and proper a part of our profession and business it is, to do what in us lies to prevent the growth and increase of them. While animosities prevail, arts and sciences will gradually decay and lose ground; not only as wanting suitable encouragement, but also as being deprived of that freedom, quiet, and repose, which are necessary to raise and cherish them. As divisions increase, Christian charity will decline daily, till it becomes an empty name, or an idea only. Discipline will of course slacken and hang loose ; and the consequence of that must be a general dissoluteness and corruption of manners. Nor will the enemy be wantingto sow tares to corrupt our faith, as well as practice; and to introduce a general latitude of opinions. Arianism, Deism, Atheism, will insensibly steal upon us, while our heads and hearts run after politics and parties.
It were a happy thing, if any remedy could be found out for these grievances ; if all odious names of distinction could be forgotten and laid aside, and moderate counsels might take place ; if men would learn humility and contentedness, meekness and charity; and consider that the “ wrath of man worketh not “the righteousness of God;" and that all envy and malice and party rage are directly opposite to the mild and gentle spirit of the Gospel.
Permit me to observe, that the great warmth and eagerness, which is shewn by many, is not about heaven and happiness, and the blessedness of the life to come. It is not so much as pretended that the glory of God, or the salvation of men, is what engages their thoughts and concern, or what they so eagerly contend for. It is all for the fading and perishing things of this life; power, honour, and riches. These are the things which divide and distract us. Were it possible to restore a true spirit of heavenly mindedness, those eager contests would soon fall of themselves, as having no longer any sufficient foundation.
We profess to believe a God, and a future judgment; a state of eternal happiness, and a state of eternal misery. We have been taught that we are as a strangers and pilgrims here on earth; that we are to seek for a better country, and are to look upon ourselves as citizens of heaven ; of that blessed place, from whence all envy and ill-will, all wrath and bitterness, all rancour and malice, all fury and violence, must be for ever shut out; and nothing but love, peace, gentleness, harmony, and goodness, abound for evermore. These things, I presume, are not told us, in Scripture, as matters of theory and speculation only, or as subjects to talk on; but are designed to influence our practice, and to make us good men.
It is a moving and a solemn reflection, made by a a great Prelate of our Church on another occasion,
- That a good man would be loath to be taken out of the “ world reeking hot from a sharp contention with a perverse
adversary, and not a little out of countenance to find himself “ in this temper translated into the calm and peaceful regions of “ the blessed, where nothing but perfect charity and good-will “ reign for ever.” This was meant of controversial disputes ; but may be applied with equal or greater force to our party contests, which are neither so innocent nor so useful, nor carried on so coolly as the other.
But this I leave to your serious and pious meditation. And shall conclude with a word or two of advice to the youth of the University, whose want of years and sedateness may render them most liable to intemperate sallies.
As the privilege of their education raises them above the vulgar crowd, and is apt to inspire larger thoughts and views in them, as well as to create expectation in others; so it concerns them highly, to demean themselves suitably thereto, and to act up to their character.
To behave themselves soberly, peaceably, and discreetly; to let party disputes alone, which can hardly be managed with temper even by men of years and gravity.
Not to provoke or to exasperate one another by any opprobri. ous words or invidious names, invented only to sow discord and to propagate mischief in the world. In fine, to use no insulting,
Hebr. xi. 13. 1 Pet. ii. 11. a Tillotson, vol. i. p. 583.
no rudeness, no misbecoming behaviour, on this day of thanksgiving, or on any day after: but to curb their passions, to observe rules and orders, to submit to their proper governors, and to pursue their respective studies ; such as may hereafter render them the supports and ornaments of our most holy Church, and so many blessings and comforts of the age and place they shall live in.
In the mean while, to set a shining example of sobriety, modesty, regularity, and all other graces and virtues that may tend to promote the glory of Almighty God, the security and satisfaction of our most gracious, and, to us particularly, most indulgent Sovereign, and the peace of his kingdoms; together with the honour and prosperity of the University whereunto they belong; and their own comfort, welfare, and happiness, both now and
THE SONS OF THE CLERGY,
CATHEDRAL CHURCH OF ST. PAUL,
December 14, 1721.
MATTH. v. 16.
Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works,
and glorify your Father which is in heaven. THESE words of our blessed Lord have relation to what went
before; being a continuation of the same thought, and a kind of practical conclusion drawn from it. In the thirteenth verse of this chapter, he tells his disciples that they " are the salt of the earth;" thereby intimating their character and office, to season the world with their instruction, to purify it by their example, and by both to spread such a sweet savour of life to all around them, as should preserve them from corruption, and render their persons acceptable unto God. To enforce this further, and to imprint it deeper, he carries on the same thought in the verses following, but under another metaphor, lively and elegant as the former; “Ye are the light of the “ world,” says he, verse 14, to the same disciples ; signifying thereby their qualifications and endowments, together with the duties arising from them : they were to hold out the light of their instruction, persuasion, and example, to an ignorant and immoral world ; that is, in the words of the text, “ to let their light “ shine before men, that they might see their good works, and
glorify their Father which is in heaven.” Which is as much as to say, " Be ye shining professors, and bright examples of religion and virtue in a dark, misguided
age; but not so much for your own honour or reputation, as “ for the glory of God: let strangers see and admire your work
of faith, and labour of love, and patience of hope, that they may “ be converted and edified thereby : but let the praise and glory “ of all be returned up to the author and fountain of all, to your " Father which is in heaven."
Having shewn the connection of the words with the words preceding, and briefly intimated the general meaning and design of them, I may now proceed to consider them more distinctly and largely, in the method here following:
I. To shew what is implied in the duty of “ letting our light 6 shine before men.”
II. To lay down some considerations, proper to enforce the practice of it.
IIJ. To observe how far those considerations may affect Christians in general, or some in particular : concluding with a suitable application of the whole to the present occasion.
I. I shall endeavour to shew what is implied in the duty of “ letting our light shine before men."
The duty taken in its full latitude, with all it contains and comprehends, is not so properly a distinct duty in itself, as the sum total, or completion of all. It is not only to be religious, but to be eminently so; not only to be good and virtuous, but to be exact and exemplary in it; not only to be truly pious, but to be remarkable and conspicuous in the face of the world for it. We may however distinguish between the foundation and the superstructure, between goodness in the general and a supereminent degree of it; and so the text may be considered as containing a duty distinct by itself, namely, the duty of being open and exemplary in our virtues ; not concealing or smothering our good principles or practices, but producing them and drawing them forth in the face of the world. But I shall not affect to be very nice and critical, in distinguishing the foundation from the superstructure, choosing rather to take both in ; only insisting more particularly on the latter, as most agreeable