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choose out for every station under him such persons as are most likely to be kept in awe by religion, but likewise to carry some appearance of it himself, or else he is a very weak politician. And accordingly, in any country where great persons affect to be open despisers of religion, their counsels will be found at last to be fully as destructive to the state as to the church.
It was the advice of Jethro to his son-in-law Moses, to “ provide able men, such as fear God, men of truth, hating covetousness,” and to place such over the people; and Moses, who was as wise a statesman at least as any in this age, thought fit to follow that advice. Great abilities, without the fear of God, are most dangerous instruments, when they are trusted with power. The laws of man have thought fit, that those who are called to any office of trust, should be bound by an oath to the faithful discharge of it; but an oath is an appeal to God, and therefore can have no influence, except upon those who believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of those that seek him, and a punisher of those who disobey him: and therefore, we see, the laws themselves are forced to have recourse to conscience in these cases, because their penalties cannot reach the arts of cunning men, who can find ways to be guilty of a thousand injustices without being discovered, or at least without being punished. And the reason why we find so many frauds, abuses, and corruptions where any trust is conferred, can be no other, than that there is so little conscience and religion left in the world; or at least that men, in their choice of instruments, have private ends in view, which are very different from the service of the public, Besides, it is certain, that
men who profess to have no religion, are full as zealous to bring over proselytes, as any papist or fanatic can be. And therefore, if those who are in station high enough to be of influence or example to others; if those (I say) openly profess a contempt or disbelief of religion, they will be sure to make all their dependants of their own principles; and what security can the public expect from such persons, whenever their interests, or their lusts, come into competition with theirduty? It is very possible for a man, who hath the appearance of religion, and is a great pretender to conscience, to be wicked and a hypocrite; but it is impossible for a man, who openly declares against religion, to give any reasonable security that he will not be false, and cruel, and corrupt, whenever a temptation offers which he values more than he does the power wherewith he was trust ed. And if such a man doth not betray his caus and his master, it is only because the temptation was not properly offered, or the profit was too small, or the danger was too great. And hence it is, that we find so little truth or justice among us: because there are so very few, who, either in the service of the public, or in common dealings with each other, do ever look farther than their own advantage, and how to guard themselves against the laws of the country; which a man may do by favour, by secrecy, or by cunning, though he breaks almost every law of God. Therefore, to conclude: It plainly appears, that unless men are guided by the advice and judgment of conscience founded on religion, they can give no security that they will be either good subjects, faithful servants of the public, or honest in their mutual dealings; since there is no other tie, through which the pride, or lust, or ayarice, or ambition of mankind, will not certainly break one time or other.
HEB. xxiii. 1.
Let brotherly love continue. * In the early times of the gospel, the Christians were very much distinguished from all other bodies of men, by the great and constant love they bore to each other; which, although it was done in obedience to the frequent injunctions of our Saviour and his apostles, yet, I confess, there seemeth to have been likewise a natural reason, that very much promoted it.
promoted it. For the Christians then were few and scattered, living under persecution by the heathens round about them, in whose hands was all the civil and military power;
* Notwithstanding the text and title of this sermon, and the many excellent observations which it contains in illustration of both, there are several passages in it which the dissenters of the time would hardly consider as propitiatory towards the continuance of brotherly love. There are also various allusions to the parties which raged at the time, and some which appear to have been written in defence of the preacher's character, then severely arraigned by the Irish Whigs, and held in abhorrence by the people of Dublin, by whom he was afterwards idolized.
and there is nothing so apt to unite the minds and hearts of men, or to beget love and tenderness, as a general distress. The first dissentions between Christians took their beginning from the errors and heresies that arose among them; many of those heresies, sometimes extinguished, and sometimes reviving, or succeeded by others, remain to this day; and having been made many instruments to the pride, avarice, or ambition of ill-designing men, by extinguishing brotherly love, have been the cause of infinite calamities, as well as corruptions of faith and manners, in the Christian world.
The last legacy of Christ was peace and mutual love; but then he foretold, that he came to send a sword upon the earth : the primitive Christians accepted the legacy, and their successors down to the present age have been largely fulfilling his prophecy. But whatever the practice of inankind hath been, or still continues, there is no duty more incumbent upon those who profess the gospel, than that of brotherly love; which, whoever could restore in any degree among men, would be an instrument of more good to human society, than ever was or will be done by all the statesmen and politicians in the world.
It is upon this subject of brotherly love, that I intend to discourse at present; and the method I observe shall be as follows:
I. First, I will inquire into the causes of this
great want of brotherly love among us. II. Secondly, I will lay open the sad effects and
consequences, which our animosities and mu
tual hatred have produced. III. Lastly, I will use some motives and exhorta
tions, that may persuade you to embrace bro, therly love, and continue in it.