« PreviousContinue »
happen in the state of nature, or the life of men, were comprehended in his decree. How much soever worldly things may change in themselves, they are all united in his plan; they constitute one great system or whole, of which he is the Author; and which, at its final completion, shall appear to be perfect. His dominion holds together, in a continual chain, the successive variety of human events; gives stability to things that, in themselves, are fluctuating; gives constancy even to the fashion of the world while it is passing away. Wherefore, though all things change on earth, and we ourselves be involved in the general mutability, yet as long as, with trust and hope, we look up to the Supreme Being, we rest on the rock of ages, and are safe amidst every change. We possess a fortress to which we can have recourse in all dangers; a refuge under all storms; a dwellingplace in all generations.
In the third and last place, Heaven and immortality pass not away. The fleeting scenes of this life are to be considered as no more than an introduction to a nobler and more permanent order of things, when man shall have attained the maturity of his being. This is what reason gave some ground to expect; what revelation as fully confirmed; and, in confirming it, has agreed with the sentiments and anticipations of the good and wise in every age. We are taught to believe, that what we now behold, is only the first stage of the life of man. arrived no further than the threshold; we dwell as in the outer courts of existence. Here, tents only are pitched; tabernacles erected for the sojourners of a day. But in the region of eternity, all is great,
stable, and unchanging. There, the mansions of the just are prepared; there, the city which hath foundations is built ; there is established, the kingdom which cannot be mored. Here every thing is in stir and fluctuation; because here good men continue not, but pass onward in the course of being. There, all is serene, steady, and orderly; because there remaineth the final rest of the people of God. Here, all is corrupted by our folly and guilt; and of course must be transient and vain. But there, purchased by the death, and secured by the resurrection, of the Son of God, is an inheritance incorruptible, undefiled, and that fadeth not away. There reigns that tranquillity which is never troubled. There shines that sun which never sets. There flows that river of pleasures, which is always unruffled and pure. Looking forward to those divine habitations, the changes of the present world disappear to the eye of faith ; and a good man becomes ashamed of suffering himself to be dejected by what is so soon to pass away.
Such are the objects you ought to oppose to the transient fashion of the world ; Virtue, and God, and Heaven. Fixing your regard on these, you will have no reason to complain of the lot of man, or the world's mutability. The design of
The design of the preceding representation which I gave of the world, was not to indulge vain declamation; to raise fruitless melancholy; or to throw an unnecessary cloud over human life: But to show the moderation requisite in our attachment to the world ; and at the same time, to point out the higher objects both of attention and consolation which religion affords. Passing and changeable as all human things are, among them,
however, we must at present act our part; to them we must return from religious meditation. They are not below the regard of any Christian; for they form the scene which Providence has appointed at present for his activity, and his duty. Trials and dangers they may often present to him; but amidst these he will safely hold his course, if, when engaged in worldly affairs, he keep in view those divine objects which I have been setting before him. Let him ever retain connection with Virtue, and God, and Heaven. By them let his conduct be regulated, and his constancy supported. So shall he use this world without abusing it. He shall neither droop under its misfortunes, nor be vainly elated by its advantages; but through all its changes shall carry an equal and steady mind; and in the end shall receive the accomplishment of the promise of Scripture, that though the world passeth away and the lust thereof, le that doeth the will of God shall abide for ever. *
* 1 John, ii. 17.
On TRANQUILLITY OF MIND.
PSALM Xv. 5.
He that doeth these things shall never be
TRANQUILLITY of mind, or, in the words of
the text, a mind not moved or disquieted by the accidents of life, is undoubtedly one of the greatest blessings that we can possess on earth. It is here mentioned as the reward of the man, whose character had been described in this Psalm, as leading a virtuous life, and discharging his duty towards God and his neighbour. It is indeed the ultimate aim, to which the wishes of the wise and reflecting have ever been directed, that with a mind undisturbed by anxieties, cares, and fears, they might pass their days in a pleasing serenity. They justly concluded that, by enjoying themselves in peace, they would enjoy, to the greatest advantage, all the comforts of life that came within their reach.
This happy tranquillity, the multitude conceive to be most readily attainable by means of wealth, or, at least, of an easy fortune ; which they imagine would set them above all the ordinary disturbances of life. That it has some effect for this purpose, cannot be denied. Poverty and straitened circumstances are often inconsistent with tranquillity. To be destitute
of those conveniences that suit our rank in the world ; to be burdened with anxiety about making provision for every day which passes over our head; instead of bringing comfort to a family who look up to us for aid, to behold ourselves surrounded with their wants and complaints, are circumstances which cannot fail to give much uneasiness to every feeling mind. To take measures, therefore, for attaining a competent fortune, by laudable means, is wise and proper. Entire negligence of our affairs and indif. ference about our worldly circumstances, is, for the most part, the consequence of some vice or some folly: - At the same time I must observe, that the attainment of opulence is no certain method of attaining tranquillity.
Embarrassments and vexations often attend it; and long experience has shown, that tranquillity is far from being always found among the rich. Nay, the higher that men rise in the world, the greater degrees of power and distinction which they acquire, they are often the farther removed from internal peace. The world affords so many instances of miseries abounding in the higher ranks of life, that it were needless to enlarge on a topic so generally known and admitted.
Assuming it, therefore, for an undoubted truth, that the mere possession of the goods of fortune may be consistent with the want of inward tranquillity, we must look around for other more certain grounds of it. We must enquire whether any line of conduct can be pointed out, which, independent of external situation in the world, shall tend to make us easy in mind; shall either bestow or aid, that tranquillity which all men desire. The remain