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whose proud soul pretends never to be cast down from the lofty throne of stoic insensibility.
Such a one, in the sunshine of his prosperity, may arrogantly boast that nothing can move him; and while the world goes well with him, he may remain blind to his error. But let Heaven strip him of his gaudy plumes, and throw him back naked into that world, where he had fixed his heart, he will find to his cost that, though he never had the virtue to be cast down and feel for others, yet he will have the weakness to be cast down and become the most abject despondent thing alive for himself.
When his transient honours are thus fled, his haughty looks will be humbled. He will begin to contemn his past folly, and to enter deeply into his own bosom. He will no more rely on the smiles of fortune, or the flatteries of men; but will acknowledge, from dear bought experience, that, in this life, there is no sure refuge but God, nothing permanent but virtue, and nothing great but an humble heart, and a deep sense of the state of our mortality here.
But, besides personal affliction (which is perhaps a last means) the all-gracious governor of the world, still watchful to turn every event to the good of his creatures, without violating their moral liberty, has many other ways of leading them to the remembrance of himself. Whether we look within or around us, we shall find enough in the prospect to humble our souls, and to convince us that, not trusting to any thing in a world where all enjoyments are fleeting, we shall then only be safe in it," when we have put on the
breast-plate of righteousness, and armed ourselves with the sword of the spirit*"
"Few and evil are the days of our pilgrimage heret." God never intended this world as a lasting habitation for us: and, on a just estimate of the things in it, evil will be found so continually blended with good, that we cannot reasonably set our affections much upon it. Wailing, weak and defenceless we are ushered into it. Our youth is a scene of folly and danger; our manhood of care, toil and disappointment. Our old age, if happily we reach old age, is a second childhood. Withered, weak and bowed beneath our infirmities, we become as it were a living hospital of woes: a burden to ourselves, and perhaps an incumbrance to those we love most.
This is the common state of our being. But besides all this, the number of evils in each of these stages is greatly encreased, partly by our own misconduct, and partly by our necessary connexions with others. For the equitable judgments of God are often general. "All things come alike to all men; and there is but one event to the righteous and to the wicked?" Moreover, many of those evils are of such a nature, that no prudence of ours can either foresee or prevent them. All the stages of life necessarily subject us to pains and diseases of body, and many of them to the acuter pains of an anxious mind.
Upon the whole, we may pronounce, from the highest authority, that "our life is but a vapour, which is seen a little while, and then vanisheth away,
* Galat. vi. 14, &c. + Gen. xlvii. 9.
2 Eccles. ix. 2.
as a tale that is told and remembered no more; or as a wind that passes over and cometh not again."
The man must be thoughtless, indeed, who is not humbled with these reflections. But suppose his own life should pass over as happily as possible, and he should feel but few of these evils himself; yet unless he shuts his eyes and his ears from the world around him, he must still find something in it, which ought to move the tender heart to religious sorrow and remembrance of God.
Our blessed Saviour himself, though more than human, and conscious of no personal ill, cast his eyes upon Jerusalem and wept over it, on account of its impending fate. Just so, if we cast an eye upon the world, we shall drop a tear over it, on account of the unavoidable misfortunes that prevail in it.
Don't we often see tyranny successful, ruthless oppression and persecution ravaging the globe, the best of men made slaves to the worst, and the lovely image of the Deity spurned, dishonoured, disfigured! How many men, of genuine worth, are cast out by fortune to mourn in solitary places, unseen, unpitied; while wickedness riots in the face of day, or pampers in lordly palaces! How many pine in the confinement of dungeons; or are chained down, for offences not their own, to the gallies for life! How many bleed beneath the sword, and bite the ground in all the sad variety of anguish, to sate the cruel ambition of contending masters! How many are deprived of their estates, and disappointed in their most sanguine expectations, by the malice of secret and open enemies, or, which is far more piercing, the treachery
of pretended friends! How many boil with all the tortures of a guilty mind, and the bitterest remorse for irreparable injuries! How many pursue each other with the most implacable malice and resentment! How many bring the acutest misery upon themselves by their own intemperance! How many condemn their souls to a kind of hell, even in their own bodies, by an unhappy temper, and the violent commotions of disordered blood! How many are com pletely wretched in their families, and constantly galled by the unavoidable misfortunes of their dearest friends!
On one side the distress of the needy, the injuries of the oppressed, the cries of the widow and orphan, pierce our ears. On the other, we hear the voice of lamentation and mourning; our friends and neighbours weeping for dear relations suddenly snatched away, and "Refusing to be comforted because they are not." Here one's heart it torn asunder by having a beloved wife or child snatched from his side! There another bewails the loss of an affectionate parent or brother! Here sturdy manhood drops instantly beneath the sudden stroke! There blooming youth-Ah! my bleeding heart, wring me not thus with streaming anguish-There blooming youth falls a premature victim to a doom seemingly too severe! Beneath the cold hand of death, the roses are blasted; restless agility and vigour are become the tamest things; and beauty, elegance and strength, one putrid lump!
Surely, if we would think on these, and such things, which ought not to be the less striking for
being common, and which render this life a scene of suffering, a valley of tears, we could not set our hearts much upon it, but should be arrested even in the mid-career of vice, and trembling learn to weigh the moment of things, and secure "the one thing needful." All the tender passions would be awakened in our bosoms. Our sympathising souls would be cast down within us, and, alarmed at their own danger, would fly round from stay to stay, calling incessantly for help, till they could find a sure and never-failing refuge.
But where is this never-failing refuge to be found? It becomes me now to point out some everflowing spring of comfort, some eternal rock of salvation, for the soul, after having thus mustered up such a baleful catalogue of certain miseries, to alarm and humble her.
Now, blessed be the Lord, this refuge is pointed out in the text. In such circumstances, we shal! never find rest, but in resolving with the Psalmist"O my God! my soul is cast down within me, therefore will I remember thee."
Without remembering that there is a God, that over-rules all events, what hope or comfort could we have, when we reflect on all the aforesaid common miseries of life, and many more that might be named? Did we, with the atheist, believe them to spring up from the dust, or to be the blind effects of unintelligible chance, and of undirected matter and motion, what a poor condition should we think ourselves in here? Would not all appear as "a land of darkness,