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the body and mind, are perfected by use; and it is by the fame means that the eye of faith is alfo ftrengthened, and taught to carry its views to the remoteft futurity. By degrees we shall learn to allow for the diftances of Jpiritual, as we do every day for thofe of fenfible, objects; and, by long attention to their greatness, forget or difregard their remoteness, and fee them in their full fize and proportion. A tafte for religious meditations will grow upon us every day; and, by conftant perfeverance, we fhall fo refine our fentiments and purify our affections, as to become what the Scriptures call fpiritually minded; to live, as it were, out of the body; and to walk by faith as steadily and as furely as we ufed to do by fight.
III. Nothing is fo apt to wear off that reverence for virtue, and abhorrence of vice, with which all well-principled men enter into the world, as a conftant commerce with the world. If we have had the happiness of a good education, our first judgments of men and things are generally right. We deteft all appearance of basenefs, artifice, and hypocrify: we love every thing that is fair, open, honeft, and generous. But how feldom does it happen, that we carry these fentiments along with
us, and act in conformity to them, through life. How feldom does it happen, that we are proof against the freedom of converfation, or the contagion of example, which infenfibly corrupt the fimplicity of our hearts, and distort the uprightness of our opinions. We are aware, perhaps, of the open attacks upon our virtue, which every one may fee, and guard against, if he pleases; but it is not every one that fees thofe more fecret enemies, that are perpetually at work, undermining his integrity. It is fcarce poffible to be always with the multitude, without falling in with its fentiments, and following it to do evil, though we never intended it. The croud carries us involuntarily forward, without our feeming to take one step ourselves in the way that they are going. We learn, by degrees, to think with lefs abhorrence on what we fee every day practifed. and applauded. We learn to look on bad examples with complacency; and it is but too eafy a tranfition, from feeing vice without disgust, to practising it without remorfe. We quickly find out the act of accommodating our duty to our interefts, and making our opinions bend to our inclinations. We lofe fight of the
honeft notions we first set out with, and adopt others more pliant in their ftead. The iffues of life thus corrupted, the infection foon spreads itself to our actions. We are enflaved by habits, without feeling the chain thrown over us, and become guilty of crimes, which we once could not think of without fhuddering. It is, therefore, of the last confequence, to step afide fometimes from the world, in order to compare our present way of thinking and acting with our paft; to try and fift ourselves thoroughly; " to search out our spirits, and seek "the very ground of our hearts; to prove and
examine our thoughts; to look well, ex"tremely well, if there be any way of wick
edness in us; that if there be, we may turn ❝ from it into the way everlasting."
IV. As by frequently converfing with a man, we may gain a tolerable infight into his true temper and difpofition; fo a repeated communion with our own hearts. brings us. intimately and entirely acquainted with them; discovers to us their weak fides, their leading propenfities, and ruling foibles. It lays open to us all their windings and receffes, their frauds and fubtleties. We penetrate through the
the thin covering of their fair pretences, into their real motives. We fee, that in most cases it is hazardous to indulge their fuggeftions too eafily and too often: we fee, that one compliance only paves the way for a fecond, till we have it no longer in our power to refuse their folicitations. Hence we learn to be jealous of their encroachments, and to suspect their most fpecious propofals. We keep a ftri& eye over all their motions, and guard every iffue of life with the utmost diligence. By tracing the progrefs of our paffions on former occafions, and obferving the fatal mischiefs that followed from fuffering them to gain the afcendancy over us, we shall learn the proper art of managing and fubduing them; we shall acquire that extremely neceffary science of felf-government, those admirable habits of prudence and circumfpection, which, however by some men neglected and defpifed, we shall find to be exceedingly conducive to right conduct and real happiness. Without thus reflecting on our past miscarriages, and enquiring into their causes, we muft for ever fall into the fame miftakes, be deceived by the fame appearances, furprized by the fame artifices, and lofe the G 4 only
only confolation (poor as it is) which our past follies and tranfgreffions can afford us, experience,
Such are the more general uses of religious retirement and reflexion; but they will have more peculiar advantages, according to the particular situation that we are placed in,
If Providence has caft our lot in a fair ground, has given us a goodly heritage, and bleffed us with a large proportion of every thing that is held most valuable in this world, rank, power, wealth, beauty, health, and ftrength; though we may then, perhaps, be lefs difpofed, yet have we more occafion for selfcommunion than ever. Reflexion will, at that time, be particularly needful, to check the extravagance of our joy; to preserve us from vanity and self-conceit; to keep our pampered appetites in fubjection; to guard us from the dangers of profperity and the temptations of luxury, from diffipation and debauchery, from pride and infolence, from that wanton cruelty and incredible hardness of heart, which high fpirits and uninterrupted happiness too often produce. Instead of these wild exceffes, religious meditation will turn the overflowings of