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As if he had said, “ Though it be my hard fate and the determined will of heaven, (which he knew he could not fathom) that I should be thus severely dealt with all my life; yet my chief care and study shall be to maintain an unprejudiced mind: not to repine under the dispensation of heaven, nor to be guilty of any thing that would offend my God, or lay me open to human censure.
Here is a pattern worthy of the imitation of all mankind ! for it should be every man's care to carry such a temper of mind with him out of this world as may procure and improve his happiness in the next. Neither the prospect of wealth or honour should prompt him to the commission of any thing that is unjust : but in the whole course of his actions, and above every other blessing, he should value and prefer a good conscience; and (though in the height of misery and distress) he should renounce all external advantages, rather than forfeit so invaluable a blessing. And now that I may enforce this upon your minds, I shall, fron these words of Job, take occasion, in the
First place, To lay before you the great importance of integrity of life, with respect to man's present happiness in this world.
Secondly with regard to his eternal happiness in the world to come.
Thirdly, I shall shew, that by the grace of God, every man may (like Job) hold fast
his integrity, if he will use his endeavours · to do so.
Fourthly and lastly, I shall conclude with an exhortation, that you may be persuaded to hold fast your integrity to the end.
làm, in the first place, to lay before you the great importance of integrity of life, with respect to man's present happiness in this world.
And this will very soon appear if we consider that none of the riches, honours, nor pleasures of this world, can afford happiness to a man who is attended with an evil conscience; for let him go where he will, and do what he can, still he is attended with disquietude and anxiety of mind. Is he rich and prosperous He can never enjoy his riches with satisfaction, nor his prosperity with pleasure. Is he in an honourable post, and attended with crouds of admirers All this will not appease the stings of a wounded spirit. Perhaps, he stifies the alarms of conscience with a continued round of sensual pleasures; at balls and feasts, in drinking and carousing, and every other fashionable amusement. · But, alas! what will this avait in the day of adversity, or at the hour of death? What has he to support him, if he should be brought to the calamity of an adverse fortune? He has not the integrity of Job to befriend bim. And, when he has a vast eternity in view, and feels himself sinking into the gloomy tegions of darkness, how must the dire forebodings of his guilty soul make him tremble and quake, in expectation of meeting with the just reward of his actions?
It is impossible for me, or any one upon earth, to describe the agonies of conscience at
that hour, when the disconsolate sinner is brought to reflect upon an ill spent life.
But when a man, like Job, gives his heart no room to reproach him, and is determined to hold fast his integrity, he is prepared for all events of Providence.
If he is rich and honourable, he enjoys his riches with comfort and satisfaction, and his virtue gives a lustre and dignity to his high station. And though he has the opportunity of enjoying the pleasures of life as well as other men, yet he uses the good things of this world without abusing them. He is ever ready to adore his Creator, and perform all possible acts of kindness to his fellow creatures.
The integrity of his heart leads him (after the example of holy Job) to compassionate the distresses of the poor. He will not withhold from them their desire, but the fatherless shall partake of his bounty ; neither will he suffer the poor to perish for want of cloathing, nor the stranger to lodge in the streets, nor the traveller to go without refreshment. By this he is a comfort to himself, a blessing to his family, and a friend to all mankind. And if he should happen to meet with adversity and affliction, he is resigned to the will of his Creator, and comforts himself with having acted uprightly.
For let it be considered, that no outward calamity can disturb that man who is attended with a peaceable conscience, which is perpetually echoing to him those comfortable words of well done thou good and faithful servant : thoil Jeast acquitted thyself as becomes a disciple of the Saviour of mankind; like him thou hast. manfully resisted temptations, and courageously bid defiance to the frowns and to the flatteries of the world and the devil.
Happy, unspeakably happy, is the man that is in such a case ; he has no need of company to replenish his mind and relax his thoughts ; nor need he have recourse to drink to heal the wounds and drive away the stings of an offending soul: for he is always carressed, always attended with the pleasing reflections of a well spent life.
This was the consolation of Job during his adversity, under a most dismal and shocking change of things ; when the world (that but a few hours before smiled upon him) seemed now to be bent upon his eternal ruin.
He found, upon a review of his life past, that he had walked uprightly with his God; that neither his wealth, nor strength of constitution, (which are great temptations) had led him to affront his Maker; and though (for reasons best known to the eternal Governor of the world) he was driven from the height of prosperity to the depth of affliction, yet thus" did he comfort himself: My righteousness I hold fast, and will not let it go ; my heart shall not reproach me so long as I live.
Integrity of life yields a man the most solid and lasting peace and satisfaction, and is his friend in the greatest time of need. When he falls, like Job, into any great calamity, his greatest support is that of a good conscience ; when he can apply those comfortable words, of St. Paul to himself, that in simplicity and godly sincerity, not with fleshly risdom, but by the grace of God, he has had his conversation in the world ; then all will be calm and serene within ; the black clouds of melancholy and despair will be dispersed, and a bright sunshine will ensue.
Amidst the greatest storm of adversity, a peaceable conscience spreads an inexpressible calmness over the mind; a serenity of temper, refreshes and smooths it; every rising murmur is hushed, every repining thought quashed, and all the passions of the soul brought to an entire resignation to the will of Providence. And at the hour of death, how unspeakably reviving must it be to the drooping spirit to reflect upon a well spent life; to think that when this earthly tabernacle is dissolved, the soul will be received by the blessed Jesus into the blissful regions above.
It was a great comfort to St. Paul, when the the time of his departure was at hand, that he could with confidence say, I have finished my course with satisfaction; I have kept the faith in integrity of heart ; and now I am ready to depart and be with Christ my righteous Judge, who hath laid up for me a crown of righteousness. What joy, what satisfaction can equal this? And may not this happy disposition of mind be attained by giving our hearts no room to reproach us? Yes, surely. This will be the happiness of every faithful follower of Christ, who hath, like Job, retained his integrity to that awful decisive hour, when he shall pass froin