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THE SONS OF THE CLERGY,
CATHEDRAL CHURCH OF ST. PAUL,
December 14, 1721.
MATTH. v. 16.
Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.
THESE words of our blessed Lord have relation to what went before; being a continuation of the same thought, and a kind of practical conclusion drawn from it. In the thirteenth verse of this chapter, he tells his disciples that they “ are the salt of the earth;" thereby intimating their character and office, to season the world with their instruction, to purify it by their example, and by both to spread such a sweet savour of life to all around them, as should preserve them from corruption, and render their persons acceptable unto God. To enforce this farther, and to imprint it deeper, he carries on the same thought in the verses following, but under another metaphor, lively and elegant as the former; “ Ye are the light of the " world,” says he, verse 14. to the same disciples; signifying thereby their qualifications and endowments, together with the duties arising from them : they were to hold out the light of their instruction, persuasion, and example, to an ignorant and immoral world; that is, in the words of the text, “ to let their light shine before men, “ that they might see their good works, and glorify their 66 Father which is in heaven.”
Which is as much as to say, “ Be ye shining profes“ sors, and bright examples of religion and virtue in a “ dark, misguided age; but not so much for your own “ honour or reputation, as for the glory of God : let “strangers see and admire your work of faith, and labour “ of love, and patience of hope, that they may be convert“ed and edified thereby : but let the praise and glory of “all be returned up to the author and fountain of all, to your Father which is in heaven.”
Having shown the connection of the words with the words preceding, and briefly intimated the general meaning and design of them, I may now proceed to consider them more distinctly and largely, in the method here following
I. To show what is implied in the duty of “ letting our “ light shine before men.”
JI. To lay down some considerations, proper to enforce the practice of it.
III. To observe how far those considerations may affect Christians in general, or some in particular: concluding with a suitable application of the whole to the present occasion.
1. I shall endeavour to show what is implied in the duty of “ letting our light shine before men.'
The duty taken in its full latitude, with all it contains and comprehends, is not so properly a distinct duty in itself, as the sum total, or completion of all. It is not only to be religious, but to be eminently so; not only to be good and virtuous, but to be exact and exemplary in it; not only to be truly pious, but to be remarkable and conspicuous in the face of the world for it. We may however distinguish between the foundation and the superstructure, between goodness in the general and a supereminent degree of it; and so the text may be considered as containing a duty distinct by itself, namely, the duty of being open and exemplary in our virtues; not concealing or smothering our good principles or practices, but producing them and drawing them forth in the face of the world. But I shall not affect to be very nice and critical, in distinguishing the foundation from the superstructure, choosing rather to take both in; only insisting more particularly on the latter, as most agreeable to the design of the text. A point of this nature, if treated of in any measure suitable to its dignity and importance, may, I presume, deserve the attention of any Christian auditory, and of this especially;