Page images

them in the evil time. He not only spreads a tent for them in the wilderness, but he transforms, in some measure, the state of nature around them. To use the beautiful language of ancient prophecy ; In the desart, the thirsty land, where no water is, he openeth springs. Instead of the thorn, he maketh the fir tree to come

instead of the briar, the myrtle to spring. In the midst of the habitation of dragons, he maketh green pastures rise, and still waters flow around his people.


The improvement to be made of these truths is as obvious as it is important. Let us study so to conduct our lives, that we may be qualified for deriving such consolations from religion. To their reality, and their importance, all mankind bear witness. For no sooner are they overtaken by distress, than to religion they fly. This, throughout every age,

has been the universal shelter which the young and the old, the high and the low, the giddy and the serious, have sought to gain, as soon as they found that rest could be no where else procured for the weary head or the aching heart. But amidst those multitudes that crowd to religion for relief, how few are entitled to approach that sacred source of comfort ? On what feeble props do their hopes and pretensions rest? How much superstition mingles with that religion to which men are driven by distress and fear !-- You must first apply to it as the guide of life, before you can have recourse to 'it as the refuge of sorrow. You must submit to its legislative authority, and experience its renewing influence, before you can look for its consolatory effect. You must secure the testimony of a good conscience, and peace with God through Jesus Christ; otherwise, when the floods shall come, and the rains descend, and the winds blow, the house which you had proposed for

your retreat, shall prove the house founded on the sand, not on the rock.

There are two plans, and there are but two, on which any man can propose to conduct himself through the dangers and distresses of human life. The one is the plan of worldly wisdom; the other, that of determined adherence to conscience. He who acts upon the former lays principle aside, and trusts his defence to his art and ability. He avails himself of every advantage which his knowledge of the world suggests.

He attends to nothing but what he considers as his interest ; and, unconfined by conscience, pursues it by every course which promises him success. This plan, though too often adopted, will be

found, on trial, ineffectual and deceitful. For human ability is an unequal match for the violent and unforeseen vicissitudes of theworld. When these torrents rise in their might, they sweep away in a moment the banks which worldly wisdom had reared fordefence,andoverwhelm alike the crafty and the artless. In the mean time, persons of this character condemn themselves to live a most uniquiet life. They pass their days in perpetual anxiety, listening to every motion; startled by every alarm; changing their measures on every new occurrence; and when distress breaks in over all their defences, they are left under it hopeless and disconsolate.

The plan, which, in opposition to this, religion recommends, as both more honourable in itself, and more effectual for security, is at all hazards to do your duty, and to leave the consequences to God. Let him who would act upon this plan, adopt for the rule of his conduct that maxim of the Psalmist's, Trust in the Lord and do good. * To firm integrity, let him join a humble reliance on God. Let his adherence to duty encourage his religious trust. Let his religious trust inspire him with fortitude in the performance of his duty. Let him know no path but the straight and direct one.

* Psalm xxxviii. 3.

In the most critical moments of action, let him ask no farther questions, than what is the right, the fit, the worthy part ? How, as a man, and as a Christian, it becomes him to act ? Having received the decision of conscience, let him commit his way unto the Lord. Let him, without trepidation or wavering, proceed in discharging his duty ; resolved, that though the world may make him unfortunate, it shall never make him base, and confiding, that in what God and his conscience require him to act or suffer, God and a good conscience will support him.

Such principles as these, are the best preparation for the vicissitudes of the human lot. They are the shield of inward peace. He who thinks and acts thus, shall be exposed to no wounds but what religion can cure. He

may feel the blows of adversity; but he shall not know the wounds of the heart.



Psalm i. 3.

He shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of

water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season : his leaf also shall not wither, and whatsoever he doth shall prosper.

The happy influence of religion upon human life, in the time of adversity, has been considered in the preceding discourse. Concern. ing this, the sentiments of men are more generally agreed, than with respect to some other prerogatives which religion claims.-They very readily assign to it the office of a comforter. But as long as their state is prosperous, they are apt to account it an unnecessary guest, perhaps an unwelcome intru

« PreviousContinue »