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Christian profession at all times requires; but for which at this moment there are reasons of peculiar weight and force *.
To indulge ourselves in endless gaieties and expensive luxuries, at a time when so many of our poorer brethren are, from the heavy pressure of unfavourable circumstances, in want of the most essential necessaries of life, would surely manifest a very unfeeling and unchristian disposition in ourselves, and would be a most cruel and wanton aggravation of their sufferings.
It is true, indeed, that their wants have hitherto been relieved with a liberality and kindness, which reflect the highest honour on those who exercised them. But the evil in question still subsists in its full force, and is, I fear, more likely to increase than to abate for months to come, and will of course require unceasing exertions of benevolence, and repeated
* This Lecture was given in April 1800, a time of great scarcity and extreme dearness of all the necessaries of life.
acts of charity on our part, to alleviate and mitigate its baneful effects.
Every one ought therefore to provide as ample a fund as possible for this purpose; and how can this be better provided than by a retrenchment of our expensive diversions, our splendid assemblies, and luxurious entertainments? We are not now required as the young ruler in the Gospel was, to sell all we have and give to the poor; but we are required, especially in times such as these, to cut off all idle and needless articles of profusion, that we may have to give to him that needeth."
And when we consider that the expence of a single evening's amusement, or a single convivial meeting, would give support and comfort perhaps to twenty wretched families, pining in hunger, in sickness, and in sorrow, can we so far divest ourselves of all the tender feelings of our nature (not to mention any higher principle), can we be so intolerably selfish, so wedded to pleasure, so devoted to our own gratification, as to let the lowest of
our brethren perish while we are solacing ourselves with every earthly delight? No one that gives himself leave to reflect for a moment, can think this to be right, can maintain it to be consistent with his duty either to God or man. And even in respect to the very object we so eagerly pursue, and are so anxious to obtain, in point even of pleasure, I mean, and selfgratification, I doubt much whether the giddiest votary of amusement can receive half the real satisfaction from the gayest scenes of dissipation he is immersed in, that he would experience (if he would but try) from rescuing a fellow creature from destruction, and lighting up an afflicted and fallen countenance with joy.
Let us then abridge ourselves of a few indulgences, and give the price of what they would cost us to those who have none. By this laudable species of œconomy, we shall at once improve ourselves in a habit of self-denial and self-government; we shall demonstrate the sincerity of our love to our fellow-creatures, by
giving up something that is dear to us for their sake, by sacrificing our pleasures to their necessities; and, above all, we shall approve ourselves as faithful servants in the sight of our Almighty Sovereign; we shall give some proof of our gratitude to our heavenly Benefactor and Friend, who has given us richly all things to enjoy ; and who in return for that bounty, expects and commands us to be rich in good works, to feed the hungry, to clothe the naked, to comfort the sick, to visit the fatherless and widow in their affliction, and to keep ourselves unspotted from the world, unpolluted by its vices, and unsubdued by its predominant vanities and follies.
THIS course of Lectures for the
present year will begin with the twenty-fourth chapter of St. Matthew; which contains one of the clearest and most important prophecies that is to be found in the sacred writings.
The prophecy is that which our blessed Lord delivered respecting the destruction of Jerusalem, to which I apprehend, the whole of the chapter, in its primary acceptation, relates. At the same time it must be admitted, that the forms of expression, and the images made use of, are for the most part applicable also to the day of judgment; and that an allusion to that great event, as a kind of secondary