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from God. This is the perfection of all virtues ; and all virtues, which do not tend to it, nor proceed from it, are but so many false ornaments of a soul not converted to God.
If any one would tell you the shortest, surest way to all happiness, and all perfection, he must tell you to make it a rule to yourself to thank and praise God for every thing, which happens to you. For it is certain, that, whatever seem, ing calamity happens to you, if you thank and praise God for it, you turn it into a blessing.
Could you work miracles, you could not do more for yourself, than by this thankful spirit; for it heals with a word speaking, and turns all, which it touches, into happiness.
If therefore you would be so true to your eternal interest, as to propose this thankfulness as the end of all your : religion ; if you would but settle it in your mind, that this was the state, at which you were to aim by all your devotions, you would then have something plain and visible to waik by in all your actions, you would then easily see the effect of your virtues, and might safely judge of your improvement in piety. For so far as you renounce all selfish tempers, and motions of your own will, and seek for no other happiness, but in the thankful re:
ception of every thing, which happens to you, SO far
you may be safely reckoned to have adyanced in piety.
Although this be the highest temper, at which you can aim; though it be the noblest sacrifice, that the greatest saints can offer unto God; yet it is not tied to any time, nor place, nor great occasion ; but is always in your power, and may be the exercise of every day. For the common events of every day are sufficient to discover and exercise this temper, and may plainly show you, how far you are governed in all your actions by this thankful spirit.
For this reason I exhort you to this method in your devotion, that every day may be made a day of thanksgiving, and that the spirit of murmur and discontent may be unable to enter into the heart, which is so often employed in praising God.
Recommending humility, as a subject of devotion,
I HAVE, in the last chapter, laid before you the excellency of praise and thanksgiving
I shall now recommend humility to you, as highly proper to be made the constant subject of your devotions.
Humility is so essential to the right state of our souls, that there is no pretending to a reasonable or pious life without it. We may as well think to see without eyes, or live without breath, as to live in the spirit of religion without the spirit of humility.
Although it is thus the soul and essence of all religious duties; yet is it, generally speaking, the least understood, the least regarded, the least intended, the least desired, and sought after, of all other virtues amongst all sorts of christians.
No people have more occasion to be afraid of the approaches of pride, than those, who have made some advances in a pious life. For pride can grow as well upon our virtues, as our vices, and steals upon us on all occasions.
Every good thought, which we have, every good action, we do, lays us open to pride, and exposes us to the assaults of vanity and self satisfaction.
It is not only the duty of our persons, the gifts of fortune, our natural talents, and the distinctions of life; but even our devotions and
alms, our fastings and humiliations expose us to fresh and strong temptations of this evil spirit.
Humility does not consist in having a worse opinion of ourselves, than we deserve, nor in abasing ourselves lower, than we really are. But, as all virtue is founded in truth, so humility is founded on a true and just sense of our weakness, misery, and sin. He, who rightly feels and lives in this sense of his condition, lives in humility:
The weakness of our state appears from our inability to do any thing as of ourselves. We are indeed active beings; but can only act by a power, which is every moment lent us from God.
This is the dependent, helpless poverty of our state ; which is a great reason for humility. For, since we neither are, nor can do any thing of ourselves, to be proud of any thing, which we are, or of any thing, which we can do, and to ascribe glory to ourselves for these things, as our own ornaments, has the guilt both of stealing and lying. It has the guilt of stealing, as it gives to ourselves those things, which belong to God alone. It has the guilt of lying, as it is denying the truth of our state, and pretending to be something, which we are not.
Secondly. Another argument for humility is founded in the misery of our condition.
The misery of our condition appears in this, that we use these borrowed powers of our nature to the torment and vexation of ourselves and our fellow creatures.
God almighty has intrusted us with the use of reason, and we use it to the disorder and corruption of our nature. We reason ourselves into all kinds of folly and misery, and make our lives the sport of foolish and extravagant passions ; seeking after imaginary happiness in all kinds of shapes, creating to ourselves a thousand wants, amusing our hearts with false hopes and fears, using the world worse than irrational animals ; envying, vexing, and tormenting one another with restless passions and unreasonable, contentions.
Let any man but look back upon his own life, and see, what use he has made of his reason, how little he has consulted it, and how less he has followed it ; what foolish passions, what vain thoughts, what needless labours, what extravagant projects, have taken up the greatest part of his life ; how foolish he has been in his words and conversation ; how seldom he has done well with judgment, and how often he has