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FORTY-THREE SERMONS ON VARIOUS OCCASIONS.
5, 6........ The Soal Drawing near to God in Prayer ; Sios?
", B... Markelola youtube falling Short of Heaven,
24, 25........ Christian Morality, viz. Justice, Equity, and
Truth, Phil. iv. 8.
perance, Chastity, and Modesty, Phil. iv. 8.
T was a custom among the ancient Romans, to preserve in wax, the figures of those among their ancestors, who were of noble birth ; or had been more nobly advanced to the chair of honour by their personal merits. Sallust relates “ that Scipio and other great men, hy beholding these likenesses, found enkindled in their breasts, so ardent a thirst atter virtue, as could not be extinguished, till, by the glory of their own uctions, they had equalled the illustrious objects of their emulation. But it is the happiness of Christians to possess truer notions of virtue, and to be governed by infinitely higher views. We may, however, hence observe the force of example, which is peculiarly operative in those who sincerely love God. They no sooner reflect on the accounts given of such as have been eminent for their piety and zeal, than they become desirous of imbibing the same spirit*.
The advantages to be derived from theological biography, are too various to be enumerated; and of such obvious importance, as to supersede all studied encomiums. The sacred scriptures abound with relations of extraordinary occurrences in the lives of men, who were distinguished in their day by their virtues or their crimes: And, as if the Holy Spirit designed to provide for our entertainment, and to gratify our curiosity ; there is not a beauty in this species of historical writing, of which we have not some interesting example, in the inspired volume.
Each character is drawn by the hand of impartiality and faithfulness ; so that we are in no danger of being deceived by the influence of any of those passions, which so often degrade other relations of the same kind. While compassion tempers the hatred of sin, the love of truth corrects the ardor of private gratitude, the usual partiality of friendship, and the zeal of opinion. Here no excellence, whicb evidences them to be the Sons of God, is exalted above its intrinsic value; nor is any failing, common to them as the children of Adam, concealed or extenuated.
Next to these divine records, our esteem is claimed by the many valuable literary monuments which have been raised in all succeeding ages, by the labours of piety and veneration, to the remembrance of those eminent names, whom the unerring Judge of true excellence has delighted to honour.
The lives of men who have made themselves famous in the cabinet, or in the field, may instruct and animate survivors of the same profession: the intrigues of courts, the elevation and the fall of a statesman, the maneuvres of generalship, the decision of a battle, are attended to with a lively avidity by
the sanguine politician: But if characters and events in themselves little (if at all) adapted to the great purposes of intellectual and moral improvement, can create such an interest in the worldly mind, with what superior delight and advantage may the subjects of the wisdom that is from above review the lives of those who (whatever inauspicious circumstances may have attached to their origin, or to their condition in life) have exemplified the beauties of unaffected devotion, and shewn the way to true, to substantial happiness, and immortal honour ! “ Such a man, although the meanest mechanic, who employs his best affections upon the Author of his life and salvation, who loves the good, compassionates the distressed, and breathes peace and good-will to all ; who abhors vice, and pities the vicious, who subdues and triumphs over the unruly passions of his fallen nature; such a man (however low his outward condition) is the best patriot, and has more just pretensions to heroism, than he who makes the most glaring figure in the eye of an injudicious world. He is like one of the fixed stars, which through the remoteness of its situation, may be thought very
inconsiderable and obscure by unskilful beholders, yet is as truly great and glorious in itself, as those luminaries which, by being placed more commodiously for our view, shine with more distinguished lustre*.”
The christian will here see the excellence of genuine religion, in its inflı ence upon the mind and conduct through every department of life. In the znost allicted state of the Saviour's empire, he will find some bright examples of decision, unshaken confidence, and undaunted zeal. His faith in the doctrines of the gospel will be confirmed by observing the god-like tempers, and the varions lineaments of the divine character produced by the sovereign virtues of those doctrines. In such memoirs, he will learn more perfectly to distinguish between the realities and the shadows of devotion; and to decide more satisfactorily on the state of religion in his own mind; and while tracing the mysterious operations of providence, in advancing the servants of God to prosperity and happiness, by trivial and improbable means, new sources of admiration and pleasure will continually open to his view. Here in the time of difficulty, he may obtain well adapted directions for his conduct; he may meet with salutary caution amidst the allurements of worldly enjoyment; and in the prospect of suffering or dying, he may so far enter into the spirit of the characters he contemplates, as more effectually to secure the dignity of his own.
From the memorials of distinguishsd men, the student, who is seriously engaged in the pursuit of knowledge, will renew his strength, to surmount the hinderances incident to his labours, while he follows them, whose admired natural abilities have been cultivated to the highest attainable state of perfection, or whose persevering application to the means of improvement has brought to light hidden powers of genius; who were insensible to the baits of pleasure, the contagioas example of indolence and vice, and the most discouraging difficulties; who were superior to the obstinate prejudices which often persecute a low origin, the disadvantages of indigence, a sickly constitution, natural impediments, and whatever a supine and grovelling mind would pronounce insuperable. While he keeps such a character in sight, he will assume fresh courage in struggling to useful eminence; and every day his success will be less dubious. The plans they adopted, the various helps of which they availed themselves in their progress, their uniform perseverance, their acquia