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impregnating the heart with pure affections, produces at length this divine offspring of Christian love.
If we had found this mythological fiction in Xenophon or Plato, we should have much admired the instruction conveyed in it. Let it not abate our reverence for this moral lesson, that it comes from an Apostle of Jesus, and, if not dressed out in the charms of human eloquence, has all the authority of truth and divine inspiration to recommend it to us.
PREACHED NOVEMBER 9, 1706.
Rom. xii. 10.
In honour preferring one another.
IT is much to the honour of the inspired writers, because it shews them to be no enthusiasts, that, with all their zeal for the revealed doctrines of the Gospel, they never forget or overlook the common duties of humanity; those duties, which Reason itself, a prior Revelation, had made known to the wiser part of mankind.
Nay, which is more remarkable, they sometimes condescend to enforce what are called the lesser moralities a ; that is, those inferiour duties, which, not being of absolute necessity to the support of human society, are frequently overlooked by other moralists, and yet, as contributing very much to the comfortable enjoyment of it, are of real moment, and deserve a suitable regard.
The text is an instance of this sort-in honour preferring one another—the NATURE, and GROUND, and right APPLICATION, of which duty, it is my present purpose to explain.
1. The general NATURE of this virtue consists in a disposition to express our good will to others by exteriour testimonies of respect; to consult the credit and honour of those we converse with, though at some expence of our own vanity and self-love. It implies a readiness to prevent them in the customary decencies of conversation; a facility to give way to their reasonable pretensions, and even to abate something of our own just rights. It requires us to suppress our petulant claims of superiority ; to decline all frivolous contests and petty rivalries ; to moderate our own demands of preeminence and priority; and, in a word, to please others, rather than ourselves.
a Les petites morales; as the French moralists call them.
It is an easy, social, conciliating virtue; a virtue made up of humility and benevolence ; the former, inclining us not to think more highly of ourselves than we ought; and the latter, to give our Christian brother an innocent satisfaction when we can.
And our obligation to the practice of this virtue is FOUNDED,
II. On the clearest reasons, taken both from the nature of man, and the genius of our holy. Religion.
And, FIRST, from the nature of man.
Among the various principles, some of them, in appearance, discordant and contradictory, which constitute our common nature, one of the first to take our attention is, “ A conscious sense of dignity;" an opinion of self-consee, quence, which inixes itself with all our thoughts and deliberations ; prompting us to entertain lofty sentiments of our own worth, and aspiring to something like superiority and dominion over other men. This principle, which
appears very early, and is strongest in the more generous dispositions, is highly necessary to a being formed for virtuous action; and naturally leads to the exertion of such qualities as are proper to benefit society, as well as to gain that ascendency in it, to which we pretend. It is the spring, indeed, of every commendable emulation; puts in act all our better and nobler faculties ; and gives nerves to that labour and industry, by which every worthy accomplishment is attained.
But now this principle (so natural and useful), when it is not checked by others, but is suffered to take the lead and predominate on all occasions, undisciplined and uncontrolled, easily grows into a very offensive and hurtful quality: offensive, because it is now exerted to the humiliation of every other, who is actuated by the same principle; and hurtful, because, in this undue degree, it counteracts the very purpose, the good of human society, for which it was designed.
This quality we know by the name of Pride. The other moderate degree of self-esteem, which is allowable and virtuous, seems not (I suppose, from its rare appearance under that form) to have acquired in our language a dis