Page images
[ocr errors][merged small][merged small]

ACTS, xi. 22-24.

They fent forth Barnabas, that he should go. as far as Antioch: who, when he came, and bad feen the grace of God, was glad, and exhorted them all, that with purpose of heart they would cleave unto the Lord. For he was a good man, and full of the Holy Ghoft and of faith.

IN N the management of worldly tranfactions, the foundness of the principles upon which we conduct ourselves is a circumftance of prime moment to our fuccefs. If the man of fcience builds his fpeculations on a groundless theory,, and fuftains them by an unphilofophical procefs; shall not they terminate in emptiness and difappoint

appointment? If the Commander embarked in a perilous enterprife, has formed an erroneous judgement concerning its nature, and measures its facilities or its difficulties by a false standard; fhall not the event be difaftrous? Is it not then of inexpreffible concern that, in pursuing the interefts of eternity, you should contemplate them with difcerning eyes; and eftimate, by a true criterion, every particular which is effential to the attainment of your object? The man of science may renew his labours on a firmer bafis. The Commander, reaping wisdom from defeats, may conquer in another campaign. Not fo the departed spirit, wilfully estranged, while in the body, from the path of final happiness. Disappointment in that purfuit is ruin for ever.

There are few fubjects respecting which a more confpicuous variety of judgement prevails than exifts with regard to goodness. How numerous, how difcordant are the standards by which it is measured! Enter the crowded circle of fociety, and advert to fome of the different characters, to which you hear the term Good continually and confidently applied,

Firft: there is the decent and orderly
He is fo regular in his attendance



[ocr errors]


on the ordinances of the church, fo punctual in his dealings, so free from grofs and open vice, fo unobftrufive in demeanour, fo decorous in all his proceedings; that he speedily establishes his claim to the title of a good man. If, when called If, when called upon to applaud him as fuch, you venture to pause for additional information: if, before you deliver your opinion, you wish to obtain grounds for judging whether, while he bears. the form of godliness, he alfo manifefts the power thereof; whether his religion is an outfide coat, a fuperficial varnish, or a principle of penetrating influence, warming and governing the heart: you are inftantly decried as cenforious and uncharitable and never to be fatisfied, "What," you are asked, " is goodness; if fo refpect"able and exemplary a man as this is not "good?"

Then comes the liberal man, and prefers his claim. His pretenfions are instantly admitted. He is fo open-hearted and benevolent; fo prompt to empty his purfe; fo kind to the poor; fo hofpitable to his friends! If you begin to examine, however modeftly, however in conformity with ambiguous appearances, whether his liberality may not be thoughtless profufion; whe

ther his benevolence may not be a mere natural feeling; whether his hofpitality may not be the indulgence of fenfuality and oftentation; whether other parts of hist conduct uphold or contradict the supposition of his goodness: you are encountered with vehement declarations that a better man never exifted; and are filenced with the perverted text, that charity covereth a multitude of fins.

Then comes an oppofite character; the industrious and frugal man. So much laudable diligence in his business; fo much care to provide for his family; fo much exertion, fo much patience; fo much perfeverance, so much self-denial; fuch exemption from parade, from noife, from extravagance, from diffipation: here is an example of laborious virtue! If you intimate a doubt whether his labours exemplify any difpofition beyond covetoufness; you are treated as a man determined to find fault, as one whom neither generosity nor frugality can please.

The next perfon who demands notice is the cautious man. His object is never to give offence. He fays civil things of every perfon; yet not fo civil of any perfon as to excite the jealousy of another. He

avoids the delivery of any positive opinion. If present at a difcuffion respecting fome controverted occurrence, and appealed to by both fides; he admires the excellent arguments reciprocally produced; professes himself incompetent to decide between them; or holds fuch a middle course as may not be altogether unfatisfactory to either difputant. He attaches himself to no party; but endeavours to induce all feverally to regard him as well inclined to their cause. He is thought fomewhat reserved, and perhaps rather timid and inconfiftent: but, while his conduct is a tissue of time-serving infincerity, he is generally allowed to be "a very good fort of



Another character in high repute is the eafy good-humoured man. He is fo "pleafant," as the phrase is; fo cheerful; fo harmless; so neighbourly! Every person whom he meets he appears delighted to fee. He is always furnished with entertaining converfation; always prepared to join in any scheme of amusement ; always difpofed to collect his acquaintance around him; always careful to difmiss them pleased with his fociety. It is thus that, poffibly without poffeffing a fin


« PreviousContinue »