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SERMON XXII A.*

ON CHRIST'S GOING UP TO JERUSALEM WITH HIS PARENTS.

Luke ii. 49.

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not that I must be about

my

Father's business.

There is interwoven into the very frame of our souls, a curiosity to know the most trivial actions of illustrious men, and to pry into all the minute parts of such characters, as are lifted up to admiration, for extent of knowledge, brightness of genius, or eminence of virtue. On these occasions we mechanically, as it were, affix the idea of general excellence to particular circumstances in which that excellence can hardly prevail; and with the utmost eagerness inquire into those petty incidents, that in persons less respectable we should pass over with all the coolness of indifference. Thus, viewed through the medium of an honest prejudice, each object swells into importance, and we take a sort of interest in every event that brings back to our memory the goodness we love, and the

greatness A little reflection on the workings of our own minds will account for this propensity to

we revere.

* 1772.

In every

join things, between which a real and external analogy seldom subsists. I say seldom, because in some rare cases the predominant faculty of the understanding, and the ruling passions of the heart communicate their influence even to the most inconsiderable parts of human agency. great object, our attention is first seized by some leading, essential quality, and for a time absorbed in the contemplation of it. When we descend to a more particular examination, inferior beauties strike upon our view, and stir up emotions of a feebler kind than those, we before experienced. By these means our moral as well as intellectual taste is gratified; and when this is the case, our ideas insensibly blend the most disproportionate dissimilar qualities into one assemblage, and then act back on each other, by a procedure not less wonderful than that, by which they were primarily brought together. This principle of associating and confounding images originally unconnected enables us to acquire a surpassing intenseness in our perceptions, and bestows too additional value on the things perceived. Hence the principal qualities borrowgrace from such as are subordinate, and the subordinate derive dignity from the principal. Hence all the respective parts of a finished character, receive and communicate a lustre distinct from their own. They suggest a succession of ideal relations. They produce their full effect upon the beholder, by making up one perfect consistent whole, which at once transports us with amazement, warms 13 with affection, and awes us unto respect. Would we, how

ever, trace out all the causes of the curiosity just now mentioned, we must look beyond the impression that an object makes upon us by an artificial conjunction and modification of its beauties—we must as well attend to the various species and degrees of entertainment those beauties excite when stript of all foreign ornament, and analysed in that state of separation and mutual independence, in which they actually exist.

When any uncommon degree of intellectual and moral excellence attracts our notice, all the energies of our fancy are suddenly set in action, all our faculties expand themselves to the utmost dimensions of their object, and by taking in one great sentiment of sublimity, we feel not only our curiosity gratified, but our most enlarged capacity of comprehending Glled up. Yet the stretch of understanding necessary to make us capable of this pleasure, in some measure diminishes it; nay, the pleasure itself soon becomes painful to us, through the violence of the emotions by which it is produced. Dazzled, therefore, by the glare of the more elevated and more conspicuous qualities, we gladly let down our attention to such as have less solidity to exercise the judgment, and less splendour to amaze the imagination—such as employ the mind without fatiguing, and gratify without cloying it. 'Tis true, in looking up to merit far above our attainment, we are conscious of some dignity from the bare approbation of what is noble ; but the satisfaction we receive is more soothing, and more durable, when the agent is thrown in a nearer attitude-when we see those, whom every eye beholds with wonder, every tongue mentions with applause, descend to the common business of the world, placed in situations ourselves have experienced, and actuated by motives ourselves have felt. Hence then we see the reason of that impatience, we all acknowledge, after the most trivial concerns of those we admire. In the first place, the nobler accomplishments seem to stamp a value on those, to which they bear no relation. In the second, exclusively of the pleasure the mind derives from its own efforts, in combining the greater objects with the less, the latter are by their own specific nature more agreeable to us than the former. Admiration is soon exhausted, and succeeded by lassitude ; but delight from each new gratification, secretly extracts a power of being further gratified, and propagating itself in long succession, without the languor of satiety, and without the turbulence of excessive enjoyment. This inquisitiveness after trifles, however the affectation of a philosophic spirit may lead us to ridicule it, the most strenuous repeated struggles are insufficient to subdue; and therefore if its universality and its force may be allowed as any proof of its use, we may conclude it implanted in us for nobler

purposes than its own immediate gratification.

The most uninteresting scenes indeed of a life distinguished for superior desert may convey some information to a serious observer; for the progress of our thoughts in uniting extraordinary excellencies with ordinary, is not more rapid than in the transition they make from others to ourselves, when

that union has once taken place. While we survey the virtues of respectable men brought down in a manner to a level with us, the mind imperceptibly steals back to our own conduct-we are charmed with every appearance of resemblance between ourselves, and those we reverence—and we feel a pride in doing, what wiser and better men have done, not from any consciousness of intrinsic worth in the action, but from a sense of imitation. The final influence, however, of this sense, is by no means confined to such parts of our behaviour, as are exempted from blame, or entitled to a petty share of praise. On the contrary, it animates us with new ardour in the exertion of our own powers, and flatters us with the expectation of rivalling our superiors in many instances, though we are totally destitute of those extraordinary endowments, by which they stand distinguished from the bulk of mankind. Hence the example of persons who at once excite our love, and command our veneration, instructs without reproaching us. Instead of repining at our infirmity, which never becomes ridiculous, but by our own injudicious endeavours to dissemble it, we call up to our thoughts every motive that can animate emulation-we resolutely pursue the excellence that is placed within our reach-and aspire, perhaps, to those more noble degrees of eminence, which it is no mean honour to approach.

There are few readers but have felt that inixture of pleasure and amazement, which the different situations of any illustrious person excite, when they have read the history of our Saviour ; and well

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