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things, and by liberal things shall he be established,” Is. xxxii. 6-8.
The last thing in this text, said to be required of men, is “ to walk humbly with God:” or, as the Hebrew is literally, “ and to humble thyself to walk with thy God. In the ancient Greek version, made before the coming of our Saviour, it is rendered : “ and be ready to walk with thy God.” The meaning, I presume, in the general, is: ' and • to resolve to obey all God's commandments, and to continue and persevere therein always to the end of life.'
I shall briefly mention several particulars comprehended in this article.
First, it is to resolve to worship the true God, and him alone. In the text it is the Lord thy God: meaning the God that has made us, and preserves us: the God that has dealt bountifully with us, who has supplied and provided for us, who has helped and delivered us in times of danger and difficulty.
This, certainly, is one thing intended by the prophet: to engage the people of Israel, according to the commandment of the law, as well as the dictates of reason, to fear the Lord their God, and serve him only: even God, the creator of the heavens and the earth, who had brought them out of the house of servants, and had ever since conferred
them many favours and benefits.
Secondly, it includes a respect to all God's commandments, and a readiness to submit to his authority in all things, without any exception.
Thirdly, this humbling ourselves to walk with God, or walking humbly with the Lord our God, includes dependence on him, trusting in him, and committing ourselves to him: believing, and hoping, that he will continue to protect and defend us, and afford us all those things which are needful and convenient.
Fourthly, it includes contentment with our state, and worshipping and serving God in a time of affliction and trouble, as well as in a day of ease and prosperity: blessing him not only when he gives, but also when he takes away: and acknowledging the wisdom and the righteousness of all his dealings with us.
This is implied in devoting ourselves to his service. Under the former particular I mentioned dependence upon God, and committing ourselves to him. This contentment under afflictions, now mentioned, when they befall us, in the course of divine providence, is acting and exercising that dependence which we have made a profession of, and performing according to the engagements we have entered into.
Fifthly, to walk with God includes continuance and perseverance in the service of God, and obedience to his holy laws and commandments, throughout the whole of our life, notwithstanding the temptations we may meet with, and though others should prove false to their engagements, and forsake the Lord their God.
Sixthly, it includes serving God with a lowly, humble apprehension of ourselves: considering the sins we have been guilty of, the defects of our obedience, the imperfections of the services we perform for the honour of his name, or the good of others: and that when we have acted according to the best of our ability, we have done no more than our duty, and what we were under many obligations to perform: and humbly and thankfully owning the goodness of God in the encouragements he has given us, and the promises he has made of accepting our sincere obedience, and rewarding it greatly beyond its merit.
ii. I shall now add a word or two by way of application, and conclude.
1. We perceive, that the holy obedience, required of us, is of great extent: comprehending justice, mercy, and piety, with the several branches of each. It can therefore be no very easy thing to be truly religious. It must be a difficult, and an high attainment. We have need, as our Lord directs, to strive, to exert ourselves, and do our utmost, to “ enter in at the strait gate." One came to our Lord, desirous to know what he should do that “ he might obtain eternal life,” and saying, that “ he had kept all the commandments from his youth.” But Jesus perceived that “ he lacked one thing,” Matt. xix. And the event showed, that his heart was governed by an inordinate love of this present world : and that he was not disposed to do all that is requisite to secure riches in heaven. Let us consider, and examine ourselves, whether this be our case.
2. Let us seriously attend to this representation of true religion, and remember, that the things here insisted on are of absolute necessity.
There is no making up the controversy between God and sinful men, but by repentance and amendment, or a return to real, and universal virtue and piety.
The displeasure of God is not to be appeased by costly oblations. But repent, and turn to the Lord with all the heart unfeignedly: break off every sinful course : cease to do evil, and learn to do well : seek judgment, love mercy,
humble yourselves before the Lord your God: and take upon you the obligation of his reasonable and excellent laws and commandments: then he will receive you graciously, and love you freely. All your sins shall be blotted out: they shall be as if they never were. They will be remembered against you no more.
And all this is of absolute necessity ; nothing else will avail for our acceptance. We cannot substitute any thing else in the room of true virtue and goodness. Long abstinence, painful mortifications of the body at certain seasons, will not suffice: nor some short transports of devotion, however warm and lively: nor any zeal for the externals of religion, or for the right faith, and for spreading the principles of religion in the world. Nothing but a regular course of sincere and undissembled virtue in the several branches of righteousness, mercy, and piety, can recommend us to the favour and acceptance of a wise and holy God.
“ Wherewith shall I come before the Lord, and bow myself before the high God? Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams, or with ten thousands of rivers of oil ? Shall I give my first-born for my transgression, the fruit of my body, for the sin of my soul ?”
Or, shall I fast twice in the week, and pay tithes of all that I possess?
Shall I confess my sins once, or twice, or every month in the year, to a person in holy orders, and submit to all the bodily pains and penances he appoints ?
Shall I increase the number and length of my prayers to a double, or treble proportion more than ordinary ? and hear, or read over an abundance of sermons, and other treatises of religion ?
Shall I erect a costly and magnificent edifice, wherein men may meet, and unite together in the worship of the great God and King of the world?
The point is already resolved. Natural reason and divine revelation agree in one and the same answer to this solicitous and important inquiry. “ He hath showed thee, O man, what is good. And what does the Lord require of thee, but to do justly, to love mercy, and walk humbly with thy God ?"
I have now explained the words of the text, and added an inference or two by way of reflection.
But I propose to discourse again upon this subject, and further show the nature and extent, the excellence and importance of virtue, or moral righteousness.
THE NATURE, EXCELLENCE, AND IMPORTANCE OF
He has shewed thee, O man, what is good. And what doth
the Lord require of thee, but to do justly, and to love
mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God ? Mich. vi. 8. I HAVE already shown the coherence, and distinctly explained the several particulars in the text. It will not be • unsuitable to this portion of scripture, if we proceed to consider, in a more general way, the nature, extent, and obligation of virtue. In doing this I shall observe the following method,
I. I will endeavour to show the nature and extent of virtue, or moral righteousness.
II. Í shall show the excellence and importance of virtue, or righteousness and true holiness.
III. After which I shall conclude with some inferences in the way of application. But I do not intend a discourse, or dissertation, upon
this subject, containing abstruse and profound notions, for the entertainment of metaphysical minds, and such as have thought, or read much concerning these matters, and have penetrated far into the speculative points of religion. But my intention is to explain this matter, so far as I am able, in a clear and intelligible way, for the sake of meaner capacities, and such as are but little acquainted with these points.
For one main reason of this design is, that I have been apprehensive, that we, in the modern language of our ordinary discourses, frequently using expressions not found in scripture, are not understood by all : and that, whereas we often lay a much greater stress upon some things than others, when these also are commanded by the Divine Being; the reason of this is not perceived, though such conduct be perfectly agreeable to the scriptures of the Old and New Testament.
My aim therefore is to set this matter in a clear light, in a few words, that we may be the better understood in our ordinary discourses, without repeated explications of the phrases and expressions made use of.
I. I begin with some observations concerning virtue, or moral righteousness.
1. Morality always supposes rational, intelligent, and free beings. In order to any action being morally good or evil, it must be the act of a being capable of distinguishing things, and of choosing or refusing. Such a being, or agent, we suppose man to be. We perceive ourselves to have the powers of thinking, understanding, reasoning, choosing, or refusing. And the scripture always supposeth these powers
God says to sinful men by his prophets : “ Repent and turn yourselves from all your transgressions : so iniquity shall not be your ruin. Cast away from
all gressions, whereby ye have transgressed, and make you a new heart, and a new spirit: for why will ye die, o house of Israel ? For I have no pleasure in the death of him that . dieth, saith the Lord God; wherefore turn yourselves, and live ye,” Ezek. xviii. 30–32. And Moses reminded the people, who had been long under his care, and to whom he had with divine authority delivered a system of laws: " See, I have set before thee life and good, and death and evil
- I call heaven and earth to witness this day against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing : therefore choose life, that thou mayest live," Deut. xxx. 15—20. And our Lord said to the Jews, his hearers: “ Ye will not come unto me, that ye might have life,” John
2. The word, morality, is used in two senses: the one more restrained, the other more comprehensive. In the restrained sense of the word are included sobriety, justice, equity, goodness, and mercy; or the duties more especially respecting ourselves, and other men, our neighbours. In the more enlarged and comprehensive meaning of the word are included not only the duties just mentioned, but likewise the duties owing to God.
This comprehensive sense of these terms and expressions, morality, virtue, moral righteousness, as including all the necessary duties of a rational being, I take to be the more proper sense and meaning of the terms, as they are generally used by wise and knowing persons.
I suppose this to be evident from these two considerations : first, that we often speak of the moral perfections of God, as distinguished from natural. And when we do so, by his moral perfections we mean every kind of perfection that is virtuous and righteous, or the whole rectitude of the divine will. Secondly, when we speak of moral righteousness, or obedience to rules of moral virtue, as distinct from