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shadow of imperfection. Our reason indeed assures us, that his attributes are infinite; but the poorness of our conception is such, that it cannot forbear setting bounds to every thing it contemplates, till our reason comes again to our succour, and throws down all those little prejudices, which rise in us unawares, and are natural to the mind of man.
We shall therefore utterly extinguish this melancholy thought, of our being overlooked by our Maker, in the multiplicity of his works, and the infinity of those objects among which he seems to be incessantly employed, if we consider, in the first place, that he is omnipresent, and in the second, that he is omniscient.
If we consider him in his omnipresence, his being passes through, actuates, and supports, the whole frame of nature. His creation, in every part of it, is full of him. There is nothing he has made, which is either so distant, so little, or so inconsiderable, that he does not essentially reside in it. His substance is within the substance of every being, whether material or immaterial, and as intimately present to it, as that being is to itself. It would be an imperfection in him, were he able to move out of one place into another; or to withdraw himself from any thing he has created, or from any part of that space which he diffused and spread abroad to infinity. In short, to speak of him in the language of the old philosophers, he is a being whose centre is every where, and his circumference no where.
In the second place, he is omniscient as well as omnipresent. His omniscience, indeed, necessarily and naturally flows from his omnipresence. He cannot but be conscious of every motion that arises in the whole material world, which he thus essentially pervades ; and of every thought that is stirring in the intellectual world, to every part of which he is thus intimately united. Were the soul separated from the body, and should it with one glance of thought start beyond the
bounds of the creation; should it for millions of years, continue its progress through infinite space, with the same activity, it would still find itself within the embrace of its Creator, and encompassed by the immensity of the Godhead.
In this consideration of the Almighty's omnipresence and omniscience, every uncomfortable thought vanishes. He cannot but regard every thing that has being, especially such of his creatures who fear they are not regarded by him. He is privy to all their thoughts, and to that anxiety of heart in particular, which is apt to trouble them on this occasion; for as it is impossible he should overlook any of his creatures, so we may be confident that he regards with an eye of mercy, those who endeavour to recommend themselves to his notice; and in unfeigned humility of heart, think themselves unworthy that he should be mindful of them.
Happiness is founded in rectitude of conduct.
ALL men pursue good, and would be happy, if they
knew how not happy for minutes, and miserable for hours; but happy, if possible, through every part of their existence. Either, therefore, there is a good of this steady, durable kind, or there is not. If not, then all good must be transient and uncertain; and if so, an object of the lowest value, which can little deserve our attention or inquiry. But if there be a better good, such a good as we are seeking; like every other thing, it must be derived from some cause; and that cause must either be external, internal, or mixed; in as much as, except these three, there is no other possible. Now a steady, durable good, cannot be derived from an external cause; since all derived from externals must fluctuate as they fluctuate. By the same rule, it cannot be derived from a mixture of the two: because the part which is external, will proportionably destroy its essence. What then remains but the cause internal? the very cause which we have supposed, when we place the sovereign good in mind,-in rectitude of conduct.
Virtue and piety, man's highest interest.
I FIND myself existing upon a little spot, surrounded every way by an immense unknown expansionWhere am I? What sort of a place do I inhabit? Is it exactly accommodated in every instance to my convenience? Is there no excess of cold, none of heat, to offend me? Am I never annoyed by animals, either of my own, or a different kind? Is every thing subservient to me, as though I had ordered all myself? Nonothing like it-the farthest from it possible. The world appears not, then, originally made for the pri vate convenience of me alone! It does not. But is it not possible so to accommodate it, by my own particular industry? If to accommodate man and beast, heaven and earth, if this be beyond me, it is not possible. What consequence then follows; or can there be any other than this-If I seek an interest of my own, detached from that of others, I seek an interèst which is chimerical, and which can never have exist
How then must I determine? Have I no interest at all? If I have not, I am stationed here to no purpose. But why no interest? Can I be contented with none but one separate and detached? Is a social interest, joined with others, such an absurdity as not to be admitted? The bee, the beaver, and the tribes of herding animals, are sufficient to convince me, that the thing is somewhere at least possible. How, then, am I assured that it is not equally true of man? Admit it; and what follows? If so, then honour and justice are my interest: then the whole train of moral virtues are my interest; without some portion of which, not even thieves can maintain society.
But, farther still-I stop not here-I pursue this
social interest as far as I can trace my several relations. I pass from my own stock, my own neighbourhood, my own nation, to the whole race of mankind, as dispersed throughout the earth. Am I not related to them all, by the mutual aids of commerce, by the general intercourse of arts and letters, by that common nature of which we all participate?
Again I must have food and clothing. Without a proper genial warmth, I instantly perish. Am I not related, in this view, to the very earth itself; to the distant sun, from whose beams I derive vigour; to that stupendous course and order of the infinite host of heaven, by which the times and seasons ever uniformly pass on? Were this order once confounded, I could not probably survive a moment; so absolutely do I depend on this common general welfare. What, then have I to do, but to enlarge virtue into piety? Not only honour and justice, and what I owe to man, is my interest; but gratitude also, acquiescence, resignation, adoration, and all I owe to this great polity, and its great Governor our common Parent.
The injustice of an uncharitable spirit.
A SUSPICIOUS, uncharitable spirit, is not only inconsistent with all social virtue and happiness, but it is also, in itself, unreasonable and unjust. In order to form sound opinions concerning characters and actions, two things are especially requisite, information and impartiality. But such as are most forward to decide unfavourably, are commonly destitute of both. Instead of possessing or even requiring full information, the grounds on which they proceed are frequently the most slight and frivolous. A tale perhaps, which the idle have invented, the inquisitive have listened to, and the credulous have propagated; or a real incident