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hopes banish that despair, which over- SERMON whelms, and leave only that tender melancholy which softens the heart, and often renders the whole character more gentle and amiable.
Or this nature are the resources which religion provides for good men. By its previous discipline, it trains them to fortitude; by the reflections of a good conscience it soothes, by the sense of Divine favour it supports them; and when every comfort fails them on earth, it cheers them with the hope of heaven. Distinguishing his servants with such advantages, God is justly said to erect his pavilion over them in the evil time. He not only spreads a tent for them in the wilderness, but he transforms in some measure the state of nature around them. To use the beautiful language of ancient prophecy; In the desart, the thirsty land where no water is, he openeth springs. Instead of the thorn, he maketh the fir-tree to come up; instead of the briar, the myrtle to spring. In the midst of the habita tion of dragons, he maketh green pastures rise, and still waters flow around his people.
THE improvement to be made of these truths is as obvious as it is important. Let us study so to conduct our lives, that we may be qualified for deriving such consolations from religion. To their reality, and their importance, all mankind bear witness. For no sooner are they overtaken by distress, than to religion they fly. This throughout every age has been the universal shelter which the young and the old, the high and the low, the giddy and the serious, have sought to gain as soon as they found that rest could be no where else procured for the weary head or the aching heart. But amidst those multitudes that crowd to religion for relief, how few are entitled to approach that sacred source of comfort? On what feeble On what feeble props do their hopes and pretensions rest? How much superstition mingles with that religion to which men are driven by distress and fear! -You must first apply to it as the guide of life, before you can have recourse to it. as the refuge of sorrow. You must submit to its legislative authority, and experience its renewing influence, before you can look for its consolatory effect. You must secure
the testimony of a good conscience, and SERMON peace with God through Jesus Christ; otherwise, when the floods shall come, and the rains descend, and the winds blow, the house which you had proposed for your retreat, shall prove the house founded on the sand not on the rock.
There are two plans, and there are but two, on which any man can propose to conduct himself through the dangers and distresses of human life. The one is the plan of worldly wisdom; the other, that of determined adherence to conscience. He who acts upon the former lays principle aside, and trusts his defence to his art and ability. He avails himself of every advantage which his knowledge of the world suggests. He attends to nothing but what he considers as his interest; and, unconfined by conscience, pursues it by every course which promises him success. This plan, though too often adopted, will be found, on trial, ineffectual and deceitful. For human ability is an unequal match for the violent and unforeseen vicissitudes of the world. When these torrents rise in their might, they sweep away in a moment the
SERMON banks which worldly wisdom had reared II for defence, and overwhelm alike the crafty and the artless. In the mean time, persons of this character condemn themselves to live a most unquiet life. They pass their days in perpetual anxiety, listening to every motion; startled by every alarm; changing their measures on every new occurrence; and when distress breaks in over all their defences, they are left under it hopeless and disconsolate.
The plan, which in opposition to this religion recommends, as both more honourable in itself, and more effectual for security, is, at all hazards, to do your duty, and to leave the consequences to God. Let him who would act upon this plan, adopt for the rule of his conduct that maxim of the Psalmist's, Trust in the Lord and do good. To firm integrity, let him join a humble reliance on God. Let his adherence to duty encourage his religious trust. Let his religious trust inspire him with fortitude in the performance of his duty. Let him know no path but the straight and direct one. In the most critical moments
Psalm xxxviii. 3.
of action, let him ask no farther questions, SERMON than what is the right, the fit, the worthy part? How, as a man, and as a Christian, it becomes him to act? Having received the decision of conscience, let him commit his way unto the Lord. Let him without trepidation or wavering proceed in discharging his duty; resolved, that though the world may make him unfortunate, it shall never make him base; and confiding, that in what God and his conscience require him to act or suffer, God and a good conscience will support him.—Such principles as these, are the best preparation for the vicissitudes of the human lot. They are the shield of inward peace. He who thinks and acts thus, shall be exposed to no wounds but what religion can cure. He may feel the blows of adversity; but he shall not know the wounds of the heart.