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men on earth, to that presence of the Divinity which constantly surrounds us? The man who realizes to his mind this august presence, feels a constant incentive for acquitting himself with dignity. He views himself as placed on an illustrious theatre. To have the Almighty for the spectator and witness of his conduct, is more to him than if the whole world were assembled to observe him. Men judge often falsely, always imperfectly, of what passes before them. They are imposed on by specious appearances; and the artful carry away the praise which is due to the deserving. Even supposing them to judge fairly, we may want the opportunity of doing justice to our character by any proper display of it in the sight of the world. Our situation may bury in obscurity those talents and virtues which were entitled to command the highest esteem. But He, in whose presence the good man acts, is both an impartial, and an unerring, judge of worth. No fallacious appearances impose on him. No secret virtue is hidden from him. He is attentive equally to the meanest and the greatest, and his approbation confers eternal rewards. The man, therefore, who sets the Lord always before him, is prompted to excel in virtue by motives which are peeuliar to himself, and which engage, on the

side of duty, both honour and interest. I have kept thy precepts and thy testimonies; for all my ways are before thee.*

Supposing, however, his virtuous endeavours to be faithful, many imperfections will attend them. A faultless tenor of unblemished life is beyond the reach of man. Passions will sometimes overcome him; and ambition or interest, in an unguarded hour, will turn him aside unto evil. Hence he will be ashamed of himself, and disquieted by a sense of guilt and folly. In this state, to which we are often reduced by the weakness of human nature, the belief of God's continual presence brings relief to the heart. It acted before as an animating principle. It now acts as a principle of comfort. In the midst of many imperfections, a virtuous man appeals to his Divine witness, for the sincerity of his intentions. He can appeal to him who knows his frame, that, in the general train of his conduct, it is his study to keep the law of God.

Mere law, among men, is rigid and inflexible. As no human lawgiver can look into the hearts of his subjects, he cannot, even though he were ever present with them, esti

* Psalm cxix. 168.

mate their character exactly. He can make no allowance for particular situations. He must prescribe the same terms to all whom he rules; and treat all alike, according to their outward actions. But every minute diversity of character, temper, and situation, is known to God. It is not only from what his servants do, but from what they seek to do, that he forms his judgment of them. He attends to all those circumstances which render the trial of their virtue, at any time, peculiarly hard. He hears the whisper of devotion as it rises in the soul. He beholds the tear of contrition which falls in secret. He sees the good intention struggling in its birth; and pursues it, in its progress, through those various obstacles which may prevent it from ripening into action. Good men, therefore, in their most humbled and dejected state, draw some consolation from his knowledge of their heart. Though they may sometimes have erred from the right path, they can look up to Him who is ever with them, and say, as an apostle, who had grievously offended, once said to his great Master, Lord, thou knowest all things; thou knowest that I love thee.*

Appealing thus to their omniscient witness,

* John, xxi, 17.


they are naturally soothed and encouraged by the hope of his clemency. At the same time, it is the peculiar advantage of this sentiment of the Divine Presence, that it prevents such hope from flattering them too much, or rising into undue presumption. For, while it encourages, it tends also to humble, a pious If it encourage him, by the reflection on all his good dispositions being known and attended to by God, it humbles him, by the remembrance, that his secret sins also are ever in the light of the Divine countenance. So that, by dwelling under the sense of God being continually with us, we keep alive the proper temper of a Christian in the soul; humility without dejection; fear, mingled with hope. We are cheered, without being lifted up. We feel ourselves obnoxious to the all-observing eye of justice; but are comforted with the thoughts of that mercy, which, through Jesus Christ, the discerner of all Hearts, is held forth to the sincere and penitent. Such are the blessed effects which this principle of religion produces upon the inward moral state of a good man. Let us now,

In the second place, consider his external circumstances; and examine the influence

his happi

which the same principle has upon ness, in several different situations of life. Let us first view him in what the world calls prosperity; when his circumstances are easy or affluent, and his life flows in a smooth untroubled stream. Here, it might be thought, that a sense of the Divine presence could operate upon him only, or chiefly, for promoting temperance, and restraining the disorders incident to a prosperous state. Valuable effects, indeed, these are; and most conducive to the true enjoyment of all that is agreeable in life. But though it, doubtless, does exert this salutary influence, yet it stops not there. It not only preserves the virtue of a good man amidst the temptations of pleasure, but it gives to his prosperity a security, and a peculiar relish, which to others is unknown. He who is without a sense of God upon his mind, beholds in human affairs nothing but a perpetual fluctuation, and vicissitude of events. He is surrounded with unknown causes, which may be working his destruction in secret. He cannot avoid perceiving, that there hangs over him the irresistible arm of that Providence, whose displeasure he has done nothing to stay or avert. But he who, in the days of prosperity, dwells with God, is delivered from those disquieting alarms. He dwells as with a friend


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