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gression in knowledge, holiness, and happiness. A being to exist for ever, and to behold more and more of the works of God. The pre-eminence of the human soul over the spirit of the animal creation, is great, both from the consideration of its native, superiour excellence and its immortality. Whilst the one goes downward or perishes with the body, the other goes upward, for ever expanding in eternity. Arguments from reason and analogy may be drawn, to show that the future existence of human beings will be far more enlarged and dignified than the present. All the transformations of vegetables and animals in the present state, serve to confirm this idea. And as the human body is to be transformed into a spiritual, glorified body; so will the human soul be advanced with it, its faculties enlarged, dignified, and suited to its exalted state. Hence man is capacitated for endless progression in knowledge, moral excellence, and felicity, which is the perfection and highest dignity of his nature. It is the prerogative and perfection of Deity, to be.infinite in knowledge, benevolence, and blessedness. And it is the perfection and highest glory of created intelligences to be capable of endless improvements, and to resemble more and more the Author of their being. Having pointed out some of the characteristicks of a human being, the way is prepared to show in the second place, How human beings should conduct, would they show themselves men, or act as becometh rational and accountable beings.
And I would observe the first thing they have to do, is to cease to do evil, and learn to do well. There are none, who have not gone astray, for the word of God asserts, The whole world lieth in wickedness. And how does it become man to refrain from every ignoble and debasing act, which degrades his nature, and to cultivate all manly and noble virtues, which are consonant to his important station.
Let him that has stolen, steal no more. Let those, who im
prudently have wounded the feelings of a friend, og injured their neighbour or themselves by their evil ways, be watchful for the future. Whether mankind have transgressed in a greater or less degree, the voice of wisdom calls to immediate reformation. Aged sinners and bold transgressors may well forbear; and surely, since youth are rational and accountable beings, they should readily turn from that which is evil, and cleave to that which is good.
2d. Would mankind show themselves men, they should be honest in their dealings with one another. It is a common proverb, that honesty is the best policy. This may be a good reason for uprightness in the common transactions of life; but a still better one can be given. It is morally fit and suitable, that we should regard the welfare of others as our own. Whatever reasons we can allege in behalf of our own welfare as it respects the comforts of this life, the same can be alleged in behalf of the welfare of others. They have wants in general with our own selves; and have as delicate sensibility of pain and injury when wronged or defrauded. And unjust dealing often brings natural evil, as well as moral guilt. Peace of conscience, individual happiness, and the publick good, demand all-men, not only to look to their own welfare, but also to that of others. In all the common contracts and pursuits of mankind towards each other, would they consult mutual benefit, how many evils would be banished from the world. Peace, prosperity, and moral fitness call for uprightness between man and man in theiz daily intercourse. And since they are rational and accountable beings, they should ever be mindful of the golden rule, As ye would that men should do unto you, do ye even so unto them; for this is the law and the prophets.
3d. Temperance becometh rational and accountable beings. It is not my design in this place to bring to view the loathsome spectacle of persons in the most degrading state of intoxication. Neither to
draw a picture of wretchedness in consequence of fortune squandered, and families reduced to extreme poverty. It is sufficient, to hint upon the human wo with which earth is filled in ten thousand ways, in consequence of profuse, excessive intemperance. It may be observed, that the Lord designs that man should eat, and drink, and enjoy the good of his labour: But to abuse the divine bounty, by daily excessive eating or drinking, is not only sin against God, but destructive to happiness and ruinous to the soul. Intemperance, though not carried to the greatest excess, is a barrier to the most refined feelings of literary and social life, and a shield to prevent divine truth from having its proper force on the mind. The truly temperate, have superiour advantages of present comfort and usefulness. Duty, present enjoyment, peace of conscience, and prospects of futurity, call upon man as a rational and accountable being, to live temperately.
4th. Those, who would show themselves men, will be careful to avoid evil speaking. Speech is one of the great means of communicating ideas from man to man; and various are the arguments, and powerful the motives, which might be offered to dissuade from slander. It should be avoided; for it is a great perversion and abuse of the tongue. This little, but important member, was designed for social and interesting conversation, to promote the dearest interests of society, and to proclaim the praises of the Author of nature. But how lamentable the perversion, when it is drawn forth to slander, instead of giving counsel to the ignorant and wandering, of encouraging the timid, of consoling the afflicted, and promoting the peace and happiness of individuals and community. Shall it be said, That words are a cheap gift? And shall not they be granted, when they can promote human felicity in ten thousand ways ? Or shall evil speaking be indulged, and shoot forth instruments of cruelty, like fire-brands, arrows, and
death? Man should refrain from the practice, as it manifests a low and base spirit, and is the dialect of the region below. When any one is active, in exaggerating the faults or failings of others, and of spreading them abroad, a low mind is characterized. A man of noble mind and generous sentiments, would rather commend, than defame his neighbour. His liberal soul would shrink, at the thought of the painful and degrading task. Moreover, those who are addicted to evil speaking, are generally paid by retaliation. They who are censorious and bitter towards others, have the same measure meted out to them again, and frequently pressed down and running over. If the person injured, should not retaliate, yet others see the failings, and will publish the faults, of those who render their
tongues instruments of injury to their fellow men. Then from motives of policy, a prudent man would guard his tongue against slander, lest he be repaid in the same base coin. Evil speakers destroy their own peace and comfort. They frequently reproach in the heat of passion. Bu in time of cool reflection, how are they frequently pained with keen, self mortification. When they behold the person, whose interest they should have viewed with tenderness, but whose character they have sought to injure, how will shame and conscious guilt fill their breast, bite like a serpent, and sting like an adder. Thus inward peace is destroyed, which is of more value than rubies. They who are ready to seize every opportunity to speak evil of others, will find no time for their troubled souls to rest. They may discover so many faults or failings amongst mankind, that before they have thoroughly circulated one slanderous report, they will be hurried with another. Every man should ever be careful to guard his tongue, from the consideration that the pernicious effects of evil speaking on individuals and community, can never be remedied. They, who pubþckly injure others by slander, put it beyond their
power to prevent the injury from spreading, even if they should truly repent of their evil conduct. Like the main-spring of a watch, or like the principal wheel in some complicated machinery, which moves various other wheels, so one tongue frequently excites to motion ten thousand other tongues. And what is the ability of a slanderer, even though penitent, to prevent the evils which he has done, from spreading wide, like a raging pestilence? How pleasing, how benignant, how extensive are the goodly effects of speech, when properly directed. But how sad, how melancholy, how pernicious its devastations, when perverted.
. 5th. Would men conduct as becometh rational and accountable beings, they will not take the name of the Lord in vain. Profanity is a sin highly provoking to God, and offensive to every serious or refined mind. No person, who continues in a course of profane swearing, has any ground to expect forgiveness of his transgression. Hear the injunction; Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain; for the Lord will not hold him guiltless, that taketh his name in vain. It would be painful to hear the name of a worthy friend used on every trifling occasion, in a foolish and disgusting manner. But how guilty, how hardened must he be, who with the greatest levity will trifle with the sacred names of the supreme Being ? Rather let horrour seize the soul, and confusion cover the face of a human being, than that the lips should belch forth cursing and blasphemy. Perhaps we may expect to hear the drunkard and abandoned profligates bid defiance to heaven, and profane the name of God; but shall persons of refined manners, shall parents, shall magistrates be guilty of profane swearing? Then shall the land mourn, and the prospects of the rising generation be darkened. How foolish and wicked, how unbecoming and degrading to a rational accountable being, is the taking of the name of the Lord in vain.