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hand of God. David was raised to the throne of Israel by those steps which his foes devised against him. The enemy of mankind, seducing our first parents, was the means of their being elevated to a greater degree of happiness and glory.
Lastly, with respect to our departure from this world, and entering upon a new state of being. We know that the time is appointed, when dust shall return unto dust, and the spirit unto God who gave
it. But it is awful, it is alarming, to nature, to call up the hour when the union between soul and body shall be dissolved ; when our connection with all that we held dear in life shall be broken off ; when we shall enter upon a new state 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 deed are part of his kingdom ; time and eternity, the world that now is, and the world that is to come, confess him for their Lord. When thou goest through the dark valley, he will go with thee : in the hour of dissolving nature, he will support thy spirit. Thou canst not go but where God is. Around thee is infinite love, and underneath thee are the everlasting arms.
PROVERBS iv, 18.
The path of the just is as the shining light, that shineth
more and more unto the perfect day. TUMAN life has been often compared to a jour.
ney, for this as well as for other reasons, that we are always making progress in our way. In whatever path we set out, there is no standing still. Evil men wax worse and worse : the corruptions of their nature gather strength: the vices which they have contracted grow into habit; the evil principle is for ever on the increase, till, having attained the ascendant over the whole man, it subjects him entirely to its own power, the willing and obedient servant of şin. Good men, on the other hand, make advances, in the paths of righteousness. The grace of God, which is given unto them, lies not dorrnant. 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 just. By the just in Scripture, are not meant those who merely abstain from doing unjust and injurious things to their neighbours. The just man is he who sesses that sincerity of heart, and that integrity of the whole life which God requires of man.
The life of such 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 decp, light was the first effect of bis creating power; and when the six day's work was finished, light collected and centred in the sun, continued to be the grandest and most beautiful work of nature ; so 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 holiness is to the soul. It is the brightest ornament of an immortal spirit; it throws a glory over all the faculties of man; and forms that robe of beauty with which they shine, who walk in white before the throne of God.
But it is chiefly on account of its progressive nature, that the path of the just is here compared to the shining ligit. In order to illustrate this, I shall, in the first place, Shew how we shall know if we have made
progress in the paths of righteousness. Secondly, Give you some directions how to make further progress. I'hirdly, Exhort you to a life of progressive virtue.
I am first, then, to shew how we shall know if we have made progress in the paths of righteousness.
In the first place, let me ask you, are you sensible of
your faults and imperfections ? The first indication of wisdom is to confess our ignorance, and the first step to virtue is to be sensible of our own imperfections. The novice in science is puffed up with his carly discoveries; when the first ray of wisdom is let in upon his mind, he thinks that by it he can see 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 short time in the school of Christ, who is blind to his own imperfections. Our fall from innocence was by pride, and we must rise by huinility.-" He that humbleth " himself shall be exalted," is the doctrine which our Lord delivered upon all'occasions. Till we feel our own weakness, we can never be strong in the Lord ;
we never can rise in the Divine sight, till we sink in our own estimation. We often meet with persons in life, who talk very strangely upon this subject. They tell us that they are as good as ever they expect to be: that in looking back upon their past life, they see 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 such persons, we may safely pronounce that they have made but little progress in the path of the just. 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 considering that the law of God extends to the heart, and punishes for the omission of duty as well as for the commission of in. Such errors the Pharisees taught of old; and such notions of duty Paul had imbibed before his conversion to Christianity.
16 After the straitest sect of our religion,” says he, " I lived a Pharisee ; touching the
law, blameless.- I was alive without the law once.” That is, when I did not know the law in its true sense, I thought myself alive and a saint. The Pharisaical doctrines in which he had been educated, taught him that God required no more than a conformity of the external behaviour to the letter of the law. But when he discovered that the Divine law extended to the heart; when thus in its power, the commandment came, “ sin revived and I died;" then I saw myself to be a sinner, and died to the self-conceit which I formerly entertained.
Secondly, Let me ask you, what is the strength of your attachment to the cause of righteousness? As you are sensible of your faults, and have seen the de. formity of sin, are you enamoured with the beauty of holiness ? Do you desire nothing more earnestly than to put on the graces of the Gospel; and be con.. formed to the image of God? Men will never imitate what they do not love; if then you are not lovers of
goodness and virtue, you never will be good and virtuous. So long as they keep to generals, men may easily deceive themselves. Let us then come to particulars, and let me ask you with what regard and estimation you view those patterns of piety which you see exhibited in life. Are the good and the righteous, to you the excellent ones of the earth? The wise do not proportion their respect to men according to the rank they hold, or the name they bear in the world. It is the character of the just man, as drawn in Scripture, that he scorneth the vile, however exalted, and honoureth them that fear the Lord, however depressed. Do you then scorn the vile man, with all his attributes of rank and wealth and power? Do you despise the rich, the noble, the right honourable villain, and choose for your companion the righteous man, although he has not where to lay his head ? Could you sit down with virtue in her cell, contented with her homely fare, with her poor abode, and look down with a generous contempt upon the splendid roof, where luxury and guilt lead on the festive hours ? When you behold the wicked great in power, and flourishing like a green bay-tree, does your heart revolt from giving him that homage which the favours of Mammon never fail to extort from the venal multitude, and can you say, in the sincerity of your heart, “ I would not exchange the peace my own • mind for the wealth of the world? Whatever thou “ art pleased to give, Father Almighty, may I pos
it with honour: The world approaches to thine “ altar, and bends before thy throne for temporal
blessings; the prayer of my heart is, Lord lift up on me the light of thy countenance."
Thirdly, Let me ask you, are your resolutions as firm, and your application as vigorous now, as when you first set out in the spiritual life? There are times in which all men are serious; in which the most obdurate minds feel impressions of religion, and in which persons of the most abandoned character form resolutions of amendment. With all the zeal of new