Page images

ENOUGH has been now said to convince any thinking person of the justice and reasonableness of the maxims in the text; and to show that on various occasions, sorrow may be better than laughter. Wouldst thou acquire the habit of recollection, and fix the principles of thy conduct; wouldst thou be led up to thy Creator and Redeemer, and be formed to sentiments of piety and devotion; wouldst thou be acquainted with those mild and tender affections, which delight the compassionate and humane; wouldst thou have the power of sensual appetites tamed and corrected, and thy soul raised above the ignoble love of life, and fear of death? Go, my brother, go- not to scenes of pleasure and riot, not to the house of feasting and mirth-but to the silent house of mourning; and adventure to dwell for a while among objects that will soften thy heart. Contemplate the lifeless remains of what once was fair and flourishing. Bring home to thyself the vicissitudes of life. Recall the remembrance of the friend, the parent or the child whom thou tenderly lovedst. Look back on the days of former years; and think on the companions of thy youth, who now sleep in the dust. Let the vanity, the mutability, and the sorrows of the human estate, rise in full prospect before thee; and though thy countenance may be made sad, thy heart shall be made better. This sadness, though for the present it dejects, yet shall in the end fortify thy spirit; inspiring thee with such sentiments, and prompting such resolu tions, as shall enable thee to enjoy, with more real advantage, the rest of life. Dispositions of this naturę form one part of the character of those mourners

whom our Saviour hath pronounced blessed; and of those to whom it is promised, that sowing in tears, they shall reap in joy.* A great difference there is between being serious and melancholy; and a melancholy too there is of that kind which deserves to be sometimes indulged.

Religion hath, on the whole, provided for every good man abundant materials of consolation and relief. How dark soever the present face of nature may appear, it dispels the darkness, when it brings into view the entire system of things, and extends our survey to the whole kingdom of God. It represents what we now behold as only a part, and a small part, of the general order. It assures us, that though here, for wise ends, misery and sorrow are permitted to have place, these temporary evils shall, in the end, advance the happiness of all who love God, and are faithful to their duty. It shows them this mixed and confused scene vanishing by degrees away, and preparing the introduction of that state, where the house of mourning shall be shut up for ever; where no tears are seen, and no groans heard; where no hopes are frustrated, and no virtuous connections dissolved; but where, under the light of the Divine countenance, goodness shall flourish in perpetual felicity. Thus, though religion may occasionally chasten our mirth with sadness of countenance, yet under that sadness it allows not the heart of good men to sink; it calls upon them to rejoice, because the Lord reigneth who is their Rock, and the most high God, who is their Redeemer. Reason likewisę

* Matth. v. 4. Psalm cxxvi. 5,

joins her voice with that of religion; forbidding us to make peevish and unreasonable complaints of human life, or injuriously to ascribe it to more evil than it contains. Mixed as the present state is, she pronounces, that generally, if not always, there is more happiness than misery, more pleasure than pain, in the condition of man.


On the Divine GOVERNMENT of the PASSIONS of


PSALM 1xxvi. 10.

Surely the wrath of man shall praise thee; the remainder of wrath shalt thou restrain.

THIS HIS Psalm appears to have been composed on occasion of some remarkable deliverance obtained by the Jewish nation. It is generally understood to have been written in the reign of Hezekiah, and to refer to the formidable invasion of Judea by Sennacherib; when the angel of the Lord, in one night, discomfited the whole Assyrian host, and smote them with sudden destruction. To this interposition of the Divine arm, those expressions in the context may naturally be applied; There brake he the arrows of the bow, the shield, the sword, and the battle. The stout-hearted are spoiled; they have slept their sleep: and none of the men of might have found their hands. At thy rebuke, O God of Jacob! both the chariot and the horse are cast into a dead sleep. In the text we have the wise and religious reflection of the Psalmist upon the violent designs which had been carried on by the enemies of his country, and upon the issue to which Providence had brought them. Surely the wrath of man shall praise thee. By the wrath of man,

[ocr errors]

we are to understand all that the impetuosity of human passions can devise or execute; the projects of ambition and resentment, the rage of persecution, the fury of war; the disorders which violence produces in private life, and the public commotions which it excites in the world. All these shall praise God, not with their intention and design, nor by their native tendency; but by those wise and good purposes, which his providence makes them accomplish; from their poison extracting health, and converting things, which in themselves are pernicious, into instruments of his glory, and of public benefit: So that, though the wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God, it is nevertheless forced and compelled to minister to his praise. The Psalmist adds, the remainder of wrath shalt thou restrain; that is, God will allow scope to the wrath of man as far as it answers his good purposes, and is subservient to his praise; the rest of it shall be curbed and bound up. When it would attempt to go beyond its prescribed limit, he says to it, as to the waters of the ocean, Hitherto shalt thou come but no farther; and here shall thy proud waves be stayed.

All this shall be fully verified and declared by the last issue of things; when we shall be able more clearly to trace the Divine administration through its several steps, by seeing the consummation of the whole. In some cases, it 'may be reserved for this period to unfold the mysterious wisdom of Heaven. But in general, as much of the Divine conduct is at present manifest as gives just ground for the assertion in the text. In the sequel of this discourse, I shall endeavour to illustrate and confirm it. I shall show in what manner the wrath of man is made to praise

« PreviousContinue »