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briefly considered under the article of duty to our neighbour. The end of all power is the public benefit; and he who is invested with it is only the minister of God for good, and is not, that is, is bound not to be, "a terror to good works, but to the evil, and is sent for the punishment of evil-doers, and for the praise of them that do well." These are the true, the only ends of civil power; and all civil distinctions are instituted either for this purpose, or as the honourable rewards of public merit. To suppose that they ever were intended for private gratification, or to pervert power and authority to the detestable ends of oppression, tyranny, and filthy lucre, is the most horrible perversion of ideas, is treason against the civil community, and an insult to God who hath instituted human govern. ment for the protection, the comfort, and the mutual improvement of mankind.
• tation is an object of ardent desire to every honourable bosom; and the best means of obtaining it are the exercise of every useful or elegant talent, and the undeviating practice of virtue. “A good name is rather to be chosen than great riches, and loving favour than silver and gold.' It is the means also of more extensive useful
But we are not “ to follow a multitude to do evil, to love the praise of men more than the
A fair repu.
a Rom. xiii. 3, 4. 1 Pet. ii. 14.
b Prov. xxii. 1.
praise of God, or to place our glory in that which is our shame." These are the proper limitations of the desire of applause. Resentment, or the sense of injury, is implanted in our frame as a means of self-defence and of security, by the repulsion or intimidation of the assailant. This is its proper object; but to this it must be confined. Fair compensation for injury suffered, and security against future attacks, is all that reason and justice demand. Revenge rushes greatly beyond these, and, under pretence of justice, violates its most sacred dictates ; under pretence of honour, manifests consummate baseness. Immoderate anger, therefore, and revenge, are strictly prohibited by the Christian law. Forgiveness of injuries is so incorporated with the whole body of that religion, that in the Lord's prayer our ready forgiveness of those who have offended us, is rendered the qualification for obtaining the pardon of God; and our Saviour seems to carry this virtue to an almost unlimited extent." Indeed, the wisest and most virtuous of the heathens entertained the most elevated conceptions of this magnanimous habit of soul, as might easily be evinced by several passages of the ancient poets and philosophers, particularly of the moral treatises of Seneca ; and ancient history exhibits instances of it which would put to the blush the generality of Christians. It would therefore be more than strange, if, on this point, as well as on every other, Christian morality should not greatly surpass the dictates of unenlightened reason. An immoderate estimation of ourselves, in regard whether to our talents, to our good qualies, or to our situation and respect in the world, springs in the heart almost as soon as we begin to exercise our faculties; and as vanity and pride are the first, so they are the last of human vices. They are linked to that selfishness which is interwoven with our corrupt nature ; they grow with our growth, and strengthen with our strength.” It is only when they begin to yield to better and more elevated principles, that we can be said to have entered on the course of real virtue, much more, to have commenced the divine life. As Christianity is principally designed to regenerate our nature, and to form it to true rectitude, and alone possesses the means of accomplishing this grand result; so humility may be said to be, in all its extent, a virtue purely Christian. The heathen philosophers appear to have entertained no right conception of it, and to have regarded it rather as a defect than as an excellence. In fact, destitute as they were of all true knowledge, in regard to the miserable state into which moral corruption had brought man, viewed in the presence of his Creator, they could have no just apprehension of the necessity and of the intrinsic value of humility in a creature so circumstanced. That religion, therefore, which completely unfolded the guilt and the misery of man, together with the means of his restoration and capacity of happiness, must alone have produced the soil on which, together with the most operative gratitude towards heaven, humility might spring, and flourish, and bear its salutary and soul-refreshing fruits. Accordingly this virtue pervades and ennobles the whole system of Christian morality. Our Saviour's declaration, " that whosoever shall exalt himself shall be abased, and he that shall humble himself shall be exalted;" and his apostle's, “God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace unto the humble;" followed by his exhortation, “ humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time;" are to be viewed not merely in the light of positive assurances and enactments of heaven, but as also representing the true nature and intrinsic excellence of humility. This virtue is founded in just conceptions of man's nature and condition, of the extent of his obligations, and of his incapacity to fulfil them ; implies enlarged comprehension of mind; and extends the view greatly beyond the narrow sphere of self. It pos. sesses, therefore, the elements of true dignity, and rises when it seems to fall. Like the lark, it soars from its lowly nest into heaven. It is the source of every Christian virtue, or at least imparts to it its chief excellence. Hence, the kingdom of heaven is assigned by our Lord “to the poor in spirit, and to the meek the inheritance of the
a Exod. xxiii. 2. John v. 44; xii. 43. Phil. iii. 19.
b Prov. xiv. 17; xix. 11. c Matt. v. 22. Eph. iv. 26. Rom. xii. 19.
d Matt. vi. 12. - Luke xi. 4.
Although man's happiness must ever consist in the due and well-directed exercise of his active powers, and all mankind in reality exercise them in one way or other ; still, aversion from assiduous labour, and from the diligent cultivation of his faculties, is extremely apt to steal upon his mind, and to prevent or relax his virtuous and laudable exertions. Hence, the love of ease, and habits of indolence, obstruct the vigorous and persevering discharge of his duties, especially when no personal advantage is connected with it. But to this vice Christianity also opposes its precepts, and rouses all our powers to laudable activity. It injoins diligence with regard to our temporal concerns, but much more with regard to our eternal interests, and strongly condemns the contrary habit. Religion's voice declares, “ that the hand of the diligent maketh rich, and shall bear rule; and
a Matt. v. 3, 5.