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fully satisfy and content my ambition, should I now give way to it?'
So engaging an instance of unaffected moderation and self-denial, deserves well to be considered by the bustlers in this world ;-because, if we are to trust the face and course of things, we scarce see any virtue so hard to be put in practice, and which the generality of mankind seem so unwilling to learn, as this of knowing when they have enough, and when it is time to give over their worldly pursuits. -Aye, but nothing is more easy, you will answer, than to fix this point, and set certain bounds to it.“For my own part (you will say) I declare I want, and would wish no more, but a sufficient competency of those things which are requisite to the real uses and occasions of life, suitable to have
I have been taught to expect from use and education.”-But recollect how seldom it ever happens, when these points are secured, but that new occasions and new necessities present themselves; and every day as you grow richer, fresh wants are discovered, which rise up before you as you ascend the hill ; so that every step you take,-every accession to your fortune, set your desires one degree farther from rest and satisfaction ; that something you have not yet grasped, and possibly never shall; --that devil of a phantom, unpossessed and unpossessable, is perpetually haunting you, and stepping in betwixt you and your contentment.-Unhappy crea
. ture 10 think of enjoying that. blessing without moderation !—or imagine that so sacred. a temple. can be raised upon the foundation of wealth or power !—If the ground-work is not laid within your own,
! mind, they will as soon add a cubit to your stature: as to your happiness. To be convinced it is som pray look up to those who have got as high as their warmest wishes could carry them in this ascent:do you observe they live the better, the longer, the merrier ?-or that they sleep the sounder in their beds, for having twice as much as they wanted, or well know how to dispose of ?-Of all rules for calculating happiness, this is the most deceitful, and which few but weak minds, and those unpractised in the world too, ever think of applying as the measure in such an estimation. Great and inexpressible may be the happiness which a moderate fortune and moderate desires, with a consciousness of virtue, will secure. Many are the silent pleasures of the honest peasant, who rises cheerful to his labour :why should they not ?-Look into his house, the seat of each man's happiness ;-has he not the same domestick endearments,-the same joy and comfort in his children, and as flattering hopes of their doing well, to enliven his hours and gladden his heart, as you could conceive in the highest station ?-And I make no doubt, in general, but if the true state of his joys and sufferings could be fairly balanced with those of his betters, whether any thing would appear at the foot of the account but what would recommend the moral of this discourse.This, I own, is not to be attained to by the cynical stale trick of haranguing against the goods of fortune ;_they were never intended to be talked out of the world.
-But as virtue and true wisdom lie in the middle of extremes-on one hand, not to neglect and despise riches, so as to forget ourselves; and, on the other, not to pursue and love them so as to forget God ;-to have them sometimes on our heads, but always, something more important in our hearts.
ISAIAH I. 3.
The ox knoweth his owner, and the ass his master's crib ;- but Is
rael doth not know,-my people doth not consider.
'Tis a severe but an affectionate reproach of the prophet's, laid against the Israelites, which may safely be applied to every heedless and unthankful people, who are neither won by God's mercies, nor terrified by his punishments. There is a giddy, thoughtless, intemperate spirit gone forth into the world, which possesses the generality of mankind; and the reason the world is undone is, because the world does not consider considers neither awful regard to God, nor the true relation thensselves bear to him. Could they consider this, and learn to weigh the causes, and compare the consequences of things, and to exercise the reason which God has put into us for the government and direction of our lives--there would be some hopes of a reformation.-But, as the world goes, there is no leisure for such enquiries; and so full are our minds of other matters, that we have not time to ask, nor a heart to answer the questions we ought to put to ourselves.
Whatever our condition is, 'tis good to be acquainted with it in time, to be able to supply what is wanting, and examine the state of our accounts
before we come to give them up to an impartial judge.
The most inconsiderate see the reasonableness of this—there being few, I believe, either so thoughtless--or even so bad, but that they sometimes enter upon this duty, and have some short intervals of self-examination, which they are forced upon, if from no other inotive, yet at least to free themselves from the load and oppression of spirits they must necessarily be subject to without it.—But as the scripture frequently intimates, and observation confirms its daily,—that there are many mistakes attending the discharge of this duty.- I cannot make the remainder of this discourse more useful, than by a short enquiry into them. I shall therefore, first, beg leave to remind you of some of the many unhappy ways by which we often set about this irk, some task of examining our works, without being either the better or the wiser for the employment.
And, first, then let us begin with that which is the foundation of all the other false measures we take in this matter ;-that is, the setting about the examination of our works, before we are prepared with honest dispositions to amend them :- this is beginning the work at the wrong end. These previous dispositions in the heart, are the wheels that should make this work go easily and successfully forwards; —and to take them off, and proceed without them, 'tis no miracle, if, like Pharaoh's chariots, they that drive them,-drive them heavily along.
Besides, if a man is not sincerely inclined to reform his faults,—'tis not likely he should be inclined to see them ;- nor will all, the weekly preparations that ever were wrote, bring him nearer the
point :-so that with how serious a face soever he begins to examine,-he no longer does the office of an enquirer,--but an apologist; whose business is not to search for 'truth,—but skilfully to hide it. So long, therefore, as this pre-engagement lasts betwixt the man and his old habits, there is little prospect of proving his works to any good purpose, -of whatever kind they are, with so strong an interest and power on their side.--As in other trials, so in this, 'tis no wonder if the evidence is puzzled and confounded, and the several facts and circumstances so twisted from their natural shapes, and the whole proof so altered and confirmed on the other side,--as to leave the last state of that man even worse than the first.
A second unhappy, though general, mistake in this great duty of proving our works, is that which the apostle hints at ; in the doing it, not by a direct examination of our own actions, but from a comparative view of them with the lives and actions of oth
When a man is going to enter upon this work of self-examination,—there is nothing so common as to see him look round him,-instead of looking with. in him. He looks round,—finds out some one who is more malicious-sees another that is more copo etous a third that is more proud and imperious than himself;-and so indirectly forms a judgment of himself, not from a review of his life, and a proving of his own works, as the apostle directs him, but rather from proving the works of others, and from their infirmities and defects, drawing a deceitful conclusion in favour of himself. In all competitions of this kind,one may venture to say, there