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twelve apoftles; and that by light is to be understood their doctrine, which they were to let, or to fuffer to fhine; freely to communicate, as they had freely received it. This they prefume to have been intended, in oppofition to the Heathen philofophers and the Jewish teachers, who confined their inftructions to their schools, and imparted what they esteemed their most valuable difcoveries only to a few felect difciples. To fupport this interpretation, it is alledged, that the metaphor of light is constantly used in fcripture to fignify knowledge; and that of darknefs, ignorance. But though this be the primary intention of the metaphor, it is furely fometimes carried on to exprefs the effects of knowledge; and not only walking in the light, (as 1 John i. 7.), but shining as lights in the world, (as in Phil. ii. 15.), an expreffion almost the same with that in our text, is used to fignify holiness of life. Besides, I do not think the above interpretation can be made, without fome constraint, to agree with the expreffion in the laft part of the verse," that they may fee your good works." I understand the words, therefore, as original. ly add effed to all who then heard our Lord's discourse, and now to all profeffing Christians; and by the expreffion, "Let your light fo fhine "before men, that they may fee your good "works" that the holiness and purity of their converfation fhould be visible and eminent; that men, by obferving it, might be conftrained to acknowledge

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286 The nature and extent of visible religion.

acknowledge the truth and power of the principles which produced it, and perfuaded to yield themfelves alfo to their government.

In difcourfing upon this fubject, what I propose, through divine affiftance, is, 1. To illuftrate the meaning and extent of the exhortation, Let your light fa fine before men, that they may fee your good works: 2. To illuftrate the motives with which it is enforced, as they are contained in the text, the glory of God, and the good of others: And, in the laft place, To make fome practical improvement of what may be faid.

I. IN the first place, then, let us confider the extent and meaning of the exhortation, "Let "your light fo fhine before men, that they may "fee your good works." This, in general, includes the whole of vifible religion; every part of the duty of a Chriftian, to which his neighbours are or may be witneffes. And here it is of importance to obferve, that though the inward temper of the mind is not in itself and immediately the object of human obfervation; and though there may be, and there is, much hypo. crify in the world, yet every difpofition of the heart hath a natural and genuine expreffion, and may be more clearly or more obfcurely difcerned by fome outward fymptoms. There are therefore few groffer miftakes than to fuppofe, either that no conclufions will, or that none Qught, to be drawn by the world about us, con


cerning our inward difpofitions, from our out. ward carriage. So eftablished is the connection between them, that hypocrites are ufually much more fuccefsful in deceiving themselves than the world. On the other hand, thofe who, from a real or pretended fear of the imputation of hypocrify, put off all outward appearances of devotion, and abstain from all expreffions of the inward exercife of their fouls, will hardly per fuade any impartial perfon, that the hidden fource is ftrong and plentiful, when the streams which should iffue from it are fo eafily conceal. ed Other natural affections of the mind, as forrow, anger, and joy, do immediately discover themselves in the countenance and carriage; and though they may be reftrained and moderated, can scarcely be wholly or long concealed: Why then fhould it be otherwife with religious af fections, which are at least as juft in their nature, and much more noble in their object? I am afraid we may fay, with too much truth, that there is but little real religion in the world at prefent; and yet even that little is often, in a most shameful and cowardly manner, diffembled or denied.

But because the impreffion of general truths is but feldom ftrong or lafting, I shall add a few particular obfervations, for opening the meaning and extent of this exhortation, Let your light fbine before men. And, in the first place, If you would make your light to shine 0 5 before

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288 The nature and extent of visible religion.

before the world, you must be careful of the practice of fuch duties as are most rare and uncommon; and that whether their being fo arifes from the difficulty of the duties themselves, or from the peculiar degeneracy and contrary practice of any particular age or place. The metaphor itself will teach you this. Nothing can be said to fhine, but that which throws out a distinguished luftre, in comparison of other objects. Those who are but as other men, and do no way excel the world about them, cannot poffibly bring any honour to their profeffion, or be properly faid to make their light to fhine. Thus our Saviour argues, in recommending a very rare and eminent virtue *, "But I fay un" to you, Love your enemies, blefs them that "curfe you, do good to them that hate you, "and pray for them which defpitefully ufe you, "and perfecute you. For if ye love them that love you, what reward have ye do not " even the publicans the fame? And if ye fa"lute your brethren only, what do ye more ❝ than others?"

I obferved, in entering upon this particular, that the practice of fome duties may be uncommon, either from the difficulty of the duties themselves, or the peculiar degeneracy of any particular age or place. The first of thefe hap pens in all thofe cafes in which the law of God,

• Matth. v. 44. 46. 47.


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from its purity and fpirituality, is most immediately contrary to the bent of carnal affection. For though it be true in general, as the apostle Paul tells us *, that "the carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law "of God; neither indeed can be;" yet this enmity is much stronger in fome cafes than in others. Some of thofe gracious difpofitions which shone in the man Chrift Jefus when he dwelt among us, full of grace and truth, and which he fo ardently recommends, fuch as, contempt of the world, and heavenlinefs of mind, meekness, humility, the forgiveness of injuries, and the love of our enemies, are much more oppofite to the tendency of corrupt nature than fome other parts of the moral law. Or, to speak more properly, it is only by an obedience to the will of God, carried to this degree, and manifeftly flowing from fuch principles, and fuch an inward temper, that we can make our light to shine in the view of an observing world.

I took notice alfo, that whether any duty be difficult or eafy in itself, if it is neglected, or brought into contempt, by the peculiar degeneracy of any age or place, he who would make his light to fhine before men, muft, with boldnefs and refolution, with ftedfaftnefs and conftancy, adhere to the practice of it. If in any place, or in any age, the very outward attend

Rom. viii. 7.



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