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content themselves with following that in which the multitude have gone before them. No exhortation, therefore, is more necessary to be frequently given, and to be seriously enforced, than that which we receive from the text; Thou shalt not follow a multitude to do evil.


To acquire a full view of any danger to which we are exposed, is the first measure to be taken in order to our safety. Let us then begin the subject with considering how much we are in hazard of being misled into vice by the general manners which we behold around us. - No virtue is more necessary to a Christian, but scarcely is there any more difficult to be put in practice, than that firmness of mind which can enable a man to maintain his principles, and stand his ground against the torrent of custom, fashion, and example. Example has upon all minds a secret and insinuating influence, even when we ourselves are insensible' of its operation. We imperceptibly slide into some resemblance of the manners of those with whom we have frequent intercourse. This often shows itself, in the most indifferent things. But the resemblance is still more readily contracted, when there is something within ourselves, that leans to the same side which is coun. tenanced by the practice of others. We are always glad to find any apology for indulging our inclinations and passions; and the example of the multitude too readily suggests that apology. Even before corruption has made great progress in our hearts, sometimes mere complaisance and good-nature incline us to fall in with the ways of others. Sometimes timidity and false shame prevent our differing from them':

Frequently expectation and interest impel us strongly to comply. How great is the danger we incur, when, in times of prevailing vice, all these principles of imitation and compliance unite together against our virtue ?

The world is too justly said by Scripture, to lie ini wickedness : it is a school wherein every vice is taught, and too easily learned.

Even from our earliest childhood, false sentiments are instilled into our minds. We are bred up in admiration of the external show of life. We are accustomed, as soon as we can understand any thing, to hear riches and honours spoken of as the chief goods of men, and proposed to us as the objects to which our future pursuits are to be directed. We see the measures of outward respect and deference taken from these alone. Religion and virtue are recommended to us, in a formal manner, by our teachers and instructors ; but all improvements of the mind and heart are visibly placed, by the world, in an inferior rank to the advantages of fortune. Vices that chance to be fashionable, are treated as slight failings, and coloured over, in common discourse, with those soft and gentle names which express no condemnation. We enter, perhaps, on the world, with good principles, and an aversion to downright vice. But when, as we advance in life, we become initiated in that mystery of iniquity, which is called the way of the world; when we meet with deceit and artifice in all ranks of men; when we behold iniquity, authorised by great names, and often rewarded with success and advancement, our original good impressions too soon decay. The practice of the multitude renders vice familiar to our thoughts; and gradually wears

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off the abhorrence with which we once beheld it. We begin to think, that what is so very general, cannot be highly criminal. The malignity of sin appears diminished, by so many being sharers in the reproach; and instead of men's vices detracting, as they ought to do, from our good opinion of the men, our attachment to the men oftener reconciles us to the vices of which they are guilty.

The countenance which sin receives from the practice of the multitude, not only remove the restraints which are imposed by modesty and shame; but, such is the degeneracy of the world, the shame is too often employed against the cause of religion andvirtue. The ridicule of the giddy and unthinking bears down the conviction of the sober and modest. Against their own belief, they appear to adopt the notions of the infidel; and against their own choice, they join in the vices of the libertine ; that they may not be reproached as persons of a narrow mind, and still enslaved to the prejudices of education. How much reason is there to believe that, merely from this timidity of temper, many, whose principles are on the side of religion and virtue, are nevertheless found walking in the way of sinners, and sitting in the chair of the scornful? – Interest, too, often coincides with this weakness of disposition, in tempting such persons to follow the multitude. To fall in with the prevailing taste, to suit themselves to the passions of the great, or to the humours of the low, with whom they chance to be connected, appears the readiest way to rise in the world. Hence they are naturally led to relinquish the firmness of an upright character, for that supple and versable turn, which accommodates itself to the times, and assumes whatever ap

pearance seems most convenient for interest. Such are the dangers to which we are exposed, in times of corruption, of following the multitude to do evil ; dangers which require our most serious attention and care, in order to guard ourselves against them. - I proceed to lay such considerations before you as may be useful for that purpose. .

In the first place, Let us remember that the multitude are very bad guides ; are so far from having a title to implicit regard, that he who blindly follows them may be presumed to err. For prejudice and passion are known to sway the crowd. They are struck by the outside of things; they enquire superficially, admire false appearances, and pursue false goods. Their opinions are for the most part hastily formed, and of course are variable, floating, and inconsistent. In every age, how small is the number of those who are guided by reason and calm enquiry? How few do we find, who have the wisdom, to think and judge for themselves, and have steadiness to follow out their own judgment ? Ignorance, and low education, darken the views of the vulgar. Fashion and prejudice, vanity and pleasure, corrupt the sentiments of the great. The example of neither affords any standard of what is right and wise. If the philosopher, when employed in the pursuit of truth, finds it necessary to disregard established prejudices and popular opinion, shall we, in the more important enquiry after the rule of life, submit to such blind guidance as the practice of the many; esteeming whatever they admire; and following wherever they lead? Be assured, that he who sets up the general opinion as the standard of truth, or the

general practice as the measure of right, is likely, upon such a foundation, to build no other superstructure except vice and folly. – If the practice of the multitude be a good pattern for our imitation, their opinions surely should be as good a rule for our belief. Upon this principle, we must exchange Christianity for Paganism or Mahometanism, and the light of the Reformation for the superstitions of Popery ; for these latter have ever had, and still have, the numbers and the multitude on their side. - Our Saviour has sufficiently characterised the way of the world, when he describes the broad road in which the multitudes go, as the road which leads to destruction; and the path which leads to happiness, as a narrow path, which fewer find. From which it is an easy inference, that to have the multitude on our side, is so far from affording any presumption of our being safe, that it should lead us to suspect that we are holding the course of danger.

In the second place, As the practice of the multitude is no argument of a good practice, so it cannot afford us either justification, or safety, in what is evil. - It affords us, I say, no justification. Truth and error, virtue and vice, are things of immutable nature. The difference between them is grounded on that basis of eternal reason, which no opinions or customs of men can affect or alter. Whether virtue be esteemed or not, in the world, this makes it neither more nor less estimable in itself. It carries always a Divine authority, which men cannot impair. It shines with an essential lustre, which praise cannot brighten, nor reproach tarnish. It has a right to regulate the opinions of men; but by their opinions cannot

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