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It is needless to spend much time in S E R }A. confirming the truth, which is the foun- ^-^-J dation of the admonition in the text; in proving, either that change and mutability belong to our present state, or that the changes of it cannot be foreseen by us. These are truths so obvious and confessed, than an attempt to confirm them is like proving, that all men are to die. At the fame time, obvious as they are, it were to be wished that the thoughts of men dwelt upon them more. For, by a strange but prevailing deception, it would seem, from the general conduct of mankind, that almost every one thinks his own cafe an exception from the general law j and that he may build plans with as much confidence on his present situation, as if some assurance had been given him that it were never to change. Hence it has been often observed by serious persons, that there is no more general cause to which the vices of men can be ascribed, their forgetfulness of God, and their neglect of duty, than to their presuming upon the continuance
s E R M. of life, of pleasure, and prosperity. Look but a little way, my friends, into your own state; and you must unavoidably perceive that, from the beginning, it has been so contrived by Providence, that there should be no permanent stability to man's condition on earth. The feeds of alteration are every where sown. In your health, life, possessions, connections, pleasures, there are causes of decay imperceptibly working; secretly undermining the foundations of what appears to you the most stable; continually tending to abolish the present form of things, and to bring forward new appearances, and new objects in their order: So that nothing is or can .be, stationary on earth. All changes, and passes. It is a stream which is ever flowing; a wheel which is ever turning round. When you behold the tree covered with blossoms in the spring, or loaded with fruit in the autumn, as well may you imagine, that those blossoms, or that fruit, are to remain in their place
through the whole year, as believe that s human affairs are to continue, for to day and to-morrow, for this year and the next, proceeding in the fame tenor.— To render this reflection still more serious, think, I pray you, on what small and inconsiderable causes those changes depend, which affect the fortunes of men, throughout their whole lives. How soon is evil done! There needs no great bustle or stir, no long preparation of events, to overturn what seems most secure, and to blast what appears most flourishing. A gale of wind rises on the ocean; and the vessel which carried our friends, or our fortunes, is overwhelmed in the deep. A spark of a candle falls by night in some neglected corner; and the whole substance of families is consumed in flames before the morning. A casual blow, or a sudden fall, deranges some of our internal parts; and the rest of life is distress and misery. It is awful to think, at the mercy of how many seeming contingencies we
Serm.perpetually lie, for what we. caU fop*
.^^ piness in this world.
In the midst, however, of all these apparent contingencies, p&ns and deT signs for the future are every day formed; pursuits are undertaken; and life proceeds in its usual train. Fit and proper it is, that life should thus proceed. For the uncertainty of to-morrow was never designed by Providence, to deter us from acting or planning to day; but only to admonish U6, that we ought to plan, and to act, foberly and wisely. What that wise and sober conduct is which becomes us, what the rules and precautions are, which, in such a state as ours, respect futurity, I now proceed to shew. They may be comprehended in the following directions. Boast not thyself of to-morrow; Despair not of tomorrow; Delay not till to-morrow what is proper to be done to-day; Prepare thyself for whatever to-morrow may bring forth; Build thy hopes of happiness on something more solid and lasting than
what either to-day or to-morrow will SE RM. . J XVIII.
I. In the words of the text, Boast not thyself of to-morrow; that is, never presume arrogantly on futurity; in the most fair and promising state of fortune, beware of pride and vanity; beware of resting wholly upon yourselves, and forgetting Him who directs the changes of this mutable state. If there be any virtues, which the uncertain condition of the world inculcate on man, they are assuredly, moderation and humility. Man was, for this end, placed in a world, where he knows so little os what is before him, that he might be impressed with a fense of his dependence on the Ruler of the world; that he might feel the importance of acquiring favour and protection from Heaven, by a life of piety and virtue; and that, not knowing how soon his own condition may be the fame with that of the most wretched, he might be prompted to act towards all his brethren the humane and Vol. IV. B b friendly