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ship. No law of the land can hinder one from hoarding his wealth and glutting his eyes with it night and morning, meditating of it by day and dreaming of it by night. No law can hinder him from scattering it to a scrambling mob, or drowning it in the depths of the sea, or burying it in the bowels of the earth. He might bribe honest men with it, and seduce modest women, and play the rake upon the largest, broadest scale. Such is the limitation of human law, that it could not touch him within this wide sphere of wickedness. Such is the easiness of public opinion and fashionable society, that he could bribe the one to be silent with a few acts of generosity, the other with a gay equipage and a courteous address. These several courses, and many more into which men direct their fortune, all unconscious of any faults,--as to indulge vanity, or foster pride, or pamper appetite, or gratify passion, or outpeer a rival, or humble an enemy, or nourish selfsufficiency and independence upon the providence of God, -all these, which the poor timorous eye of law beholds, but dares not challenge however it disapproves, the law of God takes up as with a touchstone, tries and condemns, and commands us to use our fortune for the sake of good,- to preserve the health of our body, and the equanimity of our mind, to procure power for the purpose of being useful, to educate our families in knowledge and wisdom, and to establish them in the most influential places, that they also may be serviceable in the highest degree to that which
is good;--at the same time, not afterwards, to supply want and succour misery, to patronize merit and uphold praiseworthy people all over the sphere of our influence ;-and, while remembering in our charity the worldly state, not to forget the religious state, but to bear up the pillars thereof, seeking out the persecuted members of Christ to protect and establish them, spreading the gospel to those who know it not, and turning our means into all directions where there is any virtue, and where there is any praise. So much for the stewardship of fortune, which is but one talent, and perhaps the coarsest, cheapest talent of the whole. There is the stewardship of power derived from station and place, and the stewardship of knowledge, a most divine talent, and of affection, and of speech, the talent most constantly in demand, and of thought, of which speech is but the current coinage, and of time so uncertain, and of a thousand others, of all which time would fail us to speak.
Now, if we engage in this sea of divine cares, endeavouring to do our utmost, then do we find this remarkable result, that our mind grows nicer and nicer in its discernment, our perceptions more delicate, and our views of duty more enlarged. We are like travellers in a mountainous country; if we stand in the valley, mountains surround us; if we ascend these mountains, it is but a wider view of mountains to be surpassed.—But the traveller at length, by perseverance, arrives at the peaceful valley, where he may rest from his labours and talk over the hardships which he hath passed. Whereas this task grows incessantly during the whole of life; as we extinguish it at one end, it grows more perseveringly and more rapidly at the other. It is, in no figurative but in a true sense, a Herculean labour; for while you strike off
, one head, two others spring up in its stead. Every one will discover by experience, when he sets his shoulders to the mighty work of keeping the Ìaw of God, that what he succeeds in is but a scantling of what he fails in. In the obedience of every other law we may be guiltless. We may pass the bounds of duty and become meritorious and honorary members of the family of the social circle, or of the state; but we are our own accusers before the law of God, and the better we become, the more violently we accuse ourselves; which is a phenomenon the inexperienced can by no means understand. David well expressed this truth when he said it was light to the eyes;--for as light openeth to the eye the wonderfel works of God, which without it seemed one pall of darkness, so the law openeth to the conscience the multitude of duties, of which formerly it discerned neither the boundless compass nor the infinite number; so that, in the language of St. Paul, by the law is the knowledge of sin. Many men have discoursed eloquently of the nice tact which conscience arrives at by reason of use; but beyond all eloquent attestations is the fact, that the men most faithfully and diligently, and, to all appearance, most successfully employed in the fulfilment of the law, are the men who most distinctly perceive and most loudly lament their short
comings. I need not quote Paul's heavy accusation of himself, in the viith of the Romans, because it is well known; but I cannot forbear a quotation from the writings of one who was a pattern of holiness—the judicious Hooker—who thus expresseth himself in his discourse of Justification: “ There is no man's case so dangerous as his whom Satan hath persuaded that his own righteousness shall present him pure and blameless in the sight of God. If we could say we were not guilty of any thing at all in our consciences, (we know ourselves far from this innocency, we cannot say we know nothing by ourselves but if we could) should we therefore plead not guilty before the presence of our Judge that sees farther into our hearts than we ourselves can do? If our hands did never offer violence to our brother, a bloody thought doth prove us murderers, before him. If we had never offered to open our mouth to utter any scandalous, offensive, or hurtful word, the cry of our secret cogitations is heard in the ears of God. . If we did not commit the sins which daily and hourly, either in deed, word, or thought, we do commit, yet in the good things which we do how many defects are there intermingled! God, in that which is done, respecteth the mind and the intention of the doer. Cut off, then, all those things wherein we have regarded our own glory, those things which men do to please men, and satisfy our own liking, those things which we do for any by-respect, not sincerely and purely for the love of God, and a small score will serve for the number of our righteous deeds. Let the holiest and
best things which we do be considered. We are never better affected unto God than when we pray; yet when we pray how are our affections many times distracted! how little reverence do we show unto the grand majesty of God, unto whom we speak / how little remorse of our own miseries! how little taste of the sweet influence of his tender mercies do we feel! Are we not as unwilling many times to begin and as glad to make an end, as if, in saying, Call upon me, he had set us a very burdensome task. It may seem somewhat extreme which I will speak, therefore let every one judge of it, even as his own heart shall tell him and no otherwise.--I will but only make a demand : If God should yield unto us, not as unto Abraham, if fifty, forty, thirty, twenty, yea, or if ten good persons could be found in a city, for their sakes the city should not be destroyed—but if he should make his offer thus large-search all the generations of men sithence the fall of our father Adam, find one man that hath done one action which hath passed from him pure, without any stain or blemish at all, and for that one action neither man nor angel shall feel the torments which were prepared for both. Do you think that this ransom to deliver men and angels could be found to be among the sons of men ?”
” The same sense of utter deficiency, which is expressed in the above passage with such a compass of thought and language, is experienced by every one who examines his life by the law of God. Much he will see that he has never attempted, and in every thing that he has attempted,