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In the third place, the doctrine that has been illustrated, of the interposal of Providence in all human affairs, places the vanity and folly of all sinful plans in a very strong light. All sin, in every view of it, must be attended with danger. He who embarks in any unjust or criminal enterprise, besides the manifest peril to his own soul, incurs the risque of his character being discovered, and of meeting with hatred, contempt, and just resentment from the world. One would think that when the consequences on one side are so dangerous, the bribe on the other side must be very high, and the prospect of success very fair and promising. Now consider how this matter truly stands. The sinner hath against him, first, that general uncertainty which I before shewed to take place in all the designs and projects formed by men. Could the most artful and best devised means always ensure success to the end we sought to obtain, some apology might then be made for departing occasionally from the path of rectitude. But it is far from being true, that such road to sure success can, on any occasion, be found. On the contrary,
we every day see the most plausible and SERMON best concerted plans baffled and thrown to the ground; and there is nothing which on many occasions has been more remarked, than Providence seeming to make sport of the wisdom of man.
This view of things alone were sufficient to show to the sinner the insecurity and danger of the system on which he acts. But there is much more against him than this. For he, by his guilty plans, hath engaged against himself one certain and most formidable enemy, to whom he hath great reason to look up with terrour. He cannot possibly believe that the righteous Governour of the universe beholds with an equal eye the designs of the virtuous who honour him, and the designs of the guilty who despise his laws, and do injustice to his servants. No; against these latter, Providence hath pointed its darts, hath bent its bow in the heavens; the face of the Lord is against them that do evil *. may fail; but those of the
Other designs wicked, God is
concerned in overthrowing. It is true, that this life is not the season of rendering to
Psalm xxxiv. 16.
SERMON every man according to his works. But though retribution does not on every occasion take place at present, yet neither is the exercise of Divine justice always delayed. The history of the world is continually furnishing us with examples of the wicked taken in their own devices; of the crafty snared in the works of their own hands; of sinners falling into the pit which themselves had digged. How often, when signal crimes were ready to be perpetrated, hath God remarkably interposed; hath spread his shield before the just, unnerved the arm of the assassin, or struck a sudden damp into his mind at the critical moment ! Obnoxious then as the sinner is to so many dangers: exposed perpetually to the disappointment of his designs by the uncertainty of human events; exposed, over and above, to the avenging interposition of heaven; what strange infatuation has tempted him to depart from the plain and safe path of integrity?
In the last place, from all that has been said on this subject, we clearly see how much it concerns us to perform those duties 6
which a proper regard to Providence re- SERMON quires, and to obtain protection from that
power which directeth and disposeth all. A more incontrovertible axiom there cannot be than this, that if man only deviseth his way, while God overrules his devices and directs his steps, an interest in God's favour is far more important than all the wisdom and ability of man. Without his favour, the wisest will be disappointed and baffled; under his protection and guidance, the simple are led in a plain and sure path. In vain would the giddy and profane throw Providence out of their thoughts, and affect to think and act as if all depended on themselves. This boldness of self-sufficiency is affectation, and no more. For moments there are, when the man of stoutest heart feels the strong subjection under which he is held, and would gladly grasp at the aid of Heaven. As long as human affairs proceed in a smooth train, without any alarming presages of change or danger, the man of the world may remain pleased with himself, and be fully confident in his own powers. But whose life continues long so undisturbed?
SERMON turbed? Let any uncommon violence shake the elements around him, and threaten him with destruction; let the aspect of publick affairs be so lowering as to forebode some great calamity; or in his private concerns let some sudden change arrive to shatter his fortune, or let sickness, and the harbingers of approaching death, show him his frailty ; and how ready will he then be to send up prayers from the heart, that Providence would befriend and relieve him? Religion, my friends, is not a matter of theory and doubt. Its foundations are laid deep in the nature and condition of man. It lays hold of every man's feelings. In every man's heart and conscience it has many witnesses to its importance and reality.
Let us then neglect no means which may be of avail for procuring the grace and favour of that Divine Providence on which so much depends. Let no duties be overlooked which belong to us as subjects of God: devout worship, and grateful praises for all his blessings, humble trust in his goodness, and implicit submission to his will; and constant and cheerful obedience to his laws. Let us be thankful that God hath