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SECTION VII. -
1. It is a sure indication of good sense, to be diffidento it. We then, and not till then, are growing wise when we begin to discern how weak and unwise we are. An absolute perfection of understanding, is impossible : he makes the nearest approaches to it, who has the sense to discern, and the humility to acknowledge its imperfections.
2. Modesty always sits gracefully upon youth : It covers • a multitude of faults, and doubles the lustre of every virtue which it seems to hide : the perfections of men being like those flowers which appear more beautiful, when their leaves are a little contracted and folded up, than when they are full blown, and display themselves, without any reserve, to the view.
3. We are some of us very fond of knowledge, and apt to value ourselves upon any proficiency in the sciences; one science, however, there is, worth more than all the rest, and that is, the science af living well; which shall remain, when " tongues shall cease,” and “ knowledge shall vanish away.”
4. As to new notions, and new doctrines, of which this age is very fruitful, the time will come, when we shall have no pleasure in them : nay, the time shall come, when they shall be exploded, and would have been forgotten, if they had not been preserved in those cxcellent books, which contain a confutation of them ; like insects preserved for ages in amber, which otherwise would soon have returned to the common mass of things.
5. But a firm belief of Christianity, and a practice suitable to it, will support and invigorate the mind to the last; and most of all, at last, at that important hour, which must decide our hopes and apprehensions; and the wisdom which, like our Saviour, cometh from above, will, through his merits, bring us thither. All our other studies and pursuits, bow. ever different, ought to be subservient to, and centre in this grand point, the pursuit of eternal happiness, by being good in ourselves, and uselul to the world.
• SEED. SECTION. VIII. IMPORTANCE OF ORDER IN THE DISTRIBUTION OF OUR TIME. .
1. TIME we ought to consider as a sacred trust committed to us by God : of which we are now the depositories, and are to render an account at the last. That portion of it which he has allotted to us, is intended partly for the concerns of this world, partly for those of the next. Let each of these
occupy, in the distribution of our time, that space which properly belongs to it..
2. Let not the hours of hospitality and pleasure interfere with the discharge of our necessary affairs ; and let not what we call necessary affairs, encroach upon the time which is due to devotion. To every thing there is a season, and a. time for every purpose under the heaven. If we delay till to-morrow what ought to be done to-day, we overcharge the inorrow with a burden which belongs oot to it. We load the wheels of time, and prevent them from carrying us along smoothly.
3. He who every morning plans the transactions of the day, and follows out that plan, carries on a thread which will guide him through the labyrinth of the most busy life. The orderly arrangement of his time, is like a ray of light, which darts itself through all his affairs. But where no plan is laid, where the disposal of time is surrendered merely to the ehance of incidents, all things lie liudelled together in one chaos, which adınits neither of distribution nor reviow.
4. The first requisite for introducing order into the management of time, is to be impressed with a just sense of its value. Let us consider well how much depends upon it, and how fast it flies away. The bulk of men are in nothing more capricious and inconsistent, than in their appreciation of time. When they thiok of it, as the measure of their continuance on earth, they highly prize it, and with the greatest anxiety, seek to lengthen it out.
5. But when they viewit in separate parcels, they appear to hold it in contempt, and squander it with inconsiderate profusion. While they complain that life is short, they are often wishing its different periods at an end. Covetous of every other possession, of time only are they prodigal. They allow every idle man to be master of this property, and inake every frivolous occupation welcome that can help them to consume it.
6. Among those who are so careless of time, it is not to be expected that order should be observed in its distribution. But, by this fatal neglect, how many materials of severe and lastiog regret are they laying up in store for themselves ! The time which they suffer to pass away in the midst of confusion, bitter repentance seeks afterwards in vain to recal. What was omitted to be done at its proper moment, arises to be the torment of some future season.
7. Manhood is disgraced by the consequences of neglected youth. Old age, oppressed by cares that belonged to a foko
mer period labours under a burden not its own. At the close of life, the dying man beholds with anguish that his days are finishing, when his preparation for eternity is hardly commenced. Such are the effects of a disorderly waste of time, through not attending to its value. Every thing in the life of such persons is misplaced. Nothing is performed aright, from not being performed in due season.
8. But he who is orderly in the distribution of his time, takes the proper method of escaping those manifold evils. lle is justly said to redeem the time. By proper manageinent he prolongs it. He lives much in little space ; more in a few years than others do in many. He can live to God and his own soul, and at the same time attend to all the lawful interests of the present world. Ile looks back on the past, and provides for the future.
9. He catches and arrests the hours as they fly. They are inarked down for useful purposes, and their memory remains. Whereas those hours fleet by the man of confusion like a shadow. His days and years are either blanks, of which he has no remembrance, or they are filled up with so confused and irregulara succession of unfinished transactions, that though he remembers he has been busy, yet he can give no account of the business which has employed him. BLAIR.
· SECTION IX.
1. The most excellent and honourable character which can adorn a inan aoda christian, is acquired by resisting the torrent of vice, and adhering to the cause of God and virtue, against a corrupted multitude. It will be found to hold in general, that they, who, in any of the great lines of life, have distinguished themselves for thinking profoundly, and acting nobly, have despised popular prejudices ; and departed, in several things, from the common ways of the world.
2. On no occasion is this more requisite for true honour, than where religion and morality are concerned. In times of prevailing licentiousness, to maintain unblemished virtue, and uncorrupted integrity; in a public or a private cause, to. stand firm by what is fair and just, amidst discouragements and opposition ; despising groundless censure and reproach, disdaiving all compliance with public manners, when they are vicious and unlawful; and never ashamed of the punctual discharge of every duty towards God and man; ihis is what shows true greatness of spirit, and will force approbu jion even from the degenerate multitude themselves.
3. “ This is the man," (their conscience will oblige them to acknowledge,) " whom we are unable to bend to mean condescensions. We see it in vain either to flatter or to threaten him; he rests on a principle within, which we cannot shake. To this man,we may, on any occasions, safely commit our cause. He is incapable of beiraying his trust, or deserting his friend, or denying his faith.”
4. It is, accordingly, this steady, inflexible virtue, this regard to principle, superior to all custom and opinion, which peculiarly marked the characters of those in any age, who have shone with distinguished lustre ; and has consecrated their memory to all posterity. It was this that obtained to ancient Enoch the most 'singular testimony of honour from heaven.
5. He continued to “walk with God," when the world apostatised from him. He pleased God, and was beloved of him ; so that living anong sinners, he was translated, to heaven without seeing death. " Yea, speedily was he taken away, lest wickedness should have altered his understanding, or deceit beguiled his soul.”
6. When Sudom could not furnish ten righteous men to save it, Lot remained unspotted amidst the contagion. He lived like an angel among spirits of darkness ; and the destroying flame was not permitted to go forth, till the good man was called away, by a heavenly messenger, from his devoted city.
7. When all flesh had corrupted their way upon the earth, then lived Noah, a righteous man, and a preacher of righteousness. He stood alone, and was scoffed by the profane crew. But they, by the deluge, were swept away ; while on him, Providence conferred the immortal honour, of being the restorer of a better race, and the father of a new world. Such examples as these, and such honours conferred by God on them who withstood the multitude of evil doers, should often be present to our minds.
8. Let us oppose them to the numbers of low and corrupt examples, which we behold around us ; and when we are in hazard of being swayed by such, let us fortify our virtue, by thinking of those who, in former times, shone like stars in the midst of surrounding darkness, and are now shining in the kingdom of heaven, as the brightness of the firmament, fur ever and ever.
MORTIFICATIONS OF VICE GREATER THAN THOSE OF VIRTUE
1. Though no condition of human life is free from uneasiness, yet it must be allowed, that the uneasiness belonging to a sinful course, is far greater than what' attends a course of well doing. If we are weary of the labours of virtue, we may be assured, that the world, whenever we try the exchange, will lay upon us a much heavier load.
2. It is the outside only, of a licentious life, which is gay and smiling. Within, it conceals toil, and trouble, and deadly sorrow. For vice poisons human happiness in the spring, by introducing disorder into the heart. Those pagsions which it seems to indulge, it only feeds with imperfect gratifications ; and thereby strengthens them for preying, in the end, on their unhappy victims.
3. It is a great mistake to imagine, that the pain of selfdenial is confined to virtue. He who follows the world, as much as he who follows Christ, must take up his cross ;" and to him assuredly, it will prove a more oppressive burden. Vice allows all her passioos to range uncontrolled ; and where each claims to be superior, it is impossible to gratify all. The predominant desire can only be indulged, at the expense of its rival.
4. No inortifications which virtue exacts, are more severe than those which ambition imposes upon the love of ease, pride upon interest, and covetousness upon vanity. Selfdenial, therefore, belongs, in coinmon, to vice and virtue'; but with this remarkable difference, that the passions which virtue requires us to mortify, it tends to weaken ; whereas, tbose which vice obliges us to deny, it, at the same time, strengthens. The one diminishes the pain of self-denial, by moderating the demands of passion; the other increases it, by rendering those deinands imperious and violent.
5. What distresses that occur in the calın life of virtue, can be compared to those tortures which remorse of conscience ioflicts on the wicked ; to those severe humiliations, arising from guilt combined with misfortunes, which sink thein to the dust; to those violent agitations of shame and disappointment, which sometimes drive them to the most fatal extremities, and make them abhor their existence! How often, in the midst of those disastrous situations, into which their crimes have brought them, have they'execrated the seductions of vice; and with bitter regret, looked back to the day on which they first forsook the path of io nocence.