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III.

hand !Such prospects purify the mind, SERMON at the same time that they gladden it. They prevent the good man from setting too high a value on his present possessions ; and thereby assist him in maintaining, amidst the temptations of worldly pleasure, that command of himself which is so essential to the wise and temperate enjoyment of prosperity.

It is the fate of all human pleasures, by continuance, to fade ; of most of them, to cloy. Hence, in the most prosperous state, there are frequent intervals of languor, and even of dejection. There are vacuities in the happiest life, which it is not in the power of the world to fill up. What relief so adapted to those vacant or dejected periods, as the pleasing hopes which arise from immortality ? How barren and imperfect that prosperity, which can have recourse to no such subsidiary comfort, in order to animate the stagnation of vulgar life, and to supply the insufficiency of worldly pleasures !

Worldly prosperity declines with declining life. In youth its relish was brisk and poignant. It becomes more

sober

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III.

SERMON sober as life advances; and flattens as

life descends. He who lately overflowed
with cheerful spirits and high hopes, be-
gins to look back with heaviness on the
days of former years. He thinks of his
old companions who are gone ;
views past scenes, more agreeable than any
which are likely to return. The activity
of pursuit is weakened. The gaiety of
amusement is fled. The gratifications
of sense languish. When his accustomed
pleasures, one after another, thus steal
treacherously away, what can he, who is
an utter stranger to religion, and to the
hope of Heaven, substitute in their place?
-But even in that drooping period, the
promises and hopes of religion support
the spirits of a good man till the latest
hour. His leaf, it is said in the text, shall
not wither. It shall not be in the power
of time to blast his prosperity: But old age
shall receive him into a quiet retreat; where
if lively sensations fail, gentle pleasures
remain to soothe him. That hope of im-
mortality, which formerly improved his
other enjoyments, now in a great measure
supplies their absence. Its importance rises,

and re

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III.

in proportion as its object draws near. He SERMON is not forsaken by the world, but retires from it with dignity; reviewing with a calm mind the part which he has acted, and trusting to the promise of God for an approaching reward. Such sentiments and expectations shed a pleasing tranquillity over the old age of the righteous man. They make the evening of his days go down unclouded ; and allow the stream of life, though fallen low, to run clear to the

last drop.

Thus I have shewn, I hope, with full evidence, what material ingredients religion and a good conscience are in the prosperity of life. Separated from them, prosperity, how fair soever it may seem to the world, is insipid, nay frequently noxious to the possessor: United with them, it rises into a real blessing bestowed by God upon

God giveth to a man that is good in bis sight, wisdom, and knowledge, and joy; but to the sinner he giveth sore travail, to gather, and to heap up, that he may give to bim that is good before God *.

man.

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SERMON

III.

ALLOW me now to conclude the subject, with representing to the prosperous men of the world, those crimes and miseries into which the abuse of their condition is likely to betray them, and calling upon them to beware of the dangers with which they are threatened.

It is unfortunate for mankind, that those situations which favour pleasure, are too generally adverse to virtue.

Virtue requires internal government and discipline; prosperity relaxes the mind, and inflames the passions. Virtue is supported by a regard to what is future; prosperity attaches us wholly to what is present. The characteristics of virtue, are modesty and humility; the most common attendants of prosperity, are pride and presumption. One should think, that prosperity would prove the strongest incitement to remember and to honour that God who bestows it. Yet such is the perverseness of human nature, that it proves much oftener the motive to impiety. The changes of the world call the attention of inen to an invisible Power. But a train of events proceeding according to their wish, leads them to

nothing

III.

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nothing beyond what they see. The Su- SERMON preme Giver is concealed from view by his own gifts. This instance of success they ascribe to a fortunate concurrence of worldly causes ; that acquisition, to their own skill and industry; unmindful of Him, who from the beginning arranged that series of causes, and who placed them in circumstances where their industry could operate with success. From forgetting God, they too often proceed to despise him. All that is light or giddy in their minds is set in motion by the gale of prosperity. Arrogance and self-sufficiency are lifted up; and their state is considered, as secured by their own strength. Hence that pride of countenance, through which the wicked, in their prosperity, as David observes, refuse to seek after God. They are described as speaking loftily, and setting their mouth against the Heavens. They take the timbrel and barp, and rejoice at the sound of the organ; and they say unto God, depart from us, for we desire not the knowledge of thy ways. What is the Almighty that we should serve him? Or, what profit should we have, if we pray unto him?

They

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