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On the MISFORTUNES of Men being
chargeable on themselves.
PROVERBS xix. 3.
The foolishness of man perverteth his way,
and his heart fretteth against the Lord.
D TOW many complaints do we hear SERM, 11 from every quarter, of the misery and distress that fill the world! In these the high and the low, the young and the aged, join ; and since the beginning of time, no topic has been more fertile of declamation, than the vanity and vexation which man is appointed to suffer. But are we certain that this vex
SER M.ation, and this vanity, is altogether to
be ascribed to the appointment of Heaven? Is there no ground to suspect that man himself is the chief and immediate author of his own sufferings ? What the text plainly suggests is, thảt it is common for men to complain groundlesly of Providence; that they are prone to accuse God for the evils of life, when in reason they ought to accuse themselves; and that after their foolishness hath perverted their way, and made them undergo the consequences of their own misconduct, they impiously fret in heart against the Lord. This is the doctrine which I now purpose to illustrate, in order to silence the sceptic, and to check a repining and irreligious spirit. I shall for this end make some observations, first, on the external, and next, upon the internal, condition of man; and then conclude with such serious and useful improvement as the subject will naturally suggest,
1. Let us consider the external con
dition of man. We find him placed in SE R M. a world, where he has by no means the
ha XIV. disposal of the events that happen. Cam lamities sometimes befal the worthiest and the best, which it is not in their power to prevent, and where nothing is left them, but to acknowledge and to submit to the high hand of Heaven. For such visitations of trial, many good and wise reasons can be assigned, which the present subject leads me not to disçuss. But though those unavoidable calamities make a part, yet they make not the chief part of the vexations and forrows that distress human life.. A multitude of evils beset us, for the source of which we must look to another quarter.—No sooner has any thing in the health, or in the circumstances of men, gone cross to their with, than they begin to talk of the unequal distribution of the good things of this life ; they envy the condition of others ; they repine at their own lot, and fret against the Ruler of the world. Full of these sentiments, one man
SE R M. pines under a broken constitution. But
let us ak him, whether he can, fairly and honestly, assign no cause for this but the unknown decree of Heaven? Has he duly valued the blessing of health, and always observed the rules of virtue and sobriety ? Has he been moderate in his life, and temperate in all his pleasures? If now he be only paying the price of his former, perhaps his forgotten, indulgences, has he any title to complain, as if he were suffering unjustly? Were you to survey the chambers of sickness and distress, you would find them peopled with the victims of intemperance and sensuality, and with the children of vitious indolence and Noth, `Among the thousands who Janguish there, you would find the proportion of innocent sufferers to be small. You would see faded youth, premature ald age, and the prospect of an untimely grave, to be the portïon of mul, titudes who, in one way or other, have brought those evils on themselves; while yet these martyrs of vice and fol
ly have the assurance to arraign the hard SER M. fate of man, and to fret against the Lord,
But you, perhaps, complain of hardships of another kind; of the injustice of the world; of the poverty which you suffer, and the discouragements under which you labour'; of the crosses and disappointments of which your life has been doomed to be full. Before you give too much scope to your discontent, let me desire you to reflect impartially upon your past train of life. Have not sloth, or pride, or ill temper, or sinful passions, misled you often from the path of sound and wise conduct ? Have you not been wanting to yourfelves in improving those opportunities which Providence offered you, for bettering and advancing your state ? If you have chosen to indulge your humour, or your taste, in the gratifications of indolence or pleasure, can you complain because others, in preference to you, have obtained those advantages which naturally belong to useful labours, and honourable pursuits ? Have not the con