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in my right hand ?” Am I not sacrificing my happiness in earth and heaven to a lying Spirit, which calls evil good, and good evil: which puts bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter ?
But where the terror of ridicule does not act to make you do what you know to be wrong, yet the low standard of right and wrong which exists among you is sometimes mischievous to those, who in many respects think and act above it, by furnishing them with an excuse for indulging occasionally in some convenient but unworthy practice. It is then so natural an excuse to deceive our conscience, that we are but doing what every one else does, that we are but doing what no one else considers to be wrong. We make it a sort of merit, that in general we do follow a higher standard; and, on the strength of this, we think ourselves entitled to follow the lower one sometimes, when we are particularly tempted to do so. I could imagine, that St. James had had much experience of people of this description, from several passages in his epistle. Those double-minded men, whom he bids to purify their hearts, and whom he tells not to think that they shall receive any thing of the Lord; those whom
he reminds, that “ to him who knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin ;" — they apparently were persons who lived in general far above the heathen standard, who only wished to keep in reserve some few convenient points on which they might gratify their evil inclinations, and say in their excuse,
, that no one else thought there was any harm in such things. They thought and knew that there was harm in them, for their eyes had been opened by Gospel light, and they would be judged by their own knowledge, and not by their neighbour's ignorance. Vain, therefore, is the attempt to serve God and mammon together; to reconcile the low standard of your companions with that purer and higher one with which it has been your happiness to be made acquainted — your happiness, if not almost only but altogether you become conformed to it; or else, not your happiness, but your certain and most just condemnation.
One thing, in which this low standard fearfully shows itself, I cannot but take this occasion of mentioning. I have observed, from time to time, that the sin of falsehood is not considered among you so hateful as Christ teaches us to regard it; or even as the common notions of worldly honour, in this respect most true in their judgment, estimate it amongst men in the world.
It is really awful to witness the quantity of direct falsehood, of equivocation, unfair concealment, false representations, and all the train of similar wickednesses, of which too many of you continually allow yourselves to be guilty. Your aim seems to be, not to tell the truth, but to steer dexterously between the truth and a lie. And this is as foolish as it is wicked. It is impossible to steer between them: for he who once allows himself any other object than the truth,—who suffers himself to try to make his neighbour believe something which is not exactly the real fair state of the case,—is already a liar in his heart. The real guilt of falsehood consists in the attempt to disguise the truth; that is, to deceive: and it matters not by what form of words this object is effected; whether it be by equivocating, or concealing, or misrepresenting, or by direct lying. It is the truth that God loves, and which is the peculiar glory of the Gospel; insomuch that St. Paul twice notices, as the first mark of a converted heart, that, putting away lying, we should “ speak every one truth with his neighbour; for we are members one of another.” And this you
are all taught at home: from your earliest childhood
have known the wickedness of falsehood, the duty of absolute sincerity and truth. But here you find another standard, which tells you that it is fair to deceive and lie to serve your own turn, at least when you are speaking to a master. You let this false standard lead you away from your duty to God and man; you make it your idol, and fall down and worship it, and sacrifice to it every thing that ought to be most precious, even your own souls, which Christ died to
For a short time, this fatal spell will now be taken off from you; for a few weeks
will breathe in a purer air, and be subjected, I trust, to a gentler and a holier influence. Some, nay many, and I hope most of you, will see in your own homes examples of a very different kind; will hear there a very different language from what they have seen and heard around them here. The evil spirit will leave his hold for a time, and you may breathe and speak in freedom. But remember that he will surely return again: a few short weeks, and we shall be met here once more, and the same temptations will be again besetting you. Would that you would use the precious interval that is now granted to you! Would that some of you, whose principles have been somewhat stained, and their practice corrupted, during the last five months, may purify yourselves from these soils; may refresh and strengthen your fainting spirits with a new draught of the well of everlasting life! And I will add our Lord's solemn words to Peter: “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan hath desired to have thee, that he may sift thee as wheat. But I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not; and when thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren.”
brethren.” If Satan has desired to have you, and if his desire has been in part fulfilled,—if you have been tempted, like Peter, to deny your Saviour,yet that same Saviour, who prayed for Peter, prays for you also, that your faith
not fail finally. Remember, too, and strive that his last words also may apply to you—“When thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren.” You are not called to an inactive state; you cannot serve Christ in secret, when his enemies are loud in denying him. You must confess him before men, even at the risk of being put out of the synagogue; that is, of being laughed or reviled out of their society. Still you must confess him, and not be ashamed