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Such are the evils which we must study to overcome by good, if we wish to be .esteemed either honourable men, or faithful christians. And how are we to overcome them? This is the victory, says the Apostle John, that overcometh the world, even our faith* It is the steadiness of firm and rooted principle, of belief in God and Christ, of belief in the everlasting importance of religion and virtue, which you are to oppose to the host of evil-doers. Consider, I beseech you, that no fashions nor opinions of men can affect that unalterable law of God, which rests on the eternal basis of rectitude and truth. Men, if they please, may call evil, good, and good, evil; but as they cannot change the nature of things, their voice gives no sanction to any plan of conduct as right and wise f. So far are you from having any chance of holding either a wise or a safe course by going along with the multitude, that he who implicitly follows them
be justly presumed to be in the path of errour and of danger. For in every age the multitude
• 1 John, v. 4:
+ See this subje&t fully discussed in Sermon XIX. of Vol. IV.
have inquired superficially, have judged SERMON rashly, and acted inconsiderately. Concurrence with general practice, neither affords justification of conduct, nor promises impunity in what is evil. The Righteous Lord of all will never suffer his laws to be subjected to the capricious fancies of his creatures. Transgressors will neither be screened by their numbers, nor escape by being hidden in a crowd.
In times, therefore, when corruption is prevalent, when vice under any of its modes is fashionable, we are particularly called upon to shew that we have within us a good, which we can oppose to this evil; to show that we have fixed principles of our own, which we will surrender to no man, but
upon which we will act, and will stand by them to the last. It ought to be no part of our character, that we seek to distinguish ourselves by affected austerity, and a
marked singularity in frivolous and insignificant matters. Our distinction must rest upon
a steady adherence to rational religion and the uncontrovertible rules of virtue, when the multitude around us, whether the high or the R 2
SERMON low, are deviating into licentious and cri
minal conduct. Depend upon it you may, that even that multitude, though they may attempt to turn you into ridicule, honour you at the bottom of their hearts. They will be compelled to acknowledge, or at least to feel, whether they acknowlege it or not, that your unshaken firmness in what you esteem to be honourable and worthy, must proceed from some principle within, of a higher nature than that from which they act. At any rate, by thus maintaining in every situation the cause of religion and truth, and thereby overcoming evil with your good, you shall obtain honour from the great Judge of the earth, and your reward shall be great in Heaven,
Thus, in several important instances, I have shown how the exhortation in the text is to be complied with, and in what manner our good should overcome evil ; overcoming injuries by generous forgiveness ; overcoming misfortunes by patience and resignation; overcoming the temptations of evil examples by steady adherence to conscience and duty. In many of these
cases, the conflict we are called to maintain SERMON may be arduous and difficult ; inclined, as we too often aré, by the bent of our nature, to the evil side. But, if we wish and dem sire to do well, let us not be discouraged, nor despair of victory. Weak in ourselves, we have ground to be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might. For the principle of good, feeble though it may be at present in human nature, is never left unbefriended by God. It is a principle derived from Heaven, and partakes of heavenly efficacy. If it once take root in the soul, it will be made to arise and grow from small beginnings into gradual maturity, under his protection and influence from whom its origin came. Το them who have no might, it is written, be increaseth strength*, The contest between sin and righteousness, which at present takes place in the world, is a struggle between God and Belial, between the powers of light and the kingdom of darkness; and in this state of things we must easily discern to which side the final victory will belong. Let us endeavour to do our duty, • Isaiah, xl. 29.
SERMON and God will be with us. Let us sincerely
study to overcome evil with good, and we shall overcome it. Our feeble
Our feeble powers shall be aided by divine might, and our imperfect services crowned with divine rewards. They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they sball mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; they fall walk, and not
. Ilaiah, xl. 31.