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ny and affectionate friendship which, in every situation of life, has been shown, is of so great consequence to our peace and satisfaction. It is not, indeed, in our power to preserve always alive those friends, in whom our hearts delight. It is often not in our power to prevent the ingratitude and unworthy behaviour of other friends, from whom we once expected comfort. But under those afflicting incidents of life, much may be done by proper employment of the thoughts, and direction of the affections, for obtaining relief. To a purified and well regulated heart, reason and religion can bring many aids for healing its wounds, and restoring its peace; aids which, to the negligent and vicious, are wholly unknown. The greater experience we have of the vicissitudes of human life, with more weight will that precept of the wise man always come home to our remembrance; Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life. *. Hence arises,
In the fourth and last place, Another instruction, that is of the utmost importance to us all, frequently to look up to him who made the human heart; and to implore his assist
* Prov. iv. 23.
ance in the regulation and government of it. Known to him are all the sources of bitterness and joy by which it is affected. On him it depends, to let them forth, or to shut them up; to increase, or to diminish them at his pleasure. In a study so infinitely important to happiness, as that of the preservation of inward peace, we cannot be too earnest in beseeching aid from the great Father of Spirits, to enable us to keep our hearts free from distress and trouble.- Besides the assistance which we may hope to derive from divine grace, the employments of devotion themselves form one of the most powerful means of composing and tranquillizing the heart. On various occasions, when the sources of heart-bitterness have been most overflowing, devotion has been found the only refuge of the sufferer. Devotion opens a sanctuary, to which they whose hearts have been most deeply wounded, can always fly. Within that quiet and sacred retreat, they have often found a healing balsam prepared. When grieved by men, they have derived, from the ascent of the mind towards God and celestial objects, much to soothe them at present, and much to hope for in future. Let us, therefore, neglect no mean with which religion can furnish us, for promoting the joys, and as
suaging the bitterness of the heart. Amidst the frailties of our nature, the inconstancy of men, and the frequent changes of human life, we shall find every assistance that can be procured, little enough, for enabling us to pass our few days with tolerable comfort and peace.
ON CHARACTERS OF IMPERFECT GOODNESS.
MARK, X. 21. *
Then Jesus, beholding him, loved him.
THE characters of men which the world presents to us are infinitely diversified. In some, either the good or the bad qualities are so predominant, as strongly to mark the charac ter; to discriminate one person as a virtuous, another as a vicious man. In others, these qualities are so mixed together, as to leave the character doubtful. The light and the shade are so much blended, the colours of virtue and vice run in such a manner into one another, that we can hardly distinguish where the one ends, and the other begins; and we remain in suspence whether to blame or to praise. While we admire those who are tho
roughly good, and detest the grossly wicked, it is proper also to bestow attention on those imperfect characters, where there may be much to praise, and somewhat to blame; and where regard to the commendable part shall not hinder us from remarking what is defective or faulty. Such attentions will be found the more useful, as characters of this mixed sort are, more frequently than any other, exhibited to us in the commerce of society.
It was one of this sort, which gave occasion to the incident recorded in the text. The incident seems to have been considered as considerable, since it is recounted by three of the evangelical writers; and by them all with nearly the same circumstances. The person to whom the history relates was a ruler; one of higher rank and station than those who usually resorted to Jesus. He was a rich man: He was a young man. His whole behaviour was prepossessing and engaging. He appears to have conceived a high opinion of our Lord. He addressed him with the utmost respect; and the question which he put to him was proper and important. He kneeled to him, and said, Good Master, what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life? His conduct in the world had been regular and decent. He could protest, that he had hitherto kept himself free