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SERMON ject, and shall show what a wise and good man may reasonably expect from human life. His hope shall be gladness, though the expectation of fools shall perish.
I. WHATEVER course the affairs of the world take, he may justly hope to enjoy peace of mind. I am sensible that by the sceptic and the profligate, this will be held as a very inconsiderable object of expectation or hope. To them every enjoyment which is of mental and intellectual nature appears of small value. Give them affluent fortune and flourishing health, and they account themselves sure of felicity. But to these very persons I appeal, whether there have not been many occasions, when the want of a peaceful and self-approving mind has not blasted all the enjoyments they possessed? In the midst of the pomps and luxuries of life, have they never experienced the pangs of a wounded spirit? Have they never felt what it was to be tormented by the sense of past follies, and to be stung with the reproaches of an angry conscience? Dare they say, that in the midst of those feelings they were happy?
Will they not be constrained to own, that SERMON in such moments of inward pain, they would willingly have exchanged conditions with an innocent peasant? Let them then learn the value of that object of hope which they affect to contemn, by recollecting what they have suffered from the want of it. — Assuredly, the peace of an approving conscience is one of the chief ingredients of human happiness; one of the most grateful of all sensations to the heart of man: provided always that this self-approbation rest upon proper grounds; that it be tempered with due humility, and regulated by Christian faith; that it never swell into an arrogant opinion of our virtue, or into confidence in our own merits, as if they were sufficient, without any higher intervention, to render us acceptable to God.
He, whose study it is to preserve a conscience void of offence towards God and man, who upon just principles can be satisfied that he is walking in the path which was appointed by God, will have, in every state of fortune, a ground of hope which may justly be denominated gladness; for
SERMON peace of mind will not forsake him. Let I. the world vibrate around him as it will,
and repeat all its vicissitudes, he will not be shaken by them. He has always somewhat to rest upon for comfort. Wrapped up in his own integrity, he remains sound and entire within himself; and with a firm mind awaits the coming storm. He is not afraid of evil tidings; for his heart is fixed, trusting in the Lord*. As he can look up to a Supreme Power with good hope, so he can look every man in the face without uneasiness, when he is conscious that no man can reproach him with having entrenched upon his neighbour's rights, or having causelessly provoked and attacked him. Hence, a calm mind by day, and undisturbed slumbers by night. Hence, the hope of that continued protection of Heaven which watches over the righteous. In the time of trouble He shall hide me in bis pavilion; in the secret of his tabernacle shall be hide me; He shall set me upon a rock. Besides this expectation of internal peace,
II. A GOOD man has ground to expect SERMON that any external condition into which, in the course of human affairs, he may pass, shall, by means of virtue and wisdom, be rendered, if not perfectly agreeable, yet tolerably easy to him. That distresses of various kinds are scattered through the life of every mortal man, there can be no doubt. But it is also to be remembered, that to many distresses there are remedies which it is in our power to apply; and that with all sorrows some comforts are mixed. So many loud complaints we hear of the inequalities of fortune in the world, that one would imagine the rich and the great to be the only persons who had the privilege of being happy; and that the mean and the poor were doomed, without exception, to be miserable. Be assured, my friends, that the inequality of real happiness is not to be measured by the inequality of outward estate. When you see the peasant cheerful in his cottage, and the labourer singing in the fields, you may discern that there is some power in the mind superiour to external condition; that more depends on the man himself, than
SERMON on the situation in which the world has Would you estimate justly the sum of happiness that he enjoys, or the degree of unhappiness that he feels? The questions you are to put, if the man be in prosperity are not, How much wealth does such a man possess? but, How does he enjoy it? If he be in adversity, not, What is his distress? but, How does he bear it?
Hence arises the hope to a wise and good man of either finding, or making his state tolerable to himself. If he be not wanting to himself, he is never left without resources to assist those exertions which he makes in his own behalf. Roses indeed are not always strewed in his path; but from fields that are seemingly waste, flowers may be gathered by those who look carefully around them. Seldom or never do all good things forsake, and all evils beset a man, at once. In some corner of our lot there are always comforts that may be found, if we be not so foolish as to overlook them. Even in the intervals of sickness and pain, satisfactions may be enjoyed. Returns of relief are often felt with a more