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S E R M O N VII.
OF THE HAPPINESS OF A VIRTUOUS
PROVERBS iii. 17.
ways are ways of pleasantness, and all ber paths are peace. She is a tree of life to them that lay hold of ber; and happy is
every one that receiveth ber.
last discourse I represented to you the security of a virtuous course, In doing this, I was led to touch upon its tendency to make us most happy, as well as most secure, under God's government.--I shall now insist more particularly on this subject ; and endeavour to
give you a distinct account of the principal arguments and facts which prove the happiness of virtue ; meaning, on this occasion chiefly, its present happiness.
The ways of wisdom (my text fays) are ways of pleasantrefs; and happy is every one that receiveth her.- Previously to any examination of the actual state of mankind, we may perceive a high probability that this affertion must be true. Virtue is the image of God in the soul, and the noblest thing in the creation; and, therefore, it must be the principal ground of true happiness. It is the rule by which God meant that we should act; and, therefore, must be the way to the bliss for which he intended us. That Being who gave us our sense of moral obligations, must have designed that we should conform to them; and he could not design this, and at the same time design that we fhould find it molt for our advantage not to conform to them. This would have been to establish an inconsistency in the
frame of nature; and acting in a manner which cannot be supposed of that Supreme power which, in every other
part of nature, has discovered higher wisdom than we are able to comprehend.
But waving such reasonings let us ap, ply ourselves to the consideration of the actual state of mankind in this respect, And,
First, Let us consider, that by practising virtue we gratify the highest powers in our natures.-Our highest powers are, undoubtedly, our sense of moral excellence, the principle of reason and reflexion, benevolence to our fellow-creatures, and the love of the Deity. To practise virtue is to act in conformity to these powers,
and to furnish them with their proper gratifications. Our other powers, being inferior to these and of less dignity, the happiness grounded upon them is also of an inferior nature, and of less value. Reason is the nature of a rea
sonable being; and to affert that his chief happiness consists in deviating from reason, would be the same as to say that his chief happiness consists in violating his nature, and contradicting himself.
Secondly, In connexion with this we ought to remember, that virtue, in the Very idea of it, implies health and order of mind. The human soul is a composition of various affections standing in different relations to one another; and all placed under the direction of conscience, our fupreme faculty. When we are truly virtuous, none of these affections are suffered to err either by excess or defect. They are kept in their
proper subordinations to one another. The faculty that was made to govern preserves its authority; and a due balance is maintained among our inward powers. To be virtuous, therefore, is to be in our natural and found state. It is to be freed from all inward tumult, anarchy, and tyranny. It is to enjoy health, and order,