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SETTM. coining forth in 'succession on the stage, XtL -attracting our attention for a little by the splendid figure they make, and then (disappearing and forgotten. We see the fashion of the world assuming aft its different forms, and in all of them, passing away.
But tohistorical annals there is no occasion for cur having recourse. Let any one, Who has made some progress in life, recollect only what he has beheld passing before him, in his own time. We have seen our country rife triumphant among the nations j and we have feen it also humbled in its turn. We have seen in one hemisphere Of the globe new dominions acquired, and in another hemisphere, our old dominions lost. At home, we have seen factions and parties shift through all their different forms ; and administrations, in succession, rise and fall. What were once the great themes of eager discussion, and political contest, are now forgotten. Fathers recount them to their children as the ftile's of other times. New actors
have come forth on the stage of the S E R M.
world. New objects have attracted the attention, and new intrigues engaged the passions of men. New members fill the feats of justice ; new ministers the temples of religion; and a new world, in sliort, in the course of a few years, has gradually and insensibly risen around us.
When from the public scene we turn our eye to our own private connections, the changes which have taken place in thefashion of the world, must touch every reflecting mind with a more tender sensibility. For where are now, many of the companions of our early years; many of those with whom we first began the race of life; and whose hopes and prospects were once the fame with our own? In recollecting our old acquaintance and friends, what devastations have been made by the hand of time? On the ruins of our former connections, new ones have arisen; new relations have been formed; and the circle of those among whom we live is altogether
Vol. IV. R changed
SERM. changed from what it once was. Corn'- , paring our present situation with our former condition of life; looking back to our father's house, and to the scenes pf youth j remembering the friends by whom we were trained, and the family in which we grew up; who, but with inward emotion, recollects those days of former years, and is disposed to drop the silent tear, when he views the fa~ Jhhn of the world thus always passing away!
III. Not only our connections with all things around us change, but our own life, through all its stages and conditions, is ever passing away. How just, and how affecting is that image, employed in the sacred writings to describe the state of man, we spend our years as a tale that is told* ! It is not to any thing great • or lasting that human life is compared j not to a monument that is built, or to an inscription that is engraved; not
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* Psal. xc. 9.
even to a book that is written, or to as E R M. history that is recorded; but to a tale, J^^, which is listened to for a little; where the words are fugitive and passing, and where one incident succeeds and hangs on another, till, by insensible transitions, we are brought to the close; a tale > which in some passages may be amusing, in others, tedious; but whether it amuses or fatigues, is soon told, and soon forgotten. Thus, year steals upon us after year. Life is never standing still for a moment; but continually, though insensibly, sliding into a new form. Infancy rises up fast to childhood; childhood to youth j youth passes quickly into manhood j and the grey hair and the faded look are not long of admonishing us, that old age is at hand. In this course all generations run. The world is made up of unceasing rounds of transitory existence. Some generations are coming forward into being, and others hastening to leave it. The stream which carries us all along, is ever flowing with R 2 a quick
s E R M. a quick current, though with a still and J^j noiseless course. The dwelling place of man is continually emptying, and by a fresh succession of inhabitants, continually filling anew. The 7nemory of man pajf'etb away, like the remembrance of a guest who hath tarried but one night.
As the life of man, considered in its duration, thus fleets and passes away, so during the time it lasts, its condition is perpetually changing. It affords us nothing on which we can set Up our rest; no enjoyment or possession which we can properly call our own. When we have begun to be placed in such circumstances as we desired, and wish our lives to proceed in the fame agreeable tenor, how often comes some unexpected event across, to disconcert all our schemes of happiness? Our health declines; our friends die; our families are scattered; something or other is not long of occurring, to shew us that the wheel must turn round j thefajhion of the world'mustpass away. Is there any man who dares to look to futurity with