Obrazy na stronie
PDF
ePub

tingencies, plans and designs for the future are every day formed; pursuits are undertaken; and life

proceeds in its usual train. Fit and proper it is, that life should thus proceed. For the uncertainty of to-morrow was never designed by Providence, to deter us from acting or planning to-day; but only to admonish us, that we ought to plan, and to act, soberly and wisely. - What that wise and sober conduct is which becomes us, what the rules and precautions are, which, in such a state as ours, respect futurity, . I now proceed to show. They may be comprehended in the following directions. Boast not thyself of to-morrow ; Despair not of to-morrow; Delay not till tomorrow what is proper to be done to-day ; Prepare thyself for whatever tomorrow may bring forth ; Build thy hopes of happiness on something more solid and lasting than what either to-day or to-morrow will produce.

1. In the words of the text, Boast not thyself of to-morrow; that is, never presume arrogantly on futurity; in the most fair and promising state of fortune, beware of pride and vanity; beware of resting wholly upon yourselves, and forgetting Him who directs the changes of this mutable state. If there be any virtues which the uncertain condition of the world inculcates on man, they are, assuredly, moderation and humility. Man was, for this end, placed in a world, where he knows so little of what is before him, that he might be impressed with a sense of his dependence on the Ruler of the world; that, he might feel the importance of acquiring favour and protection from Heaven, by a life of piety and virtue; and that, not knowing how soon

his own condition may be the same with that of the most wretched, he might be prompted to act towards all his brethren the humane and friendly part. The favours which Providence bestows upon him at present, he ought to receive with thankfulness, and may enjoy with cheerfulness. Though commanded not to boast himself of tomorrow, the meaning of the precept is not, that he must be sad to-day. Rejoice he may in the day of prosperity ; but certainly, Rejoice with trembling, is the inscription that should be written on all human pleasures.

As for them who, intoxicated with those pleasures, become giddy and, insolent; who, flattered by the illusions of prosperity, make light of every serious admonition which the changes of the world give them, what can I say too strong to alarm them of their danger? They have said to themselves, My mountain stands strong, and shall never be moved. Tomorrow shall be as this day, and more abundantly. I shall never see adversity. Rash and wretched men! are you sensible how impious such words are ? To the world, perhaps, you dare not utter them; but they speak the secret language of your hearts. Know, you are usurping upon Providence; you are setting Heaven at defiance; you are not only preparing sharper stings for yourselves, when the changes of life shall come, but you are accelerating those changes; you are fast bringing ruin upon your own heads. For God will not suffer pride in man; and the experience of all ages hath shown, how careful he is to check it. In a thousand memorable instances, the course of his government has been visibly pointed against it. He showeth strength with his arm, and scattereth the proud in the imaginations of their hearts. The day of

the Lord is upon every one that is proud and lifted up; to humble the lofty looks of man, and to stain the pride of all glory. * Some of the ministers of Divine displeasure are commissioned to go forth; and to humble, without delay, the boasters of to-morrow.

II. As we are not to boast, so neither are we to despair, of to-morrow. The former admonition was directed to those whom prosperity had elated with vain hopes. This is designed for those whom a more adverse situation in life has filled with fears and alarms of what is to come. The reason of both admonitions is the same, thou knowest not what a day may bring forth. It may bring forth some unexpected misfortunes; and therefore thou shouldst be humble in prosperity. It may bring forth some unforeseen relief; and therefore thou shouldst hope under distress. - It is too common with mankind, to be totally engrossed and overcome by present events. Their present condition, whatever it is, they are apt to imagine will never change; and hence by prosperity they are lifted up, and by adversity are dejected and broken ; prone, in the one case to forget God; in the other to repine against him. Whereas the doctrine, which the changes of the world perpetually inculcate, is, that no state of external things should appear so important, or should so affect and agitate our spirits, as to deprive us of a calm, an equal, and a steady mind. Man knoweth neither the good nor the evil which is before him. In your patience, therefore, possess your souls : trusting in the day of sorrow, that God hath not forgotten to be gracious ;

* Luke i. 51. Isaiah ii. 11, 12. xxiii. 9.

and that, though weeping may endure for a night, joy cometh to the upright in the morning.

Distress not yourselves, then, with anxious fears about to-morrow. Let me exhort you to dismiss all solicitude, which goes beyond the bounds of prudent precaution. Anxiety, when it seizes the heart, is a dangerous disease, productive both of much sin, and much misery. It acts as a corrosive of the mind. It eats out our present enjoyments, and substitutes, in their place, many an acute pain. - The Wise Man, in the text, has advised us not to boast of to-morrow;

and our Saviour has instructed us to take no thought for to-morrow. Both these directions, properly understood, are entirely consistent; and the great rule of conduct, respecting futurity, is compounded of them both; requiring us, neither arrogantly to presume on to

morrow, nor to be anxiously and fearfully solicitous about it. The morrow, says our Saviour, shall take thought for the things of itself

. We shall be better able to judge of the course most proper for us to hold, when events have begun to come forward in their order. Their presence often suggests wiser counsels and more successful expedients, than it is possible for us to contrive at a distance. By excess of solicitude beforehand, we frequently introduce that confusion of mind, and that hurry and disorder of spirits, which bring us into the most unfavourable state for judging soundly. Wherefore, never indulge either anxiety, or despair about futurity. Affright not yourselves with imaginary terrors. Anticipate not evils, which perhaps may never come. Make the best which

you can of this day, in the fear of God, and in the practice of your duty; and, having done so, leave

* Matth. vi. 34.

to-morrow to itself. Sufficient for the day, when it comes, will be the evil thereof.

III. DELAY not till to-morrow any thing which is fit and proper to be done to-day. Remember, that thou art not the lord of to-morrow. Thou art so far from having any title to dispose of it, that thou art ignorant of the most material circumstances relating to it; not only of what it shall bring forth, but whether thou shalt live to see it. - Notwithstanding the incontrovertible evidence of this truth, pro. crastination has, throughout every age, been the ruin of mankind. Dwelling amidst endless projects of whiat they are hereafter to do, they cannot so properly be said to live, as to be always about to live; and the future has ever been the gulph in which the present is swallowed up and lost.--Hence arise many of those mistortunes which befal men in their worldly concerns. What might at present be arranged in their circumstances with advantage, being delayed to another opportunity, cannot be arranged at all. To-morrow being loaded with the concerns of to-day, in addition to its own, is clogged and embarrassed. Affairs, which have been postponed, multiply and crowd upon one another; till at last, they prove so intricate and perplexed, and the pressure of business becomes so great, that nothing is left, but to sink under the burden. Of him, therefore, who indulges this lingering and delaying spirit in worldly matters, it is easy to prognosticate that the ruin is not far off.

Evils of the same kind, arising from the same cause, overtake men, in their moral and spiritual interests. There are few, but who are sensible of sume things in their character and behaviour, which

« PoprzedniaDalej »