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on this subject, cases will occur, where they will either desert or mislead us; but this is a never failing friend and guide. If we judge of the value of a principle by it's effects, there is no acquisition more worthy of our esteem than this is; for there is nothing which produces such happy consequences. Yet piety is not so much respected in the world as one might be led to expect from it's great excellence. By many it is viewed, if not with contempt, yet with great indifference, as occupying the lowest place among human virtues; while in fact it merits the highest place; while the benevolent character is esteemed and caressed by all. So highly is it valued, and so general is the opinion of it's supreme excellence, that acts of benevolence are considered and spoken of as constituting the very essence of goodness, and as being virtue itself. The reason of this preference it is not difficult to discover. Piety is confined to the mind, or can only manifest itself by acts, which are known to ourselves and the Supreme Being, and is often professed where it is not really felt, and assumed only to cover the worst designs and the vilest hypocrisy. On this account, as the pretensions to it have often proved ill founded, it has fallen into contempt. Whereas the effects of benevolence are conspicuous to all, and felt by many as well as seen.
Yet if these two virtues be weighed in the balance of justice, there will be no doubt to which the superiority belongs. Piety, where it is genuine, is a
certain principle of right conduct, and leads to or includes in it every other virtue, and benevolence with the rest. But benevolence does not always imply piety ; for a considerable deal of good may be done to men, where there is no regard to God and not much good will to men, either for the sake of the applause which accompanies it, or the power which it communicates, or from some other sinister motive; in which case it ceases to be virtuous, and, when founded on such principles, will not in fact perform any extensive good to the world; for when any offensive services are to be performed for mankind, this kind of benevolence will give a man no aid. It leads him to desert his duty, as soon as that duty renders him obnoxious; but here it is that piety would have given him effectual support.
But, although the virtue of which I have been speaking is thus lightly esteemed by the generality of mankind, those who possess it themselves, who have experienced with what difficulty it is acquired, and know what happy effects it produces, have learnt to place upon it a proper value: by them it is regarded as the first and best quality of the human mind.
Secondly, we may learn what mischief they are doing to the world, who endeavour to make men discard revelation, which furnishes us with the most certain and satisfactory account of the perfections and administration of God. They are destroying the foundation of good morals; they are labouring
to deprive us of the only stable principle of goodness; they would carry us out to sea and there leave us, without a rudder, without compass, without any thing that can direct us to a safe passage. And shall men listen to such advisers, after being accustomed to look for their duty in divine revelation, as contained in the Scriptures, for so many ages ? Are they now to go and learn it from other masters ? Are they to go and learn truth from Plato; humi. lity from Hume; compassion from Stoics; and purity from Grecian philosophers ? What inexcu sable folly to go back from light to darkness, from an infallible guide to one that is fallible and erroneous! If ever it take place, cursed will be the day on which such folly began: it will be big with misa chief to the human race.
Lastly; if piety be the source of so much good, and the want of it the cause of so much evil, let us take care to cultivate it in our own hearts and in those of others. To animate our endeavours in this important work, let the maxim of the text be engraven upon our hearts and ever present to our minds, that " the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.”
In whose Eyes a vile Person is contemned; but he ho
; . noureth them that fear the Lord.
IN the last verse of the Psalm, which precedes that from which these words are taken, there is an evident reference to the state of a part of the children of Israel during the unnatural rebellion of Absalom. At that time David, the author of the Psalm, and the few faithful servants who remained attached to his interests, were obliged to quit Jerusalem, the immediate residence of God, and to retire to a distant part of the country, where their situation might justly be represented as like that of captives in a foreign land. Referring to this, he closes the fourteenth Psalm with this exclamation: “ O that the salvation of Israel were come out of Sion! when the Lord bringeth back the captivity of his people, Jacob shall rejoice, and Israel shall be glad.” The principal evil, which David felt and lamented in this situation, was not the being driven from home and from his capital, but the being removed to a distance from the ark of God, and prevented from attending public worship in the tabernacle, as he had been used to