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ashamed to be thought serious with their God! Surely, to address ourselves to his infinite Majesty, after a negligent and dispassionate manner, besides the immediate indignity offered,—is a sad sign we little consider the blessings we ask for, and far less deserve them.-Besides, what is a prayer, unless our hearts and affections go along with it ?-It is not so much as the shadow of devotion ; and little better than the papist telling their beads,-or honouring God with their lips, when their hearts are far from him! The consideration that a person is come to prostrate himself before the throne of high Heaven, and in that place which is particularly distinguished by his presence,mis sufficient inducement for any one to watch over his imagination, and guard against the least appearance of levity and disrespect.
An inward sincerity will of course influence the outward deportment ; but where the one is wanting, there is great reason to suspect the absence of the other.--I own it is possible, and often happens, that this external garb of religion may be worn, when there is little within of a piece with it ;-but I believe the converse of the proposition can never happen to be true, that a truly religious frame of mind should exist without some outward mark of it. The mind will shine through the veil of flesh which covers it, and naturally express its religious disposi. tions ;-and, if it possesses the power of godliness, - will have the external form of it too.
May God grant us to be defective in neither,but that we may so praise and magnify God on earth, that when he cometh, at the last day, with ten thousand of his saints in heaven, to judge the world, we may be partakers of their eternal inheritance ! Amen. SERMON XLIV.
THE WAYS OF PROVIDENCE JUSTIFIED TO
PSALM LXXIII, 12, 13.
Behold, these are the ungodly who prosper in the world ; they io.
crease in riches. Verily, I have cleansed my heart in vain, and washed my hands is
This complaint of the Psalmist, concerning the promiscuous distribution of God's blessings to the just and unjust ;—that the sun should shine without distinction upon the good and the bad,and rains descend upon the righteous and unrighteous mang-is a subject that has afforded much matter for inquiry, and at one time or other has raised doubts to dishearten and perplex the minds of men. If the Sopo ereign Lord of all the earth does look on, whenee so much disorder in the face of things ?-why is it permitted, that wise and good men should be left often à prey to so many miseries and distresses of life, whilst the guilty and foolish triumph in their offences; and even the tabernacles of robbers prosper ?
To this it is answered,That therefore there is a future state of rewards and punishments to take place after this life, wherein all these inequalities shall be made even where the circumstances of every man's case shall be considered, and where God shall be justified in all his ways, and every mouth shall be stopt.
If this was so,-if the ungodly were to prosper in the world, and have riches in possession,-and no distinction to be made hereafter to what purpose would it have been to have maintained our integri. ty?-_Lo! then, indeed, should I have cleansed
my heart in vain, and washed my hands in inno“cency."
It is farther said, and what is a more direct answer to the point,—that when God created man, that he might make him capable of receiving happiness at his hands hereafter,.he endowed him with liberty and freedom of choice, without which he could not have been a creature accountable for his actions ;--that it is merely from the bad use he makes of these gifts,--that all those instances of irregularity do result, upon which the complaint is here grounded --which could nowise be prevented, but by the total subversion of human liberty ;--that should God make bare his arm, and interpose in every injustice that is committed --mankind might be said to do what was right--but, at the same time, to lose the merit of it, since they would act under force and necessity, and not from determinations of their own mind ;-that upon this supposition,-a man could with no more reason expect to go to heaven for acts of temperance, justice, and humanity, than for the ordinary impulses of hunger and thirst, which nature directed ;-that God has dealt with man upon better terms :- he has first endowe ed him with liberty and free-will ;-he has set life and death, good and evil, before him ;-that he has given him faculties to find out what will be the consequences of either way of acting, and then left him to take which course his reason and discretion:
shall point out.
I shall desist from enlarging any farther upon either of the foregoing arguments in vindication of God's providence, which are urged so often with so much force and conviction, as to leave no room for a reasonable reply ;--since the miseries which befall the good, and the seeming happiness of the wicked, could not be otherwise in such a free state and condition as this in which we are placed.
In all charges of this kind, we generally take two things for granted :-Ist, That in the instances we give, we know certainly the good from the bad ;-and, 2dly, The respective state of their enjoyments or sufferings.
I shall therefore, in the remaining part of my discourse, take up your time with short inquiry into the difficulties of coming not only at the true characters of men--but likewise of knowing the degrees either of their real happiness or misery in this life.
The first of these will teach us candour in our judgment of others ;-the second,--to which I shall confine myself --will teach us humility in our reasonings upon the ways of God.
For though the miseries of the good, and the prosperity of the wicked, are not in general to be denied,~-yet I shall endeavour to shew, that the particolar instances we are apt to produce, when we cry out in the words of the Psalmist, “ Lo! these are “the ungodly,—these prosper, and are happy in the « world;'-I say, I shall endeavour to shew, that we are so ignorant of the articles of the charge, -and the evidence we go upon to make them good, is lame and defective,--as to be sufficient by itself to to check all propensity to expostulate with God's
providence, allowing there was no other way of clearing up the matter reconcileably to his attributes.
And, first, what certain and infallible marks have we of the goodness or badness of the bulk of mankind ?
If we trust to fame and reports,—if they are good, how do we know but they may proceed from partial friendship or flattery ?--when bad, from envy or mal. ice, from ill-natured surmises and constructions of things ?-and, on both sides, from small matters aggrandized through mistake,-and sometimes through the unskilful relation of even truth itself? -From some, or all of which causes, it happens that the characters of men, like the histories of the Egyptians, are to be received and read with caution :--they are generally dressed out and disfigured with so many dreams and fables, that
ordinary reader shall not be able to distinguish truth from falsehood. But allowing these reflections to be too severe in this matter,—that no such thing as envy ever lessened a man's character, or malice blackened it-yet the characters of men are not easily penetrated, as they depend often upon the
unseen parts of a man's life. The best and truest piety is most secret; and the worst of actions, for different reasons, will be so 100.--Some men are modest and seem to take pains to hide their virlues; and, from a natural distance and reserve in their tempers, scarce suffer their good qualities to be known.--Others, on the contrary, put in practice a thousand little arts to counterfeit virtues which they have not, the better to conceal those vices which they really have ;--and this under fair