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ON SINS OF OMISSION.
St. MATTHEW XXV. 30.
Cast ye the unprofitable servant into outer
darkness; there shall be weeping and.
gnasbing of teeth. In that form of confession, which is with SERM. great propriety placed at the beginning of our church service, we not only acknowledge that we have done what we ought not to have done, but that we have left undone what we ought to have done. The guilt of a Christian is made up of omissions as
SERM. well as transgressions of his duty, and
perhaps the former with men in general may have the greater share in drawing on them God's displeasure. It is certain that this is the case with one very large class, who are commonly distinguished by the name of good sort of people: persons of this description are guilty of no flagrant violations of the laws of God: they are, as far as complying with external forms, religious and devout, they attend regularly at church, they perhaps say their prayers morning and evening, they are neither profane nor debauched, they pay to every one their due; and yet, if this is all that can be said for them, they are very far removed from the kingdom of heaven.
The promises of the gospel are not dealt out to negative virtue; Christianity requires from its votaries a continued series of positive acts of goodness. In vain shall we plead that we have done no harm, if we are not entitled to say that we have done good: we SERM.
V. were not sent into the world to live in idleness, and to go out of it in the same state in which we entered into it: it is expected from us that we make ourselves better, that we lay out all the endowments of nature and of fortune to the best advantage, that we acquire habits of holiness and benevolence, which may fit us for that blessed society, to which on our so doing we may hope to be preferred.
The dangers which arise to us from omissions of our duty are by so much the greater, because in many cases they are incurred without our being sensible of them, and because in almost all they are not afterwards remembered.
If I commit a positive sin, if I swear, if I am guilty of a falsehood, if I defraud or bear false witness against my neighbour, I know what I am doing at the time, COLL
SERM. my guilt makes an impression on me, my
crime assumes a body and a shape, I do not easily forget it, and consequently I may repent of it, and avoid being guilty of the like in future.
But when I am only negatively criminal, when I merely omit to perform either my. public or private devotions to the Almighty, or perform them with carelessness and inattention, when I go on from day to day neglecting to improve my understanding, or to render my heart more enlarged, when I take no advantage of the many opportunities, which are presented to me of being useful to my fellow creatures, when I make no progress in the attainment of holiness, and in weaning my affections from the things of this world, my offences, having no immediate tendency to cause inconvenience to myself cr do injury to my neighbour, make no lasting impression on my mind; they
are consequently repeated, not merely with- SERM.
V. out regret, but frequently without notice, and are very soon entirely forgotten.
Notwithstanding this, they must certainly be accounted for :—what the worldfrequently calls a good sort of person, that is, one who neither does harm nor good, who is regular and decent in his conduct, and takes care to do nothing that would bring him under the lash of the law, or subject him to any violent censure from his neighbours, whose piety goes no farther than ceremonials, and whose benevolence extends not beyond good wishes; such an one is represented by our Saviour under the character of the servant who hid his talent in a napkin.—This ser: vant neither dissipated what was entrusted to him in extravagance, nor lost it by carelessness, but he neglected to improve it! he did no harm, 'tis true, but he did no good; and therefore the sentence pronounced against him was, “ Cast