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ART. V. Sermons. By Hugh Blair, D. D. One of the Ministers of

the High Church, and Professor of Rhetoric and Belles Lettres in the University, of Edinburgh. Vol. II. O&avo. 6s. Bound. Cadell. 1780. HOSE who have read the first volume of Dr. Blair's Dif

courses (and we believe there are few readers of sermons who have not perused them) will naturally form great expe&ations from his second; and we may venture to assure them, that they will not be disappointed. The same elegance of compofition, the same beauty and variety of sentiment, in a word, every excellence which marked the first, is conspicuous in the second volume; and cannot fail of rendering it highly acceptable to the friends of rational religion.

The subject of the first sermon is—the importance of order in conduct.—" Let all things be done in order.The Doctor introduces it with the following very juft observation, viz. that order, method, and regularity, whether it be considered as, in itself, a moral duty, or not, is essential to the proper discharge of almost all duties,-and merits, on that account, a greater attention than is commonly paid to it in a religious view. He proceeds to recommend to his Readers, order in the conduct of their affairs; in the distribution of their time; in the management of their fortune; in the regulation of their amusements, and in the arrangement of their society.

The second and third are admirable sermons indeed! the subject of them is extremely important, though its importance is. but seldom perceived by the generality of mankind, who are apt to consider the regulation of external conduct as the chief object of religion. The words from which the Preacher disa courses are-Keep thy heart with all diligence, &c. In treating of the government of the heart, he confiders, separately, the government of the thoughts, of the passions, and of the temper.

The subject of the fourth sermon is, The unchangeableness of the divine nature. The Doctor introduces it with observing, that the power, wisdom, and goodness, of the Supreme Being, are sounds familiar to our ears, but that we are less accustomed to consider him in his immutability, though it is this perfection, perhaps, which more than any other distinguishes the divine nature from the human; gives complete energy to all its other attributes, and entitles it to the highest adoration. Goodness, he says, could produce no more than feeble and wavering hopes, and power would command very imperfect reverence, if we were left to suspect, that the plans which goodness had framed might alter, or that the power of carrying them into execution might decrease. The contemplation of God, therefore, as unchangeU 3

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able in his nature, and in all his perfections, must undoubtedly be fruitful, both of instruction and of consolation to man.

The subject of the fifth sermon, preached at the celebration of the sacrament of the Lord's fupper, is the compassion of Christ. That of the fixth, the love of praise, from these words, John xii. 43. For they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God. In discoursing on this subject, the Preacher considers how far the love of praise is an allowable principle of action; when it begins to be criminal; and upon what accounts we ought to guard against its acquiring the entire ascendant. Those who aspire after real dignity of character; those to whom the approbation of Omniscience is the highest object of ambition, will receive peculiar pleasure from this excellent discourse.

After shewing, that the love of praise is, in various respects, a natural and useful principle of action, the Doctor proceeds to consider the arguments which should guard us against the improper influence of praise, or censure, in the course of our duty.

In the first place, the praise of men is not an object of any fuch value in itself as to be inuitled to become the leading principle of conduct. We degrade our character when we allow it more than subordinate regard. Like other worldly goods, it is apt to dazzle us with a false luftre; but if we would ascertain its true worth, let us reflect both on whom it is bestowed, and from whom it proceeds. Were the applause of the world always the reward of merit ; were it appropriated to such alone as by real abilities, or by worthy actions, are entitled to rise above the crowd, we might justly be flattered by poffefling a rare and valuable distinction. But how far is this from being the case in fact ? How often have the despicable and the vile, by dexterously catching the favour of the multitude, soared upon the wings of popular applause, while the virtuous and the deserving have been either buried in obscurity, or obliged to encounter the actacks of unjust reproach ? The laurels which human praise confers are withered and blafted by the unworthiness of those who wear them. Let the man who is vain of public favour be humbled by the reflection that, in the midst of his success, he is mingled with a crowd of impollors and deceivers, of hypocrites and enthusialts, of ignorant pretenders and superficial reasoners, who, by various arts, have attained as high a rark as himself in temporary fame.

• We may easily be satisfied that applaufe will be often thared by the undeserving, if we allow ourselves to consider from whom it proceeds. When it is the approbation of the wise only and the good which is pursued, the love of praise may then be accounted to contain itself within just bounds, and to run in its proper channel. But the testimony of the discerning few, modest and unassuming as they commonly are, forms but a small part of the public voice. It seldom aniounts to more than a whisper, which amidit the general clamour is drowned. When the love of praise has taken possession of the mind, it contines not itself to an object so limited, It grows into an appetite for indiscriminate praise. And who are they that confer this praise? A mixed multitude of men, who in their whole conduct are guided by humour and caprice, far more than by reason; who admire false appearances, and pursue falle goods; who inquire superficially, and judge rashly; whose sentiments are for the molt part erroneous, always changeable, and often inconsistent. Nor let any one imagine, that by looking above the crowd, and courting the praise of the fashionable and the great, he makes sure of true honour. There are a great vulgar, as well as a small. Rank often makes no difference in the understandings of men, or in their judicious distribution of praise. Luxury, pride, and vanity, have frequently as much inAuence in corrupting the sentiments of the great, as ignorance, bigotry, and prejudice, have in misleading the opinions of the crowd. -And is it to such judges as these that you submit the supreme dia section of your conduct ? Do you stoop to court their favour as your chief dittinction, when an object of so much juster and higher ambition is presented to you in the praise of God? God is the only un. erring judge of what is excellent. His approbation alone is the substance, all other praise is but the shadow, of honour. The character which you bear in his light is your only real one. How contemptible does it sender you to be indifferent with respect to this, and to be solicitous about a name alone, a fictitious, imaginary character, which has no exiitence except in the opinions of a few weak and credulous men around you ? They see no farther than the outside of things. They can judge of you by actions only; and not by the comprehensive view of all your actions, but by such merely as you have had opporiunity of bringing forth to public notice. But the Sovereign of the world beholds you in every lighi in which you can be placed. The filent virtues of a generous purpose and a pious heart attract his notice equally with the most splendid deeds. From him you may reap the praise of good actions which you had no op. portunity of performing For he sees them in their principle; he judges of you by your intentions; he knows what you would have done. You may be in his eyes a hero or a martyr, without undergoing the labours of the one, or the sufferings of the other. His inspection, therefore, opens a much wider field for praise than what the world can afford you: and for praise, too, certainly far more illustrious in the eye of reason. Every real artist Itudies to approve bimself to such as are knowing in his art. To their judgment he appeals. On their approbation he reits his character, and not on the praise of the unkilled and rude. In the highest art of all, that of life and conduct, fhail the opinions of ignorant men come into the mol dillant competition with his approbation who is the searcher of ali hearts, and the ttandard of all perfection - The testimony of his praise is not indeed, as yer, openly beltowed. But though the voice of the Almighey found not in your ears, yet by conscience, bis sacred vicegerenr, it is capable of being conveyed to your heart. The softeit, whilper of divine approbation is sweeter to the soul of a vir: tuous man, than the loudelt shouts of that tumultuary applause which proceeds from the world.

• Consider, farther, how narrow and circumscribed in its limits that fame is which the vain-glorious man so eagerly pursues. In order to thew him this, I Mall not bid him reflect that it is confined to a small district of the earth; and that when he looks a little be.

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yond the region which he inhabits, he will find himself as much unknown as the most obscure person around him. I fall not defire him to consider, that in the golph of oblivion, where all human memorials are swallowed up, his name and fame must soon be inevitably loft. He may imagine that ample honours remain to gratify ambition, though his reputation extend not over the whole globe, por last till the end of time. But let him calmly reflect, that within the narrow boundaries of that country to which he belongs, and during that small portion of time which his life fills up, his reputation, great as he may fancy it to be, occupies no more than an inconfiderable corner. Let him think what multitudes of those among whom he dwells are totally ignorant of his name and character; how many imagine themselves too important to regard him ; how many are too much occupied with their own wants and pursuits to pay him the least attention; and where his reputation is in any degree spread, how often it has been attacked, and how many rivals are daily rising to abate it: Having attended to these circumitances, he will find sufficient materials for humiliation in the midit of the highest applause.

From all these confiderations it clearly appears, that though the esteem of our fellow-creatures be pleasing, and the pursuit of it, in a moderate degree, be fair and lawful, yet that it affords no such object to defire as entitles it to be a ruling principle.'

We shall now lay before our Readers, part of what our Author advances on the subject of candour, from the words—Charity-thinketh no evil.

It is necessary to observe, that true candour is altogether different from that guarded, inoffensive language, and that Audied openness of behaviour, which we so frequently meet with among men of the world. Smiling, very often, is the aspect, and smooth are the words of those who inwardly are the most ready to think evil of others. That candour which is a Christian virtue, consists not in fairness of speech, but in fairness of heart. It may want the blandishment of external courtesy, but fupplies its place with humane and generous liberality of sentiment. Its manners are unaffected, and its profesa fions cordial. Exempt, on one hand, from the dark jealousy of a suspicious mind; it is no less removed, on the other, from that easy credulity which is imposed on by every specious pretence. It is perfectly consistent with extenüve knowledge of the world, and with due attention to our oun safety. In that various intercourse which we are obliged to carry on with persons of every different character, faspicion, to a certain degree, is a necessary guard. It is only when it exceeds the bounds of prudent caution, that it degenerates into vice. There is a proper mean between undistinguishing credulity, and universal jealousy, which a found underftanding discerns, and which the man of candour studies to preserve.

! He makes allowance for the mixture of evil with good, which is to be found in every human character. He expects none to be fault. less; and he is unwilling to believe that there is any without some commendable quality. In the midst of many defects, he can discover a virtue, In the midst of personal resentment, he can be just to the rerit of an enemy. He never lends an open ear to those defamatory reports and dark fuggeftions, which, among the tribes of the cenforious, circulate with so much rapidity, and meet with such ready acceptance. He is not hafty to judge; and he requires full evidence before he will condemn. As long as an action can be ascribed to different motives, he holds it as no mark of fagacity to impute it always to the worst. Where there is just ground for doubt, he keeps his judgment undecided; and during the period of fulpence, leans to the most charitable confiruciion which an action can bear. When he must condemn, he condemns with regret; and without chose aggravations which the severity of others adds to the crime. He listens calmly to the apology of the offender, and readily admits every extenuating circomstance which equity can suggest. How much soever he may blame the principles of any seat or party, he never confounds under one general censure all who belong to chat party or feit. He charges them not with such consequences of their tenets, as they refuse and disavow. From one wrong opinion, he does not infer the subversion of all sound principles; nor from one bad action, conclude that all regard to conscience is overthrown. When he beholds the more in his brother's eye, he remembers the beam in his own. He commiserates human frailty; and judges of others according to the principles by which he would think it reasonable that they should judge of him. In a word, he views men and actions in the clear sunshine of charity and good-nature; and not in that dark and fullen shade which jealousy and party spirit throw over all characters.'

Such being, in general, the spirit of that charity which thinketh no evil, the Doctor proceeds to recommend, by various arguments, this important branch of Chriftian virtue.

· Let us begin, fays he, with observing what a necessary requisite it is to the proper discharge of all the social duties. I need not spend time in showing that these hold a very high rank in the Christian system.

The encomium which the Apostle in this chapter bestows upon charity, is alone sufficient to prove it. He places this grace at the head of all the gifts, and endowments, which can be possessed by man; and affures us that though we had all faith fo that we could rés move mountains, yet if we be deftitute of charity, it will profit us nothing. Accordingly, love, gentleness, meekness and long suffering, are enumerated as distinguishing fruits of the spirit of Christ. But it is impossible for such virtues as these to find place in a breast, where the propensity to think evil of others is predominani. Charitable and candid thoughts of men are the necessary introduction to all good-will and kindness. They form, if we may speak so, the only climate in which love can grow up, and flourin. A suspicious temper checks in the bud every kind affection. It hardens the heart, and estranges man from man. What friendship or gratitude can you expect from him, who views all your conduct with diftruftful eyes, and ascribes every benefit you confer to artifice and stratagem? The utmost which you can hope from one of this character, is justice in his dealings; nor even that can you be assured of; as the luspicions to which he is a prey will afford him frequent pretexts for departing from truth, and for defending himself with the same arms which he conceives to be employed against him. Unhappy will they be who

• Galat. v, 22, 23.

are

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