« VorigeDoorgaan »
The most heinous violation of this pre- SERM. cept is that of those infamous persons : who, in a court of justice, and with the solemnity of an oath, assert what they know to be untrue, against an innocent man, and bring perhaps his life, perhaps his property, but certainly his good name, into danger. This is a crime of so deep a dye, that I trust there is no need to warn any of my present audience against it : the commandment is, however, too often transgressed, even in the best regulated societies, in less eminent degrees ;--and such transgressions are the source of very much of the unhappiness of social life.
Next to his guilt, who swears publicly to my prejudice what he knows to be false, is that of him who affirms the same falsity in private, with a design to traduce my reputation. It is something, that the forms of justice are wanting--it is something, that Almighty God is not immeD4
SERM. diately affronted by solemn appeal ;-but, III.
in every other respect, the injury to the party defamed is often as great, and the stroke as wounding, as that which is given by the hand of the executioner. There are many other ways of infringing this commandment, where the degree of criminality, though still inferior, is yet great ; as when we speak ill of others on suspicion only-on slight grounds—or on vague report-or when we do it unnecessarily—or take a pleasure in it-or do not speak in their defence, when we hear them unjustly or maliciously attacked. It is, besides, ungenerous and unjustungenerous, to sport with the characters of our fellow-creatures, on which their reception in the world, and sometimes their bread, depends — unjust, because it is not doing unto them as we would wish them to do unto us.
The laws of the last table conclude with « Thou shalt not covet."--The actual in.
vasion of the property of another, having sERM.
III. been already prohibited,—the mere desire to possess it, is now forbidden; and we should set ourselves assiduously to obey it, whether we consider our own happiness, our duty towards our neighbour, or towards God.
For, first, the contrary temper to what is here enjoined, makes a man miserable ; as, if he once gives free scope to his desires, he is never likely to be satisfied; success will but add fuel to the flame the more objects of his wishes he gains, the more ardent he will still be in pursuing others and content will be, for ever, a stranger to his breast.
Secondly, it is an unjust temper, probably in itself, since we are not far from hating the man whom we envy, and for whose possessions we greatly long — and almost certainly in its effects, for he will not, when a convenient opportunity offers,
SERM. long scrupulously restrain his hands from
the property of another, in the hope of possessing which, he permits his heart to riot uncontrolled.
Lastly, it is an irreligious temper, since it implies a discontent with God's dispensations towards us; and, as it usually en. grosses the whole heart and affections, it banishes all thoughts of piety and another world. • Such are the celebrated laws of the two tableslaws which, I have before observed, were spoken by God's mouth, and written with his finger-you perceive how excellent they are in themselves, and how proper for man to obey them.--Let us, then, devoutly offer up our prayers, that they may all be deeply engraven on the fleshly tablet of our hearts !
ON THE CATECHISM
LUKE xi, 1.
One of his disciples said unto him, Lord,
teach us to pray. In my last discourse on the catechism, SERM.
IV. I concluded my explanation of the ten com a mandments. From these, we are informed that we learn our duty towards God, and our duty towards our neighbour; and, in the answers to the two following ques. tions, these duties are set down at large : but I have already, in my remarks on the commandments, anticipated the chief of