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Let me once more advise
to look forward some-, times beyond old age; to look to a future world. Amidst evil communications, let your belief, and your character as Christians arise to your view. Think of the sacred name in which you were baptised. Think of the God whom your fathers honoured and worshipped; of the religion in which they trained you up; of the venerable rites in which they brought you to partake. Their paternal cares have now ceased. They have finished their earthly course; and the time is coming when you must follow them. You know that you are not to live always here ; and you surely do not believe that your existence is to end with this life. Into what world, then, are you next to go? Whom will you meet with there? Before whose tribunal are you to appear? What account will you
be able to give of your present trifling and irregular conduct to Him who made you ? — Such thoughts may be treated as unseasonable intrusions. But intrude they sometimes will, whether you make them welcome or not. Better, then, to allow them free reception when they come, and to consider fairly to what they lead. You have seen persons die ; at least, you have heard of
your friends dying near you. Did it never enter into your minds, to think what their last reflections probably were in their concluding moments; or what your own, in such a situation, would be ? What would be then your hopes and fears; what part you would then wish to have acted
; in what light your closing eyes would then view this life, and this world.
These are thoughts, my friends, too important to be always excluded. These are things too solemn and awful to be trifled with. They are superiour to
all the ridicule of fools. They come home to every man's bosom; and are entitled to every man's highest attention. Let us regard them as becomes reasonable and mortal creatures; and they will prove effectual antidotes to the evil communications of petulant scoffers. When vice or folly arise to tempt us under flattering forms, let the serious character which we bear as men come also forward to view ; and let the solemn admonitions with which I conclude, sound full in our ears : My son, if sinners entice thee, consent thou not. Come out from amongst them, and be separate. Remember thy Creator in the days of thy youth. Fear the Lord, and depart from evil. The way of life is above to the wise ; and he that keepeth the commandment, keepeth his own soul. *
* Prov. i. 10. 2 Corinth. vi, 17- Eccles. xii. l. Prov. xv. 24.
PSALM xxvii. 3.
Though an host should encamp against me, my heart
safety is possessed by no man. Though we live in times of established tranquillity, when there is no ground to apprehend that an host shall, in the literal sense, encamp against us; yet every man, from one quarter or other, has somewhat to dread. Riches often make to themselves wings and flee away. The firmest health may in a moment be shaken. The most flourishing family may unexpectedly be scattered. The appearances of our security are frequently deceitful. When our sky seems more settled and serene, in some unobserved quarter gathers the little black cloud, in which the tempest ferments, and prepares to discharge itself on our head. Such is the real situation of man in this world, and he who flatters himself with an opposite view of his state, only lives in the paradise of fools.
In this situation, no quality is more requisite than constancy, or fortitude of mind; a quality which the Psalmist appears, from the sentiment in the text, to have possessed in an eminent degree. Fortitude was
justly classed, by the ancient philosophers, among the cardinal virtues. It is indeed essential to the support of them all; and it is most necessary to be acquired by every one who wishes to discharge with fidelity the duties of his station. It is the armour of the mind, which will fit him for encountering the trials and surmounting the dangers, that are likely to occur in the course of his life. It may be thought, perhaps, to be a quality, in some measure, constitutional ; dependent on firmness of nerves, and strength of spirits. Though, partly, it is so, yet experience shows that it may also be acquired by principle, and be fortified by reason; and it is only when thus acquired, and thus fortified, that it can be accounted to carry the character of virtue. Fortitude is opposed, as all know, to timidity, irresolution, a feeble and a wavering spirit. It is placed, like other virtues, in the middle between two extremes ; standing at an equal distance from rashness on the one hand, and from pusillanimity on the other. In discoursing on this subject, I propose, first, to show the importance of fortitude or constancy ; next to ascertain the grounds on which it must rest; and lastly, to suggest some considerations for assisting the exercise of it.
I. THE high importance of fortitude will easily appear, if we consider it as respecting either the happiness of human life, or the proper discharge of its duties.
Without some degree of fortitude there can be no happiness; because, amidst the thousand uncertainties of life, there can be no enjoyment of tranquillity. The man of feeble and timorous spirit lives under perpetual alarms. He foresees every distant danger
and trembles. He explores the regions of possibility, to discover the dangers that may arise. Often he creates imaginary ones ; always magnifies those that are real. Hence, like a person haunted by spectres, he loses the free enjoyment even of a safe and prosperous state.
On the first shock of adversity, he desponds. Instead of exerting himself to lay hold on the resources that remain, he gives up all for lost; and resigns himself to abject and broken spirits. On the other hand, firmness of mind is the parent of tranquillity. It enables one to enjoy the present without disturbance; and to look calmly on dangers that approach, or evils that threaten in future. . It suggests good hopes. It supplies resources. It allows a man to retain the full possession of himself, in every situation of fortune. Look into the heart of this man, and you will find composure, cheerfulness, and magnanimity. Look into the heart of the other, and you will see nothing but confusion, anxiety, and trepidation. The one is the castle built on a rock, which defies the attacks of surrounding waters. The other is a hut placed on the shore, which
every wind shakes, and every wave overflows.
If fortitude be thus essential to the enjoyment of life, it is equally so to the proper discharge of all its most important duties. He who is of a cowardly mind is, and must be, a slave, to the world. He fashions his whole conduct according to its hopes and fears. He smiles, and fawns, and betrays, from abject considerations of personal safety. He is in. capable of either conceiving, or executing any great design. He can neither stand the clamour of the multitude nor the frowns of the mighty. The wind