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every prudent person, instead of being zealous to propagate things of this nature, must see cause to discourage them, at least by abstaining from them; and to labour in every way, both for their own sakes and that of the public, to preserve (what there is much want of increasing) the small remainder of Christianity, that is left amongst us. Considered in our private capacities, our business here is, not to please ourselves without regard to consequences, but to spend the few sabbaths and few days, which we have to come on earth, that we may be qualified, , at the end of them, to enter into that eternal sabbath, that rest which remaineth for the people of God * in heaven. And considered as a nation, we have great cause to remember, for our direction, the promise and the warning, which God gave the Jews for theirs. If thou turn away thy foot from the sabbath, from doing thy pleasure on my holy day, and call the sabbath a delight ; the holy of the Lord, honourable – I will cause thee to ride upon the high places of the earth, and feed thee with the heritage of Jacob thy father t : But if ye will not hearken unto me, to hallow the sabbath day—I will kindle a fire in the gates of Jerusalem, and it shall devour the palaces thereof, and shall not be quenched I. Heb. iv. 9,
+ Isaiah lviii. 13, 14. Jer. xvii. 27.
PHIL. iy. 5.
Let your moderation be known unto all men.
Lord is at hand.
The word moderation, signifies in the original, that reasonableness of mind, which curbs the exorbitancies of all our passions, appetites, and imaginations; confining us to proper degrees of being affected by the things about us, and of exerting ourselves in relation to them: from which larger meaning it is naturally and easily contracted to express more especially the due restraints of desire and anger, fear and sorrow. In discoursing upon it therefore, I shall so treat of the temper in general, as to have a more immediate regard to these instances of it in particular, whilst I endeavour to recommend the virtue of moderation:
1. From its conduciveness to the practice of our duty.
II. From its good influence on the happiness of our lives here on earth.
III. From its importance to that succeeding state, the near approach of which the text places in our view.
1. I would shew, how conducive the keeping all our inward movements within just limits is to the practice of our duty. But here it must be observed, that a merely natural vehemence of spirit is not strictly an actual sin, though it be one of the consequences of our original depravity, which we have usually much cause to lament. For it always puts us on a harder trial, than persons of a cooler temperament have to undergo. Yet still, the greater is our virtue, if we stand this trial : and the less our guilt, if we sometimes fail from infirmity or surprise. But if we act wrong through gross negligence or deliberate indulgence ; that we were strongly inclined to it, is no good excuse : for as we could not but know our inclination, we ought to have watched against it, and checked it. Therefore it is not the warmth of temper, with which we are born, and against which we strive, but the wilful or heedless indulgence of it, that unfits us for the duties of life.
We are all of us very sensible, in the main, what those duties are: we seldom err much in any particular, when we really desire to know, what is incumbent on us : the fitness of pious and virtuous behaviour is evident to our understandings; and the esteem of it natural to our hearts. A stranger to human affairs would from this account immediately conclude, that surely scarce any one ever missed then of doing as he ought. We are unhappily too well acquainted with them to judge thus : and see the case to be so very much otherwise, that had we no other guide to direct our inquiries than our own reason, it would be impossible for us to say with any certainty, how we come to be so inconsistent with ourselves. But when once the Scripture hath taught us, that we have lost the primitive strength and uprightness, in which God created man, all the rest is easy.
For we are surrounded here, on every side, with worldly objects, capable of giving us pleasure and pain ; and of stirring up in our corrupted natures excessive emotions of desire, hope, fear, anger, sorrow. These passions importunately solicit our attention; and according to the degree, in which they are gratified, engross it to themselves : till we find so many earthly things to long after, or to dread; to love, or to hate; to rejoice in, or to lament; and that with such immoderate earnestness; that virtue and religion are seldom thought of, and seldomer still to any good purpose : their obligations are, at some times with miserable subtlety eluded; and at others, resolutely and desperately broken through, even when we see what we are doing, and see the consequences.
These are the daily effects of being too strongly moved by the things of this life. And they are bitter streams, that will flow, till the fountain of our hearts * is healed and purified by faith † in that grace, which our blessed Lord hath procured for us by his death, and offers to us in his Gospel. Whatever we allow to make the greatest impression upon our minds, that will have the greatest influence on our conduct; and by degrees exclude every thing else. It is our Saviour's determination, that no man can serve two masters I: that is, when their commands interfere. We may indeed change from one to another, and so be faithful to neither, and displease both. But whatever we permit for the present to engage our attention, that for the present we shall pursue, and pass by or trample upon every thing else, which may stand in our way to it. Thus, if we
* Acts xv. I.
2 Kings i. 21, 22. James iii. 2.
I Matth. vi. 24. Luke xvi. 13.
indulge considerably the love of pleasure, of gain, of advancement; we may design indeed, or think we design, along with it, to keep within the bounds of temperance, of justice, of humility, and preserve a due regard to the interests of a future state. But these purposes will be ineffectual: the objects to which our fallen nature is prone, will, by the help of but a little partiality in their favour, fill our souls and bias our actions. Again: if we suffer ourselves to be discomposed by the happiness of others, we shall grow envious ; if by injuries from others, we shall grow revengeful. If we let the more harmless passions of fear and sorrow become predominant, we shall unfit ourselves for usefulness in our stations, and weaken our sense of gratitude for the blessings of life. If we only give a loose to unmeaning fancy and caprice, we shall degrade the dignity of our species, and be hurried not only into folly, but sin. In what way soever inclination bears us along, beyond the sober dictates of reason, we shall be continually and almost irresistibly tempted to overlook and transgress those rules of duty, which a better command of ourselves would have enabled us to perceive and disposed us to observe.
Our Maker expects from us, that we should first measure the value of things rightly, then esteem them suitably to it. And almost the only error, by which we fail of this, is being affected too much by the concerns of the present world, and from thence too little by those of the next. There is, it must be owned, a great variety of wickedness amongst men : and sins directly opposite to each other. But in one point they agree notwithstanding : that the commission of them all is greatly owing to the same inconsiderate cagerness, by which we paint to our