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observance of the outward duties of religion; and the reason is plain: any one of these duties, whether it be keeping the sabbath, attending the church, receiving the sacrament, giving of alms, or even fasting and praying, is much easier to be performed, than, taking heed to our ways, that we "offend not in our tongue:" than keeping strict guard over every thought, word, and action; and, than cleansing our hearts from all impurity, as well as reforming our lives; all which, will require the united services of prayer and pain, watching, self-denial, and the conquests of our lusts, passions, and inclinations.
But, on the other hand, as we ought not to place the whole of religion in a strict observance of these outward duties, and lay too great a stress upon them; so ought we not to neglect, or think lightly of, them, as if we might be good christians without observing them. Public worship is, certainly, a most solemn duty, and highly acceptable in the sight of GOD; and when our hearts go along with our lips, all its outward ordinances are so many steps to lead us to what is absolutely necessary in forming a religious character; that is, a good life, a devout temper of mind, habits of sobriety, honesty, temperance, and chastity; the practice, in
short, of those virtues which are commanded in the gospel; for "not every one that saith, LORD, LORD, shall enter into the "kingdom of heaven, but he that doeth the will of the Father who is in heaven."
Remember then, my friends, that the end of going to church ought to be a continual advance in piety, growing in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour JESUS CHRIST; and as these and all other outward duties are proper means of leading to inward conversion; so we must be careful to observe what good effects they produce upon our hearts and lives; otherwise, we may go on in a round of outward forms and ceremonies, all our life long, and be very far from the way of salvation, when we come to die.
The proofs, by which we may know whether or not our outward worship has improved our souls, are easy to be discovered. If we are christians in deed, as well as word, we shall find, that what we have heard in the church, is shewn forth in our lives; we shall find, that we are become more fearful of offending GOD, and more desirous of practising his will; we shall find, that we are loving more and more our Saviour, and his holy law; we shall find that we are increasing in love and charity to
our brethren in the world; we shall find, that we are becoming every day better fathers, better husbands, better brothers, and better christians. And lastly, we shall find, that we are not only saying, " LORD, "LORD," and serving GoD with our lips, but humbly endeavouring to do the "wil "of our Father which is in heaven."
[For the Ninth Sunday after Trinity.]
LUKE XVI. 1.
Jesus said unto his disciples, there was a certain rich man which had a steward, and the same was accused unto him that he had wasted his goods.
T was the intention of our blessed LORD,
in the parable which forms the gospel for the day, to teach his disciples, to use as much wisdom, activity, and carefulness, in performing the duties of their religion, and securing the salvation of their souls; as worldly-minded men shew in advancing their temporal interests, and making provision for their wants, conveniences, or accommodation, here below. The parable begins with telling us, that "there was a certain rich man who had a "steward," or confidential servant, who overlooked and managed his property. It does
who, calling him "How is it, that I Give an account of
not appear that this agent betrayed his trust, for the purpose of enriching himself; but rather, that he was a careless and inattentive man, who let others rob his master, while he amused himself in every thing but his own proper business. business. As dishonesty, however, will always, sooner or later, be found out; so the steward's behaviour reached at length the ears of his master; into his presence, said, "hear this of thee? "thy stewardship; for thou mayest be no "longer steward." Necessity, you know, is said to be the mother of invention; that is, when men are hard pressed, they think of many contrivances, which would not have occurred to them, if they had not been placed in such difficult situations. The steward being thus unexpectedly deprived of his livelihood, was driven to think of some means of future support; and being, (as most dishonest men are,) very cunning, he quickly hit upon a plan which promised to answer his purpose. "What shall I do," said he within himself, " for my lord taketh away from me the stewardship. I cannot "dig; to beg I am ashamed; I am resolved "what to do, that, when I am out of the "stewardship, they may receive me into "their houses. So he called every one of