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MEN REWARDED ACCORDING TO THEIR WORKS IN THE
DELIVERED IN BOSTON ON THE FIRST SABBATH IN DEC. 1819.
Í PETER ITI. 10, 11.
"For he that will love life and see good aays, let him refrain his tongue
from evil, and his lips that they speak no guile: let him eschew eril and do good, let him seek peace and ensue it."
The first subject to which the attention of the hearer is invited, in order to obtain a profitable un derstanding of the passage read for consideration, is the principle, on which the argument of the text is founded. This principle is a certain fixed law in our nature, by which we are always induced to act for our own gratification, benefit or enjoyment; and by which we are always restrained from whatever is, in our apprehension, either incapable of promoting the objects of our desires, or of a tendency to prevent them.
This fixed law of our nature is that which renders us proper subjects of advice, caution, exhor tation, command, threatening, rebuke, censure and punishment; it is this that justly accounts for all the conditional, or unconditional promises, which are wisely made by the divine Being, or by, man himself to a fellow being, or to his offspring. Take away this governing law from the reasonable creature where it is placed by the Creator, and the very idea of influencing man to action is annihilated; for should you on the one hand threaten him
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with the greatest possible severities even for the most inconsiderable action, as he has no regard to himself, the threatening would prove utterly abortive. So likewise on the other hand, should you promise him an immense reward for a momentary labour, as he values not his own enjoyment, the promise, in this case, would necessarily prove as ineffectual as the threatening in the former.
Should an objector say, that man frequently acts to his own injury, and as often neglects what is most for his profit, the repły informs him that the objection does no reach the principle against which it is intended; for the patient acts from the same law in receiving medicine which proves injurious, as in the use of that which is attended with the most salutary effects, and this is equally applica. ble to every other, instance of self-injurious action
But should we indulge the objector, and allow on it that man is capable of a design against himself,
this would most surely render entirely null every possible promise and threatening, which could be set before him. But it is altogether impossible that any one should desire
to lessen his own enjoyments, or augment his infelicity. Man is capable of acting for the promotion of that alone which is to his mind desirable.
My friends, the principle here argued lies at the foundation of all the actions of man. trace all parts of the immense fabric of human exertions, of human labour, of all the acquirements in arts and sciences to this principle. You may begin with
newly-born infant, its first exertions indicate a creature of want and desire, and as such you may trace him through all the various windings of the path of future life, whether he be virtuous or vicious, happy or miserable, on his journey. This principle is most, evidently that on which
argument of our text is founded. The Apostle does not say; For he that will hate life and see evil days, let him refrain his tongue from evil, and his lips that they speak no guile; let him eschew
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evil and do good, let him seek peace and ensue it; but he says exactly the reverse of this ; "For he that will love life, and see good days, let him refrain his tongue from evil, and his lips that they speak no guile; let him eschew evil and do good, let him seek peace and ensue it.” The inspired author of our ta rt knew human nature too well to expect man would act without a motive, or that he could be persuaded to act to his own disadvantage, unless he were deceived. The plain sensé of the text points out the only means whereby a man can obtain what he most desires, and indeed all he desires. Every one wishes for happiness in life, and to see good days. This is what is consti; tutional with every individual of the human family. Will you not all bear me witness to this truth? Is there an individual, male or female, young or old, in this assembly, who has any desire to live a miserable, wretched life? Is there one whose heart does not most fervently desire to see good days ? You all assent most cordially to this. You are therefore, all the very persons addressed in our text, in which the only method, by which this desire of your heart can possibly be obtained, is most clearly laid down, and placed within the reach of the most limited capacity.
According to our text, it is an important fact ; stated by the authority of heaven, that whoever will refrain their tongues from evil, and their lips that they speak no guile; whoever will shun evil and do good, seek peace and follow after.it, shall see good days and enjoy life; and according to this same passage, it is an equally momentous fact, declared by the same authority, that whoever disregards these means, and does not refrain his tongue from evil, and his lips that they speak no guile; who does not shun to do evil, and neglects to do good, who neither seeks peace nor follows after it, must see evil days, and live a wretched, miserable life. This is the plain, uncontrovertible doctrine of our text, and according to this doctrine
we shall humbly attempt to improve it to the reFeligious and moral advantage of this listening, and E hins devotional audience. hat the
In these labours the speaker will enjoy a pecuto our biar satisfaction arising from a full conviction of NA
the goodness of our heavenly Father towards his
rational offspring, and the impartiality of that or the goodness, which are the essential attributes of the
doctrine to which his labours are usually devoted.
This felicity, however, will be mingled with an erebro anxiety corresponding with a sense of his inability
to do justice to a subject, which involves such an extensive interest as our religious and moral happiness in life. But there is one consideration cal-. culated to give support in this undertaking, which is the devout attention with which you will assist the speaker, while he endeavours to bring before you the invaluable treasures which our heavenly Father has given us in the undeviating laws of moral virtue.
Having thus endeavoured to call your attention to the principle on which the doctrine of our text is founded, and having presented you with a general view of this doctrine, your public servant will solicit your attention to the contemplation of the doctrine which has been stated, as it stands opposed to what has for a long time been acknowledged as orthodox by our christian clergy, and churches, The sentiment to which we here allude contends that virtue is not rewarded, nor wickedness punished in this life, where they are acted, but that the reward of the former and the punishment of the latter are reserved to a future state, where ample justice will be rendered to all, according to their works in this world. The numerous advocates of this opinion contend that there would ap pear a manifest injustice in the divine economy, if there were not a.state of retribution in a future existence, where the divine administration shall make as much difference in the distribution of happiness and misery as there is in the moral characters of
men in this world, as such a difference is not regarded by the divine government here. Many are see 80 sanguine on this subject, as to contend, that a contrary belief has a most direct tendency to evil, as thereby all the evil consequences of vice and immorality are denied, and the most flattering encouragements held out to the vicious. It seems reasonable to allow, that if the sins which are committed in this state are to be punished in a future world, they are not punished here; and also, that if good works in this world are to be recompensed in the next, they have not their reward here ; for if you pay a man for his labours in the town where they are performed, you would not expect to meet his demand in another place. And if a man be punished for a crime in the state where he commits it, he cannot, in justice, receive this punish-. ment in an adjacent state.
It appears clear, that nothing could be stated: more directly repugnant to the doctrine of our text than the orthodox opinion which we have now no-. ticed. It reverses the subject entirely, and promises a happy life and good days to him, who refrains not his tongue from evil, nor his lips from speaking: guile; who refuses not to do evil, but shuns the way of peace. Were it not for the blind infatuation and unaccountable stupidity, which thousands manifest on this subject, it would seem a waste of time to attempt to show, by any process of argument, the egregious error of this doctrine, which so directly opposes not only the passage now under consideration, the uniform testimony of scripture, but also every matter of fact in the whole world, and in the experience of every individual, in all ages, which has the least bcaring on our subject. But such is the power of tradition, that the utmost patience is required to remove the scales from her eyes, to untie the knots by which she. has fastened the minds of her votaries, and to remove the mighty mass of rubbish which composes her sanctuary, and to gather her hay, wood, and