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ready attained,) and looking forward to those things that are before (to still further improvement), I press towards the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.” This was not stopping; it was pressing on. The truth is, in the way of Christian improvement, there is business for the best : there is enough to be done for all.
First; in this stage of the Christian life it is fit to suppose, that there are no enormous crimes, such as mankind universally condemn and cry out against, at present committed by us; yet less faults, still clearly faults, are not unfrequent with us, are too easily excused, too soon repeated. This must be altered.
Secondly; we may not avowedly be engaged in any course or habit of known sin, being at the time conscious of such sin; but we may continue in some practices which our consciences cannot, and would not, upon examination, approve, and in which we have allowed the wrongness of the practice to be screened from our sight by general usage, or by the example of persons of whom we think well. This is not a course to be proceeded in longer. Conscience, our own conscience, is to be our guide in all things.
Thirdly; we may not absolutely omit any duty to our families, our station, our neighbourhood, or the public, with which we are acquainted; but might not these duties be more effectively performed, if they were gone about with more diligence than we have hitherto used ? and might not further means and opportunities of doing good be found out, if we took sufficient pains to inquire and to consider ?
Fourthly, again ; even where less is to be blamed in our lives, much
remain to be set right in our hearts, our tempers, and dispositions. Let our affections grow more and more pure and holy, our hearts more and more lifted
to God, and loosened from this present world; not from its duties, but from its passions, its temptations, its over-anxieties, and great selfishness; our souls cleansed from the dross and corruption which they have contracted in their passage through it.
Fifthly; it is no slight work to bring our tempers to what they should be; genile, patient, placable, compassionate; slow to be offended, soon to be appeased; free from envy, which, though a necessary, is a difficult, attainment: free from bursts of anger; from aversions to particular persons, which is hatred ; able heartily to rejoice with them that do rejoice; and, from true tenderness of mind, weeping, even when we can do. no more, with them that weep; in a word, to put on charity with all those qualities with which Saint Paul hath clothed it, 1 Cor. xiii. which read for this
Sixthly; whilst any good can be done by us, we shall not fail to do it; but even when our powers of active usefulness fail, which not seldom happens, there still remains that last, that highest, that most difficult, and, perhaps, most acceptable, duty to our Creator, resignation to his blessed will in the privations, and pains, and afflictions with which we are visited; thankfulness to him for all that is spared to us, amidst much that is
any mitigation of our sufferings, any degree of ease, and comfort, and support, and assistance, which we experience. Every advanced life, every life of sickness or misfortune, affords materials for virtuous feelings. In a word, I am persuaded, that there is no state whatever of Christian trial, varied and various as it is, in which there will not be found both matter and room for improvement; in which a true Christian will not be incessantly striving, month by month, and year by year, to grow sensibly better and better ; and in which his endeavours, if sincere, and assisted, as, if sincere, they may hope to be assisted, by God's grace, will not be rewarded with success.
PRAYER IN IMITATION OF CHRIST.
LUKE, v. 16.
And he withdrew himself into the wilderness,
HE imitation of our Saviour is justly
held out to us, as a rule of life ; but then there are many things in which we cannot imitate him. What depends upon
his miraculous character must necessarily surpass our endeavours, and be placed out of the reach of our imitation.
This reason makes those particulars, in which we are able to follow his example, of great importance to be observed by us; because it is to these that our hopes of taking him for our pattern, of treading in his footsteps, are necessarily confined.