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their several stations and conditions in life with the graces of an honest, upright, and benevolent de meanour. In this advice he did not overlook the lowest of his fellow Christians.
“ Servants," says he,“ obey in all things your masters according to the flesh; not with eye-service, as men pleasers, but in singleness of heart, fearing God: and whatsoever ye do, do it heartily as to the Lord, and not unto men, knowing that of the Lord
shall receive the reward of the inheritance; for
ye serve the Lord Christ.” The persons thus addressed were slaves ; subject, no doubt, some of them to the tyranny of austere and cruel masters. Their occupation was of the most servile kind, yet the Apostle is careful to teach them, that it is not enough to regulate their conduct by the common rules of honesty and prudence. Whatsoever they do they must do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men.
II. I proceed to examine the nature of the command in our text.
In order the better to understand its true import, let us consider, first, what it forbids; and, secondly, what it enjoins.
It forbids us in general to do any thing as unto men; that is, to act under any circumstances, with a mere regard to any influence of our fellow-men upon our safety or happiness. They can affect our temporal welfare in a thousand different ways: they can aid us by their friendship: they can injure us by their hatred : they can build up our worldly
fortune by all the arts of patronage and support : they can load us with caresses in private life, and crown our reputation with honour. They can trample us also under foot, and can consign us to poverty and shame. How hard is it, my brethren, to resist such mighty influences ; to rise superior to the fear or favour of man; to acquire that Christian heroism and independence of character which will enable us to abandon, as mercenary and sinful, all motives of conduct terminating in a mere regard to our earthly comfort and security !
But let us consider, a little more particularly, what these motives are which our text forbids.
1. It forbids, as a sinful motive of conduct, a regard to mere reciprocity of interest.-One act of kindness, according to the maxims of the world, deserves a return of favour. What think you, my brethren, is the extent of this principle ? How many make it their sole rule of intercourse with their fellow-men! How few are free from its influence!
kind words and actions, adorned with the shew of disinterested love and affection, are dealt out, like the goods of traffic, on the mere score of barter! An equivalent must be paid for them -good measure too, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over.
But how different a lesson of conduct did our Saviour enjoin upon his followers! Hear his own words Give to him that asketh thee; and from him that would borrow of thee, turn not thou away. Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt
· love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy: but I
say unto you, Love your enemies; bless them that curse you; do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you and persecute you ; that ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust. For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? Do not even the publicans the same? And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others ? Do not even the publicans so ? Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.”
2. Our text forbids, as a sinful motive of action, a mere regard to the reputation which our good conduct may procure us in the world. There is a homage which vice pays to virtue. There is a foresight which calculates, on the mere principles of loss and gain, that apparent honesty is the best policy. There is a prudence which is wise enough to cover the vilest passions of the breast with the semblance of virtue. There is a vanity which delights in the esteem of the good, and is willing to enjoy. the reputation of moral worth, by preserving a fair outside. Indeed, it is to be feared, that many of those whom we call moral men-nay, that some who are deemed pious-maintain such appearances simply from a regard to their character. They know that public opinion is in favour of an honest and Christian demeanour; and they keep within
the bounds of decency, or they affect activity in doing good, from a simple regard to their own private interest, and to enjoy the honour with which virtue is always adorned among the wise and good.
But here, again, listen to the words of our Saviour: the precept was given in reference to a particular class of external duties, but its spirit applies equally to all. « Take heed, that ye do not your alms before men, to be seen of them ; otherwise ye have no reward of your Father which is in heaven.
3. Our text forbids, as a sinful motive of conduct, a mere regard to any evil which our fellow-men may inflict upon us.--The dread of human laws imposes no inconsiderable restraint upon the most abandoned. The jail and the gibbet are arrayed with terrors, which it is hard for those who are influenced by no principle of honesty or honor to resist. But, alas ! it is not only among the dregs of human society that we find men governed by this servile spirit of fear : its operations are more extensive than one would at first imagine. The dread of shame or disgrace is felt by all ranks of men, and produces no inconsiderable share of that external decorum which we observe in the world. In proof of this, let us look, my hearers, into our own hearts. How often do we ask ourselves the question -“What will be thought and said of this or that course of conduct ? Conscience and duty impel me to it; but if I pursue it, shall I not be injured in my property, reputation, or life ? On the other hand, how often does inclination prompt to sin,
while nothing deters from the commission of it but the fear of man! “ Public opinion will in this be against me : on the whole, I shall lose even in my worldly interest by yielding to the suggestions of my
sinful heart. I will choose the least of two evils, and abstain from the appearance of crime, that. I may avoid disgrace or punishment.” Such motives, whatever shape they may assume, however subtle and refined may be their workings in the human breast, are denounced in our text as unworthy and sinful. Nor is the conduct that proceeds from them at all acceptable in the sight of God, how much soever it may appear like obedience to his will.
I have thus considered three classes of motives which are forbidden in our text-a mere regard to reciprocity of interest, to the reputation of good conduct in the world, or to any evil which our fellow-men may inflict upon us.
Let us now consider what the text enjoins as the only proper motive of conduct : “ Whatsoever ye do, do it heartily as to the Lord.”—It cannot be denied that God, as our Creator, our preserver, our constant Benefactor, and our rightful Sovereign, has a claim upon our perpetual allegiance and service. We are his property, and shall he not do what he pleases with his own ? We are his children, and shall we not render him a filial respect and obedience? We are his subjects, and shall we not submit to the wholesome laws of his empire ? Now he requires us to love him with our whole soul