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would rather transmit your fortune under a curse to your posterity than restore what
your ancestors have extorted. Ah! Woe be to you ! you pay tithes of mint, anise, aud cummin: but you omit the weightier matters of the law, judgment, faith, and mercy!
My brethren, it is a deplorable thing, that, when we treat of such an important subject as this, we are obliged to pay more attention to the delicacy of our hearers than to the weight of the subject. But in the name of God, do you, yourselves, fi.nish the list of those articles, which timidity, (or shall I say caution?) forbids me to extend. Goup to the origin of that disposition, which I have been opposing. It must proceed from one of three principles; it must come from either narrowness of mind, or hypocrisy, or a criminal composition.
Perhaps it may proceed from littleness of mind. We are enslaved by external appearances. We determine ourselves by semblances. In the world more reputation is acquired by the shadow than by the substance of virtue. By habituating ourselves to this kind of imposition, we bring ourselves to believe that God will suffer himself to be imposed on in the same manner. These things hast thou done, saith he by the mouth of a prophet, and thou thoughtest that I was altogether such a one as thysell, Psal. I. 21. We insensibly persuade ourselves, that, provided we lift our eyes to heaven, God will think our hearts are elevated thither? provided we kneel before the throne of God, he will think our hearts bow with our bodies ; provided we mutter a few prayers, God will accept us as if we formed ideas, and performed'acts of love. This is litile-ness of mind.
Sometimes it proceeds from hypocrisy. Jesus Clirist reproached the pharisees with this. The pha
risees were attached to religion no further than as it acquired them reputation in the world. But I will not insist on this article. I freely ackuowledge, I had almost said I lament, that hypocrisy is not the vice of our age. Piety is now so little respected, that we need not much suspect people of aiming to acquire reputation by professing it; yea, perhaps it may oftener happen, that they, who really have some degree of it, conceal it in order to escape contempt, than that others, who have none, affect to possess it in order to acquire public esteem.
Sometimes, also, this disposition of mind proceeds from a criminal composition. We have the face to compound with God. We are willing to perform the external part of religion, provided he will dispense with the internal part; we are ready to offer sacrifices, provided he will dispense with obedience; we are willing to do wbat costs our depravity nothing, or next to nothing, if he will dispense with what would cost it much.
Let us finish. One maxiin, which I intreat you to retain in memory, is the essence of my subject, and the spring, than gives force to all the exhortations, which I have addressed to you in the latter periods of this discourse. This maxim is, that a christian is obliged by his heavenly calling not only to practise all virtues; but to place each in its proper rank; to give more application to such as merit more application, and to give most of all to such as require most of all.
On this principle, what an idea ought we to forni of that mercy or benevolence, which my text places among the weightier matters of the law ? You have heard the value of this in the body of this discourse. Such virtues as have God for their object are more important than others, which have our neighbor for their object. But God, in order to engage us to benevolence, hath taught us to consider beneficence to our neighbors as one of the surest evidences of our love to himself. He unites himself with the poor ; he clothes himself, as it were with their miseries; and he tells us, inasmuch as ye do good unto one of the least of these, ye do it unto me, Matt. xxv. 40. What a sublime idea! From what a fund of love does such benevolent declaration proceed! And, at the same time, what a motive to animate us to benevolence.
This virtue, to the practice of which we perpetually exhort you ought to be extraordinarily exerted, my dear brethren, now that God visits us with a sort of judgment, I mean the excessive rigor of this winter. It is not a judgment upon you, rich men, God loads you with temporal blessings : but it falls upon you, miserable laborers, whose hands benumbed with cold are rendered incapable of working, the only way you have of procuring a morsel of bread for yourselves and your families : upon you, poor old people, struggling at the same time against the infirmities of old age, and the rigors of the season : upon you, innocent victims of hunger and cold, who have no provision except cries and tears, and whom I see more dead than alive around a fire, that emits less heat than smoke: upon you, wretched sick people, lodged in a hovel open on all sides to the weather, and destitute of both nourishment and cloathing. Is it wrong to call a cause, producing such tragical effects, a judgment ? Must I justify the term of reasons more convincing? I am ashamed to allege them. Without pretending to answer for the fact, it is an affair too mortifying for some of us to investigate,) we are assured, that some have perished with cold. I do not know who is in fault: but I recollect the complaint, which St. Paul addressed to the Corinthians, when incest had been committed in their city. What! said he, have ye heard of this deed, and have ye not covered yourselves with mourning? 1. Cor. v. 1. 2. What ! my dear brethren, in a christian society, do we see such events, do we behold the poor dying with cold, without being touched in our inmost souls, without inquiring into the cause of such a misfortune, withont applying proper means to prevent such things in future?
With this pious design, the dispensers of your bounty will again humbly wait at the doors of this church to receive your charitable contributions, in order to enable them to-day plentifully to supply the wants of such as perpahs may die to-day, if they be not relieved. With the same pious views, they have besought the magistrates to grant them an extraordinary collection, and next Wednesday they intend to conjure you by those shocking objects, with which their own minds are affected, and with which they have thought it their duty to affect ours, to afford such relief as may be necessary to prevent the many evils, with which the remainder of the winter yet threatens us. If
you accuse me of applying too often to you on this subject, I answer, my importunity is your glory. You have affectionately habituated me to see you accessible, and myself successful, when I speak to you on subjects of this kind. I hope I shall always find you the same; I hope you will not be weary in well doing, 2 Thess. ii. 13. I liope the voice of so many wretched petitioners as beseech you by my mouth will not sound in vain in this christian assembly. Hear it, you happy natives of these provinces, whom God distinguishes by so many favors. Hear it, my dear country-. men, whom heaven hath enriched in your exile, and who, after having yourselves been a long time
in want of assistance, are now só able to assist others. Hear it, generous strangers, who sometimes mix your devotions with those, which we offer to God in this house ; contribute to our charities, and share with us the blessings which they procure. God grant us all grace to do his wili. To the Father, to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost, be honor and glory for ever. Amen.