« AnteriorContinuar »
defence, it must fall an easy prey to every invader. It was the intention of nature, that nations, as well as men, should guard themselves. Hence lessons of war are delivered in Sacred Scripture, and principles of emulation and dissension are strongly implanted in. the soul of man. Human nature has no part of its character, of which more striking examples are given in every part of the globe. What is it that stirs in the breasts of ordinary men when the enemies of their country are named? Whence are the prejudices that subsist between different provinces and villages of the same empire and territory. What is it that excites one half of the nations of Europe against the other? The statesman may explain this conduct upon motives of national jealousy and caution; bat the people have dislikes and antipathies, which proceed from sentiment, not fropv reasoning. Among them the materials of war and dissensipn are laid without the direction of government, and sparks are ready on every occasion to kindle into a flame.
This being the disposition of the people, happy is that institution which prevails in a part of this island*, of putting arms into the hands of the people, of making every citizen a soldier in his turn, and by this means having a force at hand to rise in arms at any sudden emergency. When such a system of military arrangements takes place, the prosperity of a state becomes independent of single men; there is a wisdom which never dies, antl a valour which is immortal. A state may hire troops, but valour is not to be bought; the wealth of a nation will procure soldiers to fight its battles, but let it not be forgot, that the possessions of the fearful are easily seized, that a timorous multitude falls into rout of itself. Ramparts may be erected, and the implements of war may be furnished by a pacific people; but let it be remembered as an eternal truth, that there is no rampart which is impregnable to valour, that arms are only of consequence when they are in the hands of the * Originally published before the institution of Scottish Militia,
brave, and that the only price of freedom is the blood of the free. When an ancient Spartan was asked what was the wall of his city? he pointed to a band of brave men; a defence more permanent and more effectual than the rock and the pement with which other cities are fortified.
Lastly, The public welfare consists in the national character. That righteousness exalteth a nation, and that vice is not only a reproach, but also a depression to any people, are truths so universally received, as to require little confirmation. All lawgivers in all ages have thought so, and made it their object to cultivate justice, and temperance, and fortitude, and industry, conscious that public virtue is the source of public happiness. Philosophers and moralists have been of the same opinion, and have taught, with one consent, that the morality of the people was the star bility of the government, and the true source of public prosperty. Practice and experience have confirmed the truth of these speculations. If we consult the history of the most renowned nations that have made a figure in the world we shall find, that they rose to greatness by virtue, and sunk to nothing by vice: that they obtained dominion by their temperance, their probity of manners, and a serious regard to religion ; and that when they grew dissolute, corrupted, and profane, they became slaves to their neighbours, whom they were no longer worthy to govern. Public depravity paves the way for public ruin. When the health and vigour of the political constitution is broken, it is hastening to its decline. When internal symptoms of weakness appear, the least external violence will accomplish its dissolution. Besides the natural tendency of virtue tq make nations great and happy, if we have just no» tions of divine providence, if we believe that the perfections of God are at all concerned in human affairs, virtuous nations will be his peculiar care, and under his immediate protection ; he will counsel their counsellors, cover their armies in the day of battle, and crown them with victory and peace.
Hebrews ix. 27. .
// is appointed to men once to die; but after this (he . ;;-: t.' i. judgment.
DEATH is the conclusion of all events ; of all that ever have been, and of all that ever will be. The schemes of the base, the plots of the ambitious, the projects of the visionary, the studies of the learned, all terminate here. However different the paths be that we take in life, they all lead to the grave. Whilst, therefpre, we make death the subject of contemplation, and meditate upon the house which is appointed for all living, let us take this thought along with us, that we shall bear a part in those scenes which we now describe, and that we are meditating pn a fate which will one day be our own.
In the first place, Let us consider death as an event, the period of which is uncertain.
In the days when Noah entered into the ark* they did eat, they drank, they married, they were given in marriage ; and the flood came, and destroyed them all. On the day thaj: Lot went out of Sodom, they did eat, they drank, they bought, they sold, they planted, they budded; and it rained fire and brimstone from heaven and destroyed them all. As it was in the days of Noah, and in the days of Lot, even thus, my friends, shall it be to you when the day of death poiiieth. In the present state of things, the soul of man is blind to futurity. Surrounded with material objects, and occupied in present affairs, we make these the sole objects of attention ; we find in them the only sources of attachment, and overlook those spiritual and distant events on which our future life and happiness depend. Hence, we are always surprised with our latter end, and the day of the Lord cometh like a ^hief in fjhe night. No instruction can make us so wise as to consider our latter end; no warning can incite jQs to set-our houses in order, that we may die ; and no example give the alarm so strong as to set us on serious preparation for meeting with God. Void of thought, and careless of futurity, we live on from day today, like the victim that plays and dances before that altar where its blood is to be shed. Even after the longest life, and under the most lingering sickness,; death comes unexpected ; the:arr row is. still unseen that strikes through the hearth
This is not peculiar to a feW men ^ - it describes a general character, and is exemplified in all the classes of life. This infatuation does not arise from igno-' ranee. You all know that death is certain; you all know that it is generally unexpected. You assent to every thing that we can say upon this head, that there is no action of life but what may lead to its end, and no moment of time but what may be your last. You need.not be informed, that death spares no age; your own observation presents you with many instances of persons cut off. in all periods of life. In that church-yard, you see graves of every length, on those monuments of mortality you read the histories of the promising boy, of the blooming youth, of the man in middle life, and of the hoary headi mingled together in sad assemblage amongst the a* bodes of the dead. You can reckon up instances of persons cut off in a sudden and urie*pected manner, of a Herod who was struck amidst the applauses of the people; of a Jezebel who was thrown headlong from that window where she had prepared to display herself to the people; of a Belshazzar who was slain at a banquet, when he was carousing with his princes, his concubines, and his wives; and of a Holo
pliernes, who met his fate, surrounded with his' army* and crowned with victory and fame.
With all these in your memory, you act as if you' were immortal. Even the death of those who fall around us, and before our eyes, affects us nfOt with serious concern. One person opposed us m a favourite object* and we rejoice at his decease; another stood in our way to preferment and power; the death of a' third opens to us'a prospect of rising to wealth and fortune: we profit not by all these lessons of mortality; the voice from the tomb sends us back to the world, and from <he very ashes of the dead there comes a fire that rekindles our earthly desires. We look upon all our neighbours as mortal; we form schemes to ourselves upon their decease, Itut forget all the While that we ourselves1 are to die. O foolish and infatuated race, will you always continue deaf to the voice of Wisdom? Will neither the instructions of the living, nor the warnings of the dead, induce you to serious thopghts? Will you continue to lengthen your prospects, when perhaps you stand upon the Very verge of life ; and can you enjoy the feast, when* the sword hangs over your head, by a single hair 3j Who knoweth what a day may bring forth ; the morning has smiled upon multitudes, who before the evening hath slept the sleep of death. Who knoweth how soon you may be hurried to the judgment-seat of God? The ears which hear these sayings may soon be shut for ever: and the heart which now throbs at the thought, may, in a little, be mingled with the clods of the- valley.- Some who last Lord's day worshipped within these walls, are now gone to the eternal world, and God only knows how soon some of us may follow.
Seeing then that life is so uncertain, that the thread thereof breaks at every blast, let me exhort you to set apart some time for serious meditation upon your mortality. Let it be on some solemn occasion, in the sdent hour or' night, when deep sleep falleth on man, when midnight closeth awful all the world, and