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SERM. V of our Nature; yet the original Weakneffes which we bring with us into the World, are, in Procefs of Time, fo blended with our acquired Follies; that it being impoffible to distinguish, in all Cases, the one from the other, we cannot draw much folid Comfort from thence. Whatever we are at prefent, no Body can tell, what we might have been; if from first to last we had taken all poffible Care, to weed out each rifing Folly, and to cherish the Growth of every Virtue. Even in thofe Sins, which are called Sins of Frailty, and are, in fome Measure, fuch; there is generally fuch a Degree of Wilfulness, that, in fome Cafes, it is no eafy Matter to afcertain, which is the predominant Ingredient in the Compo fition. A fuperficial Inquirer may, no doubt, be highly pleased with himself. But the more thoroughly any Man examines himself, the more a Man confiders how seldom, if ever, he fully acts up to thofe Principles which he entertains, generally falling fhort of them, and sometimes acting contrary to them; the more he would be diffatisfied with himself.
Is there a Man, who can lay his Hand upon his Heart, after having faithfully
examined it, and declare, that whatever SERM.V Frailties he may have, yet he has strove to the best of his Power, in every Stage of Life, tó fubdue each inordinate Paffion, to difcharge every Duty, and to cultivate each virtuous Habit? Let him ftand forth at the laft decifive Day, and put in his Claim, (for an equitable Claim he perhaps may have) to fuch a Degree of Happiness, as will preponderate, or be fuperior to any fhort-lived Mifery, which he may have endured here, and be proportioned to his Deferts. But even he could have no well
grounded Reason to expect, unless the Merits of our Saviour had enfured it to him, a Happiness unallayed in it's Nature, exceeding in it's Degree, whatever he could have imagined, and everlasting in it's Du ration.
After all, fuch a Being, as is described before, is, I am afraid, merely vifionary: Men of the most distinguished Piety hav ing Reafon to pray, Enter not into Judg ment with thy Servant, O Lord: For in thy Sight shall no Man living be justified.
Several indeed are too apt, in the Pride and Bloom of Life, to flatter themselves into groundless Prefumptions, and a fanguine
SERM. V. Confidence,
But when they come, juft upon the Verge of another World, coolly, and calmly to adjust Accounts between their Maker and themselves; I doubt those Sins, which, like Shadows, looked fo little at the Noon of Life, will greatly lengthen with their fetting Sun. Be that as it will; it is certain, that the Obfervation, viz. that none ever pushed their Capacity, in Matters of Knowledge, as far as it was able to ex-, tend; holds as true in Matters of Morality: None ever exerted their Abilities as far as they were able to carry them, to the utmost Extent of their Capacity in the Pursuit and Practice of Virtue.
And yet natural Religion may require not only the Being, and Reality of each Virtue; but the utmost Degree of Virtue in our Power under the Penalty of future Punishment. Because every Thing which we have, being derived from God; every Thing which we can do, is but our bounden Tribute to Him. Chriftianity, on the other Hand, requires indeed the Being and Reality of Virtue, under the Penalty of Damnation. But it requires the utmost Degree, and the highest Attainments, in Virtue, only under the Penalty of an Abate
ment or Discount of Happiness. He that SERM. V. has fowed fparingly; according to that gracious Difpenfation, fhall reap proportionably, though in a less Degree; than he, that has fowed bountifully. He, that has cultivated virtuous Habits, though in a lower Meafure, shall be happy, though not equally with him, who has made much nearer Approaches to the Standard of Perfection.
So much Reason have we to be thankful to him, who has rescued us from the Punishment; provided we strive to rescue ourselves from the Dominion of Sin; in Confidence of whofe all-fufficient Merits, we may fecurely launch out into the Depths of Eternity, as St. Peter ventured to walk upon the Sea, while we have a Saviour: to lend an helping Hand, and to fupport us, as he did him, from finking into the deep Abyss below.