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SERM.matc art. It has been iu.stly said, that
v^v-!»j there is not a vegetable that grows, nor
an insect that moves, but what is sufficent to confound the atheist, and to afford the candid observer endless materials of devout adoration and praise.
When we return to the moral world, the field of admiration which opens to us is no less extensive and striking. I can only mention a few instances of that exquisite wisdom which everywhere meet us.
In the first place, let us attend to the constitution of human nature. Though we are taught by revelation, to consider it as now impaired by the fall, yet, as it stands, we behold the traces of a noble structure, planned and executed with the highest skill. All the powers and faculties bestowed on man are such as perfectly suit his condition, and adapt him to the purposes for which he was designed.—.Senses were given him, that he might distinguish what is necestary for the preservation and welfare of his body. " Now, suppose
pose that any one of those senses, the S sight, for instance, or the hearing, or the touch, had been in a considerable degree either more blunt, or more acute, than it is at present, what an unhappy change would this have made upon our state? on the one hand, greater imperfection of the organs, would have deprived us of all the comfort and advantage which we now enjoy from such powers. On the other hand, a greater degree of exquisite sensibility in them, would have rendered life a burden to us. Our fenses, instead of being inlets to knowledge and pleasure, would then have become constant avenues to uneasiness and pain Their powers, therefore, are skilfully adjusted to that measure of strength, which allows them to answer the purposes of health, safety, and comfort j without either falling sliort of this line of usefulness, or improperly, and hurtfully stretching beyond it.
In the mind appetites and passions were placed, as the moving powers of
S E R M. the ioul, to impel its activity. But as J^_, their impulse required regulation and restraint, reason was at the fame time, conferred as the directing power.—Of all our passions, self-love, and the desire of self-preservation, were, with the utmost propriety made the strongest, for a reason which the meanest capacity may comprehend. Every man is most immediately committed by Providence to his own care and charge. He knows his own situation best; and has more opportunities of promoting his own happiness, than he can have of advancing the happiness of any other person.
It was therefore fit and wife, that, by the strongest instinct, he should be prompted to attend to himself.—At the same time, as no man standing alone is sufficient for his own welfare, it was necessary that, by mutual sympathy and social instincts, we should be drawn to give aid to one another. Here it deserves our particular notice, that the force of those social instincts is, with admirable propriety proportioned by
Providence Providence to the degree of their use-SERM.
fulness and importance*. Thus, that v^v-o parental affection, which the helpless state of infancy and childhood renders so needful, is made the strongest of them all. Next, come those ties of blood, which prompt mutual kindness among those who are intimately joined together by brotherhood, and other family connections. To these succeeds that valuable instinct Of pity, which impels us to assist the distressed, whereever we behold them. To take part with others in their good fortune belongs to man's social nature, and increases the sum of happiness. At the fame time, to take part with the prosperous is less necessary than to sympathise with the unhappy; and therefore the principle which prompts us to rejoice with them that rejoicex is made not to be so strong as that which impels us to weep with them that weep.
But they are not only the laudable) and important parts of our disposition,
* See Serm. II. Vol. iii,
SERM. which discover the wisdom of the AuL '_, thor of our frame; even our imperfections and follies, are by him rendered subservient to, useful ends.—Amidst those inequalities of condition, for instance, which the state of human life required, where it was necessary that some mould be rich, and others poor, that some should be eminent and distinguished, and others obscure and mean, how seasonable is that good opinion which every one entertains of himself; that self-complacency with which he compares himself to others; and that fond hope* which is ever pleasing him with the prospect of future pleasures and advantages in life? Without those flattering sensations, vain as they often are, how totally insupportable would . this world become, to many of its inhabitants? Whereas, by means of them, Providence hath "contrived to balance, in a great measure, the inequalities of condition among mankind. It hath contrived to diffuse pleasure through all ranks; and to bring the high and the, low nearer to a level with