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SERMON V.

Hab. in. i7, 18.

Although The Fig-tree Shall Not Blossom, Neither Shall Fruit Be In The Vines, The Labour Of The Olive Shall Fail, And The "fields Shall Yield No Meat, The Flock Shall Be Cut Off From The Fold, And There Shall Be No Herd In The Stalls: Yet I Will Rejoice In The Lord, I Will Joy In The God Of My SalVATION.

IT is very easy to conceive and allow, that, if vice and virtue ' were indifferent to the author of nature, he would not have distinguished the one from the G 3 other other by any particular marks of approbation and dislike. And yet, it is very visible, even amidst the present disorder of the world, that he has established a very great and essential difference between them: a difference, not lying in slight occasional effects or temporary consequences, (for this might be resolved into mere accident) but fixed deep in the very frame and constitution of things; which could proceed only from purpose or design.

The world could not subsist without the practice of virtue. Happiness, as far as we can enjoy it in this imperfect state, is wholly the effect of virtue; vice is the cause of our principal and worst distresses. If a nation flourishes, it is virtue, that exalteth it; if a private man is great, and eminent, and useful, it is virtue that forms the character. If, on the contrary, provinces are desolated and fenced cities laid into. ruinQus heaps, it is vice that occasions

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the devastation; if a man is a burden or scourge to the earth, it is the indulgence of some vicious propensity that puts his mischievous powers in motion. Kingdoms, we see, rise and fall, families flourish and decay, in perpetual succession. * Examine into the causes, and you will find, that industry, temperance, justice and other virtues have occasioned the prosperity — while these virtues continue, and administer, as it were, their vital juices to the root, the plant continues to flourish and bless the world with its useful produce — but as these virtues fail, and sloth, and luxury, and dissipation take place, the scene gradually fades away, disgrace and misery ensue.

We cannot have a better proof, that the author of nature is engaged in ge

* Imperium facile iis artibus retinetur, quibus initio partum est. Verum, ubi pro labore desidia, pro continents et equitate libido atque superbia invasere; fortuna simul cum moribus iramutatur. Sal.

G 4 neral neral on the side of virtue. As to the particular instances, where the righteous and wicked fare alike, where the wicked flourish and the righteous fall into affliction, this shakes not a wise man's faith: secret things belong to God: he may have a thousand reasons for the present ways of his Providence. Our business is to confide, that he, who wants not the means or power to fulfil his purposes, will amply do it, some time or other, in every instance, and rectify every inequality.

Such a reliance on an Almighty and gracious Providence is absolutely necessary to present happiness. Though it enables us not to pass with uninterrupted comfort through life, yet it is the best preparative for all its chances and changes. It heightens every blessing, brightens every prospect, and alleviates every calamity. It is almost health upon the bed of sickness, riches amidst the wants of poverty, liberty amidst the chains of bondage, and hope in the deepest scenes of distress.

A Paradox as it seems, we are however taught this lesson by the holy prophet. He imagines a dreadful assemblage of the worst of human evils: Although, says he, the Jig-tree Jhall not blofj'om, neither Jhall fruit be in the vines, the labour of the olive Jhall fail, and the fields Jloall yield no meat, the flock Jhall be cut off from the fold, and there Jhall be no herd in the flails. Amidst all this accumulated distress, he is still happy; not, * as philosophic ease and speculation affect to speak, because virtue is sufficient to its own happiness, stripped of all rewards, all foreign consolations; but because he trusts in God. It is from the gracious author of the world, he expects the removals of its present disorders: I will rejoice, says he, IN

^pauperiem sine dote quære.

Hor.

THE

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