Imágenes de página

from any gross vice; and in his dealings with others, had observed the precepts of God. Our Lord beholding him, is said to have loved him, whence we have reason to conclude he was not hypocritical in his professions; and that his countenance carried the expression of good dispositions, as his speech and his manners were altogether complacent and gentle. Yet this person, amiable as he was, when his' virtue was put to the test, disappointed the hopes which he had given reason to form. Attached, in all probability, to the indulgence of ease and pleasure, he wanted fortitude of mind to part with the advantages of the world for the sake of religion. When our Lord required him to fulfil his good intentions, by relinquishing his fortune, becoming one of his followers, and preparing himself to encounter sufferings, the sacrifice appeared to him too great. Impressions of virtue, however, still remained on his mind. He was sensible of what he ought to have done, and regretted his want of courage to do it. He was sorrowful: He was grieved: Yet he went away.

Persons of a character somewhat resembling this, all of us may have met with, especially among the young; among those who have been liberally educated; and polished by a

good society. They abhor open vice, and crimes that disturb the world. They have a respect for religion. They are willing to receive instruction for their conduct. They are modest and unassuming; respectful to their superiors in age or station; gentle in their address; inoffensive and courteous in their whole behaviour. They are fond of obliging every one; unwilling to hurt or displease any :Such persons we cannot but love. We gladly promise well of them; and are disposed to forward and assist them; yet, such is the weakness of our- nature, that at the bottom of this character there may lie, as we see exemplified in the instance before us, some secret and material defects. That vigour of mind, that firmness of principle, may be wanting, which is requisite for enabling them to act with propriety, when their virtue is put to a decisive trial. The softness of their nature is unfavourable to a steady perseverance in the course of integrity. They possess the amiable qualities; but there is ground to suspect, that in the estimable ones they are deficient. While, therefore, we by no means class them among the bad, we dare not give them the full praise of virtue. When they set out in the world, we cannot pronounce with confidence, what confirmed features their character

[ocr errors]

will assume; nor how far they can be depended upon in future life. in future life. Allow me now to point out the dangers which such persons are most likely to incur; and to shew what is requisite for them farther to study, in order to their fulfilling the part of good men and true Christians.

I. Persons of this description are not qualified for discharging aright many duties, to which their situation in life may call them. In certain circumstances they behave with abundance of propriety. When all is calm and smooth around them; when nothing occurs to agitate the mind, or to disturb the tenor of placid life, none of their defects come forward. They are beloved; and they are useful. They promote the comfort of human society; and, by gentleness and courtesy of manners, serve to cement men together in agreeable union. But to sail on the tranquil surface of an unruffled lake, and to steer a safe course through a troubled and stormy ocean, require different talents: and alas! human life oftener resembles the stormy ocean than the unruffled lake. We shall not have been long embarked, without finding the resemblance to hold too closely.

Amidst the bustle of the world, amidst the

open contentions and secret enmities which prevail, in every society, mildness and gentleness alone are not sufficient to carry us with honour through the duties of our different stations; as heads of families, citizens, subjects, magistrates, or as engaged in the pursuits of our several callings. Disturbances and trials arise, which demand vigorous exertions of all the moral powers; of patience, vigilance, and self-denial; of constancy and fortitude, to support us under danger and reproach; of temperance, to restrain us from being carried away by pleasure; of firm and determined principle, to make us despise the bribes of sin. These manly dispositions of mind are indispensably necessary to prepare one for surmounting the discouragements of virtue, and for struggling honourably through the hardships of life. Unless he be thus armed and fortified, whatever good intentions have been in his heart, they are likely to be frustrated in action. Nothing that is great can be undertaken. Nothing that is difficult or hazardous, can be accomplished. Nor are we to imagine, that it is only in times of persecution, or war, or civil commotions, that there is occasion for those stronger efforts, those masculine virtues of the soul, to be displayed. The private, and seemingly quiet

stations of life, often call men forth, in the days of peace, to severe trials of firmness and constancy. The life of very few proceeds in so uniform a train, as not to oblige them to discover, in some situation or other, what proportion they possess of the estimable qualities of man. Hence it sometimes happens, that persons whose manners were much less promising and engaging than those of others, have, nevertheless, when brought to act a part in critical circumstances, performed that part with more unsullied honour and firmer integrity than they.

II. Persons of the character I have described are ill fitted, not only for discharging the higher duties of life, but also for resisting the common temptations to vice. With good dispositions in their mind, with a desire, like the young ruler, in the text, to know what they shall do in order to inherit eternal life; yet when the terms required of them interfere with any favourite enjoyment, like him, they are sorrowful, and go away. The particular trial to which he was put, may appear to be a hard one, and to exceed the ordinary rate of virtue. Our Lord, who discerned his heart, saw it to be necessary, in his case, for bringing his character to the test. But in cases

« AnteriorContinuar »