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himself up to licentious or dishonest courses, they draw a great comfort from it to themselves—they are fond of repeating such instances; they are willing to believe, and would have others believe, that all men at the bottom are very like themselves; that the difference between good and bad men is more in the appearance than the reality; that the opinion of the world, which reprobates and cries out against them, is unreasonable ; for it is not, that they are in fact worse than others, but that they do not cover and mask their vices so well. Now I say, that this way of talking and thinking is very irrational, on two accounts: first, because it presumes that every man who allows himself in some bad practice, or who falls off from his former character, is, and all the while has been, secretly, a disbeliever and a contemner of religion,-which presumption is by no means true; it is neither generally true, nor absolutely true. It is a conduct which arises from inconsistency much oftener than from insincerity. And secondly, were it true, the inference they draw from it to the encouragement of their own vices is to the last degree fallacious. Because there are hypocrites in the world, does it follow that there are no solid grounds of virtue? True it is, that some who make a profession of religion, in their hearts reject it-Does it follow that religion has no foundation to stand on? It is only the judgement of these partial persons after all, that is shown: and, what is most material, it is that judgement corrupted and influenced by a bad life—because theirs is always, by the very supposition, a case of concealed or newlycommenced wickedness.
Another species of deceptious argument from example is this—when we see, or rather imagine that we see, other persons perform any act of religion from
selfish or unprincipled motives, we avoid their example by not performing the act of religion at all; which is the most perverse turn to give to the matter that can be. The true reflection from such an example is this: The duty does not cease to be such—the act of religion is not therefore less an obligation, because certain persons of our acquaintance perform it with very improper views and motives; if they comply with it from bad reasons, we ought to comply with it from better, instead of not complying with it at all, in order to show our dislike of their example. Thus because we think some persons come to church or the sacrament, to be thought religious; others because it has been their custom ; others because they are obliged to it by their situation, calling, or the authority of their parents and masters; others because they have nothing else to do—therefore we will not go to church or the sacrament at all. This example shows what shifts and pretences men are driven to in excuse of their neglect of duty. Good and wise men would be very unwilling and scarce able to believe, that any persons performed religious acts from any other than religious motives ;—but they immediately reflect that if the case be not so, it is nothing to them ; it is no extenuation of their guilt, should they neglect what is their duty, if others debase their performance of it by unworthy motives : nor, on the other hand, can it ever detract from the worthiness and acceptability of those services which proceed from a sincere wish to
In like manner, because it sometimes happens that men who are remarkable for their attendance upon religious ordinances are not equally remarkable for their honesty and virtue, and good conduct in other respects, therefore we take up a mean opinion of religion
and religious ordinances. This is a very loose conscquence that we draw-religious ordinances never pretended to possess such a check and irresistible efficacy in them, as to make men good universally or necessarily. Great allowances must be made for the difference of men's engagements, and the temper of their minds with respect to them, and some for the difference of men's apprehension of the importance of particular offices; and after these allowances, I believe it will turn out that the soundest virtue, the truest morality, is found in conjunction with a pious veneration for the offices of religion.
The sum of my discourse amounts principally to this: If unfortunately there be any in our religious congregations who are found out to have carried on concealed practices of wickedness along with outward sanctity and devotion ; who, after having led for a long time a life of regularity and religion, fall off from these characteristics, we are not entitled to conclude, as we are very apt to do, that they are, and have been, disbelievers on the whole. Experience of human nature authorises no such conclusion; the probability is, that they are not so much consequences as inconsistencies: these men are borne down by the force and strength of the temptation. But, chiefly and industriously, ought we to beware of drawing such inferences from the examples, as to make them either a reason for the less respectability of religion itself; or for thinking that such may in any way, or by any construction, either in the judgement of mankind, or in the final judgement of God, be an excuse or cover for our own evil courses.
THE DUTY OF PARENTS TOWARDS THEIR
EPHESIANS VI. 4.
Ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath, but
bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.
The duty of parents towards their children is a duty which concerns so many, and is of such importance to all those whom it does concern, that it deserves every consideration which we can give it : for though it be a duty generally acknowledged, it is not in some parts of it either so well understood, or so properly practised as it ought to be. I shall divide the duty, for method's sake, into three parts.
First; the maintenance of children, and a reasonable provision for their happiness, in point of circumstances and situation in the world. Secondly, education.
; And thirdly; the proper care of their virtue.
The obligation upon parents to maintain their children is the first and pleasantest part of their duty; and it is founded upon this reason-the helpless condition of infancy renders it absolutely necessary that one or other take the charge of its maintenance. And
it is manifest that the parents have no right, by their act and deed, to burden others with the charge. Nothing, therefore, is left but for the parents to undertake it themselves : so that the maintaining of our offspring is matter of strict debt to the rest of mankind. And this, independent of the affection of parents to their children; which, if it be instinctive, is an instinct implanted for the express purpose of promoting the interests of their children, and so demonstrative of God Almighty's will and intention about it.
This part of a parent's duty, though so plain and natural, and though the impulse to it be commonly so strong, is not always discharged. They are the lowest, indeed, as well as the vilest of the human species, who neglect or break through it : yet there are some such in every neighbourhood. There are those who run away from their families and leave them to perish, by the want of what they should do for them. There are others who stay at home only to consume in drunkenness and idle sports, what should be bread for their families; and perhaps what their families earn.
There are those who are fallen into so slothful and idle a course of life, that they had rather cast their children upon the public than labour for them. And there are those, lastly, who, after having ruined the mother, and been the means of bringing innocent sufferers into the world, abandon both to shame and misery, nor concern themselves as being any farther connected with them, or being under any obligation to provide for the maintenance of either: which is just as abandoned and wicked a line of conduct as any of the others,- for, if you remember the reason why parents are bound to maintain their children, that reason holds equally for natural children as for any