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The righteous is more excellent than his neigh SERM.
bour', he is wiser, he is better, and he is XII.
bappier, and in the end he shall appear
much more distinguished in all these respects.
The text represents virtue in this imperfect
view, as pradifed by weak and frail mortals,
and therefore as far below that consummate
moral excellence, which shines in some
finite beings, not to speak of the fupreme;
nay, far below. what our own nature is.ca
pable of, and what the spirits of just men
made perfect have actually attained. Our
goodness here, the goodness of the sincercp
is not like the morning cloud that passeth an
way, but it is like the morning dawn which
is weak in its beginning, but gradually in
creases in brightness, till it arises to its me
ridian glory. The path of the just, even
the imperfectly.just, has a real, substantial ex-
cellence whereby it is essentially distinguished.
from the path of the wicked; they differ as
light and darkness, which are the moft oppo-
site to each other, and their difference is a
common proverbial description of things
most directly contrary, which can never be
reconciled or consist together, and which in
their kinds and qualities fet against each:
other, are the best and the worst, at least
Serm. very good and extremely bad. Thus Solomon XIL here speaks concerning the path of the just
and the wicked; the former, he says in the text, is as the shining lights and in the verse immediately following, the way of the wicked is as darkness.
My intention in this discourse is to con sider the beauty, dignity, and excellence of religious virtue in human characters, and actions, not only in general, but in the differences of its state, and the various steps of its progress, from its weak imperfect beginnings to its confummation. It is like the fhining light that shineth more and more to the perfe&t day. It is not necessary to describe the path of the just; it is nothing else but the practice of virtue, of moral piety, of righteousess, of temperance, and charity, which I suppose so far universally known, as to make the encomium Solomon gives it, that it is as the fining light, easily intelligible. Only let it be observed, that the whole of virtue is comprehended, and every effential branch of it must be reduced to practice in the path of the just. Philofophy itself determines, and it is plain to every one who at tentively considers it, that the virtues are in separable; at least, that no character can be
eminent for any one of them, which is de- SERM.
ftitute of the reft. Rigid justice will dege. XII.
nerate into cruelty, if it is not accompanied
with beneficence; and to both these, that
they may shine in any character constantly
and uniformly, must necessarily be added
temperance, or a steady self-dominion, a due
government over the appetites and passions:
But in such a state as that of the world is,
full of temptations, both blandishments and
terrors, none of all the virtues which have
been' named, can subsist without fortitude,
a firm inviolable resolution of cleaving to
what appears right and good, whatever
difficulties and dangers may attend it: And,
laftly, as all these are the qualities, the works,
or rational exercises of intelligent Beings,
not the result of mere instinct, but of calm
reflection; and, especially, as great regard
is to be had in them to a variety of external
circumstances, they must all of them be
conducted with prudence. But to us chrif-
tians the case is exceeding plain by the rule
of our religion, which is delivered in the
form of a law, containing short and plain
precepts enforced by proper sanctions, and
other motives. Will you meet with one
declaration in the bible which authorises you
SERM. toodetach a single wirtue, or ia few, from the XI. body, the system of virtues, and to make it
or those few the whole of your religion, fufficient to denominate you true christians, to satisfy the demand of
your profeffion, and entitle you to the rewards of chriftianistyd No, the contrary, is indeed exceedingly [clear, not one good morat quality or good i work is omitted or left, out of the religious character, or the path of the juft,g as itcris described in the word of God; but every branch of our duty to God, our fellow creatures and ourselves, is frequently inculcated, and strongly enforced. i. Sometimes we have the whole of our duty thrown tógether in Thort and beautiful: descriptions ; the bigh way of boliness, as the prophet * Isaiah calls it, exactly delineated'; zand every "road, that is, each particular virtue in the path of the just marked out to us. Thus we are told, that what God requires of us, is to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk bümbly with God ll. And St:4 Paul says, that the grace which hath appeored bringing salvation, teaches us to live foberly, and rightrously, and godly, in this present world. Will
2275 you II. xxxv, 8. # Mic, vi. 8. # Tit. I.
your then imagine, that to beijoft' in your SERM.
dealings with mankind, is fufficient to make XH.
you the true disciples of Jesus Chrift, and
give you confidence towards him, when he
Shall come to judge the world, while you
indulge yourselves in fome secret vices; con-
ccary to fobriety? Or, that freedom from
Ithefe, in conjunction with the other, will
abe sufficient, while the necessary offices of
moral piety are neglected? or will you on
the other hand think that to be devout, to
vabound in the instituted services of religion,
- is enough to the purposes of christianity,
2 while you are unrighteous and uncharitable?
No; this is not to be christians, this is not
izbe path of the juft, for it comprehends all
the parts of our duty. See what the apostle
St. James says expressly in the second chapter
oof his epistle, and 10th verse : Whosoever
z fhall keep the whole-law, and yet offend in one
e point-(habitually, or wilfully and deliberate-
šly) bets guilty of all.i'
Having made this remark, which I
thought neceffary, to give us a true idea of
- the path of the just, that is, of religious
| virtue, as it is exemplified in human cha-
palters, or, as it is reduced to practice by
men having infirmity, which, tho’ it be