« ПредишнаНапред »
and celestial objects, much to soothe them at present, and much to hope for in future. Let us, therefore, neglect no mean with which religion can furnish us, for promoting the joys, and assuaging the bitterness, of the heart. Amidst the frailties of our nature, the inconstancy of men, and the frequent changes of human life, we shall find every assistance that can be
procured little enough, for enabling us to pass our few days with tolerable comfort and peace.
ON CHARACTERS OF IMPERFECT GOODNESS.
MARK X. 21.
Then Jesus, beholding him, loved him.
The characters of men which the world presents to us are infinitely diversified. In some, either the good or the bad qualities are so predominant as strongly to mark the character ; to discriminate one person as a virtuous, another as a vicious man. In others, these qualities are so mixed together, as to leave the character doubtful. The light and the shade are so much blended, the colours of virtue and vice run in such a manner into one another, that we can hardly distinguish where the one ends, and the other begins; and we remain in suspense whether to blame or to praise. While we admire those who are thoroughly good, and detest the grossly wicked, it is proper also to bestow attention on those imperfect characters, where there
be much to praise, and somewhat to blame; and where regard to the commendable part, shall not hinder us from remarking what is defective or faulty. Such attentions will be found the more useful, as characters of this mixed sort are, more frequently than any other, exhibited to us in the commerce of society.
It was one of this sort which gave occasion to the incident recorded in the text. The incident seems to have been considered as remarkable, since it is recounted by three of the evangelical writers; and by them all, with nearly the same circumstances. The person to whom the history relates was a ruler; one of higher rank and station than those who usually resorted to Jesus. He was a rich man: he was a young man. His whole behaviour was prepossessing and engaging. He appears to have conceived a high opinion of our Lord. He addressed him with the utmost respect; and the question which he put to
him was proper and important. He kneeled to him and said, Good Master, what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life? His conduct in the world had been regular and decent. He could protest, that he had hitherto kept himself free from any gross vice; and in his dealings with others, had observed the precepts of God. Our Lord, beholding him, is said to have loved him; whence we have reason to conclude, that he was not hypocritical in his professions; and that his countenance carried the expression of good dispositions, as his speech and his manners were altogether complacent and gentle. Yet this person, amiable as he was, when his virtue was put to the test, disappointed the hopes which he had given reason to form. Attached, in all probability, to the indulgence of ease and pleasure, he wanted fortitude of mind to part with the advantages of the world, for the sake of religion. When our Lord required him to fulfil his good intentions, by relinquishing his fortune, becoming one of his followers, and preparing himself to encounter sufferings, the sacrifice appeared to him too great. Impressions of virtue however still remained on his mind. He was sensible of what he ought to have done; and regretted his want of courage to do it. He was sorrowful: he was grieved : yet he went away.
Persons of a character somewhat resembling this, all of us may have met with ; especially among
young; among those who have been liberally educated, and polished by a good society. They abhor open vice, and crimes that disturb the world. They have a respect for religion. They are willing to receive instruction for their conduct. They are modest and unassuming; respectful to their superiors in age or station ; gentle in their address; inoffensive and courteous in their whole behaviour. They are fond of obliging every one ; unwilling to hurt or displease any.-Such persons we cannot but love. We gladly promise well of them; and are disposed to forward and assist them. Yet such is the weakness of our nature, that at the bottom of this character there may lie, as we see exemplified in the instance before us, some secret and material defects. That vigour of mind, that firmness of principle,