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Modesty, self-diffidence, and continual fear of falling, is our best security. And our experience of our own frailty, or, still more, a review of the heights from which better and wiser men than ourselves have fallen, may inspire us with this just distrust of ourselves, in which our strength lies.
I shall mention under this head one only instance recorded in scripture, but which may serve to admonish us instead of a thousand.
When we read of the divine wisdom given to king Solomon, and see the effects of it in those devout sublime strains in which he addresses the Most High God at the dedication of the temple, and afterwards behold him se duced by idolatrous women, (1 Kings xi. 4.) and turned away to serve other gods: who shall not tremble and fear for himself, in any station? and particularly when in high place and affluence, and surrounded with pleasurable allurements.
"Let him that standeth," as the apostle cautions, "take heed lest he fall."
Let thoughtless youth in particular learn to beware of the beginnings of evil, of the first swerving and falling off from strict virtue and piety.
They may vainly think, that after they have drunk of the cup of enchantments they may be restored to a sound mind, and regain the forsaken paths of purity and innocence :-But where are the instances to be found? How few, alas! of those who have escaped safe, after having once been wrecked on this dangerous shore! Lastly:
We hence learn the necessity of giving up every present enjoyment, of whatever kind, incompatible with the preference due to God and what he injoins. "All these," says the Tempter to our Lord, "the kingdoms of the world and the glory of them, will I give thee, if thou wilt fall down and worship me."
Temptations of this kind, of a crown and a kingdom, were afterwards offered to Jesus, and within his reach. But so little was he moved therewith, that he preferred to them a dependent condition, dependent on the bounty of others, in which he could sometimes truly say, "that he had not where to lay his head." Grandeur he could never desire: ease and the conveniences of life, and life itself, he willingly relinquished, that he might preserve his integrity. And however in other perfec
tions we may fall short, in this we are to be like him.
Not that any one, either from the example before us or the instruction it conveys to us, is forbidden by honest means and industry to improve his worldly substance, or required sullenly to turn away from the comforts and conveniences of life which a kind Providence bestows: but to give a preference to the higher calls of duty where they interfere: never to falsify, to defraud, to dissemble, on any account, to promote our present interests: not to prefer the poor gains and fleeting pleasures of this earth, to that solid and lasting satisfaction which arises from virtue and a pleasing well grounded expectation of the divine favour.
These are some of the lessons which we learn from our Lord's temptation; and whatever be the measures that others are ruled by, let his life always be the mark by which we steer our course through this variable world, and then we shall certainly in the end arrive safe at the port of endless happiness.
Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty! who art, and who wast, and who art to come!
come! Thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure, which is none other than the perfection and happiness of the things thou hast made, they are and were created.
Teach us to look up unto thee as every where present to the works of thine hands, and especially to adore thy wisdom and goodness, in the last dispensation of thy grace and favour to us thy children of mankind; according to which thou didst raise up the holy Jesus, and by high powers imparted to him, and by various trials and sufferings, didst draw him forth and exercise his faith and trust in thee; that, being made perfect, he might become the author of salvation to all those who obey thy holy commandments.
And as thou hast also communicated, in the course of thy ordinary providence, various powers and talents to us his followers, whereby we may edify one another, and promote thy holy truth:
Help us in the use of these to imitate his example; that, whatever straits or distresses thou sufferest us to fall into in this uncertain world, we may never have recourse to any sinful or dishonest ways of relieving our
selves; but, in the use of our best endeavours, may put our firm trust in thee; remembering, that it is not the bread that we eat, but thy blessing with it, that nourisheth us; and that, by violating thy laws, we take ourselves out of thine hands, and forfeit thy protection.
And whatever our knowledge and attainments may be, as they are all thy gift, keep us low and humble in thy sight, as he, our great Master, ever was; that, like him, we may never seek the applause of others, or selfish advantage from them, but to serve and obey thee in doing good to all men, and forwarding thy holy gospel.
Finally, O heavenly Father! moderate our regards for this world, that we may live above it, and independent of it; and that no temptations of ease, or unlawful pleasure, or greatnéss, may draw us away from our loyalty to thee, and love to thy laws: that always and in all places, in the business of our respective callings, in the necessary relaxations from them, and in all the various circumstances of our lives, we may have an eye to our duty and thy commands; and may thus be found ready, at whatever hour thou shalt call