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and a good conscience, who attends equally to the discharge of his duty towards God and towards man, enjoys, as far as human imperfec-, tion allows, the sense of fairness and consistency in conduct, of integrity and soundness of heart.
The man of mere morality is a stranger to all the delicate and refined pleasures of devotion. In works of beneficence and mercy, he may enjoy satisfaction. But his satisfaction is destitute of that glow of affection which enlivens the feelings of one who lifts his heart at the same time to the Father of the Universe, and considers himself as imitating God. The man, again, who rests solely on devotion, if that devotion open not his heart to humanity, not only remains a stranger to the pleasures of beneficence, but must often undergo the pain arising from bad passions. But when beneficence and devotion are united, they pour upon the man in whom they meet the full pleasures of a good and pure heart. His alms connected him with men, his prayers
with God. He looks without dismay on both worlds. All nature has to him a benign aspect. If engaged in active life, he is the friend of men ; and he is happy in the exertions of that friendship. If left in retirement, he walks among the works of na
ture as with God. Every object is enlivened to him by the sense of the Divine presence. Every where he traces the beneficent hand of the Author of nature;
every where, with glowing heart, he hears and answers his secret voice. When he looks up to heaven, he rejoices in the thought that there dwells that God whom he serves and honours; that Saviour in whom he trusts ; that Spirit of grace from whose inspiration his piety and his charity flow. When he looks am round him on the world, he is soothed with the pleasing remembrance of good offices which he has done, or at least has studied to do, to many who dwell there. How comfortable the reflection, that him no poor man can upbraid for having withheld his due ; him no unfortunate man can reproach for having seen and despised his sorrows; but that on his head are descending the prayers of the needy and the aged; and that the hands of those whom his protection has supported, or his bounty has fed, are lifted up in secret to bless him !
Life, passed under the influence of such dispositions, naturally leads to a happy end. It is not enough to say, that faith and piety, joined with active virtue, constitute the requisite preparation for heaven. They, in truth,
begin the enjoyment of heaven. In every state of our existence, they form the chief ingredients of felicity. Hence they are the great marks of Christian regeneration. They are the signature of that holy spirit by which good men are said to be sealed unto the day of redemption. The text affords a striking proof of the estimation in which they are held by God. Amidst that infinite variety of human events which
under his eye, the prayers and the alms of Cornelius attracted his
particular notice. He remarked the amiable dis, positions which rose in the heart of this good
But he saw that they were yet imperfect, while he remained unenlightened by the principles of the Christian religion. In order to remove this obstruction to his rising graces, and to bring him to the full knowledge of that God whom he sought to honour, he was favoured with a supernatural message from hea
While the princes of the earth were left to act by the counsels of their own wisdom; while, without interposition from above, generals conquered or fell, according to the vi. cissitude of human things; to this good Centurion an angel was commissioned from the throne of God.
What can I say more or higher in praise of this blessed character, than that it is what God
delights to honour ? Men single out, as the objects of distinction, the great, the brave, or the renowned. But he who seeth not as man seeth, passing by those qualities which often shine with false splendour to human observation, looks to the inward principles of action; to those principles which form the essence of a worthy character, and which, if called forth, would give birth to whatever is laudable or excellent in conduct. Is there one, though in humble station or obscure life, who feareth God, and worketh righteousness; whose prayers and alms, proceeding in regular unaffected tenor, bespeak the upright, the tender, the devout heart? Those alms and prayers come up in memorial before that God who is no respecter of persons. The Almighty beholds him from his throne with complacency.
Divine illumination is ready to instruct him. Angels minister to him. They now mark him out on earth as their future associate; and for him they make ready in paradise, the white robes, the palms, and the sceptres of the just.
To this honour, to this blessedness, let our hearts continually aspire ; and throughout the whole of life, let those solemn and sacred words with which I conclude, sound in our ears, and be the great directory of our conduct : * He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the Lord thy God require of thee, but—to do justly, and love mercy—and to walk humbly with thy God.