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by his kindly notice. Does such a one now survive, and shall he not receive from you some portion of filial reverence and honour? To disregard and neglect him, is to spurn your father's memory; to insult the ashes of him who now sleeps in the grave, is to transmit yourselves to those who shall succeed you, as unfeeling and base. Thine own friend, and thy father's friend, forsake not.
I HAVE pointed out some of the chief duties which belong to virtuous friendship; and some of the principal means by which this sacred bond should be preserved unbroken; this holy flame should be kept alive in the human breast. The spirit and sentiments, which I have studied to inspire, are such as virtue breathes, and such as true piety should increase. It is thus we fulfil that great law of love which our Divine Master taught. It is thus we prepare ourselves for those happy regions, where charity never faileth; where, in the presence of the God of Love, eternal and invariable friendships unite together all the blessed; friendships, which, by no human infirmity disturbed, by death never separated, shall constitute, throughout endless ages, a great and distinguished portion of the celestial felicity.
On the CONDUCT to be held with regard to FUTURE
PROVERBS, XXvii. 1.
Boast not thyself of to-morrow; for thou knowest not what a day may bring forth.
FROM these words I purpose to discourse of the proper conduct which we ought to hold, with regard to futurity, amidst the present uncertainties of life. Time and life are always going on, and to each of us are preparing changes in our state. What these may be, whether for the better or for the worse, we cannot tell; as it hath pleased the wisdom of Providence to cover futurity with a veil which no mortal can lift up. In the mean time, none of us can avoid forming designs, and laying plans for the time to come. The present moment is never sufficient to give full employment to the active mind of man, without some excursions into futurity; and in these excursions, the present is often wholly spent. It is therefore of the highest consequence, that a proper direction be given to the mind, in its employments of thought relating to futurity. Otherwise, in the prospects which we take of that unknown region, false hopes, or ill-grounded fears, shall flatter or torment us in vain. We know not, as the Wise
Man tells us, what a day may bring forth. It may, very probably, produce something that we had not looked for; and therefore, instead of boasting ourselves of to-morrow, as the multitude are apt to do, it becomes us to be disciplined and prepared for whatever it may bring.
It is needless to spend much time in confirming the truth, which is the foundation of the admonition in the text; in proving, either that change and mutability belong to our present state, or that the changes of it cannot be foreseen by us. These are truths so obvious and confessed, that an attempt to confirm them is like proving that all men are to die. At the same time, obvious as they are, it were to be wished that the thoughts of men dwelt upon them more. For by a strange but prevailing deception, it would seem, from the general conduct of mankind, that almost every one thinks his own case an exception from the general law; and that he may build plans with as much confidence on his present situation, as if some assurance had been given him that it were never to change. Hence it has been often observed by serious persons, that there is no more general cause to which the vices of men can be ascribed, their forgetfulness of God and their neglect of duty, than to their presuming upon the continuance of life, of pleasure, and prosperity.
Look but a little way, my friends, into your own state; and you must unavoidably perceive that, from the beginning, it has been so contrived by Providence, that there should be no permanent stability to man's condition on earth. The seeds of alteration are every where sown. In your health, life, posses
sions, connections, pleasures, there are causes of decay imperceptibly working; secretly undermining the foundations of what appears to you the most stable; continually tending to abolish the present form of things, and to bring forward new appearances, and new objects in their order: So that nothing is, or can be, stationary on earth. All changes, and passes. It is a stream which is ever flowing; a wheel which is ever turning round. When you behold the tree covered with blossoms in the spring, or loaded with fruit in the autumn, as well may you imagine, that those blossoms, or that fruit, are to remain in their place through the whole year, as believe that human affairs are to continue, for to-day and to-morrow, for this year and the next, proceeding in the same tenour. To render this reflection still more serious, think, I pray you, on what small and inconsiderable causes those changes depend, which affect the fortunes of men, throughout their whole lives. How soon is evil done! There needs no great bustle or stir, no long preparation of events, to overturn what seems most secure, and to blast what appears most flourishing. A gale of wind rises on the ocean; and the vessel which carried our friends, or our fortunes, is overwhelmed in the deep. A spark of a candle falls by night in some neglected corner; and the whole substance of families is consumed in flames before the morning. A casual blow, or a sudden fall, deranges some of our internal parts; and the rest of life is distress and misery. It is awful to think, at the mercy of how many seeming contingencies we perpetually lie, for what we call happiness in this world.
In the midst, however, of all these apparent con
tingencies, plans and designs for the future are every day formed; pursuits are undertaken; and life proceeds in its usual train. Fit and proper it is, that life should thus proceed. For the uncertainty of to-morrow was never designed by Providence, to deter us from acting or planning to-day; but only to admonish us, that we ought to plan, and to act, soberly and wisely. What that wise and sober conduct is which becomes us, what the rules and precautions are, which, in such a state as ours, respect futurity, I now proceed to show. They may be comprehended in the following directions. Boast not thyself of to-morrow; Despair not of to-morrow; Delay not till to-morrow what is proper to be done to-day; Prepare thyself for whatever to-morrow may bring forth; Build thy hopes of happiness on something more solid and lasting than what either to-day or to-morrow will produce.
I. IN the words of the text, Boast not thyself of to-morrow; that is, never presume arrogantly on futurity; in the most fair and promising state of fortune, beware of pride and vanity; beware of resting wholly upon yourselves, and forgetting Him who directs the changes of this mutable state. If there be any virtues which the uncertain condition of the world inculcates on man, they are, assuredly, moderation and humility. Man was, for this end, placed in a world, where he knows so little of what is before him, that he might be impressed with a sense of his dependence on the Ruler of the world; that, he might feel the importance of acquiring favour and protection from Heaven, by a life of piety and virtue; and that, not knowing how soon