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that we may be more than conquerors through Him that loved us”a; nor is the weight of surrounding pleasure so overpowering, but it may be sustained, if we will, with proper dependence upon the Divine assistance, put forth our own strength, and strive“ to work out our own salvation.”
Let me now conclude this momentous subject with one word of exhortation to my hearers of various classes and ages.
Study to make a general improvement in the direction of your time and thoughts. What portion of them may unhappily have been spent in idleness or vice, abandon utterly; what has been given up to frivolity, employ in purposes of real utility; and let some portion of what has been bestowed in mere utility, be henceforth consecrated to grander objects; to the acquisition of Christian knowledge and the practice of some positive Christian duty. Let the higher classes consider, when they meditate some diversion, or embark in a larger scheme of expense, whether the amusement may not now and then be resigned, and the lavish expenditure retrenched, for the purpose of encouraging humble merit, or rescuing from ruin some distressed parent or orphan child. Let the lower orders, who resort too eagerly to scenes of useless amusement or cruel diversion, betake themselves to those industrious occupations, by which they may be supported in honest independence, and their families trained not in comfort only, but in virtue.
a Rom. viii. 37.
Let all in fine accustom themselves to meditate upon the infinite difference between things earthly and things heavenly. If they feel that they are insensibly drawn aside to pursuits too much connected with earth, let them raise their thoughts and desires more continually to Heaven. While they cherish a lively sense of gratitude to the Giver of all good for the various blessings of station, or riches, or health, or knowledge, let them express it by a more unremitting and conscientious employment of these precious gifts to His glory, and the benefit of their fellow-creatures. Thus, without neglecting the real duties, or affecting to despise the allowable enjoyments of life, they will nevertheless hold all its pursuits and gratifications in due subserviency to the glorious rewards of eternity. They will cease to bestow superfluous pains and needlessly waste anxiety in the pursuit of a “perishable crown," when they look forward to that, which awaits them at the close of a good life, “ incorruptible and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in Heaven.
a 1 Pet. i. 4.
CAUTION AGAINST EXCESS EVEN IN WHAT IS RIGHT.
ECCLESIASTES VII. PART OF v. 16.
BE NOT RIGHTEOUS OVER MUCH ;
To preserve the exact course between conflicting extremes, to hit that happy medium which neither soars too high nor sinks too low, has ever been considered the great difficulty to be overcome in attaining a desired end by scientific combination or mechanical skill; as it is the rare, if not unattainable, excellence in treading the mazy path of human life. The most perfect works of human art often present but a series of contrivances for maintaining the component parts in their proper place; adjusting their due temperature; regulating their uniform motion, or counteracting an excessive or unequal exertion of power.
Thus, in the construction of a curious pendulum, the tendency of one metal to expand in too great a degree is checked by the opposite property of contraction in another. And, in a far more stupendous specimen of science and genius, the danger arising from an overpowering effect of the expansive force of steam is guarded against by the provision of a safety-valve. Such however is the inadequacy of mere human device that, in spite of every precaution, some evil will occasionally arise from an undue application of power in some one direction. Nothing indeed that we perceive in the material world can prefer any claim to perfection, but the immediate productions of Almighty power and wisdom: yet in these we find continually the principle of adjustment applied; but applied with unerring certainty to the accomplishment of a determinate end. Man alone, of all the works of the Almighty, appears to be in a state of perpetual disorder ; ever in danger of erring in some one extreme, and calling for the interposition of some restraining principle or some counteracting power.
We must not however permit the existence of a vain and mischievous surmise as to a fancied deficiency of power in that, which is really omnipotent, to render the moral part of the Creation as perfect as the material. Equally erroneous, and even impious, would be the supposition that inclination was wanting in the Divine Mind to confer the utmost possible good upon His creatures. The imperfection here has been caused by the abuse of that free will, which was bestowed in the fullest manner and for the kindest purposes. But man, though created in the image of God, disfigured that image by his own presumption-and to this afflicting cause we trace the prevalence of irregularity and disorder in that part of the Creation, which would otherwise have been the most complete and the most happy.
Among other indications of the ruin that was produced of that perfect workmanship, which proceeded from the hand of the Great Artificer, this tendency to run into some extreme-to stray from the true bias
to fail in ascertaining the precise point of excellence -a disposition either to stop short of, or to pass beyond, the limits, which Reason in some degree points out, but Revelation more distinctly marks, as boundaries of right and wrong-has been observed by almost all, who have delivered precepts upon human conduct; by heathen moralists, as well as our Sacred Instructors. The importance of caution in this respect has been so highly estimated that, among the few maxims, which conferred reputation upon a select number of Grecian Sages, was this, " Do nothing in excess.” Now the warning is unhappily no less necessary now, than it was in the time of Chilo. It is necessary even as a security to virtue ; because an extravagant advance beyond what is desirable and excellent, sometimes leads to consequences, scarcely less mischievous than such as arise from propensities, faulty in the first instance. L; In proportion then as the quality, which may be pursued to excess, is in itself valuable or respectable ; in that proportion should our anxiety be redoubled, lest we carry it beyond the limits of propriety or utility. And hence should our vigilance ever be exerted, and our attention eagerly fixed upon the caution contained in the text ; " Be not righteous overmuch." ,. The observations, with which I have set out, sufficiently explain the general inability of our common nature to preserve a just medium in any object of pursuit : nor can we refrain from noticing the dangerous facility, with which it is impelled beyond the limit of excellence. It is not therefore necessary