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8 E R M. Psalmist David supported himself amidst \^^^j the changes and revolutions, of which his life was full. By these hopes, when flying before Saul, when driven from his throne, and persecuted by an unnatural son, he was enabled to preserve his virtue, and to maintain unshaken trust in God.—In that early age of the world, those explicit discoveries of a state of immortality, which we enjoy, had not yet been given to mankind. But though the Sun of righteousness was not arisen, the dawn had appeared of that glorious day which he was to introduce. Even in those antient times, holy men, as the apostle writes to the Hebrews, saw the promises afar off, and were persuaded of them and embraced them; and confefjing that they were strangers and pilgrims on earth, declared that they sought after a better country, that is an heavenly*. Indeed, in every age, God permitted such hopes to afford support and consolation to those who served him. The full
* Heb. xi. 13,—16.
effect of them we behold in those tri- S E umphant expressions of the text, which , are to be the subject of this discourse. They lead us to consider; first, The hope of the Psalmist in his present state; Thou wilt Jhew me the path of life. And, secondly, the termination of his hope in that future state, where in the presence of God is fulness of joy, and at his right-hand there are pleasures for evermore.
I. Thou wilt Jhew me the paths of life. This plainly imports "that there are different paths or courses of conduct, which may be pursued by men in this world; a path which leads to life or happiness, and a path which issues in death or destruction. These opposite lines of conduct are determined by the choice which men make of virtue or of vice; and hence men are divided into two great classes, according as their inclinations lead them to good or to evil. The path of life is often a rough and difficult path, followed
Serm. onty hy a few. The opposite one is the ^y11' broad way, in which the multitude walk; seemingly smooth, and strewed with flowers; but leading in the end to death and misery. The path of life conducts us up a steep ascent. The palace os virtue has, in all ages, been represented as placed on the summit of a hill; in the ascent of which labour is requisite, and difficulties are to be surmounted; and where a conductor is needed, to direct our way, and to aid our steps.
Now, the hope which good men entertain is that this path of life shall be shewn them by God; that, when their intentions are upright, God will both instruct them concerning the road which leads to true happiness, £nd will assist them to pursue it successfully. Among nations where any suitable ideas of God or of virtue began to be formed, hopes of this nature also began to be entertained. It was consonant to the nature of man, to think that the Supreme Being was favourable to virtue. Accordingly,
in the writings of some of the ancient philosophers, we find various obscure traces of this belief, that there was a benign heavenly spirit, who illuminated the minds of the virtuous, and assisted their endeavours to obtain wisdom and happiness. They even asserted, that no man became great or good without some inspiration of heaven.
But what they indistinctly conceived, and could not with confidence rely upon, the doctrine of Christianity hath clearly explained and fully confirmed; expressly and frequently teaching, that not only by the external discoveries of revelation, but by the inward operations of his Spirit, he /fiews to the humble and virtuous the path of life. While, by his word, he instructs them in their duty, by the influence of his grace he assists them in the performance of it. In all revelation there is certainly no doctrine more comfortable than this. It is to good men a noble and pleasing thought, that they are pursuing a path which God has discovered
SERM.covered and pointed out to them. For, t__v_-J they know that every path, in which he is their conductor, must be honourable, must be safe, must bring them in the end to felicity. They follow that Shepherd of Israel, who always leads his flock into green pa/lures, and makes them lie down beJide the Jlill waters. At the fame time, they know that, if there be truth in religion at all, on this principle they may securely rest, that the Divine Being will never desert those who are endeavouring to follow out, as they can, the path which he has shewn them He beholds them here in a state of great imbecility; surrounded with much darkness; exposed to numberless dangers, from the temptations that assault them without, and the seduction of misguided and disorderly passions within. In this situation, can they ever suspect that the Father of mercies will leave his servants, alone and unbefriended, to struggle up the hill of virtue, without stretching , forth a compassionate arm to aid their frailty, and to guide them through the