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impelled to action by a kind of mechanical impulse. But man is capable of feeling the responsibility of his situation, and of acting under the influence of motives and arguments addressed to his understanding and conscience. He is capable of distinguishing between good and evil, right and wrong; and of weighing the motives and inducements that should determine him to one line of conduct in preference to another. Without this we live at random; and our conduct being merely the result of circumstances in which we are placed, and of impressions made upon us by external objects, is destitute of that distinguishing property of our nature by which we are raised above the beasts that perish. It follows, therefore, as a necessary consequence, that as we are rational creatures, capable of thought and reflection, we ought to consecrate a part of our time for the important pürpose of self-examination, and of conversing with our own hearts in secret. This is so essential a duty, that, without it, we cannot possibly know ourselves, or what manner of spirit we are of. And how shameful is it for a rational being, impelled by an insatiable curiosity to increase the sum of its knowledge, and to explore the nature and properties of the objects that surround it, yet to remain a stranger to, and ignorant of, itself? So long as this is the case, we can have no fixed or determinate character, but must remain the sport of our own passions, or of those of other men, unconscious of the great end of our existence, and incapable of acting up to it.
2. Retirement is indispensably necessary for the improvement of our minds in useful knowledge, and in that knowledge especially which relates to the life to come.
In respect to both these kinds of knowledge there will always be a wide difference among
Christians, according to their respective capacities and means of improvement. And it is eminently characteristic of the scriptures, that they embrace a system of truth in which the wisdom as well as the goodness of God harmoniously unite; a system too which tends to improve our mental as well as our morai
powers, and to exalt our pleasures by the increase of knowledge as assuredly as by the increase of grace. The angels desire to look into the things that are made known to us in the gospel; and we have sufficient reason to believe, that the doctrines of scripture are intended to serve as the essential principles or first rudiments of that knowledge, which will hereafter open to the intellectual eye a prospect as transportingly extensive as it will be congenial to the varied talents and pursuits of the spirits of just men made perfect. You have a peculiar aptitude, we shall suppose, to the study and acquisition of languages, and a peculiar delight in this pursuit; and hereafter you will be able, by intuition and without effort, to hold converse with the redeemed from among men, of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues. You have, it may be, great delight in the study of nature and of providence, and of various branches of science, chiefly as illustrative of the facts recorded in the sacred volume; and hereafter the secrets of nature, the mysteries of providence, and the wonders of redeeming love, will, without any shadow of darkness, be unfolded to your view.. !!! ts Now, it is absolutely necessary that we cultivate retirement, in order to acquire a taste and a relish for those sublime truths which will hereafter occupy our attention, and delight our minds for ever, . And though a man may reach the kingdom of heaven without the knowledge of human science, (for the way thither is made so plain in the gospel, as was foretold concerning it, that the wayfaring man, though a fool in the estimation of the world, shall not err therein); yet, as the mind that is enlightened by the wisdom that cometh from above, and is at the same time enlarged by extensive observations on the works and ways of God, enjoy's in the present life a higher intellectual feast in the study of the scriptures than it could otherwise have done, so it is at the same time cultivating a taste for contemplations which will meet with their appropriate objects in the heavenly world. We know in part, says the apostle, and we prophesy in part ; but when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away. For now we see through a glass darkly, but then face to face' ; now I know in part, but then shall I know even as also I am known. But in order to prepare us for the full vision and enjoyment of God, we must accustom ourselves to contemplate him not through the mědium of his works only, but also and chiefly in the word of revelation, in which his perfections, his works, and his ways, are faintly, indeed, but justly, represented. The knowledge which we can possibly acquire of them here is only in part; but if that part be not acquired, we neglect the talent entrusted to our charge, and subject ourselves to the punishment of the slothful servant. Whereas if we carefully improve the talents committed to our care, we are sure that we shall meet with a gracious acceptance. Every vessel fitted for glory will be full, but every vessel will not be found to be of equal capacity. The man who received two talents, and doubled them by his industry, met with the approbation of his Lord, as well as the man who had doubled the five talents that had been given him. To each of them it was said, Well done, good and faithful servant; yet the one was made ruler over five cities, and the other only ruler over two: an evident intimation that a higher recompense awaits the due improvement of higher talents ; whilst the right improvement of inferior gifts shall not miss its appropriate reward. And as the gospel is thus wonderfully adapted both to the humblest talents and to the most exalted
genius; so we are assured that there will be a difference of glory among the redeemed from among men, just as there is one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars, and one star differeth from another star in glory. How ought this consideration to excite us to converse with our own hearts in secret; to give ourselves to reading, meditation, and prayer ; that, forgetting the things which are behind, we may be still pressing forward towards the mark, for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus !—I now proceed,
II. To consider some of the many advantages attending the faithful discharge of this duty, in regard both to our happiness in this world, and to our preparation for the world to come.
1. In regard to our happiness in this world. Who, that is conversant with the world, does not find cause to lament, with the psalmist, that he dwells in Meshech, and tabernacles in the tents of Kedar? What a loss of time is it, to be obliged continually to listen to the idle and calumnious tales, and circulating rumours of the day? And how painful must it be to every candid and upright mind, to remark the selfishness of mankind; their mean and sordid attention to their own interests and emoluments; the frauds that are practised in commerce, and the contentions that prevail in so ciety? Is it nothing to escape even for a short while from these evils ?--from the folly and the strife of tongues; from the contentions and competitions of rival and opposing interests; and from so many things that are distasteful and annoying to every sober and reflecting mind ? Retirement furnishes an asylum from these: it draws a wall of separation between us and the scenes without, and hides from our eyes the fashion of a world that passeth away. It is in retirement that we view things as they really are. It is there that the agitated spirit resumes its firmness, and that the tumults of the world are hushed, or heard only like