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the fame fidelity I have served the world ; were I as obedient to thy commands, as I have been to those of the Aesh ; and as ready to follow thy holy inspirations, as the temptations of the devil; how happy should I be, notwithstanding my past irregularities ! From this instant, I detest my past behaviour, and resolve to amend it. Those members, that have served to fin, by mortification and penance, shall be consecrated to my fanctification, and every action shall be directed to God's honour and my salvation.
To perswade the Romans more effectually to the observance of Christ's law, and to a total change of manners, St. Paul asks them what fruit tbey had in those things, whereof they are now ashamed? Oh! did christians propose to themselves daily this question; What fruit bad you in those things, whereof you are now ashamed ? I have spent all my thoughts and time upon things, that either flattered my vanity, or my sensuality. Interest carried me beyond the bounds of justice ; and pleasure beyond those of decency, and even nature. My actions have been as lawless as my desires; and these have coveted all, my imagination has represented, either pleasing to sense, or agreeable to nature. W bat fruit bad I then in those things? Disappointment in my enterprizes, chagrin in my misfortunes, and shame in my enjoyments; and at present, diseases in my body, remorse in my soul. This is the only fruit I have reaped of my former life ; and without repentance, hell in the future : For the end of those things is death, Temporal death puts an end to sinful enjoyments ; and an eternal death begins their punishment.
Nor is this question profitable only to those, who have absolutely transgress’d the essential points of their duty ; but even to those, who have rather idled, than finned away their time, in childish
amusements: What fruit therefore had you in those things ? I pleas’d my fancy; enjoy'd my ease; and liv'd without constraint in indolence and unconcern, Whilft I might have heap'd up treasures for the next life, I have fauntered away this. For tho I have been always busy, I have really done nothing ; because it is nothing in the sight of God, that tends not to his glory and my salvation.
Oh! how foolish are we with all our reafon! how indiscreet, with all our wisdom! what avails it, to reason well, unless we live well ? To take just measures in the management of our temporal concerns, if we overlook those that are eternal ? All worldly wisdom in the fight of God and his angels is downright folly; it is vain, empty, and insignificant.
What then will become of me, O God, who have not only neglected to lay in provisions of good works for heaven, but have heap'd up a number of bad works, for fewel to burn my crie mes in hell? If I abide by thy justice, I am loft: my hope relies only on thy mercy : Have patience with me, and I will pay thee all. I will, from my past miscarriages, be more cautious for the future : I will correct my lukewarmness by a new fervour, and cancel my sins by a sincere repentance.
But if the only fruit of sin be shame and remorse; that of virtue is content here, and glory hereafter: But now being made free from fin, and be-. come servants of God; ye have your fruit unto holiness, and the end everlasting life : For the wages of fin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life. Þiety has this advantage; that, even in this world, it is honourable and glorious. The worst of men esteem it, tho' they will not take the pains to purchase it: It is waited on by joy, by a calmness and quiet of conscience, and is followed by life everlasting. Qb! how diferent are the fruits of virtue from those of vice! That brings forth confie dence ; This shame. That joy; This repentance. That repose of conscience ; This remorse. That, in fine, ends in glory ; This in torments: For the wages of fin is deatb ; but the gift of God is en ternal life.
What man in his wits will prefer sin, with all its present charms, together with a reversion of eternal misery, before virtue (tho' the practice be hard) with eternal happiness. O! could we but dive into this eternity, and survey the joys and punishments of the next life ! what a change of manners should we see in this ?
To suffer eternally, for a pleasure as vain, as short ; for a pleasure, that began one moment, and ended the next ; (The wages of fin is death ;) what madness! to undergo a small restraint, a short morcification of sense, for a life as happy, as it is everlasting! (The gift of God is eternal life ;) what wisdom! Both these lie before thee. Thou may'st chuse either. Practise virtue, and thou wilt live eternally; but if thou fallest into fin, without repentance, thou diest eternally : For the wages of fin is death.
GOSPEL of St. Matthew, Chap. vii. Verse
15. Beware of false prophets, wbich come to you in jeeps clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves,
16. Ye fall know them by their fruits : Da men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles?
17. Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit, but a corrupt tree bringetb forth evil fruit.
18. A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit , neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit.
19. Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit, is bewen down and cast into the fire.
20. Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them.
21. Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, mall enter into the kingdom of heaven : but he that doth the will of my Father which is in beaven.
The MORAL REFLECTION.
HIS paffage begins with a caution against
false preachers: Beware of false prophets, but especially of those, who come in jeeps cloathing, who veil their malice under an affected modesty, and cover their vices with an exterior mortification. This air of piety is suspicious : 'tis common to seducers, and orthodox preachers ; to those, who devour the flock, and those that feed it.
But our Saviour not only commands us to take heed of them; but also tells us by whac marks we may distinguish them : By their fruits ge shall know them. They quote scripture eternally, and make it speak their fense by misinterpretations. They praise the severe discipline of the ancient church, and run down the practice and indulgence of the present. They characterise Christ's chaste spouse for a prostitute, and lay at her door all the debaucheries of her
rebellious children. They require a blind obe1 dience of their inferiors to their doctrine, yet re
fuse submission to their superiors. Their zeal is factious, their charity bitter, and their humilicy proud : and, in a word, they are sheep without, wolves within: But inwardly they are ravening wolves. A true pastor has also distinguishing marks, as well as the wolf : a charity without interest; a zeal without bitterness; a true piety without hypocrisy : to inferiors he is sweet; submissive to superiors: By their fruits je fall know them. O! that men should take so much pains to damn themselves, and to plunge their brethren into the fame misfortune ! But to head a party is a bewitching temptation, and experience proves, that few overcome it.
As our Saviour has given us a distinctive fign between falfe and true prophets ; so, in the following verse, he leaves us a mark, by which we may know, whether our virtues are real, or counterfeit: Every good tree bringeth forth good fruit. What is this tree, but our heart? And what is this fruit but virtue ? Our heart is right in the light of God, if it produces charity, humility, submission to his providence, and all other virtues he either commands or counsels : Every good tree bringeth forth good fruit
. It is fruit God requires, not blossoms : i. e. feeble and weak purposes of an entire conversion which go no farther, but end where they began, and vanish in a moment: difficulties nip them in the bud, and noth hinders them from growing 80 maturity. Is not this my case? I form sometimes good desires. I frame in the air projects of reformation; but alas! I stop here: and fo bring forth my blossoms, but no fruit. I promise much, but do nothing,
But alas ! good purposes, unless executed, will not save me : Every tree, that bringeth not forth good fruit, shall be cut down, and caft into the fire. O! how fevere is this sentence! and yet I do not tremble. How insupportable the torment it condemns me to ! yet I am insensible. To be condemned to fire, who can endure it? But to (eternal fire, who can comprehend it? Yet this is the doom of those, who yield not good fruit :