« PreviousContinue »
lean on your
V.-ON MODERATION. BE moderate in your expectations. When your state is flourishing, and the course of events proceeds according to your wish, suffer not your minds to be vainly lifted up. Flatter not yourselves with high prospects of the increasing favours of the world, and the continuing ap plause of men. Say not within your hearts, My mountain stands strong, and shall never be moved. I shall never see adversity. To morrow shall be as this day, and more abundant. You are betraying yourselves; you are laying a sure foundation of disappointment and misery, when you allow your fancy to soar to such lofty pinnacles of confident hope. By building your house in this airy region, you are preparing for yourselves a great and cruel fall. Your trust is the spider's web. You
may house; but it shall not stand. You may hold it fast; but it shall not endure. For, to man on earth it was never granted to gratify all his hopes ; or to persevere in one track of uninterrupted prosperity. Unpleasing vicissitudes never fail to succeed those that were grateful. The fashion of the world, how gay or smiling soever, passeth, and often passeth suddenly away.
By want of moderation in our hopes, we not only increase dejection when disappointment comes, but we accelerate disappointment; we bring forward, with greater speed, disagreeable changes in our state ; for the natural consequence of presumptuous expectation, is rashness in conduct. He who indulges confident security, of course neglects due precautions against the dangers that threaten him; and his fall will be foreseen and predicted. He not only exposes himself unguarded to dangers, but he multiplies them against himself
. By presumption and vanity, he either provokes enmity or incurs contempt.
The arrogant mind and the proud hope are equally contrary to religion, and to prudence. The world cannot bear such a spirit, and Providence seldom fails to check it. The Almighty beholds with displeasure those who, intoxicated with prosperity, forget their dependence on that Supreme Power which raised them up. His awful government of the world has been in nothing more conscattering the proud in the imaginations of their minds. Is not this the great Babylon which I have built by the might of my power, and for the honour of my majesty ? Thus exclaimed the presumptuous monarch, in the pride of his heart. But lo! when the word was yet in his mouth, the visitation from heaven came, and the voice was heard : 0 Nebuchadnezzar, to thee it is spoken ; thy kingdom is departed from thee. He that exalteth himself shall be humbled : and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted. A temperate spirit, and moderate expectations, are the best safeguards of the mind, in this uncertain and changing state. They enable us to pass through life with most comfort. When we rise in the world, they contribute to our elevation; and if we must fall, they render our fall the lighter.
VI.-CONTEMPLATION OF THE WORKS OF GOD. It is, indeed, a noble employment, and highly worthy of us, to study the book of nature frequently and seriously; to learn from it the truths which may remind us of the greatness of God and of our own littleness, of the blessings which he confers, and of the obligations under which they lay us. It is shameful for man to be inattentive to the wonders which surround him, and to be as insensible to them as the brutes that perish. If reason has been given him, it is for this, among other
purposes, that we may make use of it for discovering and acknowledging the perfections of God, as these are displayed in his works. What occupation can be more pleasing to the human mind, than that of meditating on these works, as they are everywhere presented to our observation ? What can be more gratifying than to contemplate in the heavens, in the earth, in the water, in the night and day, and, indeed, throughout all nature, the proofs which they afford of the wisdom, the purity, and the goodness of our great Creator and Preserver? What can be more delightful than to recognise in the whole creation, in all the natural world, in every thing we see, traces of the everworking providence and tender mercy of the great Father of all? There are no amusements, no worldly joys, of which we are not soon tired; but the pleasure that we feel in contemplating the works of the Lord is ever new; and were we thus to employ ourselves during thousandss of years, we should be so little fatigued with the repetition of the subject, that it would daily exhibit novel and more interesting charms. It is in this light I often represent to myself the felicity of the saints in heaven. I ardently wish to be with them, because I am persuaded it is in their society only, that my desire of increasing in knowledge and wisdom can be fully satisfied. But whilst we are at a distance from this felicity, let us at least endeavour to come as near to it as possible, by habituating ourselves in time, to what shall form one of the noblest exercises of the blessed saints and angels in eternity. Let us adore God in his marvellous works, and aspire after a more perfect knowledge of his attributes and character. Let us reflect on his greatness, admire his power and wisdom in each of his creatures, and observe, in every season of the year, his goodness and mercy towards all that lives. This employment will not only give us pleasure, but make us virtuous; for if we have God and his works continually in our sight, with what love and veneration for him shall we be penetrated! with what confidence shall we resign ourselves to bis disposal! with what zeal and transport shall we sing his praise! Surely it becomes us at all times, to meditate with gratitude and reverence on those wonders of his power and wisdom which fill the universe; and to raise ourselves from earth to heaven, by the chain of beings which he has formed, in order to know, and feel, and enjoy his goodness. Every thing around me, every thing within me, should lead me to Him as the source of all; every thing should contribute more and more to kindle in my soul the flame of piety and love. The sun which shines upon me, the air which I breathe, the earth by which I am sustained—all nature, so wisely framed to supply my wants and minister to my gratification, shall one day witness against me, if I neglect to contemplate, to admire, and to delight in the wonderful works of God.
VII.-CONFIDENCE IN THE DEITY. MAN, considered in himself, is a very helpless, and a very wretched being. He is subject every moment to the greatest calamities and misfortunes. He is beset with dangers on all sides, and may become unhappy by numberless casualties, which he could not foresee, nor have prevented had he foreseen them.
It is our comfort, while we are obnoxious to so many accidents, that we are under the care of one who directs contingencies, and has in his hands the management of every thing that is capable of annoying or offending us; who knows the assistance we stand in need of, and is always ready to bestow it on those who ask it of him.
The natural homage, which such a creature bears to so infinitely wise and good a Being, is a firm reliance on him for the blessings and conveniences of life, and an habitual trust in him for deliverance out of all such dangers and difficulties as may befall us.
The man, who lives always in this disposition of mind, has not the same dark and melancholy views of human nature, as he who considers himself abstractedly from this relation to the Supreme Being. At the same time that he reflects upon his own weakness and imperfection, he comforts himself with the contemplation of those divine attributes, which are employed for his safety and his welfare. He finds his want of foresight made up by the omniscience of him who is his support. He is not sensible of his own want of strength, when he knows that his helper is Almighty. In short, the person who has a firm trust on the Supreme Being is powerful in his power, wise by his wisdom, happy by his happiness. He reaps the benefit of every divine attribute, and loses his own insufficiency in the fulness of infinite perfection.
To make our lives more easy to us, we are commanded to put our trust in him, who is thus able to relieve and succour us; the divine goodness having made such a reliance a duty, notwithstanding we should have been miserable had it been forbidden us.
Among several motives, which might be made use of to recommend this duty to us, I shall only take notice of those that follow.
The first and strongest is, that we are promised he will not fail those who put their trust in him.
But without considering the supernatural blessing which accompanies this duty, we may observe that it has a natural tendency to its own reward, or in other words, that this firm trust and confidence in the Great Disposer of all things contributes very much to the getting clear of any affliction, or to the bearing it manfully. A person who believes he has his succour at hand, and that be acts in the sight of his friend, often exerts himself beyond his abilities, and does wonders that are not to be matched by one who is not animated with such a confidence of success. I could produce instances from history, of generals, who, out of a belief that they were under the protection of some invisible assistant, did not only encourage their soldiers to do their utmost, but have acted themselves beyond what they would have done, had they not been inspired by such a belief. I might in the same manner show how much a trust in the assistance of an Almighty Being naturally produces patience, hope, cheerfulness, and all other dispositions of mind that alleviate those calamities which we are not able to remove.
The practice of this virtue administers great comfort to the mind of man in times of poverty and affliction, but most of all in the hour of death. When the soul is hovering in the last moments of its separation, when it is just entering on another state of existence, to converse with scenes, and objects, and companions that are altogether new, what can support her under such tremblings of thought, such fear, such anxiety, such apprehensions, but the casting of all her cares upon him who first gave her being, who has conducted her through one stage of it, and will be always with her to guide and comfort her in her progress through eternity?
VIII.-THE PLEASURE AND ADVANTAGE OF RELIGION. " LOOK round and survey the various beauties of the globe, which heaven has destined for the human race, and consider whether a world thus exquisitely framed