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source of happiness and joy which the world cannot give, and which the world cannot take away, this we will in our happy experience find
to give double relish to prosperity, and ease the • burden of adversity—this we shall find the best
of companions to walk with by the way, and to lie down with to rest this will sweeten our secret retirements, and carry us with ease and satisfaction through all the businesses of life and this, blessed be God, is a happiness which every one has in his own power, a happiness from which no situation nor circumstances can exclude. It was this which we find supported our apostle under all the trials, afflictions, and persecutions he was called to undergo in fulfilling the work of his ministry, and by this he rose superior to all the reproach and malice of wicked men.
In discoursing farther from these words, I propose, through the divine aid, in the first place, to consider wherein “ a conscience void of offence" consists. 2dly, To illustrate the happiness of having a good conscience, and the misery of a contrary state; and, 3dly, to draw a few inferences from the subject, with a design to engage us to seek after such a source of joy and satisfaction.I return, therefore, in the
First place, To consider wherein “a conscience “ void of offence' consists. In the text we find it divided into two heads, a consciousness of having performed our duty toward God and toward men. The obligations we lie under to love and serve God are demonstrated by the very same arguments which prove the existence and attributes of the Deity. As certainly as God is, and is possessed of all possible perfection, so certainly are we his dependent and indebted creatures bound to acknowledge with our utmost gratitude, affection, and humility, himn our almighty and gracious author, preserver, and benefactor. In order then to understand what it is to have “ “ conscience void of offence toward God,” let us consider wherein our duty to God consists, and here the language of nature and revelation are exactly he same thing, namely, “Thou shalt love “ the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with “ all thy soul, and with all thy strength: this " is the first and great commandment*. If we examine into the obligations to this duty of love to God, we will find them the greatest that can be conceived. That Eternal and Almighty whom we profess to acknowledge as the author of our existence, and of every blessing, is in himself worthy of our highest veneration and
* Matt. xxij. 37, 38.
esteem, and it is intirely owing to our ignorance of the perfections of his nature, and our inattention to the operations of his hands, that we find our hearts so coldly disposed towards an object so gloriously calculated to fill them with the warmest emotions: a strong proof at the same time, of the low and degenerate state into which human nature is sunk, as the perfection of it undoubtedly is to resemble the divine, and this resemblance is only attainable by the frequent and attentive contemplation of what is amiable and perfect in God, which will naturally produce a desire of imitation; but in man's present corrupted state, the very reverse must hold, for there can be no tendency in men to imitate the perfections of the Deity, by reason of the little inclination they have to meditate upon, and search into them, or to observe the manifestations of them, which are made in the works of creation, providence, and redemption. These manifestations however, and in especial manner, of the divine wisdom and goodness, are so very evident, have been and daily are displayed in so expressive a manner, as to render all without excuse, who are so stupid and ungrateful as to neglect and overlook them. Besides, then, that veneration and love we owe the great author of nature, on account of the perfections of his na
ture, what a glorious assemblage of additional arguments to this duty arise from the consideration of those endearing relations in which he stands to us, and the benefits he has conferred upon us.--And here, the first that strikes
is being itself, the primary, the fundamental bless. ing: that “ we live, and move, and have our be" ing,” we owe to infinite power and wisdom; that this being is in any degree comfortable, we ought to ascribe to the boundless goodness of our heavenly Father. But mere existence is far from being the whole of what we have to be thankful for. I can only at present barely mention a few particulars, without any illustration: such as the superior rank we hold in the creation, raised so highly above the other creatures which inhabit this world, being made “ wiser than the « beasts of the earth, and endued with more un
derstanding than the fowls of heaven.” Again, what is no less a blessing for its being common, we are not only endued with the forms of men, but likewise with the continued exercise of reason, which, alas! we are but too little sensible of a manifest proof of the depravity of reason. The great value of this blessing can never be duly understood, but by comparing it with a contrary situation. How many of our species, by nature or accident, have been reduced to a condition so
deplorable, that it might be justly said of them, better for them that they had never been born ; but we, all of us at least who are capable of attending to what I am now endeavouring to represent, are, blessed be the Father of Mercies, in a situation infinitely more comfortable; we know what is conducive to our happiness, we are able to judge what is for our interest, what we ought to pursue, and what to avoid; we can clearly discern wherein our chief good consists, and the way that leadeth to it. Further, the continued bounties of providence tous, ungrateful, undeserying, and disobedient, loudly call for our warmest acknowledgments :-Can we see and feel omnis potence daily, continually employed in our preservation, defending us against every danger, and supplying every want, when we have the highest reason to expect it should be armed with vengeance and fiery indignation for our utter destruction? can we unmoved behold such a display of the most amazing goodness ? Alas! the stupidity of ungrateful man, we observe, we regard none of those things. “ God is not in all “ our thoughts,” his very mercy and goodness towards us are too often abused by us to the utter neglect of the author of them.- But what most loudly calls for the gratefullest and most affectionate expressions of our hearts and lips, is ·