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lives in a perpetual warfare. Here an enemy encounters; there a rival supplants him. The ingratitude of a friend stings him this hour ; and the pride of a superior wounds him the next. In vain he flies for relief to trifling amusements. These
These may afford a temporary opiate to care; but they communicate no strength to the mind.
On the contrary, they leave it more soft and defenceless, when molestations and injuries renew their attack.
Let him who wishes for an effectual cure to all the wounds which the world can inflict, retire from intercourse with men to intercourse with God. When he enters into his closet, and shuts the door, let him shut out, at the same time, all intrusion of worldly care ; and dwell among objects divine and immortal. Those fair prospects of order and peace shall there open to his view, which form the most perfect contrast to the confusion and misery of this earth. The celestial inhabitants quarrel not; among them there is neither ingratitude, nor envy, nor tumult: Men may harass one another; but in the kingdom of God, concord and tranquillity reign for ever.-From such objects there beams, upon the mind of the pious man, a pure and enlivening light; there is diffused
over his heart a holy calm.
His agitated spirit re-assumes its firmness, and regains its peace. The world sinks in its importance; and the load of mortality and misery loses almost all its weight. The green pastures open, and the still waters flow around him, beside which the Shepherd of Israel guides his flock. The disturbances and alarms, so formidable to those who are engaged in the tumults of the world, seem to him only like thunder rolling afar off ; like the noise of distant waters, whose sound he hears, whose course he traces, but whose waves touch him not. As religious retirement is thus evidently conducive to our happiness in this life, so,
In the second place, it is absolutely necessary, in order to prepare us for the life to
He who lives always in public, can. not live to his own soul. The world lieth in wickedness ; and with good reason the Christian is exhorted, not to be conform to it, but transformed by the renewing of his mind. Our conversation and intercourse with the world is, in several respects, an education for vice. From our earliest youth, we are accustomed to hear riches and honour extolled as the chief possessions of man ; and proposed to us, as the principal aim of our future pursuits.
and of the Spirit of sanctification and comfort; these are objects in the pursuit of which there is no room for hesitation and distrust, nor any ground for the question in my Text, Who knoweth what is good for man? Had Providence spread an equal obscurity over happiness of every kind, we might have had some reason to complain of the vanity of our condition. But we are not left to so hard a fate. The son of God hath descended from heaven to be the Light of the world. He hath removed that veil which covered true bliss from the search of wandering mortals, and hath taught them the
which leads to life. Worldly enjoyments are shown to be hollow and deeeitful, with an express intention to direct their affections towards those which are spiritual. The same discoveries which diminish the value of the one, serve to increase that of the other. Finally,
VI. Let our ignorance of what is good or evil here below, lead our thoughts and desires to a better world. I have endeavoured to vindicate the wisdom of Providence, by shewing the many useful purposes which this ignorance at present promotes. It serves to check presumption and rashness, and to enforce a diligent exertion of our rational powers,
joined with a humble dependence on Divine aid. It moderates eager passions respecting worldly success. It inculcates resignation to the disposal of a Providence which is much wiser than man. It restrains us from employing unlawful means in order to compass our most favourite designs. It tends to attach us more closely to those things which are unquestionably good. It is therefore such a degree of ignorance as suits the present circumstances of man, better than more complete information concerning good and evil.
At the same time, the causes which render this obscurity necessary, too plainly indicate a broken and corrupted state of human nature. They shew this life to be a state of trial. They suggest the idea of a land of pilgrimage, not of the house of rest. Low-minded and base is he, who aspires to no higher portion; who could be satisfied to spend his whole existence in chasing those treacherous appearances of good, which so often mock his pursuit. What shadow can be more vain, than the life of the greatest part of mankind? Of all that eager and bustling crowd which we behold on the earth, how few discover the path of true happiness? How few can we find whose activity has not been misemployed, and whose course terminates not in confessions of disap
pointment? Is this the state, are these the habitations, to which a rational spirit, with all its high hopes and great capacities, is to be limited for ever?-Let us bless that God who hath set nobler prospects before us; who, by the death and resurrection of his Son Jesus Christ, hath begotten us to the lively hope of an inheritance incorruptible, undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in the heavens. Let us shew ourselves worthy of such a hope, by setting our affections upon the things above, not upon things on the earth. Let us walk by faith, and not by sight ; and, amidst the obscurity of this faint and dubious twilight, console ourselves with the expectation of a brighter day which is soon to open. This earth is the land of shadows. But we hope to
But we hope to pass into the world of realities ; where the proper objects of human desire shall be displayed; where the substance of that bliss shall be found, whose image only we now pursue ; where no fallacious hopes shall any longer allure, no smiling appearances shall betray, no insidious joys shall sting; but where truth shall be inseparably united with pleasure, and the mists which hang over this preliminary state being dissipated, the perfect knowledge of good shall lead to the full enjoyment of it for ever.