« AnteriorContinua »
managed, they all subserve the purpose of Heaven, they all advance the glory of God; even "the wrath "of man praises Him, and the remainder of it he re
strains." If you had the direction of the whole, would this be the sure result? Would you make the honour of God invariably your guide? Would you bend every claim and every occurrence to this sublime end? You may imagine you would; and nothing is more common than to hear people making costly promises, the execution of which only requires enlarged opportunities and capacities; but "the heart is "deceitful above all things;" and no man has reason to conclude that he would glorify God with greater powers, who does not employ for him the abilities which he already possesses. We may see this exemplified with regard to property. Many professors of religion whose wealth hath increased, do less in propor tion, and I fear in some cases less in fact, for the cause of God, than while in more limited circumstances, and when their prospects were not flattering enough to render it worth while for them to become covetous.
Secondly, The welfare of our fellow creatures would suffer. The principle of selfishness is common to depraved nature; for who loves his neighbour as himself? Who, in forming his plans, would consider the conveniences and advantages of others, as well as his own? The traveller would have the weather to accommodate his journey, regardless of the parched fields of the husbandman. That enemy would be disappointed and crushed; that favourite would be indulg ed to ruin, selfish individuality would every where predominate, and public utility would be sacrificed on the altar of private interest.
To come nearer; your own happiness would, thirdly, suffer; and you would prove the greatest enemies to yourselves. You would be too eager to choose well; you would not have firmness to refuse a present gratification for the sake of a future good. You would be too carnal to choose well; nature would speak before grace; the pleasing would be preferred to the profitable; imaginary wants would be more numerous than real ones. The Israelites were clamorous for "flesh;" but it was not to relieve their necessities" they asked meat for their lusts;" and "he gave them their heart's desire, but sent leanness "into their souls." As in nature the most beautiful plants are not always the most wholesome or innocent, so it is in human life; a thing is not beneficial because it is gratifying, or good because our passions and appetites may pronounce it so. "And Lot lifted up his ' eyes, and beheld all the plain of Jordan, that it was "well watered every where. Then Lot chose him all "the plain of Jordan." It was a sensual choice; faith had no influence in this determination; it was made regardless of the welfare of his soul, the salvation of his family, and the honour of religion. And in what embarrassments, dangers, and calamities, did this preference involve him? The next time we hear of him, he is taken captive by the five kings; then "his righ*teous soul is vexed daily by the filthy conversation of "the" ungodly; then he is burned out with the loss of all his substance; some of his relations perish in the overthrow; his wife, attached to the place, looks back, and becomes a pillar of salt; his two daughters, made shameless by the manners of the inhabitants, ren
der their father incestuous; and his " grey hairs" are brought "down with sorrow to the grave."
In a word, you would be too ignorant to choose well. Did you ever observe the question of the inspired preacher?" Who knoweth what is good for man "in this life; all the days of this vain life, which he "spendeth as a shadow?" The answer is, No one knows. Look around you, and you will see men ea ger to change their conditions, but proving by their behaviour in the new stations they occupy, that they are no nearer satisfaction than before. They rush forth assured of finding a paradise, but thorns and briars soon convince them that they are entangled in a wilderness. The man of business, and the man of leisure, envy each other; they exchange, and go on complaining. The poor imagine that wealth would free them from care; they obtain it, but "in the full"ness of their sufficiency they are in straits." The retired long for stations of eminence, but beside the trouble and danger of climbing the steep ascent of honour, they are compelled to leave their enjoyments in the vale below; often from the brow of the hill surveying them; often desiring them, but they cannot get down again.
In order to determine what will promote our happi ness, it is necessary for us to know the things themselves, from among which we are to make our choice; how far it is in their power to yield pleasure; whether their natural tendency may not be counteracted; what are their ordinary effects. Nor is it less needful to understand ourselves; for a man must be adapted to his con-dition, or he will never be happy in it; that which suits
another, may not suit me; what may wear easy on him, may be an incumbrance to me. Now to know whether a condition would accord with us, and be to our advantage, we must know ourselves better than we do; our strength and our weakness; our natural peculiarities, and our acquired propensities; our intellectual abilities, and our moral qualifications, And here another difficulty occurs. It is impossible for us to judge of ourselves in untried connections and situations; and the reason is obvious. We go forward to these scenes in imagination only, with our PRESENT sentiments and inclinations, not remembering that our characters are formed and unfolded by circumstances; that we change with events; that the friction of new objects elicits new feelings, quickens dormant guilt, and calls forth improbable corruption. The water is clear till the muddy fediment is disturbed. In private life Hazael abhorred the thought of inhumanity. When the man of God viewed him with tears, and predicted the cruelties of his future reign, he was filled with horror, and exclaimed, "Is thy fervant a dog, that he should "do this thing?" But he went forward, arrived at the foot of the throne, exchanged the man for the tyrant, and became the monster which he had execrated.
We are not only liable to err on the side of our hopes, but also of our fears. What in diftant prospect filled us with anxiety and dread, as it approached more near was found the beginning of a train of friends and bleffings, all haftening along to do us good, Had Joseph remained under the wing of his fond father, he would have lived and died an infignificant individual; but from the pit and the prifon he fteps up into the X
fecond chariot in the kingdom, and becomes the faviour of furrounding countries. Ah! if things had been arranged according to your mind, what afflictions would fome of you have escaped, and what benefits would you have loft? For "though no chaftening for "the prefent feemeth to be joyous but grievous, nev"ertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruits of "righteousness to them that are exercised thereby." And should we not principally value that which is MORALLY good for us; that which influences and fecures our eternal welfare; that by which the fafety of the foul is least endangered, and the fanctification of the foul is most promoted? Upon this principle I am perfuaded many of you are ready to add your teftimony to the confeffions of former fufferers, and to fay, "it is "good for me that I have been afflicted." "Disease," fays one, "commiffioned from above, fought me out, "found me in a crowd, detached me from the multi"tude, led me into a chamber of folitude, ftretched "me upon a bed of languishing, and drew up eternity "close to my view; I never prayed before." Says another, "my life was bound up in a beloved relation; "I faw my gourd fmitten, and beginning to wither; "I trembled; I watched the procefs of a danger which "doomed all my happiness to the grave; in that mo"ment of bereavement, the world which had enamour"ed was deprived of all its attractions; I broke from "the arms of sympathizing friends, faying, Where is "God my Maker, that giveth songs in the night? I en"tered my closet, and faid, Now, Lord, what wait I for? my hope is in thee." "Into what miferies," fays a
third, "fhould I have fallen, if He had given me up