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conversation, has no genuine love to him. Principle and practice combine to form the character of a good man. As the heart must be devoted to God, so the life must be subjected to the laws he hath ordained for its regulation.
But it will not be a perversion of the design of the text, if we suppose this branch of the requisition obliges us to “have an eye to the rule of God's word, the conduct of his providence, and the good examples of his people. Our eyes must observe these, as he, that writes, ob. serves his
copy, that we may keep in the right paths, and persevere in them.” We may observe the ways of God,
1. In respect to his holy word, which contains a perfect rule of faith and practice, and presents the best motives to piety and virtue. In examining this, we are carefully to notice the marks and evidences of its proceeding from God. If we observe his ways, we shall see that it has the stamp of divine authority upon it, that the proof of this, arising from its internal character, and from external attestations, is conclu. sive and irresistible in the view of all honest inquirers.
The doctrines of revelation relating to the being and perfections of God, to his spirituality and holiness, his justice, wisdom, and goodness ; to our relation, dependence, and apostasy ; to the nature and consequences of sin, the method of recovery, and the benevolence in which the wonderful scheme of redemption originated; all these should be observed and contemplated, not merely as matters of speculation, but with a view to their practical influence. Let the eye of the mind be fixed on the ways of God in these respects, and the best affections of the heart will centre in him, and the life be devoted to his honour.
The divine word teaches us that, when man had ruined himself, God provided a Saviour, " who died for our offences, and rose again for our justification ;” and who established a pure rational and practical system of religion and morality, which is calculated to form men to a spirit of holiness, and to train them up for end- . less felicity. This word is an inexhaustible treasury of the most useful instruction. It enlightens the understanding, enlarges the mind, presents a clear view of the most interesting subjects, and points out the duty and destiny of
It furnishes rules and maxims to direct
and edify the pious, motives to reform the sinner, hopes to comfort the desponding, and at the same time affords entertainment to the curious and inquisitive. In the judgment of some of the greatest geniuses the world has produced, there is no source of information and instruction, which affords so much light and satisfaction to the inquisitive mind, as the holy oracles. These present a striking view of the ways of God, and inspire the soul with the most pure and sublime sentiments. But,
2. The ways of God are to be observed in the conduct of his providence.
There is an analogy between the natural and moral world. As in the former it is sometimes fair, at others cloudy, sometimes calm, at others tempestuous, sometimes light, at others dark ; so it is with the aspects of providence ; they are sometimes smiling, at others frowning and portentous. Like the cloud that guided Israel from Egypt to Canaan, the bright and dark side of which were presented for their advantage, the different dispensations of providence are intended for the benefit of mankind. At one period God grants prosperity, and causes the light of his favourable countenance to shine upon his people with a steady lustre, that they may be
induced to serve and obey him ; at another he frowns and visits them with judgments, that he may correct their backsliding, and recover them from their wickedness. His providential dispensations afford instruction to the mind, and present powerful motives to practical godliness.
3. In the examples of good men we may observe the ways of God. They show his
power and goodness, and instruct us in the duties of piety and patience. The righteous are not exempted from trials and afflictions ; but, in chastening them, God dealeth with them as with sons. When, therefore, any engage in the cause of religion, if they meet with trials, they should observe the ways of God to others, that they may not suppose their own case singular, or their troubles beyond example ; but be encouraged to trust in the same power and goodness that have delivered, or supported, those whose life and character they contemplate, and be induced to imitate the virtues they notice with admiration, to exercise like patience, meekness, humility, and submission. In prosperity as well, as in adversity, they should observe how good men have been affected and behaved in a similar situation, how they improved the
smiles of providence, and acknowledged the author of their mercies.
But, though these things are to be carefully observed, yet it is with a view that the observer may be drawn into a right course of conduct. The principal and ultimate design of this branch of the requisition in the text, is to call the attention of mankind to the practical duties of religion and morality, to engage them in the study of the divine law, and in uniform obedience to its requirements. To promote this external conformity to the will of God the observing of his ways, in the instances mentioned, has a natural tendency, as by it men gain instruction, and discover the best motives to religion and virtue. This is the object to be effected. Religion in principle and affection must be reduced to practice.
The heart can never be right with God, if the life be habitually opposed to his law. That faith is dead, which does not produce good works ; that love to God vain, or defective, which does not incline a person to keep all his commandments. Whatever religious impressions, or affections, any imagine they have experienced, there is no solid reason to believe they have given their hearts to God, unless they