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no sober, honest, virtuous man approves. Thus, for instance, stealing is universally contemptible. The reason is, all sober, honest, good men, hold this vice in perfect abhorrence. And did all such men refuse their countenance and support to sinful customs, they would equally sink into universal contempt. Therefore, to approve and support sinful customs is one of the greatest of all sins.
5. We learn from what has been said, that it is utterly in vain for any to pretend to excuse themselves from opposing sinful customs. It is in vain to say, that they desire to be excused. It is in vain to say, that it will expose them to reproach and contempt. It is in vain to say, that it does not belong to them to make the attempt. It is in vain to say, that it will do no good to make the attempt. It is in vain to say, that others neglect this duty. It is, in short, in vain to say a single word, by way of excuse. For there is no excuse, which either God, or Christ, or sinners, or their own consciences, will accept. Hence,
6. This subject calls upon every person to oppose all customs, which he believes to be sinful. Men, as we have observed, may differ in their judgment of certain customs. But every man ought to oppose such customs as he believes to be sinful. And does not every person believe, that there are some sinful customs in this place?
Is not encroaching upon the Sabbath, a sinful custom ? Is not profaning the Sabbath, a sinful custom? Is not profane swearing, a sinful custom? Is not gaming, a sinful custom ? Is not frolicking, a sinful custom? Is not the custom, which has no name in the dictionary, but which is commonly called bundling, a sinful custom? İs not drinking to excess, a sinful custom? Is not extravagance in dress, a sinful custom ? Is not the neglect of family devotion, a sinful custom ?
Is not the neglect of family government, a sinful custom? Is not the neglect of executing good laws, a sinful custom ? Now let me ask, do not all these sinful customs abound in this land ? And do not many of them, at least, abound in this place? If they do, it concerns all, according to their various ages, relations, and stations, to exert their power and influence, in opposing such sinful and destructive customs. In particular,
Ministers of the gospel ought to discountenance all prevailing vices. Though men differ in their opinions what doctrines ministers ought to preach and oppose; yet all are agreed, that they ought to preach all the civil, social, moral virtues, and to condemn and oppose every custom, which tends to destroy, or even weaken, their happy influence. Civil rulers ought to be the fathers of their people, and the
guardians of their virtues, as well as of their rights and privileges. They are appointed to be a terror to evil-doers, and to employ the authority with which they are vested, in opposing and restraining sinful customs. And if they neglect their duty in this respect, they will deserve the character and contract the guilt of Jeroboam, the son of Nebat, who made Israel to sin.
Professors of religion are bound, by the most solemn obligations, not only to depart from all iniquity themselves, but to rise up for God against evil-doers, and to stand up for him against the workers of iniquity. Instead of being conformed to the spirit of the world, they ought to be totally opposed to it; and by their example and influence, oppose all sinful customs.
Those who have engaged to oppose sinful customs have laid themselves under peculiar additional obligations, to attempt, and if possible to bring about, a reformation of morals. They have acknowledged this to be their duty, and have pledged their reputation to be faithful. They cannot turn to the right hand or to the left; they must pursue the path they have chosen, and, with unremitting ardor, prosecute the benevolent design they have so nobly undertaken. Having put their hand to the plough, they must never look back. Those who have not engaged to oppose
sinful customs, are under indispensable obligations to engage. Their duty does not depend on their inclination. If they desire to be excused, they cannot be excused. Their very desire is sinful, and instead of atoning for their negligence, betrays and aggravates their guilt. They may think themselves wise in declining to oppose sinful customs. But their wisdom is from below, and deserves all the epithets which the apostle has justly given it. They have excused themselves, but God has not excused them. And they are entreated to remember, that if they continue to neglect opposing sinful customs, sinful customs will oppose them, and prove their future and everlasting ruin.
If any, who are well disposed and wish to do their duty should here ask what they must do to oppose sinful customs; it is easy to give them a number of directions, which being faithfully followed will insure success.
1. Avoid all sinful customs yourselves. When you see others pursuing them, never join with them, but practically condemn their sin and folly.
2. Establish good customs. This you may do, as well as others can establish evil ones. And this is one of the most effectual means of destroying sinful customs. Many fall into evil habits, simply because good ones are not exhibited before
them. And many who have addicted themselves to sinful customs may be reclaimed by the good examples of others.
3. Execute good laws. Our wisest and best politicians have been thoroughly convinced of the pernicious tendency of vice, and to prevent its baleful influence, have enacted a variety of laws to restrain men from vicious customs.
These laws you have a right to see well executed. And it is your duty to appoint good executive officers, and to insist upon their faithfully discharging their trust.
4. Realize your obligations to God. It lies not at your option, whether you shall oppose sinful customs. God demands this at your hands. And you must soon give account before his awful bar, whether you have employed your talents, your opportunities, and your obligations for him, or against him ; and whether the world has been the better or the worse, by your living in it.
Let the fear of God be in your hearts, and you shall escape that dreadful snare, the fear of man. Amen.
ANNUAL THANKSGIVING, DEC. 15, 1796.
AND Judah and Israel dwelt safely, every man under his vine, and under his fig-tree,
from Dan eren to Beersheba, all the days of Solomon. -- 1 Kings, iv. 25.
Sovereign princes have often raised their own greatness and grandeur upon the poverty and depression of their subjects. But Solomon pursued a more just, as well as a more wise and honorable course; and raised himself to the summit of human glory by seeking and promoting the highest happiness of his kingdom. The first and principal step which he took, to reach this noble and benevolent purpose, was to cultivate and maintain mutual peace with all the neighboring nations. He never gave them any just provocation to wage war with him ; nor took any unjust occasion to wage war with them. This prudent and pacific conduct promoted the prosperity of his people; and at the same time spread the fame of his wisdom and policy among the greatest princes of the earth. Accordingly, the sacred historian first informs us that " Solomon had peace on all sides round about him.” In the next words we are told, “ Judah and Israel dwelt safely, every man under his vine and under his fig-tree, from Dan even to Beersheba, all the days of Solomon.” And as the natural consequence of his wise and peaceful reign, we read in the conclusion of the chapter, “ There came of all people to hear the wisdom of Solomon, from all the kings of the earth, which had heard of his wisdom." The hand as well as the counsel of the Deity was concerned in all this national prosperity. For God promised to give David a son and successor, who should be a prince of peace. “Behold, a son shall be born unto thee
who shall be a man of rest; and I will give him rest from all his enemies round about: For his name shall be Solomon, and I will give peace and quietness unto Israel, in his days.” It appears from this prediction, that Solomon was only the instrument in the hand of God of promoting the peace and prosperity of his people. And taking our text in this connection, it naturally suggests this general observation :
It is God who bestows the great blessing of national peace.
To place this subject in a clear and profitable light, I shall show,
I. That it is God who bestows national peace: And
This, God claims as his peculiar prerogative. “I form the light and create darkness : I make peace and create evil. I the Lord do all these things.” Again we read, “ The Lord sitteth king for ever. The Lord will give strength unto his people; the Lord will bless his people with peace.” The voice of scripture here concurs with the voice of reason. National peace is one of the links in the great chain of providence, and of consequence comes under the divine direction. It belongs to God to determine when and where national peace shall be enjoyed. And it is easy to see how God can give this blessing to different nations, notwithstanding their native pride and selfishness. For,
1. God can make it the mutual interest of native and foreign nations to be at peace with each other. This was the case in the days of Solomon. By the instrumentality of David, God had delivered his people from their enemies, and put them in possession of all the land which he had promised to give them. This we are expressly told in the context. 66 And Solomon reigned over all the kingdoms, from the river unto the land of the Philistines, and unto the border of Egypt.” The children of Israel had gained as large a territory, and secured as great advantages, as they had any grounds to expect, or even to desire. And on the other hand, their neighbors had no reason to flatter themselves, that it would be for their interest to attack the people of God, in their present state of strength and prosperity. All things, therefore, conspired with the policy of Solomon, to cultivate national peace. Just so God is able to unite the hearts of other nations, by uniting their interests. It has long been a maxim in politics, that national interest is the first principle of national policy. It is only for God, therefore, to make it the mutual interest of different nations to be at peace with each other, and they themselves will naturally seek and promote this agreeable object. Besides,