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or power! -If the ground-work is not laid within your own mind, they will as soon add a cubit to your stature, as to your happiness.-To be convinced it is so, pray look up to those who have got as high as their warmest wishes could carry them in this ascent ;-do you observe they live the better, the longer, the merrier,-or that they sleep the sounder in their beds, for having twice as much as they wanted, or well know how to dispose of?-Of all rules for calculating happiness, this is the most deceitful, and which, few but weak minds, and those unpractised in the world, too, ever think of applying as the measure in such an estimation. Great and inexpressible may be the happiness, which a moderate fortune, and moderate desires, which a consciousness of virtue will secure. Many are the silent pleasures of the honest peasant, who rises cheerful to his labor; why should they not?-Look into his house, the seat of each man's happiness ;-has he not the same domestic endearments, the same joy and comfort in his children, and as flattering hopes of their doing well, to enliven his hours, and glad his heart, as you could conceive in the highest station?And I make no doubt, in general, but if the true state of his joy and sufferings could be fairly balanced with those of his betters, whether any thing would appear at the foot of the account, but what would recommend the moral of this discourse. This, I own, is not to be attained to, by the cynical stale trick of harranguing against the goods of fortune;-they were never intended to be talked out of the world,-but, as virtue and true wisdom lie in the middle of extremes, on one hand, not to neglect and despise riches, so as to forget ourselves, and on the other, not to pursue and love them, so as to forget GOD; -to have them sometimes in our heads, but al ways something more important in our hearts.
ISAIAH, i. 3.
The ox knoweth his owner, and the ass his master's crib, but Israel doeth not know,—my people doeth not consider.
T is a severe but an affectionate reproach of the prophet's laid against the Israelites, which may safely be applied to every heedless and unthankful people, who are neither won by GOD'S mercies, nor terrified by his punishments. There is a giddy, thoughtless, intemperate spirit gone forth into the world, which possesses the generality of mankind;--and the reason the world is undone, is, because the world does not consider,considers neither awful regard to GOD, nor the true relation themselves bear to him.- Could they consider this, and learn to weigh the causes, and compare the consequences of things, and to exercise the reason which God has put into us, for the government and direction of our lives,there would be some hopes of a reformation: But as the world goes, there is no leisure for such inquiries-and,so full are our minds of other matters, that we have no time to ask, or a heart to answer, the questions we ought to put to ourselves.
Whatever our condition is, it is good to be ac quainted with it in time, to be able to supply what is wanting, and examine the state of our accounts, before we come to give them up to an impartial judge.
The most inconsiderate see the reasonableness of this there being few, I believe, either so thoughtless, or even so bad, but that they sometimes enter upon this duty, and have some short intervals of self-examination, which they are forced upon, if from no other motiye, yet at least to
free themselves from the load and oppression of spirits they must necessarily be subject to without it. But as the scripture frequently intimates,and observation confirms it daily,-that there are many mistakes attending the discharge of this duty,—I cannot make the remainder of this discourse more useful, than by a short inquiry into them. I shall therefore, first beg leave to remind you of some of the many unhappy ways by which we often set about this irksome task of examining our works, without being either the better or the wiser for the employment.
And first, then, let us begin with that which is the foundation of almost all the other false measures we take in this matter,—that is, the setting about the examination of our works, before we are prepared with honest dispositions to amend them. This is beginning the work at the wrong end. These previous dispositions in the heart, are the wheels that should make this work go easily and successfully forwards;-and, to take them off, and proceed without them, it is no miracle, if, like Pharaoh's chariots, they that drive them drive them heavily along.
Besides, if a man is not sincerely inclined to reform his faults-it is not likely he should be inclined to see them,-nor will all the weekly preparations that ever were wrote, bring him nearer the point; so that, with how serious a face soever he begins to examine,-he no longer does the office of inquirer,-but an apologist, whose business is not to search for truth,-but skilfully to hide it. So long, therefore, as this pre-engagement lasts betwixt the man and his old habits,there is little prospect of proving his works to any good purpose-of whatever kind they are, with so strong an interest and power on their side.-As in other trials, so in this, it is no wonder if the evidence is puzzled and confounded, and the several
facts and circumstances so twisted from their natural shapes, and the whole proof so altered and confirmed on the other side,-as to leave the last state of that man even worse than the first.
A second unhappy, tho' general mistake, in this great duty of proving our works,-is that which the apostle hints at ; in the doing it, not by a direct examination of our own actions, but from a comparative view of them, with the lives and actions of other men.
When a man is going to enter upon this work of self-examination,-there is nothing so common, as to see him look round him-instead of looking within him. He looks round,-finds out some one who is more malicious,—sees another that is more covetous, a third that is more proud and imperious than himself, and so indirectly forms a judgment of himself, not from a review of his life, and a proving of his own works, as the apostle directs him, but rather from proving the works of others, and, from their infirmities and defects, drawing a deceitful conclusion in favor of himself. In all competitions of this kind, one may venture to say, there will be ever so much of self-love is a man, as to draw a flattering likeness of one of the parties, and it is well-if he has not so much malignity too, as to give but a coarse picture of the other, finished with so many hard strokes, as to make the one as unlike its original as the other.
Thus the Pharisee when he entered the temple, -no sooner saw the publican, but that moment he formed the idea to himself of all the vices and corruptions that could possibly enter into the man's character,-and with great dexterity stated all his own virtues and good qualities over-against them, his abstinence and frequent fastings, exactness in the debts and ceremonies of the law ;not balancing the account, as he ought to have done, in this manner-What! tho' this man is a
publican and a sinner, have not I my vices as well as he? It is true, his particular office exposes him to many temptations of committing extortion and injustice;-but then-am not I a devourer of widows houses, and guilty of one of the most cruel instances of the same crime? He possibly is a profane person, and may set religion at nought; but do not I myself, for a pretence, make long prayers, and bring the greatest of all scandals upon religion, by making it the cloak to my ambition and worldly views? If he, lastly, is debauched or intemperate; am not I conscious of as corrupt and wanton dispositions, and that a fair and guarded outside is my best pretence to the opposite character?
If a man will examine his works by a comparative view of them with others ;-this, no doubt, would be the fairer way, and least likely to mislead him. But as this is seldom the method this trial is gone thro', in fact, it generally turns out to be as treacherous and delusive to the man himself, as it is uncandid to the man who is dragged into the comparison; and whoever judges of himself by this rule, so long as there is no scarcity of vicious characters in the world,-it is to be feared, he will often take the occasions of triumph and rejoicing, where, in truth, he ought rather to be sorry and ashamed.
A third error, in the manner of proving our works, is what we are guilty of, when we leave out of the calculation the only material parts of them; I mean, the motives, and first principles, from whence they proceed. There is many a fair instance of generosity, chastity, and self-denial, which the world may give a man the credit of,which, if he would give himself the leisure to reflect upon, and trace back to their first springshe would be conscious, proceeded from such views and intentions, as, if known, would not be to his