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its object. God treats all his children with the same discipline of love, though it may vary in the mode of administration, according to the nature of our case and of our wants; our joy should therefore flow in the same even, clear, and regular channel, whether we suffer want, or our cup runs over, whether our day is covered with clouds and thick darkness, or a brighter sun shine upon our tabernacle. What abundant materials have we then for joy in the various scenes of nature, and in the various colours of our lot in life. Whatever we see or suffer, is the effect of love; whereever we direct our steps, we are conducted by the hand of love. The smallest atom of matter, the meanest reptile, every flower of the field, the lily of the valley, and the humblest shrub, no less than the cedars of Lebanon, suggest a lesson of devotion, as in themselves they speak a Divine hand, and are besides necessary parts of that great and general system of the universe, whose author and governor is Love.
How happy a principle or passion is this, which consecrates as it were every object in nature, and every circumstance and condition of life. It cheers our darkness, and adds lustre to our brightest hours: it gives an angel's smile to the sickly cheek, gilds the tears of the penitent, and lightens the pilgrim's weary steps in the journey of life. Love finds, or makes, every thing easy and happy around it--for it sees God in all; sees all things in the softest light, and in the most delightful view; enjoys every element and every season, and has the purest taste and fullest relish of nature's various productions and appearances, which the lover of God considers as the order of Providence, and the effect of supreme, infinite, immutable, neverending, unchangeable Love.
This God is the God we adore,
Our faithful unchangeable friend,
And neither knows measure nor end.
Whose hand shall conduct us safe home;
And trust him for all that's to come.
RELIGION AND VIRTUE-concluded
How easy is our yoke! how light our load!
SOAME JENYNS. A VIRTUOUS character has the best security of being happy in the present life. Nothing is plainer than that, if we regard only our temporal interest, a virtuous course is the safest. In order to be sensible of this, we should think of the troubles which men very often bring upon themselves by deviating from integrity. It is very difficult to continue in dishonesty and falsehood, without falling into perplexity and distress. A man in such a course suspects every one, and is suspected by all. He wants the love of his fellow-creatures. He is obliged to be continually on his guard, to evade law and justice. He walks in the dark along a crooked path, full of snares and pits. On the contrary, the path of Virtue is straight and broad. It is smooth, open, and easy. He that walks in it walks in the light, and may go on with resolution and confidence, inviting rather than avoiding the inspection of his fellow creatures. He is apprehensive
of no dangers. He is afraid of no detection. He is liable to none of the causes of shame and disgrace. It is an advantage to him to be observed and watched. The more narrowly his conduct is examined, the more he will be loved and respected.
A person, for instance, who, in the affairs of trade, deviates from truth and honour, is likely to fall into greater calamities. Want, and trouble, and infamy, often prove his lot. Most of us have been witnesses of this. How many instances are there of persons who, forsaking the plain path of uprightness, have entangled themselves beyond the possibility of being extricated, and involved their families in the deepest misery, but who, probably, had they been honest, would have escaped every difficulty, and passed through life easily and happily! We know not, indeed, what we do, when we turn aside from virtue and righteousness. Such a train of consequences may follow, as will terminate in the loss of all that is valuable. It is past doubt, that, in every profession and calling, the way of uprightness is the most free from perplexity. It is the path of peace and satisfaction. He that keeps in it will at least avoid the pain of a reproaching conscience. He is sure of enjoying his own approbation; and it may be expected that his worldly affairs will go on smoothly, quietly, and comfortably.
Virtuous conduct is commonly the surest way to obtain success in our worldly concerns, though not always the shortest. There are many more expeditious ways of getting money, and acquiring fortunes. He that will violate the rules of justice, or break the laws of his country, or scruple not to take false oaths, may easily get the start of an upright man, and rise in a little time to wealth and preferment. It is often in a man's power, by a base action, to introduce himself at once into ease and plenty. But wretched are those men who secure any worldly advantages by such methods. There is a canker at the root of their successes and riches. What they gain is unspeakably less than what they lose. It is attended with
inward anguish, with the frown of Heaven, and inconceivable future danger. Universal experience has proved, that, agreeably to a common and excellent maxim, "honesty is the best policy." It may be slow in its operation; and, for this reason, many persons have not patience enough for it. But it is in the end certain. An upright man must recommend himself by degrees to all that know him. He has always the greatest credit, and the most unembarrassed affairs. There are few who are not disposed to place confidence in him, and who do not choose to deal with him. The few disadvantages, therefore, under which he labours, are counterbalanced by many great benefits. He may not be able to thrive so fast nor so much as others. He is obliged to deny himself the gains which others make by the malpractices common to their trade; and, on this account, he may be under a necessity of contenting himself with small gains. But it must be considered, that he can seldom fail of a tolerable subsistence, attended with comfort, and the truest enjoyment of himself. Though his gains may be small, they are always sweet. He has with them an easy conscience, the blessing of God, and security against numberless grievous evils. And the smallest gains of this sort are infinitely preferable to the greatest gains that can be obtained by wrong methods.
After this life is over, we are to enter on another world. Nothing, therefore, can be of more consequence to us than to know by what means we may secure the best portion and the greatest happiness in a future state; and it cannot be doubted that the practice of religious goodness in this probationary state is the proper and only means to be used for the purpose. If any thing is clear, it is that the upright and the worthy, in all events, will stand the best chance of escaping misery and obtaining happiness. That our happiness hereafter will depend on our conduct here, is certain, because we find, that the happiness of every successive period of human life is made to depend, in a great measure, on our conduct during
that which preceded it. The happiness of mature life depends on the habits acquired, and the pains taken, in early life; and mature life spent in folly and vice generally makes a miserable old age. No one, indeed, can well carry infidelity so far as to deny, that, if there is a future state, it is likely that the righteous will fare better in it than the wicked. All we observe of the government of the Deity, and all that we can learn with respect to his character, leads us to believe that he must approve of righteousness and discountenance wickedness; and, in the same proportion that he does this, must he favour the one and discountenance the other. We see, in the whole constitution of the world, many great evils annexed to wickedness, and many great blessings annexed to righteousness; and we see, likewise, in the one an essential tendency to produce universal evil and misery, and in the other an essential tendency to produce universal good and happiness. This demonstrates to us the holy disposition of the Author of nature; and what we ought to reckon upon is, that he will manifest this disposition more and more, in the scheme of moral government hereafter to be completed. To act righteously, is to act like God: it is to promote the order of his creation it is to go into his constitution of nature: it is to follow that conscience which he has given us for a guide to our conduct. It must, therefore, be the likeliest way to arrive at happiness, and to guard against misery, under his government. The accountableness of our natures, and our necessary perceptions of excellence in Virtue, demonstrate this; nor is it at all conceivable that we do not go upon sure grounds when we draw this conclusion. But there is much more to be here observed. There are many reasons which prove, that the neglect of Virtue may be followed by a dreadful punishment hereafter. The presages of conscience; the concurring voice of mankind in all ages; our unavoidable apprehensions of ill-desert in vice; and the distress now produced by it,-are sufficient to lead us to expect this. The Christian Religion confirms this expectation in a manner