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to decline the bar of reason ? What can be more shameful than for those who have an understanding, not to be able or willing to give an account of their actions to themselves? What can be more reproachful than for men to allow themselves in a course of life, which they have not the courage or the confidence to reflect upon.
Sinner! deal plainly with thyself. If thou wert not ashamed of thyself, why, in the name of the all-knowing God, shouldst thou decline conversing with thyself? If all were well at home, what should make thee so fond of rambling abroad, and losing the remembrance of thyself in a croud of vain amusements? Here, here is the cause of thy love of noise and hurry, and tumult, and dissipation, and perpetual diversions: thy aim is by this means to escape from thyself, to employ and divert thy mind, that it may not be forced upon such an ungrateful subject. Yet here wisdom begins. Thou never canst, ascend to the knowledge of Him whom to know is life eternal, without knowing thyself; and thou canst never know thyself, without retiring from the world, without stripping off whatever is artificial about thee, without throwing off the veil which thou wearest before men, and devoting thy secret hours to serious consideration. Enter then into thy chamber, shut the doors about thee, commune with thine own heart, be still, say with the Psalmist, " Search and try me, O Lord ; see "if there be any evil way in me, and lead me in the "way everlasting."
In the fourth place, Retirement and meditation will open a source of new and better entertainment than you meet with in the world. You will soon find that the world does not perform what it promises. The circle of earthly enjoyments is narrow and circumscribed, the career of sensual pleasure is soon run, and when the novelty is over, the charm is gone. Who has not felt the satiety and weariness of the king of Israel, when he cried out," All is vanity and vex"ation of Spirit?" Unhappy is the man who in these Cases has nothing within to console him under his disappointment. Miserable is the man who has no resources within himself, who cannpt enjoy his own company, who depends for happiness upon the next amusement, or the news of the day.
But the wise man has treasures within himself. He has a spring shut up, and a fountain sealed. The, hour of solitude is the hour of meditation. He com^ munes with his heart alone. He reviews the actions of his past life. He corrects what is amiss. He rejoices in what is right, and, wiser by experience, lays the plan of his future life. The great and the noble, the wise and the learned/the pious and the good, have been lovers of serious retirement. On this field the patriot forms his schemes, the philosopher pursues his discoveries, the saint improves himself in wisdom and goodness. Solitude is the hallowed ground which religion in every age has adopted as its own. There her sacred inspiration is felt, and her holy mysteries elevate the soul; there devotion lifts up the voice; there falls the tear of contrition; there the heart pours itself forth before Him who made, and Him who redeemed it. Apart from men, you live -with nature, and converse with God.
Isaiah lvii. 21.
T is universally agreed, that the works of creation demonstrate the being and the attributes of the Deity. The invisible things of God, even his eternal power, his unerring wisdom, and his infinite goodness, are every where legible throughout the great book of Nature. It is very astonishing, however, that many persons, who from the creation of the world infer the existence and perfections of the Diety, should, from the government of the world, infertile necessity of a day of judgment to rectify the course of Providence, and vindicate the ways of God. The works of God must certainly be uniform and of a piece. According to the representations of Sacred Scripture, the day of judgment was not appointed to account for the conduct of Providence, but to pass sentence on the, actions of men. All the administrations of God are conducted with supreme wisdom and goodness. He is for ever employing the power of his providence to favour the cause of righteousness, and to diffuse happiness over the world. When the blessed above sing the wonders of creating power, and cry out, " Great and marvellous are thy works, "Lord God Almighty i" they also add, " Just and "true are all thy ways, thou King of saints." If the Almighty is possessed of infinite perfection; if, as the Scriptures assert, he loveth righteousness and bateth iniquity, we may naturally infer it to be one V>f his eternal decrees, that righteousness and happiness, that sin and misery, must be inseparable in the course of things.
Notwithstanding the force of the arguments that prove this truth, opinions pretty general prevail to the contrary. Many persons are of opinion that the wicked man has more enjoyment in life than the good man has; that virtue exposes us to many evils; and that if it were not for a future state, Christians would be of all men the most miserable. The origin of this opinion it is not difficult to unfold. It is natural for men to judge of the course of things, by what happens in their own lot. When we are in a prosperous situation, when the candle of the Lord shineth upon our heads, all nature puts on a face of beauty, and wears a smiling appearance. But, when adversity and a train of afflictions come in their turn, the eye of the impatient sufferer tinctures every thing around him with its own baleful eolours. To his disordered mind, darkness seems to involve the system of nature, malignant demons to usurp the sceptre of Providence, and invade the throne of God. Hence the many complaints of good and holy men in sacred writ, that the righteous were cut off from the earth, whilst the wicked flourished like a green bay-tree. But these were not the maxims which governed their lives; they were only sudden exclamations made in the moments of impatience under distress. The universal voice of Scripture is expressly on the other side, " Say "ye to the wicked, It shall be ill with him; say ye "to the righteous, It shall be well with him. There "is no peace, saith my God, to the wicked. Great "peace have they who love the laws of the Lord.1'
In further treating upon this subject, 1 shall endeavour to shew you, that there is no peace or happiness to the wicked, whether you consider him as a subject of the divine government, as a member of society, or as an individual.
In the jirst place, then, Let us consider the wicked in his religious capacity, as a subject of the divine government
Religion is the distinguishing quality of our nature, and is one of the strongest features that marksthe human character. As rt rs our distinguishing quality, so it possesses such extensive influence, that however overlooked by superficial inquirers, it has given rise to more revolutions in human society, and to more changes in human manners, than any one cause whatever. View mankind in every situation, from the earliest state of barbarity, down through all the successive periods of civilization, till they degenerate to barbarity again, and you will find them influenced strongly by the awe of superior spirits, or the dread of infernal fiends. In the heathen world, where mankind had no divine' revelation, but followed the impulse of nature alone, religion was often the basis of the civil government. Among all classes of men, the sacrifices, the ceremonies, and the worship of the gods were held in the highest reverence. Judge what a strong hold religion must have taken of the human heart, when, instigated by horror of conscience, the blinded wretch has submitted to torture his own flesh before the shrine of the incensed deity, and the fond father has been driven to offer up with his own hands his first-born for his transgression, and the fruit of his body for the sin of his soul. It is possible to shake off the reverence, but not the dread of a Deity. Amid the gay circle of his companions, in the hour of riot and dissipation, the fool may say in his heart, that there is no God; but his conscience will meet him when he is alone, and tell him that he is a liar. Heaven will avenge its quarrel on his head. Judge, then, my brethren, how miserable it must be for a being made after the image of God, thus to have his glory turned into shame. How dismal must the situation be for a subject of the divine government to consider himself as acting upon a plan to counteract the decrees of God, to defeat the designs of eternal Providence, to deface in himself the image and the lineaments of heaven, to maintain a state of enmity and war with his Creator, and to associate with the