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is, there are not wanting instances of exemplary pie. ty, in every station of life ; not only in the middle, the lower, and the higher, but in the highest of all. While piety shines, as it now does, from the Throne ; while it has the beam of Majesty to adorn it ; let none of the subjects fail in copying the pattern: and while we meet together in this place, let us remember, that many who have worshipped, in times past, within these walls, are now in the Higher House, in the Church of the First-born, in the Assembly of Angels, and in that Temple where the beatific prefence of the Lord displays his glory, in a manner which it hath not entered into the heart of man to conceive. SE R M ON
Rom. xii. 11.
--Fervent in spirit; serving the Lord.
THE manners of mankind are perpetually varying. Two nations differ not more from one another, than the same nation differs from itself, at different periods of society. This change of customs and manners has given rise to two opinions, both of them generally received, and both of them founded on mistake. These are, that we are always improving upon our ancestors in art and in science, and always degenerating from them in religion and morals. When we talk of any work of ingenuity or of industry, composed or performed by our forefathers, from the highest liberal science, to the lowest mechanic art, if we allow it any praise at all, our panegyric runs in this style: “ It is very well for “the time in which it was done.” On the other hand, we always allow our ancestors the preference in virtue. For these five thousand years past, the philosophers and moralists of every nation have extolled the times of antiquity, and decried the age in which they lived, as the worst that ever was known. “ These wicked times;” “ This degenerate age,' are phrases that have rung in the public ear almost since the general deluge. The ages of antiquity are always ages of gold; the present always an age of iron. . The origin of these opinions I take to be this. As customs and manners are perpetually fluctuating, the reigning mode is always reckoned the best, because they have no other standard but fashion. But fashion is not the standard of morals. The hand of the Almighty hath written the moral law, the standard of virtue, upon the living tablets of every human heart. Here then the standard is fixed and eternal. Accordingly, as quite a different set of virtues and vices prevail in one age, from what prevail in another ; as we are naturally disposed to bury the faults of our forefathers in oblivion; as we insensibly contract a veneration for whatever is great in antiquity; hence arises the opinion, that the virtues of a former age are greater than those of a following one. We think we degenerate from our fathers, because we differ from them. But were I to pronounce of the times in which we live, I would say that the present age is not inferior in virtue to the past. We have improved upon our ancestors in humanity, charity and benevolence; we have exchanged the rage and rancour of animals of prey, for the meek and gentle spirit of the dove. The gall of afps is transform- . ed into the milk of human kindness. Great and enormous crimes are less frequent than they have been ; we are better members of society, bettet neighbours, better friends than our ancestors were. People of different opinions and feats in religion, who fome hundred years ago would have been putting one another to death, now live together in amity and peace.
our ancestors were, that our zeal for the honor of God, and the interests of religion, shines with a brighter lustre, and burns with a purer flame. But alas ! my brethren, I must here change my strain. Your own eyes, your own hearts, will tell you the dismal truth. Is it not a deplorable fact, that instead of being fervent in spirit to serve the Lord, an indif. ference about religion almost universally prevails ? The very face of seriousness is banished from society, and were it not for this day, on which we afsemble together to worship the God of our fathers, the very form of godliness would be exterminated from the earth.
To induce you to the practice of devotion, it is proposed, in the first place, To illustrate the importance and the advantage of serving the Lord; and, in the second place, To explain and to enforce, with a few arguments, the duty of serving the Lord with fervency of spirit.
In the firA place, let us consider the importance and the advantage of serving the Lord.
We are urged to the practice of some virtues, by our strong sense of their inviolable obligation ; we are allured to the love of others, by the high approbation of their native beauty, which arises in every well-disposed mind; we are engaged to the performance of others, by our experience of their utility and influence upon the public good. Piety is equally enforced in all these respects. Its obligation is indifpensable ; its beauty is supreme, and its utility is universal. It is not so much a single virtue, as a constellation of virtues. Here reverence, gratitude, faith, hope, love, concentre their rays, and shine with
united glory. Whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are pure, are honest, or of good report; if there be any merit, any praise in human action, piety comprehends the whole. There is not a disposition of the mind which is more noble in itself, or is attended with greater pleasure than piety. It is accompanied with such inward satisfaction, that the duty is sufficiently rewarded by the performance ; and it hath such true grandeur in it, that when duly performed, it exalts us to a state but little lower than the angels. The most illiterate man, under the impressions of true devotion, and in the immediate acts of divine worship, contracts a greatness of mind that raises him above his equals. Thereby, says an admired ancient, we build a nobler temple to the Deity than creation can present.
Piety is adapted to the notions of happiness and chief good which all men entertain, although these notions were as various in themselves as the theories of philosophers have been about their object. If we are actuated by the mild and gentle affections, lovers of nature, willing to retire from the bustle of the world, and to steal through the vale of life with as little noise, and as much peace as possible, religion fanctifies our choice, and doubles all the joys of life with the peace of heaven. Are we lovers of society, delighting to enlarge the sphere of our acquaintance in the world, and to cultivate universal friendship with all ranks and degrees of men ? Here too, religion befriends us, as it unites all men under one common interest, that of being probationers for eternity. Are we ambitious of fame and honor among men? This is indeed the universal pallion. Nothing more