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to restore reason to its proper authority, and to give it the control and direction of all our passions. When this shall be effected, we shall realize that Christ's yoke is easy, that his laws impose no unnecessary burden.
In its rites and positive duties, as well as in its moral precepts, christianity lays no yoke upon us, which we are unable to bear ; but is mild and reasonable in its demands. Those, who embrace it, are required to receive baptism, and to commemorate Christ's death, by celebrating the ordinance of the holy supper. These sacred rites are appointed to be observed by every disciple. They are called positive duties ; but will it be pretended that they are hard and unreasonable? Would submission to Christ's authority, in these instances, be bowing your necks to a galling yoke, and taking upon your shoulders an oppressive burden? A person, that has not the heart of an infidel, would blush at the thought of making any such pretence.
Christianity, in its whole structure and design, is a system admirably suited to the state and character of man. It requires no quality which does not afford satisfaction, and add dignity, to
nor does it forbid any disposition, or action, which would not debase and
its possessor ;
injure a person.
Supreme love to God, and fervent piety to: ward him, are injoined by the laws of Christ. Will any, on this account, think them hard and unreasonable ? None will make such a confes. sion.
We are commanded to love others as ourselves, and to do to them as we would that they should do to us. Does this furnish ground of complaint against christianity ? Did not its great founder discover even more benevolence than such precepts require ? Behold him suffering and dying for you, and learn from his example what ought to be your disposition and conduct toward fellow creatures. The duties you owe to them are no burden to him who understands his own interest. As the laws of Christ relate to the temperand conduct of others toward you, it is presumed you can perceive that they are wise and good ; and why should they appear less fit in their application to your own temper and conduct toward fellow beings ? Judge by this rule, and your objections will be silenced.
Self-government is another branch of christian duty. In this, perhaps, persons are most sensible of the restraints of religion ; but in no instance does christianity more directly promote our happiness ; for “ he that hath no rule over
his own spirit, is like a city that is broken down, and without walls."
Meekness and humility are opposed to our natural pride and high conceit of ourselves, and in this sense are restraints ; but they are such as promote our own improvement, and evince the excellency of the religion which imposes them.
Christianity, it is true, calls us to some selfdenying duties; but these are burdensome to those only, who attempt to regulate their external behaviour by it, when they have not cordially embraced its principles, nor imbibed its spirit. This however, is no fault in the religion itself; but is chargeable to the temper of their own minds, which this religion is designed to correct. Sin has introduced disorder into the soul of man, and subjected him to the dominions of lust and passion, to inquietude, to a sense of guilt, and to the fear and expectation of God's righteous displeasure. The gospel dispensation, or the religion Christ taught, is designed to remedy these evils, and, by the most mild and gentle means the case will admit, to raise fallen creatures to the enjoyment of the divine favour. This leads me to observe,
III. That the restraints, which christianity imposes, contribute to the happiness of man in this life.
In the present state of imperfection uninter rupted felicity is not to be expected. The highest we can enjoy results from an approving conscience and from hope toward God. Religion restrains us from those things only, which would destroy inward peace, and lessen the ground of hope. So far as it has this effect, it is productive of present advantage. The objection against christianity, that it requires us to deny ourselves, take up the cross, and follow the example of its author, proves the excellency of the system; for restraint upon the corrupt passions of the heart, upon the irregular propensities of our nature, is necessary to our enjoying an approving conscience. Shame and remorse will be the certain fruit of criminal indulgence. The laws of Christ are designed to prevent this, and to lead us to exercise those pure and holy affections, and to pursue that pious and virtuous course of conduct, which afford present satisfaction, and, in retrospect, will give peace to the mind. The prohibitions, as well as the precepts, are therefore a beneficial part of the christian system; and, so far as they are regarded, promote human happiness. A consciousness that we have been withholden from those things which are forbidden by the
divine law, though it may be deemed a negative kind of goodness, will be a source of pleasure. But active and uniform obedience to the whole law of Christ will increase our hope and confidence; and thus sweeten the bitterest cup of life.
The apostle John says, “ This is the love of God, that we keep his commandments; and his commandments are not grievous." The meaning is, that obedience to the divine law is the best evidence, or the certain effect, of true love to God; and that his law is not grievous in its operation, but founded in the reason and fitness of things, and perfectly accommodated to the state of those, for whose government it is ordained. Solomon says of wisdom, which intends true religion, that “ her ways are ways of pleasantness, and all her paths peace.” By the mouth of these witnesses every word is established. Christ's yoke must be easy, and his burden light; all the laws of his kingdom mild, and even the restraints they impose conducive to present happiness.
As an improvement of the discourse, let me entreat you, my young friends, to embrace the Lord Jesus Christ by faith, to take his yoke upon you, and learn of him, that you may find rest to your souls. You must perceive, if you