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ON THE GOOD EFFECTS OF RELIGION.
ISAIAH XI. 9.
They shall not hurt nor destroy in all
THIS is part of a prophecy which, in a SERM. great degree, remains to be fulfilled. Those who have applied themselves to the study of the prophetic parts of the Holy Scriptures, have been long agreed, that there is a future state of peace and happiness foretold, which is to take place upon this very earth we inhabit, through the prevalence of the Christian religion. There is nothing mysterious in the prophecy, except inasmuch as it must seem to require the particular interposition of Providence; so little at present are men agreed to give full effect to the Gospel of our Saviour. There C 2 is
SERM. is no mystery in the consequences foretold, if men would but embrace the Gospel as they should do; for sure enough no true Christian could hurt or destroy, or do any violence to his neighbour, or in any way interrupt the peace and harmony of the world, so long as he held himself bound to be governed by the laws of his Redeemer. For the Gospel of Christ is peace and love -peace with our Maker, and peace with man. By the Gospel of Christ alone we are to be reconciled to our heavenly Father; and we are not to be entitled to the benefits of this most glorious covenant, but upon
the condition that we love our neighbour as ourselves.-True enough we must confess that this world has so long interfered with the concerns of religion, that perhaps there is no command in the whole Scriptures more generally infringed than this very one of loving our neighbour as ourselves. It is difficult to say how this great and grievous error first got to such a head as it has done, and perhaps it is more difficult to say, how we are to apply a remedy. Now-a-days, a man is not willing to act by
his neighbour as he would by himself, be- SERM. cause, perhaps, he too truly knows that it is the last thing his neighbour would do by him. His heart is hardened, because he thinks that in similar circumstances his neighbour's heart would be hardened against him; and this too often satisfies his conscience. I say too often; for Christianity does not even admit of this excuse. Christianity does not lay laws upon us, which our passions are left to interpret. Her laws are meant to controul our own passions first, and not merely to coerce and restrain those of our neighbours. The laws of Christianity entirely regard the individual; the conduct of others will be no defence, nor afford any palliation, except in the case of absolute violence. What we ought really and solely to think of, is not, how bad others are, but how we can prove ourselves to be good and faithful servants of the blessed Jesus. And when we consider what the consequences really would be of every man's acting up to this rule, it is truly melancholy to think that men cannot agree upon a point so important. A Christian ought to
SERM. do good, though he should be only requited with ill; but if all men would resolve to be Christians in heart, then every man in particular would be a gainer. While I tried to serve my neighbour, my neighbour would be trying to serve me. The same principle would govern both; kindness would be repaid with kindness, friendship with friendship; my honesty and integrity would be his security, and his honesty and integrity mine; but if we will not govern ourselves by this principle, all is put out of order. When one man happens to act by another otherwise than a Christian should do, this second begins to waver also: one bad office is requited by another; and the first that goes astray, has the transgressions of both to answer for. Not that the latter is acquitted, but the first error is of so much more importance, as it operates to prevent and hinder the good intentions of others, and perhaps may be multiplied afterwards to the ruin and destruction of thousands. The true Christian, however, is bound to consider, that the laws of God are not to be set aside by the frowardness
of man. Perhaps it may seem to be a sort SERM. of defence dictated by nature, that we II. should retaliate injuries, and avenge ourselves. It would seem as if the holy Apostle, St. Paul, almost acknowledged this to be, if not natural, at least difficult to be resisted, because he has, in so strong terms, inculcated a different rule of conduct. He advises us to leave other men's actions to be judged by God, and have an eye only to "Be not wise in your own con"ceits;""recompense to no man evil for evil ;” provide things honest in the sight of all men ;" this is the surest ground to go upon; "and if it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men." This is not spoken like a teacher who knew nothing of the world he would seem from these very expressions to have known it full well. He probably knew that such is the wantonness of human nature, that oftentimes the best and quietest men are not suffered to live peaceably with those around them, without submitting more, than as men, is to be expected of them. He only exhorts us to do