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May the God of Christians make this representation of their duty towards men effectual to convince every
reader that if he has at heart the welfare of society, it can only be promoted to the utmost, where the faith of the Lord Jesus Christ is sincerely embraced.
I. In delineating the tempers of a Christian towards his fellow-creatures I shall begin with that eminent one, Sincerity. As a Christian then
you will esteem it your duty, constantly to speak the truth, according to the information you have received, in all the affairs and occurrences of life. You will lay a charge upon your conscience to give no commendations where you think they are not due; not to flatter any as possessed of excellences which you see not in them; nor to speak as if you regarded them with peculiar respect, when you only design by this means to pay your court, to please the vanity of the human heart, or to deceive. For though in the commerce of the world and amongst the refinements of the polite, such artifice is valued as an accomplishment, it is, in fact, a horrid perversion of language, a piece of dissimulation which Christian simplicity abhors. And as sincerity will be conspicuous in all your conversation with respect to persons and things, so the same excellent temper will display its influence with respect to all your promises and engagements. When you have bound yourself by a promise to do any good office, or confer any benefit, the right of the thing promised hath, in the court of conscience and before the God of truth, passed over from you to the person receiving the promise ; wherefore you have, without his leave, no more power to recall or reverse it, than if you had given him a legal bond. Consequently you will esteem yourself obliged to stand to the performance of your word, though it may be much to your own prejudice. And this in every instance where you have made a promise, unless some conditions were specified which have not been fulfilled or something has afterwards come to light, which annuls its obligation. Above all, you will shew an inviolable attachment to sincerity, when your testimony is required in a court of judicature, and in decision of matters of right. Here, divesting yourself of affection on the one hand, and prejudice on the other, you will explain the true state of the case, and represent every thing without disguise, as it has fallen under
notice. In these several important particulars, and in all similar to them, you will pay a conscientious regard to sincerity. Your motives also will be distinct from those of the mere moralist, and infinitely more cogent. He may be an advocate for truth and sincerity, and would have all men practise it, because it is the cement of society and the only foundation of mutual confidence. Feeble motives, alas! when opposed to the natural selfishness of man, and to those violent temptations which allure the indigent, and dependent, to obtain money and serve their private interest.
The consideration of the character of the great and glorious God, is, on the contrary, your encouragement and support, O Christian! in the exercise of this temper. He is himself the God of truth; and it is, you know, what he commands, and what he delights in. “ These are the things that ye shall do,” saith he, “Speak ye every man truth to his neighbour.” Zech. viii. 16. The want of sincerity he stigmatizes with reproach, and threatens every false tongue with eternal woe. In the character which
your God gives of an heir of heaven, you are assured that he is one that “ hateth lying.” Prov. xiii. 5. that “ speaketh the truth in his heart.” Psalm xv. 2. “ Lying lips,” you read, “ are abomination to the Lord,” Prov. xii. 22. A mark, that men are of their father the devil, and the lusts of their father they will do.” John viii. 44. And, we are warned that “all liars shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone.' Rev. xxi. 8.
In you, therefore, these motives will unite their force; namely, a desire to please God, and dwell for ever in his presence, and a fear of despising his high and amiable authority, of incurring his severe displeasure, and the just punishment of everlasting misery. These motives will arm you so completely, that you can meet with no evil great enough to deter, nor with any bribe sufficient to allure you from the practice of sincerity. Add to this, that the Holy Ghost, which every true believer in Jesus Christ receives, is called “ the Spirit of truth ;' and his fruit “ is in all goodness, righteousness, and truth.” It
is impossible therefore to be a Christian, and at the same time to live under the dominion of a false and deceitful tongue. If your
conscience therefore accuses you in this matter, O! cease to flatter yourself that you are in any degree righteous on account of all you may boast, or glory in, beside. No; unless you abhor falsehood, and delight in sincerity and truth, be assured it is not making many prayers, it is not extolling the riches of free grace, or attempting to cover yourself with the robe of the Saviour's righteousness, that will either excuse or screen your heinous wickedness. On the contrary, if you can thus mon. strously abuse the grace of God, it only proves that your idea of him is infinitely despicable; that you conceive of him, as if he could be pleased, with what would even kindle your own resentment,—with deceitful compliment and unmeaning adulation; as if he would regard words or speculative notions, whilst in the weighty matters of his law, you set at nought his counsel. No: sincerity and truth are the very essence of Christian practice; and if you are a believer, you will eminently possess these shining qualities.
II. It is the temper of a Christian constantly to act towards his fellow-creatures with Justice. Has the providence of God placed you in some public post, investing you with the dignity of a magistrate, a senator, or a judge? you will vigorously oppose oppression, and punish the oppressor: you will be active to put salutary laws in execution, to establish tranquillity, and promote peace : you will be mindful of God, the high ordainer of all civil government, to whom every one entrusted with the discharge of any part of it, stands as strictly accountable as the steward to his master. What God so solemnly commands, will form your public character: “ Ye shall do no unrighteousness in judgment. Thou shalt not respect the person of the poor, nor honour the person of the mighty ; but in righteousness shalt thou judge thy neighbour,” Levit. xix. 15. “ He that ruleth over men” (like the Prince of peace, to whom the words primarily refer,)“ must be just, ruling in the fear of God: and he shall be as the light of the morning, when the sun riseth, even a morning without
clouds; as the tender grass springeth out of the earth by clear shining after rain," 2 Sam. xxiii. 3, 4. Have
riches in such abundance as to create a numerous set of dependents? you will exercise Christian justice towards them all: you will scorn to grasp after the utmost farthing your estates can produce, till your tenants, wedded as it were to the place of their nativity, groan beneath the load of rents unreasonably advanced : you will perceive an inexpressible degree of injustice also in the fashionable custom of owing large sums for your furniture, equipage, and dress, whilst your tradesmen are almost at their wits'end, to pay for the things you call your own ; whilst they are daily tortured with the dilemma of bankruptcy, if they recover not their debts; or of ruin, through the cruel resentment of their opulent creditors, if they do. Your rule is positive and express,
“ Owe no man any thing, but to love one another;" and the opposite practice, though punishable in the rich by no human law (except in extreme cases) is marked as the object of God's abhorrence, and the certain way to fall under the severity of his displeasure. Behold, the hire of the labourers who have reaped down your fields, which is of you kept back by fraud, crieth: and the cries of them which have reaped are entered into the ears of the Lord of baoth. Ye have lived in pleasure on the earth, and been wanton," James v. 4, 5. The application of this Scripture, from the day-labourer, to every person in trade, whose money is unreasonably withheld, will be obvious and effectual to you, who regard the reproofs of God in his holy word.
But are you occupied yourself in trade or merchandize, then the energy of your Christian principles will shew themselves in a still stronger light. You will not suffer the love of money to bias or corrupt your conscience. You will take no advantage either of the ignorance or necessity of those you deal with, to put bad things into their hands for good, or to exact an exorbitant price. You will neither take, nor use, nor detain through force or fraud, what is your neighbour's property.
Now if any one should say, it is not possible to live so honestly in the present state of the world; that the righ
teous man, by dealing so conscientiously in the midst of those who have no conscience, would make himself a prey, and therefore must either leave his trade or starve in it: I answer, that violent as the temptations, and plausible as the pleas are, to conform to general custom, in conniving at breaches of honesty, and in living upon the wages
of iniquity; yet the motives for you to be punctually just and righteous in all your dealings, if you have any title to the character of a Christian, must still preponderate. For (whatever is the case with others, who have never received the word of God in deed and in truth) you know how express and peremptory is the command of
God in this matter. You know that God, who indispensably requires you to be honest, leaves no foundation for the worldly and infidel excuses constantly urged to palliate cheating, viz. the necessity of being dishonest in order to prosper: for he pledges his own most sacred word for your provision, if you will deal uprightly. Thus saith the Lord the most high God, possessor of heaven and earth, “ Thou shalt not have in thy bag divers weights, a great and a small, (that is, one to buy and another to sell with). Thou shalt not have in thine house divers measures, a great and a small. But thou shalt have a perfect and just weight, a perfect and just measure shalt thou have: that thy days may be lengthened in the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee. For all that do such things, and all that do unrighteously, are an abomination to the Lord thy God." Deut. xxv. 13-16. You hear him expressing his abhorrence of the iniquity, so customary in trade, in the most alarming manner: " Are there yet the treasures of wickedness in the house of the wicked, and the scant measure, that is abominable? Shall I count them pure with the wicked balances, and with the bag of deceitful weights? For the rich men thereof are full of violence, and the inhabitants thereof have spoken lies, and their tongue is deceitful in their mouth. Therefore also will I make thee sick in smiting thee, in making thee desolate because of thy sins,” Micah vi. 10–13.
Should it be supposed that regard for yourself and family will gain the ascendency, and be prompting you to use common arts of fraud; I answer, that even this
pressing temptation will be counteracted by the unalterable