« PoprzedniaDalej »
representing to the prosperous men of the world, those crimes and miseries, into which the abuse of their condition is likely to be tray them, and calling upon them to beware of the dangers with which they are threatenied.
It is unfortunate for mankind, that those situations which favour pleasure, are too generally adverse to virtue. Virtue requires internal government and discipline; prosperity relaxes the mind, and inflames the passions. Virtue is supported by a regard to what is future; prosperity attaches us wholly to what is present. The characteristics of virtue, are modesty and humility; the most common attendants of prosperity, are pride and presumption. One should think, that prosperity would prove the strongest incitement to remember and to honour that God who bestows it. Yet such is the perverseness of human nature, that it proves much oftener the motive to impiety. The changes of the world call the attention of men to an invisible Power. But a train of events proceeding according to their wish, leads them to nothing beyond what they see. The Supreme Giver is concealed from view by his own gifts. This instance of success they ascribe to a fortunate concurrence of worldly causes ; that acquisition to their own
skill and industry; unmindful of Him, who, from the beginning, arranged that series of causes, and who placed them in circumstances where their industry could operate with suc
From forgetting God, they too often proceed to despise him. All that is light or giddy in their minds, is set in motion by the gale of prosperity. Arrogance and self-sufficiency are lifted up; and their state is considered as secured by their own strength. Hence that pride of countenance, through which the wicked, in their prosperity, as David observes, refuse to seek after God. They are described as speaking loftily, and setting their mouth against the Heavens. They take the timbrel and harp, and rejoice at the sound of the organ; and they say unto God, depart from us, for we desire not the knowledge of thy ways. What is the Almighty, that we should serve him? Or, what profit should we have, if we pray unto him?
They say unto God depart from us. What an impious voice ! Could we have believed it possible, that worldly pleasures should so far intoxicate
human heart? Wretched and infatuated men ! Have you ever examined on what your
confidence rests? You have said in your hearts, You shall never be moved ; you fancy yourselves placed on a mountain which
standeth strong. Awake from those flattering dreams, and behold how every thing totters around you! You stand on the edge of a precipice; and the ground is sliding away below feet. In
In your health, life, possess ions connections, pleasures, principles of destruction work. The mine advances in secret, which
the foundations, while you revel on the surface. No mighty effort, no long preparation of events, is needed to overturn your prosperity. By slow degrees it rose. Long time, much labour, and the concurrence of many assisting causes, were necessary to rear it up; but one slight incident can entirely overthrow it. Suspicions are infused into the patron or the prince on whom you depend; and your disgrace ensues. Exercise, or amusement, kindles a fever in the veins of those whom you loved ; and you are robbed of your comforts and hopes. A few grains of sand lodge themselves within you; and the rest of your life is disease and misery. Ten thousand contingencies ever float on the current of life, the smallest of which, if it meet your frail bark in the passing, is sufficient to dash it in pieces -Is this a place, is this a time, to swell with fancied security, to riot in unlawful pleasure, and, by your disregard of moral and religious duties, to brave the go.
vernment of the Almighty? He hath stamped every possession of man with this inscription, Rejoice with trembling. Throughout every age, he hath pointed his peculiar displeasure against the confidence of presumption, and the arrogance of prosperity. He hath pronounced, that whosoever exalteth himself shall be abased. And shall neither the admonitions which
you receive from the visible inconstancy of the world, nor the declarations of the Divine displeasure, be sufficient to check
your thoughtless career? Know that, by your impiety, you multiply the dangers which already threaten you on every side; you accelerate the speed with which the changes of the world advance to your destruction.
The Almighty touches with his rod that edifice of dust on which you stand, and boast of your strength; and, at that instant, it crumbles to nothing.
As men, then, bethink yourselves of human instability. As Christians, reverence the awful government of God. Insure your prosperity, by consecrating it to religion and virtue. Be humble in your elevation; be moderate in your
views; be submissive to Him who hath raised and distinguished you. Forget not, that on his providence you are as dependent, and to the obedience of his laws as much bound, as the meanest of your fellow-creatures. Dis
grace not your station, by that grossness of sensuality, that levity of dissipation, or that insolence of rank, which bespeak a little mind. Let the affability of your behaviour show that you remember the natural equality of men. Let your moderation in pleasure, your command of passion, and your steady regard to the great duties of life, show that you possess a mind worthy of your fortune. Establish
your character on the basis of esteem ; not on the fattery of dependents, or the praise of sycophants, but on the respect of the wise and the good. Let innocence preside over your enjoyments. Let usefulness and beneficence, not ostentation and vanity, direct the train of your pursuits. Let your alms, together with your prayers, come up in memorial before God. So shall your prosperity, under the blessing of Heaven, be'as the shining light, which shineth more and more unto the perfect day. So shall it resemble those celestial fires which glow above, with beneficent, with regular, and
permanent lustre; and not prove that mirth of fools, which by Solomon is compared to the crackling of thorns under a pot—a glittering and fervent blaze, but speedily extinct.
On the whole, let this be our conclusion, that both in prosperity and in adversity, religion is the safest guide of human life. Con