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self-examination, superficial as it is, preparatory to the Lord's supper, may at some time or other lead you into reflections more deep and serious. : Possibly, the sermons, which you now attend only to satisfy some transient emotions of conscience, may in the end arouse your consciences effectually.
III. Smäll duties compensate by their repetition, for what is wanting to their importance. We are not called every day to make great sacrifices to order ; we are seldom required to set up the standard of the cross in barbarous climes, to sound the gospel to the ends of the world, and to accomplish the promises made to Jesus Christ, that he should have the heathen for his inheritance; and the uttermost parts of the earth for his possession, Psal. ii. 8. Seldom are we called to dare executioriers, to triumph in cruel sufferings and death, to confess Christ amidst fires and flames. We are rarely called to the great actions that make heroes; to die for our neighbours ; to sacrifice ourselves for the public good; and to devote ourselves for our country:
If we are seldom required to perform great duties, thanks be to God! we are seldom tempted to commit great crimes, to deceive a friend, to betray a trust, to reveal a state-secret, to make a sale of justice, to perplex truth, of to persecute innocence. But in what moment of each day do we not meet with opportunities to commit little sins, and to perform duties of comparatively small importance ?
Are you confined at home? You have little inconveniences to suffer, little perverse humours to bear with, little provocations to impatience to resist, little disgusts to endure.
Are you in company? You have a few captious tempers to manage, idle reports to discountenance, a few pernicious maxims to combat, profane actions to censuré, sometimes you are obliged to resist iniquity boldly, and at other times to affect to tolerate it, in order to obtain an opportunity to oppose it on a future opportunity with greater probability of success.
Do you prosper? What a source of little duties is prospetity, if we sincerely love virtne? And what a source of little sins, if we are not always guarded against temptations to vice? Now a little air of self-sufficiency inclines to solitude, then a little eagerness to shine impels to society. Here a little necessary expence must be incurred, there ano, ther expence must be avoided. Here something is due to VOL. IV. H
rank, and must be observed, there rank would be disgraced, and something must be omitted.
Are you in adversity, under misfortunes, or sickness. How many miserable comforters? How many disgustful remedies ? What intolerable wearinesses ? So many articles, so many occasions to perforın little duties, and to commit little sins.
Opportunities to commit little sins return every day, I may almost say, every moment of every day. A little sin is a little poison, slow indeed, but continually insinuating itself into the soul, till by degrees it issues in death. A man who does not watch against little sins, is liable to provoke God as often as an occasion to commit them presents itself. On the contrary, a man, who makes conscience of practising little duties as well as great ones, finds every day, and every moment, opportunities of giving God proofs of his love. He hath not only a religion of times and circumstances, which is sometimes justly suspected: but a religion of influence, that diffuseth itself into every part of his life. There is not a moment, in which he doth not make some progress in his heavenly course. By his attention to every little duty, he discharges the greatest of all duties, that which St. Paul prescribes to all christians, Whether ye eat or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God, 1 Cor. x. 31. He is an exact imitator of Jesus Christ, the author and finisher of his faith, who went about doing good, Heb. xii. 2. like him he can say, I have set the Lord always before me, because he is at my right hand I shall never be moved, Psal. xvi. 8. Had I not reason to affirm, that little duties compensate, by the frequency of their return, for what is wanting to constitute their importance ?
IV. Our third reflection leads us to a fourth. Little du, ties have sometimes characters more evident of real love to God, than the most important duties have. If hypocrisy, if false ideas of religion, sometimes produce little duties, it must be also allowed, that secular motives, interest and vain glory, sometimes give birth to great exploits. Pride without any mixture of love to order, is sometimes sufficient to engage us to make those great sacrifices, of which we just now spoke. Sometimes nothing but an extreme and refined attachment to virtue can animate us to perform littlę duties. There is soinetimes more genuine benevolence in accepting such tokens of gratitude as a poor man gives for a favour conferred on him, than in conferring the favour itself. There is sometimes more humility in receiving the praise from a man, whose esteem flatters our vanity a little, than in refusing to hear it. After all, though the love of God differs in inany respects from mere worldly esteem, yet there are some resemblances. We often think ourselves obliged to render considerable services to people, for whom we have no great regard: but it is only for such as we hold in the highest veneration, that we feel certain little attachments, certain little attentions, certain solicitudes, which indeed, are called little in usual phrase, but which are strong demonstrations of the tender sentiments of the soul. It is just the same with divine love. But this is one of those truths of sentiment and experience, which each of you may understand better by consulting the history of his own life, and by watching the motions of his own heart, than by attending to our syllogisms and discussions.
Perhaps you may imagine God cannot, without debasing his Majesty, cast his eyes on those insignificant actions, which we are recommending to you. But, undeceive yourselves. What could be less considerable than those two mites, which the poor widow in the gospel cast into the treasury? Mark xii. 42. Yet we know what Jesus Christ thought of that action. What service less considerable could be rendered Jesus Christ just before his death than to pour ointment on his head? The apostles had indignation within themselves at this unseasonable ceremony, chap. xiv. 3, &c. They were angry with the woman for diverting the attention of Jesus Christ from those great objects, with which his whole soul had been filled. But he reproved them. Why trouble ye the woman? said he. She hath performed an action worthy of emulation. Verily I say unto you, teheresoever this gospel shall be preached throughout the whole world, this also that she hath done shall be spoken of, for a memorial of her. What can be less considerable in it self than a cup of cold water? Yet Jesus Christ promises to reward even this with eternal life, when it is given from a principle of real piety. We said before, my brethren, and allow us to repeat it again, in a religion of love, whatever proceeds from a principle of love hath an intrinsic value.
I unite now the subjects of both the discourses, which I have addressed to you, on the words of my text, and, by collecting both into one point of view, I ask, What idea ought you to form of a religion, which exhibits a morality so pure and complete? What idea of the preaching of those ministers, who are called to instruct you in it? What idea of the engagements of such disciples as profess to submit to the discipline of it?
What įdea ought you to form of a țeligion, that prescribes a morality so pure and complete? The christian religion requires each of us to form, as well as he can, just notions of primitive law; to observe all the consequences ; and to place each virtue, that proceeds from primitive right, in its just order ; to give the first rank to those virtues, which immediately proceed from it, and the second to those, which proceed from it mediately, and remotely. Christianity requires us to regulate our application to each virtue by the place, which each occupies in this scale; to set no bounds to the loving of that God, whose perfections are infinite; to entertain only a limited esteem for finite creatures; to engage our senses in devout exercises, but to take care that they are held under government by our minds ; to șing the praises of the Lord with our voices, but animated with our affections; in short, to look toward heaven, but to let inward fervour produce the emotion, determine the direction, and fix the
eye. How amiable would society be, if they, who compose it, were all followers of this religion! How happy would it be to make treaties, to form alliances, to unite ourselves by the most affectionate and indissoluble ties to men inviolably attached to this religion ! Had not God shaken nature and subverted kingdoms, or, in the language of a prophet, had he not shaken the heavens, and ihe earth, and the sea, and the dry land, Hag. ji. 6. to establish this religion in the world, yet it ought to be held in the highest estimation for its own intrinsic worth. How can we help being filled with indignation at those abominable men, who, in spite of all the demonstrations of the divine origin of this religion, place their glory in weakening its empire over the heart?
2. But if you form such noblę ideas of a religion, the morality of which is so extensive and so pure, what ideas ought you to form of the preaching of those, who are appointed to instruct you in it? Which way, think you, ought they to bend their force ? What kind of questions ought they to propose in the christian pulpit'? Under what point of view ought they to consider the texts, which make the matter of their discourses? Are they required to excite your astonishment by flights of imagination, or to gratify.
your curiosity by a display of their profound erudition? Does not their office rather require them to employ all the times you allow them, to free you from your prejudices, to take of those scales from your eyes, which prevent your perceiving the things which belong unto your everlasting peace, Luke xix. 42. and to give you such directions as you may follow, as far as can be in the tumult of the world, whither either your inclinations or your necessities call you?
My brethren, while I was meditating on my text, two methods of discussing it presented themselves to my mind.
Following the first of these plans, I divided my discourse into three parts, according to the three parts, that is, the three different herbs mentioned in the text. Each of these parts I subdivided into three more. First, I examined the force, the signification, and the derivation of the original term, and I inquired whether the word were rightly rendered mint. I quoted various opinions on this subject, for interpreters are very much divided about it. According to the Ethiopick version Jesus Christ spoke of hyssop, and according to other versions some other plant. Secondly, I examined the nature, the uses, the properties of the herb, to which I had restored the true name, and here I heaped up a great number of passages from Aristotle, Pliny, Solinus, Salmasius, and many other authors, who have rendered themselves famous by this kind of erudition. Thirdly, having studied mint as a critic, and as a naturalist, I proceeded at length to examine it as a divine. I inquired why God demanded tithe of this lierb. Perhaps, thought I, here may be some mystery in this affair. I say perhaps, for I acknowledge myself a mere novice in this science, as in a great many others. However, there may be some mysteries in this offering. I was certain, if imagination supplied the place of reason, and flights of fancy were put instead of facts, it would not be impossible to find mysteries here. If this herb be sweet, said I, it may represent the sweetness of mercy; if it be bitter, it may signify the bitterness of justice. If Jesus Christ meant hyssop, as some think, it was that very herb, of which the famous bunch was made, that was dipped in the blood of sparrows at the purification of lepers. What mysteries! What I had done with mint under the first head, I did over again under the second article anise, and the same over again under the third head cummin. This was my first plan of discussion.
The second method was that which I have chosen. In a former discourse on this text we endeavoured to convince