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as darkness itself, under the shadow of death, without any order, where the light is as darkness*.
Surely we could not wish to live in the world, upon such a precarious footing as this. And yet we should not know whither to fly from it, unless into the darker state of dreary annihilation, at the thoughts of which the astonished soul shudders and recoils. Upon such a scheme, all our hopes would be thin as the spider's web, and lighter than chaff that is dispersed through the air. Our adversity would hurry us into the most invincible despair, and our prosperity would be as a bubble bursting at every breath. Philosophy would be a dream, and our boasted fortitude mere unmeaning pretention.
But on the other hand, if, " when our souls are cast down within us, we will remember that there is a God," whose great view in creating was to make us happy, whose design in afflicting is to reclaim us, and who governs the world by his providence only to conduct all to the greatest general good-then, and not till then, we shall have sure footing. We shall neither raise our hopes too high, nor sink them too low. If fortune is kind, we shall enjoy her smiles without forgetting the hand that guides her. If she frowns, we shall feel our woes as men, but shall nobly bear them as Christians. For if we are really Christians, our holy religion teach us that this scene of things is but a very small part of the mighty scheme of Heaven; that our present life is only the dim dawn of our existence; that we shall shortly put off this load of
Job x. 22.
infirmities and be translated to a state, where" every tear shall be wiped from our eyes, and where there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying, nor pain, because the former things are passed away*.”
If we are intimately convinced that unerring wisdom, power, and goodness, hold the reins of the universe, and are at peace in our own consciences, the storm of the world may beat against us; but, though it may shake, it can never overthrow us.
Although the fig-tree shall not blossom, neither shall fruit be on the vines; though the labour of the olive shall fail, and the fields shall yield no meat; though the flock shall be cut off from the fold, and there shall be no herd in the stall; yet will we rejoice in the Lord, and we will joy in the God of our salvationt." Although misfortunes should besiege us round and round; though woes should cluster upon woes, treading on the heels of each other in black succession, yet when we remember God, and fly to him as our refuge, we shall stand collected and unshaken, as the everlasting mountains, amid the gene. ral storm.
With our eye thus fixt upon heaven, trusting in the mercies of our redeemer, and animated by the gospel promises, we shall urge our glorious course along the track of virtue, bravely withstanding the billows of adversity on either side, and triumphing in every dispensation of Providence. Though death should stalk around us in all his grim terrors; though famine, pestilence and fell war should tear our best friends from our side; though the last trumpet
should sound from pole to pole, and the whole world should tremble to its centre; though we should see the heavens opened, our judge coming forth with thousands and ten thousands, his eyes flaming fire, the planetary heavens and this our earth wrapt up in one general conflagration; though we should hear the groans of an expiring world, and behold nature tumbling into universal ruin; yet then, even then, we might look up with joy, and think ourselves secure. Our holy religion tells us, that this now glorified judge was once our humble Redeemer; that he has been our never-failing friend, and can shield us under the shadow of his wing. The same religion also assures us, that virtue is the peculiar care of that being, at whose footstool all nature hangs; and that, far from dying or receiving injury amid the flux of things, the fair plant, under his wise government, shall survive the last gasp of time and bloom on through eternal ages!
And now, my respected audience, I think it is evident that if we search all nature through, we shall find no sure refuge but in keeping a clear conscience, and remembering God. If we constantly exert ourselves to do our duty, and remember that there is an all perfect being at the head of affairs, the worst that can happen to us can never make us altogether miserable; and, without this, the best things could never make us in any degree happy.
If, therefore, it is one great design of all affliction, to bring us to such a remembrance, and make us examine into the state of our own souls, I think I may be permitted to beseech you, by your hopes of
immortal glory and happiness, not to be blind and deaf to the repeated warnings given you by your kind parent God. Though the afflictions do not happen immediately to you, they happen for you; and though all seems well at present, which of you knows how soon the Lord may visit you in his fierce anger? Which of you, young or old, can say that your souls will not next, perhaps this very night, be required of you? And think, O think, if you have never been led to remember God, by the repeated warnings given you in this world, how unfit a time it will be to remember him, when you are just stepping into the next; when (as you have seen in the case of many younger and stronger than most of you here), you shall be struck senseless on a death-bed at once, and know not the father that begat you, nor are conscious of the tears of her that gave you suck?
If you can but think on these things, the vanity of this world, and the eternity of the next; if you can but think on the value of those souls, for which a God incarnate died, and sealed a covenant of grace with his blood, into which you have solemnly sworn yourselves; surely you will stop your ears against the allurements of the flesh, and the "Voice of the charmer, charm he ever so wisely." It may easily be gathered from what has been said, that this life has no continuance of unmixt pleasure for us; and that what alone can alleviate its evils, or make its goods give us any substantial joy, is a frequent reflection on the present state of things, and the drawing near to God, in holy remembrance of his adorable attributes, and our own absolute dependence on him.
Behold then once more this very God himself invites you to draw near to him, and commemorate him at his holy table*. Let him not, therefore, invite you in vain. Do not shamefully renounce your most exalted privilege, and wilfully cut yourselves off from the society of God's universal Church.
You all know what is required to make you meet partakers of this holy communion. It is a stedfast faith in the Gospel-promises and the mercies of God; a sincere repentance for past offences; an unfeigned purpose of future amendment, and an unbounded charity and benignity of heart towards all your fellowmortals, however seemingly different in sentiment and persuasion.
If you have these dispositions either begun now, or continued down to this day, from some earlier period of your lives, you need not fear, in all humility, to approach this holy communion.
Up, escape for thy life; look not behind thee; stay not in all the plain; fly to the mountain, lest thou be consumed;" was the alarm rung in the ears of Lot by his good angels? Even so, permit me, in the sincerity of my heart, to alarm and exhort you. Up! fly for your lives to the mountain of your God. Let not your souls find any rest in all the plain of this 'life, till you have fixed on the everlasting rock of your salvation, and secured your interest in God, through Christ. Let no excuses detain you, nor linger while the danger is at hand.
Preached on a Sacrament Day.