« PreviousContinue »
star. Distinguished virtue and worth create less astonishment; but, like the fixed luminaries of heaven, they shine with more steady and permanent lustre. Unaffected piety conjoined with inviolable uprightness and integrity in conduct, command a degree of respect which approaches to veneration. Candour and fairness never fail to attract esteem and trust. Kindness and benevolence conciliate love and create warm friendship. — The best character may indeed for a time be accidentally obscured and misunderstood. But the world commonly judges soundly in the end. After a man has acted his part for a while among his fellows, he is known upon trial to be what he is; and if his worth be real and genuine, his righteousness comes forth as the light, and his judgment as the noon-day.
This is what a good man has always ground to look for, even in evil times; and surely, there are few things which he can more desire, than the prospect of being valued and esteemed by those among whom he lives. This counterbalances many a disadvantage of outward fortune, and puts into his hand many opportunities of satisfaction and comfort. He is likely to possess many friends and well-wishers, and to have few enemies. The more he is known, the more will the favour of those who surround him grow; and the prospect is before him of having his hoary head crowned with honour.
Thus, in several instances, I have briefly pointed out what may, or may not, be expected from the world, when we look forward to the ordinary course of human affairs : Not an uninterrupted enjoyment of all the comforts of prosperity ; not undişturbed
satisfaction in our various intercourses with society ; not grateful returns from all whom we have obliged or served : But what we may expect, if we keep a good conscience and study to do our duty, is peace of mind; a tolerably easy and comfortable state, amidst the vicissitudes of life; and the love and esteem of those with whom we are connected. The hope of the righteous shall be gladness.
The present subject has led me to consider only what the righteous man has to hope for in the ordinary course of the world. But I have now to observe, that he has before him a much higher object of hope than any which I have yet mentioned ; a hope which arises not from the ordinary course of human affairs, but from an extraordinary interposition of Divine grace and mercy conveyed to us by the Gospel ; even the hope which is laid up for him in heaven ; the assured expectation of a better life, in a higher and better world. Put the case of the servant of God being overwhelmed with all the disappointments which the world can bring upon him, here is an expectation which will be always gladness ; with which he can perpetually solace himself.
Through the present state of existence he is no more than a passenger. If he can render it in any degree tolerable and easy to himself, it is well ; it is all that he expects. His home, his place of rest, is in those habitations to which, through the merits of his Redeemer, he is taught and encouraged to aspire. He knows that in due season he shall reap, if he faint not.* That when the earthly house of this tabernacle is dissolved, he
* Gal. vi. 9.
shall have a building of God, an house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens *; for to them who, by patient continuance in well-doing, seek for glory, honour, and immortality, God will render eternal life.t Hence, whether you consider him in this life, or consider him as looking forward to another, his hope is perpetual gladness, while the expectations of the wicked shall perish.
* 2 Cor. v. 1.
+ Rom. ii. 7.
On the proper DisPOSITION of the Heart towards
ACTS, xvii. 28.
In Him we live, and move, and have our Being.
THERE is nothing which all nature more loudly
proclaims, than that some Supreme Being has framed and rules this universe. Day uttereth speech of it to-day, and night showeth knowledge of it to-night. Our birth and our life, our sensations and our actions, the objects which we behold, and the pleasures which we enjoy, all conspire to testify that some wonderful intelligence has disposed and arranged, and still supports and animates, the whole frame of nature. This is what scarcely any man of sober mind ever called in question. It was the dictate of nature to the most savage and barbarous, as well as to the most civilized nations. The American and the Indian in his desart, as well as the Grecian sage and the Roman conqueror, adored, each after his own mode, a Sovereign of the Universe. ---- The Psalmist observes, that the fool hath said in his heart, there is no God.* Among the follies, however, with which the human race is chargeable, this is one which, in the course of ages, seemed to have made the smallest progress. It
* Psalm xiv. 1.
was reserved for modern times and evil days, to engender in one region of the earth, a system of false philosophy, which should revive the exploded principles of atheism, and study to pour forth their poison among the nations, not only to the extinction of religion, but to the subversion of established governments, and of good order among mankind. .
Dismissing all delusions of this nature as unworthy the attention of any reasonable unperverted mind; holding it for certain that nothing can be more real than the existence of a Supreme Divinity, it follows of course from this belief, that there are dispositions correspondent to Him which ought to be found in every human mind, among the young and the old, among the high and the low, the rich and the poor. It is absurd to suppose, that while the relations in which we stand to our fellow-creatures, whether as equals, superiors, or inferiors, naturally call forth certain sentiments and affections, there should be none which properly correspond to the first and greatest of all Beings; to Him, whom, though we see him not, we all recognize ; to Him in whom, as it is beautifully expressed in my text, we live, and move, and have our being.
The proper disposition of mind with respect to God, is generally expressed by the term of Love to him. This is very justly founded on the solemn injunction of our blessed Lord.* Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind ; this is the first and great commandment. Hence, it is common among religious
* Matt. xxii. 37.