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and protector, from whence he conceives his blessings to proceed. He can appeal to him for the thankfulness with which he receives them; and for his endeavours to employ them well. He trusts that the God whom he serves will not forsake him; that the goodness which he has already experienced, will continue to bless him; and though he believes himself not exempted from the changes of the world, yet, in the midst of these, he has ground to hope, that sources of comfort and happiness shall always be left open to him.
Moreover, the pleasures of life, while they last, are unspeakably heightened by the presence of that Benefactor who bestows them. The pleasing emotion of gratitude to the giver, mingles with the enjoyment of the gift. While to the mere worldly man, the whole frame of nature is only a vast irregular fabric; and the course of human affairs no more than a confused succession of fortuitous events; all nature is beautified, and every agreeable incident is enlivened to him who beholds God in all things. Hence arise a variety of pleasing sensations, to fill up those solitary hours, in which external prosperity supplies him with no entertainment. In the smiling scenes of nature, he contemplates the benignity of its author. In its sublime objects, he admires his majesty. In
its awful and terrible ones, he adores his power. He dwells in this world as in a magnificent temple; which is full of the glory of its founder; and every where views nature offering up its incense to him, from a thousand altars. Such ideas exalt, and ennoble the human mind; and reflect an additional lustre on the brightness of prosperity.
From the prosperous, let us next turn to the afflicted condition of a good man. For as prosperity may, affliction certainly will, at one time or other, be his lot. It enters into the appointed trial of his virtue; and, in one degree or other, is the doom of all. Here we shall find various situations occur, in which no relief is equal to what a virtuous and holy man derives from a sense of the perpetual presence of God.
Is he, for instance, thrown into an obscure condition in the world, without friends to assist him, or any to regard .and consider his estate? He enjoys the satisfaction of thinking, that though he may be neglected by men, he is not forgotten of God. Inconsiderable as he is in himself, he knows, that he will not be overlooked by the Almighty, amidst the infinite variety of being, or lost in the immensity of his works. The poor man can, with as much
lift up encouragement as the rich or great, his eyes to heaven, and say, Nevertheless, O Lord, I am continually with thee: Thou holdest me by my right hand. The gracious presence of that Supreme Being is affected by no diversity of rank or fortune. It imparts itself alike to all the virtuous and upright; like its glorious image, the sun in the firmament, which sheds its rays equally upon the humble cottage, and upon the palace of kings. In the presence of the great Lord of heaven and earth, all the distinctions which vanity has contrived to make among men totally disappear. All ranks are on one level. The rich and the poor here indeed meet together; without any other distinction than what arises from the heart and the soul. The sense of this lifts the poor man above contempt; supports his spirits when apt to be dejected; and bestows dignity on the part which he acts. How inconsiderable soever that part may appear in the estimation of an injudicious world, it is ennobled, when virtuously performed, by the approbation of his Divine witness. He can bear with indifference the scorn of the proud, as long as he knows, that there is one higher than the highest to regard him. He can enjoy himself with pleasure in his mean habitation, because he believes that God dwells with him there. The
Divine Presence cheers to him the most lonely retreat. It accompanies his steps to the most distant regions of the earth. If he should be driven into exile from all his friends, and obliged to dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there God's hand would hold him, and his right hand would guide him. Though left without companion or friend, he never thinks himself desolate, as long as he can say, I am still with God.
But though raised above obscurity or poverty, yet, in any situation of fortune, calumny and reproach may be the lot of the servant of God. His good intentions may be misconstrued; his character unjustly traduced; and, to the open reviling of enemies, the more bitter unkindness of friends may sometimes be joined. In this situation, when wounded in spirit, and, perhaps, unable to make his innocence appear, to whom shall he have recourse for defence, to whom make his last appeal, but to that God who is ever present with him, and who knoweth his heart? How frequently, amidst the injustice and oppression of the world, has distressed innocence had no other relief but this?"God is my witness; God is my avenger. He hath seen it, and he will re"pay." A good conscience, it is true, is, of
itself, a powerful support. But God is Lord of the conscience; and it is only when connected with a sense of Divine presence and approbation, that a good conscience becomes a steady principle of fortitude in the mind, under all discouragements. Hence, a virtuous man possesses a high degree of independence, both on the praise and on the censure of the world. It is enough to him if, when undergoing the same reproaches which Job suffered from his mistaken friends, he can say with him, Behold, my witness is in heaven, and my record is on high. * He affects not to divulge his good deeds to the world. He is without concern whether the world be acquainted with them or not. He knoweth that his Father which is in heaven seeth in secret; and that his prayers and his alms come up in grateful memorial before him. With me it is a small thing to be judged of you, or of man's judgment; he that judgeth me is the Lord.† He shall bring forth my righteousness, at last, as the light, and my judgment, as the noon day. In this consciousness of integrity he looks down with indifference, as from a superior station, upon the harsh censures of a giddy and ignorant world. The sense of being continually with God diffuses over his soul a holy calm, which unjust reproach cannot disturb
*Job xvi. 19.
† 1 Cor. iv. 3, 4.