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all nations and in all places.
A few men of influence
in every nation govern the nation. A few men of influence in every state govern the state. A few men of influence in every town govern the town. And a few men of influence in every society govern the society. The men of influence possess a great and dangerous talent. And if they duly considered the great account which they must hereafter give for their use of it, they would be more solicitous to improve, than to increase their influence. Men of influence are under the highest obligations to set good examples. And they ought to esteem it a privilege, when a fair opportunity opens, to throw the weight of their example into the scale of virtue. This frequently happens in all places. It now happens in this. Let me ask then, Why some in this place have neglected to unite their influence with that of others, for the reformation of morals? Can you answer it to God, if you continue practically to oppose the virtuous, and to countenance the vicious? You may choose to be neuters, but neuters you cannot be, either in the view of God or man. Your neglect is an example, and an example which has great influence-not to promote, but to prevent a reformation of morals.
7. From the great influence of example, we learn how easy it is, to effect a reformation of morals among any people. Example alone will do it. This is a very easy and unexceptionable way. If men of influence among any people, would only set good examples themselves, they would insensibly and gradually promote a reformation of morals. There is a few in every town and parish, who carry the power of reformation in their own conduct. Let them but uniformly conduct worthy of imitation, and others will voluntarily and cheerfully tread in their steps. This may be illustrated by the article of dress. Let the wealthiest per
sons in this place, only agree to wear their own manufactures, and strictly conform to their agreement, and they would soon establish the fashion of wearing our own manufactures here. Not the example of neighboring towns, not the example of Boston, nay, not the example of all the world besides, would be sufficient to destroy the influence of the leading men in this place. Every society are independent in regard to their own customs and fashions, and always submit to the example of a few leading characters among themselves, in those particular points. This is exemplified by the sect called the Friends. Not that I would recommend them as perfect patterns of dress. They doubtless go to an extreme in singularity. But certainly any people might avoid the extravagance of fashion, as well as they can avoid all the varieties of it. The youth in this place, are not so much governed, in their fashions, by the example of other places, as by the example of a few in this. If this few, therefore, would set a good example, in this respect, they would easily bring into discredit and dis use many superfluities and fopperies of dress, which begin to increase and prevail.
And what has been said respecting the extravagance of fashions, will equally apply to any other vice or immorality. Example alone would suppress it. The example of a few in this place, would reform the vices which begin to prevail among us. We have the power of reformation in our own hands. And this power might be exerted without the least offence or expense, and with all desirable success. How inexcuseable, therefore, must those be, who neglect to pursue this easy and effectual mode of reformation!
8. If the force of example be so great as we have represented, then it certainly concerns reformers in particular, to set good examples. This is the principal
method, by which they can reach their desired purpose. And the want of their own good examples will effectually frustrate all other methods they can possibly use, for the reformation of morals. The eyes of all will be upon their conduct. If they act up to their profession, it will give energy both to their profession, and to all their exertions, for the suppression of vice. They must cast the beam out of their own eye, before they offer to cast the mote out of another's eye. They must heal themselves before they attempt to heal others. In all their attempts for a reformation, they must act under the shield of their own bright example. With this armor, they may safely attack the strong holds of vice, and bid defiance to all the impotent arrows of obloquy and reproach. They must set an example of all virtue; but especially of those particular virtues, which stand in opposition to the particular vices, which they wish to reform. And here, I beg leave to mention a few examples, which it highly concerns them to exhibit.
Punctuality is a virtue of great importance in soci ety; and the want of it is a source of innumerable disadvantages and embarrassments. One small disappointment may prove the occasion of twenty or fif ty great ones. Let reformers to cure this evil, observe the strictest punctuality in all their promises and appointments.
The due observation of the Sabbath greatly tends to promote Christian knowledge, piety, and virtue among a people. And this duty is more promoted by the law of example, than by any other law. People in general govern their conduct on the Sabbath, not according to the word of God, or the law of the land, but according to the law of example. They mean to attend public worship every Sabbath, if they see those above them, attend it every Sabbath. They mean to
attend public worship both parts of the day, if they see those above them, attend it both parts of the day. They mean to take their places in the house of God, before public exercises begin, if they see those above them set them the example. They mean, after public worship is over, to visit their own habitations, and spend the remainder of the day in retirement, if they observe this to be the practice of their superiors in age, knowledge, and reputation. Let reformers, therefore, remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy, and, by their own example, restrain others from the outward profanation of it.
The wise and profitable improvement of time, is the best antidote against sinful diversions. The habit of industry destroys the habit of idleness, and when the habit of idleness is destroyed, the propensity to vain and sinful diversions is cured. Hence Paul, to cure the Thessalonians of their idle habits, made himself an ensample of industry. Let reformers, therefore, follow his example, that theirs may restrain others from idleness and vanity.
It is the very business of reformers to employ the power of laws in their service. They ought to improve the advantage, which our great and wise men have put into their hands. They ought to display the same virtue in executing, which was displayed in framing the laws against vice. And to encourage you in the prosecution of your duty, I have a right to observe, that some of you have already set a good example, and merited the public approbation. Be not weary in well doing, but persevere in every laudable method for the suppression of vice. You have every possible motive to animate you in your arduous, but noble undertaking. For the approbation of God, the applause of the virtuous, and the gratitude of the reformed, will be your sure and ample reward. AMEN.
Delivered September 2, 1793, to the Society for the Reformation of Morals, in Franklin.
2 KINGS V, 18.
-The Lord pardon thy servant in this thing.
THESE are the words of Naaman, the Syrian, on a very remarkable occasion. He had just been miraculously cured of his leprosy, by washing seven times in Jordan, at the direction of Elisha. Though at first he despised this simple remedy, yet when he found that it had completely removed his loathsome disease, he altered his opinion of the prophet, and wished to reward him amply for his kindness, Accordingly "he returned from Jordan to the man of God, he and all his company, and came, and stood before him: And he said, behold, now I know there is no God in all the earth but in Israel: Now therefore I pray thee, take a blessing of thy servant. But he said, As the Lord liveth, before whom I stand, I will receive none. And he urged him to take it; but he refused. And Naaman said, Shall there not then I pray thee, be given to thy servant two mules burden of earth? For thy servant will henceforth offer neither burnt-offering nor sacrifice unto other gods, but unto the Lord. In this thing the Lord pardon thy servant, that when my master goeth into the house of Rimmon to worship there, and he leaneth on my hand, and I bow myself in the house of Rimmon; when I bow down myself in the house of Rimmon, the Lord pardon thy servant in this thing."
Naaman was a great and valiant general, who had commanded the armies of the king of Syria, and de