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at the end to some salutary effect. Hence that peace of God keeping the heart, to which worldly men are strangers. Hence a degree of firmness and resolution in conduct, which it is impossible for them to possess. Especially when we add,
In the fourth and last place, that he who thus pursues a course of integrity, has always in his view the prospect of immortal rewards. That surely is the wisest direction of conduct, which is most amply recompensed at last. But what recompence can worldly wisdom bestow, comparable to what is promised by the Gospel, to them who, by patient continuance in well-doing, look for glory, honour, and immortality, — The recompence indeed is distant, but the hope of it is present; and hope is one of the most powerful principles of human action, Let a man be firm in the belief that he is acting under the immediate protection of Heaven, and that through all eternity he shall be rewarded for what he now performs; and, as far as this belief is prevalent, his conduct will be steady and determined. Wherever religion directs him to hold his course, he will advance with intrepidity. He will submit to restraints without reluctance. He will meet dangers without fear. To every motive which reason suggests in favour of virtue, the hope of life eternal adds supernatural strength. -- Accordingly, in the behaviour of many holy men, under the most trying circumstances of distress, we behold this effect eminently exemplified. It appears, with much lustre, in the spirited and magnanimous sentiments of the Apostle Paul, when he had the prospect of death before him. Behold, I go bound
, in the spirit to Jerusalem, not knowing the things that shall befal me there, save that the Holy Ghost witnesseth that bonds and afflictions abide me. But none of these things move me; neither count I my life dear unto myself, so that I may finish my course with joy. I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have fought a good fight; I have finished my course; I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, shall give me at that day. +
Thus I have endeavoured to shew in what manner the integrity of the upright guides them; and what the advantages are, of placing ourselves under its guidance. If it be the line of safety, or the line of honour, which we choose to pursue; if we consult our present comfort, or look forward to future rewards; in all
: these respects, the course which integrity points out is by far the most eligible.
It is a great recommendation of the guidance offered to us by integrity, that it is easily understood by all men. Plans of worldly policy are deep and intricate; and experience shows how often the ablest persons are mistaken in the measures which they adopt for carrying them on. But when men's intentions are fair and upright, it will be found, that a moderate share of understanding and attention is all that is requisite for conducting themselves with safety and propriety. Providence never intended, that the art of living happily in this world should depend on that deep penetration, that acute sagacity, and those refinements of thought, which few possess. It has dealt more graciously with us; and made happiness to depend on uprightness of intention, much more
Acts, xx. 22, 23, 24. + 2 Timothy, iv. 6, 7, 8.
than on extent of capacity. For the most part, the
. first sentiment which strikes a good man, concerning what he ought or ought not to do, is the soundest, and suggests the best and wisest counsel. When he hesitates, and begins to deliberate how far his duty, or his honour, can be reconciled to what seems his interest, he is on the point of deviating into a dangerous path.
At the same time, it is of great consequence, that he who seeks to surrender his conduct to the direction of integrity, should be well apprized of what true integrity requires. Let him guard against burdening conscience unnecessarily; lest superstitious regard to trifles lead him to relax in matters of higher obligation. Let him avoid minute scrupulosity, on the one hand. Let him keep at a distance from loose casuistry, on the other. But when he is satisfied that his conscience has been well informed, let him, without wavering, adhere to its dictates in the whole of his conduct. This will prove the truest wisdom both for this world and the next. For he who walketh uprightly, walketh surely. The path of the just is as the shining light : And it shall shine more and more unto the perfect day.
- Shall we receive good at the hand of God, and
shall we not receive evil?
FEW subjects of religious exhortation are of more
general concern, than those which respect the distresses incident to human life. For no society, no family, no person, can expect to be long exempted from them; and when we speak of the prosperous, we can only mean those who are more rarely subject to them than others. Now, under those distresses, religion performs two offices : it teaches us how we ought to bear them; and it assists us in thus bearing them. Materials for both are found in the words of the text, which contain a sentiment so natural and just, as to carry conviction to every reasonable mind. They were the words of Job, at a time when, to his other calamities, this domestic affliction was added, that one who ought to have assuaged and soothed his sorrows, provoked his indignation by an impious speech. Thou speakest, Job replies, as one of the foolish women speaketh: What! shall we receive good at the hand of God, and shall we not receive evil? Three instructions naturally arise from the text: First, That this life is a mixed state of good and evil : Secondly, That both the goods and the evils in it proceed from God: And, thirdly, That there
are just reasons for our receiving with patience the evils of life, from the same hand which bestows its goods.
I. This life is a mixed state of good and evil. This is a matter of fact, which will be denied by none, and on which it is not necessary to bestow much illustration. It is evident to the slightest inspection, that nothing here is unallayed and pure. Every man's state is chequered with alternate griefs and joys, disappointment and success. No condition is altogether stable. No life preserves always the same tenor. The vicissitudes
The vicissitudes of the world sometimes bring forward the afflicted into more comfortable circumstances, and often trouble the joy of the prosperous. This is the train in which human affairs have ever been found to proceed; and in which we may expect them always to go on.
But though this be universally admitted in speculation, and often confessed in discourse, the misfortune is, that few think of applying it to their own
The bulk of mankind discover as much confidence in prosperity, and as much impatience under the least reverse, as if Providence had first given them assurance that their prosperity was never to change, and afterwards had cheated their hopes. Whereas, what reason ought to teach us, is to adjust our mind to the mixed state in which we find ourselves placed; never to presume, -never to despair ; to be thankful for the goods which at present we enjoy, and to expect the evils that may succeed. --. Thou hast been admitted to partake of the feast of life. Its good things are distributed, in various portions, among the guests. Thou hast had thine allotted