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in their apprehensions; and their vices, being overlooked, are lost sight of and forgotten, and then it is no wonder that the judgment they form of themselves is not just, or according to truth, but greatly too much in their favouri; so that they often cry peace, peace to themselves, when there is. to peace.
This is the same principle in human nature tliat leads men to detract from the merit of others. To think other persons liewer than themselves is a sensible mortification to thema' In order, therefore, to bring them to, and, if possible, below, their own levet, they aggravate their faults, and put some una favourable construction on their best actions: And when mér find their secount in entertaining kviy particular opinicar concerning themselves, or others, from having a previous disposition towards eittertaining it, they gerierally succeed. It is not so very diffoul or wncuinaiou a thing for a man to impege upon himself. cremis v From this it is easy to uler, that were the regards of men to be fixed on any imperfect being like themselves, though ever so excellent, and it were required of them to be as wise and good, but not wiser or bétier; such a' rule would, through their natural self-conceit, be hurtful to them; as,
on some pretence or other, they might imagine: they were already as good as they were required to be, at the same time that their very self-conceit: would argue them to be destitute of the most es. sential of all virtues, and the foundation of almost. every other, viz. humility, and a diffidence of a man's self. For where there is this humility, or a disposition to undervalue rather than to overvalue their attainments, there will be a desire, and an endeavor, to improve; whereas pride and self con ceit preclude all farther proficiency in any thing.
Wisely, therefore, has it been the object of the divine care to leave no room, no pretence whatever, for this corrupt leaven to insinuate itself into the hearts of men, by giving us a pattern of virtue. and goodness which no man, in the sober use of his senses, can ever imagine he can fully come up to; a standard, by which if he rightly measure himself and his attainments, he must ever be sen. sible of great defects; to remove which will be a constant motive with him to exert himself to the utmost, to employ all the force of his faculties, to leave nothing untried, that can be of any use to improve his disposition, and reform his conduct; that he may produce in both a nearer likeness than he has yet attained to of tlie all-perfect nature, and
the righteous conduct, of the Divine Being, who is righteous in all his ways, and holy in all his works. Ps. XIV. 17.
While we consider what is proposed to us only as a pattern to copy after, it cannot be too perfect; because the more perfect it is, the surer guide it is for us to follow, and the less danger there is of our being misled by it. We are discouraged only when we consider ourselves as obliged, under some pains and penalty, to coine perfectly up to our pattern. To consider the character and conduct of the Divine Being in this light might justly discourage us in our endeavours to imitate it. The idea of such an obligation must cut off all hope of success; and where there is no room for hope, there is no motive to endeavour. In this situation men could not be expected to become wiser or better.
But this is not our case. Our heavenly Fa. ther has been pleased to recommend himself and his conduct to us as a pattern for our imitation, that by the contemplation of the perfections of his nature, we might form to ourselves the justest ideas of true excellence, and thereby know how to direct our endeavours after it; but at the same time, knowing our frame, he is not so unreasona
ble as to expect we should eyer, in any state, and much less in this, perfectly come up to it. The imitation of the Divine Being, therefore, as it is recommended to us in the Gospel, is a noble advantage to us in a course of virtue, and no discouragement or hindrance whatever.
This, moreover, is an advantage peculiar to our holy religion, and therefore what we ought to value ourselves upon, and by no means neglect to avail ourselves of. With what colour could the heathens preach, and philosophers recommend the examples of the gods that they worshipped to the imitation of their worshippers, many of whom (all that were not inanimate parts of nature as the sun, moon, and stars, &c.) had been men like. themselves, and some of them vicious in proportion to their power. They, therefore, wisely declined insisting upon this topic. Whatever they say to recommend a life of sobriety and virtue, they never mention the example of their gods.
But in a christian country there is no reason why any teacher of virtue should be silent on this head since there is nothing in the character or conduct of the God that we worship that we need be ashamed to mention, and expose to the view of
mankind. So uniformly great and excellent is his character and conduct, that there is no view we can take of them but what tends to inspire our hearts with an abhorrence of vice, and the love of virtue and goodness. To enlarge on this subject is needless. None of us Í'trust are so uracquaint: ed with God, as not to know that he is essentially righteous and holy, and that' a righteous Lord must love righteousness, and hate iniquity. For what we esteem and practice ourselves we love in others.
There is no one vice that men are addicted to, but a reflection on the nature and conduct of the Divine Being must fill us with shame and confusion' for it. Hás selfishness an ascendancy over us? Do our views and actions center too much in ourselves, and do we not enter with proper svarmth into the interests of others? What must we think of ourselves, and of this narrow disposition, when we'reflect on the universal disinterest ed ease and bounty of the Divine Being, all whose purposes and works have for their object the happiness of others, viz. that of the various crcatures that he has made, who is so far from confining his goodness to himself, or those whom we may call his friends, that even his enemies partake of