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Delilah, and my vengeance, my ambition, my avarice, and every thing else I will sacrifice to thee.
A favorite passion is inconsistent with the chief virtue of christianity, with that, which is the life and soul of all others, I mean that God of love, which places God supreme in the heart. A jealous God will accept of none of our homage, while we refuse him that of our chief love. All the sacrifices, that we can offer him to purchase a right to retain a darling sin, are proofs of the empire, which that sin hath over us, and of our fixed resolution to free ourselves from the law of him, who would be, as he ought to be, the supreme object of our love. Do not fancy, that what we have said concerning involuntary passions is applicable to darling sin, and exculpates a favorite passion. One man, whose involuntary passions sometimes hurry him away, detests his own disposition: but the other cherishes his. One makes many an arduous attempt to correct his error: the other engages to do so, but he makes promises pass for performances, and means to get rid of the last by professing the first. One considers the grace, that tears the deplorable passion from his heart, as a most desirable benefit, and, even while he falls into his sin, he considers it as the greatest misfortune of his life: the other regards him as a mortal enemy; who endeavors to prevail with him to renounce a passion, in the gratification of which all his happiness depends.
Let us lay down the love of God as a foundation of all virtue. Let us love him chiefly, who is supremely lovely: Let our hearts adopt the language of the Psalmist, Access to God is my supreme good. Whom have I in heaven but thee, and there is none upon the earth that I desire besides thee, Psal. lxxiii. 28. 25. Let us consider and avoid, as acts of idolatry, all immoderately lively and affectionate emo
tions of love to creatures. Let us entertain only a small degree of attachment to objects, which at most can procure us only a momentary felicity. A favorite passion is a second disposition of mind, that renders us guilty of a violation of the whole law, even while we seem to violate it only in an inconsiderable part.
3. Finally, Intractable minds are condemned in our text. Docility is a touchstone, by which a doubtful piety may be known to be real, or apparent. The royal prophet describes in the fiftieth psalm such a rigid observer of the exterior of religion, as we speak of; a man, who has the name of God always in his mouth, and is ever talking of the holiness of his laws; a man, always ready to offer whole hecatombs in sacrifice: but who has not patience to hear a representation of his duty, and an exhortation to perform it. The psalmist declares, all this appearance of devotion, if unaccompanied with docility, is useless, yea, more likely to arouse the anger of God than to obtain his favor. Thou wicked wretch! says he, in the name of God, to this phantom of piety, who imposes on the church by his outward appearance, and who perhaps imposeth on himself; Thou wicked man; what hast thou to declare my statutes, or that thou shouldest take my covenant in thy mouth, seeing thou hatest instruction? ver. 16. He authoriseth us to use the same language to some of you. Why this assiduity at church, why this zeal on solemn festivals, why this fervor at the Lord's table, seeing you are unteachable; seeing you love none but vague maxims of virtue and holiness; seeing you will not allow your casuist to enter into some details; seeing every man loses your favor if he hints your foibles; seeing your tenderest, and most faithful friend would become suspected directly, yea, would seem
an impertinent censor, the moment he should discover your faults, and endeavor to make you acknowledge and reform them?
My brethren! if we love virtue, we love all the means, that lead to it, and with peculiar pleasure behold them, who recommend it. Nothing is more opposite to that general devotedness to the laws of God, which my text prescribes, than a spirit inimical against them, who have the courage to control the passions. He, that turneth away his ear from hearing the law, even his prayer shall be abomination, Prov. xxviii. 9. Whoso loveth instruction loveth knowledge, chap xii. 1. The law of the wise is a fountain of life, to depart from the snares of death chap. xiii. 14. Let the righteous smite me, it shall be a kindness; and let him reprove me, it shall be an excellent oil, that shall not break my head, Psal. cxli. 5. May God always continue a succession of such righteous men, and may he incline our hearts to profit by their instructions! To him be honor and glory for ever.
THE GREAT DUTIES OF RELIGION.
Matthew xxiii. 23.
Woe unto you, Scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye pay tithe of mint, and anise, and cummin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith: these ye ought to have done, and not to leave the other undone.
frequently meet with a sort of people in the world, who some of them neglect the chief virtues of religion, and supply the want of them by performing the least articles of it; and others, who perform the chief duties, and neglect the least. Observe one man, who cherishes a spirit of bitterness, and is all swelled with pride, envy, and revenge; by what art hath he required a reputation of eminent piety? By grave looks, by an affected simplicity of dress, by an assiduity in the exercises of public worship. See another, who is all immersed in worldly affairs, whose life is all consumed in pleasure, who neglects, and who affects to neglect both public worship, and private devotion. Ask him how he expects to escape in a well regulated society that just censure, which irregular actions, and a way of living inconsistent with christianity, deserve. He will tell you, I am a man of honor, I pay my debts, I am faithful to my engagements, I never break my word.
We are going to-day, my brethren, to attack