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blessed SAVIOUR, in describing the day of judg ment, does it in such a manner, as if the great inquiry, then, was to relate principally to this one virtue of compassion-and as if our final sentence, at that solemnity, was to be pronounced exactly according to the degrees of it. "I was an hunger"ed, and ye gave me meat-thirsty, and ye gave 66 me drink-naked, and ye clothed me-I was "sick, and ye visited me-in prison, and ye came "unto me." Not that we are to imagine from thence, as if any other good or evil action should then be overlooked by the eye of the all-seeing Judge; but barely to intimate to us, that a charitable and benevolent disposition is so. principal and ruling a part of a man's character, as to be a considerable test, by itself, of the whole frame and temper of his mind, with which all other virtues and vices respectively rise and fali, and will almost necessarily be connected.-Tell me, therefore, of a compassionate man-you represent to me a man of a thousand other good qualities-on whom I can depend-whom I may safely trust with my wife my children, my fortune, and reputation. It is for this, as the apostle argues from the same principle" that he will not commit adultery"that he will not kill-that he will not steal"that he will not bear false witness." That is, the sorrows which are stirred up in mens hearts by such trespasses, are so tenderly felt by a compassionate man, that it is not in his power, or his nature, to commit them.
So that, well might he conclude, that charity, by which he means, love to our neighbor, was the end of the commandment, and that whosoever fulfilled it, had fulfilled the law.
Now, to GOD, &c. Amen.
2 SAMUEL XII. 7. Ist part.
And Nathan said unto David, Thou art the mart. HERE is no historical passage in scripture, which gives a more remarkable instance of the deceitfulness of the heart of man to itself, and of how little we truly know of ourselves, than this, wherein David is convicted out of his own mouth, and is led by the prophet to condemn and pronounce a severe judgment upon another, for an act of injustice which he had passed over in himself, and possibly reconciled to his own conscience. To know one's self, one would think, could be no very difficult lesson ;-for who, you will say, can be truly ignorant of himself, and the true disposition of his own heart?—If a man thinks at ali, he cannot be a stranger to what passes there he must be conscious of his own thoughts and desires; he must remember his past pursuits, and the true springs and motives, which, in general, have directed the actions of his life: He may hang out false colors, and deceive the world; but how can a man deceive himself? That a man can -is evident, because he daily does so.-Scripture tells us, and gives us many historical proofs of it, besides this to which the text refers,- "That "the heart of man is treacherous to itself, and "deceitful above all things ;" and experience, and every hour's commerce with the world, confirms the truth of this seeming paradox, "That "tho' man is the only creature endowed with re"flection, and consequently, qualified to know the "most of himself,-yet, so it happens, that he "generally knows the least-and with all the
26 power which God has given him, of turning his eyes inward upon himself, and taking notice of "the chain of his own thoughts and desires-yet, "in fact, he is generally so inattentive, but always so partial an observer of what passes, that "he is as much, nay, often a much greater stran66 ger to his own disposition and true character,
"than all the world besides."
By what means he is brought under so manifest a delusion, and how he suffers himself to be so grossly imposed upon, in a point which he is capable of knowing so much better than others, is not hard to give an account of; nor need we seek farther for it, than amongst the causes which are every day perverting his reason, and misleading him. We are deceived in judging of ourselves, just as we are in judging of other things, when our passions and inclinations are called in as counsellors; and we suffer ourselves to see and reason just so far, and no farther, than they give us leave. How hard do we find it to pass an equitable and sound judgment in a matter where our interest is deeply concerned !-And even where there is the remotest consideration of self, connected with the point before us, what a strange bias does it hang. upon our minds, and how difficult is it to disengage our judgments entirely from it?-With what reluctance are we brought to think evil of a friend, whom we have long loved and esteemed? and, tho' there happen to be strong appearances against him, how apt are we to overlook, or put favorable constructions upon them, and even sometimes, when our zeal and friendship transport us, to assign the best and kindest motives for the worst and most unjustifiable parts of his conduct?
We are still worse casuists,and the deceit is proportionably stronger with a man, when he is going to judge of himself that dearest of all parties, 60 closely connected with him-so much and
so long beloved-of whom he has so early conceived the highest opinion and esteem, and with whose merit he has all along, no doubt, found so much reason to be contented. It is not an easy matter to be severe, where there is such an impulse to be kind, or to efface at once all the tender impressions in favor of so old a friend, which disable us from thinking of him as he is, and seeing him in the light, may be, in which every one else sees him.
So that, however easy this knowledge of one's self may appear at first sight, it is otherwise when we come to examine-since, not only in practice, but even in speculation and theory, we find it one of the hardest and most painful lessons.-Some of the earliest instructors of mankind, no doubt,found it so too, and, for that reason, soon saw the necessity of laying such a stress upon this great precept of self-knowledge, which, for its excellent wisdom and usefulness, many of them supposed to be a divine direction,-that it came down from heaven, and comprehended the whole circle both of the knowledge and the duty of man. And indeed, their zeal might easily be allowed in so high an encomium upon the attainment of a virtue, the want of which so often baffled their instructions, and rendered their endeavors of reforming the heart vain and useless. For, who could think of a reformation of the faults within him, who knew not where they lay, or could set about correcting, till he had first come to a sense of the defects which required it ?
But this was a point always much easier recommended by public instructors, than shown how to be put in practice; and therefore, others, who equally sought the reformation of mankind, observing that this direct road which led to it was guarded on all sides by self-love, and consequently very difficult to open access, soon found out, that
a different and more artful course was requisite:As they had not strength to remove this flattering passion, which stood in their way, and blocked up all the passages to the heart, they endeavored, by stratagem, to get beyond it, and, by a skilful address, if possible, to deceive it.-This gave rise to the early manner of conveying their instructions in parables, fables, and such sort of indirect applications, which, tho' they could not conquer this principle of self-love, yet often laid it asleep, or, at least, over-reached it for a few moments, till a just judgment could be procured.
The prophet Nathan seems to have been a great master in this way of address.-David had greatly displeased Gon, by two grievous sins which he had committed; and the prophet's commission was, to go and bring him to a conviction of them, and touch his heart with a sense of guilt for what he had done against the honor and life of Uriah.
The holy man knew, that was it any one's case but David's own, no man would have been so quick-sighted in discerning the nature of the injury, more ready to have redressed it, or who would have felt more compassion for the party who had suffered it than he himself.
Instead therefore, of declaring the real intention of his errand, by a direct accusation and reproof for the crimes he had committed, he comes to him with a fictitious complaint, of a cruel act of injustice done by another; and accordingly, he frames a case,—not so parallel to David's as he supposed would awaken his suspicion, and prevent a patient and candid hearing, and yet not so void of resemblance, in the main circumstances, as to fail of striking him, when shown in a proper light.
And Nathan came and said unto him, "There 866 were two men in one city, the one rich, and the "other poor-the rich man had exceeding many "flocks and herds, but the poor man had nothing