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Jesus Christ--for those means of grace that renew our disordered souls-for that hope of glory which ensures to us endless felicity!
When thy soul, O man! is agitated with a sense of guilt-when offended justice lifts up against thee her avenging sword-where would be thy refuge, if the voice of mercy did not direct thee to that Lamb of God that taketh away the sin of the world? When thou art depressed by the sense of the frailty and corruption of thy nature, and art dismayed by the numerous temptations that beset thee, where would be thy solace, if the voice of the Son of God did not announce to thee-" My grace shall be sufficient for thee: my strength shall be made perfect in thy weakness?" When the experience of the disappointments, the cares, and the ills of the world, lead thee sometimes to exclaim, in bitterness of spirit-" Vanity of vanities; all is vanity:" in that hour when the shades of death encompass thee, and thy anxious eye seeks to catch some ray of hope through the gloom that envelops the world beyond the grave-what despair would overwhelm thee, if the Son of the Highest, returning victorious from the work of redemption, had not proclaimed "Ó death, I have been thy plagues; O grave, I have been thy destruction!" "Where I am, there my faithful followers shall be also; even in those mansions of my Father's house, where there is fulness of joy, and at whose right hand there is pleasure for evermore."
Let, then, the tribute of adoration and praise be rendered to God our Redeemer, who forgiveth all our sins, who healeth all our spiritual diseases, who opens to us the gate of life and immortality. "Praise the Lord: for it is good to sing praises
unto our God; for it is pleasant; and praise is comely."
III. But, my brethren, not only for these general mercies of creation and redemption, but for the particular blessings of his Providence, should the tribute of praise this day ascend to our heavenly Benefactor.
He who made the world in wisdom, ruleth it in righteousness; his voice regulates the countless orbs that roll through infinite space, and his eye notes the sparrow that falleth to the ground. The kingdom is the Lord's, and he is the Governor, among the nations. Of him, and through him, and to him are all things; and in him we live, and move, and have our being. In all our ways, then, we are to adore and praise the holy providence of God. For though he sometimes lays justice to the line, and righteousness to the plummet, and sweeps the earth with his judgments; yet this is styled his strange work; and in the midst of judgment he remembers mercy, and will make all things work together for good to them that love him. If, then, even in his judgments, we have cause to bless him who retaineth not his anger for ever, but delighteth in mercy-if, in those calamities which agitate the world, and in those events that, prospering the plans of the wicked, darken the prospects of the righteous-if, even in those afflictive dispensations which turn the dwellings of joy into the houses of mourning, it is our duty submissively to adore him whose judgments are right, and who in faithfulness has afflicted us-how lively should be our emotions of gratitude, how loud the voice of praise,
when his hand is opened only to fill us with good, and his loving-kindness follows us all our days! Has he cast our lot in a pleasant land, and given us a goodly heritage-a land yielding in abundance all the comforts of life-blessed of heaven above, and of the deep that lieth beneath--a land of wheat and barley, where we can eat bread without scarceness, and where enjoying, in an unrivalled degree, the blessings of civil and religious freedom, there is none to hurt us nor make us afraid? Has he who regulates summer and winter, seed-time and harvest, notwithstanding the temporary suspension of his favour in the drought that marks the season, blessed our basket and our store, and filled our garners with plenty? Oh! while our hearts are refreshed by his comforts, let not our tongue be silent in his praise; for he is our Almighty Benefactor, who satisfies us with good things
Has he put off from our heritage the blasting mildew and the wasting caterpillar? Has he defended us from that dread enemy who has spread terror and desolation in some parts of our country, the pestilence that walketh in darkness, and whose ravages among us yet live in our recollection, when he came into our windows and entered into our houses, cutting off the partner of our affections or the friend of our bosom, the children from without and the young men from the streets? Has he, in whose hands are the issues of life and death, mercifully preserved us from the terror by night and the arrow that flieth by day; and though the sickness that wasteth at noon-day may have visited us, has he graciously restored us to health and enjoyment? When so many mercies demand the tribute
of gratitude, let not our hearts be insensible to his goodness, let not our tongues be silent in his praise: for he healeth all our diseases, and redeemeth our lives from destruction.
Has he made our dwellings the abodes of peace, of plenty and felicity? In the social and domestic blessings with which he has surrounded us, in the endearing relations of life, do we find those joys that lighten the cares, sooth the sorrows, and brighten the path of our pilgrimage; and can we look forward, in faith and hope, to the consummation of these joys in those heavenly mansions where sin and sorrow never enter? When so many blessings surround us, let us not forget the gracious hand who bestows them: it is God, our heavenly Benefactor, who "crowns us with mercy and lovingkindness."
"Praise then the Lord: for it is good to sing praises unto our God; for it is pleasant; and praise is comely."
The offering of praise, my brethren, has, I trust, this day ascended to God in these courts of his temple. But let us not forget, that (to use the inimitably simple, but expressive language of the church, in one of her collects) "we must show forth his praise not only with our lips, but in our lives; by giving up ourselves to his service, and by walking before him in holiness and righteousness all our days." Gratitude to God cannot dwell in the heart that disavows his dominion, or disobeys his laws. The praise of the lips is a mockery to God, when the life is marked by rebellion against him. The bounties of his providence, when intemperately enjoyed, or abused to licentiousness, will, by his just judgment, prove a curse to us, if not in
this world, assuredly in that which is to come. The infinite goodness of our God which we thankfully celebrate, should lead us to repentance; the praise which we render to him, must be accompanied with the offering of our bodies and our spirits that are his, and with the solemn devotion of ourselves to his service, in a sober, righteous, and godly life. Then we may enjoy the assurance, that this God who hath hitherto been with us, will be our Guide even unto death, and our God for ever and ever. And then we may look forward with triumphant hope to the period when we shall exchange the praises of earth for the songs of the angels around the throne; ascribing blessing, and honour, and glory, and power to our God for ever and ever.