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II. Let us now obferve the proper effect of this practise, which is amendment. I thought on my ways, fays the Pfalmist, and turned my feet unto thy tefti
That is one effect, and advantage of this practise. But it is not the fole and only one. For to a good man it may be fometimes the ground and occafion of peace, joy, pleasing reflections, and comfortable hopes and expectations, and afford caufe of thankfgiving to God. It will efpecially do fo, at the end of life, to fuch as have made it a frequent practise, and have thereby been engaged in a strict and steady course of virtue. Like the Apostle, they will be able to say: Our rejoycing is this, the teftimonie of our 2 Cor. i. confcience, that in fimplicity and godly fincerity, not with fleshly wisdom, but by the grace of God, we have had our converfation in this world. And when he was yet nearer the period of his days on earth, he reflects, and looks forward in this manner: I have fought 2 Tim. iv. a good fight, I have finished my courfe, I 7, 8. bave kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteoufnelle, which the
SERM. Lord, the righteous judge, fhall give me at
This fatisfaction, we may well fuppofe, was fometimes the refult of the Pfalmift's thinking on his ways. For though he did not always perform agreeably to the obligations he was under, yet he never laid afide the profeffion of religion, nor abandoned himself to an allowed and deliberate courfe of wickedneffe. So he declares in this Ver. 102. Pfalm: I have not departed from thy judgeVer. 22. ments, for thou hast taught me. And, Remove away from me reproch and contempt: Ver. 165. for I have kept thy teftimonies. And, Lord, ...167. I have hoped in thy falvation, and done thy commandments. My foul has kept thy teftimonies, and I love them exceedingly. I have kept thy precepts, and thy teftimonies: for all my ways are before thee.
But this was one happy effect of serious confideration, or thinking on his ways, that he was better disposed and enabled to amend what had been hitherto amifs, and to advance in piety. As he says: Before I was afflicted, I went aftray, but now have I kept. thy word. There were errours and faults in his conduct, in the time of eafe and profpe
rity, which afflictions had taught him to SERM. correct and reform.
So here in the text: I thought on my ways and having on that recollection and review obferved fome, or even many defects and tranfgreffions, I turned my feet unto God's teftimonies. Whatever I difcerned to be contrarie to duty, gave me grief and concern, and I refolved to do fo no more. I determined, not to perfift in any thing, which I had seen the evil of: knowing, that any one fin, wilfully indulged, is a prefumptuous disrespect to the authority of the divine law: and might harden my heart, and extirpate all fense of religion in my mind, untill I become totally forfaken of God, and abandoned to all manner of wickedneffe.
Having feen my errours, I refolved to be for the future more exact, careful and circumfpect. And I have actually found, by experience, that this frequent, ferious and impartial recollecting and reviewing my past conduct has been of great ufe to me, and proved an excellent mean of my amendment and emprovement.
III. It remains, that in the way of application I recommend this duty of confideration, or the practise of thinking on our ways, by fome motives. 1. It is a very fit and proper employment of rational creatures, whilft in a state of trial: wherein they labor under many frailties and imperfections, and are exposed to various fnares and temptations.
What can be more proper for fuch beings, in fuch circumftances, than to think on their ways? They are accountable to God. And must it not be very becoming them, to shew a respect to him, and his laws, by frequently confidering their behaviour: that, if at any time, through furprize, or any other means, they have been misled, they may make humble confeffions of their offenfes, and refolve and aim and endeavour to do better in time to come.
2. I obferve fecondly, (which follows from what was just faid,) that this practise is very proper for all men.
It is proper for fuch, as have not yet feriously devoted themselves to God and his fer
vice: and alfo for those, who are really and SERM. fincerely, but only imperfectly good. It is greatly needful, and of the utmost importance for the former, to think on their ways. And it may be very expedient and beneficial for these laft likewife. The Pfalmift fhews as much by his own example, who ought to be placed in this later rank. And he may be well understood, to intend by this obfervation, to recommend the practise to others.
3. This exercife of the mind is oftentimes expressly recommended to men by God himself, or his Prophets, speaking in his name, and by his authority.
In the first chapter of the book of Ifaiah God laments and complains, as it were, that Ifrael did not know, his people did not confider. If. i. 3: And earnestly calls to them, to attend to the end of things. Wash ye, make you clean: Put away the evil of your doings from before my eyes. Ceafe to do evil, learn to do well. Come now, and let us reason together, faith the Lord. If ye be willing and obedient, ye shall eat the good of the land. But if ye refuse, and rebell, ye shall be deftroyed. For the mouth of the Lord bath spoken it. They are severely checked and reproved, who go on securely in