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loved such a one, what more charitable wish could we indulge towards him, than that the chastening hand of heaven might fall heavy upon him, arrest him in his thoughtless career, and teach him to pause, ponder, and weigh the moment—the eternal moment
-" of the things that belong to his peace, before they are for ever hid from his eyes ?”
That there should be any persons, endued with reason and understanding, who never found leisure in this world to reflect for what end they were sent into it, would seem incredible, if experience did not assure us of it. There are really so many affecting incidents in life (undoubtedly intended to awaken reflection) that their hearts must be petrified indeed, one would think, and harder than adamant, or the nether millstone, who can live in this world without being sometimes affected, if not with their own, at least with the human, lot.
I hope it is far from being my character, that I am of a gloomy temper, or delight to dwell unseasonably on the dark side of things. Our cup here is bitter enough, and misfortunes sown too thick for any one who loves his species to seek to embitter the draught, by evils of his own creation. But there is a time for all things; and, on some occasions, not to feel, sympathize, and mourn, would argue the most savage na. ture.
This day every thing that comes from me will be tinctured with melancholy. It is, however, a virtuous melancholy; and therefore, if publickly indulged, I hope it may be thought excusable.
You know it is natural for those who are sincere. ly afflicted, to believe that every person is obliged to sympathise with them, and attend patiently to the sto ry of their woe. But whether this be your present disposition or not, I shall say nothing, which you are not as much concerned to receive deeply into your hearts, as I am to pour it from mine.
The general doctrine which I would enforce from the text (previous to my intended application of it) is that a constant feast was never designed for us here, and that it is the good will of our Father that we should be frequently roused by what happens to us and around us, to remember him, the great fountain of our being; and to cherish that serious reflection and religious sorrow, which may lead us to eternal joy.
That we should observe such a conduct appears highly reasonable in itself. For next to the immediate praises of our great Creator, there is not an exercise that tends more to improve and ennoble the soul, than frequently to cast an eye upon human life, and expatiate on the various scene, till we lead on the soft power of religious melancholy, and feel the virtuous purpose gently rising in our sympathising breasts, thrilling through our inmost frame, and starting into the social
generous tears. It would be affronting your understanding to sup
you think the melancholy here recommended, in any manner related to that gloomy despondency into which some people fall. No; my beloved brethren! It is that'virtuous reflection, philosophic pensiveness, and religous tenderness of soul, which so well suit the honour of our nature, and our situa- · tion in life. And much to be pitied is that man, who thinks such a temper unbecomming his dignity, and
whose proud soul pretends never to be cast down from the lofty throne of stoic insensibility.
Such a one, in the sunshine of his prosperity, may arrogantly boast that nothing can move him; and while the world goes well with him, he may remain blind to his error. But let Heaven strip him of his gaudy plumes, and throw him back naked into that world, where he had fixed his heart, he will find to his cost that, though he never had the virtue to be cast down and feel for others, yet he will have the weakness to be cast down and become the most ab. ject despondent thing alive for himself.
When his transient honours are thus fled, his haughty looks will be humbled. He will begin to contemn his past folly, and to enter deeply into his own bosom. He will no more rely on the smiles of fortune, or the patteries of men; but will acknowledge, from dear bought experience, that, in this life, there is no sure refuge but God, nothing permanent but virtue, and nothing great but an humble heart, and a deep sense of the state of our mortality here.
But, besides personal affliction (which is perhaps a last means) the all-gracious governor of the world, still watchful to turn every event to the good of his creatures, without violating their moral liberty, has many other ways of leading them to the remembrance of himself. Whether we look within or around us, we shall find enough in the prospect to humble our souls, and to convince us that, not trusting to any thing in a world where all enjoyments are fleeting, we shall then only be safe in it, “ when we have put on the
breast-plate of righteousness, and armed ourselves with the sword of the spirit*"
“ Few and evil are the days of our pilgrimage heref.” God never intended this world as a lasting habitation for us: and, on a just estimate of the things in it, evil will be found so continually blended with good, that we cannot reasonably set our affections much upon it. Wailing, weak and defenceless we are ushered into it. Our youth is a scene of folly and danger; our manhood of care, toil and disappoint. ment. Our old age, if happily we reach old
age, second childhood. Withered, weak and bowed be- . neath our infirmities, we become as it were a living hospital of woes: a burden to ourselves, and perhaps an incumbrance to those we love most.
This is the common state of our being. But besides all this, the number of evils in each of these stages is greatly encreased, partly by our own misconduct, and partly by our necessary connexions with others. For the equitable judgments of God are often general. “ All things come alike to all men; and there is but one event to the righteous and to the wickedf?” Moreover, many of those evils are of such a nature, that no prudence of ours can either foresee or prevent them. All the stages of life necessarily subject us to pains and diseases of body, and many of them to the acuter pains of an anxious mind.
Upon the whole, we may pronounce, from the highest authority, that “our life is but a vapour, which is seen a little while, and then vanisheth away, as a tale that is told and remembered no more; or as a wind that passes over and cometh not again.”
• Galat. vi. 14, &c.
+ Gen. xlvii. 9.
1 % Eccles. ix. 2
The man must be thoughtless, indeed, who is not humbled with these reflections. But suppose his own life should pass over as happily as possible, and he should feel but few of these evils himself; yet unless he shuts his eyes and his ears from the world around him, he must still find something in it, which ought to move the tender heart to religious sorrow and remembrance of God.
Our blessed Saviour himself, though more than human, and conscious of no personal ill, cast his eyes upon Jerusalem and wept over it, on account of its impending fate. Just so, if we cast an eye upon the world, we shall drop a tear over it, on account of the unavoidable misfortunes that prevail in it.
Don't we often see tyranny successful, ruthless oppression and persecution ravaging the globe, the best of men made slaves to the worst, and the lovely image of the Deity spurned, dishonoured, disfigured! How many men, of genuine worth, are cast out by fortune to mourn in solitary places, unseen, unpitied; while wickedness riots in the face of day, or pampers in lordly palaces! How many pine in the confine. ment of dungeons; or are chained down, for offences not their own, to the gallies for life! How many bleed beneath the sword, and bite the ground in all the sad variety of anguish, to sate the cruel ambition of contending masters! How many are deprived of their estates, and disappointed in their most sanguine expectations, by the malice of secret and open enemies, or, which is far more piercing, the treachery