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Disappointed as I found myself in the information proposed from my visit, I could not but be thankful for my neighbour's candour; and finding my anxiety increase rather than diminish, in desires after the attainment of something, which I knew not by what term to distinguish; I thought it might be right to follow up my neighbour's advice; and accordingly, on the next Sunday, I went to hear
THE MORAL PREACHER.
He took his text from the prophecy of Micah, chap. vi. ver. 8. •He hath showed thee, O man, what is good. And what doth the Lord require of thee, but to do justly and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God.' I felt much pleasure in the very idea of the subject proposed from this text of scripture, the moment it was mentioned ; and therefore listened with the more attention, in order to discover some leading points, which might be brought forward to give me comfort. The substance of the preacher's sermon, when separated from the flowery ornaments of it, was directed to show, that the path to happiness was set before every one; that God had shown man what was good; and that it was man's own fault if he did not follow it; that what the Lord required, was nothing harsh, or unreasonable, or difficult ; but the plain, easy, self-rewarding virtues of moral obligation. And that if, in addition to the line of doing justly, the circumstances favoured the love of mercy, in relieving the wants of the wretched, where ability reached, anddropping over them the tear of sympathy where it did not; and instead of studying to'be wise alove what is written, respecting Divine things, to walk humbly with GOD;' these made up the sum and substance of all moral and religious concerns.
"Well, Sir, cried my neighbour, (who had attended also the church that morning, and was coming out of the porch at the same mo. ment with myself,)-well, Sir, what are your sentiments now? I hope our worthy Vicar has fully satisfied
your mind.'-And this, he said loud enough to be heard by those around, and with that kind of triumph which a man feels when he fancies he has fully established an opinion long disputed.
It is my mercy,' replied a poor man, (who overheard my neighbour's observation,) that I have not so learned Christ.' God hath indeed shown me what is good ; and could I look up and say that I have followed it, all might be
well. But, alas! I have sinned and come short of the glory of GOD. I know not what others feel : but I am free to confess, that in many instances which my recollection now reproaches me with, and others, no doubt, which my treacherous heart hath long since forgotten; I have neither done justly, loved mercy, nor walked humbly with my GOD.'
'Though I have reason to be very thankful, that God's preventing and restraining grace hath kept me from the more open and flagrant acts of injustice ; yet I am conscious that selflove and self-interest have betrayed me into the doing of many things, which would not bear to be ascertained by the strict equilibrium of a standard of justice, which admits no partiality. I am no less convinced also that in speaking, I llave committed, on numberless occasions, a * breach of that golden rule of justice, which forbids reporting to another's injury, what, in similar circumstances, I should have thought wrong to have had spoken of myself. And from the imagination of man's heart, which scripture declares to be only evil continually, I am persuaded that, in thinking, many unkind thoughts have arisen in my mind against my neighbour', which become a violation of that law of charity which thinketh no evil. I dare not, therefore, whatever others may do I dare not risk the final decision of my everlasting welfare on the point of doing justly.
• Neither under the condition of loving mer. cy, can I find greater confidence. For I discover in my nature, anger, resentment, pride, and the like corrupt passions; which, in spite of all my endeavours to suppress them, like the eruptions of a volcano, which plainly bespeak the 'heat within from the lava thrown without, too clearly testify that the love of mercy is not the ruling passion! and therefore never to be estimated by the few casual acts of alms-giving, which, if the heart would be faithful to acknowledge, are sometimes more the result of pride, than the pure effect of real love and charity.
I blush at the bare mention of walking humbly with GOD, in the recollection how often my rebellious heart hath risen, and is continually rising, in opposition to His government and authority. Fretful and impatient under the slightest afflictions ; unthankful for the greatest mercies.; and thougb desiring in my daily prayer, that his will may be done, frequently wishing it may not; and even displeased if it be, when it thwarts my own !Can ,such a creature be said to walk humbly with his GOD?'
My neighbour listened to the poor man's observations, and when he had finished, walked away without making a reply. For my part, though it appeared that his reasoning was conclusive, and unanswerable, yet I ventured to say, "If this be the state of the case, what becomes of the morality of the Christian Reli gion ; and in what sense are we to accept the Sermon on the Mount, with which the Great Author of it opened his commission ?'
• The morality of the Christian religion, (reliplied the poor man,) stands where it ever stood, upon its own fixed and immoveable basis; and
sooner shall Heaven and earth pass, than one jot or tittle of the Law shall fail.' God doth not lose his authority to command, because man hath lost his power to obey. The creditor foregoes not the right to his just due, because the debtor is become insolvent. By the Law is the knowledge of sin*' Hence the Great Author of the Christian system opened his commission with the promulgation of this law, that its unalterable, unaccommodating terms might ever stand in the front of his Gospel; and the man that doeth them shall live in themfi'. If, therefore, any man can appeal to this standard of decision ; can look up with an uncovered, un
• Rom. iii. 20. Gal. ii. 12.