« הקודםהמשך »
nanimity and elevation of soul. It is far more glorious and more difficult to subdue our own resentments, and to act with generosity and kindness to our adversary, than to make him feel the severest effects of our vengeance. It is this noblest act of self-government, this quest over our strongest passions, which our Saviour here requires. It is what constitutes the highest perfection of our nature: and it is this perfection which is meant in the concluding verse of this chapter; « Be
therefore perfect, as your Father which is in heaven is perfect*;" that is, in your conduct towards your
enemies approach as near as you are able to that perfection of mercy your heavenly Father manifests towards his enemies, towards the evil and the unjust, on whom he maketh his sun to rise as well as on the righteous and the just. This sense of the word perfect is established beyond controversy by the parallel passage in St. Luke: where, instead of the terms made use of by St. Matthew, “ Be ye therefore perfect, as your Father which is in heaven is perfect,"
* Matth.v. 48.
the evangelist expressly says, “ Be ye therefore merciful, as your Father also is merciful*".
This then is the perfection which you are to exert your utmost efforts to attain : and if you succeed in your attempt, your reward shall be great indeed; you shall, as our Lord assures you, be the children of the Most Hight:
HAVING now brought these Lectures to a conclusion for the present year, I cannot take my leave of you without expressing the great comfort and satisfaction I have derived from the appearance of such numerous and attentive congregations as I have seen in this place. That satisfaction, if I can at all judge of my own sentiments and feelings, does not originate from any selfish gratification, but from the real interest I take in the welfare, the eternal welfare, of every one here present; from the hope I entertain that some useful impressions may have been made upon your minds; and from the evidence which this general earnestness to hear the word of God explained and recommended affords, that a deeper sense of duty, a more serious attention
* Luke vi. 36. + Matih. v. 45.
to the great concerns of eternity, has, by the blessing of God, been awakened in your souls
. If this be so, állow me'most earnestly to entreat you not to let this ardour cool;' not to let these pious sentiments die away; not to let these good seeds he choked by the returning cares and pleasures of the world. But go, retire into your closets, fall down upon your knees before
Maker, ard fervently implore him to
upon you the over-ruling influences of his Holy Spirit; to enlighten your understandings, to sanctify your hearts, to subdue your passions, to confirm your good resolutions, and enable you to resist every enemy of your salvation.
The world will soon again display all its attractions before you, and endeavour to extinguish every good principle you have imbibed. . But if the divine truths you have heard explained and enforced in these Lectures have taken
any firm root in your minds; if you are seriously convinced that Christ and his religión came from heaven, and that he is able to make good whatever he has promised and whatever he has threatened, there is nothing surely in this world that can induce you to risque the loss of eternal happiness, or the infliction of never-ceasing punishment.
Least of all will you think that this is the precise moment for setting your affections on this world and its enjoyments; that these are the times for engaging in
eager pursuits after the advantages, the honours, the pleasures, of the present life; for plunging into vice, for dissolving in gaiety and pleasure, for suffering every trivial, every insignificant object, to banish the remembrance of
your Maker and Redeemer from your hearts, where they ought to reign unrivalled and supreme. Surely amidst the dark clouds that now hang over us *, these are not the things that will brighten up our prospects, that will lessen our danger, that will calm our apprehensions, and speak peace and comfort to our souls. No, it must be something of a very different nature; a deep sense of our own unworthiness, a sincere contrition for our past offences, a prostration of ourselves in all humility before the throne of Grace, an earnest application for pardon and acceptance through the merits of him who died for us (whose death
* In March 1798.
and sufferings for our sakes the approaching week will bring fresh before our view), an ardent desire to manifest our love and gratitude, our devotion and attachment to our Maker and our Redeemer, by giving them a decided priority and predominance in our affections and our hearts; by making their will the ruling principle of our conduct; the attainment of their favour, the advancement of their glory, the chief object of our wishes and desires. These are the sentiments we ought to cultivate and cherish if we wish for
solid comfort under calamity or affliction, any confidence in the favour and protection of Heaven; these alone can support and sustain our souls in the midst of danger and distress, at the hour of death, and in the day of judgment.
And how then are these holy sentiments, these heavenly affections to be excited in our hearts? Most certainly not by giving up all our time and all our thoughts to the endless occupations, the never-ceasing gaieties and amusements of this dissipated metropolis ; but by withdrawing ourselves frequently from this tumultuous scene, by retiring into our cham-. VOL. I.