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Governour of mankind, such contemplation prompts humiliation before him for offences committed. The former addresses itself to the ingenuous sentiments that are left in the heart; and awakens a sense of our unworthiness, in neglecting the Author of nature amidst our riotous pleasures. The latter addresses itself to our regard for safety and happiness; and awakens fear and dread, from consciousness of the guilt we have contracted. llence springs up in every thoughtful mind, an anxious concern to avert the displeasure, and regain the favour of that Supreme Being to whom we are all subject. This, among unenlightened nations, gave rise to sacrifices, expiations, and all the rights of humble, though superstitious worship. Among nations, who have been instructed in true religion, sentiments of the same nature pave the way for prayer, repentance, faith, and all those duties, by means of which we may hope, through a Divine Mediator and Intercessor, to be reconciled to heaven. Natural and revealed religion here appear in concord. We behold the original dictates of the human heart laying a foundation for the glad reception of the comfortable tidings of the Gospel.
I HAVE thus endeavoured to show in what manner, by regarding the work of the Lord, and considering the operation of his hands, we may prevent the dangers arising from a thoughtless indulgence of pleasure; we may be furnished with an antidote to the poison which is too often mixed in that intoxicating cup. Human life is full of troubles. We are all tempted to alleviate them as much as we can, by freely enjoying the pleasurable moments which Pro
vidence thinks fit to allow us. Enjoy them we may: But, if we would enjoy them safely, and enjoy them long, let us temper them with the fear of God. As soon as this is forgotten and obliterated, the sound of the harp and the viol is changed into the signal of death. The Serpent comes forth from the roses where it had lain in ambush, and gives a fatal sting. Pleasure in moderation is the cordial, in excess it is the bane of life.
On the PRESENCE of God in a FUTURE STATE,
PSALM Xvi. 11.
Thou wilt show me the path of life: In thy presence
is fulness of joy; at thy right hand there are plea
sures for evermore. THE apostle Peter, in a discourse which he held
to the Jews, applies this passage, in a mystical and prophetical sense, to the Messiah.* But, in its literal and primitive meaning, it expresses the exalted hopes by which the Psalmist David supported himself amidst the changes and revolutions, of which his life was full. By these hopes when flying before Saul, when driven from his throne, and persecuted by an unnatural son, he was enabled to preserve his virtue, and to maintain unshaken trust in God. - In that carly age of the world, those explicit discoveries of a state of immortality, which we enjoy, had not yet been given to mankind.
But though the Sun of righteousness was not arisen, the dawn had appeared of that glorious day which he was to introduce. Even in those ancient times, holy men, as the Apostle writes to the Hebrews, saw the promises afar of, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them; and confessing that they were strangers and
Acts, ii. 25 – 28.
pilgrims on earth, declared that they sought after a better country, that is an heavenly.* Indeed in every age, God permitted such hopes to afford support and consolation to those who served him. The full effect of them we behold in those triumphant expressions of the text, which are to be the subject of this discourse. They lead us to consider, first, The hope of the Psalmist in his present state ; thou wilt show me the path of life. And, secondly, The termination of his hope in that future state, where in the presence of God is fulness of joy, and at his right hand there are pleasures for evermore.
1. Thou wilt show me the path of life. This plainly imports, that there are different paths, or courses of conduct, which may be pursued by men in this world; a path which leads to life or happiness, and a path which issues in death or destruction. These opposite lines of conduct are determined by the choice which men make of virtue or of vice; and hence men are divided into two great classes, according as their inclinations lead them to good or to evil. The path of life is often a rough and difficult path, followed only by a few. The opposite one is the broad way, in which the multitude walk ; seemingly smooth, and strewed with flowers; but leading in the end to death and misery. The path of life conducts us up a steep ascent. The palace of virtue has, in all ages, been represented as placed on the summit of a hill; in the ascent of which labour is requisite, and difficulties are to be surmounted; and where a conductor is needed, to direct our way, and to aid our steps.
Now the hope which good men entertain is, that this path of life shall be shown them by God; that when their intentions are upright, God will both instruct them concerning the road which leads to true happiness, and will assist them to pursue it successfully. Among nations where any suitable ideas of God or of virtue began to be formed, hopes of this nature also began to be entertained. It was consonant to the nature of man, to think that the Supreme Being was favourable to virtue. Accordingly, in the writings of some of the ancient philosophers, we find various obscure traces of this belief, that there was a benign heavenly Spirit, who illuminated the minds of the virtuous, and assisted their endeavours to obtain wisdom and happiness. They even asserted, that no man became great or good, without some inspiration of Heaven.
But what they indistinctly conceived, and could not with confidence rely upon, the doctrine of Christianity liath clearly explained and fully confirmed; expressly and frequently teaching, that, not only by the external discoveries of revelation, but by the inward operations of his Spirit, he shows to the humble and virtuous the path of life. While, by his word, he instructs them in their duty; by the influence of his
grace he assists them in the performance of it. In all revelation there is certainly no doctrine more comfortable than this. It is to good men a noble and pleasing thought, that they are pursuing a path which God has discovered and pointed out to them. For they know that every path, in which he is their conductor, must be honourable, must be safe, must bring them in the end to felicity. They follow that Shepherd of Israel, who always leads his flock into