Imagens da página

vine government do not admit of a settled and unalterable state of affairs, you may reasonably expect that, among the changes that will inevitably take place, something may turn out to your advantage, of which you have at present no prospect. Above all things, however, resort not to unwarrantable methods of amending your condition-better is actual poverty and distress, if so it must be, with a peaceful conscience, than gain anrighteously acquired. Wait therefore with calmness till the hand of Provi. dence points out your course, or wisely fall in with that gracious provision which the Author of our nature hath made for our happiness, and which I have often contemplated with equal wonder and gratitude, whereby the mind is enabled to accommodate itself to, and even to be comfortable in circumstances, which, viewed from a distance, seemed to forbode nothing but distress and misery. Our great apostle was an illustrious example of this. “I have learned," says he to the Philippians, “in whatever state I am, therewith to be content. I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound; every where and in all things I am instructed, both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need.” But if we only know what it is to be full and to abound-if our affairs wear the aspect of prosperity_if our health be uninterrupted and our constitution unbroken-if we are happy in the society of friends of near and dear relations-if the labours of our hands are meeting with reasonable success, and every moderate want and wish be satisfied; shall we not give way to the pleasing impulse of gratitude ? Shall we prefer an absurd and unmeaning ascription of the blessings, with which we are so abundantly

surrounded, to our good fortune, rather than lift up our hearts in devout aspirations to him, whose almighty hand alone delivers our souls from death, keeps floods of sorrow from overflowing our eyes, and preserves our feet from falling? Can we be so lost to every noble, every ingenuous feeling? Can we cease to be astonished at the insensibility of mankind, which makes the very number, the magnitude, the constancy of the divine benefits, the cause of their being disregarded and forgotten?

Let us now cast a look towards the future.

I just now took notice of that wise and benevolent provision in the constitution of man, which enables him to adapt his mind to an alteration in his condition. No less conspicuous is the kindness and mercy of his Creator, in keeping him ignorant of what is hereafter to befal him. The least reflection may convince us what confusion and misery would ensue, if this order of things were changed ; and how unwise he would be, who, if he had it in his power, would exchange the pleasures of hope for the faculty of prescience. Yet has there been in all ages of the world, a propensity to draw aside, with a profane hand, the veil which conceals from our view wbat is to happen hereafter. The ancient heathens had their augurs, aruspices, and oracles-the Jews, those who pretended to deal with familiar spirits ;—we read, in the history of the Acts, of two men of bad character, who led the multitude astray by affecting to possess extraordinary powers, and that the people of Philippi were so absurd as to take the ravings of an in. sane girl for prophetic inspirations. To every thing of this kind, the Christian doctrine and spirit is utterly opposed. It condemns an excess of anxiety

even about those things which are legitimate objects of care and forethought, and directs us to place our confidence in that God, who, as it is most evident that he does not neglect the meanest of his works, cannot justly be supposed to disregard the affairs, or he indifferent to the welfare, of his rational offspring. Nothing can be more express or encouraging than the declarations of our Saviour to this effect: 6. Are not two sparrows sold for a farthing? and one of them shall not fall to the ground without your father. Fear ye not therefore; ye are of more value than many sparrows." The truth of this doctrine the certainty of this interposition, strikes the mind so forcibly that we at once admit, without requiring the formal proof of it. Nor is it at all inconsistent with the exercise of our own prudence and discretion, nor does it forbid that small degree of insight into the future, which we may obtain by reasoning on the past and the present, or reaping the benefit of our own or others' experience. We may avail ourselves of every advantage these are capable of affording, and yet be feelingly convinced that all issues and events are in the hands of God. We may, with modesty and caution, judge of the future dealings of Providence by those through which we have already passed, and draw a favourable and encouraging conclusion. We have even liberty to pray for the things we want, and to spread our reasonable desires before our heavenly Father; but we have no right to come to him with peremptory demands, or importunate requests in these we may, and ought, to be disappointed. There is only one petition, which, the more earnestly we prefer, the more sure we are of obtaining it and that is, for resignation to the di

vine will. When therefore we pray for the prevention or removal of any affliction, our language ought to be, Father! if it be possible yet not as I will but as thou wilt.” If for the bestowment of any blessing Father! if thou knowest it to be really good for me yet not as I will but as thou wilt.” In all our other requests let us be very careful, before we bring them before the divine Majesty, that they be not contradictory to the perfections of his nature, nor to his declared will, as far as we are acquainted with it, nor such as we may not use every lawful effort in our own power to obtain ; and then we may, with tranquillity and cheerfulness, await, his good pleasure, and, whatever it appears to be, acquiesce in it; for, in the event, it may happen, that what we most desired would have proved hurtful, or what we most dreaded and deprecated, beneficial.

But these are matters in which it is to be feared the generality of mankind take but little interest. or old there have been those who have the harp and the viol, the tabret, and pipe, and wine, in their feasts, but who regard not the work of the Lord, neither consider the operation of bis hands;" and others, who seek, with eager and anxious solicitude, 66 what they shall eat, and what they shall drink, and wherewithal they shall be clothed,” as if the whole of their existence depended upon themselves. Is this wisdom, or is it folly ? Could it ever be ascertained, upon any grounds either of reason or experiment, that this world was intended for the final happiness of man? No surely. And they who believe in the existence and benevolence of the Creator, will conclude, that if it had been so, it would have been constituted far differently from what it is. Make a true

estinate of human life, and how does it appear?Even as “a vapour that appeareth for a little time and soon vanisheth away." Look back upon a space of ten, twenty, or thirty years—it is gone, you can scarcely tell how; and ten, twenty, or thirty years to come, if you should live so long, will flit away just as fast, and still leave you looking farther for something to make you lastingly happy. Proceed as far as we will in the journey of life, and enjoy as much as we can of its good things, the index of permanent happiness still points to futurity-still keeps us in a state of expectation. Neither would it (I believe) be possible to find the man, who, with a perfect recollection of the events of his past life, would be content to pass through them a second time. Miserable then are they, who, in clear contradiction to the constitution of things unalterably established by the Author of our nature, take up their portion in this life. In vain may they persuade themselves that they have much goods laid up for many years, and say to their souls, « Take your ease, eat, drink and be merry," their utmost efforts cannot always exclude reflection; and the thoughts of death will sometimes cause the hand to tremble, even in the act of raising the cup of sensuality to the lips. Let not then the sons of folly, of riot and intemperance, dare to compare their low and perishing gratifications with those of the Christian. He only has the true enjoyment of life, who has no reason to be afraid of death. He only can extract all that is of real value out of the things of this world, who receives them at the hand of God, as earnests of something infinitely better yet to come, and who, instead of fixing his affections inordinately upon them, leaves it to his good pleasure

« AnteriorContinuar »