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sure, or whatever he thinks will contribute most to his happiness on earth. When he rises in
. the morning, he considers how he can in the course of the day get most money, or enjoy most pleasure. In his behaviour to other men he is perhaps honest, because he is afraid of the laws of his country; good-natured, when it does not interfere with his own interest ; a good husband and father, if he love his wife or children, and as long as they contribute to his pleasure; a good subject, if he have sense enough to see that it is every man's interest to be one. Such a man may pass through life with a decent character ; for if he be prudent, and really consider only his own comfort in this world, he will take care of his affairs, he will endeavour to gain friends, and he will avoid vices which are always attended with shame and misery ; but all this while he is not a good man, because he does his own will, and not the will of God. When the hour of trial comes, this will be often evident to the world, as it always is to the eye of God. If it should happen that this man could get some great advantage by dishonesty, in a way which did not expose him to shame or punishment, what should restrain him from doing it ?
or vexation should ruffle his temper, he is no longer the pleasant companion, the kind husband or father. If bad company entice him to join in riot or rebellion, from which he expects some advantage to himself, he is no longer a loyal subject. In short, whenever he thinks it for his interest to do wrong, there is reason to fear that he will do it, for he has no principles to prevent bim. And when the hour comes, which must come to all, when the body returns to the dust of which it was formed, and the spirit returns to God who gave it; with what comfort can that man look back on his past life? With what hope can he look forward to the judgment of the great day?
But the good man has the fear of God always before his eyes, and the love of God always in his heart. When he begins each day, he considers how he can best please God; he resigns himself to his direction, he trusts in his care, he humbly prays
for his assistance, and then goes on his way rejoicing. He follows the honest duties of his station, because God has said to every son of Adam, “ In the sweat of thy face thou must eat bread."* If he be rich and prosperous in
* Gen. iii. 19.
life, he does not consider that as a reason why he should be idle. He knows that to whom much is given, of him shall be much required ; and he endeavours to do all the good he can. If he be poor and distressed, he knows it is the will of God, and he submits with cheerfulness. He remembers that his Saviour was poor, that he had not where to lay his head; and he knows that the same Saviour is able to raise the poorest and meanest man on earth to be the greatest in heaven. He is honest, though no eye behold him, for he knows that he cannot be hid from the sight of God. He is cheerful, because his mind is free from the guilt of any deliberate sin, and full of the hopes of immortality. He is kind to all his relations and friends, not only to the good and gentle, but also to the froward; for his sake who maketh his sun to shine on the evil and on the good. He is kind even to his enemies, after the example of him who prayed for his murderers. He is loyal and faithful to his king, because the King of kings commands it. At the close of every day he considers whether he has done the will of God, in that station to which He has called him. He endeavours to recollect all his faults, and he humbly begs forgiveness
through Jesus Christ; he prays for his friends and relations, and even for his enemies; and then, in charity with all the world, he lays him down in peace, and takes his rest. He sees the hand of God in every thing. In prosperity, he thanks him for the blessings he enjoys; in affliction, he acknowledges the kind severity of his Heavenly Father. In sickness, he is humble and patient ; in death, he is resigned and happy. He is found in his Father's house, the church; and is constant in all the public as well as private duties of religion. In every action of life he considers what is his duty. He asks with St. Paul, « LORD, what wilt thou have me to do?"* and when he has finished his appointed work, and is called to receive the reward which has been graciously promised to every good and faithful servant, still looking unto JESUS the Author and Finisher of his faith, he may with humble hope and pious resignation say, Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit!"
And now, my brethren, let me entreat every . one who hears me, to consider with himself to which of these descriptions of men he belongs. The question is of infinite importance, for his
* Acts ix.6.
happiness or misery in the next world depends upon it. All other distinctions must be ended by death; high and low, rich and poor, learned
, and ignorant, all will then be equal; but this most important of all distinctions will remain for ever. It is a question which every man must ask of his own conscience, and which only his own conscience can answer.
We must not presume to decide on the characters of other men, except as far as their words and actions are known to us. God only knows their hearts. It is true that a good and a bad man may in many respects act in the same manner. Both may preserve a decent appearance to the world; both may eat the bread of honest industry, and appear to lead a harmless life, and yet their hearts may be very different; but He only who knows the heart, can tell this: we must always be careful to guard against uncharitable suspicions, for charity thinketh no evil, If our neighbour live in open neglect of his duties to God and man, we ought to express our dislike of such conduct; but when he appears to act rightly, we should not allow ourselves to suspect his motives, without very good reason for doing
But in your own case, you cannot be too watchful, or too suspicious; and in order to know