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are the two ennobling faculties of the soul, thinks himself not complete, till his understanding be beautified with the valuable furniture of knowledge; as well as his will enriched with every virtue: who has furnished himself with all the advantages to relish solitude, and enliven conversation ; when serious, not sullen; and when cheerful, not indiscreetly gay; his ambition not to be admired for a false glare of greatness, but to be beloved for the gentle and sober lustre of his wisdom and good
The greatest minister of state has not more business to do in a public capacity, than he, and indeed every man else, may find in the retired and still scenes of life. Even in his private walks, everything that is visible convinceth him, there is present a being invisible. Aided by natural philosophy, he reads plain legible traces of the Divinity in everything he meets: he sees the Deity in every tree, as well as Moses did in the burning bush, though not in so glaring a manner : and when He sees him, He adores him with the tribute of a grateful heart.
He who endeavours to oblige the company by his good-nature, never fails of being beloved: he who strives to entertain it by his good sense, never fails of being esteemed: but he who is continually aiming to be witty, generally miscarries of his aim: his aim and intention is to be admired, but it is his misfortune either to be despised or detested; to be despised for want of judgment, or detested for want of humanity. For we seldom admire the wit, when we dislike the man. There are a great many, to whom the world would be so charitable, as to allow them to have a tolerable share of common sense; if they did not set up for something more than common, something very uncommon, bright and witty. If we would trace the faults of conversation up to their original source, most of them might, I believe, be resolved into this, that men had rather
appear shining, than be agreeable in company. They are endeavouring to raise admiration, instead of gaining love and good-will: whereas the latter is in everybody's power, the former in that of very few.
Degenerate souls, wedded to their vicious habits, may disclaim all commerce with heaven, refusing to invoke Him, whose infinite wisdom is ever prompt to discern, and His bounty to relieve the wants of those who faithfully call upon him; and neglecting to praise Him, who is great and marvellous in His works, just and righteous in His ways, infinite and incomprehensible in His nature: but all here, I would persuade myself, will daily set apart some time to think on Him, who
gave us power to think: He was the author, and He should be the object of our faculties.
And to do this the better, let us take care that every morning, as soon as we rise, we lay hold on this proper season of address, and offer up to God the first-fruits of our thoughts, yet fresh, unsullied, and serene, before a busy swarm of vain images crowd in upon the mind, when the spirits just refreshed with sleep are brisk and active, and rejoice, like that sun, which ushers in the day, to run their course; when all nature just awakened into being from insensibility pays its early homage; then let us join in the universal chorus, who are the only creatures in the visible creation capable of knowing to whom it is to be addressed.
And in the evening, when the stillness of the night invites to solemn thoughts, after we have collected our straggling ideas, and suffered not a reflection to stir, but what either looks upward to God, or inward upon ourselves, upon the state of our minds; then let us scan over each action of the day-fervently entreat God's pardon for what we have done amiss, and the gracious assistance of His spirit for the future: and, after having adjusted accounts between our Maker and ourselves, commit ourselves to His care for the following night.
Thus beginning and closing the day with devotion, imploring His direction, every morning as we rise, for the following day; and recommending ourselves every night before we lie down, to His protection, who neither slumbers nor sleeps; the intermediate
will be better filled up: each line of our behaviour will terminate in God, as the centre of our actions. Our lives all of a piece will constitute one regular whole, to which each part will bear a necessary relation and correspondence, without any broken and disjointed schemes, independent of this grand end, the pleasing of God. And while we have this one point in view, whatever variety there may be in our actions, there will be an uniformity too, which constitutes the beauty of life, just as it does of everything else; an uniformity without being dull and tedious, and a variety without being wild and irregular.
How would this settle the ferment of our youthful passions, and sweeten the last dregs of our advanced age! How would this make our lives yield the calmest satisfaction, as some flowers shed the most fragrant odours, just at the close of the day! And perhaps there is no better way to prevent a deadness and flatness of spirit from succeeding, when the briskness of our passions goes off, than to acquire an early taste for those spiritual delights, whose leaf withers not, and whose verdure remains in the winter of our days.
And when this transitory scene is shutting upon us, when the soul stands upon the threshold of another world, just ready
its everlasting flight; then may we think with unallayed pleasure on God, when there can be little or no pleasure to think upon anything else. And our souls may undauntedly follow to that place, whither our prayers and affections, those forerunners of the spirit, are gone before.
One of the greatest philosophers of this age * being asked by a friend, who had often admired his patience under great provocations, by what means he had suppressed his anger? answered, “ that he was naturally quick of resentment; but that he had by daily prayer and meditation attained to this mastery over himself. As soon as he arose in the morning, it was, throughout his life, his daily practice to retire for an hour to private prayer and meditation. This, he often told his friends, gave him spirit and vigour for the business of the day. This he therefore recommended as the best rule of life. For nothing he knew could support the soul in all distresses but a confidence in the Supreme Being. Nor can a rational and steady magnanimity flow from any other source than a consciousness of the Divine favour.”
Of Socrates, who is said to have gained an ascendant over his passions, it is reported that his life was full of prayers and addresses to God.
And of Confucius, the Chinese philosopher, another great example of virtue, it is expressly recorded, that (contrary to a fashion now prevailing) he never did eat of anything, but he first prostrated himself, and offered thanks to the supreme Lord of heaven.
Leave not off praying, said a pious man: for either praying will make thee leave off sinning, or sinning will make thee leave off praying. If we say our prayers in a cold, supine, lifeless manner now and then, I know no other effect they will have, but to enhance our condemnation. In effect we do not pray, we only say our prayers. We pay not the tribute of the heart, but an unmeaning form of homage; we draw near to God with our lips, while our heart is far from him. And without perseverance in prayer, the notions of the amendment of our lives, and a sacred regard to the Deity, will only float for a while in the head without sinking deep, or dwelling long
upon the heart. We must be inured to a constant intercourse with God, to have our minds engaged and interested, and to be rooted and grounded in the love of Him. But, if we invigorate our petitions, which are otherwise a lifeless carcase, with a serious and attentive spirit, composed, but not dull; affectionate, but not passionate in our addresses to Godpraying in this sense will at last make us leave off sinning; and victory, decisive victory, declare itself in favour of virtue.
THOMAS SHERLOCK, son of the dean of St Paul's, was born in London in 1678. From Eton he was transferred to Catharine Hall, Cambridge, and in the twenty-sixth year of his age, was elevated to the mastership of the Temple. In 1716 he obtained the deanery of Chichester. In 1728 he was created bishop of Bangor, from which, in 1734, he was translated to Salisbury, and in 1748 he succeeded Dr Gibson as bishop of London. He died at Fulham, July 18, 1761.
With their clear arrangement, their calm reasoning, their air of scholarship, and their graceful style, Sherlock’s discourses were well adapted to an audience at once learned and logical. At the same time, it must be allowed, that such spirit as they once possessed has now well-nigh evaporated. There is still infidelity, and, it may be feared, not a little latent unbelief amongst respectable church-goers; but it would be labour lost were a modern preacher to expatiate, Sunday after Sunday, on such points as the sincerity of the apostles, and the superiority of Christianity to Mahommedanism and Paganism.
“It is said that when Dr Nicholls waited upon Lord Chancellor Hardwicke, with the first volume of “Sherlock’s Sermons,' in November 1753, his Lordship asked him whether there was not a sermon on John xx. 30, 31 ? and on his replying in the affirmative, desired him to turn to the conclusion,