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through thé mortifying remembrance of much of the past, dart à ray of light and joy. From the review of these, and the comparison of them with the deceitful pleasures of sin, let us learn how to form our estimate of happiness. Let us learn what is true, what is false, in human pleasures; and from experience of the past, judge of the quarter to which we must in future turn, if we would lay a foundation for permanent satisfaction. After having thus reviewed the former years of our life, let us consider,
5. II. What attention is due to that period of age in which we are at present placed. Here lies the immediate and principal object of our concern : For, the recollection of the past is only as far of moment as it acts upon the present. The past, to us, now, is little; the future, às yet, is nothing. Between these two great gulphs of time subsists the present, as an isthmus or bridge, along which we are all passing. With hasty and inconsiderate steps let us not pass along it; but remember well, how much depends upon our holding a steady and properly conducted course. Whatsoever thine hand findeth to do, do it nord with all thy might; for now is the accepted time ; now is the day of salvation. Many directions might be given for the wise and religious improvement of the present; a few of which only I shall hint.
Let us begin with excluding those superfluous avocations which unprofitably consume it.
Life is short; much that is of real importance remains to be done. If we suffer the present time to be wasted either in absolute idleness or in frivolous employments, it will hereafter call for vengeance against us. Removing, therefore, what is merely superfiuous, let
us bethink ourselves of what is most material to be attended to at present: As, first and chief, the great work of our salvation ; the discharge of the religious duties which we owe to God our Creator, and to Christ our Redeemer. God waiteth as yet to bé gracious; whether he will wait longer, none of us can tell. Now, therefore, seek the Lord, while he may be found, call upon him while he is near. Our spiritual interests will be best promoted by regular performance of all the duties of ordinary life. Let these, therefore, occupy a great share of the present: hour. Whatever our age, our character, our profession, or station in the world, requires us to do, in that let each revolving day find us busy. Never delay till to-morrow, what reason and conscience tell you ought to be performed to-day. To-morrow. is not your's; and though you should live to enjoy it, you must not overload it with a burden not its own. Sufficient for the day will prove the duty thereof.
The observance of order and method is of high consequence for the improvement of present time. He who performs every employment in its due place and season, suffers no part of time to escape without profit. He multiplies his days; for he lives much in little space. Whereas he who neglects order in the arrangement of his occupations, is always losing the present in returning upon the past, and trying, in vain, to recover it when gone. - Let me advise
you frequently to make the present employment of time an object of thought. Ask yourselves, about what are you now busied ? What is the ultimate scope of your present pursuits and cares? Can you justify them to yourselves ? Are they likely to produce any thing that will survive the moment, and bring forth
some fruit for futurity ? He, who can give no satisfactory answer to such questions as these, has reason to suspect that his employment of the present is not tending either to his advantage or his honour. Finally, let me admonish you that, while you study to improve, you should endeavour also to enjoy the present hour. Let it not be disturbed with groundless discontents, or poisoned with foolish anxieties about what is to come; but look up to heaven, and acknowledge with a grateful heart, the actual blessings you enjoy. If you must admit, that you are now in health, peace, and safety, without any particular or uncommon evils to afflict your condition ; what more can you reasonably look for in this vain and uncertain world ? How little can the greatest prosperity add to such a state! Will any future situation ever make you happy, if now, with so few causes of grief, you imagine yourselves miserable ? The evil lies in the state of your mind, not in your condition of fortune; and by no alteration of circumstances is likely to be remedied. Let us now,
III. CONSIDER with what dispositions we ought to look forward to those years of our life that may yet be to come. Merely to look forward to them, is what requires no admonition. Futurity is the great object on which the imaginations of men are employed; for the sake of which the past is forgotten, and the present too often neglected. All time is in a manner swallowed up by it. On futurity men build their designs; on futurity they rest their hopes; and though not happy at the present, they always reckon on becoming so at some subsequent period of their lives. This propensity to look forward was, for wise purposes, implanted in the human breast. It serves to give proper occupation to the active powers of the mind, and to quicken all its exertions. But it is tòo often immoderately indulged and grossly abused. The curiosity which sometimes prompts persons to inquire by unlawful methods into what is to come, is equally foolish and sinful. Let us restrain all "desire of penetrating farther than is allowed us into that dark and unknown region. Futurity belongs to God; and happy for us is that mysterious veil, with which his wisdom has covered it.' Were it in our power to lift up the veil, and to behold what it conceals, many and many a thorn we should plant in our breasts. The
The proper and rational conduct of men with regard to futurity is regulated by two considerations : First, that much of what it contains, must remain to us absolutely unknown; next, that there are also some events in which it may be cer? tainly known and foreseen. . First, much of futurity is, and must be, entirely unknown to us. When we speculate about the continuance of our life, and the events which are to fill it, we behold a river which is always flowing ; but which soon escapes out of our sight, and is covered with mists and darkness. Some of its windings we may endeavour to trace ; but it is only for a very short way
that we are able to pursue them. In endless conjectures we quickly find ourselves bewildered; and often, the next event that happens, baffles all the reasonings we had formed concerning the succession of events. The consequence which follows from this is, that all the anxiety about futurity, which passes the bounds of reasonable precaution, is unprofitable and vain. Certain measures are indeed necessary to be taken for our safety. We are not to rush forward inconsiderate and headlong. We must make, as far as we are able, provision for future welfare; and guard against dangers which apparently threaten. But having done this, we must stop ; and leave the rest to him who disposeth of futurity at his will. He who sitteth in the heavens laughs at the wisdom and the plans of worldly men. Wherefore boast not thyself of to-morrow ; for thou knowest not what a day may bring forth. For the same reason, despair not of to-morrow; for it may bring forth good as well as evil. Vex not yourselves with imaginary fears. The impending black cloud, to which you look
with so much dread, may pass by harmless; or though it should discharge the storm, yet before it breaks, you may be lodged in that lowly mansion which no storms ever touch.
In the next place, there are in futurity some events which may be certainly foreseen by us, through all its darkness. First, it may be confidently predicted, that no situation into which it will bring us, shall ever answer fully to our hopes, or confer perfect happiness. This is as certain as if we already saw it, that life, in its future periods, will continue to be what it has heretofore been; that it will be a mixed and varied state ; à checquered scene of pleasures and pains, of fugitive joys and transient griefs, succeeding in a round to one another. Whether we look forward to the years of youth, or to those of manhood and advanced life, it is all the same. The world will be to us what it has been to generations past. Set out, therefore, on what remains of your journey under this persuasion. According to this measure, estimate your future pleasures ; and calculate your