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ful to our friends, or of pardoning our enemies; of bearing with the infirmities of those about us, or of conferring benefits upon them: But a life of seclusion from the world (into which we are sent to prepare ourselves for a better, by the exercise of active virtues) must necessarily prevent the exercise of many benevolent dispositions.
ON MELANCHOLY, AND SCRUPLE IN
1. You complain of the unhappy state of your
mind on religious subjects, and you do not look into the cause of it, nor apply the proper remedy. The cause is, that you cannot bear to wound
selflove, by the mortifying view of your own faults: But you can never enjoy peace of mind, till
you have destroyed this pride of spirit, and acquired humility ; till you can heartily detest all your sins, and confess them to God, without reserve. You are listening, at present, to the voice of your passions, yet you find it impossi. ble to stifle that of your conscience; and thus, you can neither fully enjoy the criminal pleasures to which you are inclined, nor can you feel any confidence in God, nor any delight in his service.You must shut your ears to “the voice of the Charmer, charm he never so wise. ly.” You must steadily resist the temptations of the world, and with humility look upon your own unworthiness. God does not require us to lacerate our flesh, or to torment our bodies, in order to shew our devotion to Him. An humble and contrite heart, a meek and docile spirit, ready to do and to suffer any thing in obedience to his Will, are the only acceptable offerings in his siglit.
2. We are told in the Gospel, that at the day of judgment we shall be accountable for every idle word, as well as for every sinful action. This has been the cause of much scruple and disquiet to many good and religious people, who, misled by too literal an interpretation, have lived in constant self-reproach, though they have nothing to accuse themselves of in this respect, but the trifling and venial faults of conversation, in which they are guilty of no malignity, nor the least intention of injuring any one. Let those who are unhappy through this scruple, remember, that God is too just, too merciful, to punish them eternally for such errors.
We may safely confide in his pity and long-suffering towards our infirmities, when he has given his only Son to redeem a sinful world.
3. The Scriptures tell us, that we are to mortify our desires and affections in the flesh; but we are not to understand this as a prohibition of every innocent and reasonable gratification. It is a false and absurd maxim, that we are always to make choice of what mortifies us most; for in this sense, we should ruin both our health, fortune, and reputation; we should be ever grieving our relations and friends, and we should fail in the
performance of many good works, which Providence throws in our way. We are not, therefore, to understand this precept in too rigorous a sense, but as a prohibition of those enjoyments, which are either sinful in themselves, or which may be prejudicial to our health. We may become guilty in several ways, by the unrestrained indulgence even of lawful gratifications, and fail in that fortitude with which we are commanded to resist temptation; and if we fail in a small matter, how shall we acquit ourselves in a greater one?
We set a bad example to those who, perhaps, look
up to us for a good one; by allowing the principle of rectitude in our minds to be invaded, though in a small degree, we prepare the way for a greater dereliction of it.
4. Many good and pious Christians are at times a prey to melancholy, which weakens the bodily coustitution, and fills the heart with anguish :-For this, Provi.