- Sermon I. the Rising Generation Exhorted to Adopt the Religion of Their Christian Forefathers.
- Sermon II. Hope In God.
- Sermon III. On the Means and the Importance of Grace.
- Sermon IV. Corruption of Heart the Source of Irreligion and Immorality.
- Sermon V. Against Despair and Suicide.
- Sermon VI. On the Folly and Danger of Thoughtlessness.
- Sermon VII. Perseverance In the Religious Principles Taught In Youth, and Particularly In Faith and Hope, Recommended.
- Sermon VIII. Good Intentions the Least Fallible Security For Good Conduct.
- Sermon IX. Religion the Chief Concern of Life.
- Sermon X. On Conformity to Fashion and the Customs of the World
- Sermon XI. On Seeking a Remedy For Sorrow, In Vice and Dissipation.
- Sermon XII. Christian Politeness
- Sermon XIII. On the Duty of Preventing Evil, By Actual Coercion, As Well As By Advice and Remonstrance.
- Sermon XIV. On Pursuing Visionary Schemes of Happiness, Without Attending to Scripture, and Revealed Religion
- Sermon XV. the Pride of Human Learning and False Philosophy, a Great Obstacle to the Reception of Christianity.
- Sermon XVI. On the Duty of Servants.
- Sermon XVII. On the Wickedness and Misery of Envy and Contention.
- Sermon XVIII. the Cunning Oe the Wicked Inconsistent With Wisdom.
- Sermon XIX. On the Snares of the Devil, and Means of Escaping Them.
- Sermon XX. Moderation Necessary to All Solid and Durable Enjoyment.
- Sermon XXI. Happiness to Be Found Rather In the Enjoyment of Health and Innocence, Than In the Successful Pursuits of Avarice and Ambition.
- Sermon XXII. On the Duties of the Preacher and the Hearer.
- Sermon XXIII. * On the Benefits to Be Derived From the Sight of a Funeral.
- Sermon XXIV. a Preparatory Persuasive to the Sacrament of the Lord's Supper.
- Sermon XXV. the Prospect of Perpetual and Universal Peace to Be Established On the Principles of Christian Philanthropy.
- Sermon XXVI. On the Necessity of Increasing the Places of Public Worship On the Establishment; and On the Duty of Supporting the Objects of the Philanthropic Society.
- Sermon XXVII. the Support of the Magdalen Hospital Recommended.
- Sermon XXVIII. the Education of the Poor Recommended.
Romans, xii. 9, 10.—Let love be without dissimulation. Abhor that which is evil. Cleave to that which is good. Be kindly affectioned one to another, with brotherly love; in honour preferring one another.
Though man is formed for society, lie yet possesses many qualities in his natural and unimproved state, which are extremely unsocial. In this state, pride and selfishness are found to predominate in him to so great a degree, as almost to confine him to separation and solitude. Some philosophers have indeed maintained, that a state of nature is a state of war; but whether this representation be just or not, it is evidently certain that the sweets of social intercourse cannot be enjoyed in perfection, till man is highly polished and completely civilized.
But even in a country far removed from a state of nature, there will remain some relics of the native ferocity, unless peculiar care is bestowed in the formation and improvement of manners. Hence rules of decorum and politeness have been established, to teach men a mutual renunciation of their own claims, in order to promote mutual satisfaction. For the sake of preserving harmony, civilities of various kinds are exchanged, like coin, among those who cannot possibly have any personal regard for each other, and who frequently entertain a latent enmity. The words of their mouth are smoother than butter, butwar is in their hearts; their words are softer than oil, yet are they drawn swords. It is however very certain, that politeness contributes greatly to render human life both sweet and pacific. It is therefore highly valuable. It is not without reason that the world agrees to esteem it. But we must lament that it is too often united with insincerity, and appears on examination to be but the counterfeit of a virtue. Indeed, it originates for the most part, in selfishness, refined and improved by the subtlety of art and experience. It is fair to the view, but internally unsound. It may indeed answer beneficial purposes, even in its imperfect state; but it is certainly desirable that it should be what it appears to be, the genuine result of a humane and benevolent disposition.
It is then the purpose of the present Discourse, to recommend the practice of politeness, on the principles of Christianity; to evince indeed, that he who possesses the genuine virtues of the Christian religion, must be, in the best and truest sense of the word, polite; and that the sincerest Christian may most justly claim the title of the real gentleman. In a word, I shall endeavour to make it appear, that the instructions of the humble Jesus are peculiarly adapted to correct our pride and selfishness, those qualities which possess the most unsocial tendency.
In the first place let us take a view of those fashionable methods which the world establishes, in order to regulate those unpleasant dispositions. Let us examine them, as they appear to be laid down by the professed teachers of politeness, or the celebrated art of pleasing.
So narrow and unphilosophical are the instructors in this species of worldly wisdom, that this life, and the external advantages of riches, rank, and honours, appear to them not only the chief, but the only good. How then does the father begin his paternal addresses to his child? Not like Solomon; “My son, get wisdom, get understanding,” in the ways of God and virtue; but, Gain a knowledge of the world, and learn, at an early age, to deceive all with, whom you converse, while you can render them instrumental to your private interest.
Away with prejudices, (and under prejudices are comprehended all moral and religious virtues,) away with diffidence and delicacy∗ Let your own interest and advancement be invariably your objects. Let these employ your meditations by night, and your activity by day; but remember that your interest and advancement depend entirely on the favour of others. To gain that favour you must please them. Now men are pleased rather by agreeable accomplishments, and by little attentions, than by solid attainments, or by arduous virtues. Cultivate then the art of pleasing; an art which cannot well be practised, as the world is now constructed, without constant simulation and dissimulation. Regard not that scrupulous veneration for truth, which men who know nothing of the world are so apt to recommend and applaud. Truth, the whole truth, must then only be told, when it is not your interest that it should be concealed, or misrepresented.
“Be ready,” continues the sagacious child of this world, who is wiser in his generation than the children of light, be ready to flatter all with whom you converse, and who are able to serve you, though you know them to be, in every respect, the most undeserving of mankind. Flattery will smooth your way to the highest stations of life, even to the palace; while truth and sincerity are left to starve in the beggary of a cottage.
“Learn the arts of insinuation. These will pave your way to preferment, much more effectually than modest merit. Modest merit is indeed,” he exclaims, “another name for weakness and folly. Assume the appearance of every thing agreeable and good; but be not at the pains to acquire the reality. In the very attempt you may probably lose the appearance; for seriousness, study, and reflection, tend to cloud the brows, to superinduce an inflexibility, and to suggest such scruples as are fatal to advancement. Be yours an easier, and a securer method. Address yourself to the eyes, to the fancy, to the heart. You will thus carry all before you; and reason, conscience, and religion, of which the pious talk so much, will toil after you in vain. While they are in Tags, you shall be clothed in purple and fine linen.”
Such are the instructions of him to whom this world and its vanities are all that is to be desired. He utters them with confidence, he glories in the superiority of his wisdom, he derides all those who point the way to happiness through the paths of religion and virtue. He it is who has at length discovered the chief good of man, and the most infallible method of obtaining it. Poor, deluded, short-sighted creature∗ he has not a soul capable of soaring up to Heaven. He cannot aspire at an object so noble and glorious as immortality. This little speck on which he dwells, is to him the universe. There he crawls like the earth-worm, which is not sensible of any thing else existing, but the dirt which it devours, and in which it is enveloped.
What can be more wretched and contemptible, than the politeness which arises from such motives as the man of the world so arrogantly recommends? It is like a gaudy flower, which derives all its nourishment from the corrupted mass of a dunghill.
For does it not originate in all the qualities which constitute the baseness of a villain? Falsehood, deceit, lying, adulation, meanness, hypocrisy, impudence, and every quality which is either abominable or despicable, are concerned in its production and perfection.
Look abroad into real life. Who are the men who bare chiefly excelled in this spurious politeness, the mean offspring of that very pride and selfishness, which true politeness, the child of humanity, was meant to destroy or restrain? Who are they but sordid sycophants, avaricious cultivators of the great, for their own advantage, despisers of merit, enemies to all who seem to interrupt their progress, by deserving better than themselves; debauchees, and violaters of innocence and hospitality, for the gratification of their own vicious propensities? Are they not ready to desert any friend, and to betray any cause, to promote their own interest, to acquire popularity, to conciliate the favour of a court? Facts and actual experience abundantly evince, that these adepts in thefalse art of pleasing, are the vilest of the human race.
These very plausible and pleasing men, if they were seen without disguise in their proper colours, would appear to be hideous and disgustful: Mark their actions in the recesses of private life, in their own families, or wherever they can secure concealment. You will see no more of softness and smoothness, no more of deference and humility, no more of benevolence and generosity; but you will see pride, ill-nature, asperity, extreme avarice, and complete selfishness, in every action. The mask which is worn while they act their part in the public theatre, drops off behind the scenes; and he who strutted in all the brilliancy of artificial ornament, resigns the tinsel vest, and exhibits to view his real state of meanness and beggary.
Thus it appears that the mere worldly species of politeness is a poor and contemptible quality. Pleasing as it appears, it is all deformity within. The ugliest of passions, views, and inclinations, are chiefly concerned in its production. It is indeed a base, counterfeit coin, which, though it may frequently pass in currency among careless observers, ought to be cried down by the voice of general detestation.
Let us turn from the glossy, but unsubstantial, virtues of the world, to the solid excellences recommended in the gospel of Jesus Christ. Let us repeat the beautiful precepts contained in the text. Let love be without dissimulation. Abhor that which is evil. Cleave to that which is good. Be kindly affectioned one to another, with brotherly love; in honour preferring one another.
Here we behold politeness founded on real affection and philanthropy. Let love be, without dissimulation. How different from the advice of the worldly wise, which directs us to conduct all our schemes by pretending friendship which we do not feel, and by the assistance of the basest dissimulation∗ Here we are taught to show an affection for all mankind, and to let that affection proceed from the humane sentiments of a generous and benevolent heart.
Abhor that which is evil. Cleave to that which is good. Which passages I do not understand as general commands to hate evil, and to do that which is good, but as particularly meant to direct us in forming our social connections. They may, I think, be thus interpreted. Dare to entertain sentiments of dislike to bad persons, however elevated their rank, and opulent their conditions. Seek not their friendship.
Solicit not their patronage; but show that the splendour of their fortunes cannot throw a lustre over the shaded parts of their characters. On the other hand, Cleave to that which is good. Connect yourself with good men. Love them sincerely, without regarding their worldly condition; and evince your attachment to goodness, however concealed by the lowness and obscurity of its possessor's situation.
Be kindly affectioned one towards another, with brotherly love. It is the peculiar excellence of Christianity, that it has taught its true possessors, to view mankind in a light more endearing to each other, than that in which they had before appeared. It represents all men, as children of one father, as real brethren, bound to love each other, not only by the common ties of humanity, but also of consanguinity. If men would adopt this idea, and act in conformity to it, no other rules would be necessary to secure all the sweets of a polite behaviour. He who is kindly affectioned with brotherly love toward those with whom he converses, will have but little occasion to consult any other rules of politeness, than those which are engraven in his own bosom.
But the text adds a clause, which contains in it the very essentials of the art of pleasing, and of all obliging behaviour. In honour preferring one another; that is, we are to pay that mutual respect to each other which, we mutually demand, and consequently to make those reciprocal concessions, which contribute to smooth and to sweeten all our intercourse. Is there any thing recommended by the writers of that nation which values itself on the graces of external behaviour, that can conduce more, not only to render life comfortable, but to embellish it, than this advice, from a book which is top often laid aside by the pretenders to superior polish and refinement? Can any of the boasted subtilties of philosophy teach man to repress the tumours of vanity, and the greediness of self-will, so effectually, as this short admonition authorized by the sanction of a Divine revelation? Shall any one dare, after duly considering the full force of this whole passage, to assert that Christianity is a religion inconsistent with all those modes of social intercourse, which the wisest of men and universal practice have established as the most expedient? For does it not improve them to their highest perfection, rendering them pleasant as well as profitable, and adding to that agreeableness which arises from artifice, the permanency, solidity, and beauty of truth?
It is indeed evident, that the spirit and genius of Christianity are peculiarly calculated to soften and embellish the familiar commerce of human life. The very first leading, striking, prominent, excellence of our religion, is charity, good-will, benevolence. Many heroic virtues were admirably recommended by Pagan moralists; but the social, the friendly, the domestic, and relative, virtues are no where enforced so frequently, or so forcibly, as in the Gospel. But do not these immediately tend to produce whatever is amiable, graceful, and kind, not only in our temper, but in our behaviour? From such roots the tree cannot but yield fruit, beautiful to the eye, and delicious to the palate. The politeness and art of pleasing, taught by the world and its idolatrous votaries, originate from the father of lies, the enemy of mankind; who, to effect his hateful purposes, is able to hide his own ugliness in the fairest semblance. To facilitate the production of mischief, he can put on an angel's form. So also can those who become his subjects. But the Christian, out of the good treasure of his heart, bringeth forth good words and kind actions. A little trial or examination detects the falsehood and hollowness of the worldly wise man; but the more the Christian is examined, the more lovely do his friendly offices and behaviour appear, because they have the solid foundation of sincerity.
Humility is also a principal virtue required by the humble Jesus. But is there any thing better adapted, than humility rightly understood, and uniformly practised, to preserve peace, and to exclude from company all that is rude, uncouth, and disagreeable? If from pride cometh contention, from humility cometh union. The humility of the gospel is quite different from meanness of spirit, or abject submission. It is a rational and noble suppression of our self-love and pride, in a conscientious obedience to the religion we believe. It arises from magnanimity. It teaches neither wantonly to give, nor hastily to take, offence. It judges not others, it interferes not with their business, it is contented with doing its own duty, and seeking that path of life, which leads through the silent vale of innocence, piety, and peace. Excellent as is this virtue, in promoting the pleasure and comfort of family and friendly intercourse, let it be remembered, for the honour of Christianit), that it is no where recommended in its pure and genuine sense, but in the page of Scripture.
Is there any quality recommended in books on the art of pleasing in company, or any thing in the practice of the gay and fashionable, more likely to promote peace and happiness, ease and enjoyment, than genuine, unaffected candour? But candour also, no less than humility, is powerfully enforced, as well as beautifully described in the New Testament. What is it but candour, and indeed every requisite to politeness, which is thus described under the appellation of charity? Charity suffereth long, and is kind. Charity envieth not,charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil,rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth—beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things,endureth all things. In this copious and beautiful description, one would have imagined that the apostle was painting those very qualities which contribute to render company agreeable, and the appearance of which is often solicitously sought, with far other motives than those of religion or virtue.
Meekness is another grace peculiar to the true Christian. How beautiful a grace∗ Did it ever enter into the heart of a wicked worldling to recommend any quality so pleasing, and so conducive to quietness, and to every pleasure and comfort for which the familiar intercourse of man with man is so eagerly desired? I am meek and lowly, says the great Author of our salvation; and if we, whom meekness and lowliness more particularly become, would put on the ornament, as the apostle emphatically styles it, of a meek and quiet spirit, we should not often want any of those false ornaments, which pride invents, and folly admires. I will repeat the passage nearly in the apostle's words, and will generalize that instruction which he addressed particularly to wives. Let not your adorning be the outward adorning of plaiting the hair, and of wearing of gold, or of putting on of apparel; but let it be thehidden man of the heart,in that which is not corruptible, even the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price.
The forgiveness of injuries and insults, which indeed is the natural consequence of meekness and humility, and which Christianity in a peculiar manner enjoins, conduces immediately to peace and tranquillity in every degree and mode of our social intercourse. But what instructions on this head do the men of the world afford? They tell us of honour which we are bound to maintain, even by the commission of murder. And what is this honour? It by no means deserves the name which it assumes; for it is a combination of pride, vanity, malice, and revenge. It is diabolical in its principles, and accursed in its consequences. It is destructive of peace and harmony, by rendering men captious, easily provoked, and indeed prone to every propensity and practice incoherent with Christian charity. Such is false honour, the vain idol of a wicked world. But Christianity teaches a sublimer sense of honour, than ever entered into the heart of the most renowned duellist to conceive. It teaches a greatness of soul that overlooks those injuries which exasperate the poor furious worldling. Unmoved, like the rock amidst the storm, the Christian rises superior to all the attacks of the proud man's contumely. Serene and placid,;he shines on high, like the sun in the upper regions, far above the clouds and vapours which hide its lustre from the earth. Is he not then capable of becoming a much more agreeable companion, than the haughty man of fashion, who often seeks a quarrel that he may distinguish his spirit, and be celebrated in the world of gallantry? The true Christian, who has subdued the ebullitions of pride, envy, malice, and revenge, is not only sure of not disturbing tranquillity, but of communicating love, joy, and peace, among all with whom he has any intercourse.
The Spirit of God, indeed, communicates to all, on whose hearts its influence is shed, the most lovely and agreeable, as well as the most courteous dispositions and habits of behaviour; what indeed are represented in Scripture as the genuine fruits of the spirit. The fruit of the spirit islove, joy, peace, long suffering, gentleness, goodness, meekness. But the works of the flesh, that is of those who live the lives of men of the world, are hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, envyings, murders. But are not some of the most accomplished men, according to the accomplishments of the world, those who live professed according to the flesh, that is, to use the apostle's words, in adultery, fornication, un-cleanness, lasciviousness, Ought the varnished behaviour of such men, the little arts of adulation, and the little ornaments of dress and external appearance, which they studiously adopt merely for the sake of their own sordid interest; ought these to give more pleasure, and be esteemed more agreeable than the cordial kindness, the sincere friendship, the charity, the patience, the humility, the meekness, the forgiveness, which soften the bosom of the Christian gentleman? O fools and blind, who judge thus absurdly∗ He who has taught himself to practise the rules prescribed in the sermon on the Mount, is capable of becoming infinitely more agreeable and polite as a companion, than any splendid infidel who has learned to glitter in the gayest courts of polished Europe.
Let me conclude this subject, by earnestly entreating those who would possess, in perfection, the true art of pleasing, to begin their improvement in it, by purifying and regulating their hearts according to the Christian model. Thus, while they learn to please others most effectually and most permanently, they will also improve themselves in such habits and virtues as will have a most benign influence in promoting their own enjoyment. They will have no occasion for deceit, or those tricks and stratagems which can never be practised without painful anxiety; without such doubts and uneasiness attending them, as no success, in the object they pursue, can possibly compensate: their own bosoms will be calm and serene, uninjured and uninjurious, smooth as the stream which glides in its proper channel, and diffuses beauty and fertility on every plant which happily vegetates near its margin.
We are apt to reverence our fellow-creatures servilely. We idolize them; not indeed from philanthropy, but from a mean timidity, and an anxious regard for our own interest. We forget, in the attention we pay to the great, and indeed to all who can gratify our avarice or ambition, the reverence we owe to ourselves, and the duties we owe to God.
The reverence we owe to ourselves should teach us to have a particular regard to our own consciences; to please men, so far only as is consistent with pleasing our own hearts; that is, so far as is consistent with truth, honesty, and all our duties, moral and religious. It should teach us to practise, not what may advance our temporal interest only, or what may furnish a transient pleasure, but what will bring us peace at the last, and fit us for better society than any which can be found on earth, that of angels, and of just men made perfect in heaven.
The reverence we owe to God should render us more solicitous to please him than men, however exalted, however able to advance us to honour and profit; for, let us seriously reflect, how little will avail the favour of the world, and the greatest potentates in it, against the displeasure of the Lord of Lords, the King of Kings, the Most High God.