Page images


you have derived these benefits from it. If you have, bless God for it, and consider it as a disguised mercy. If you have not, on leaving this house, retire to your private chamber, and then supplicate God for these advantages. This, like every other dispensation of providence, will produce some effect upon you. It is the rod of the Almighty; it may be made like that of Aaron, to bloom with the fruits of righteousness. Beware lest, through your neglect, it be converted into a serpent, like that of Moses.

And may God grant, that all who have experienced these trials may learn those pious sentiments which they are calculated to teach; and that those of us, whom he may shortly call to the same state, may then be supported by him, and find our sicknesses conducing to his glory and to our salvation.



1 Tim. v. 22.

Neither be partaker of other men's sins.

It was a frequent petition of the illustrious St. Augustine, “ Lord, forgive other men's sins!" It is a petition which we all, my brethren, should constantly and fervently present to God; for we, all of us, in a greater or less degree, have been instrumental in producing that iniquity which deluges the world, and in pushing sinners into the burning lake. None of us can say, with truth, • I am clean from the blood of all men; I have never by my improper conduct, by my unguarded language, by my criminal temptatations, seduced others into guilt, and pulled down upon them the vengeance of God!'

of God! What a dreadfúl reflection is this! Our personal transgressions are so many and so aggravated, that the weight of punishment due to them, could be borne by none but Him who had the strength of Deity to support him : and besides all these, we are chargeable with countless iniquities which others, drawn or driven by us, have committed. Surely, if this consideration is properly felt by you, you will need no other motive to

induce you seriously to ponder the injunction of the apostle, “ Neither be partaker of other men's sins.”

I acknowledge that the place in which this injunction is found, seems at first to restrain it to a particular order of men, and to a particular occasion. St. Paul is instructing Timothy in what manner to discharge his ministerial functions: having given him many important directions and solemn charges, he adds, “ Lay hands suddenly on no man, neither be partaker of other men's sins," that is, do not hastily and inconsiderately, without the most careful examination, lay your hands on any person to ordain him, lest through precipitancy you introduce unsound or irreligious men into the ministry, and thus become accessary to their unfaithfulness, and partakers of their guilt. This is the particular object of the text; but it has a much more general sense. You all know that nothing is more common than,on the occurrence of particular cases, to produce general maxims that apply to them; which general maxims, while they forcibly illustrate the points under consideration, do not become less extensive in their sense. What St. Paul therefore says to Timothy, to induce him to be circumspect in the ordination of ministers, he also says to us, to induce us to be vigilant in all our conduct.

• To explain and illustrate this important precept, three things will be requisite. We must,

I. Show you by what means we may partake of other men's sins;

II. Give you some motives to induce you to comply with this injunction of the apostle; and,

III. Afford you some directions to assist you in obeying it.

I. We are to show you by what means we may

partake of other men's sins. · And here, my brethren, we do not pretend to mention all the methods whereby we incur this guilt: they are numberless; and our limits will permit us only to give a rapid sketch of a few of the principal of them.

1. We are guilty of other men's sins, when we set before them an evil example, which induces them to plunge into guilt. By an irregular and unholy life, we may not only destroy ourselves, but cause the perdition of thousands who, strengthened in sin by viewing our life, go carelessly to perdition. “Why compellest thou the Gentiles to live as do the Jews ?” said Paul to St. Peter. How did Peter compel them? Not by any outward violence; not by any public preaching; but by his example. In like manner, my brethren, even though we use no compulsion to drive men to iniquity, even though we utter no se. ducing word unto them, yet still, if our unholy conduct confirms them in guilt, we partake of their sin. Ought not this truth to make those open and undisguised sinners who are amongst us, to tremble at their danger? You detest the character of the hypocrite; but do you not perceive that, in this respect, the hypocrite himself, odious as he is, is far less criminal than you. At the judgment-day, the hypocrite will have to bear his own burden, and will be crushed under its weight; but upon your heads will light not only your own iniquities, but those of many miserable wretches whom your example has undone. Unholy and profane parents! do you also seriously weigh this truth? If your children, imitating your conduct, live sinful, prayerless lives, indulge in iniquity, and “run to excess of riot,” they shall perish; but you who, by your example, seduced them into sin, shall not be esteemed guiltless! Do you, who are dis

[blocks in formation]

tinguished in the world by riches, by talents, or by any endowments which give you weight in society, do you solemnly consider this; “ you are as a city set upon a hill, which cannot be hid ?" Your virtues or your sins cannot be single : on you the eyes of your fellow men are fixed; your example they stand ready to imitate; and they quiet the clamours of an accusing conscience by considering that they act as you do. Unless you set before them the pattern of a holy life, a host of sins, to which your example impelled others, will in the last day encircle


around, and fill you with horror.

2. We are guilty of other men's sins when we connive at, consent to, or conceal them. The instance of Eli abundantly proves that he who winks at a crime, that by his office and power he is qualified to prevent or redress, becomes positively guilty of that very crime, as much as if he had been the single and personal trangressor. Think of this, you who

patiently stand by, while the name, the authority, and cause of God are assailed; and through a time-serving fear, or a cruel complaisance, neglect to oppose these crimes. Your silence and connivance make you actual transgressors: not to speak, is esteemed by God to approve; not to act, is to commit; not to oppose, is to load yourself with a share of the guilt! Think of this, you who are equally insensible in beholding sins committed against your brother. Do you remain cool and passive when you hear your brother calumniated, his reputation aspersed, his good name assailed by slander? God marks you as a slanderer!. Think of this, magistrates, and tremble while you

recollect that God esteems you guilty of every crime, which by your post, you are able to repress, but which you timidly and criminally overlook.

« PreviousContinue »