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ON THE INFLUENCE OF RELIGION UPON ADVERSITY.
PSALM xxvii. 5.
In the time of trouble, he shall hide me in his
pavilion ; in the secret of his tabernacle shall he hide me; he shall set me upon a rock.
The life of man has always been a very mixed state, full of uncertainty and vicissitude, of anxieties and fears. In every religious audience, there are many who fall under the denomination of the unfortunate; and the rest are ignorant how soon they may be called to join them. For, the prosperity of no man on earth is stable and assured. Dark clouds may soon gather over the heads of those whose sky is now most bright. In the midst of the
deceitful calm which they enjoy, the storm that is to overwhelm them has perhaps already begun to ferment. If a man live
many years, and rejoice in then all ; yet let him remember the days of darkness, for they shall be тапу. .
Hence to a thoughtful mind, no study can appear more important, than how to be suitably prepared for the misfortunes of life; so as to contemplate them in prospect without dismay, and, if they must befal, to bear them without dejection.
Throughout every age, the wisdom of the wise, the treasures of the rich, and the power of the mighty, have been employed, either in guarding their state against the approach of distress, or in rendering themselves less vulnerable by its attacks. Power has endeavoured to remove adversity to a distance ; Philosophy has studied, when it drew nigh, to conquer it by patience; and Wealth has sought out every pleasure that can compensate or alleviate pain.
While the wisdom of the world is thus occupied, religion has been no less attentive to the same important object. It informs us in the text, of a pavilion, which God erects to
Eccles. xi. 9.
shelter his servants in the time of trouble ; of a sécrét place in his tabernacle, into which he brings them ; of a rock on which he sets them up; and elsewhere he tells us of a shield and a buckler, which he spreads before them, to cover them from terror by night, and the arrow that flieth by day. Now of what nature are those instruments of defence which God is represented as providing with such solicitous care for those who fear him ? Has he reared up any bulwakrs, impregnable by misfortune, in order to separate the pious and virtuous from the rest of mankind, and to screen them from the common disasters of life ? No: To those disasters we behold them liable no less than others. The defence which religion provides, is altogether of an internal kind. It is the heart, not the outward state, which it professes to guard. When the time of trouble comes, as come it must to all, it places good men under the pavilion of the Almighiy, by affording them that security and peace which arise from the belief of Divine protection. It brings them into the secret of his tabernacle, by opening to them sources of consolation which are hidden from others. By that strength of mind with which it endows them, it sets them upon a rock, against which the tempest may violently beat, but which it cannot shake,
How far the comforts proceeding from religion merit those high titles under which they are here figuratively described, I shall in this discourse endeavour to shew. I shall for this end compare together the situation of bad men, and that of the good, when both are suffering the misfortunes of life ; and then make such improvement as the subject will naturally suggest.
I. Religion prepares the mind for encountering, with fortitude, the most severe shocks of adversity; whereas vice, by its natural influence on the temper, tends to produce dejection under the slightest trials. While worldly men enlarge their possessions, and extend their connections, they imagine that they are strengthening themselves against all the possible vicissitudes of life. They say in their hearts, My mountain stands strong, and I shall never be moved. But so fatal is their delusion, that instead of strengthening, they are weakening, that which can only support them when those vicissitudes come. It is their mind which must then support them; and their mind, by their sensual attachments, is corrupted and enfeebled. Addicted with intemperate fondness to the pleasures of the world, they incur two great and certain evils; they both exclude themselves from every resource except the world; and they increase their sensibility to every blow which comes upon them from that quarter.
They have neither principles nor temper which can stand the assault of trouble. They have no principles which lead them to look beyond the ordinary rotation of events; and therefore, when misfortunes involve them, the prospect must be comfortless on every side. Their crimes have disqualified them from looking up to the assistance of any higher power than their own ability, or for relying on any better guide than their own wisdom. And as from principle they can derive no support, so, in a temper corrupted by prosperity, they find no relief. They have lost that moderation of mind which enables a wise man to accommodate himself to his situation. Long fed with false hopes, they are exasperated and stung by every disappointment. Luxurious and effeminate, they can bear no uneasiness. Proud and presumptuous, they can brook no opposition. By nourishing dispositions which so little suit this uncertain state, they have infused a double portion of bitterness into the cup of woe; they have sharpened the edge of that sword which is lifted up to smite them. Strangers to all the temperate satisfactions of