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fear not God.* They are the dark, and solitary hours of life, which recall men to recollection and wisdom. They show to the unthinking what this world really is, and what may be expected from it
. But the day that is always bright and unclouded, is not made for men. It flatters them with the dangerous illusion, that it is in their power to render life one scene of pleasure ; and that they have no other business on earth, but to spread the feast, and to call the harp and the viol to sound. But the examples are so frequent, of the dangers and the crimes which arise from an intemperate abuse of pleasure, that on this part of the subject it seems needless to insist any longer. I proceed, therefore,
II. To consider the duties which men are accused of having neglected ; and which it is here supposed, if duly attended to, would have acted as the correctives of dissolute and irreligious luxury ; these are, to regard the work of the Lord, and to consider the operation of his hands.—By recommending such duties, I do not mean to represent it as requisite that the feast should be turned into an act of worship; that the countenances of men should be always grave; or that, in the hours of amusement and of social festivity, no subject may employ their thoughts and their discourse, except God and a future state. All extremes, in religion are dangerous; and by carrying austerity too far, we are in hazard of only promoting hypocrisy. But though some in the last age might be prone to this extreme; yet, at the present day there is not much occasion for warning men against it. -What I now insist upon is, that all our pleasures ought to be tempered with a serious sense of God; that scenes of gaiety and enjoyment should never make us forget that we are subjects of his government, and have a part allotted us to act in this world ; that on no occasion they should be prolonged so much, repeated so often, or suffered to transport us so far, as to lead us to break any of the Divine laws, or to act inconsistently with the character of men and Christians. A prevailing sense of God on the mind is to be ever held the surest guard of innocence and virtue, amidst the allurements of pleasure. It is the salutary mixture which must be infused into the cup of joy, in order to render it safe and innoxious.
This sense of God should lead us, in the language of the prophet, to regard the work of the Lord, and to consider the operation of his hands ; which expressions may be undertood as requiring us to have God upon our thoughts under two views; to regard his work, as the Author of nature; and to consider the operation of his hands, as the Governor of the world. Let us attend more particularly to each of these views of the Supreme being.
* Psalm, ly. 19.
In the first place, we are to view God as the Author of nature, or to regard the work of the Lord. With his works we are in every place surrounded. We can cast our eyes no where, without discerning the hand of Him who formed them, if the grossness of our minds will only allow us to behold Him. Let giddy and thoughtless men turn aside a little from the haunts of riot. Let them stand still, and contemplate the wordrous works of God; and make trial of the effect which such contemplation would produce.-It were good for them that even independently of the Au- . thor, they were more acquainted with his works; good for themthat from the societies of loose and dissolute men, they would retreat to the scenes of nature; would oftener dwell among them, and enjoy their beauties. This would form them to the relish of uncorrupted innocent pleasures; and make them feel the value of calm enjoyments, as superior to the noise and turbulence of licentious gaiety. From the harmony of nature and of nature's works, they would learn to hear sweeter sounds than what arise from the viol, the tabret and the pipe.
But to higher and more serious thoughts these works of nature give occasion, when considered in conjunction with the Creator who made them.-- Let me call on you, my friends, to catch some interval of reflection, some serious moment, for looking with thoughtful eye on the world around you. Lift your view to that immense arch of Heaven which encompasses you
bove. Behold the sun in all his splendour rolling over your head by day; and the moon by night, in mild and serene majesty, surrounded with that host of stars which present to your imagination an innumerable multitude of worlds. Listen to the awful voice of thunder. Listen to the roar of the tempest and the ocean. Survey the wonders that fill the earth which you inhabit. Contemplate a steady and powerful Hand, bringing round spring and summer, autumn and winter, in regular course; decorating this earth with innumerable beauties, diversifying it with innumerable inhabitants, pouring forth comforts on all that live; and, at the same time, overawing the nations with the violence of the clements, when it pleases the Creator to let them forth. After you have viewed yourselves as surrounded with such a scene of wonders; after you have beheld, on every hand, 'such an astonishing display of majesty, united with wisdom and goodness; are you not seized with solemn and serious awe? Is there not something which whispers you within, that to this great Creator reverence and homage are due by all the rational beings whom he has made ? Admitted to be spectators of his works, placed in the midst of so many great and interesting objects, can you believe that you were brought hither for no purpose, but to immerse yourselves in gross and brutal, or, at best, in trifling pleasures ; lost to all sense of the wonders
you behold; lost to all reverence of that God who gave you being, and who has erected this amazing fabric of nature, on which you look only with stupid and unmeaning eyes? —No: Let the scenes which you behold prompt correspondent feelings. Let them awaken you from the degrading intoxication of licentiousness, into nobler emotions. Every object which you view in nature, whether great or small, serves to instruct you. The star and the insect, the fiery meteor and the flower of spring, the verdant field and the lofty mountain, all exhibit a Supreme Power, before which you ought to tremble and adore ; all preach the doctrine, all inspire the spirit of devotion and reverence. Regarding then, the work of the Lord, let rising emotions of awe and gratitude call forth from your souls such sentiments as these :- -“ Lord, wherever I am, and whatever
I enjoy, may I never forget thee, as the Author of nature !
May I never forget that I am thy creature and thy subject ! “ In this magnificent temple of the universe, where thou hast “placed me, may I ever be thy faithful worshipper, and may “ the reverence and the fear of god be the first sentiments of
-It is to such consideration of God I would now recall your thoughts from the wine and the feast, as proper to check the spirit of levity and folly ; and to inspire manly and becoming sentiments, in the place of criminal dissipation. But,
In the second place, there is a consideration of a nature still more serious to be employed for the same purpose; the consideration of God as not only the Author of nature, but the Governor of his creatures. While we regard the work of the Lord, we are also to consider the never-ceasing operation of his hands. We are to look up to an awful and irresistible Providence, stretching its arm over our heads; directing the fate of men, and dispensing at its pleasure happiness or misery. In the giddy moments of jollity, the wanton and thoughtless are apt to say: “Let us eat and drink, for to-morrow we die. Nothing “ is better for man, than to rejoice as much as he can, all the “ days of his vain life ; and to keep himself undisturbed by su“perstitious terrors. He who sitteth in the Heavens bestows no “ minute attention on the sons of earth. He permits all things " to come alike to all ; one event to happen to the righteous and " to the wicked.”—Be assured, my brethren, it is not so. You greatly deceive yourselves, by imagining that your Creator and Governor is indifferent to the part you are now acting; or that the distribution of good and evil, which now takes place, has no relation to your moral conduct. In some instances, that relation may not be apparent; because the moral government of God is not completed in this world. But a multitude of proofs shew government to be already begun; and point out to the train in which you may expect it to proceed.
In the history of all ages and nations, you cannot but have observed a thousand instances in which the operation of the Divine hand has been displayed; overtaking evil-doers sooner or later with punishment, and bringing on their own heads the ruin they had devised for others. You are not to imagine that this displeasure of providence is exerted only against the ambitious, the treacherous, and the cruel, who are the authors of extensive misery to the world. Under this idea, perhaps, you may be desirous to shelter yourselves, that your excesses are of a harmless kind ; that you seek nothing more than the enjoyment of your own pleasures; that your feast and your wine interfere not with the order of the world, and that therefore you have done nothing which should awake the sleeping thunder, and bring it down from Heaven on your heads. Though not stained with the blackest colours of guilt, your conduct may nevertheless be highly offensive to the Ruler of the world. His government is not of that indolent inattentive kind, which allows impunity to every lesser criminal. He beholds with displeasure the behaviour of those who degrade their nature by vicious disorders ; and contaminate, by their example, every society with which they are connected. His measures are taken, that, in one way or other, they shall suffer.
Look around the circle of your acquaintance, and observe, whether they are not the sober, the industrious, and the virtuous, who visibly prosper in the world, and rise into reputation and influence; observe whether the licentious and intemperate are not constantly humbled and checked by some dark reverse either in their health or their fortune; whether the irreligious and profligate are ever suffered to escape long, without being marked with infamy, and becoming objects of contempt.--I ask, to what cause this is to be ascribed, but to that operation of the hand of God, which I am now calling you to consider? Does it not obviously carry the marks of a plan, a system of things contrived and fore-ordained by Providence, for rewarding virtue, and punishing vice in every form of its disorders ? — The Governor of the world need not for this purpose step from his throne, or put forth his hand from the clouds. With admirable wisdom he hath so ordered the train of human affairs, that, in their natural course, men's own wickedness shall reprove them, and their backslidings correct them; that they shall be made to eat the fruit of their doings, and to fall into the pit which themselves had digged.
These things have been always so appararent to observation, that though a man may have been seduced into irregular and
evil course during his life, yet, at the close of it, it seldom happens but he discerns their pernicious nature, and condemns himself for them. Never, perhaps, was there a father, who, after he had spent his days in idleness, dissipation, and luxury, did not, when dying, admonish the children whom he loved, to hold a more honourable course, to follow the paths of virtue,
to fear God, and to fulfill properly the duties of their station.—To yourselves, indeed, I can confidently appeal, whether what I am now saying, be not confirmed by your own testimony. After you have been guilty of some criminal acts, in the course of those riotous pleasures which you indulge, have you not, at certain times, felt the stings of remorse? Were you not obliged to confess to yourselves that a sad prospect of misery was opening before you, if such excesses were to continue ? Did you not hear an inward voice upbrading you, for having sunk and degraded your character so far below that of many of your equals around you ? ---My friends, what was this but the voice of God, speaking, as the Governor of his creatures, within your heart; testifying loudly, that your course of life was displeasing to him; and warning you of punishments that were to follow. If his displeasure against you is already begun to be testified, can you tell where it is to stop, or how long it may continue to pursue you, throughout future stages of your existence? Who knoweth the power of his wrath ?—To this awful, this warning voice will you not be persuaded reverently to listen ? impressed by the dread authority which it carries, shall you not fall down on your knees before your Maker, imploring his mercy to pardon your past offences, and his grace to rectify your future way?
Such ought to be the effects of the consideration of God as the Governor of the world. It leads to thoughts of a very serious nature. When we regard the work of the Lord, and contemplate him as the Author of the universe, such contemplation prompts devotion. But when we consider the operations of his hands in providence, and contemplate him as the Governor of mankind, such contemplation prompts humiliation before him for offences committed. The former addresses itself to the ingenuous sentiments that are left in the heart; and awakens a sense of our unworthiness, in neglecting the Author of nature amidst our riotous pleasures. The latter addresses itself to our regard for safety and happiness; and awakens fear and dread, from consciousness of the guilt we have contracted. Hence springs up in every thoughtful mind, an anxious concern to avert the displeasure, and regain the favour of that Supreme Being to whom we are all subject. This, among unenlightened nations, gave rise to sacrifices, expiations, and all the rites of humble though superstitious worship. Among nations, who have been instructed in true religion, sentiments of the same