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"field fhould yield no meat; though the flocks "fhould be cut off from the fold, and there fhall be "no herd in the ftall, yet will I rejoice in the Lord, I will joy in the God of my falvation."
Thirdly, With respect to appearances of moral evil and disorder, it is afflicting to the mind to behold diforder in the univerfe of God: bad men often exalted, while the good man's lot is bitterness and pain virtue depreffed, and vice triumphant. He who caufed light to arife out of darkness, and order and beauty to spring from chaos and confusion, can correct thefe irregularities. He not only reftrains, and fays, " Hitherto, and no further." He alfo overrules and makes the wrath of men to praise him. Hear how he gives commission, and sends Sennacherib against Ifrael, as a general fends a weapon of war. “O Affyrian, the rod of mine anger, "I will fend him against an hypocritical nation, and "against the people of my wrath, to tread them "down like the mire of the streets. Howbeit he "meaneth not fo, neither doth his heart think fo ;" that is, neither doth his heart think that he is a mere inftrument in the hand of God. David was raised to the throne of Ifrael by thofe fteps which his foes devised against him. The enemy of mankind, feducing our first parents, was the means of their being elevated to a greater degree of happiness and glory.
Lastly, With refpect to our departure from this world, and entering upon a new ftate of being, we know that the time is appointed, when duft fhall return unto duft, and the fpirit unto God who gave it. But it is awful, it is alarming to nature, to call up the
hour when the union between foul and body fhall be diffolved; when our connection with all that we held dear in life fhall be broken off; when we shall enter upon a new, ftate of existence, and become inhabitants of the world unknown. But even then the providence of God will give us comfort. The Lord reigneth king for ever and ever. The dominions of the dead are part of his kingdom; time and eternity, the world that now is, and the world that is to come, confefs him for their Lord. When thou goest through the dark valley, he will go with thee: in the hour of diffolving nature, he will fupport thy spirit. Thou canst not go but where God is. Around thee is infinite love, and underneath thee arę the everlasting arms.
PROVERBS iv. 18.
The path of the juft is as the fhining light, that shineth more and more unto the perfect day.
HUMAN life has been often com
pared to a journey, for this as well as for other reafons, that we are always making progrefs in our way. In whatever path we fet out, there is no ftanding ftill. Evil men wax worfe and worfe: the corruptions of their nature gather ftrength: the vices which they have contracted grow into habit; the evil principle is for ever on the increase, till having attained the afcendant over the whole man, it fubjects him entirely to its own power, the willing and obedient fervant of fin. Good men, on the other hand, make advances in the paths of righteousness. The grace of God, which is given unto them, lies not dormant. The better mind with which they are endowed, incites them to virtue: the new nature which they have put on, pants after perfection. They give all diligence to add to their faith virtue, and to virtue temperance, and to temperance brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness charity, until having abounded in every good work, they perfect holiness in the fear of the Lord. Such a life is here called the path of the juft. By the just in Scripture, are not meant those who merely abftain from doing unjust and injurious things to their neighbours.
The just man is he who poffeffes that fincerity of heart, and that integrity of the whole life which God requires of man,
The life of fuch a man is here compared to the light of the morning. Nothing in nature is more lovely than the light. When the Spirit began to move upon the face of the deep, light was the first effect of his creating power; and when the fix days' work was finished, light collected and centred in the fun, continued to be the grandeft and most beautiful work of nature; fo grand and beautiful, that among many of the heathen nations it was worshipped as the visible divinity of the world. What light is to the face of external nature, the beauty of holinefs is to the foul. It is the brightest ornament of an immortal fpirit; it throws a glory over all the faculties of man; and forms that robe of beauty with which they fhine, who walk in white before the throne of God.
But it is chiefly on account of its progreffive nature, that the path of the juft is here compared to the fhining light. In order to illustrate this, I shall, in the first place, fhow you how we fhall know if we have made progress in the paths of righteousness. Secondly, Give you fome directions how to make further progress. Thirdly, Exhort you to a life of progreffive virtue.
I am first then to fhow how we fhall know if we have made progress in the paths of righteousness.
In the first place, let me ask you, are you fenfible of your faults and imperfections? The first indication of wisdom is to confefs our ignorance, and the first step to virtue is to be fenfible of our own imper
fections. The novice in fcience is puffed up with his early discoveries; when the first ray of wisdom is let in upon his mind, he thinks that by it he can fee and know all things. Deeper views and maturer reflection convince him how little he knows. In like manner, he knows little of religion, and has been but a fhort time in the school of Chrift, who is blind to his own imperfections. Our fall from innocence was by pride, and we must rife by humility. "He that humbleth himself shall be exalted," is the doctrine which our Lord delivered upon all occafions. Till we feel our own weakness, we can never be ftrong in the Lord; we never can rife in the Divine fight, till we fink in our own eftimation. 1 We often meet with perfons in life, who talk very ftrangely upon this fubject. They tell us that they are as good as ever they expect to be that in looking back upon their past life, they fee nothing done which they would wish undone; and that if they were to begin life anew, they would act precisely as they have acted. Concerning fuch perfons, we may fafely pronounce that they have made but little progrefs in the path of the juft. They are strangers to their own hearts, and have not proper ideas of the Divine law. They measure the law of God by the laws of men, and think that if their external conduct is blameless, they have acted their part well : not confidering that the law of God extends to the heart, and punishes for the omiffion of duty as well as for the commiffion of fin. Such errors the Pharifees taught of old; and fuch notions of duty Paul had imbibed before his converfion to chriftianity. "After the traiteft fect of our religion," fays he,