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other good dispositions, and comprehends the general effect which they ought to produce on the heart.
Such, on the whole, is the temper, or habitual frame of mind, in a good man: Devout towards God; towards men, peaceable, candid, affectionate, and humane; within himself, humble, contented, and cheerful. To the establishment of this happy temper, all the directions which I before suggested, for the due regulation of the thoughts, and for the
government of the passions, naturally conduce; in this they ought to issue ; and when this temper is thoroughly formed within
may the heart be esteemed to have been kept with all diligence. That we may be thus enabled to keep it, for the sake both of present enjoyment, and of preparation for greater happiness, let us earnestly pray to Heaven. A greater blessing we cannot iinplore of the Almighty, than that he who made the human heart, and who knows its frailties, would assist us to subject it to that diseipline which religion requires, which reason approves, but which his grace alone can enable us to maintain.
ON THE UNCHANGEABLENESS OF THE DIVINE NATURE.
James, i. 17.
Every good and every perfect gift is from above,
and cometh down from the Father of Lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning,
The divine nature, in some views, attracts our love; in others, commands our reverence ; in all, is entitled to the highest attention from the human mind. We never elevate our thoughts in a proper manner, towards the Supreme Being, without returning to our own sphere with sentiments more improved; and if, at any time, his greatness oppresses our thoughts, his moral perfections always afford us relief. His almighty power, his infinite wisdom, and supreme goodness, are sounds familiar to our ears. In his immutability, we are less accustomed to consider him; and yet it is this perfection which, perhaps more than any other, distinguishes the divine nature from the human; gives complete energy to all its other attributes, and entitles it to the highest adoration. For hence are derived the regular order of na ture, and the steadfastness of the universe. Hence flows the unchanging tenor of those laws which, from age to age, regulate the conduct of mankind. Hence the uniformity of that government, and the certainty of those promises, which are the ground of our trust and security. Goodness could produce no more than feeble and wavering hopes, and power would command very imperfect reverence, if we were left to suspect that the plans which goodness had framed might alter, or that the power of carrying them into execution might decrease. The contemplation of God, therefore, as unchangeable in his nature, and in all his perfections, must undoubtedly be fruitful both of instruction and of consolation to man. I shall first endeavour to illustrate, in some degree, the nature of the divine immutability; and then make application of it to our own conduct.
Every good and every perfect gift cometh down from the Father of Lights. The title which in the text is given to the Deity, carries an elegant allusion to the Sun, the source of light, the most universal benefactor of nature, the most regular and constant of all the great bodies with which we are acquainted in the universe. Yet even with the Sun there are certain degrees of variableness. He apparently rises and sets; he seems to approach nearer to us in summer, and to retire farther off in winter; his influence is varied by the seasons, and his lustre is affected by the clouds. Whereas with Him who is the Father of Lights, of whose everlasting brightness the glory of the Sun is but a faint image, there is no shadow of turning, not the most distant approach to change. In his being or essence it is plain that alteration can never take place. For as his existence is derived from no prior cause, nor dependent on any thing without himself, his nature can be influenced by no power, can be affected by no accident, can be impaired by no time. From everlasting to everlasting, he continues the same.
Hence it is said, that He only hath immortality ; that is, he possesses it in a manner incommunicable to all other beings. Eternity is described as the high and holy place in which he dwelleth ; it is a habitation in which none but the Father of Lights can enter. The name which he taketh to himself is, I am. Of other things, some have been and others shall be; but this is He, which is, which was, and which is to come. All time is his ; it is measured out by him in limited portions to the various orders of created beings; but his own existence fills equally every point of duration ; the first and the last, the beginning and the end, the same yesterday, to-day, and for ever.
As in his essence, so in his attributes and perfections, it is impossible there can be any change. To imperfect natures only it belongs to improve and to decay. Every alteration which they undergo in their abilities or dispositions, flows either from internal defect, or from the influence of a superior cause. But as no higher cause can bring from without
any accession to the divine nature, so within itself it contains no principle of decay. For the same reason that the self-existent Being was from the beginning powerful and wise, just and good, he must continue unalterably so for ever. Hence, with much propriety, the divine perfections are described in Scripture by allusions to those objects to which we ascribe the most permanent stability. His righteousness is like the strong mountains. His mercy is in the heavens; and his faithfulness reacheth unto