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lives, and makes them amiable in God's eyes, and so dear to him, that he gives them in charge to the angels, “the armies of light,” those bright and vigilant guardians, to secure them from evil. They are “glorious within,” though often disguised and shaded by poverty and afflictions. Without an internal light their value is not known.
3. To preserve an equal temper of mind, and tenor of conversation, in the various turns and changes of the present state, argues an excellent degree of holiness. The condition of men in this world, is like the sea, the theatre of inconstancy. Their affections are like the winds, some are turbid, others serene and cheerful; some warm and comforting, others cold and sharp; some placid and gentle, others stormy and furious; and it is as difficult to regulate the affections, as to order those discordant spirits in the air. They are the most depraved faculties in man: there are some sparks of light and purity in the natural conscience, but the passions are the fountains of sin and folly. By their unruly insurrection, the understanding is deposed, and men are brought into a brutish servitude. They are sometimes jealous to rage, sad to despair, dead with fear, drunk with joy and fond hopes of conceited happiness. To free us from their vanity and tyranny, is the most noble effect of grace.
Now these dark powers are never more unruly and turbulent, than in the change of conditions, whether prosperous or calamitous. The observation of Hippocrates, that the change of seasons breeds diseases in the body, is equally true in the change of men's conditions with respect to the distempers of the mind : especially if two circumstances are joined, that the changes be great and sudden: as it is an insufferable violence to nature to pass immediately from one extreme to another. It is argued on both sides, whether sudden and great calamities do more disorder the mind by despair, or sudden and great prosperity by vain presumption. This may be said, that afflictions are more apt to restore reason that was lost in prosperity, as is visible by frequent experience : and in sudden prosperity many have lost the understanding they had in a low condition.
It is a point of high and holy wisdom, little understood and less practised, to manage prosperity with humility and discretion, and bear adversity with patience, to possess the soul, and guide it by clear and steady rules becoming every condition. St. Paul declares, “I have learned in whatsoever state I am, to be content: I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound: every where and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound, and to suffer need.” Phil. 4. 11, 12. In prosperity he was lowly and temperate, ready to resign all at the first call of the giver. In adversity he was content, as if he had a secret treasure, a concealed fountain issuing from within, he was rich in his deep poverty; for it is not acquiring possessions, but the retrenchitig our desires, that makes us truly rich. All the gold and silver of the West-Indies, and the pearls and jewels of the East, cannot truly enrich the soul. This lesson he had learnt in the school of heaven, and by experience and exercise made it fanıiliar to him, as our Saviour “ learnt obedience by his sufferings."
This is a duty as difficult as excellent : therefore a wise and holy man, either conscious of his own weakness, or suspicious of his strength, so earnestly deprecated the extremes : “Give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with food convenient for me: test I be full and deny thee, and say, who is the Lord? Or lest I be poor and steal, and take the name of the Lord in vain." Prov. 30.8, 9. He was not without doubt or danger, lest he should be corrupted by prosperity, or foiled by adversity. There is great hazard in either, but more in fulness than in want, as was touched on before. He that rows in a shallop near the shore, needs not the skill and courage of a pilot that directs a ship through tempestuous seas, and with his ship ill-governed must sink to the bottom. The temptations of prosperity are more numerous : a swarm of flies come to sweet things : which are very grateful to the sensual appetites : the temptations of adversity are troublesome and grievous, and at their appearance nature recoils from them: and accordingly the tempter manages them: he insinuates into the heart like a serpent by pleasures, and transfuses his poison indiscernible, but like a roaring lion he pursues the afflicted. Experience instructs us that many have made an easy forfeiture of their integrity, when prosperous, and in sharp afflictions have been recovered. But in heavy ealamities, we are apt either to be fired with discontent, and construetively to dispute with God about the righteousness of his proceedings: or to faint and languish by bleeding inwardly: vexation and immoderate sorrow hinder the free exercise of reason and religion, and men's sufferings occasionally increase their sins. As when physic does not work well, it improves the disease, and brings death more speedily and painfully.
Now it is rare to a wonder to see a person wisely to manage these wide extremes: and that there is not such a variation of scenes in the passions according to external accidents. If the sun should make a search, it would discover but few among the numberless number of christians, that enjoy prosperity without insolence, or suffer adversity without impatience, or such dejection as exceeds the rule of the passions. To endure the burning line and frozen pole, without distempering the blood and humours, proceeds from a sound and firm constitution. To receive no hurtful impressions by great changes of condition, discovers a habit of excellent grace and virtue in the soul. Thus when a person retains an humble mind with rising honour, when affability, modesty and condescension are joined with courtly dignity, it is the effect of great virtue and victory over the natural passions. It is said by the psalmist, “ The sun knows its going down;" when arrived at the meridian circle, and shining in richest beams, the revolution is certain, and sets in the evening. So when those who are in their highest elevation of honour, understand themselves, and with sober and sad thoughts consider they must shortly decline, and set in the dark grave, it is the effect of excellent virtue. When those who from a mean condition, come to abound in riches, “ do not set their hearts on them,” remembering they often take wings and fly to the heavens, and the possessors must shortly fall to the earth, when they do not furnish provisions for their lusts and licentiousness, but use them with discretion, when they employ them for sacred and merciful uses, considering they are not proprietors but stewards, when they consider their receipts and expences, and the strict account they must give of all, this adorns the gospel.
And in the sudden fall from a prosperous, into a calamitous condition, when a man looks upward to the sovereign disposer of all events, with meek submission, and resign themselves to the will and wisdom of God, whose end is to refine, not consume them, by a fiery trial : when they are more solicitous to have their affliction sanctified than removed, and bless God for taking,' as well as giving his benefits; this is the effect of excellent grace, and has a rich reward attending it.
Strictness in judging ourselves, and candour in judging others, a sign of er:
cellent holiness. Preferring the testimony of an unreproaching conscience before the praise of men, an argument of excellent grace. The serious performance of religious duties in secret, a sign of a heavenly spirit, The forgiving injuries, and overcoming evil with good, the effect of eminent grace. The more receptive persons are of spiritual admonition, to prevent or recover them from sin, the more boly. The deliberate desire of death, that we may be perfectly holy, argues an excellent degree of holi. ness. Directions to follow holiness in our early age, with zeal, with alacrity, and unfainting perseverance. The answer to objections against striving after perfect holiness. That it is impossible to obtain it. That the duty is extremely difficult. That it is unnecessary. Other arguments propounded to excite us to this duty. The gospel the perfect rule of huli. ness. Examples of perfection to raise us to the best height The example of our heavenly Father, of our Redeemer, of the angels, of excellent saints, propounded. Our present peace, and future glory, are increased by our excelling in holiness.
4. To be strict and severe in judging ourselves, to be candid and favourable to others, argues a man to be a proficient in practical religion. The divine nature planted in the saints, is as contrary to sin, as life is to death; and according as grace is more lively in them, there is a quicker perception, a more feeling sense of sin, and a stronger detestation of it. For the clearer apprehensions we have of the majesty and purity of the Lawgiver, the more extensive understanding of the perfection of the law, the rule of our duty and judgment, the more intimate and exact inspection of our hearts and actions, the more deeply we are affected with our defects and defilements. How does Agur (whose wisdom and holiness appears in his choice of a mediocrity before riches) vilify himself, “ surely I am more brutish than any man, and have not the understanding of a man; I neither learned wisdom, nor have the understanding of the holy.” With what an emphasis does he express it, “ surely I have not:" it was not a superficial acknowledgment, but proceeded from the depth of his soul. How does the Psalmist aggravate his being surprised by a strong temptation? “ So foolish was I, and so like a beast before thee." The prophet Isaiah, after his vision of God upon a high throne, and all the sanctities of heaven about him in a posture of reverence, how does he break forth in perplexity! “ woe is me, for I am a man of unclean lips, and dwell with a people of unclean lips ; for mine eyes have seen the King, the Lord of Hosts.” Isa. 6. St. Paul, though the most exact observer and example of the duty of christians, who never shed a tear for his sufferings, how passionately does he complain of the relics of sin ? “O wretched man that I am, who shall deliver me from this body of death?” A scratch in a piece of canvass is hardly discovered; but if a picture be drawn upon it, it is very visible. When the image of God is drawn in the soul, the least sins are observed.
But with what allowance does the apostle speak of the fierce zeal of the Jews, against the doctrine of the gospel, and the professors of it ? “ I bear them record, they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge.” Rom. 9. 2. He distinguishes between the sincerity of their zeal, and the error of it in the mistaken object. But he detests his own persecuting the church (though capable of the same allowance) as fury and madness. If there be any mitigating circumstances, as in voluntary ignorance, sudden surprise, or a strong temptation, (as in Peter's case, his mind was so intent upon avoiding the present danger, that he did not consider his duty to his master; and this qualified his sin to be an infirmity, and not treacherous infidelity) if there be no designed depravedness, and pestilent perverseness of mind, charity will make an indulgent allowance for it. It is the inseparable property and excellency of that grace, “ it bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things ;" so far as is consistent with wisdom and discretion. *
He that hates nothing in a sinner but his sin, has made a good progress to perfection.
There are many that dilate and disperse their sight to discover the faults of others, but do not contract it to look inward, and see their own. They are sharp in observing and aggravating other men's sins, to be esteemed zealous; and sometimes hypoj crisy is spun so fine, as to seem to be uncounterfeit holiness :
* Perfectorum est nihil odisse in peccatore præter peccatum, Augo