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depended upon in future life. Allow me now to point out the dangers which such persons are most likely to incur ; and to show what is requisite for them farther to study, in order to their fulfilling the part of good men and true Christians.
I. Persons of this description are not qualified for discharging aright many duties, to which their situation in life may call them. In certain circumstances, they behave with abundance of propriety. When all is calm and smooth around them; when nothing occurs to agitate the mind, or to disturb the tenor of placid life, none of their defects come forward. They are beloved; and they are useful. They promote the comfort of human society; and, by gentleness and courtesy of manners, serve to cement men together in agreeable union. But to sail on the tranquil surface of an unruffted lake, and to steer a safe course through a troubled and stormy ocean, require different talents: and alas ! human life oftener resem. bles the stormy ocean, than the unruffled lake. We shall not have been long embarked, without finding the resemblance to hold too closely.
Amidst the bustle of the world, amidst the open contentions and secret enmities which prevail, in every society, mildness and gentleness alone are not sufficient to carry us with honour through the duties of our different stations; as heads of families, citizens, subjects, magistrates, or as engaged in the pursuits of our several callings. Disturbances and trials arise, which demand vigorous exertions of all the moral powers; of patience, vigilance, and self-denial ; of constancy and fortitude, to support us under danger and reproach ; of temperance to restrain us from
being carried away by pleasure ; of firm and determined principle, to make us despise the bribes of sin. These manly dispositions of mind are indispensably necessary to prepare one for surmounting the discouragements of virtue, and for struggling honourably through the hardships of life. Unless he be thus armed and fortified, whatever good intentions have been in his heart, they are likely to be frustrated in action. Nothing that is great, can be undertaken. Nothing that is difficult or hazardous, can be accomplished. Nor are we to imagine, that it is only in times of persecution, or war, or civil commotions, that there is occasion for those stronger efforts, those masculine virtues of the soul, to be displayed. The private, and seemingly quiet stations of life, often call men forth, in the days of peace, to severe trial of firmness and constancy. The life of
proceeds in so uniform a train, as not to oblige them to discover, in some situation or other, what proportion they possess of the estimable qualities of man. Hence it sometimes happens, that persons whose manners were much less promising and engaging than those of others, have, nevertheless, been brought to act a part in critical circumstances, performed that part with more unsullied honour and firmer integrity than they.
II. PERSONS of the character I have described are ill fitted, not only for discharging the higher duties of life, but also for resisting the common temptations to vice. With good dispositions in their mind, with a desire, like the young ruler, in the text, to know what they shall do, in order to inherit eternal life ; yet when the terms required of them interfere with
any favourite enjoyment, like him, they are sorrowful, and go away. The particular trial to which he was put, may appear to be a hard one, and to exceed the ordinary rate of virtue. Our Lord, who discerned his heart, saw it to be necessary, in his case, for bringing his character to the test. But in cases, where trials of much less difficulty present themselves, they who partake of a character similar to his, are often found to give way. The good qualities which they possess, border on certain weaknesses of the mind; and these weaknesses are apt to betray them insensibly into vices with which they are connected.
Good-nature, for instance, is in danger of running into that unlimited complaisance, which assimilates men to the loose manners of those whom they find around them. Pliant and yielding in their temper, they have not force to stand by the decisions of their own minds, with regard to right and wrong. Like the animal which is said to assume the colour of every object to which it is applied, they lose all per character of their own; and are formed by the characters of those with whom they chance to associate. The mild are apt to sink into habits of indolence and sloth. The cheerful and gay, when warmed by pleasure and mirth, lose that sobriety and self-denial, which is essential to the support of virtue. — Even modesty and submission, qualities so valuable in themselves, and so highly ornamental to youth, sometimes degenerate into a' vicious timidity; a timidity which restrains men from doing their duty with firmness; which cannot stand the frown of the great, the reproach of the multitude, or even the ridicule and sneer of the scorner.
Nothing can be more amiable than a constant de
sire to please, and an unwillingness to offend or hurt. Yet in characters where this is a predominant feature, defects are often found. Fond always to oblige, and afraid to utter any disagreeable truth, such persons are sometimes led to dissemble.' Their love of truth is sacrificed to their love of pleasing. Their speech and their manners assume a studied courtesy. You cannot always depend on their smile; nor, when they promise, be sure of the performance. They mean and intend well, but the good intention is temporary Like wax, they yield easily to every impression ; and the transient friendship contracted with one person, is effaced by the next. Undistin. guishing desire to oblige, often proves, in the present state of human things, a dangerous habit. They who cannot, on many occasions, give a firm and steady denial, or who cannot break off a connection, which has been hastily and improperly formed, stand on the brink of many mischiefs. They will be seduced by the corrupting, ensnared by the artful, betrayed by those in whom they had placed their trust. Unsuspicious themselves, they were flattered with the belief of having many friends around them. Elated with sanguine hopes and cheerful spirits, they reckoned, that to-morrow would be as this day, and more abundant. Injudicious liberality, and thoughtless profusion, are the consequence; until in the end, the straits to which they are reduced, bring them into mean or dishonourable courses. Through innocent, but unguarded weakness, and from want of the severer virtues, they are, in process of time, betrayed into downright crimes. Such may be the conclusion of those, who, like the young ruler before
us, with many amiable and promising dispositions, had begun their career in life.
III. Such persons are not prepared for sustaining, with propriety and dignity, the distresses to which our state is liable. They were equipped for the season of sunshine and serenity ; but when the sky is overcast, and the days of darkness come, their feeble minds are destitute of shelter, and ill provided for defence. Then is the time, when more hardy qualities are required; when courage must face danger, constancy support pain, patience possess itself in the midst of discouragements, magnaniinity display its contempt of threatenings. If those high virtues be altogether strangers to the mind, the mild and gentle will certainly sink under the torrent of disasters. — The ruler in the text could plead, that his behaviour to others, in the course of social life, had been unexceptionable. So far, the reflection on his conduct would afford him comfort amidst adversity. But no man is without failings. In the dejecting season of trouble it will occur to every one, that he has been guilty of frequent transgression ; that much of what ought to have been done, was neglected; and that much of what has been done, had better have been omitted. In such situations, when a thousand apprehensions arise to alarm conscience, nothing is able to quiet its uneasiness, except a wellgrounded trust in the mercy and acceptance of Hea
It is firm religious principle, acting upon a manly and enlightened mind, that gives dignity to the character, and composure to the heart, under all the troubles of the world. This enables the brave and virtuous man, with success to buffet the storm.