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visit us of their own accord, if we be serious and hearty in our religion. A well-spent life will impart its support to the spirits, without any endeavour, on our part, to call up our merits to our view, or even allowing the idea of merit to take possession of our minds. There will in this respect, always be as much difference, as there ought to be, between the righteous man and the sinner; (or, to speak more properly, between sinners of different degrees,) without taking pains to draw forth in our recollection instances of our virtue, or to institute a comparison between ourselves and others, or certain others of our acquaintance. These are habits, which I hold to be unchristian and wrong;
and that the true way of finding and feeling the consolations of religion, is by progressively conquering our sins. Think of these; contend with these; and, if you contend with sincerity and with effect, which is the proof indeed of sincerity, I will answer for the comforts of religion being your portion. What is it that disturbs our religious tranquillity? What is it that embitters or impairs our religious
comfort, damps and checks our religious hopes, hinders us from relishing and entertaining these ideas, from turning to them, as a supply of consolation under all circumstances ? What is it but our sins? Depend upon it, that it is sin, and nothing else, which spoils our religious comfort. Cleanse your heart from sin, and religion will enter in, with all her train of hopes and consolation. For proof of this, we may, as before, refer to the examples of scripture christians. They rejoiced in the Lord continually. “The joy of faith.” Phil. i. 25. “Joy in the Holy Ghost,” Rom. xiv. 17. was the word in their mouths, the sentiment of their hearts. They spake of their religion, as of a strong consolation, as of the “refuge, to which they had fled, as of the hope, of which they had laid hold, of an anchor of the soul sure and steadfast.” Heb. vi. 18, 19. The promise from the Lord Jesus Christ was, “your heart shall rejoice, and your joy no man taketh from you.” John xvi. 22.
Was this promise fulfilled to them? Read Acts xiii. 52. “They
were filled with joy and the Holy Ghost.” “ The Kingdom of God,” saith St. Paul, “ is joy in the Holy Ghost.” Rom. xiv. 17. So that St. Paul, you hear, takes his very description and definition of christianity from the joy which is diffused over the heart; and St. Paul, I am very confident, described nothing but what he felt. Yet St. Paul did not meditate upon his virtues: nay, expressly renounced that sort of meditation. His meditations, on the contrary, were fixed upon his own unworthiness, and upon the exceeding, stupendous mercy of God towards him, through Jesus Christ his Saviour: at least, we have his own authority for saying, that, in his christian progress, he never looked back; he forgot that which was behind, whatever it might be, which he had already attained; he refused to remem. ber it, he put it out of his thoughts. Yet, upon this topic of religious joy, hear him again; “we joy in God through our Lord Jesus Christ ; Rom. v. 11. and once more, the fruit of the
" Spirit is love, joy, peace.” Gal. v. 22. These last are three memorable words, and they de
scribe, not the effects of ruminating upon a man's own virtues, but the fruit of the Spirit.
But it is not in one Apostle, in whom we find this temper of mind, it is in them all.Speaking of the Lord Jesus Christ, St. Peter thus addresses his converts, “whom, having not seen, ye love; in whom, though now ye see him not, yet believing ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory.” i Peter i. 8. This joy covered even their persecutions and sufferings : “ wherein ye greatly rejoice, though now, for a season, if need be, ye are in heaviness through manifold temptations,” i Peter i. 6. meaning persecutions. In like manner St. James saith, “ count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations, that is, persecutions ;” And why? “knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience.” James i. 4. Let no one, after these quotations, say, that it is necessary to fix our attention upon the virtues of our character, in order to taste the comforts of religion. No persons enjoyed these comforts in so great perfection, as the christians whom we read of in scripture, yet no persons thought so little of their own virtues. What they continually thought upon was the abounding love of Christ towards them, “in that, whilst they were yet sinners, he died for theni,” and the tender and exceeding mercies of God in the pardon of their sins through Christ. From this they drew tlreir consolation; but the ground and origin of this train of thought was, not the contemplation of virtue, but the conviction of sin.
But again, the custom of viewing our virtues has a strong tendency to fill us with fallacious notion's of our own state and condic tion. One, almost constant, deception is this, viz. that in whatever quality we have pretensions, or helieve that we have pretensions, to excel, that quality we place at the head of all other virtues. If we be charitable, then “ charity
, covereth a multitude of sins.” If we be strictly honest, then strict honesty is no less than the bond, which keeps society together; and, consequently, is that, without which other virtues