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but at the same time totally dead to devout sentiments. Often it hath been my lot, in times past, to have been introduced to their tables; where the plentiful provisions of all the bounties of God's providence, seemed to be continually inviting the conversation to some remarks on the goodness of the Great Provider. But, alas! during the many hours which I have sometimes spent at one meal, not a word hath dropped in honour of the Almighty Master of the feast. The gifts have been enjoyed, but the Giver totally forgotten. It hath been frequently my reproach, I assure you, Sir, when returning from such tables, in the days while I attended them, (for I have long since given them up,) that there must be some baleful principle in the human mind to produce such effects. Will you help me to account for it?'
My neighbour seemed a little hurt at the closeness of the question. 'You will excuse me, Sir, (he replied,) it is not my province to preach. I would recommend you rather to the worthy Vicar of our parish, who is allowed by all who attend his church, to be one of the most elegant preachers of the age. Perhaps he may be able to satisfy your inquiries; and I shall very much rejoice, if your mind can be made easy.'
Disappointed as I found myself in the information proposed from my visit, I could not but be thankful for my neighbour's candour; and finding my anxiety increase rather than diminish, in desires after the attainment of something, which I knew not by what term to distinguish; I thought it might be right to follow up my neighbour's advice; and accordingly, on the next Sunday, 1 went to hear
THE MORAL PREACHER.
• .< .. .
He took his text from the prophecy of Micah, chap. vi. vcr. 8.'He hath showed thee, O man, what is good. And what doth the Lord require of thee, but to do justly and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God.' I felt much pleasure in the very idea of the subject proposed from this text of scripture, the moment it was mentioned; and therefore listened with the more attention, in order to discover some leading points, which might be brought forward to give me comfort. The substance of the preacher's sermon, when separated from the flowery ornaments of it, was directed to show, that the path to happiness was set before evefy one ; that God had shown man what was good; and that it was man's own fault if he did not follow it; that what the Lord required, was nothing harsh, or unreasonable, or difficult; but the plain, easy, self-rewarding virtues of moral obligation. And that if, in addition to the line of doing justly, the circumstances favoured the love of mercy, in relieving the wants of the wretched, where ability reached, and dropping over them the tear of sympathy where it did not; and instead of studying to be wise above what is written, respecting Divine things, 'to walk humbly with GOD;' these made up the sum and substance of all moral and religious concerns.
'Well, Sir, cried my neighbour, (who had attended also the church that morning, and was coming out of the porch at the same moment with myself,)—well, Sir, what are your sentiments now? I hope our worthy Vicar has fully satisfied your mind.'—And this he said loud enough to be heard by those around, and with that kind of triumph which a man feels when he fancies he has fully established an opinion long disputed.
'It is my mercy,' replied a poor man, (who overheard my neighbour's observation,) 'that I have not so learned Christ.' God hath indeed shown me what is good; and could I look up and say that I have followed it, all might be 'well. But, alas!' I have sinned and come short of the glory of GOD.' I know not what others feel: but I am free to confess, that in many instances which my recollection now reproaches me with, and others, no doubt, which my treacherous heart hath long since forgotten; I have neither' done justly, loved mercy, nor walked humbly with my GOD.'
'Though I have reason to be very thankful, that God's preventing and restraining grace hath kept me from the more open and flagrant acts of injustice; yet I am conscious that self-love and self-interest have betrayed me into the doing of many things, which would not bear to be ascertained by the strict equilibrium of a standard of justice, which admits no partiality. I am no less convinced also that in speaking, I have committed, on numberless occasions, a breach of that golden rule of justice, which forbids reporting to another's injury, what, in similar circumstances, I should have thought wrong to have had spoken of myself. And from the imagination of man's heart, which scripture declares to be only evil continually, I am persuaded that, in thinking, many unkind thoughts have arisen in my mind against my neighbour, which become a violation of that law of charity which thinketh no evil. I dare not, there-fore, whatever others may do—I dare not risk the final decision of my everlasting welfare on the point of doing justly.
'Neither under the condition of loving mercy, can I find greater confidence. For I discover in my nature, anger, resentment, pride, and the like corrupt passions; which, in spite of all my endeavours to suppress them, like the eruptions of a volcano, which plainly bespeak the heat within from the lava thrown without, too clearly testify that the love of mercy is not the ruling passion! and therefore never to be estimated by the few casual acts of alms-giving, which if the heart would be faithful to acknowJedge, are sometimes more the result of pride, than the pure effect of real love and charity.
'I blush at the bare mention of walking humbly with GOD, in the recollection how often my rebellious heart hath risen, and is continually rising, in opposition to His government and authority. Fretful and impatient under the slightest afflictions; unthankful for the greatest mercies; and though desiring in my daily prayer, that his will may be done, frequently wishing it may not; and even displeased if it be, when it thwarts my own !—Can such a creature be said to 'walk humbly with his GOD V