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efforts, but in an uniform or prevailing tenor of life. Great allowances are to be made for natural dispositions, for original differences in judgment, imagination, affection. Even the devotional spirit does not surmount every obstacle, and conquer every temptation. The man of piety may yield to a passion which never actuated a worse man. But stating the case fairly, and that is, supposing the force of virtuous propensities and of vicious inclination equal in any two men, which of the two would improve most in the former, and be at greatest pains to restrain the latter? The man that fears God, or the man that fears him not? Which of the two would feel most compunction upon a deviation from rectitude, or most anxiety to recover the right path ? I might appeal to your own judgments : I might almost appeal to the judgments of the vicious. But experi, ence, as I hinted before, is the great decider of all disputes. If there be, as it is certain there are, a great variety of instances in which men filled with the spirit of devotion have been found blameless in their lives, and conspicuous for the purity of their morals, while they ascribed these attainments to that G 3
very spirit of devotion, and those influences of divine grace which are inseparably connected with it, must not this be acknowledged decisive upon the point ? Were we to select particular instances, I should mention the prophets and apostles, great numbers of the primitive christians, some of the first reformers. Some of the most opposite principles, in other respects, might be ranked with them. Even several heathens might be considered as examples of the truth of our doctrine, and in that list I should particularly distinguish a Socrates and an Antoninus.
In the third place : The advantages which attend the religious exercises of the mind will appear, when we consider them as a resource under the evils and calamities of life, and a solace under the most distressful circumstances that can befal us.
There can be no greater folly, nor any more certain source of disappointment, than inattention to the general lot of humanity. If we consider life in itfelf, without taking into the account the means which providence and religion furnish for rendering it more easy and agreeable, the most melancholy descriptions of it are scarcely overcharged.
Helpless in infancy, thoughtless in childhood, rash in youth, headstrong in manhood, feeble in declining years, decrepit in old age; in every stage liable to accidents, to diseases, to dissolution. Thus surrounded with a thouland evils, can we expect to be happy, if we have no higher refuge than this world affords ? It is not in human power to avoid the pang of sorrow sometimes; and if we have no consolation when it comes, it will perfectly overwhelin us. The pains, the distempers, the disappointments, the injuries from men, the reverses of fortune, the loss of friends, the nameless calamities to which we are daily subject, who can tell how many or how grievous they may prove ? Ah! think what multitudes are this day, from events unforeseen and unavoidable, plunged in bitterness of soul, who lately thought that their mountain stood strong, and that their houses should never be moved! Mirth does well for a season ; but the house of mourningis, upon some occasions, appoint, ed for all the children of men. Need I, in proof of this, recur to the instances of Job, of the prophets of the apostles : Need I mention the fall of tyrants, the catastrophe of empires, the havock made by the pestilence, or the ravages by the sword ? Indeed, my brethren, the foul of man feels that man is born to trouble as the sparks fly upwards, that he confumes his days in vanity, and his years in trouble; and if he should deny it with his mouth, his heart would give him the lie. But where shall he find consolation under these afflictions, if he has not previously acquainted himself with God? On the contrary, what solacing reflections will break in upon his mind from the principles of piety, and the acts of devotion? How powerfully will these assuage the bitterness of anguish, and check the sentiments of defpondence! From this fource a secret joy will spring up in the heart, when the tears of grief are falling upon other accounts. Let not the young and the gay imagine that mournful scenes are at a distance. No person can tell how near they may be; and wifdom consists in preparing for what sooner or later will probably happen to us all.
I shall conclude with two passages of scripture that are much to our present purpose, and serve to Thew the unconquerable power of piety amidst the greatest calami
ties. The former is David's triumph in the midst of public danger and distress: God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble: therefore will we not fear, though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea; though the waters thereof roar and be troubled, though the mountains shake with the swellings thereof. There is a river, the streams whereof shall make glad the city of God, the holy place of the tabernacles of the most High. God is in the midst of her ; The Jhall not be moved; God shall help her, and that right early. The heathen raged, the kingdoms were moved; he uttered his voice, the earth melted. The Lord of Hosts is with us, the God of Jacob is our refuge. The other is the conclusion of Habakkuk's hymn : Although the fig-tree shall not blossom, neither shall fruit be in the vine ; the labour of the olive Jhall fail, and the field shall yield no meat ; the flock shall be cut of from the fold, and there Thall be no herd in the stalls; yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will joy in the God of
p Psalm xlvi, 1-7.