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worse? Have we fought a good fight? practised a steady opposition to the enemies of our salvation, to the allurements of the world, the flesh, and the devil? If we have gained one point, if we have advanced one step, if we perceive the smallest improvement in our principles and conduct, it is a high encouragement to quicken our speed, to redouble our endeavours. The hill which we climb is steepest at the bottom. The first advances in the way of virtue are most slow and most laborious. Let us not faint or desist. We shall soon add virtue to virtue -cut down one vice after another. We shall, ere long, begin to taste and to relish the satisfaction, the joys, the hopes of religion.
On the other hand, if we find that we are sinking more and more under temptation-our good principles daily giving way-our old sins grown more confirmed and irresistible, and new ones making their appearance in us, it is time to take the alarm. Another such year may ruin us for everlasting. Our case will bear no delay. We must set about it immediately, if we intend it at all, with firmness-with resolution-with perseverance. Let us then search out our condition to the bottom. Have we the last year managed our earthly affairs with scrupulous honesty, and truth, and fair dealing, or have we, in any instance, for the sake of any advantage to ourselves, taken in, overreached, or gone beyond any man? Have our transgressions and trespasses, as to sobriety and purity, been more or less frequent this last year than
heretofore? Are we growing better in this respect, or worse? How shall we better withstand temptation for the future?-or what course shall we take to avoid it? Do we feel, more or less frequently, fits of anger, rage, and passion? Have we striven against them? Have we striven to any purpose? In what degree have we conquered or corrected them; or how shall we set about to do it? Are peevishness, envy, discontent, strife, malice, hatred, covetousness, more or less rife and strong in our hearts of late than they used to be? What evil actions, what evil speakings have they of late put us upon? what quarrels, what contentions have they drawn us into? Have we endeavoured to get the better of these evil passions? Have our endeavours been successful? Have they been sincere and continued? Do we feel peace, and quietness, and humility, and good-nature, and goodwill? Have any impressive and lively lessons been spreading and gaining ground on our hearts? In a word, has the past year been distinguished by any virtuous acts and virtuous endeavours-any bad habits broken and got the better of-any good rule of living begun ?
I trust, and I believe, that many of us will find in the review of the past, enough to comfort and encourage us. Many, no doubt, will find much to mortify, much to abase, much to humble them; but we shall all find enough to be done for the future.
Let us then awake out of sleep. Let us set about the reformation of our lives immediately. Let a new
year begin a new course. Let us reflect that a year more is now gone-that the time is far spent-that now is our salvation drawing nearer that a single year brings us nearer to the awful trial when our destiny will be fixed: nearer, not by a small and inconsiderable degree, but by a very serious and substantial portion of the whole term which we, any of us, reasonably expect to live.
2 CHRONICLES XX. 13.
And all Judah stood before the Lord, with their little ones, their wives, and their children.
In a great and solemn act of national devotion, which was held during the pious reign of Jehoshaphat king of Judah, upon the occasion of a public danger which then threatened their country, we read that Judah gathered themselves together to ask help of the Lord; even out of all the cities of Judah, they came to seek the Lord.
Had we read no more than that Judah was gathered together, we should have been led perhaps to conclude that the assembly was made up of the king, the magistrates, and the priesthood; the heads of tribes, the masters of families, the principal persons, the aged, or at the lowest, the adult, inhabitants of the country. But the words of the text which have been read to you convey a more circumstantial, and, I think, very observable account of this great religious concourse. By them we are distinctly told, that not only those whom we have before enumerated formed the con
gregation which stood before the Lord, but that, together with the great body of the Jewish nation, were present also their little ones, their wives, and their children. This is a direct and decisive example for the proof of the following points; namely, the propriety and the duty of bringing children to the public worship of God, as an act of piety and devotion on the part of those who bring them. It is an example also of very high authority, and of an authority which is strengthened by every circumstance in the history. The assembly appears to have been held in pursuance of the prayer of Solomon many ages before-that when any distress should overtake the nation, they should find their refuge in the protection of their God, when they sought it in his Temple. This prayer was accepted; and it was particularly remembered upon the occasion of which we are now discoursing. "If when evil cometh upon us," say they, "as the sword, judgement, or pestilence, or famine, we stand before this house and thy presence -for thy name is in this house-and cry unto thee in our affliction, then thou wilt hear and help.”
Afterwards it is related, as we have remarked, who they were that stood before that house and in God's presence; even all Judah, with their little ones, their wives, and their children." Now the little ones and the children were there, not probably for any knowledge they could be supposed to have of the nature or extremity of the public danger, nor consequently for any part they could immediately and