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They, who timidly and cautiously keep silence on these subjects, who leave men in ignorance and under delusion even among their own acquaintance, and make no effort to enlighten them with saving truth, lest they should be censured and stigmatized with some reproachful name, must act in direct contradiction to this solemn admonition. Whereas a prudent and suitable attention to this duty forms one of the most efficacious means of diffusing the savour of truth and piety, in families and neighbourhoods; and of opening a door of usefulness to those who labour in the word and doctrines.

There are indeed many vain talkers, who disgrace the gospel; disregarding relative duties, and every rule of propriety, by an ostentatious zeal and officious boldness in disputing about doctrines; while it is often too plain that the truth has little sanctifying effect upon their own hearts. It is therefore peculiarly incumbent upon us to ask wisdom of God, in order to a right performance of this duty; and to be very careful that our religious discourse be recommended by the ornament of a consistent behaviour in all other respects. This is especially the way to "let our light shine before men." Thus Peter, exhorting Christians to "have their conversation honest among the Gentiles: that whereas they spake against them as evil doers, they might by their good works, which they should behold, glorify God in the day of visitation," inculcates the duties of subjects to their rulers; "for," says he, "so is the will of God, that with well-doing ye may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men. He then states the duties of servants, even to severe and froward masters; adding, "for what glory is it," (what proof of grace or recommendation of the gospel,)" if when ye be buffeted for your faults, ye take it patiently? But if when ye do well, and suffer for it, ye take it patiently, this is acceptable with God; for even hereunto ye were called." Afterwards he exhorts "wives to be in subjection to their own husbands, that if any obey not the word, they may without the word be won by the conversation of the wives. And having mentioned some other subjects, he thus concludes the exhortation, "Having a good conscience, that whereas they speak evil of you, as of evil doers, they may be ashamed that falsely accuse your good conversation in Christ." 1 Pet. ii. iii.

In like manner, magistrates, masters, husbands, parents, children, and all others, have various relative duties to perform for the common benefit; and if they be known to profess the peculiar doctrines of the gospel, which are generally accused of tending to laxity of morals, their conduct will be severely and minutely scrutinized. But when believers study to understand, and aim to practise the duties of their several relations, in all respects more exactly than before; when they habitually give up their own humour, interest, or indulgence, provided conscience be not concerned, to oblige and serve those that are most prejudiced and unkind; and when this conduct is adhered to with meek perseverance, notwithstanding discouragements and ungrateful returns: then the excellency of evangelical religion is exhibited in the clearest and most affecting light. In this manner we ought to "adorn the doctrine of God our Saviour in all things."

A conscientious exactness, as to every part of our conduct in the ordinary transactions of life, is likewise indispensably necessary: that they may be conducted with the strictest integrity, veracity, sincerity, and punctuality. We ought to "let our moderation be known unto all men;" it should be evident," that our conversation is without covetousness;" and nothing ambiguous or suspicious should be observable in any of our dealings. Ă harmless and inoffensive deportment also is peculiarly necessary: we ought to keep at a distance from intermeddling in other men's affairs; from slander and discord; and from every word and action, which may prove injurious to the interest, peace, reputation, relative comfort, or ease of any other person; as far as this can be done consistently with other duties.

An evident disposition to kindness, benevolence, and compassion, is another ornament, and recommendation to the gospel. Nor is affluence, or extensive liberality requisite in order to diffuse this benign light around us;

provided our exertions bear some proportion to our ability. A loving spirit may be manifested in a narrow sphere, by a continual attention to little incidents, and by such beneficial actions, as are within the power of every man, whose heart is properly disposed.

These tempers ought to be associated with forbearance and gentleness under insults and injuries, a readiness to forgive repeated and most trying provocations, and a persevering endeavour to overcome evil with good." And when the believer is also willing to acknowledge, without reserve, the mistakes and faults, into which he hath been betrayed; and to make suitable concessions and amends to all, whom he hath in any respect offended; "his light shines before men" in a very resplendent manner. Patience and resignation also in those trying circumstances, which excite others to peevishness and rebellious murmurs; cheerful contentment at a distance from those pleasures, which most men deem the solace of life; moderation and regard to expediency in the use of things lawful; indifference about distinctions, pre-eminence, or applause; and discretion in the mangement of secular affairs, contribute to recommend, and consequently to diffuse the light of divine truth. This is more especially the effect of a diligent improvement of our talents, according to our rank in life, or our situation in the church; by employing wealth, authority, influence, genius, learning and every endowment, with a steady aim to promote the cause of true religion in the world, and to render mankind, wiser, holier, and happier, by every means we can devise.

By a combination of these dispositions, and an habitual regard to every part of our conduct, according to the brief hints here given; avoiding extremes, rashness, harshness, and affected singularity; endeavouring to unite a courteous, obliging behaviour with religious constancy and fortitude; and studying the proprieties of our several stations, we may, I apprehend, comply with our Lord's exhortation, and "let our light shine before men."

III. Then we proceed to consider the object, which we ought to propose to ourselves, in attending to these duties.

It hath been hinted, that our light should shine before men, and not at a distance from human society. They, who quit the active scenes of life to which providence has called them, that they may cultivate piety in privacy and retirement, too much resemble such soldiers, as decline the combat, and refuse to face danger or endure hardship in the service of their country. Some employments indeed are absolutely irreconcileable with a good conscience: but when this is not the case, it is generally the believer's duty to "abide in his calling." Christianity suffices to teach every man, from the monarch to the slave, how to glorify God and serve his generation, by a diligent and self-denying performance of the duties belonging to his station. And this is the best method of exhibiting before men the nature and efficacy of that remedy, which God hath devised for the disorders of this evil world. Our Lord in this same sermon warns his disciples not to do their "works to be seen of men:" yet here he requires them to "let their light so shine before men, that they may see their good works." Our actions, however good in themselves, are corrupt in their principle, if they spring from vain-glory, or are made known with ostentation, as if we sought human applause. But if we abound in the fruits of righteousness, and patiently continue in well-doing, it will be impossible that our good works should be wholly concealed. "Our Lord went about doing good;" and he always shunned human observation, in his constant exercise of beneficence, as far as his circumstances would admit of it: yet his love and power were undeniable, and his fame spread abroad through the adjacent regions. Indeed alms-giving, prayer, and fasting, of which Christ spake afterwards, generally demand secrecy: but hypocrites especially seek glory by openly performing them: while the habitual tenor of a sober, righteous, and godly life, must be visible to those among whom we reside. Yet even here we ought to watch against every degree of ostentation.-But there

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ns, in which the honour of God, and the edification of our require us to make known even those parts of our conduct, in general be concealed. Thus Daniel opened his windows, hree times a day, as a protest against the impious decree of the primitive Christians publicly sold their estates, to provide And thas martyrs in prison, or at the stake, prayed singly open manner, though at other times accustomed to retire into The object which we are instructed to propose to ourselves, in making our light shine before men," is this, "that they may see our good works, and glorify our Father which is in heaven :" and our conduct may be regulated in most cases, by carefully examining how that end may be most effectually attained. But so far from our good works conducing in any degree to our justification before God, even the gracious recompence, promised to the fruits of the Spirit in the hearts and lives of believers, is not so much as mentioned in the passage before us. Higher and nobler motives are exclusively proposed, motives in which self-love is allowed no gratification, except we can find pleasure in glorifying God and doing good to men.

The people of the world have in general a very unfavourable opinion of evangelical doctrines. "The preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; and the plan of redemption seems to many of them irrational, inconsistent, calculated to level all distinctions of character and capacity, and to militate against the interests of morality and science. They therefore commonly entertain a contempt for a man's understanding, when they discover that he has zealously embraced this religious system: and the disgusting conduct, or extravagant notions of too many professors confirm these fatal prejudices, and furnish them with anecdotes and objections, with which to oppose the truth.-But when a man soberly avows his belief of the gospel; and "is ready to give a reason of the hope that is in him, with meekness and fear:" when he discourses rationally on other subjects, and behaves with increasing propriety and consistency in all his various relations and engagements; the prejudices of observers gradually subside, and they begin to allow that his principles are not so intolerable as they once conceived them to be. Finding, that, while he decidedly resolves "to obey God rather than man," he also is ready to serve or oblige others when he can do it with a good conscience ; and that his conduct when most exactly scrutinized, appears to the greatest advantage; and feeling perhaps that their own interest and comfort have been materially advanced by the change; they are prepared to receive more favourably any hint he may drop concerning the salvation of Christ; to read a book that he earnestly recommends, or to give the preachers of the gospel an occasional hearing. Thus many are led to an acquaintance with the truths of Christianity in the most attractive manner : their aversion and contempt are almost imperceptibly removed; and one after another is brought to the knowledge of Christ, and faith in his blood. Then a new light is set up to shine before men, that others may see his good works also, and be won over to join in glorifying our God and Father.

The Lord alone, it is true, can open the understanding and change the heart: but he almost always uses means and instruments; and the pious example and zealous endeavours of Christians are blessed to the conversion of sinners, as well as the preaching of the gospel. Every believer therefore should habitually design and endeavour to be useful in this manner, within his proper sphere; and propose it to himself as the grand object of his future life, to which all other pursuits ought to be subordinated, and if possible rendered subservient. He should watch over his tempers, words, and actions; and endeavour to regulate them in such a manner, that they may give the utmost energy to his attempts, to recommend the gospel to his family and acquaintance. it should be his constant aim, to strengthen the hands of faithful ministers; and to shew in his own conduct, the reality, excellency, and beauty of pure religion, and its tendency to render men happy and useful.

When this is carefully and generally attended to, the number of real Christians will commonly be multiplied, the light of life will be more widely diffused; and the grain of mustard-seed will become a large plant.

We cannot reflect seriously on this subject, without lamenting that there are but few Christians, even in nations professing Christianity.-The man who habitually hears an express command of Christ with contemptuous neglect, cannot reasonably expect to be thought his true disciple; yet who can deny that immense multitudes of professed Christians do thus treat the exhortation contained in the text?-Let none then be offended with us, for distinguishing between true believers, and those who say to Christ, Lord, Lord, but do not the things which he commands: for as he will shortly come, and make a complete and final separation, it is of the utmost consequence to every one, that he learn his real character and condition, before the door of mercy and hope be for ever shut against him.

Let each individual, therefore, seriously and impartially inquire, whether he hath that inward evidence of having believed and obeyed the gospel, which arises from a fervent desire that God may be glorified in the conversion of sinners, and from an uniform endeavour to "let his light shine before men," for that purpose. If this be wholly wanting, the most exact creed, and the strictest form of godliness will prove entirely unavailing. The Judge, at his appearance, will silence all such pleas, by saying with awful indignation, "Depart from me, all ye workers of iniquity." In proportion as we are doubtful, whether this be indeed the ruling principle of our hearts, and the plan of our lives, we should question whether our faith be living, and our hope warranted. We are, however, invited to come to Christ, as sinners for salvation, whatever our state and character may have hitherto been and if we really accept of this invitation, "giving diligence to make our calling and election sure;" the subsequent change will constitute a "witness in ourselves," that we are partakers of Christ, and that his Spirit dwelleth in us.

Finally, my Christian brethren, we all need to be deeply humbled, that we have not let our light shine before men," in that measure, and to that effect, which our peculiar advantages and obligations rendered incumbent on us. Let us then confess and lament our unfruitfulness: and while we humbly crave forgiveness of the past, let us earnestly beseech the Lord for a larger measure of his grace; that we may henceforth "walk more worthy of God, who hath called us to his kingdom and glory."

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But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves. For if any be a hearer of the word, and not a doer, he is like unto a man beholding his natural face in a glass. For he beholdeth himself, and goeth his way, and straightway forgetteth what manner of man he was. But whoso looketh into the perfect law of liberty, and continueth therein, he being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, this man shall be blessed in his deed.

THE apostle James seems to have especially intended his epistle, as an antidote to the delusion of those who abused the doctrines of grace; and, expecting salvation by a dead or notional faith, considered good works as altogether superfluous. This may account for the remarkable difference which there is between his language and that of St. Paul; who was chiefly employed in contending against those that were prone to the opposite extreme. Having therefore shown that temptations and sins must not be ascribed to God, the unchangeable giver of every good and perfect gift; and observed that the word of truth is especially made use of, in regenerating sinners, and rendering them willing to consecrate themselves unto God: he gives some directions concerning the dispositions and manner, in which men should hear and receive the divine message, that it may be "in them an engrafted word, able to save their souls." He then introduces the passage, which I have chosen for the subject of our present meditation, and concludes with these remarkable words; "If any man among you seem to be religious, and bridleth not his tongue, but deceiveth his own heart: this man's religion is vain. Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this; to visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world." The religion which God approves, when viewed apart from the principles whence it springs, and the ordinances through which it is produced and maintained, is principally expressed by self-denying acts of kindness to men for the Lord's sake, and separation from all the pollutions of this evil world. "Now," says Paul," abideth faith, hope, and charity; but the greatest of these is charity."

The text viewed in this connection, may give us an opportunity of considering,

I. The peculiar intent of revelation, and the purposes which it was evidently designed to answer.

II. The inefficacy of hearing without practising, to accomplish any of these purposes.

III. The nature, and sources of that fatal self-deception, into which numbers are in this respect betrayed.

IV. The contrast here stated betwixt the mere hearer, and the practical student of Scripture.

I. We consider the peculiar intent of revelation, and the purposes which it was evidently intended to answer.

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