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affords. In that state of perfection, we shall doubtless be engaged in making new accessions of useful knowledge, as this is the most refined pleasure of which our natures are susceptible. There also no unruly principle shall exert itself to hurt our own peace, or offend that of others; but "the ransomed of the Lord shall come to Zion, with songs, and everlasting joy upon their heads; they shall obtain joy and gladness; sorrow and sighing shall flee away." Having, therefore, these promises, dearly beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.
PROV. IV. 26. Ponder the path of thy feet, and let all thy ways
HUMAN life is a state of existence, in which we are exposed to many dangers, both in our temporal and spiritual capacity. When we arrive at years of understanding, and begin to consider what occupations we should choose, as the most suitable to our rank and capacities, it requires no small degree of prudence to select one that may prove advantageous to our worldly interest. When we have at last fixed upon a certain vocation, as the most eligible to our station in society, it will be found no less requisite to devote our time and application to the unremitting pursuit of those employments in which we are engaged. Nay, the most steady and upright behaviour will become indispensible, if we would succeed according to our own wishes, or the expectations of our friends. If we be thoughtless and imprudent, we shall lose the estimation of those on whom we depend, and fail to meet with that encouragement from the world, which is necessary to promote our welfare. If we be inattentive to the business of our callings, our affairs shall decline, our credit be destroyed, and our ruin be inevitable. But if duly careful of our temporal concerns, we ponder the path of our feet, and reflect on the circumstances in which we are placed, we shall thereby take the most effectual means to secure our prosperity, and render ourselves both comfortable and happy.
If such be the case with respect to those matters which relate to this world, we may be assured, that a similar conduct will produce the same effects in our preparation for the world to come. Accordingly, it is invariably found, that the man who has entered upon a Christian course, without considering well the nature of that profession which he has assumed, is never sensible of the nature of true religion, nor concerned to live in such a manner as becometh the gospel. He continues in a state of lukewarm indifference about his spiritual condition and growth in grace, without any effort to improve in those holy dispositions whieh should characterize every one who would adorn the doctrine of Christ our Saviour. He never enquires whether his present mode of behaviour be conformable with those rules of rectitude prescribed in the scriptures, whether it is as strict in every particular as the law of God requires, and whether it might not be more faultless in several instances, than it has hitherto been. In short, the nominal Christian never examines his ways, and therefore remains throughout life in the same unprogressive and imperfect condition, as when he first en tered into communion with the church. Nay, from the prevalence of evil habits, he must unavoidably become more wicked and depraved, so that the last state of that man will be worse than the first.
Such are the consequences of inconsideration upon our spiritual concerns, and hence appears the necessity of pondering the paths of our feet, that all our doings may be established. If we often take a retrospect of our past behaviour, and bethink ourselves what are the blemishes which cleave to our characters, what are the sins which easily beset us, what the temptations to which we are exposed, and what means might be effectual to maintain our integrity; we would thereby discover what manner of spirit we are of, become acquainted with the prevailing dispositions of our hearts, and learn the general tenour of our conduct. From such an investigation, we could not fail to acquire that self-knowledge, which is the first requisite to convince us of the error of our ways, and the first step, by which we can enter on the path of the just. That consideration produces these salutary effects, has been experienced by godly men in every age of the world; and that you may be induced to begin and continue such a useful exercise, the following discourse may perhaps prove advantageous for edification and instruction in righteousness. In prosecuting it farther in detail, 1 shall endeavour to shew,
I. What is implied in the duty here recommended.
III. The advantages arising from such a course of discipline.
1. The duty here recommended, includes many particulars, which are all necessary to be observed, in proceeding with caution through the various stages of the Christian life. In entering upon a journey, every considerate
. man will ascertain the distance of the place at which he wishes to arrive, the nearest and safest road which leads to it, and prepare himself for undergoing the perils of the way in which he is to walk. Thus, also, the true Christian considers, that the place of his destination is that heavenly country beyond the grave, which is to be the future residence of all the faithful. He knows also, that the appointed course in which he must travel thither is, the path of God's commandments, from which he must not swerve, by turning aside to the right hand or to the left. This he will find delineated in the scriptures of truth, which are given as a light unto our feet, and a lamp unto our path.-In them the path of the just is represented as leading in a certain direction through the world which lieth in wickedness. In them we are required “ to walk before God in the land of the living, and to set him at all times before us,” to act as in his presence and under his inspection, to look up to him for his guidance and support, and to maintain a good conscience before him who is the witness of our actions. In them we are instructed to please him in the whole tenour of our behaviour, that we should intend to serve him in every action we perform, and “whether we eat or drink, or whatsoever we do, to do all to the glory of God.” In
them we are taught, that every habit which we form, should be such as is consistent with his will, and such as may promote our sanctification and growth in grace. In them we are informed, that we should live every day “in all holy conversation and godliness,” that we should spend our time in such an innocent and useful manner, as may redound to his honour and our own advantage. That our labours and employments, our pursuits and amusements, should be regulated by the rules of propriety and decorum ; so that “ in every thing we may' approve ourselves to him in well-doing.” That our conversation
" should be such as becometh the gospel, “ denied to all ungodliness and worldly lusts, and that we should live soberly, and righteously, and godly, in the world.” That we should adopt other maxims than those which the generality esteem, that we should refuse ourselves many pleasures which they deem desireable, have no value for riches which are their orly portion, and “ look not so much at the things which are seen and temporal, as at those which are unseen and are eternal.” This is such a course as religion recommends, and it therefore becomes every one who would proceed in the path which leadeth unto life, to enquire whether he is walking in all the commandments of the Lord blameless; and whether he is endeavouring in the daily tenour of his conduct to act according to the directions contained in the scriptures for his edification and instruction in righteousness.
When the true Christian has ascertained that he is sincerely desirous to obey the divine will, as far as the frailty of his nature, assisted by supernatural grace, enables him; he will next consider the motives which should prevail with him to engage in the service of religion, with a perfect heart and a willing mind. He will reflect, that unless he strives to enter in at the strait gate of a renewed nature and a holy life, he shall not attain as the end of his faith the salvation of his soul. That all the virtues enjoined for our acquirement are the appointed means of rendering us acceptable to God and righteous in ourselves, that they are necessary to form our characters to excellence, and a preparation for the celestial society of saints