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which are the plainest, and of the most definite signification. Above all, he ought to avoid the use of technical terms and phrases, which, it may be alleged, gives a learned dress to religion; but it is a dress that very ill befits an institution intended for the comfort and direction of all even of the lowest ranks. It is besides but too manifest, that this garb is often no other, than a cloak for ignorance. And of all kinds of ignorance, learned
ignorance is undoubtedly the most contemptible.
I shall consider next the manner in which the student may attempt a compend of the christian ethics; and consider the advantages, that will re« sult to him, in being pretty much employed in such exercises.
DIRECTIONS FOR FORMING A SYSTEM OF CHRISTIAN
MORALITY. • ADVANTAGES OF THE METHOD RE
IN my last lecture, I made it my business to point out a proper method for conducting the study of holy writ, in such a manner, as that from it the student may form to himself, uninfluenced by the opinions of fallible men, a digest of the truth as it is in Jesus. I purpose in the present discourse, to shew how he may proceed to form a system of christian morality. This, though properly first in intention, (for we seek knowledge to direct our practice), is last in execution; it being that, to which every other part in this economy points, as to its ultimate end. The great and primary aim of the whole is to renew us again after the image of him that created us, in righteousness and true holiness; faith itself, and hope, however important, act in a subserviency to this. It may indeed be thought, that as there are much fewer disputes concerning the duties required by our religion, than concerning the doctrines which it teaches, the examination of the former, as the easier task, ought to precede the examination of the latter. And indeed this remark would have so far weighed with me, that if I had judged it expedient to begin our inquiries in
to the christian theology by the study of systematic and controversial writers, I should have adopted this method, on account of its greater simplicity and easiness. But if, waving for a time all attentions to the comments, glosses, traditions, questions, and refinements of men, recourse is had only to the divine oracles, there is not the same necessity; the difference in point of difficulty, if any, will be found inconsiderable; on the other hand, the progression from knowledge to faith, from faith to love, from love to obedience, is more conformable to the natural influence of things upon the human mind. Besides, the subject of christian morals is not without its difficulties nór its controversies, though they have been neither so great nor so many, as those which have been raised in relation to several points supposed to belong to the christian doctrine. But even this subject is not in all respects uncontroverted; witness the many differences in point of practice that not only subsists, but are warmly contested by the different sects in Christendom, one party thinking he doth God good service, by an action which another looks on with abhorrence, and justly stigmatizes as at once impious and inhuman.
With how many still, are matters of full as little account as tithing mint, anise, and cummin, exalted above the weightier matters of the law, justice, mercy, and fidelity? It is sacrifice with some, which with others is accounted sacrilege; and in too many places of what is called the christian world, those absurd austerities and self-inflicted cruelties, which degrade human nature, dishonour religion, and could only become the worshippers of dæmons, such as Baal or Mo
loch, are extolled as the sublimity of christian perfection. I mention these things only by the way, in order to shew that the unanimity among christians, in regard to moral duties, is not so complete, as is commonly imagined. Not that I would have the student at first to enter into these questions in relation to morality, any more than into such as are of a speculative nature and relate to doctrine, Let it be his first aim in both provinces, to inquire impartially into the mind of the spirit, as it appears in revelation itself, without admitting any interrurption from the visions and speculations of men, Something of a plan or outline has been suggested to assist him in his inquiries into the doctrine of scripture; it will not be improper to proceed in the same way in what regards the system of duty which may be collected from the same volume. Only it will be proper to premise, that though the law of the gospel be not as was the law of Moses, what the apostle styles a law of commandments or a law of ordinances, yet there are some things (as is absolutely necessary in every religious institution calculated for a creature such as man,) of a ceremonial, and some of a mixed nature, partly ceremonial and partly moral, as well as some things purely moral. Of the first kind are what we now call the christian sacraments, baptism and the Lord's supper; of the second what regards social and public worship and the separation of particular times for the purpose; and of the third, all the duties directly comprehended under charity or the love of God and man. As to the doctrine of the New Testament in regard to the two first, I meant to comprehend them under the sixth head of the sketch I gave in
relation to the christian doctrine, which I termed the regeneration or the recovery of man. Under this was comprised the consideration of the external means,
their use, their difference under different dispensations, and their connection with the effect to be produced. The subject to which I here confine myself is christian morality, or the pure ethics of the gospel. Every thing that is of a positive nature falls much more properly under the former part. In regard to this, it is evident, that different methods may be adopted for classing the different branches of duty, and there may be a conveniency in viewing the same subject in a variety of lights.
The only method which I shall take notice of at present, and which is both the simplest and the most obvious, is that which results from the consideration of the object, God, our neighbour, and ourselves. This division the apostle Paul has given of our duty in a passage well deserving the christian's most serious attention, as intimating the great and ultimate end of the gospel dispensation: “The
grace of God," says he, "that bringeth salvation, " hath appeared to all men, teaching us, that de
nying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should “live soberly and righteously and godly in this pre“sent world, looking for that blessed hope and the "glorious appearing of the great God and our Sa“ viour Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us, that “ he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify “ unto himself a peculiar people zealous of good “ works.” The whole of christian morality is here divided into three great branches ; sobriety, or the duty which every man owes to himself, and which