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with the Scriptures, for not giving us the preci- , and excluded, it is the present. If ever there was sion of civil laws; and we may blame the laws, a time to make the public feel the benefit of pube for not being content with the conciseness and lic institutions, it is this. simplicity of Scripture; and our censure in both But I shall add nothing more concerning the cases be unfounded and undeserved.
obligation which the text, and the lesson it conThe observation of the text is exactly of the veys, imposes upon public men, because I think nature I have been alluding to. It supplies a prin- that the principle is too apt to be considered as ciple. It furnishes us with a view of our duty, appertaining to them alone. It will therefore be and of the relations in which we are placed, more useful to show, how what are called private which, if attended to, (and no instruction can be stations are affected by the same principle. I say, of use without that,) will produce in our minds what are called private stations; for such they just determinations, and, what are of more value, are, only as contradistinguished from public trusts because more wanted, efficacious motives. publicly and formally confided. In themselves,
“ None of us liveth to himself.” We ought to and accurately estimated, there are few such; regard our lives, (including under that name our mean, that there are few so destined to the private faculties, our opportunities, our advantages of emolument of the possessor, as that they are inevery kind,) not as mere instruments of personal nocently occupied by him, when they are occugratification, but as due to the service of God; pied with no other attention but to his own enjoyand as given us to be employed in promoting the ment. Civil government is constituted for the purpose of his will in the happiness of our fellow- happiness of the governed, and not for the gratificreatures. I am not able to imagine a turn of cation of those who administer it. Not only so, thought which is better than this. It encounters but the gradations of rank in society are supportthe antagonist, the check, the destroyer of all vir-ed, not for the advantage or pleasure of those who tue, selfishness. It is intelligible to all; to all dif- possess the highest places in it, but for the comferent degrees applicable. It incessantly prompts mon good; for the security, the repose, the pro to exertion, to activity, to beneficence.
tection, the encouragement of all. They may be In order to recommend it, and in order to ren- very satisfactorily defended upon this principle; der it as useful as it is capable of being made, it but then this principle casts upon them duties. may be proper to point out, how the force and in particular, it teaches every man who possesses truth of the apostle's assertion bears upon the dif- a fortune, to regard himself as in some measure ferent classes of civil society. And in this view, occupying a public station; as obliged to make it the description of men which first, undoubtedly, a channel of beneficence, an instrument of good offers itself to our notice, is that of men of public to others, and not merely a supply to himself of characters; who possess offices of importance, the materials of luxury, ostentation, or avarice. power, influence, and authority. If the rule and There is a share of power and influence necessaprinciple which I am exhibiting to your observa- rily attendant upon property; upon the right or tion, can be said to be made for one class of man- the wrong use of which, the exertion or the negkind more than another, it is for them. They, lect, depends no little part of the virtue or vice, certainly, "live not to themselves.” The design, the happiness or misery, of the community. It is the tenure, the condition of their offices; the pub- in the choice of every man of rank and property lic expectation, the public claim; consign their to become the benefactor or the scourge, the guarlives and labours, their cares, and thoughts, and dian or the tyrant, the example or the corrupter, talents, to the public happiness, whereinsoever it of the virtue of his servants, his tenants, his neighis connected with the duties of their stations, or bourhood; to be the author to them of peace or can be advanced by the fidelity of their services. contention, of sobriety or dissoluteness, of comfort There may be occasions and emergencies when or distress. This power, whencesoever it promen are called upon to take part in the public ceeds, whether expressly conferred or silently acservice, out of the line of their professions, or the quired, (for I see no difference in the two cases,) ordinary limits of their vocation. But these emer- brings along with it obligation and responsibility. gencies occur, I think, seldom. The necessity It is to be lamented when this consideration is should be manifest, before we yield to it. A too not known, or not attended to. Two causes ape great readiness to start out of our separate pre- pear to me to obstruct, to men of this description, cincts of duty, in order to rush into provinces the view of their moral situation. One is, that which belong to others, is a dangerous excess of they do not perceive any call upon them at all; zeal. In general the public interest is best upheld, the other, that, if there be one, they do not see to the public quiet always best preserved, by each what they are called. To the first point I would one attending closely to the proper and distinct answer in the words of an excellent moralist, * duties of his station. In seasons of peril or con “ The delivery of the talent is the call;" it is the sternation, this attention ought to be doubled. call of Providence, the call of Heaven. The supDangers are not best opposed by tumultuous or ply of the means is the requisition of the duty. disorderly exertions; but by a sedate, firm, and When we find ourselves in possession of faculties calm resistance, especially by that regular and si- and opportunities, whether arising from the enlent strength, which is the collected result of each dowments and qualities of our minds, or from the man's vigilance and industry in his separate sta- advantages of fortune and station, we need ask tion. For public men, therefore, to be active in for no further evidence of the intention of the do the stations assigned to them, is demanded by nor: we ought to see in that intention a demand their country in the hour of her fear or danger. upon us for the use and application of what has If ever there was a time, when they that rule been given. This is a principle of natural as “should rule with diligence;" when supineness, negligence, and remissness in office, when a ti
* The late Abraham Tucker, Esq. author of The Light midity or love of ease, which might in other cir- of Nature, and of The Light of Nature and Revelation cumstances be tolerated, ought to be proscribed | pursued, by Edward Search, Esq.
well as revealed religion: and it is universal. , which the private endeavours of an individual can Then as to the second inquiry, the species of be- produce upon the mass of social good, is so lost, nevolence, the kind of duty to which we are and so unperceived, in the comparison, that it bound, it is pointed out to us by the same indica- neither deserves, they think, nor rewards, the attion. To whatever office of benevolence our fa- tention which it requires. The answer is, that culties are best fitted, our talents turned; what- ) the comparison, which thus discourages them, ever our opportunities, our occasions, our fortune, ought never to be made. The good which their our profession, our rank or station, or whatever efforts can produce, may be too minute to bear our local circumstances, wbich are capable of no any sensible proportion to the sum of public hapenumeration, put in our power to perform with piness, yet may be their share, may be enough for the most advantage and effect, that is the office them. The proper question is not, whether the for ys; that it is, which, upon our principle, we good we aim at be great or little; still less, wheare designed, and, being designed, are obliged to ther it be great or little in comparison with the discharge. I think that the judgment of man- whole; but whether it be the most which it is in. kind does not often fail them in the choice of the our power to perform. A single action may be, objects or species of their benevolence: but what as it were, nothing to the aggregate of moral good; fails them is the sense of the obligation, the con so also may be the agent. It may still, therefore, sciousness of the connexion between duty and be the proportion which is required of him. In power, and springing from this consciousness, a all things nature works by numbers. Her greatest disposition to seek opportunities, or to embrace effects are achieved by the joint operation of multhose that occur, of rendering themselves useful titudes of (separately considered) insignificant into their generation.
dividuals. It is enough for each that it executes Another cause, which keeps out of the sight of its office. It is not its concern, because it does those who are concerned in them, the duties that not depend upon its will, what place that office belong to superior stations, is a language from holds in, or what proportion it bears to, the genetheir infancy familiar to them, namely, that they ral result. Let our only comparison therefore be, are placed above work. I have always considered between our opportunities and the use which we this as a most unfortunate phraseology. And, as make of them. When we would extend our habitual modes of speech have no small effect upon views, or stretch out our hand, to distant and public sentiment, it has a direct tendency to make general good, we are commonly lost and sunk in one portion of mankind envious, and the other the magnitude of the subject. Particular good, idle. The truth is, every man has his work. The and the particular good which lies within our kind of work varies, and that is all the difference reach, is all we are concerned to attempt, or to inthere is. A great deal of labour exists beside that quire about. Not the smallest effort will be forof the hands; many species of industry beside bo- gotten; not a particle of our virtue will fall to the dily operation, equally necessary, requiring equal ground. Whether successful or not, our endeaassiduity, more attention, more anxiety. It is not vours will be recorded; will be estimated, not actrue, therefore, that men of elevated stations are cording to the proportion which they bear to the exempted from work; it is only true, that there is universal interest, but according to the relation assigned to them work of a different kind: whe- which they hold to our means and opportunities; ther more easy, or more pleasant, may be ques- according to the disinterestedness, the sincerity, tioned; but certainly not less wanted, not less with which we undertook, the pains and perseve essential to the common good. Were this maxim rance with which we carried them on. It may be once properly received as a principle of conduct, it true, and I think it is the doctrine of Scripture, would put men of fortune and rank upon in- that the right use of great faculties or great opporquiring, what were the opportunities of doing tunities will be more highly rewarded, than the good, (for some, they may depend upon it, there right use of inferior faculties and less opportuniare,) which in a more especial manner belonged ties. He that with ten talents had made ten to to their situation or condition; and were this lents more, was placed over ten cities. The negprinciple carried into any thing like its full effect, lected talent was also given to him. He who or even were this way of thinking sufficiently in- with five talents had made five more, though proculcated, it would completely remove the invidi- nounced to be a good and faithful servant, was ousness of elevated stations. Mankind would see placed only over five cities. This distinction in them this alternative: If such men discharged might, without any great harshness to our moral the duties which were attached to the advantages feelings, be resolved into the will of the Supreme they enjoyed, they deserved these advantages: if Benefactor: but we can see, perhaps, enough of they did not, they were, morally speaking, in the the subject to perceive that it was just. The merit situation of a poor man who neglected his business may reasonably be supposed to have been more in and his calling; and in no better. And the pro- one case than the other. The danger, the activity, per reflection in both cases is the same: the indi- the care, the solicitude, were greater. Still both vidual is in a high degree culpable, yet the busi- received rewards, abundant beyond measure when ness and the calling beneficial and expedient. compared with the services, equitable and propor
The habit and the disposition which we wish tioned when compared with one another. to recommend, namely, that of casting about for That our obligation is commensurate with our opportunities of doing good, readily seizing those opportunity, and that the possession of the opporwhich accidentally present themselves, and faith- tunity is sufficient, without any further or more fully using those which naturally and regularly formal command, to create the obligation, is a belong to our situations, appear to be sometimes principle of morality and of Scripture ; and is alike checked by a notion, very natural to active spirits, true in all countries. But that power and property and to flattered talents. They will not be content so far go together, as to constitute private fortunes to do little things. They will either attempt mighty matters, or do nothing. The small effect
* Matt. xxv. 20, et seq.
into public stations, as to cast upon large portions | country, and who come amongst us, strangers to of the community occasions whích render the pre- our contentions, if we have any, our parties, and ceding principles more constantly applicable, is our prejudices; strangers to every thing except the effect of civil institutions, and is found in no the evidence which they hear. The effect corcountry more than in ours; if in any so much. responds with the wisdom of the design. Juries With us a great part of the public business of the may err, and frequehtly do so; but there is no country is transacted by the country itself: and system of error incorporated with their constituupon the prudent and faithful management of it, tion. Corruption, terror, intluence are excluded by depends, in a very considerable degree, the inte- it; and prejudice, in a great degree, though not rior prosperity of the nation, and the satisfaction entirely. This danger, which consists in juries of great bodies of the people. Not only offices of viewing one class of men, or one class of rights, magistracy, which affect and pervade every dis- in a more or less favourable light than another, is trict
, are delegated to the principal inhabitants of the only one to be feared, and to be guarded the neighbourhood, but there is erected in every against. It is a disposition, which, whenever it county å high and venerable tribunal, to which rises up in the minds of jurors, ought to be reowners of permanent property, down almost to pressed by their probity, their consciences, the their lowest classes, are indiscriminately called; sense of their duty, the remembrance of their and called to take part, not in the forms and cere- oaths. monies of the meeting, but in the most efficient And this institution is not more salutary, than and important of its functions. The wisdom of it is grateful and honourable to those popular feelman hath not devised a happier institution than ings of which all good governments are tender. that of juries, or one founded in a juster know- Hear the language of the law. In the most moledge of human life, or of the human capacity. In mentous interests, in the last peril indeed of hujurisprudence, as in every science, the points ulti- man life, the accused appeals to God and his mately rest upon common sense. But to reduce country," which country you are.” What pomp a question to these points, and to propose them of titles, what display of honours, can equal the accurately, requires not only an understanding real dignity which these few words confer upon superior to that which is necessary to decide upon those to whom they are addressed? They show, them when proposed, but oftentimes also a tech by terms the most solemn and significant, how nical and peculiar erudition. Agreeably to this highly the law deems of the functions and character distinction, which runs perhaps through all sci- of a jury; they show also, with what care of the ences, what is preliminary and preparatory is left safety of the subject it is, that the same law has to the legal profession; what is final, to the plain provided for every one a recourse to the fair and understanding of plain men. But since it is ne- indifferent arbitration of his neighbours. This is cessary that the judgment of such men should be substantial equality; real freedom: equality of informed; and since it is of the utmost importance protection; freedom from injustice. May it nethat advice which falls with so much weight, ver be invaded, never abused! May it be pershould be drawn from the purest sources; judges petual! And it will be so, if the affection of the are sent down to us, who have spent their lives in country continue to be preserved to it, by the inthe study and administration of the laws of their tegrity of those who are charged with its office.
SERMONS ON SEVERAL SUBJECTS.
ADVERTISEMENT. The Author of these Sermons, by a codicil to his will, declares as follows :—“ If my life had been. continued, it was my intention to have printed at Sunderland a Volume of Sermons--about 500 copies; to be distributed gratis in the parish ; and I had proceeded so far in the design as to hare transcribed several Sermons for that purpose, which are in a parcel by themselres. There is also a parcel from which I intended to make other transcripts; but the business is in an imperfect unfinished state ; the arrangement is not settled further than that I thought the Sermon on Seriousness in Religion should come first, and then the doctrinal Sermons: there are also many repetitions in them, and some that might be omitted or consolidated with others.” The codicil then goes on to direct, that, after such disposition should have been made respecting the Manuscripts as might be deemed necessary, they should be printed by the Rev. Mr. Stephenson, at the expense of the teslator's erecutors, and distributed in the neighbourhood, first to those who frequented church, then to
farmers' families in the country, then to such as had a person in the family who could read, and were likely to read them: and, finally, it is added, “ I would not have the said Sermons published for sale."
In compliance with this direction, the following Sermons were selected, printed, and distributed by the Red. Mr. Stephenson, in ard about the parish of Bishop Wearmouth, in the year 1806.
These Discourses were not originally composed for publication, but were written for, and, as appears by the Manuscripts, had most of them been preached at the parish Churches of which, in different parts of the Author's life, he had the care. It was undoubtedly the Author's intention that they should not be published, but the circulation of such a number as he had directed by his will to be distributed, rendered it impossible to adhere to that intention ; and it was found necessary to publish them, as the only means of preventing a surreptitious sale.
SERIOUSNESS IN RELIGION INDISPENSABLE ABOVE ALL OTHER DISPOSITIONS.
-Be ye therefore sober, and watch unto prayer.—1 Pet. iv. 7 The first requisite in religion is seriousness. One might have expected that events so awful No impression can be made without it. An or- and tremendous, as death and judgment; that a derly life, so far as others are able to observe us, question so deeply interesting, as whether we is now and then produced by prudential motives, shall go to heaven or to hell, could in no possible or by dint of habit; but without seriousness, case, and in no constitution of mind whatever, there can be no religious principle at the bottom, fail of exciting the most serious apprehension and no course of conduct flowing from religious concern. But this is not so. In a thoughtless, a motives: in a word, there can be no religion. This careless, a sensual world, many are always found cannot exist without seriousness upon the sub- who can resist, and who do resist, the force and ject. Perhaps a teacher of religion has more dif- importance of all these reflections, that is to say, ficulty in producing seriousness amongst his hear- they suffer nothing of the kind to enter into their ers, than in any other part of his office. Until thoughts. There are grown men and women, he succeed in this, he loses his labour : and when nay, even middle aged persons, who have not once, from any cause whatever, a spirit of levity thought seriously about religion an hour, nor a has taken hold of a mind, it is next to impossible quarter of an hour, in the whole course of their to plant serious considerations in that mind. It lives. This great object of human solicitude afis seldom to be done, except by some great shock fects not them in any manner whatever. or alarm, sufficient to make a radical change in It cannot be without its use to inquire into the disposition: and which is God's own way of the causes of a levity of temper, which so effecbringing about the business.
tually obstructs the admission of every religious
influence, and which I should almost call unna seem to be excusable. Excusable did I say? I tural.
ought rather to have said that they are contrary Now there is a numerous class of mankind, to reason and duty, in every condition and at who are wrought upon by nothing but what ap- every period of life. Even in youth they are built plies immediately to their senses ; by what they upon falsehood and folly. Young persons as well see, or by what they feel; by pleasures or pains, as old, find that things do actually come to pass. or by the near prospect of pleasures and pains Evils and mischiefs, which they regarded as diswhich they actually experience or actually observe. tant, as out of their view, as beyond the line and But it is the characteristic of religion to hold out reach of their preparations or their concern, come, to our consideration consequences which we do they find, to be actually felt. They find that no not perceive at the time. That is its very office thing is done by slighting them beforehand; for, and province. Therefore if men will restrict and however neglected or despised, perhaps ridiculed confine all their regards and all their cares to and derided, they come not only to be things prethings which they perceive with their outward sent, but the very things, and the only things, senses; if they will yield up their understandings about which their anxiety is employed; become to their senses, both in what these senses are fit- serious things indeed, as being the things which ted to apprehend, and in what they are not fitted now make them wretched and miserable. Thereto apprehend, it is utterly impossible for religion fore a man must learn to be affected by events to settle in their hearts, or for them to entertain which appear to lie at some distance, before he any serious concern about the matter. But surely will be seriously affected by religion. this conduct is completely irrational, and can lead Again: the general course of education is much to nothing but ruin. It proceeds upon the suppo against religious seriousness, even without those sition, that there is nothing above us, about us, or who conduct education foreseeing or intending future, by which we can be affected, but the things any such effect. Many of us are brought up which we see with our eyes or feel by our touch. with this world set before us, and nothing else. All which is untrue. The invisible things of Whatever promotes this world's prosperity is God from the creation of the world are clearly praised; whatever hurts and obstructs and prejuseen, being understood by the things that are seen; dices this world's prosperity is blamed: and there even his eternal Power and Godhead;" which all praise and censure end. We see mankind means, that the order, contrivance, and design, dis- about us in motion and action, but all these moplayed in the creation, prove with certainty, that tions and actions directed to worldly objects. We there is more in nature than what we really see; hear their conversation, but it is all the same way. and that amongst the invisible things of the And this is what we see and hear from the first. universe, there is a Being, the author and original The views which are continually placed before of all this contrivance and design, and, by conse our eyes, regard this life alone and its interests. quence, a being of stupendous power, and of wis- Can it then be wondered at that an early worldlydom and knowledge incomparably exalted above mindedness is bred in our hearts, so strong as any wisdom or knowledge which we see in man; to shut out heavenly-mindedness entirely ? In and that he stands in the same relation to us as the contest which is always carrying on between the maker does to the thing-made. The things this world and the next, it is no difficult thing to which are seen are not made of the things which see what advantage this world has. One of the do appear. This is plain : and this argument is greatest of these advantages is, that it pre-occupies independent of Scripture and Revelation. What the mind : it gets the first hold and the first posfurther moral or religious consequences properly session. Childhood and youth, left to themselves, follow from it, is another question; but the propo- are necessarily guided by sense; and sense is all sition itself shows, that they who cannot, and on the side of this world. Meditation brings us they who will not, raise their minds above the to look towards a future life; but then meditamere information of their senses, are in a state tion comes afterwards: it only comes when the of gross error as to the real truth of things, and mind is already filled and engaged and occupied, are also in a state to which the faculties of man nay, often crowded and surcharged with worldly ought not to be degraded. A person of this sort ideas. It is not only, therefore, fair and right, may, with respect to religion, remain a child all but it is absolutely necessary, to give to religion his life. A child natarally has no concern but all the advantage we can give it by dint of educaabout the things which directly meet its senses; tion; for all that can be done is too little to set reand the person we describe is in the same condition. ligion upon an equality with its rival; which rival
Again: there is a race of giddy thoughtless is the world. A creature which is to pass a small men and women, of young men and young women portion of its existence in one state, and that state more especially, who look no further than the to be preparatory to another, ought, no doubt, to next day, the next week, the next month; seldom have its attention constantly fixed upon its ulterior ever so far as the next year. Present pleasure or and permanent destination. And this would is every thing with them. The sports of the day, be so, if the question between them came fairly the amusements of the evening, entertainments before the mind. We should listen to the Scrip and diversions, occupy all their concern; and so tures, we should embrace religion, we should long as these can be supplied in succession, so enter into every thing which had relation to the long as they can go from one diversion to another, subject, with a concern and impression, even far their minds remain in a state of perfect indiffer- more than the pursuits of this world, eager and ence to every thing except their pleasures. Now ardent as they are, excite. But the question bewhat chance has religion with such dispositions as tween religion and the world does not come fairly these? Yet these dispositions, begun in early life, before us. What surrounds us is this world; and favoured by circumstances, that is, by afflu- what addresses our senses and our passions is this ence and health, cleave to a man's character much world; what is at hand, what is in contact with us, beyond the period of life in which they might / what acts upon us, what we act upon, is this world.