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of so great consequence to our peace and satisfaction. It is not, indeed, in our power to preserve always alive those friends in whom our hearts delight. It is often not in our power to prevent the ingratitude and unworthy behaviour of other friends, from whom we once expected comfort. But under those afilicting incidents of life, much may be done by proper employinent of the thoughts, and direction of the affections for obtaining relief. To a purified and well-regulated heart, reason and religion can bring many aids for healing its wounds and restoring its peace; aids which, to the negligent and vicious, are wholly unknown. The greater experience we have of the vicissitudes of human life, with more weight will that precept of the wise man always come home to our remembrance; Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life.* ---Hence arises,
In the fourth and last place, another instruction, that is of the utmost importance to us all, frequently to look up to Him who made the human heart; and to implore his assistance in the regulation and government of it. Known to him are all the sources of bitterness and joy by which it is affected. On him it depends, to let them forth, or to shut them up; to increase, or to diminish them at his pleasure. In a study so infinitely important to happiness, as that of the preservation of inward peace, we cannot be too carnest in beseeching aid from the great Father of Spirits, to enable us to keep our hearts free from distress and trouble. - Besides the assistance which we may hope to derive from divine grace, the employments of devotion themselves form one of the most powerful means of composing and tranquillizing the heart. On various occasions, when the sources of heart-bitterness have been most overflowing, devotion has been found the only refuge of the sufferer. Devotion opens a sanctuary to which they whose hearts have been most deeply wounded, can always fly. Within that quiet and sacred retreat, they have often found a healing balsam prepared. When grieved by men, they have derived, from the ascent of the mind towards God, and celestial objects, much to soothe them at present, and much to hope for in future. Let us, therefore, neglect no mean with which religion can
* Prov. iv. 23.
can furnish us, for promoting the joys, and assuaging the bitterness of the heart. Amidst the frailties of our nature, the inconstancy of men, and the frequent changes of human life, we shall find every assistance that can be procured, little enough for enabling us to pass our few days with tolerable comfort and peace.
to us are infinitely diversified. In some, either the good or the bad qualities are so predominant as strongly to mark the character; to discriminate one person as a virtuous, another as a vicious man. In others these qualities are so mixed together, as to leave the character doubtful. The light and the shade are so much blended, the colours of virtue and vice run in such a manner into one another, that we can hardly distinguish where the one ends, and the other begins; and we remain in suspence whether to blame or to praise. While we admire those who are thoroughly good, and detest the grossly wicked, it is proper also to bestow attention on those imperfect characters, where there may be much to praise, and somewhat to blame; and where regard to the commendable part shall not hinder us from remarking what is defective or faulty. Such attentions will be found the more useful, as characters of this mixed sort are more frequently than any other exhibited to us in the commerce of society.
It was one of this sort, which gave occasion to thie incident recorded in the text. The incident seems to have been considered as remarkable, since it is recounted by three of the evangelical writers; and by them all, with nearly the same circumstances. The person to whom the history relates was a ruler; one of higher rank and station than those who usually resorted to Jesus. He was a rich man : He was a young man.
His whole behaviour was prepossessing and engaging. He appears to have conceived a high opinion of our Lord. He addressed him with the utmost respect; and the question which he put to him was proper and important. He kneeled to him, anil said, Good Master, what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life? His conduct in the world had been regular and decent. He could protest, that he had hitherto kept himself free from any gross vice; and in his dealings with others, had observed the precepts of God. Our Lord, beholding him, is said to have loved him; whence we have reason to conclude, that he was not hypocritical in his professions; and that his countenance carried the expression of good dispositions, as his speech and his manners were altogether complacent and gentle. Yet this person, amiable as he was, when his virtue was put to the test, disappointed the hopes which he had given reason to form. Attached, in all probability, to the indulgence of ease and pleasure, he wanted fortitude of mind to part with the advantages of the world, for the sake of religion. When our Lord required him to fulfil his good intentions by relinquishing his fortune, becoming one of his followers, and preparing himself to encounter sufferings, the sacrifice appeared to him too great. Impressions of virtue, however, still remained on his
mind. He was sensible of what he ought to have done; and regretted his want of courage to do it. He was sorrowful: He was grieved: Yet he went away.
Persons of a character somewhat resembling this, all of us may have met with ; especially among the young; among those who have been liberally educated, and polished by a good society. They abhor open vice, and crimes that disturb the world. They have a respect for religion. They are willing to receive instruction for their conduct. They are modest and unassuming; respectful to their superiours in age or station; gentle in their address; inoffensive and courteous in their whole behaviour. They are fond of obliging every one; unwilling to hurt or displease any: – Such persons we cannot but love. We gladly promise well of them; and are disposed to forward and assist them; yet such is the weakness of our nature, that at the bottom of this character there may lie, as we see exemplified in the instance before us, some secret and material defects. That vigour of mind, that firmness of principle, may be wanting, which is requisite for enabling them to act with propriety, when their virtue is put to a decisive trial. The softness of their nature is unfavourable to a steady perseverance in the course of integrity. They possess the amiable qualities; but there is ground to suspect, that in the estimable ones they are deficient. While, therefore, we by no means class them among the bad, we dare not give them the full praise of virtue. When they set out in the world, we cannot pronounce with confidence, what confirmed features their character will assume; nor how far they can be