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the practice of religion. On the contrary, this practiče strengthens the powers of action. Adding virtue to virtue is adding strength to strength ; and the greater acquisitions we make, we are enabled to make still greater. How pleasant will it be to mark the soul thus moving forward in the brightness of its course! In the spring, wha does not love to mark the progress of nature ; the flower unfolding into beauty, the fruit coming forward to maturity, the fields advancing to the pride of harvest, and the months revolving into the perfect year? Who does not love in the human species, to observe the progrefs to maturity ; the infant by degrees growing up to man ; the young idea beginning to shoot, and the embryo character beginning to unfold ? But if these things affect us with delight ; if the prospect of external nature in its progress, if the flower unfolding unto beauty, if the fruit coming forward to maturity, if the infant by degrees growing up to man, and the embryo character beginning to unfold, affect us with pleasurable sensations, how much greater de light will it afford to observe the progress of this new creation, the growth of the soul in the graces of the divine life, good resolutions ripening into good a&tions, good actions leading to confirmed habits of virtue, and the new nature advancing from the first lineaments of virtue to the full beauty of holiness! These are pleasures that time will not take away. While the animal spirits fail, and the joys which depend upon the liveliness of the passions decline with years, the solid comforts of a holy life, the delights of virtue and a good conscience, will be a new source of happiness in old age, and have a charm for the end of life. As the stream flows pleasantest when it approaches the ocean ; as the flowers send up their sweetest odours at the close of the day ; as the sun appears with greatest beauty in his going down ; so at the end of his career, the virtues and graces of a good man's life come before him with the most blessed remembrance, and impart a joy which he never felt before.
Over all the mo.. ments of life, religion scatters her favours, but reserves her best, her choicest, her divinest blessings for the last hour.
In the last place, Let me exhort you to this progressive state of virtue, from the pleasant consideration that it has no period. There are limits and boundaries set to all human affairs. There is an ultimate point in the progress, beyond which they never go, and from which they return in a contrary direction. The flower blossoms but to fade, and all terrestrial glory shines to disappear. Human life has its decline as well as its maturity ; from a certain period the external senses begin to decay, and the faculties of the mind to be impaired, till dust returns unto dust. Nations have their day. States and kingdoms are mortal like their founders. When they have arrived at the zenith of their glory, from that moment they begin to decline ; the bright day is succeeded by a long night of darkness, ignorance and barbarity. But in the progress of the mind to intellectual and moral perfection, there is no period fet. Beyond these Heavens the perfection and happiness of the just is carrying on ; is carrying on,
but shall never come to a close. God shall behold his creation for ever beautifying in his eyes ; for ever
drawing nearer to himself, yet still infinitely diftant from the fountain of all goodness. There is not in religion a more joyful and triumphant consideration than this perpetual progress which the soul makes to the perfection of its nature, without ever arriving at its ultimate period. Here truth has the advantage of fable. No fi&tion, however bold, presents to us a conception so elevating and astonishing, as this inter· minable line of heavenly excellence. To look upon the glorified spirit as going on from strength to strength ; adding virtue to virtue, and knowledge to knowledge ; making approaches to goodness which is infinite ; for ever adorning the Heavens with new beauties, and brightening in the fplendours of moral glory through all the ages of eternity, has something in it so transcendent and ineffable, as to satisfy the most unbounded ambition of an immortal spirit. Christian! Does not thy heart glow at the thought, that there is a time marked out in the annals of Heaven, when thou shalt be what the angels now are ; when thou shalt shine with that glo. ry in which principalities and powers now appear ; and when, in the full communion of the Most High, thou shalt see him as he is !
The oak, whose top ascends unto the heavens, and which covers the mountains with its fhade, was once an acorn, contemptible to the fight; the philosopher, whose views extend from one end of nature to the other, was once a speechless infant hanging at the breast; the glorified spirits, who now stand nearest to the throne of God, were once like as to them the Heavens are open; the way is marked out ; the reward is prepared. On what you do, on what you now do, all depends:
MATTHEW v. 5.
Blessed are the meek, for they Mall inherit the earth.
THEY mistake the nature of the chriftian religion very much, who consider it as separate and detached from the commerce of the world. Instead of forming a distinct profession, it is intimately connected with life ; it respects men as acting in society, and contains regulations for their conduct and behaviour in such a state. It takes in the whole of human life, and is intended to influence us when we are in the house, and in the field, as well as when we are in the church or in the closet. It inftruats men in their duty to their neighbours, as well as in their duty to God; it is our companion in the scene of business as well as in the House of Prayer; and while it inculcates the weightier matters of the law, faith, judgment, and mercy, it neglects not the ornament of a meek and quiet fpirit, which in the fight of God is of great price. All that refinement which polishes the mind; all that gentleness of manners which sweetens the intercourse of human fociety, which political philosophers consider as the ef. fects of wise legislation and good government ; all the virtues of domestic life, are lessons which are taught in the christian school. The wisdom that cometh from above is “gentle.” The fruit of the Spirit is “ meekness.” As the sun, although he
regulates the seasons, leads on the year, and dispenses light and life to all the planetary worlds, yet difdains not to raise and to beautify the flower which opens in his beams; so the christian religion, though chiefly intended to teach us the knowledge of falvation, and be our guide to happiness(on high, yet also regulates our conversation in the world, extends its benign influence to the circle of society, and diffuses its bleffed fruits in the path of domestic life.
In farther treating upon this subject, I shall, in the first place, Describe to you the character of meekness which is here recommended; and, in the second place, Show you the happiness with which it is attended. I am, in the first place, then, To describe
the character of meekness which is here recommended.
Every virtue, whether of natural or revealed religion, is fituated between some vices or defects, which though essentially different, yet bear some resemblance to the virtue they counterfeit ; on account of which resemblance they obtain its name, and impose upon those who labour under the want of difcernment. This meekness which is here recommended, is not at all the same with that courtesy of manners which is learned in the school of the world. That is but a superficial accomplishment, and often proceeds from a hollowness of heart. It is also quite different from constitutional facility, that undeciding state of the mind which easily bends to every propofal ; that is a weakness, and not a virtue. Neither does it at all resemble that tame and passive temper which patiently bears insults and fubmits to injuries. That is a want of fpirit, and argues a cow.