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which surrounds them; and thus widen the SERMON
For illustration of what I have said on
instances of divine goodness arose before him in pleasing remembrance, when with such relish he speaks of the green pastures and still waters beside which God had led him : of his cup which he hath made to overflow; and of the table which he hath prepared for him in presence of his enemies ! With what perfect tranquillity does he look forward to the time of his passing through the valley of the shadow of death; unappalled by that
SERMON Spectre, whose most distant appearance
blasts the prosperity of sinners ! He fears no evil, as long as the rod and the staff of his Divine Shepherd are with him ; and through all the unknown periods of this and of future existence, commits himself to his guidance with secure and triumphant hope. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life; and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever. What a purified, senti. mental enjoyment of prosperity is here exhibited! How different from that gross relish of worldly pleasures, which belongs to those who behold only the terrestrial side of things; who raise their views to no higher objects than the succession of human contingencies, and the weak efforts of human ability; who have no protector or patron in the heavens, to enliven their prosperity, or to warm their hearts with gratitude and trust,
II. RELIGION affords to good men peculiar security in the enjoyment of their prosperity. One of the first reflections which must strike every thinking man, ,
after his situation in the world has become SERMON agreeable, is, That the continuance of such a situation is most uncertain. From a variety of causes, he lies open to change. On many sides he sees that he may be pierced; and the wider his comforts extend, the broader is the mark which he spreads to the arrows of misfortune. Hence many a secret alarm to the reflecting mind; and to those who reject all such alarms, the real danger increases, in proportion to their improvident security.
By worldly assistance it is vain to think of providing any effectual defence, seeing the world's mutability is the very cause of our terrour. It is from a higher principle, from a power superiour to the world, that relief must be sought amidst such disquietudes of the heart. He who in his prosperity can look up to One who is witness to his moderation, humanity, and charity ; he who can appeal to Heaven, that he has not been elated by pride, nor overcome by pleasure, but has studied to employ its gifts to the honour of the Giver; this man, if there be any truth in religion, if there be any benignity or goodness in the
SERMON administration of the universe, has just
cause for encouragement and hope. Not
he confides that in the last result all shall work for his good.
Hence he is not disturbed, like bad men, by the instability of the world. Dangers, which overcome others, shake not his more steady mind. He enjoys the pleasures of life pure and unallayed, because he enjoys them, as long as they last, without anxious terrours. They are not his all, his only good. He welcomes them when they arrive; and when they pass away, he can eye them, as they de
part, without agony or despair. His pro- SERMON sperity strikes a deeper and firmer root than that of the ungodly. And for this reason, he is compared, in the Text, to a tree planted by the rivers of water : a tree whose branches the tempest may indeed bend, but whose roots it cannot touch ; a tree, which may occasionally be stripped of its leaves and blossoms, but which still maintains its place, and in due season flourishes anew.
Whereas the sinner in his prosperity, according to the allusion in the book of Job, resembles the rush that groweth up in the mire*; a slender reed, that may flourish green for a while by the side of the brook, as long as it is cherished by the
sun, and fanned by the breeze ; till the first bitter blast breaks its feeble stem, roots it out from its bed, and lays it in the dust. Lo! such is the prosperity of them that forget God; and thus their hope shall perish.
III. RELIGION forms good men to the most proper temper for the enjoyment of prosperity. A little reflection may satisfy • Job, viii. 11.