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THE LORD, I will joy in the God of MY SALVATION.
We shall enter fully into the views of the text, if we consider the different feelings of vice and virtue, in the two grand states of human life, prosperity and adversity.
In general, wickedness, upon the lowest calculation, has not greater pretensions to the outward conveniences of life than sincere virtue. The man, who lives in the fear of God, and makes a conscience of his actions, where he exercises the real virtues of active life, must be as truly great, as his unrighteous neighbour.
What, though his inflexible probity stoops not to many sordid means of enriching himself, which the other embraces; what though his diffusive charity scatters some of those superfluities, which the other carefully scrapes together, and anxiously hoards up to enlarge and multiply his possessions? Yet he gets as much as he desires; and, for
that that reason, is the truly happy man. His desires are not an insatiable tormenting thirst: he is ever at peace with himself: whatever he acquires, he acquires with integrity, and enjoys with sobriety: It is sanctified by theblessing of God: it is unmixed with anxiety, fear, shame, or remorse: his eye can view it, and his mind reflect upon it, with an innocent exultation.
What though his temperance refrains from many gratifications, which the sons of licentious pleasure greedily embrace? He is much happier in the discipline of his passions: the pleasures of religion are his reward; chearful easy health is the reward of his temperance; a smiling train of children, whom he owns with innocence, whom he views with complacency, with an ever-growing delight, who share and augment his joys, who rise up to prop and comfort his declining age, these
are the rewards of his virtuous Measures.
Pray'now consider, what has the wicked to set up in competition with these things? Give him what outward blessings you please, let the world smile upon him, and fortune flow in upon him, and outstrip his industry, and even his wishes in her indulgence; yet what is this to a man, who wants peace at home, where all happiness must begin ? * It is the mind, that relishes what we have: if that is distempered, outward things lose their satisfaction.
We deceive ourselves miserably in this matter. The world admires the glare and splendor of an outward figure. We would fain flatter ourselves, that this outward appendage is some com
* Non domus et fundus, non æris acervus et auri
pensation pensation for the inward feelings of an aching mind, to which the world is an entire stranger.
A Weak delusion! too vain, to deceive us, even amidst the fondness of our own wishes! For we know at the fame time, the world would despise us, if they knew our inward misery; and this consciousness destroys the whole of the consolation. Nay, we despise ourselves, for endeavouring to put a cheat upon the world, which in effect affords us no solid satisfaction.
Amidst all the artifices of self-deception, this is clear: the comfort of a good conscience is the best of treasures, it may endear a very little to a good mind; but no affluence or abundance can mitigate the feelings of a wounded conscience.
If this be the case in affluence; what can a bad man do, in the dismal trials of adversity?
All. men are certainly exposed alike
to the changes and reverses of fortune. Misfortunes as often overtake the wicked as his righteous neighbour. He may plan, and contrive, strengthen himself in his wickedness, and think himself secure, and cry, tujh! J Jball never be cajl down, no harm can happen unto me— but often, besides the natural uncertainty of human things, some stroke of justice, or unavoidable consequence of his own vices, overtakes him in the midst of his security, and leaves him at once without the comforts of this and * better world, to support him under this distress.
What can be conceived more miserable than a sinner in affliction; a wretch contending with the bitter fruits of his own vices! See the criminal in the hands of justice ; or the libertine amidst the poverty and diseases entailed upon him by his debaucheries! — What a figure is that — how little of the man do you see there! — For what has he to