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spite of their best pains; but if no pains be taken, and family religion is altogether neglected, nothing which may be done abroad will serve instead to prove your honesty. I mention this, because it concerns so many.
But, speaking of others, besides those under our own roof, St. Paul says further, "Exhort one another daily, while it is called to day, lest any of you be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin : * and I have quoted a plain text already, which says, you must in any wise rebuke your neighbour, if need require it. No doubt, there are rules to be observed in giving reproof, and difficulties to be encountered: but this does not discharge you of your obligation. You must study the matter, and pray for guidance-but not leave the thing undone-and you will seldom be very far wrong; and not often be altogether unsuccessful, if under a due sense of your accountableness to God, you speak the truth in love. Indeed, if you are sincerely grieved on your neighbour's account at seeing him hurt himself, such a feeling is a softener of the spirit, and consequently of the manner and the language; and then, because you feel yourself bound to reprove your neighbour, you will not thence take license to revile him; you will not count him as an enemy, but admonish him as a brother: you will
*Heb. iii. 13.
not be harsh, or insolent, or presuming: you "will restore such a one in the spirit of meekness," as evidently considering yourself, that you, also, may be tempted and then, "a word spoken in season, how good is it!" It is "the soft word which breaketh the bones ;" and, "he that is overtaken in a fault," may be a man of sense, at least, in his cooler moments; and "a reproof," says Solomon, "entereth more into a wise man, than an hundred stripes into a fool."* So there is encouragement enough. I have not time, in addressing those who profess to mourn for sin, to particularize at present all the ways and means by which, without supposing them to be called to the ministry of the Gospel, they may yet be fellow-labourers, in the word and doctrine, with those who are called to it. But, I say, in general, the faith of the Gospel is God's remedy for the evil you lament; and, therefore, if there be any ways by which you can strengthen the hands of the commissioned preachers of it, you are bound to use them. Some of you, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God, can support by your money schools for the religious instruction of the poor, and some or other of the many religious institutions and associations which happily subsist among us; using your own discretion, as you have a right to do, in
*Prov. xvii. 10.
making choice among them and if you do not do something in this way when you can, the rivers of tears which run down your eyes, and the sorrow which you say you feel, because men keep not God's law, is much like the fair speeches, noted by St. James, of those, who say to the naked and to the destitute, "Depart in peace, be ye warmed, and be ye filled: but, notwithstanding, give them not the things which are needful for the body." Feelings, as I have said before, are good for nothing which produce nothing; and
every tree which beareth not good fruit is hewn down and cast into the fire." However, many who hear me are not the wealthy; though most would enlarge their givings, if grace had enlarged their hearts. So, I will only further note two ways of helping the cause of godliness, and putting down sin, which are open to every body, and, therefore, may from every body be demanded. I mean, your example and your prayers. In proportion as you profess to grieve. for sin in others, you confess your obligation to walk very circumspectly yourselves, otherwise you promote what you lament; and a little want of vigilance will be sufficient for that bad end. There are few of us, I am afraid, who have not done damage here, more or less; for," as dead flies cause the ointment of the apothecary to send forth a stinking savour, so," says Solomon,
"doth a little folly, him that is in reputation for wisdom and honour."* Some are honoured for their station, and some for their general character. Both parties have a talent with which they are put in trust; and as they may do much by it for the good of others, they must hold it as public property; and hold it, too, with fear and trembling. For Christ must least of all be wounded in the house of his friends; and the faults of persons in high places, and much more of persons generally esteemed, are more than mere patterns of evil; they will be taken in fact, however unwarrantably, for justification of what is wrong, and be pleaded as precedents, which people who say they pretend to little may safely follow. However, example, even if it were perfect, which with the best it is not, is but an instrument, and the excellency of the power is of God alone. I say, then, your prayers are indispensable; and, except as the spirit of prayer increases, the sin of the world will never decrease. Preaching is a prophesying to dry bones, till the spirit of the Lord breathes upon those slain, that they may live; and "no man can say, that Jesus is the Lord, but by the Holy Ghost." Then, brethren, pray for us your ministers, that the word of God may have free course and be glorified; and pray, too, for those around you, and +1 Cor. xii. 3.
* Eccles. x. 1.
whom we have in charge. If we do not pray for you, you have not your rights at our hands; nor have we any good ground to look for it, that any other work of our's among you thing else but vain in the Lord.
should be any
If you do not
pray for us, and for the success of our ministry, neither we nor your neighbours have our rights at your hands, nor may you expect a blessing. And this good lesson our church teaches you, by instructing the minister to say, in the midst of the service, "The Lord be with you,"-and you to reply to him, " And with thy spirit." And so be it, brethren; let us not be in one another's debt; and, moreover, "let supplications, prayers, and intercessions be made by you for all men." Have your brethren upon your hearts in the church, and in your private devotions too; intercede specially for those whose cases you are specially acquainted with: be this your habit, in conjunction with those other works and practices which I have mentioned; and though rivers of tears may still run down your eyes, because iniquity will still abound too much, yet you will have done something which, at all events, God will accept in Christ.
3. And now there is one class more, and in it I mean to include myself and all that hear meto whom a few words must be spoken, before I make an end. Those, I mean, who commit sin.