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triumph and become universal. And as there seems something in the present circumstances, not only of this country but of the Christian community in general, that peculiarly calls for their observance, so I trust that by the Providence of God, they will be made conducive to that most desirable end. That the evils which result to society from pride, luxury, avarice, and self-interest, will be abated. And that the benefits which flow from justice, temperance, benevolence, and charity, will be augmented. So that we may look forward to a time when our thanksgivings to Almighty God for temporal blessings, produced by a more perfect obedience to his commandments, will be greatly multiplied and the happiness of this world be proportionably encreased—whilst our prayers will ascend to him chiefly for those spiritual gifts which emanate immediately from himself, concern the welfare of our souls, and secure for us the felicity of the world to
TITUS ii. 11, 12.
For the grace of God that bringeth salvation, hath appeared unto all men; teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world.
"WERE it required (says Bishop Horne) to produce from the Scriptures, that passage which exhibits in the fewest words, the fullest account of the nature and design of Christianity—this (and what follows) is perhaps the passage that should be fixed on for the purpose '." But I have limited my text to the words which I have just repeated, because they contain the whole matter to which I propose now to draw your attention. The Apostle upon this, as upon other occasions, strongly insists upon practical morality as
1As quoted in D'Oyly and Mant's Bible.
being one of the great ends of the Christian dispensation. But in doing this he makes use of an expression which may easily be misunderstood, which has in fact led to great errors and which admits (as it seems to me) but of one explanation, which can reconcile it to reason and to common sense, and prevent it from being a discouragement to that virtue which it is certainly designed to recommend and enforce. He tells us that the grace of God that bringeth salvation, that is, the Gospel Revelation-teaches us that denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world. The phrase which I think here calls for much consideration, in order to determine what it is really intended to convey, is that which seems to require us to renounce all worldly desires and pursuits, (or, at least, in' a great degree to renounce them,) as inconsistent with the religion which we profess, and adverse to the hopes of future happiness, which it holds out to us. Were it the only expression of the kind in the New Testament, it might safely be passed over without a very minute examination. But the fact is quite otherwise. Language very similar in effect
pervades all the Gospels and the Epistles, and therefore it becomes absolutely necessary to ascertain, what sense we should put upon it, that we may avoid the error of carrying it too far on the one hand, or not far enough on the other.
There is no greater hindrance to human virtue, than the giving an exaggerated or impracticable idea of its nature and extent. Did the Gospel prescribe for us a course of conduct, manifestly incompatible with our existence in the world, or even subversive of our happiness in it, it would afford an argument against its truth, not easily to be answered. They who are already dissatisfied with it, on account of the restraint which it imposes upon their disorderly passions, and vicious propensities, would triumphantly reject it, if they could justly charge it with denying them the use of those harmless pleasures and gratifications which the bounty of Providence has evidently designed them to enjoy. But to this danger the Gospel has been at all times exposed by those who have pressed its doctrines upon this point too far. this point too far. Both before the Reformation and since, error has been fre
quently and extensively inculcated, by inter
preting our Saviour's observations too literally on this head, or by not distinguishing between our circumstances and those of his immediate disciples. To some of them, no doubt, his precepts might be applied in their strict and literal sense. But to the generality of his hearers, as to ourselves, they must have been addressed in their spirit and not in their letter. To those who followed him constantly, and lived under his personal protection, and to whom he imparted miraculous powers, for the propagation of the Gospel, any attention to worldly concerns was absolutely needless. They were taken wholly out of the ordinary classes of human society. They might safely leave all to follow their Divine Master, even though that Master himself had not where to lay his head.
It is very observable that almost all our Lord's instructions for the conduct of life were delivered in extreme terms; with which it is obvious that mankind in general never have complied, and never can be expected to comply, until a state of things shall arise very different from what has been hitherto known. The reason for this was doubtless to bring about dually that great alteration and improvement in