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Instructor or pupil, minister or hearer, husband or wife, parent or child, brother or sister, master or servant? What duties do my several re. lations require me to perform ? and am I endeavoring to perform them? Is it an object with me to employ all the influence which I have acqui. red by relative ties, to promote the preseut and future happiness of those with whom Į stand connected ?
3. The tender connections of relative life, together with the res, ponsible duties they impose, suggest one reason why we shrink back from death. These are tender ties; and death synders them all. But had these connections involved no duties, their dissolution would not be so terrific, When the pastor perceives that he is about to be called away from his beloved flock, a sense of the intimate relation which has subsisted between him and them, makes it hard to part, But it would not be so hard, were he conscious that his pastoral duties had all been discharged. One thing which often distresses the dying pa. rent is, a recollection of his criminal negleota, particularly as it relates to the religious education of his children ; and now he sees there is
1 no remedy for these neglects. Similar reflections are excited in the minds of parents, when the conneotion is broken by the death of their children. And cases have no doubt existed, where the grief of chil. dren under the loss of parents, has been greatly aggravated by the re. collection of their unfiljal treatment of them while they lived. Since we know that these ties are all to be dissolved by death, let us faith, fully discharge the duties connected with them, lest our neglects should serve to render the day of final separation peculiarly gloomy and dis. tressing,
By personal duties, are meant those which every individual owes to himself, We are not only tolerated in the performance of such du. ties, but they are enjoined upon us. The command which is addressed to every man, requiring him to love his neighbor as himself, virtually requires him to love himself as his neighbor and the command which enjoins it on him to do good to all men as he has opportunity, lays him under obligation to do good to himself, as one to whom his opportuni, ties of usefulness are very peculiar. This objeot of his benevolent re. gard and effort, is always present wherever he goes. His own wants, both external and internal, are more intimately known, and can, in general, be more easily ministered to, than the wants of any other, Very many of the duties which every man is under obligation to pera form through life, are such as he owes immediately to himself. The various kinds of duty which a man owes to his fellow men, he owes also to himself: besides others that are peculiar. In all the four ways in which it was shown, under the head of General Duties, that we may benefit our fellow men, we can benefit ourselves.
1. As a man is under obligation to regard the person of his neigh. bor, so duty requires that he should regard his own person. “Do thyself no harm,” is obligatory on every man. God as much forbids self-mur. der and self-torture, as he forbids us to inflict these evils on one of our fellows. This is forbidden in the command, “ Thou shalt not kill.” Every man is under obligation to use all lawful measures to preserve his own life and health. But if he has lost his health and earthly comforts, so that life is a burden to him, this gives him no right to despise his life and refuse to live. “Why does a living man complain ?" Life is a blessing, even when bereaved of comforts ; since it is the day of grace. Let every desponding soul adopt the resolution of the afflict. ed man of Uz; “All the days of my appointed time will I wait till my change come.” Job xiv. 14.
2. A man owes duties to himself as respects property. It is true that a man's property is in his own hand, so as his neighbor's is not ; and there is an important sense in which a man may do what he will with his own property. “ If he sweareth to his own hurt," which is the same as to make a bargain to his own disadvantage, he not only may, but must abide by his contract; yet for him to compel his neigh. bor, in like circumstances, to abide by his, would be wrong. Ps. w. 4. But a man has no right to squander or waste his property. Industry is a duty which a man owes to himself, as well as to his family and the public. The scriptures forbid him to be slothful in business: they frown on him for dealing with a slack hand, and for that profligacy which is a needless waste of his goods. They incite him to be dili. gent to know the state of his flocks, and to look well to his herds ; also to gather up the fragments of his table that nothing be lost. See Rom. xii. 11. Prov. x. 4; xviii. 9; xxvii. 23. John vi. 12.
3. It is every man's duty to regard his own reputation. He is under obligation to conduct in such a manner as to deserve a good name. In case his character is aspersed, it may become his duty to take some pains to remove the aspersion : for since the loss of a man's charac. ter, proves the loss of his influence, it is consistent even with the most entire disinterestedness, to endeavor to retrieve it. Thus Paul took much pains, in one of his epistles to the Corinthian church, to vindi. cate himself from the unfounded charges alleged against him by his enemies. The Savior himself did the same. He said to the Jews, when they were about to stone him, “Many good works have I show.
Father: for which of those works do ye stone me ?" And again he said, “Which of you convinceth me of sin ?" While the primitive Christians gloried in their sufferings for the name of Christ, they were not willing to be under the imputation of suffering as evil-doers, or as busy-bodies in other men's matters. 1 Pet. 14
As a man has no liberty to reveal the faults of his ncighbor, unless the public good requires it, so he has no right to publish his own fail. ings. If they are already known to the public, it will be wrong for him to deny them. They may be faults of such a heinous nature, that duty will urge him to the most explicit and open confession. It was a relief
to the mind of David, to make that open confession of his sin which is the subject of the 51st Psalm. But when one's sins are known only to God, to him alone are they to be confessed; unless some injury done to our fellow men, which has hitherto been concealed, should render it our duty to confess to them also. By not understanding this part of personal duty, a man may indiscreetly injure his own reputation, and thus circumscribe his future usefulness.
4. A man is under obligation to attend to the concerns of his own soul. When compared with this, the personal duties which relate to his life, his property, and his reputation, sink into insignificance. “ For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul ?” There is no one thing more clearly revealed in the word of God, than that it is the duty of every individual to attend to the concerns of his own soul. The apostles, as ministers of recon. ciliation, warned and taught every man in all wisdom, that they might be able to present every man perfect in Christ Jesus. Now if it be. hooved them to take such pains for the salvation of every individual, was it not the duty of every individual to take equal pains for his own salvation ? Could it be their duty to labor for his salvation, and not be his duty to do the same? Or were they, while laboring for the salva. tion of their hearers, under no obligation to labor for their own ?-All souls are equally precious. My soul is as valuable as that of my neighbor. Why then should I be any less concerned for its salvation ? There are the same reasons for seeking my own, as for seeking the salvation of my neighbor. Yea, there are some reasons why I should seek my own, more especially than the salvation of any other man.
1st. A man can know his own destitute and unregenerate state, so as he can not know his neighbor's. “Which shall know every man the plague of his own heart.”
2dly. Every man has power to embrace the offer of salvation him. self, but no power to cause others to embrace it. Lot's own ability to escape from the destruction of Sodom, did not enable him to effect the escape of his sons-in-law. Joshua could only urge it on all the congregation of the children of Israel to choose the Lord for their God; but he could actually make the choice. We have no power to repent and believe for our neighbors, and obtain for them the forgiveness of sin and justification unto life; but through grace we can repent and believe for ourselves, so as to insure the salvation of our own souls.
3dly. We can become acquainted with the character of our own religion, and the evidences of our conversion, so as we can not with those of any other man; and this circumstance lays us under obliga. tion to pay the strictest attention to our own spiritual concerns. “What man,” saith the apostle, “ knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of a man that is in him?" In view of this fact, every individual is urged to attend to the examination of his own heart : "Let every man prove his own work, and then shall he have rejoicing in himself alone, and not in another." To make our calling and election sure, is emi. nently a personal duty, and one from which we can never claim ex. emption.
4thly. As we have power to embrace religion for ourselves, in distinction from doing it for our neighbors, so it is with regard to per.
severing in it. We can exhort others to persevere and endure to the end, but it is only our own souls that we can keep in the love of God. “ Keep yourselves in the love of God.” It is only our own heart that we can keep with all diligence. Divine grace, we know, is necessary for the performance of every duty : but divine grace will not enable me to keep the heart of another, as it will to keep my own.
5thly. Our own salvation is a thing we can attend to at all times, and in all places. The salvation of no other individual is placed so much within my reach, as my own. And all these peculiar opportunities of doing good to my own soul, bring with them corresponding obligations. If the soul of another man could be placed as much within my power and sphere of action, it might have similar claims on me. But this can not be.
6thly. A man is responsible for his own soul, in such a manner as he is not for the soul of any other. It is asserted in the word of truth, that “every man shall give account of himself to God." There is a sense in which we are responsible for the souls of others, but it is not in the same sense that we are for our own. The ministers of Christ are said to watch for souls, as those who must give account ; but they are accountable for nothing but their own faithfulness. Should their faithful messages fail to save their hearers, still they themselves will be glorious in the eyes of the Lord: but whoever, whether preacher or hearer, does not himself cordially receive the gospel message, will be unable to stand in the judgment. Since the exercises and actions of each individual are his own, and not another's, every one is under the most solemn obligation to see to it, that they should be such as will meet the approbation of the Judge. “ Prepare to meet thy God,” is a command which comes to us with peculiar emphasis in our individual capacity, since it is in this capacity we must all stand before the judgment seat of Christ.
Every thing in reason and scripture, urges us to attend to our own souls. Here is an intelligent, immortal being, called myself, with whom I am necessarily always present, and whose character I am capable of discerning, even to the thoughts and intents of the heart; whose movements and actions I direct, and for all of which I am accountable. By the light of revelation and by an actual acquaintance, I learn that this being is possessed of an uplovely character ; that he is now under the displeasure of the Almighty, and exposed to a continuance of that displeasure through all future duration. But the same blessed book which reveals my sin and misery, lets me know that my unlovely character can be changed, the displeasure of the Almighty be removed, and his favor be enjoyed world without end. What ought I to do for myself? Does not even reason dictate, that I am bound to make unwearied efforts to rescue from sin and ruin, this part of the Creator's work, over which I have such special control, and for which I am so peculiarly responsible ? Surely, if I have a right to suffer this creature, myself, to perish uncared for, whose salvation shall I be under obligation to seek?
And what saith the scripture on this point? “ Flee out of the midst of Babylon, and deliver every man his soul.” Jer. li. 6. “Save yourselves from this untoward generation.” Acts ii, 40.
This was as much as to say, If you can not reclaim this untoward generation, do not perish with them, but see to it, every one
of you, that you save yourselves from their sins and their ruin. The last invitation which stands on record in the word of God, seems to be purposely addressed to every individual sinner : “And whosoever will, let him take of the water of life freely.” The scriptures make it the duty of Christian ministers to seek their own salvation, as well as that of their hearers. Paul enjoined it upon the elders of the church of Ephesus, to take heed to themselves, as well as to the flock of God over which they were made overseers. And to his son Timothy he said,
Take heed to thyself, and unto thy doctrine; continue in them: for in doing this, thou shalt both save thyself and them that hear thee." In regard to himself, he says, “ I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection ; lest by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a cast-away."
Inattention to one's own spiritual concerns, is every where spoken against in the word of God. Divine wisdom makes this open proclamation, “ Whoso findeth me, findeth life, and shall obtain favor of the Lord. But he that sinneth against me, wrongeth his own soul. All they that hate me, love death.” The Savior said, “ What is a man advantaged, if he gain the whole world and lose himself, or be cast away?" His teaching was calculated to make this impression on his hearers, that it was the duty of each individual to make sure of his own salvation, let others do as they might. When one of his hearers said unto him, “ Lord, are there few that be saved ?” his reply to him was,
"Strive to enter in at the straight gate : for many, I say unto you, will seek to enter in, and shall not be able." This was as much as to warn him, and indeed every other man, in view of the many and fatal mistakes which are made concerning religion, to use the utmost caution in regard to his own spiritual concerns. It was the same as to tell him to give all diligence to make his calling and election sure.
The point being established, that a man is under obligation to do something for his own good, and especially for the good of his soul, I would mention the following among the duties which every man is bound to perform, that he may keep himself unspotted from the world. All personal duties are comprised in living soberly, or in a conscientious government of one's own tempers and actions. I shall now speak only of that part of sober living which relates to external actions.
First. Sober living is the opposite of levity in speech and behavior. Such levity indicates a frivolous mind, and tends to sink the man into the child. We are wont to attach peculiar dignity to that child who rises above levity. Therefore, even young men are in the scriptures exhorted to be sober-minded. Foolish talking and jesting are condemned as not convenient; not fit and proper for creatures who have not a word upon their tongue which is not altogether known in heaven, and for which they will not be required to give account in the day of judgment. In relation to all that frivolity, which is condemned by the letter or spirit of the scriptures, it is the duty of every one to “show himself a man.”
Secondly. Temperance in meats and drinks is a duty which every