« PreviousContinue »
“ tian man, and that which makes him truly to deserve " the name of a Fop."
It is a token of a light and vain mind to be too fond of gaudy habits, a mind not much affected with sin or with salvation. Surely Christians are born for greater things, and their aim should point at higher excellencies than these are. Let their chief ornaments be the graces of the Spirit, and the virtues of the heart and life. A well adorned body, and neglected mind, very ill becomes the professor of the gospel.
Christians should look like strangers and pilgrims here, and not think themselves undressed, unless they are conformed to all the niceties and vain fashions of the world. Sometimes, it may be, we are too much afraid we shall not look like the children of this world, whereas the apostle advises us rather to look like strangers. We are travelling homeward through a foreign country, having the ornaments of holiness on us, which is the raiment of heaven. I confess, we are not required to affect singularity, nor to seek a foolish and useless distinction from the customs of our country, where they are proper, innocent, and becoming; for the kingdom of God does not consist in ány affected peculiarities of dress or behaviour ; but let us remember too, that it is below the glory of our character, and the dignity of our calling, to have our thoughts uneasy, if every pin and point that belongs to our apparel be not placed in the most fashionable manner; to fret and rage, if every fold of a garment be not adjusted in perfect conformity to the mode.
Then we may be said to fall short of that venerable decency in our apparel which Christianity should teach us, when we are among the first in any new devised and gaudy fashions; when we are some of the foremost in the gaieties of the age : When we run to the extremes of every new mode, and affect to vie with the vainest of our sex: When the busi
ness of dressing is made one of the most frequent, important, and solemn inquiries and concerns of life ; and when it employs some of our most serious thoughts, and our warmest passions. When we in. dulge a greater expence in finery than our circumstances will allow, or our stations require: When we waste more time in adorning ourselves, than the duties we owe to God or man will reasonably permit; and especially if we intrench upon the hours which should be devoted to sacred purposes. I should add also, that then we certainly break in upon Christian sobriety, when we indulge such sort of clothing, as in its own nature becomes a temptation to immodesty, and brings fuel to the impure fire of the eyes, or of the heart.
I would not be thought to treat too largely upon this subject, or handle it too severely ; but let us remember, that our biggest danger in this age is ex. cess, and luxury, and vanity of mind : We are pretty secure now-a-days from too great a carelessness
in this respect.
II. Gravity and sobriety in our speech, is another part of that honourable conduct and character which we ought to maintain, and to which the holy apostle invites us.
In the second chapter of Titus, ver. 6, 7, 8. you have this direction of the apostle to Titus the evangelist, bow he ought to behave himself; and what he speaks to him chiefly as a minister, may be given as a rule to all Christians, whom he must instruct in all things. Shewing thyself a pattern of good works, in doctrine, or in discourse, shewing uncor, ruptness, gravity and sincerity, sound speech that can. not be condemned ; that he that is of the contrary part may be ashamed, having no evil to say of you. ' He gives all the christians at Ephesus the same advice, Eph. iv, 29. Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers.' Talk of something that may improve one another in knowledge, in virtue, in religion: And let each of us be ashamed to think that we have been an hour or two in each ochers company, and have neither spoke nor heard any thing that is worth remembrance. How often, after a visit among friends, inust we také up this just and shameful complaint, " Alas! I have “ said nothing for their improvement, nor heard any " thing for my own !”
In Eph. v. 4. the apostle there secludes some-sort of conversation from the lips of Christians, neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor jesting, which are not convenient, which are our åú nuorta, not agreeable to our profession. Foolish talking and jesting, are here forbidden, as well as filthiness. By foolish talking, we may suppose such sort of language to be intended, from which it is impossible any profit or advantage should arise to a wise or good man. And by jest ing, the apostle here designs such sharp and biting jests that wound the reputation of a person concerning wliom they are spoken. Such a turn of wit, as the original word signifies, that at the same time wounds a good name, and gives a bitter reproach. Not that every thing pleasantly spoken is supposed to be unlawful; or that the apostle any where forbids all manner of mirth and jesting in conversation; for there are proper times and seasons for such sort of discourse : And there may be valuable ends in it too, when it is innocently used, on purpose to recreate nature, and refresh the mind. And how far this may be indulged, I shall have occasion to speak toward the end of this sermon.
III. Another thing that is included in this word gravity, is, honour and decency in our whole deportinent and behaviour. Each of us should be careful to maintain our public character as a Christian, with a due sense of the dignity of it. Christians should be ashamed to debase the powers of their nature, tó practise any thing that is sordid and unworthy; nor make the members of their flesh, nor the facul
ties of their mind, slaves to that which is ridiculous or foolish.
How unbecoming is it to see a Christian spoil his countenance, and disfigure a human face, by practising all the wild and wanton grimaces of folly and madness: To see man, who is made after the image of the Son of God, distort his body in the most antic postures, and give up all the honours of his nature to base and senseless merriment? Surely the duties of Christianity lead us to nothing below the dignity of man.
Here I would not be mistaken, nor do I pretend that the gospel requires such a constant solemnity of countenance and language, as though we were all preachers, or always preaching. There is no need to put on serious airs at all times : We are not bound to banish mirth when we become Christians. Laughter is a natural action, and the faculty was not given to mankind in vain, nor is the exercise of it forbidden for ever.
The chief ends of it seem to be these two; either to recreate animal nature by expressions of mirth, or to put folly out of countenance.
There may be times to recreate nature, to unbend the spirits from business, and to indulge mirth among our friends. The wise man assures us, there is a time to laugh as well as to mourn. There are times proper for weeping, and some persons may have times for dancing too, Eccl. iii. 4. And in the 19th verse of the xth chapter, the same divine writer says, a feast is made for laughter. At the mútual entertain. ment of friends, we may be merry, and not sin. Our holy religion only demands this of us, that we confine our mirth within the limits of virtue, and take heed lest, when we give a loose to the sprightly powers of animal nature, we should transgress the rules of piety, or trespass upon things sacred. Another
purpose for which laughter was made, is to reprove and punish folly, and put yice out of
countenance. There are seasons wherein a wise man or a Christian may treat some criminal or silly characters with ridicule ard mockery. Elijah the prophet condescended thus to correct the priests and worshippers of Baal; but this sort of conversation must by no means be the business of our lives, and the daily work and labour of our thoughts and our tongues. It is the heart of a fool that is in the house of mirth, for he would dwell there continually, Eccl. vii. 4. If we are always affecting to throw out some turns of wit upon every occurrence of life, and tack on a jest to every thing that is spoken ; if we interline all our discourse and conversation with merri. ment, banter and joking, it is very unworthy of that gravity and honour that belongs to the Christian life.
The second head of discourse which I proposed, is to prove, that the light of nature, or the law of reason, requires something of this gravity of speech and behaviour; and this is manifest, if we consider, the nature of man, in opposition to the brute that perishes, or the growth and age of man in distinction from children and babes.
1. If we consider man in opposition to the brutal world: Man, who has a rational soul, should act conformable to that sụblime principle within him, and not devote himself to a life of fantastic humour, or content himself with the character of an everlasting trifler. What a poor and contemptible account is it of any person to say, he is a walking jest, a mere living trifle ? His thoughts are made up of vanity, and emptiness, his voice is laughter, and his whole life is composed of impertinences.
There is a sort of persons in the world, who ne. ver think well of themselves, but when they are dressed in gay attire, and hope to command the respect of mankind by spreading abroad their own fine feathers. Their raiment is the brightest and best thing that belongs to them, and therefore they affect