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as unlawful. “ It is good and comely,” says the Preacher, (Eccl. v. 18.)“ for one to eat and to drink, and to enjoy the good of all his labour 'that he taketh under the sun all the days of his life, which God giveth him; for it is his portion.”
” Religion doth not forbid a free and cheerful use of the portion God gives us, but rather requires us to be generous to ourselves and others, in proportion to what his providence bestows; and good.diet greatly conduces to lively spirits. We may even, on particular occasions, mix with a large company, when the provision will be consequently better and more plentiful than usual, so long as every thing is condacted with decency and good-humour; for our Saviour himself thought it not inconsistent with the dignity and purity of his character to visit such parties, and to honour the feast with his presence. Let us go, then, and see what we can learn from a feast,
1. We learn the greatness and goodness of God.
The first sight of such variety and profusion fills us with grateful admiration of that great and gracious Being, the Most High, Possessor of Heaven and Earth, who openeth his hand and satisfieth the desire of every living thing. We recollect with thankfulness the original grant, in the 28th verse of the 1st chapter of Genesis, where God gave our first parents
“ dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowls of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.” We are particularly affected with the thought, that God should make the whole creation so subservient to our use, not merely to answer the demands of nature, but to gratify the luxury of appetite ; that he
should make every climate, and every element, contribute to our entertainment; and that should fare so sumptuously, when so many would be glad to pick up the crumbs under our table ;that, instead of keeping us upon the bread of adversity, as thousands are, and as we deserve, he should give us “ all things richly to enjoy,” and fill our hearts with food and gladness.
Such considerations as these are naturally suggested by a feast: and if they are encouraged and improved ; if we come away with hearts inflamed with love to God, whose paths drop such fatness upon us; and longing for that better feast above, where will be fulness of joy, and we shall be permitted to drink, yea, to drink abundantly, of the rivers of his pleasure :- I say, if we bring away such a frame as this, we may go innocently and profitably to the house of feasting. But if there be some good to be learnt there, it is to be feared there is a great deal of bad ; for,
2. We learn, also, 'the great ingratitude and depravity of man.
To be sure it might be expected, that, when men have eaten, and are full, they should bless the name of the Lord, and serve him with cheerfulness and gladness of heart in the abundance of all things he giveth them; but, instead of that, they “ sit down to eat and drink, and rise up to play.” Hear what the prophet says:
“Woe unto them that rise up early in the morning, that they may follow strong drink; and continue until night, till wine inflame them! And the harp and the viol, the tabret and pipe, and wine, are in their feasts: but they regard not the work of the Lord, neither consider the open
ration of his hands.” (Isai. v. 11, 12.) Thus the good creatures are too often abused to the dishonour of God that gives them, and to the disgrace and damage of those that use them : and sometimes such indecent conversation is introduced, and such ensnaring customs are enforced, that tender consciences come away burthened with guilt and grief. Moses knew how apt mankind were to abuse the bounties of Providence, and therefore gave this particular caution: “ When thou shalt have eaten, and art full, then beware lest thou forget the Lord which brought thee forth out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage.” (Deut. vi. 11.) Job had many heart-achings on this very account: “ His sons went and feasted in their houses, every one his day; and sent and called for their three sisters, to eat and drink with them. And it was so, when the days of their feasting were gone about, that Job sent and sanctified them, and rose up early in the morning, and offered burnt-offerings according to the number of them: for Job said, It may be that my sons have sinned, and cursed God in their hearts. Thus did Job continually.” (Job i. 4, 5.)
From this account of feasts, it should seem as if little were to be learnt there but profaneness and intemperance; and that, as they are generally conducted, it is hardly possible to go to them but it is necessary to offer one of Job's burnt-offerings the morning after.
But we have been long enough in the house of feasting-too long, perhaps, for the solemnity of the present occasion. Let me now desire you to accompany me
II. To the house of mourning, and see what is to be learnt there.
Many occasions there may be to make a house the seat of sorrow, but the context leads us to understand the expression of a house where death bath lately entered; and made way for grief and tears.Among the many useful instráctions to be met with, take the following.
1. We learn the exceeding sinfulness of sin.
At our first entrance into the house we find all the family in tears : our eye affects our hearts, and we begin to think, what could be the cause of so much misery. The apostle tells us at once: one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned.” (Rom. v. 10.) • Fools make a mock at sin :" call it by the soft names of slips, failings, frolics, constitutionalinfirmities, and wonder that any should make so much ado about it;--they think that the Lord doth not see, or will not regard, what such insignificant creatures as they do.-Will he not? Go to the house of mourning, and see what one sin hath done. Though it was committed so many thousand years ago, and though so many millions have already died for it, the justice of God is not yet satisfied, but insists upon it, that, as all have sinned, all must die. If it had not been for sin, those heart-rending distresses had
never been known: we might have lived on all the days of our appointed time in one uninterrupted scene of domestic felicity; and when the head of a family, like a shock of corn, was fully ripe for heaven, a fiery chariot, or a visible convoy of angels perhaps, would have been sent down to conduct the vepera
ble saint to glory: and if his friends below did stand for a moment looking at him as he ascended, bis translation would be no interruption to their work or happiness. But now, when the parting time comes, the very apparatus of death are formidable: a' darkened room, whispering attendants, weeping friends ;-the disorder perhaps out of the reach of medicine; many efforts made, but all ineffectual ; symptoms grow more and more alarming; the case becomes desperate ; hope is as the giving up of the ghost: nature is spent; pain ceases ; the breath shortens; the soul, finding this earthly house no longer tenantable, gives a faint struggle or two, and escapes, leaving a breathless putrefying carcase behind! Can we look at such a scene as this, and not execrate sin, the cause of all this misery, and not resolve to pluck up this root of bitterness, and be the death of that which hath been the death of our friend, and threatens to be the death of us ? Death could never have broken in upon us, if sin had not opened the door: and it would be strange insensibility not to give a sorrowful look back to the forbidden fruit, and the sentence that was passed relating to it: “In the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die."-See, my soul, what follows upon disobedience : and in the fall of one, see the fate of all. This is the way of all flesh, and it will quickly come home to me. I will take care it shall not hurt my soul, however it may destroy my body. I shall now hate it with a perfect batred, and watch against it as the worst enemy I have.
Sure it were worth going to the house of mourning, if we learnt nothing but that.