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that of others, in their religious capacities, and the relations in which they stand towards God: which is the very definition of spiritual pride.
When the true heat and spirit of devotion is thus lost and extinguished under a cloud of ostentatious ceremonies and gestures, as is remarkable in the Roman church,
where the celebration of high mass, when set off to the best advantage with all its scenical decorations and finery, looks more like a theatrical performance than that humble and solemn appeal which dust and ashes are offering up to the throne of God ;-when religion, I say, is thus clogged and borne down by such a weight of ceremonies, --it is much easier to put in pretensions to holiness
upon such a mechanical system as is left of it, than where the character is only to be got and maintained by a painful conflict and perpetual war against the passions. 'Tis easier, for instance, for a zealous papist to cross himself and tell his beads, than for an humble protestant to subdue the lusts of anger, intemperance, cruelty, and revenge, to appear before his Maker with that preparation of mind which becomes him. The operation of being sprinkled with holy water, is not so difficult in itself as that of being chaste and spotless within-conscious of no dirty thought or dishonest action. 'Tis a much shorter way to kneel down at a confessional and receive absolution,--than to live so to deserve it_not at the hands of men,but at the hands of God, who sees the heart, and cannot be imposed upon.--The achievement of keeping Lent, or abstaining from flesh on certain days, is not so hard as that of abstaining from the works of it at all times;especially, as the point is generally man
aged amongst the richer sort with such art and epicurism at their tables,
and with such indulgence to a poor mortified appetite,—that an entertainment upon a fast is much more likely to produce a surfeit than a fit of sorrow.
One might run the parallel much farther, but this may be sufficient to shew how dangerous and delusive these mistakes are ;-how apt to mislead and overset weak minds, which are ever apt to be caught by the pomp of such external parts of religion. This is so evident, that even in our own church, where there is the greatest chastity in things of this nature,—and of which none are retained in our worship but what, I believe, tend to excite and assist it-yet, so strong a propensity is there in our nature to sense,-and so unequal a match is the understanding of the bulk of mankind for the impressions of outward things that we see thousands who every day mistake the shadow for the substance; and, was it fairly put to the trial, would exchange the reality for the appearance.
You see this was almost universally the case of the Jewish church ;-where, for want of propor guard and distinction betwixt the means of religion and religion itself, the ceremonial part in time eat away the moral part, and left nothing but a shadow behind.-'Tis to be feared the buffooneries of the Romish church bid fair to do it the same ill office, to the disgrace and utter ruin of christianity, wherever popery is established. . What then remains, but that we rectify these gross and pernicious notions of religion, and place it upon its true bottom, which we can only do by bringing back religion to that cool point of reason which first shewed us its obli
gation by always remembering that God is a Spirit,- and must be worshipped suitable to his nature, i. e. in spirit and in truth ;-and that the most acceptable sacrifice we can offer him, is a virtuous and an upright mind;--and however necessary it is, not to leave the ceremonial and positive parts of religion undone,-yet, not like the pharisee, to rest there, and omit the weightier matters, but keep this in view perpetually, that though the instrumental duties of religion are duties of unquestionable obligation to us, yet they are still but instrumental duties, conducive to the great end of all religion,
-which is to purify our hearts and conquer our passions ;-and, in a word, to make us wiser and better men,-better neighbours,-better citizens and better servants to God.
To whom, &c.
VINDICATION OF HUMAN NATURE.
ROMANS XIV. 7.
For none of us liveth to himself.
THERE is not a sentence in scripture which strikes a narrow soul with greater astonishment;, and one might as easily engage to clear up the darkest problem in geometry to an ignorant mind, as make a sordid one comprehend the truth and reas: onableness of this plain proposition,No man liveth to hinrself!—Why ?-Does any man live to any thing else ? --In the whole compass of human life, can a prudent man steer to a safer point ?- Not live 'to himself!-To whom then ?-Can any interests or concerns which are foreign to a man's self have such a claim over him, that he must serve under them,-suspend his own pursuits,-step out of his right course till others have passed by him, and attained the several ends and purposes of living before him?
If, with a selfish heart, such an inquirer should happen to have a speculating head too, he will proceed, and ask you, whether this same principle which the apostle here throws out of the life of man, is not in fact the grand bias of his nature ?- That however we may flatter ourselves with fine-spun notions of disinterestedness and heroism in what we do; were the most popular of our actions stripped
naked, and the true motives and intentions of them searched 10 the bottom, we should find little reason for triumph upon that score.
In a word, he will say, that a man is altogether a bubble to himself in this matter, and that after all that can be said in his behalf, the truest definition that can be given of him is this, that he is a selfish animal; and that all his actions have so strong a tincture of that character, as to shew, to whomever else he was intended to live, that in fact he lives only to himself.
Before I reply directly to this accusation, I can. not help observing by the way, that there is scarce any thing which has done more disservice to social virtue than the frequent representations of human nature under this hideous picture of deformity, which, by leaving out all that is generous and friendly in the heart of man, has sunk him below the level of a brute, as if he was a composition of all that was mean-spirited and selfish. Surely, 'tis one step towards acting well, to think worthily of our nature; and, as in common life the way to make a man honest, is to suppose him so, and treat him as such,so here, to set some value upon ourselves, enables us to support the character, and even inspires and adds sentiments of generosity and virtue to those which we have already preconceived. The scripture tells, That God made man in his own image, not surely in the sensitive and corporeal part of him: that could bear no resemblance with a pure and infinite Spirit ;-but what resemblance he bore was undoubtedly in the moral rectitude, and the kind and benevolent affections of his nature. And though the brightness of his image has been sullied greatly