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great and galling they may be, and have not yet entirely, heartily, and sincerely forgiven them, let us, I beseech you, immediately set about this necessary and important duty. If men have treated us with cruelty and injustice, let us consider that they are men, subject to human frailties and passions ; frailties to which we may ourselves be subject, and passions whose power and influence we are no strangers to.
Let us then proftrate ourselves with all humility before the throne of
grace, and implore the divine Being to send down upon us a portion of his own infinite mercy: that he will open our eyes to fee, and our hearts to commiferate the weakness and infirmities of human nature, that so we may be inclined to pardon and forgive them; that in the last and great day, we may not tremble to appear before his dread tribunal, but rest with confidence on the goodness and mercy of that God, who, on the intercession of our fellow.creatures, whose of fences we had forgiven, shall graciously re. ceive us to his mercy, pardon our offences, and for our kind and tender behaviour to our neighbour in this life, reward us with everlasting joy and happiness in that which is to
ON THE BENEVOLENT SPIRIT OF CHRISTIANITY.
S E R M 0 N
LUKE IX. 56.
The Son of man is not come to destroy men's lives,
but to save them. A S our blessed Saviour was passing through
the country of the Samaritans, in his way to Jerusalem, he sent some messengers before him into one of their villages, to provide an entertainment for himself and his attendants : but the inhabitants knowing him to be a Jew, and that he was going to worship at Jerusalem, from the rooted enmity and hatred which they had to that whole nation, on account of some religious differences, refused to receive him: a treatment which fo enflamed the spirit of James and John, two of our Lord's disci. ples, that they immediately, in the warmth of their zeal, cried out, Lord, wilt thou that we command fire to come down from heaven, and confume them? Our Saviour, notwithstanding he had been so grossly affronted, was so far from approving this their zeal, that he rejected their proposal with the utmost indignation, and rebuked them, saying, ye know not what manner of Spirit ye are of; for the Son of man is not come to vestroy men's lives, but to save them. As if he had said,
Ye do not consider, thoughtless and igno. rant as ye are, what a vile and wicked fpirit that muft be which dictates so much inhuma. nity; how impossible it is for me to comply with a request so irreconcileable with my appearance in the world, which is to do no ham, but all possible good to all mankind; not only to confer eternal salvation on them in the next life, but likewise to consult their present wel.. fare and happiness in this; to efublish human society in peace and good order, and to contribute to the security, comfort, and true en joyment of life.
This gracious declaration of our blesed Lord and Redeemer, cannot but afford us, on a serious consideration, many useful lellens and instructions, and convince us that by his appearance on earth he consulted the real happiness of mankind, as well in regard to this world, as to that which is to come.
It might very justly indeed be expected, that when our Saviour appeared as a divine messenger, and the institutor of a religion which was to be propagated among all netions, that he would have a particular regard to the peace of the world, and make the ad , vancement of it one principal part of his con cern. It is not to be supposed that God would send a person into the world, to deliver in his name, a law or rule of life to mankind, which would take no care of them, or their interests: it might on the other hand naturally be prefumed that such an institution would be chiefly intended to promote ther happiness, and that
whilft it effectually secured that happiness in another world, it would likewise provide for that part of it which may be enjoyed by them in this : without this design indeed, it would not be possible for any revelation to engage the attention and favour of mankind.
Accordingly when our Saviour appeared as a prophet fent from God, he brought with him that most necessary qualification, and which would be most useful to him in his divine mission, a kind and beneficent intention : he foon convinced mankind that he came not to promote any selfish ends and initerests of his own, that his designs were noble and generous, not only to confirm the timorous and diffident in the joyful hope of immortality, but to render their condition here easy and agreeable, to diffuse a spirit of peace, harmony, and love through human fociety, and to make the world a scene of constant ferenity, delight and fatisfaction.
This was the true end and design of our Saviour's appearance, the business which he heartily and fincerely profecuted during his stay on earth, as will more fully and plainly appear from what I propose in the present dir. course to consider; namely,
First, The nature and tendency of that religion which he has instituted.
Secondly, The example which he has proposed to the imitation of his followers. And,
Thirdly, The many benefits and advantages naturally resulting from our strict and regular observance of it.
And First, therefore, let us consider the nature and tendency of the Christian institution, which is perfectly calculated for promoting the present interest of men, and making the focieties of the world flourish and prosper. The greatest part of man's private happiness must undoubtedly arise from a virtuous temper and state of mind, and a course of actions agreeable to it; from humanity, justice, and kindness to men; from love, gratitude, and obedience to God.
It is at the faine time no less evident, that the greatest happiness of society proceeds from the virtue and good conduct of men, from their being well-affected towards the public, and employing their several powers and abi. lities to promote the common good, and from the regular performance of every social and relative duty: if this must be granted, it is easy to shew the tendency of the Chriftian religion to promote the present happiness of men, and the peace and welfare of this world, as the great end and design of the gospel of Christ is to press and inculcate all those vir. tues which are the sources both of public and of private happiness. It insists particularly upon those duties and virtues, the practice of which affects the order and welfare of the public, commanding all men to fulfill the duties of their several relations, to be labori. ous and diligent in their calling, to be honest and just in all their dealings, to cultivate a spirit of harmony and meekness, of forgiveness, condescension, and universal benevolence. T 2