ePub 版

ports of their misconduct, how have ye gone on your way sorrowing !. What alarms within you, when fancy forebodes but imaginary misfortunes hanging over them !-but when real ones have overtaken them, and mischief befallen them in the way in which they have gone, how sharper than a sword have ye felt the workings of parental kindness! In' whatever period of human life we look for proofs of selfishness, let us not seek them in this relation of a

a parent, whose whole life, when truly known, is often little else but a succession of cares, heart-aches, and disquieting apprehensions-enough to shew that he is but an instrument in the hands of God to provide for the well-being of others, to serve their interest as well as his own.

If you try the truth of this reasoning upon every other part or situation of the same life, you will find it holds good in one degree or other. Take a view of it out of these closer connections, both of a friend and parent;-consider him for a moment under that natural alliance in which even a heathen poet has. placed him ; namely, that of a man ;--and as such, to his honour, as one incapable of standing unconcerned in whatever concerns his fellow-creatures. Compassion has so great a share in our nature, and the miseries of this world are so constant an exercise of it, as to leave it in no one's power, who dea serves the name of man, in this respect to live to bimself.

He cannot stop his ears against the cries of the unfortunate. The sad story of the fatherless, and him that has no helper, must be heard." The sor" rowful sighing of the prisoner will come before "him ;' and a thousand other untold cases of dis

[ocr errors]

tress to which the life of man is subject, find a way to his heart, let interest guide the passage as it will. - If he has this world's goods, and seeth his broth

er have need, he will not be able to shut up his bowels of compassion from him.'

Let any man of common humanity look back upon his own life as subjected to these strong claims, and recollect the influence they have had upon him. How oft the mere impulses of generosity and compassion have led him out of his way -In how many acts of charity and kindness his fellow-feeling for others has made him forget himself !In neighbourly offices, how oft he has acted against all considerations of profits, convenience, nay sometimes even of justice itself !Let him add to this account, how much, in the progress of his life, has been given up even to the lesser obligations of civility and good manners !- What restraints they have laid him under !-How large a portion of his time, how much of his inclination and the plan of life he should most have wished, has from time to time been made a sacrifice to his good-nature, and disinclination to give pain or disgust to others!

Whoever takes a view of the life of man in this glass wherein I have shewn it, will find it so beset and hemmed in with obligations of one kind or other, as to leave little room to suspect that man can live to himself : and so closely has our Creator linked us together, as well as all other parts of his works, for the preservation of that harmony in the frame and system of things which his wisdom has at first established, that we find this bond of nutu. al dependence, however relaxed, is too strong to be broke : and I believe, that the most selfish men find

it is so, and that they cannot, in fact, live so much to themselves as the narrowness of their own hearts inclines them. If these reflections are just upon the moral relations in which we stand to each other, let us close the examination with a short reflection up-. on the great relation in which we stand to God.

The first and more natural thought on this subjost, which at one time or other will thrust itself upon every man's mind, is this - That there is a God who made me to whose gift I owe all the powers and faculties of my soul, to whose providence I owe all the blessings of my life, and by whose permission it is that I exercise and enjoy them; that I ain placed in this world as a creature of but a day, hasa tening to the place from whence I shall not return : that I am accountable for my conduct and behaya iour to this great and wisest of Beings, before whose judgment-seat I must finally appear and receive the things done in my body, whether they are good or whether they are bad.

Can any one doubt but the most inconsiderate of men sometimes sit down coolly, and make some such plain reflections as these upon state and condition ?-or, that after they have made them, can one imagine they lose all cffect ?--As little appeara ance as there is of religion in the world, there is a great deal of its influence felt in its affairs ;-nor can one so root out the principles of it, but like nature they will return again, and give checks and interruptions to guilty pursuits. There are seasons when the thoughts of a just God overlooking, and the terror of an after-reckoning, have made the most determined tremble, and stop short in the execution of a wicked purpose ; and if we conceive that the

worst of men lay some restraint upon themselves from the weight of this principle, what shall we think of the good and virtuous part of the world, who live under the perpetual influence of it, who sacrifice their appetites and passions from a consciousness of their duty to God ; and consider him as the object to whom they have dedicated their service, and make that the first principle and ultimate end of all their actions ?-How many real and unaffected instances there are in the world of men thus governed, will not concern us so much to enquire, . as to take care that we are of the number : which may God grant, for the sake of Jesus Christ. Amen.




I returned and saw under the sun, that the race is not to the swift,

-nor the battle to the strong, --neither yet bread to the wise, nor yet riches to men of understanding, nor yet favour to men of skill,--but time and chance happeneth to them all.

When a man casts a look upon this melancholy description of the world, and sees, contrary to all his guesses and expectations, what different fates attend the lives of men,-how, oft it happens in the world that there is not even bread to the wise, nor riches to men of understanding, &c.—he is apt to conclude, with a sigh upon it,-in the words, though not in the sense of the wise man, That time and chance happeneth to them all.—That time and chance,-apt seasons and fit conjunctures, have the greatest sway in the turns and disposals of men's fortunes ;-and that, as these lucky bits (as they are called) happen to be for or against a man,--they either open

the way to his advancement against all obstacles-or block it up against all helps and attempts. That, as the text intimates, neither wisdom, nor understanding, nor skill, shall be able to surmount them.

However widely we may differ in our reasonings upon this observation of Solomon's, the authority of the observation is strong beyond doubt, and the evidence given of it in all ages so alternately confirm

« 上一頁繼續 »