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being conceded, we must be bound to observe some law and rule in our own temper and conduct, as well towards our fellow-men and infe. riour creatures, as towards their and our crea-tor. Descendants from one common father, and subjects of one Lord, there is a natural bond of union, or a relation, which demands our attention, and binds us to certain duties; the measure of which will be best determined by a proper regard to ourselves, and a correct idea of our own rights. Our first duty and highest obligations are to God. All others are subordinate; though the faithful discharge of every duty comes into the general notion of obedience to the divine law.
Originating from God, endued with a rational and immortal nature, “ made a little lower than the angels,” destined to a future state of retribution, placed under a dispensation of grace, cherishing the hope of endless felicity, sustaining a relation, not to the creatures of this lower world only, but to the higher orders of created intelligences, and to the underived source of being, the father of the universe; man must be an accountable subject of his government, and amenable to him for his behaviour, and for the improvement of all the talents he hath received. By considering what man is, you will learn for what end he was created, and what constitutes his highest dignity. His origin, powers, and all the circumstances of his existence, show that he was made to render to his creator a reasonable service, to glorify him in body and spirit, and to be in all things obedient to his will. Conformity to this design is man's glory and happiness; departure from it his degradation and ruin. Therefore, reader, know thyself. This branch of knowledge, though least esteemed and cultivated, is of the first necessity. Without some attainments in it, thou wilt never understand thy duty, or interest; nor how to apply thy powers and faculties to any valuable purpose. But intimate acquaintance with thyself, with thy nature, capacity, condition, and destination, will enable thee to perceive, and incline thee to choose, the path marked out by thy creator ; which leads to “glory, honour, and immortality.” The powers thou possessest are talents given to be occupied, not hidden, buried, neglected, or misimproved. They fit thee for noble employments, and pure enjoyments; for the service of thy God, and for endless progression in moral refinement and happiness. Think, then, how thou oughtest to ap
ply them, for what principal end they should be exerted. If communicated by the author and preserver of thy life, ought they not to be employed to his honour and glory, according to his apparent design? If they constitute the dignity of thy nature, and stamp upon thee the image of thy creator, by a misimprovement, or misapplication of them, thou wilt degrade thyself, and abuse the gifts of heaven. If thou pervertest the wise and benevolent intentions of thy maker, thou wilt dishonour him, and destroy the foundation of thine own peace and happi
To preserve his rank in creation, and realize the good designed for him, every creature must act according to the law of his nature, and to the light he enjoys. Upon this principle a correct knowledge of thyself will show thee, read. er, that thou art bound to "fear God, and keep his coramandments ;” to employ thy rational faculties and moral powers in his service; and that this is the only way to promote thine own real honour and felicity, or to answer the great end of thine existence. These conclusions and impressions will result from an attentive examination of thyself, or from the careful study of
But they will become deeper, stronger, and more effectual upon thy heart and life, by contemplating,
Secondly, The divine conduct towards men.
God is mindful of man, and visiteth the son of man. He makes our feeble race the charge of his providence. Like a kind parent, he bears us on his mind, and adapts his favours to our necessities; is ever attentive to our condition, and more ready than an earthly father to give good things to them that ask him.
Had it not been for his sustaining hand, his watchful and benignant eye, his guardian providence, you, my young friends, would never have possessed, as you do at this moment, the vigour and activity of youth. The vigilance and solicitude of the fondest parents could not have saved you from the grave, nor supplied your wants. Though you may have been unmindful of God, he hath been ever mindful of you. He is the preserver of men. You not only derived your being, powers, and faculties from him; but have been always dependent upon him for the preservation of life, always the objects of his kind attention, and partakers of his bounty.
Hath, then, the Lord of the universe, whom angels worship, and before whom archangels veil their faces, condescended to notice man, and to visit him with tokens of parental tenderness? Hath he had respect to your condition, guarded your helpless infancy, and encompassed you in the arms of his providence to this very hour? These thoughts ought to affect your minds, to excite your admiration and gratitude, and prepare you to enter into the views and feelings of the devout psalmist, thus expressed. " When I consider the heavens, the work of thy fingers, the moon and stars which thou hast ordained, what is man, that thou art mindful of him ? and the son of man that thou visitest him ?" Contemplating the visible heavens, those stupendous works which declare the glory of God, and proclaim his wisdom and power ; how diminutive man appears in comparison with them! The psalmist seems to express wonder, that he should be an object of the divine notice
But he magnifies the wisdom and condescending goodness of God, by intimating that, however inconsiderable he is in the comparison, the heavens were made, their orbs arranged, and their revolutions determined, with a view to the benefit and delight of man, who is “ made a little lower than the angels,” and to whom God hath given dominion over the inferiour creatures.