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SERMON the commencements of evil, and to listen to the admonitions of the grave and the wise, who have gone through those dangerous paths on which they are beginning to enter? Let them never give up their hearts profusely to any attachment, without the countenance of reason and religion. Let them shut their ears to the seductions of folly and vice, and look with wary eye to those rocks on which so many others have split. Nor is it only to youth that this admonition belongs. To the levities and passions of youth succeed the more sober follies of advancing years; which, under a graver appearance, are no less liable to seize and wound the heart. From the first to the last of man's abode on earth, the discipline is perpetually requisite of keeping the heart with all diligence; guarding it from whatever would annoy its healthy and sound estate; as out of the heart are the issues either of Life or Death.
In the second place, it clearly appears, from what has been said, how much reason we all have to join prayer to the Almighty God, in addition to our own endeavours of
of guarding and governing our spirits; SERMON beseeching Him who made the heart, and who knows all its errours and wanderings, to aid and prosper us by his grace in this difficult undertaking. Well must he who knows any thing of himself at all, know how greatly divine assistance is needed here, and how little we can depend upon ourselves without it. For deceitful, as well as desperately wicked, are our hearts; and after all our pretences to ability and wisdom, how often, by the seductions of folly, and of passion, have the wise, the learned, and the admired, been shamefully carried away. Most earnestly to be desired is that blessing promised in the Gospel, of a new heart and a new spirit, which shall render us superiour to the attacks of vanity and vice. Who can understand his errours; Cleanse me, O God, from secret faults: Create in me a clean heart, and renew a right spirit within me. That which I see not, teach thou me; and lead me in thy way everlasting.
In the last place, all that has been said on the subject tends to impress us with a G 2
SERMON sense of this awful truth, that the Great God hath already begun to punish bad men for their sins and vices. You see his hand clearly marked in all that they are made to suffer by the Wounded Spirit. You see that he has not delayed all retribution to another world, but hath in this world begun to act as a Governour and a Judge; shewing, by an established order of things, that while he loves the righteous, he hateth all the workers of iniquity. With a wisdom peculiar to himself, he hath made the punishments due to sinners to arise directly from their own behaviour, and to be inflicted by their own hands. He hath no occasion to send forth destroying angels against them; the thunder which is ever in his hands, needs not to be pointed at the heads of the guilty. He need only leave them to themselves; and presently their wickedness begins to reprove them, and their backslidings to correct them, till they fully see and feel what an evil thing, and bitter it was, to depart from the Lord their God. Conscious, while their hearts are bleeding within them, that they are only reaping the fruits of their own doings,
the sense of deserving what they suffer, both SERMON aggravates the suffering, and forces them to acknowledge the justice of it.
When we behold such plain marks of wise and just government taking place among men, who shall take upon him to say that all things come alike to all men, and that there is no more than a promiscuous distribution of good and evil by Providence on earth? However it may seem in appearance, it is far from being so in reality. We look to the outside of things. We are dazzled with that tinsel glare which prosperity sometimes throws around the worthless and the wicked. But what is that to true happiness and self-enjoyment? often, how little connected with it? Could you look into the hearts of men, another scene would open. You would see many a heart wounded and bleeding in secret, from a guilty conscience and remembered crimes, while gay looks were affectedly put on before the world. Comparing this galled and distressed state of mind, with the free and easy, the light and disencumbered spirit of a worthy and virtuous man, even under the pressures of life, who would G 3 forbear
SERMON forbear to charge Providence, and would readily acknowledge, that though the exter nal distribution of the world's goods be promiscuous, the internal allotment of happiness is measured by the real characters of men. On the whole, let us hold fast by this great truth, and by it govern our lives, that every man's real happiness or misery is made, by the appointment of the Creator, to depend more on himself, and on the proper government of his mind and heart, than upon any external thing, or than upon all external things put together; that for those who serve God, and study to keep their conscience clear from guilt, God hath provided peace and comfort on earth, as well as rewards hereafter; but saith my God, there no peace to the wicked.