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And this, in a
of the virtuous to divide the vicious. mult tude of instances, may be easily done. The beginnings of vice are weak and timid. There are many, who, for a time, halt between two opinions, and stand in doubt which of two paths to pursue. These, by wise and prudent measures, may be easily detached from the veterans in vice, and deterred from the paths of the destroyer.
4. We learn from what has been said, that there is nothing more criminal, than the approving and the supporting of sinful customs. It is a sin against God. It is a sin against man. And it is a sin against every person's own conscience. But the great and visible evils which flow from this sin, are the great and visible aggravations of it. Men may do much more mischief to the world, and much more injury to the cause of God, by approving and supporting, than by actual. ly pursuing sinful customs. A sober, regular man, who avoids sinful customs himself, may do ten times more to spread and continue sinful customs, than the most artful and profligate wretch. And were it not for the countenance and support of such apparently sober, virtuous, and religious persons, all sinful customs would every where become contemptible. This is the case of all practices, which no sober, honest, virtuous man approves. Thus, for instance, stealing is universally contemptible. The reason is, all sober, honest, good men, hold this vice in perfect abhorrence. And did all such men refuse their countenance and support to sinful customs, they would equally sink into universal contempt. Therefore, to approve and support sinful customs is one of the greatest of all sins.
5. We learn from what has been said, that it is utterly in vain for any to pretend to excuse themselves from opposing sinful customs. It is in vain to say,
that they desire to be excused. It is in vain to say, that it will expose them to reproach and contempt. It is in vain to say, that it does not belong to them to make the attempt. It is in vain to say, that it will do no good to make the attempt. It is in vain to say, that others neglect this duty. It is, in short, in vain to say a single word, by way of excuse. For there is no excuse, which either God, or Christ, or sinners, or their own consciences will accept. Hence,
6. This subject calls upon every person to oppose all customs, which he believes to be sinful. Men, as we have observed, may differ in their judgment of certain customs. But every man ought to oppose such customs as he believes to be sinful. And does not every person believe, that there are some sinful customs in this place?
Is not encroaching upon the Sabbath, a sinful custom? Is not profaning the Sabbath, a sinful custom? Is not profane swearing, a sinful custom? Is not gaming, a sinful custom? Is not frolicing, a sinful custom? Is not the custom, which has no name in the Dictionary, but which is commonly called bundling, a sinful custom? Is not drinking to excess, a sinful custom? Is not extravagance in dress, a sinful custom? Is not the neglect of family devotion, a sinful custom? Is not the neglect of family government, a sinful cus tom? Is not the neglect of executing good laws, a sinful custom? Now let me ask, Do not all these sinful customs abound in this land? And do not many of them, at least, abound in this place? If they do, it concerns all, according to their various ages, relations, and stations, to exert their power and influence, in opposing such sinful and destructive customs. In particular.
Ministers of the gospel ought to discountenance all prevailing vices. Though men differ in their opinions, what doctrines Ministers ought to preach and oppose, yet all are agreed, that they ought to preach all the civil, social, moral virtues; and to condemn and oppose every custom, which tends to destroy, or even weaken their happy influence.
Civil rulers ought to be the fathers of the'r people, and the guardians of their virtues, as well as of their rights and privileges. They are appointed to be a terror to evil doers; and to employ the authority with which they are vested, in opposing and restraining sinful customs. And if they neglect their duty in this respect, they will deserve the character, and contract the guilt of Jeroboam, the son of Nebat, who made Israel to sin.
Professors of religion are bound, by the most solemn obligations, not only to depart from all iniquity themselves, but to rise up for God against evil doers, and to stand up for him against the workers of iniquity. Instead of being conformed to the spirit of the world, they ought to be totally opposed to it; and by their example and influence, oppose all sinful cus
Those who have engaged to oppose sinful customs, have laid themselves under peculiar, additional obligations, to attempt, and, if possible, to bring about a reformation of morals. They have acknowledged this to be their duty, and have pledged their reputation to be faithful. They cannot turn to the right hand or to the left; they must pursue the path they have chosen, and, with unremitting ardor, prosccute the benevolent design, they have so nobly undertaken. Having out their hand to the plough, they must never look back.
Those who have not engaged to oppose sinful customs, are under indispensable obligations to engage. Their duty does not depend on their inclination. If they desire to be excused, they cannot be excused. Their very desire is sinful, and instead of atoning their negligence, betrays and aggravates their guilt. They may think themselves wise in declining to oppose sinful customs. But their wisdom is from below, and deserves all the epithets, which the Apostle has justly given it. They have excused themselves, but God has not excused them. And they are entreated to remember, that if they continue to neglect opposing sinful customs, sinful customs will oppose them, and prove their future and everlasting ruin.
If any who are well disposed and wish to do their duty, should here ask what they must do to oppose sinful customs, it is easy to give them a number of directions, which being faithfully followed will insure
1. Avoid all sinful customs yourselves. you see others pursuing them, never join with them, but practically condemn their sin and folly.
2. Establish good customs. This you may do, as well as others can establish evil ones. And this is one of the most effectual means of destroying sinful customs. Many fall into evil habits, simply because good ones are exhibited before them. And many who have addicted themselves to sinful customs may be reclaimed by the good examples of others.
3. Execute good laws. Our wisest and best politicians have been thoroughly convinced of the pernicious tendency of vice, and to prevent its baleful influence, have enacted a variety of laws to restrain men from vicious customs. These laws you have a right to see well executed. And it is your duty to
appoint good executive officers, and to insist upon their faithfully discharging their trust.
4. Realize your obligations to God. It lies not at your option, whether you shall oppose sinful customs. God demands this at your hands. And you must soon give account before his awful bar, whether you have employed your talents, your opportunities, and your obligations for him, or against him; and whether the world has been the better or the worse, by your living in it. Let the fear of God be in your hearts, and you shall escape that dreadful snare, the fear of man. AMEN.