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pride, and that, perhaps, in the flattering form of justice and of truth; and, on all occasions, we are too ready to listen to the calls of interest, of appetite, and passion, in opposition to the dictates of reason, and the revealed Will of God. To acquire even a knowledge, therefore, of the exact measure of our duty is often difficult, because we cannot readily discover our "secret faults." It is only when we open a divine intercourse with our great Creator, that the heart is laid bare, and that the many subterfuges, which blind the understanding, and corrupt the mind, are done away. Then we know that prevarication and concealment, falshood and reserve, areo equally foolish and unavailing. We are before One, from whom the darkness hideth not;? and, were there no other benefit arising from prayer, than that of forcing the mind, at stated! intervals, to examine into its latent frailties and corruptions, and stripping from vice and folly their flimsy disguises, even that would be highly beneficial and important: but there are other t gracious aids, which we are sure to obtain, we resemble not those, who "ask and receive not, because they ask amiss."le superɔmi wo

In praying to the Almighty for increase of power to resist temptation, for grace strength to avoid past transgressions, and those

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sins that may at present too easily beset us, we are sure that God's holy Spirit will co-operate with our endeavours, and help our manifold infirmities. On these awful and interesting occasions, the devout Christian may humbly hope to receive that communication of grace, or, in other words, that accession of intellectual power, emanating, like the breath that first formed the human soul, from the Father of life, by which his reason is enlightened and improved, his fortitude increased, and his frail resolutions strengthened and encouraged;-by which all his virtuous affections will be cherished and promoted, and by which all his evil propensities may be checked and subdued.

A further benefit of prayer is, that it serves to bind us to sincerity. After having confessed our sins, and implored the divine assistance, to relapse into former transgressions, and to fall without a struggle, is aggravated guilt and heedless depravity. It is a case in which that which was almost ignorance before becomes hypocrisy; and that which was self-delusion assumes all the wilfulness of sin.

From frequently appearing too before the Supreme Lord of life, to whom we are indebted for every blessing, and to whom we must soon return to give an account of the things

done in the body;-when we acknowledge, with praise and thanksgiving, that our whole dependence is on Him for future happiness, through the merits and mediation of Christ, and remember that he hath commanded us to love one another as he hath loved us; it is needless to remark how these devout reflections must cherish in our bosoms humility, forbearance, brotherly love, and in short, all the virtues that tend to make us happy here, and that lead to a blessed immortality hereafter.

In your warfare with the world, therefore, be ever ready to " Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation." Let vigilance be exerted to guard the numerous passes, through which temptation enters,-to point out your appropriate duties, to detect your secret faults, as well as to prevent presumptuous sins, and let prayer, co-operating with your own earnest endeavours, enable you to fulfil the one and correct the other. And, for our comfort and encouragement, let us remember the gracious words of Scripture-" The Lord is nigh to all that call upon; to all that call upon Him in truth: He will fulfil the desire of them that fear Him: He also will hear their cry, and will save them."

SERMON XXIII.

ON FORMER TIMES AND THE PRESENT.

ECCLES. VII. 10.

Say not thou, What is the cause, that the former days were better than these? for thou dost not inquire wisely concerning this.

THERE are few subjects of practical knowledge attended with more uncertain results, than an attempt to calculate the exact proportion of good and evil, that exists even in the characters of such individuals as we know most intimately. The difficulty is greatly increased, when we extend our inquiries to whole nations, or communities; and, if we presume to comprise within the boundaries of such speculations the great body of mankind, the task becomes visionary and impossible.

Our notions on the present subject, whether taken on an extended, or confined scale, can

only be of a general and comparative nature; for we evidently want the means of acquiring any thing respecting it, that deserves the name of accurate and positive knowledge.

An opinion, however, has emanated from the highest antiquity, and has been transmitted by some writers to the present age, that the world is in a degenerate state. We may trace this opinion in the pages of the heathen poets and philosophers; and it has been adopted, too hastily, perhaps, by some of the pious fathers of the Christian Church. But it was an office well suited to the wisdom of the inspired author of the text, to refute this gloomy persuasion; which seems as opposite to truth, as it is hostile to virtue. 66 Say not thou," he observes, "what is the cause that the former days were better than these? for thou dost not inquire wisely concerning this."

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Taking it for granted, that the opinion here censured is the result of some observation, or inquiry, and not a mere prejudice adopted from imitation, we may venture to assert, that it seems to be founded on the common infirmities of human nature, and to be occasionally strengthened by ignorance, vanity, and self-love.

From the very nature of the subject, it must

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