Page images
PDF
EPUB

cheerful hours they passed, when they were engaged in the honest business and labours of the world.

We appeal to every one who has the least knowledge or observation of life, whether the busy, or the idle, have the most agreeable enjoyment of themselves? Compare them in their families. Compare them in the societies with which they mingle; and remark which of them discover most cheerfulness and gaiety; which possess the most regular flow of spirits ; whose temper is most equal; whose good humour most unclouded. While the active and diligent both enliven and enjoy society, the idle are not only a burden to themselves, but a burden to those with whom they are connected ; a nuisance to all whom they oppress with their company. On whom does time hang so heavy, as on the slothful and lazy? To whom are the hours so lingering ? Who are so often devoured with spleen, are obliged to fly to every expedient which can help them to get rid of themselves? Instead of producing tranquillity, indolence produces a fretful restlessness of mind; gives rise to cravings which are never satisfied; nourishes a sickly effeminate delicacy, which sours and corrupts every pleasure.

ENOUGIL has now been said to convince every thinking person, of the folly, the guilt, and the misery, of an idle state. Let these admonitions stir us up to exert ourselves in our different occupations, with that virtuous activity which becomes men and Christians. Let us arise from the bed of sloth; distribute our time with attention and care; and improve to advantage the opportunities which Providence has bestowed. The material business in which our several stations engage us, may often prove not

sufficient to occupy the whole of our time and attention. In the life even of busy men, there are frequent intervals of leisure. Let them take care, that into these, none of the vices of idleness creep. Let some secondary, some subsidiary employment, of a fair and laudable kind, be always at hand to fill up those vacant spaces of life, which too many assign, either to corrupting amusements, or to mere inaction. We ought never to forget, that entire idleness always borders either on misery or on guilt.

At the same time, let the course of our employments be ordered in such a manner, that in carrying them on, we may be also promoting our eternal interest. With the business of the world, let us properly intermix tlie exercises of devotion. By religious duties and virtuous actions, let us study to prepare ourselves for a better world. In the midst of our labours for this life, it is never to be forgotten, that we must first seek the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and give diligence to make our calling and election sure. Otherwise, how active soever we may seem to be, our whole activity will prove only a laborious idleness: We shall appear, in the end, to have been busy to no purpose, or to a purpose worse than none. Then only we fulfil the proper character of Christians, when we join that pious zeal which becomes us as the servants of God, with that industry which is required of us as good members of society; when, according to the exhortation of the Apostle, we are found not slothful in business, and, at the same time, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord. *

* Rom. xii. 11.

SERMON XL.

On the SENSE of the Divine PRESENCE.

Psalm lxxiii. 23.

I am continually with thee.

WE

E live in a world which is full of the Divine

presence and power. We behold every where around us the traces of that supreme goodness which enlivens and supports the universe. Day uttereth speech of it to day; and night sheweth knowledge of it to night. Yet, surrounded as we are with the perfections of God, meeting him wherever we go, and called upon by a thousand objects to confess his presence, it is both the misfortune and the crime of a great part of mankind that they are strangers to Him, in whose world they dwell. Occupied with nothing but their pursuits of interest and pleasure, they pass through this world, as though God were not there. The virtuous and reflecting are particularly distinguished from the giddy and dissolute, by that habitual sense of the Divine presence which characterizes the former. To them, nothing appears void of God. They contemplate his perfections in the works of nature; and they trace his Providence in the incidents of life. When retired from the world, he often employs their meditation. When engaged in action, he always influences their conduct. Wherever a pious man is, or whatever he does, in the style of the text, he is continually with God.

The happy effect of this sentiment on the heart, is fully displayed in the context. We see it allaying all the disquiet which the Psalmist, in the preceding verses, describes himself to have suffered on account of the prosperity of the wicked. The first reflection which restored tranquillity to his mind, was the remembrance of the presence of God. Nevertheless, I am continually with thee; thou hast holden me by my right hand. He became sensible, that whatever distresses the righteous might suffer for a time, they could not fail of being compensated in the end, by that Almighty Protector, whose propitious presence ever continued to surround them. Whereupon follow those memorable expressions of his trust and joy in God. Thou shalt guide me with thy counsel; and afterwards receive me to glory. Ilhom have I in heaven but thee? and there is none upon earth I desire besides thee.

[ocr errors]

There are principally two effects, which the sense of the Divine presence is fitted to produce upon men. One is, to restrain them from vice; the other, to encourage their virtue. Its operation, as a check upon the sinner, is obvious. The perpetual presence of so powerful and venerable a witness, is one of the most awful considerations which can be addressed to the dissolute. It removes all the security which secresy can be supposed to give to crimes. It aggravates the guilt of them, from being committed in the face of the Almighty; and has power to strike terrour into the heart of the greatest criminal, in the midst of his misdeeds. While this principle of religion thus checks and terrifies the sinner, it produces also another effect, that of strengthening and comforting the good man in the practice of his duty. It is the influence of the Divine presence on good men which, in consequence of the Psalmist's sentiment, I propose to consider. To their character it belongs to be continually with God.

I shall endeavour to show the high benefit and comfort which they derive from such a habit of mind; and shall, for this end, first consider their internal moral state; and next view them as they are affected by several of the external accidents and situations of life.

[ocr errors]

Let us begin with considering them in their internal state. The belief of the Divine presence acts upon

them here, first, as an incitement to virtue. The presence of one whom we highly esteem and revere, of a sovereign for instance, a father, or a friend, whose approbation we are solicitous to gain, is always found to exalt the powers of men, to refine and im. prove

their behaviour. Hence it has been given as a rule by ancient moralists, that in order to excel in virtue, we should propound to ourselves some person of eminent and distinguished worth; and should accustom ourselves to act as if he were standing by, and beholding us. To the esteem and approbation of their fellow-creatures, none are insensible. There are few who, in the conspicuous parts of their life, when they know the eyes of the public to be fixed on them, act not their part with propriety and de

But what is the observation of the public; what is the presence of the greatest or wisest men on earth, to that presence of the Divinity which constantly surrounds us? The man who realizes to his mind this august presence, feels a constant incentive for acquitting himself with dignity. He views him

corum.

« PreviousContinue »