« PreviousContinue »
things; but to teach them virtue and holiness, and the way to the favour of God and eternal life which they might do with great effect, notwithstanding their ignorance of philosophy, or of the nature and cause of dis
2. The doctrine, now growing to be more generally believed, that what in scripture are called possessions by evil spirits are nothing more than a certain class of diseases, that violently agitate the body and disorder the understanding, cannot but recommend itself to all pious and serious persons, in giving a more honourable and comfortable view of the divine administration over us, than the contrary melancholy frightful idea of his permitting, though under restraint, an innumerable train of evil spirits to haunt and to torment men with diseases.
Whatever dreadful disorders of moping melancholy, madness, epilepsy, or the like, this feeble mortal frame of ours is exposed to, we are not therein delivered over to the will and caprice of evil spirits; but all comes immediately and solely from our gracious and merciful heavenly Father, who visiteth and chastizeth his creatures, in this most deplorable way,
way, as well as in all other calamities that he sends upon them, with a view to their greatest good and final happiness, though we may not be able to see how it is thereby accomplished.
3. Lastly. When we consider the wretched disorders of this kind, and sad alienation of mind to which many of our fellow-creatures are subject, how deeply thankful ought we to be, that we are preserved in the use of our senses and rational faculties! And yet how much is this great blessing overlooked by us!
But we should chiefly endeavour to approve our thankfulness to our almighty daily Preserver, for the use of our reason continued to us, by employing it in an honest and diligent improvement of ourselves in the knowledge of his holy will revealed to us, and by a life of useful virtue in obedience to it.
For we know not how soon the sure and swift foot of death may overtake us, and put an end to all our further acquisitions of every kind. For there is no work, nor knowledge, nor device in the grave whither we are going.
Nay, if life be continued, sickness may come upon us, or premature old age, and weaken our understandings, and disable us for all reasonable
sonable service of God, and any more progress in those virtuous and moral attainments which can recommend us to him.
Be it then our principal care, before the lamp of reason or understanding grows dim or goes out, to employ it to the glory of him who gives it; i. e. to benefit and advance ourselves and others in all those holy and benevolent dispositions which we are to carry away with us, and are to be the furniture of our minds in our destined eternal state, and can alone fit us for durable happiness in it. For we then best consult and promote our Maker's glory, such is his goodness to us, when we make this use of the faculties, and various lights and assistances, which he has afforded us in this passing state.
Unto him be glory and thanks most due for ever and ever!
O eternal God and heavenly Father! most adorable in all perfections beyond the comprehension of the highest of thy creatures! whose privilege and happiness it will be to know more and more of thee and thy ways through the never-ending ages of all future time!
We desire with profoundest humility to bow down before thee, full of gratitude, which we know not how to express; that, in the vast variety of thy works, animate or inanimate, it hath pleased thee to make us rational creatures; capable of arriving at some knowledge of thee, the great first cause and benevolent author of all things, and of being supremely happy in that knowledge, and in observing and recognising thy goodness, which exceeds all thought.
Teach us to value as we ought, and to improve this thy gift of reason to us, without whose light, thy whole creation would be dark; and thou, the great source of light, and of every thing fair, and excellent, and good, be lost and unknown to us.
Make it our most delightful thought and employment to inquire after thee in thy sacred oracles, and the revelations thou hast been pleased to make of thyself, and also in thy works abroad; for all nature is but the discovery of thee, its great author: but with this end always proposed by us, that increasing knowledge may lead to greater piety and obedience to thee, and desires of being useful to others.
Whilst the lives of many of our fellowcreatures in this wide world are made miserable by vain fears of invisible evil spirits being permitted to molest and mislead them; and others, by the inscrutable decrees of thy providence, are deprived of the light of reason, and all rational moral improvements suspended and gone; inspire us with becoming thankfulness that our rational faculties are preserved to us, by which, through thy help, which we earnestly implore, we may grow, and make advances, in all moral and spiritual attainments, that may qualify us for thy favour: and cause us highly to prize the records of thy holy truth, from which we learn, however dark, through unhappy prejudices, to others, that thou, the Lord God omnipotent, reignest alone; that thy creatures are wholly in thy hands; that no unseen being hath any power over us; and that nothing ever befalleth us but by thine immediate appointment, O parent of good!
Favour us still, we beseech thee, with the illuminations of thy truth; and continue, O thou gracious Being, to give us only good, and to remove from us the evil which by our ignorance or misconduct we bring upon our