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or folly if our experience be otherwise. Our year of mortality may have its clouds and rains, its snows and winds, but we are seated in a propitious clime, in which bright suns and unclouded skies are far more numerous, and the very storms we mourn, though they cause a temporary gloom, do but instruct us in thankfulness, and mingle fruitfulness with weeping.
But the things which have been spoken, attach to the less happy children of our race; I am addressing the recipients of many privileges, - distinguishing blessings ; those who, with respect to this life merely, are among the most favored of the inhabitants of the earth; who glory in the dear name of freedom; who enjoy quietness and prosperity ; who, in looking back upon the year that is past, may take up the language of our psalm and say, “Thou visitest the earth and waterest it; thou greatly enrichest it; thou preparest the corn; thou waterest the ridges thereof abundantly; thou settlest the furrows thereof; thou blessest the springing thereof: thou crownest the year with thy goodness, and thy paths drop fatness; they drop upon the pastures of the wilderness, and the little hills rejoice on every side. The pastures are clothed with flocks, the valleys also are covered with corn; they shout for joy, they also sing.” Nay, brethren, you live to tell of a judgment of the LORD, which has visited land after land, and has probably destroyed a greater number of human beings than any other visitation ever known, not excepting the flood. Oh! what an awful period has the last summer been for thousands! How has the king of terrors passed along among us! How has the destroying angel struck with his sword, now one, and now another of our fellow-mortals! How has the grave yawned, and hades been peopled! What a voice of preparation has sounded in our ears! What an uncertainty has attended our path as to who should be the next affected! Our life has hung in doubt from day to day. Fear has been our familiar. The word in every mouth, the thought in every
heart was the same; “Shall I be taken !” We have stood by the beds of the sick, we have heard the moans of the dying, we have seen the painful haste with which our fellowpilgrims have been removed to their final home; we have felt
that security was not either in staying or in flight! For as in the battle the swift shot attains equally the sturdy warrior in his rank, and the fugitive courting dishonorable safety, so, in this battle of the Lord, the arrow has pierced those who have departed as well as those who have remained: it has found its way to the recesses of the wilderness, and to the crowded streets of the city; to the mansion of the wealthy no less than to the hovel of the lowliest? Nay, am I not addressing some whose friends have thus fallen asleep? Are there not those before me who have themselves, though not fatally, been wounded? And yet are we spared! Yet do we survive through the mercy of our God! Yet are we experiencing a return of wonted peace, and hear only the tempest, as, having swept by our homes, it is desolating places beyond us. Surely it becomes us to recognise this signal blessing of the Almighty, and, pondering on our change of feelings in the short period of a few months, to consider the salutary lessons to be derived from the afflictive providence.
But what has been said pertains alone to the mercies received in the present life, upon which even (in their extent and excellency) I feel I have scarcely touched, and must leave it to your own hearts to complete the meditation. But all these, be it remembered, are but means, they are not final blessings: they are not the objects, properly speaking, of God's dealings with man: they are, as it were, but so many steps of pearl, and beryl, and amethyst, and topaz, leading to the brilliant throne of salvation; the ineffable glory and dignity to which our Almighty Parent would exalt his children. Yes, brethren, temporal blessings are excellent, they evidence their origin; they are extensive; “there is neither speech nor language where their voice is not heard !” but they are as nothing compared with those riches of grace, that perfection of happiness, which God has reserved for returning sinners, and which he offers to them in the incarnation of his Son, and the fellowship of his Spirit. You may breathe the gales of spring, but the spring passes. You may bask in the fostering sun, but the sun descends : you may pluck earth's most delicious fruits, but their bloom is soon lost, their taste corrupted. “The world passeth away, and the things thereof, but salvation abideth for ever.” The only change it experiences is an augmentation of unutterable bliss. It is well for us to take our range over temporal mercies, it is well to soar aloft on the wings of meditation, that we may behold more and more the prospects of earth's comforts, and the exuberance of God's benevolence; but, would we seek security as well as pleasure; would we contemplate the fulness of joy as well as the streams of goodness, we must betake ourselves to the rock CHRIST, rising amid the unfathomable surge of infinitude; we must make the Saviour's bosom our home; the truths of eternity our repose; and, therefore, did the devout of Israel employ the elevated language of the text, and hence, with them, are we invited to observe in the second place
II. The effect these things should produce in our minds.
The bands of worshippers, as they approach the holy city, are impressed with the twofold thought of the festival of thankfulness to be held there, and the duty of attending to desires and promises of obedience previously formed. They wish, if complaint and sorrow are to be forgotten in praise, that at least the vows of affliction should be performed in prosperity. They solicit the condescending regard of God to their grateful homage, “Praise waiteth,” or as the margin from the original reads, “is silent for thee, O God in Sion, and unto thee shall the vow be performed!" Thankfulness is a distinctive mark and prominent duty of the servant of God: it is a holy and blessed state of mind, of which the world knows little, for the object of the unregenerate man's idolatry is self, and like a Narcissus, in admiring he perishes. Not so the inhabitants of that place of which Sion is a type. Heaven is all praise. The burden of the song of angels is, “Blessing, and glory, and wisdom, and thanksgiving, and honor, and power, and might be unto God for ever and ever." Not so the Church of redeemed sinners, who have, if possible, even higher motives for gratitude. Brethren, you are now invited to participate in this feeling. You have heard some few of the mercies of God (though briefly and feebly, indeed,) enumerated. Each, in his personal experience of God's loving kindness, has his personal motives for praise. I do not urge you to this as a thing exacted: invite you to meditate on the gentleness, the forbearance, the parental sympathy of God toward you: I invite you merely to withdraw your minds from wrong impressions of the divine government and your deserts : I call you to consider the blessings laid up for you, and of which those already received are but as the shadow : I beseech you to contemplate God as “opening his hands and filling all things living with plenteousness;" and then to go on, and looking upon the effects of enmity with the source of joy in eternity, to remember He has proposed a way of peace and glory through his dear Son; and then, I ask no more; I am satisfied you cannot be ungrateful; I am persuaded you must love your God;
I am sure that nothing but the most deluded, as well as sinful state of mind, can keep you back from him. “ Praise now waiteth for God in Zion !" Add then your voices, your hearts, to the blessed employment. Practise now that strain in which, if Christians, it will be your part to assist hereafter.
But I err in this exhortation. You find rather your thoughts too deep for utterance; language cannot depict the bursting emotion of your hearts : you feel, you know not how to thank arigbt Him to whom you owe all that you have, and all that you are for time and eternity. Let the text still comfort you. It teaches, “ Praise is silent for thee, O God, in Zion.” If you cannot describe, you can adore. If you find it impossible to give utterance to your feelings, you can at least, with the early Church, yea, with the worshippers before the throne, bow in devoutest meditation,
"Come, then, expressive silence, muse his praise."*
Still, brethren, though you do not speak, there is a way of evincing your gratitude. The stars in their course are silent, “yet is their voice gone into all the world, and their sound to the ends of the earth.” There is a language more forcible than
* A celebrated historian of antiquity observes, - "Parvi affectus loquuntur, magni tacent." — "Small affections speak, great are silent."
that of words : this the text suggests. It is obedience. Yes, it is the recalling the thoughts of our affliction, the perfecting the desires of moments in which, as we walked along the shore of eternity, our minds were more impressed with its vastness and profundity, and the consequent necessity of living to Christ. “Unto thee shall the vow be performed !” Brethren, there is no greater guilt than that of a broken vow! You may not, indeed, have made distinct engagements of this kind with God; (though it is probable that some, during their lives, have done this ;) at all events, by Baptism, most, and by Confirmation and the Lord's Supper, many of you are under solemn promises to the Almighty, and may say with David, “Thy vows are upon me, O God!"
Have you then broken these vows by sin? Alas! who almost has not! Have you thought and lived differently from what you intended when affliction was your monitress? “Let the time past suffice to have wrought” such wickedness. “Humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God;" confess your guilt ; approach as suppliants his mercy-seat: make the Saviour your friend : entreat for the aid of the renewing Spirit: be not satisfied without a return of the holy, tender affections of your first dedication to the LORD. Ask yourselves, “Where is the blessedness we once enjoyed ?" Perform now your vows: let this day be the beginning of a new life to you; a life of prayer, and praise, and fidelity; a life of preparation for eternity; a life of holy accordance with your privileges and your mercies, “The LORD waiteth to be gracious" to the returning sinner. will bless you with his favor and the light of his countenance, and
you shall go on your way rejoicing."