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on the whole, for his happiness. The laws of society will direct him only in a few, and those very obvious cases, of mere external conduct. Besides, although as a general calculation of interest, virtue ought to be pursued, it is not to be denied, that considered merely with relation to this world, it may sometimes appear an unprofitable course. There are occasions, when he who has no higher rule of action than self interest, may think that he ought to sacrifice his neighbour's happiness to his own. The man, therefore, who acts only on this principle, does not possess a standard of conduct, which, in opposition to all appearances, and under every change of circumstances, will keep him steady in the path of virtue. Whatever may be the general character of his actions, his rule of conduct is not founded on perfect and unchanging principles. He cannot be relied on at all times, and in all situations, as a man of uniform and invariable, much less of high and exalted virtue.
Neither can any substitute for the perfect will of God, as a rule of action, be found in any moral faculty implanted in our natures. This is not the place to discuss the question, whether the sense of right and wrong, which we possess, be an acquired principle, and liable therefore to vary with the varying influence of example, authority, education, sympathy, and habit which
produce it. We may admit that it is not; and yet those with whom we reason can derive no advantage from this concession. For this moral sense points out none of the duties of morality more clearly, than our duties to God. It cannot therefore be quoted by any one to justify himself in passing through life in negligence of his will. Besides, we know that in point of fact, the dictates of this faculty have varied in some particulars, in different ages, countries, and individuals. But above all, there is one objection which is absolutely decisive against its claims to be considered as an universal standard of conduct. This moral faculty, like any other feeling or affection, is liable to be obscured, perverted, and depraved. It cannot, therefore, furnish that perfect and never changing rule of action for which we seek. No, my friends ; nothing short of an habitual conformity of our actions to the will of the Most High, will produce a character of pure and uniform morality. The will of God alone can never change. His word alone endureth forever. His law only is perfect. His testimony alone is sure.
5. Supposing however, those rules of conduct, of which I have spoken, to be perfect as far as they go, they still will never enable a man to reach the highest order of character of which our nature is capable, and for which it is designed, and which he who cometh' to God must possess. An habitual meditation on the idea of God, and of a superintending Providence, tends to exalt and purify the character. It is an idea composed of the richest elements, embracing whatever is venerable in wisdom, awful in authority, and touching in goodness It borrows splendour from all that is fair, grows familiar with all that is great, and attracts to itself, as to a centre, whatever bears the impress of dignity, order, or happiness. The exclusion of the idea of the Supreme Being from an influence on our feelings and conduct, tends to degrade our moral sentiments, and despoil them of their dignity and lustre. Human nature will then acknowledge nothing betor higher than itself. That admiration of perfect excellence, for which we are formed, finds nothing to cherish it; and our actions sink down to the level of that standard, which we habitually contemplate.
A similar effect must follow from refusing to allow the idea of a future life to exert an influence on our feelings and principles. Whatever veils a future world from our view, and contracts the limits of existence within the present life, must tend proportionably to diminish our sense of the dignity of our nature. There must be the greatest difference between the habitual views and feelings of a man, whose hopes and fears are all suspended on the present hour, and of one who believes that he is to survive the stroke of death, and live through the ages of eternity. This difference in their views must produce a difference in the character of their most ordinary actions. It will be seen most clearly on those occasions, which call for great exertions, and trying sacrifices of interest; and though it is true that these are not the ordinary business of life, yet that system is essentially defective, which leaves no room for their cultivation. At any rate, we may be sure from the mere principles of reason, that if there be verily a “God that judgeth in the earth;" they, whose characters have been formed only for this world, and this world's good, will not stand before his bar on equal terms with those, who by an habitual devotion to his will, and regard to the scenes of eternity, have prepared themselves for the society and employments of heaven.
SAME SUBJECT CON TINUED.
HEB. XI. 6.
He that cometh to God, must believe that he is, and
that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.
The author of the epistle to the Hebrews gives us in this passage a view of faith in its most simple and elementary form. God and futurity are represented as the great objects of it; and indeed under these comprehensive ideas, the truths which our Creator, in his various religious dispensations to mankind, has been pleased to reveal, may all be easily arranged. In discoursing from this passage in the morning, I endeavoured to show, that an habitual regard to these ideas, which constitute the essence and principle of religion, is necessary to our virtue here, and our acceptance with God hereafter. They are necessary, because without them a man must want the only genuine criterion and universal rule of virtuous conduct. Without