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say, This God is our God, our Father, and our Friend, have cause to rejoice in every condition, and must act very inconsistently with their profession and hopes, if any thing from without can disturb their inward peace and tranquillity.-I propose, therefore, in dependance upon divine aid,
First, To show the import of this gracious promise, “I will never leave thee nor forsake thee."
Secondly, I shall inquire who the persons are that may apply the comfort of this promise to themselves.
Thirdly, I shall lay before you some of those grounds of assurance on which the people of God may depend for the accomplishment of this promise ; and then direct you to the practical improvement of the subject.
I BEGIN with the import of the promise itself, “I will never leave thee nor forsake thee."-And,
1st, It is here supposed, that all other things may forsake us; for in this promise God plainly intends to distinguish himself from the creatures, by claiming this perfection of constancy or unchangeableness, as an attribute peculiar to himself. Vanity is engraved in deep and legible characters upon every thing below the sun. All things on earth are perishing in their own nature; and so fleeting and deceitful, that they who lean upon them, only secure to themselves a more intense degree of pain and vexation; for sooner or later
they will slide from under them, and leave nothing in their room, but the disgrace of a foolish choice, and the bitterness of disappointed hope. History affords us innumerable proofs of this. The wisest men in every age have observed and lamented the mutability of all earthly things; and we need only keep our eyes and our ears open, to learn this truth, by some fresh example 'every day we live.
How often do we see riches take unto themselves wings, and fly away as an eagle towards heaven ? What a variety of accidents may suddenly deprive a man of all his substance, and reduce him to the lowest state of poverty and want? A storm at sea or a fire at land will in a few hours consume the labours of many years; and he who, whilst I speak, possesseth plenty of all things, and promiseth himself a long succession of prosperous days, may, before to morrow's sun, find himself stripped of all his substance, and obliged to depend upon the bounty of others for the common necessaries of life. How many who boasted that their mountain stood strong, have suddenly been thrown down from the highest pinnacle of power and greatness ? Even princes, when they least dreamt of it, have been forced to exchange their palace for a prison; and have learnt, by sad experience, that crowns are but tottering emblemas of power, and that royalty itself hath no exemption from the vicissitude of sublunary things. Re. putation and friends, health and all bodily advanVol. III.
tages, yea reason, with all the endowments of the mind, are so uncertain and mutable, that no man can promise on the possession of them. The fairest character may be sullied with the breath of calumny; our friends may prove false or abandon us through mistake; or, when they are faithful, and in all respects comfortable to us, yet death may snatch them from us one after another, till we are in a manner left solitary in the midst of the earth. Health and strength, and whatever else belongs to the body, are of all things the least durable, and the most subject to change. Life itself is but a vapour, which, for any thing we know, may vanish into air the very next breath we draw. We see frequently also, that the mind, as well as the body, is liable to many sad disasters. In some men, the intellectual powers are so blunted and impaired, that they seem to be almost totally extinguished ; and, in others, so strangely disordered, that, instead of being of use to them, they serve only to render them more completely wretched. In a word, our condition upon earth is liable to continual alteration, and there is nothing we can be secure of so much as for one moment. How foolish, then, are they who promise themselves any durable happiness in this world ? Such persons may truly be said to . build their house upon the sand; and though, perhaps, they may be allowed to raise it to some height, yet, ere long, some sudden unforeseen
storm shall lay it in ruins, and bury all their vain expectations under it,
But what I would chiefly observe upon this head is, that frequently the people of God are exercised with the severest trials, and meet with the sharpest afflictions while they remain upon earth. For this mutability of the creatures is not the effect of chance but of design. God thereby designs to render all those inexcusable who choose them for their portion : and when his own children are in danger of being ensnared by them, he pulls them, as it were, with violence out of their hands, that they may beware of contracting too close an alliance with them in future. He will not suffer them to continue long in so dangerous an error; and he sends the rod to undeceive them : be frequently repeats the stroke, to remind them that they are only sojourners in a strange land, and to quicken their desires for their Father's house above; for their Father's house, where alone they shall have fulness of joy and pleasures for evermore.
2dly, As the inconstancy of the creatures is here supposed, so this promise necessarily implies, that the presence of God with his people is a sufficient ground of consolation in every state and condition of life. David was sensible of this when he said in the 23d Psalm, “ Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for thou art with me:" and upon the same
principle, the prophet Habakkuk triumphs in name of the church. “Although the fig-tree shall not blossom, neither shall there be fruit in the vines, the labour of the olive shall fail, and the fields shall yield no meat, the flock shall be cut off from the fold, and there shall be no herd in the stalls; yet will I rejoice in the Lord, I will joy in the God of my salvation.”
We read in the book of Daniel, that after Nebuchadnezzar the king had caused Shadrach, Me shech, and Abednego, to be cast into the burning fiery furnace, he was astonished, and rose up in haste, and said unto his counsellors, “ Did not we cast three men bound into the midst of the fire ? And lo, I see four men loose, walking in the midst of the fire, and they have no hurt; and the form of the fourth is like the Son of God.” Is there a man who reads this passage, that does not prefer the condition of these captives to all the splendours of the Babylonish throne? How little does thc trembling monarch seem, though surrounded with his counsellors ? How glorious do the three young Jews appear, whilst walking amidst flames with their God and Saviour? How would they rejoice in this exalted privilege? And yet, my brethren, all the saints who have God really present with them, although they cannot see him with their bodily eyes, have equal cause to rejoice in the midst of tribulation. For if God be with them, then he is with them who is infinitely wise,