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thousands; exclamations against the gracious gospel, as if it were pregnant with licentiousness, are heard on every side; and the mouths of infidel's are opened against Christianity itself.-Nor, in the course of their injustice, do they stop here. For, notwithstanding a series of their own culpable conduct produced an insolvency, that left but a mere pittance for creditors; yet, when once legally discharged by them, though afterward restored to a completely solvent state; they act as if that discharge either satisfied, or superseded, the dictates of conscience, the demands of equity, and the laws of heaven, with reference to former debts.
For these outrages on the property of creditors, and the rights of justice, it is too common among partial friends of the same religious community, to invent palliatives, if not excuses. This adds to the disgrace of a ministry, perhaps, of the purest kind. Instead of boldly pronouncing such conduct im-. moral and highly criminal; requiring the deepest humiliation before God, and justly exposing a religious profession to strong suspicion of, either hypocrisy, or self-deception; they will sometimes express themselves in such a manner, concerning the imperfections, backslidings, and falls of real Christians, that one is at a loss to perceive any evidence of the least holiness in the characters of whom they speak, or any benefit they derive from Jesus Christ, except that of escaping the damnation of hell at last. Hardly any thing so much emboldens those who revile the doctrines of grace, as professors whose deceit and covetousness, attended with demure appearance and religious talk, render it unsafe to trust them. Do you, my bre-; thren, profess faith in the glorious gospel, and intend peither to iinpose upon others, nor to deceive yourselves? The excellence of your theological principles must shine in your business and station. You must not only be far from fraud, and all the little arts of deception; but also from covetousness, and greediness of gain.
Salutary and righteous is that apostolic precept; Owe no man any thing, but to love one another. Solemn and striking is the declaration of our final Judge, relative to those who reproach the cause of Christ, and those also whose iniquitous conduct is the occasion of its being reproached. Woe unto the world because of offences ! for it must needs be that offences come: but woe unto that man by whom the offence cometh! To this alarming denunciation of our Lord, I will subjoin the following justly severe censure, upon those professors of evangelical piety who are destitute of common honesty. “How comes the Saviour to join the doctrine of the Sadducees with that of the Pharisees? To teach us that selfsufficient moralists, and devout cheats, are criminals alike:—that prayerless honest men, and hymn-singing villains, are much more nearly related, than either will choose to believe. For which cause, the same perdition is reserved for hypocrites and unbelievers."*
Were any of you now present, while unconcerned about
your immortal happiness, unfaithful to the trust reposed in you, or guilty of defrauding any one? If not unworthy of the Christian character,
* Thus my late, pious, and worthy Friend, Mr. Henry Venn, Mistakes in Religion exposed, p. 192. See also pages 88, 89, London, 1774.
a regard to the rights of justice must have impelled you, not only with shame and grief to confess the criminality of your conduct before God; but also to make full restitution of both principal and interest, if in your power, to whomsoever you have injured. This, equity demands. This, the character of an honest man requires. For so long as you forbear to make restitution, or at least sincerely desire the ability and opportunity of doing it; you practically approve your former iniquitous conduct. Those persons must have extremely lax notions of morality, and very disgraceful views of religion, who consider themselves as the disciples of Christ, while they cannot but know, That the gain of injustice and of theft abides in their hands--That such an one, his widow, his heir at law, or his residuary legatee, has a righteous cluim on so much of their property-And that they are destitute of hearts to make restitution.
Be it, then, my Brethren, the care of under every character you bear, and in whatever connection you stand, in civil, religious, or domestic society; to manifest a practical regard to veracity, fidelity, and justice. Remember, I entreat you, that the peace of your own minds—the comfort of Christian brethren—the happiness of your pastors—the credit of the gospel—the conviction of infidels—the spread of evangelical truth-and the honour of our adorable Jesus; are all of thein deeply concerned in the evidence which professors give of sterling rectitude, connected with gemine benevolence. Consequently, the responsibility under which
you lie to our divine Lord, respecting the fruits of your professed faith in the doctrine of so
your lives, vereign mercy, is great and permanent. For if the tenour of your conduct do not evince an habitual regard to the demands of rectitude, ignorant and ungodly persons will never believe, though you affirm it ever so strongly, that the gospel of divine grace which bringeth salvation, is adapted to promote virtue and reform the world, and thus their prejudices against it will be increased.
But if the responsibility of professors in common be so great, how deep, solemn, and tremendous, must be that which attaches to the character of Gospel Ministers, and to the Pastors of Christian Churches! A responsibility this, my ministering Brethren, the very thought of which is adapted to make us tremble: as appears, not only from the nature of the case, but also by the following passages of Holy Scripture: -O son of man, I have set thee a watchman unto the house of Israel; therefore thou shalt hear the word at my mouth, and warn them from me. When I say unto the wicked, O wicked man, thou shalt surely die; if thou dost not speak to warn the wicked from his way, that wicked man shall die in his iniquity; but his blood will I require at thine hand—Take heed to thyself, and to the doctrine-I charge thee before God and the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall judge the quick and the dead at his appearing and his kingdom; preach the word; be instant in season, out of season: reprove, rebuke, exhort with all long-suffering and doctrine- They watch for your souls as they that must give an account If thou forbear to deliver them that are drawn unto death, and those that are ready to be slain; if thou sayest, Behold, we knew it not; doth not He that pondereth the heart consider
it? and He that keepeth thy soul, doth not He know it? and shall not He render to every man according to his works?-- My brethren, be not many teachers,* knowing that we shall receive the greater condemnation: for in many things we offend all-I am pure from the blood of all men.'t Such is the language of Inspiration, relative to ministerial duty.
We, who are Pastors and Teachers, are amenable to Jesus our final Judge, not only for the articles of our creed, the sincerity of our faith, and the rectitude of our lives, in common with others; but also for the doctrine we preach, for our diligence in discharging ministerial duties, and for the motives of our conduct through the whole. If our leading motives be secular and selfish, the Chief Shepherd will treat us as hirelings; for neither evangelical truth, nor moral integrity is in us. If we publish not the same glad tidings which Paul proclaimed, we propagate pernicious error; are accounted, by Jesus, the agents of Satan; and lie under an awful curse.g Nor are we likely to escape the punishment allotted to unprofitable, slothful, and wicked servants ;|| except we be sincerely disposed, so to employ our talents, and so to improve our opportunities, as are adapted to evince our integrity in the discharge of ministerial and pastoral obligations. If, with the gospel upon our lips, and the world in our hearts, we prove unfaithful to our pastoral
+ Ezek. xxxiii. 7, 8. 1 Tim. iv. 16. 2 Tim. iv. 1, 2. Heb. xiii. 17. Prov. xxiv. 11, 12. James iii. 1, 2. Acts xx. 26. | John x. 12, 13. 1 John ii, 4.
§ Gal. i. 6-9. # Matt. xxv, 26-30.