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powers and principles; their difference arifes from fituation, education, improvement, and a great number both of known and latent caufes. From their variety it happens, that different objects affect different men; from their resemblance it happens that fome things affect almost all men, though in different degrees.
The general propenfity of mankind to obferve and regard the laft words even of those who have been no way remarkable in life, cannot fail to be acknowledged; but this propenfity particularly appears with regard to thofe who have acted a confpicuous part, or who are confidered by us as our friends and benefactors. The laft words of fuch imprefs the minds of moft men in the ftrongest manner, and there is fcarcely one on whom they do not produce fome effect. The words themselves, the occafion on which they are spoken, the circumftances with which they are attended, the confequences which follow, naturally excite fuch a variety of emotions, that fuppofing a person to remain untouched by fome of them, yet he feels the force of others. The verfe now read, which contains the laft words of our Saviour,
Saviour, affords a variety of reflections, which must prove interefting to every hearer. treating of them I propofe, in the first place, to confider the meaning and import of this expreffion, It is finished, which our Saviour ufed before he bowed his head, and gave up the ghoft. 2dly, I fhall confider the pecuculiar light in which this expreffion, with the confequence which immediately followed, difcovers our Saviour's character to us.
In the first place: By this expretiion, It is finifhed, we may understand our Saviour as declaring that the great plan of divine Providence, for which he was fent into the world, was accomplished.
Those who live in the world propofe to themselves various ends; and we unavoidably confider thofe ends, as objects either of praise, or of difapprobation. One aims at the gratification of his appetites, and the enjoyment of his pleasures. Another pursues riches, or makes ambition and the love of power, the guide of his life. We cannot view thefe men in the fame light with thofe, who are fired with the love of virtue, of their country, of mankind. We term fome ends, mean and unworthy, unworthy of a rational
creature like man; others laudable and becoming; and fome truly great and heroic. It is farther to be observed, that we not only applaud the profecution of an end that is good, but if it be profecuted with a peculiar degree of steadiness, the more justly and highly it obtains our approbation. It can scarcely be faid of the worst, that they never pursued a good end; but how finished is that character, which never ftooped to any end that was mean and unworthy! The eye of the generality of men is captivated by every glaring object. Objects of this kind fometimes even attract the heart, and divert the aim of the well-intentioned. We can easily apply to human life the fable which reprefents one as obftructed in the prosecution of a race, by meeting with golden apples which were induftriously thrown in the way. But amidst all the variety of poffible pursuits, it will be acknowledged, that none can be accounted fo truly great and heroic, or so deferving of our utmost steadiness, as promoting the glory of God, and fulfilling all the defigns of his Providence. That this was the end which our Saviour ever had in view, and that he purfued it with the most unwearied
wearied fteadinefs and attention, is evident to every one who reads the gofpel.
A little after his entrance upon his public ministry, when his difciples asked him to take fome meat, to fupport him under the fatigues which he had endured, he takes occafion to inform them, that his meat was to do the will of him that fent him, and to finifh his work; and to the fame purpose he declares, in another place, I came down from Heaven, not to do my own will, but the will of him that fent me. Anxious to fulfil the great plan of Providence, he always discovers that it was uppermoft in his thoughts. I must work the work of him that fent me, while it is day; the night cometh when no man can work. In that long prayer which he offers up to his Father a little before his crucifixion, recollecting what was already done, and confcious of his fortitude to endure the laft trial, he declares, I have glorified thee on earth, I have finished the work which thou gavest me to doa. When the zeal of one of his difciples would have led him to oppose the unjust violence that was offered to his Mafter, he admo
* John iv. 34. John vi. 38. John ix. 4.
d John xvii. 4.
nishes him not to refift the will of his Father. The cup which my Father, fays he, hath given me, fhall I not drink it? If we attend to the actions of Jefus, we must allow that they were calculated for promoting the ends of divine Providence, as far as we can conceive any courfe of life to be fo.
When we confider things in a very general view, it is true that every thing which happens may be said to conftitute a part of the plan of divine Providence. In this sense it is, that the wrath of man praiseth God, and that he hath made all things for himself; yea, even the wicked for the day of evil. The natural course of things is nothing but certain difpofitions of his appointment; and under the plan of his administration is comprehended both the conduct of the virtuous, and the behaviour of the vicious. This we may call the natural plan of his Providence.
But when we attend to the moral perfections of the Almighty, the declarations he hath given in the conftitution of man, that he is the friend and patron of virtue and of virtuous men, the evidences he affords of