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Another class of men estimate Moral character by the Law of the land. These are usually the men of wealth ; or, in better terms, those, who make the acquisition of wealth the chief object of their pursuit. The former class is composed of the proud and ambitious. The field of pleasure is perhaps equally divided between both. The good man of this class is he, who punctually pays his debts and taxes; makes such bargains only, as are legal; buys at the lowest price, and sells for as much as he can get; does every thing which the law requires, and nothing which it forbids. It cannot be denied, that such a man is ordinarily a far more desirable member of society, than the man of honour. No more can it be denied, that, when he comes up to the full demands of this standard, he may still be totally destitute of piety; may turn a deaf ear to poverty and suffering ; may hate, and only hate, his enemies; may neglect all the duties of affection and tenderness; may be unkind to his wife, negligent of his children, and hard hearted towards all men.

Other classes have still other standards. Men of science usually consider distinguished talents, laboriously employed in the acquisition and improvement of knowledge, as the object, eminently entitled to their admiration and applause. Men of taste regard ! an extensive acquaintance with the objects of taste ; particularly with the fine arts of eloquence, poetry, sculpture, painting, music, building, and gardening, together with the elegant and magnificent effects, which genius has in these several ways produced ; as claiming, on the best grounds, their unqualified esteem. With another class of mankind the most respectable human character is the man of fashion. Here merit lies supremely in elegance of dress, gracefulness of manners, skill, and taste, in customary amusements, and a happy observance of fashionable decorum. The rules, by which these several classes judge, I call Standards of moral character; because they make them such, in estimating all degrees of human respectability, and the want of it, by the degree in which the human character approximates to their respective standards. Accordingly such, as approach, or arrive at, any one of these standards, are by those who adopt it approved, and commended, as excellent : while those of an opposite character are invariably condemned. VOL. I.

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Erroneous moral standards are also set up by classes of men, and concerning subjects, professedly religious. In the view of multitudes, it is a sufficient establishment of a religious character to have been born, baptized, and educated, within the pale of a particular church; and to have attended regularly upon its worship. In the view of others, decency of character and amiableness of deportment are invested with the name of Religion. With others, it is sufficient to speak truth, to render commutative justice, and to give liberally, particularly to the poor. With some, common good nature passes currently for genuine virtue. Others place it in warm feelings, and bright, visionary views of divine subjects : while others still consider it as sufficient to talk with discernment, fervour, and frequency, concerning themes of Religion.

Concerning all these standards of moral character, two very important remarks should be made. The first is, that every one of them is totally defective : leaving real excellence out of that list of qualifications, which is formed, only to comprise it. A man may be every thing, which I have mentioned; and yet have nothing in his character, which will recommend him to the favour, or render him amiable in the sight, of God. The only standard of moral character allowed in the Scriptures, or defensible to the eye of Common sense, when acquainted with the Scriptures, is the moral law. He, who loves God with all the heart, and his neighbour as himself, is a perfect man. He who does this imperfectly, (and no man does it perfectly,) is excellent, just as far as he does it, and no farther. There is no other excellence beside this; and every thing else, however convenient, pleasing, or reputable, is in a moral view mere trash: a counterfeit, in which the value of gold is stamped upon dross : a mere semblance of real worth at the best: and in several of the instances, a wretched substitution of vice for virtue.

The second remark, which should be made here, is this: Every one of these classes of men is entirely satisfied with its own standard, and never thinks of inquiring whether any other rules are necessary to estimate, or any other qualification to form, moral character. This is unanswerably certain from the daily conversation of the individuals who compose them. Listen to that conversation; and

you will find, that these persons approve nothing, commend nothing, and aim at nothing, beside what is contained in their respective standards ; and that all, which lies without, is either cen. sured or disregarded.

But it is evident beyond a debate, that not one of these standards comprises any real excellence. Of course, none of those who adopt thein aims at obtaining for himself, or demands at all from others, the least degree of such excellence. Each is entire ly satisfied, if he comes up to his own rule: for this rule he considers as the true boundary of worth. Of consequence, he does not attempt any thing further; nor consider such an attempt as claiming even a momentary regard. There is, therefore, the most terrible probability, that he will never become at all better, in any respect, than his rule requires him to be. For he will not even mistrast, that there is any thing better. Hence he will live, and die, and go to the judgment, as the case may be, a mere man of honour; a mere conformnist to the law of the land ; a man of science, taste, or fashion; a Christian in form and garb; a good natured companion; or a skilful talker on religious subjects.

Had each of these persons originally proposed to himself the law of God, as the only stanılard of perfection; and tried himself froin time to time by this perfect rule of righteousness ; it seems impossible, that he should not have felt something more to be indispensably necessary to constitute him excellent in this world, and accepted in that which is to come. It seems impossible, for example, that the duellist should, in this case, advance so coolly towards death and eternity, to present before the bar of God his hands crimsoned with the blood of his neighbour.

To you, then, it cannot fail to be of incomprehensible importance, to separate yourselves entirely from the world in the great business of forming your Standard of moral character. You will never be better, than your Rule supposes. If that involves no real excellence; you will have none. . The rule itself, independently of all other considerations, will prove a fatal snare to you, prevent you from holiness, and shut you out from heaven.

Let me further inform you, that you may propose to yourselves a Scriptural Standard ; i. c. one generally Scriptural ; and yet may so contract. and prune, and pare it, as to derive from the Rule,

thus fashioned, serious and lasting injuries. You may be Christians; and may yet so lower the demands of Christianity upon you ; so relax the strictness of evangelical doctrines; so narrow the limits, and so lessen the force, of evangelical precepts; as greatly to swerve from truth and duty, when you suppose your. selves believing and obedient. You may transgress, where you suppose yourselves to fultil; and omit, while you consider yourselves as performing. Christians often, through the influence of their remaining corruption, particularly through a general spirit of sloth, negligence, and aversion to that strictness of thought and life, which is necessary to keep them near the point of evangelical perfection, lower, in their own minds, the Scriptural doctrines and precepts, so as to accommodate them conveniently to their own lax habits.

With a variety of specious glosses devised by themselves, or already provided to their hand by others, they smooth the ruggedness of hard texts, narrow the limits of painful precepts, and fritter away the import of difficult doctrines, to such a degree, as to fit them for their own more comfortable use, and make them agree with that imperfect, sluggish, half-worldly Christianity, which they have chosen to adopt. In all this they are conformed to the world; and in no part of this conduct ought we to be conformed to them. Remember, that, the bigher you aim, the higher will you reach. He, who points his views at perfection, though indeed he will not be perfect, will yet advance nearer to it, than if he had pointed them at a lower mark. Whenever a low standard of moral characteris generally adopted by a community; the best members of that community will either not be Christians at all, but, as will ordinarily be the fact, merely decent worldly men; or they will be dull, coldhearted Christians; members of the church of Sardis ; having a name to live, but even to the human eye really dead. The second class will consist of plain, professed worldlings; destitute even of a pretended regard to religion. The third will be composed of mere profligates. The best of those in the best class will hardly keep religion alive in themselves. Those, who keep it alive in the world, who awaken it in their fellow-men, and who convey it down to succeeding generations, by their warm affections, exemplary lives, and vigourous efforts, will in such a community be

sought for in vain ; and the places, which have once known them, will, ordinarily, for ages know them no more.

2dly. Let me exhort you not to be conformed to the Fashionable Opinions, and Practices, of the World.

Of the numerous particulars, indicated by this comprehensive head, I shall select very few; and those will be of the nature for. merly mentioned.

One of the favourite dogmas, repeated with no small frequency, pleasure, and emphasis, by men of the world, is that we were sent into the world to enjoy life. Though, in a certain limited sense, this doctrine may be true, because our Creator intended, that we should find some degree of enjoyment even here ; yet, in the sense intended, nothing is more absurdly or ridiculously false. Two considerations prove the truth of this remark in an unanswerable manner. The first is, that, if God sent us hither to enjoy life, he has been miserably disappointed of his purpose. Wit. ness the pain, sickness, and sorrow; the want, danger, fear, and doubt;. the oppression, injustice, and cruelty ; which haunt man from the cradle to the

grave. Witness the death, which with a thousand terrors and agonies closes our earthly career, and hurries us into eternity. The second is, that this very doctrine is directly subversive of our best interests both here and hereafter. The Enjoyment, always intended in this declaration, is that, which is found in popularity, power, wealth, and sensual plea

All human experience has proved, all sober men have confessed, that the pursuit of these objects is not the pursuit of bappiness; that the objects themselves have not happiness to give; and that the devotees to this pursuit have, even when most successful, been in all ages the victims of disappointment and sorrow. That it is more blessed to give, than to receive; or to do good, than to gain it; and that godliness is profitable to all things, having the promise of this life, as well as of that which is to come; are truths, pencilled in sun-beams on the experience of man. They are truths, which, if we were willing to be wise by the experience of others, no sober man would ever question. Still, the men of this world hold now, and have ever held, the contrary doctrine. Should it be adopted by you; it will lead you, as an ignis fatuus, from the high way of happiness and duty into every

sure.

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