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On the Influence of RELIGION upon

PSALM, i. 3.

He shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season: his leaf also shall not wither, and whatsoever he doth shall prosper.

THE happy influence of religion upon human life, in the time of adversity, has been considered in the preceding discourse. Concerning this the sentiments of men are more generally agreed, than with respect to some other prerogatives which religion claims. They very readily assign to it the office of a Comforter. But as long as their state is prosperous, they are apt to account it an unnecessary guest, perhaps an unwelcome intruder. Let us


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not be thus unjust to religion, nor con- SERMON fine its importance to one period only in the life of man. It was never intended to be merely the nurse of sickness, and the staff of old age. I purpose now to shew you, that it is no less essential to the enjoyment of prosperity, than to the comfort of adversity: That prosperity is prosperous, if we may be allowed the expression, to a good man only; and that to every other person, it will prove, notwithstanding its fair appearance, a barren and joyless state.

The Psaimist, in the text, by an image. taken from one of the most beautiful objects in nature, describes a man who flourishes in full prosperity. But to whom is the description limited? To him, as the preceding verses inform us, that walketh not in the council of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful, but hath his delight in the law of God. He only is like the tree planted by the rivers if water; whilst the ungodly, as he adds, are not so; but, how prosperous soever they may appear to the world, are in truth but like the chaff which the wind driveth away. In confirmation


SERMON of this doctrine, I shall lay before you some of those circumstances which distinguish the prosperity of the good man beyond that of the sinner; and shall conclude, with pointing out the dangers and miseries into which the latter is apt to be betrayed by his favourable situation in the world.

I. PIETY, and gratitude to God, contribute in a high degree to enliven prosperity. Gratitude is a pleasing emotion. The sense of being distinguished by the kindness of another, gladdens the heart, warms it with reciprocal affection, and gives to any possession, which is agreeable in itself, a double relish, from its being the gift of a friend. Favours conferred by men, I acknowledge may prove burdensome. For human virtue is never perfect; and sometimes unreasonable expectations on the one side, sometimes a mortifying sense of dependence on the other, corrode in secret the pleasure of benefits, and convert the obligations of friendship into grounds of jealousy. But nothing of this kind can affect the intercourse of gratitude with Heaven. Its favours are wholly


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disinterested; and with a gratitude the SERMON
most cordial and unsuspicious, a good man
looks up to that Almighty Benefactor, who
aims at no end but the happiness of those
whom he blesses, and who desires no re-
turn from them but a devout and thankful
heart. While others can trace their pro-
sperity to no higher source than a concur-
rence of worldly causes, and, often, of
mean or trifling incidents which occasion-
ally favoured their designs; with what su-
perior satisfaction does the servant of God
remark the hand of that gracious Power
which hath raised him up; which hath hap-
pily conducted him through the various
steps of life, and crowned him with the most
favourable distinction beyond his equals?

Let us farther consider, that not only
gratitude for the past, but a cheering sense.
of God's favour at the present enter into
the pious emotion. They are only the
virtuous, who in their prosperous days
hear this voice addressed to them: Go thy
way, eat thy bread with joy, and drink thy
wine with a merry heart; for God now
accepteth thy works*. He who is the

Eccles. ix. 7.


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SERMON Author of their prosperity gives them a title to enjoy, with complacency, his own gift. While bad men snatch the pleasures of the world as by stealth, without countenance from God, the proprietor of the world; the righteous sit openly down to the feast of life, under the smile of approving Heaven. No guilty fears damp their joys. The blessing of God rests upon all that they possess! his protection surrounds them; and hence, in the habitations of the righteous is found the voice of rejoicing and salvation. A lustre unknown to others invests, in their sight, the whole face of nature. Their piety reflects a sunshine from heaven upon the prosperity of the world; unites, in one point of view, the smiling aspect, both of the powers above and of the objects below. Not only have they as full a relish as others, of the innocent pleasures of life, but, moreover, in these they hold communion with God. In all that is good or fair, they trace his hand. From the beauties of nature, from the improvements of art, from the enjoyments of social life, they raise their affection to the source of all the happiness

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