Imagens da página

midst of their sorrow, at the very beginning of their amendment, enjoy a blessed hope of forgiveness and acceptance, infinitely preferable to the highest pleasures of sin. But persons of confirmed goodness have a peace within their breasts, which passeth all understanding * of those who have not experienced it, and all description of those who have. They feel no tormenting remorse, no disquieting dread of God or man. They are never agitated by malice or envy: seldom, and but gently, moved by anger. Pity indeed they often experience; but gratifying it comforts both others and themselves. Their behaviour is friendly, and therefore agreeable: their discourse lively, if nature hath qualified them for it; but at least inoffensive and conciliating. Their hearts are open, in a proper degree, to all the innocent amusements of life, and they long for none of the prohibited ones. Virtuous discretion preserves their health and spirits as much as worldly uncertainties permit, makes their circumstances easy, their families and dependants orderly and happy. Their judicious beneficence is very useful, their blameless example yet more. Thus they become blessings within the compass of their sphere: and surely reap no little joy from the esteem of others, but unspeakably more from the testimony of their own consciences. The best of them indeed are sensible of many failings : but all consistent with that sincerity, which God, they know, will recompence. They see through the whole course of life, that they are in the only right way; and whatever may happen to them, all will end well. Disappointments, unkindness, ingratitude, losses of friends or of fortune, necessity, pain, sickness, and death, work together for their good t, and unite to # Phil. iv. 7.

+ Rom. viii. 28.

form an infallible plan for increasing their final felicity. Never will society grow gloomy, but inexpressibly the cheerfuller, for being composed of such persons as these: and such ought the religious naturally to be.

Therefore you, who are truly religious, appear in character, and do credit to your cause. Despise with good-humour and pity the impotent ridicule of the inconsiderate: let the world see that you are happy, and that your belief in God is the ground of it. Wear no dejected looks, put on no forbidding appearances ; be affable, be courteous, be joyful. Avoid improper amusements; guard against fondness for those in which occasionally you may do well to join : but express a decent and modest, a mild and compassionate, not an angryor censorious, disapprobation of the common excesses in them; shew that you can relish life perfectly well without them, by engaging with alacrity in the proper business of your station, improving yourselves, and doing good to others. Never unseasonably magnify in talk, but assiduously demonstrate in fact, the comfort you have in observing the precepts and expecting the rewards of the Gospel. Manifest, whenever opportunities present themselves, yet without any ostentation, the benevolent serenity which Christian faith inspires, your enjoyment both of conversation and solitude in their seasons, your composure under doubts and uncertainties, your fortitude under crosses and afflictions, and your settled persuasion, that you shall ever be enabled to possess your soul in gladness of heart *, and rejoice in the Lord alway t.

Such behaviour will surely convince even the vicious and the prejudiced, if they have any

reflection, that to seek their own advantage with success,

* Luke xxi. 19. Acts ii. 46. + Phil. iv. 4.

they must seek the things which are Jesus Christ's. And if they ever intend it, the present time is always the best; but this present time is peculiarly so. Decency prohibits now the usual diversions : apply your vacant hours to a better purpose. The offices of the week throughout express in the most affecting manner, what your gracious Redeemer hath done and suffered for you: think deliberately in it, what you ought to do for him, indeed for yourselves. Think what you have been, and are, and what the faith you profess requires you to be : consider what fatal consequences will follow, perhaps very soon, if you neglect to amend, and how you shall accomplish this necessary work. Read with reverence the rules and declarations of God's Word; read with attention other awakening yet prudent books, reflecting as you go along; and engage some pious, but judicious friend to excite, support, direct, and if there be occasion, restrain you. Form discreetly by their helps needful resolutions; and beg earnestly of God strength to fulfil them: else they will all prove ineffectual. But remember, that the piety of the weak, however strict, is not to end with it; and cannot be really Christian, if it doth. You are called to recollection now, that you may practise vigilance all the rest of your days. Temporary, periodical goodness, that is like the morning cloud, and as the early dew goeth away *, will be of no avail to any one ; but they, who, by patient continuance in well-doing, seek for glory and honour and immortality, are secure of ob taining eternal life t. • Hos. iv. 4.

+ Rom. ii. 7.


GAL. VI. 14.

But God forbid that I should glory, save in the Cross

of our Lord Jesus Christ : by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world.

We must have some foundation, real or imagined, for thinking well of ourselves and our condition ; or we must be wretched. And innumerable are the methods which men take to procure the esteem of their own minds. Too many glory in their shame *: are proud of notions and discourses, which misrepresent sacred truths, degrade human nature, and tend to dissolve human society; of gratifying their passions, their appetites, their fancies, whatever mischiefs it produces; of doing what visibly hurts, and must finally ruin, their characters, their fortunes, their healths, their souls. Others value themselves on more plausible, yet insufficient, pretensions : on the lustre of an ancient family, which perhaps they disgrace; on the inheritance or acquisition of wealth, which they employ to little or no good purpose; on agreeableness of person, which makes them vain and imprudent the short time it continues, and miserable when it decays; on liveliness of wit, which either provokes enemies, or invites dangerous friends ; on depth of knowledge, often falsely so called and pernicious, often wholly foreign to their true business; on elegance of taste in smaller matters, while they are contemptibly injudi

* Phil. ii. 19.

cious in the greatest; on pomp and shew, which give a pleasure as fleeting as it is childish; on making a figure in the idle hurry of amusements, which encroaches on every valuable purpose of life, and wears out the spirits under pretence of raising them; on the favour of the great, by whatever arts attained, and however precarious; or on the seemingly more solid possession of power, which it is hard to abstain from using ill, and extremely hard to use in a due measure well; which disobliges by the exercise of it many more than it can possibly oblige; is accompanied with perpetual fatigue and uneasiness, yet with perpetual envy; causes innumerable vexations while it lasts; and yet commonly grievous regret when it

is gone.

If all these be wrong grounds of self-complacency, how few of us have right ones! There are those, however, who profess to build it on something more substantial, on virtue. But, alas! the virtue of great numbers consists almost wholly in specious words, honour, benevolence, good-nature, which are either a mere ornament of their talk, or influence their behaviour only on some occasions, or to some persons. And the more uniformly well inclined towards others are often strangely addicted to blameable indulgence of themselves : or, however inoffensive otherwise, are lamentably defective in the discipline of the heart, particularly in forming it to that deep humility, which becomes dust and ashes. If we think too highly of ourselves, we shall be fatally misled; and, if we think reasonably, we shall experience the daily mortification of being faulty, more or less, even in those things for which we are applauded. Besides, our virtue itself will frequently oblige us to do what others will dislike, oppose, revenge. Or, though we escape such

« AnteriorContinuar »