« AnteriorContinuar »
the revelation of the Gospel has confirmed to Christians, we have full ground to believe that the administration of human affairs is conducted with infinite wisdom and goodness. The counsels of the Almighty are indeed too deep for our limited understandings to trace. His path may, often, as to us, be in the sea, and his footsteps in the mighty waters; while, nevertheless, all his paths are mercy and truth. He who, from the benignity of his nature, erected this world for the abode of men ; He who furnished it so richly for our accommodation, and stored it with so much beauty for our entertainment; He who, since first we entered into life, hath followed us with such a variety of mercies, surely can have no pleasure in our disappointment and distress. He knows our frame ; He remembers we are dust; and looks to frail man, we are assured, with such pity as a father beareth to his children.* To him we may safely commit ourselves, and all our concerns, as to one who is best qualified, both to direct the incidents proper to happen to us in this world, and to judge of the time when it is fit for us to be removed from it. · Even that ignorance of our future destiny in life, of which we sometimes complain, is a signal proof of his goodness. He hides from us the view of futurity, because the view would be dangerous and overpowering. It would either dis-spirit us with visions of terrour, or intoxicate us by the disclosure of success. The veil which covers from our sight the events of this and of succeeding years, is a veil woven by the hand of mercy. Our times are in his hand; and we
* Psalm ciii. 13, 14.
have reason to be glad that in his hand they are kept, shut out from our view. Submit to his pleasure as an Almighty Ruler we must, because we cannot resist him. Equal reason there is for trusting in him as a Guardian, under whose disposal we are safe.
Such is the import of the text, that our times are in the hand of God. Our times are unknown to us, and not under our own direction. They are in the hands of God as a Governour and Ruler; in the hands of God as a Guardian and Father.
These separate views of the text require, on our part, separate improvements.
SEEING our times are not in our own hand, seeing futurity is unknown to us, let us, first, check the vain curiosity of penetrating into what is to come. Conjecture about futurity we often must; but upon all conjectures of what this year is to produce, let us lay a proper restraint. Let us wait till God shall bring forward events in their proper course, without wishing to discover what he has concealed ; lest, if the discovery were granted, we should see many things which we would wish not to have seen.
The most common propensity of mankind is to store futurity with whatever is agreeable to them; especially in those periods of life when imagination is lively, and hope is ardent. Looking forward to the year now beginning, they are ready to promise themselves much from the foundations of prosperity which they have laid; from the friendships and connections which they have secured; from the plans of conduct which they have formed. Alas! how de
ceitful do all these dreams of happiness often prove! While many are saying in secret to their hearts, Tomorrow shall be as this day, and more abundantly, we are obliged in return to say to them, Boast not thyself of to-morrow, for thou knowest not what a day may bring forth. I do not mean that in the unknown prospect which lies before us, we should forbode to ourselves nothing but misfortunes. - May it be the pleasure of Heaven that this year run on in a placid and tranquil tenour to us all ! - But this I say, that in such foresight of futurity as we are allowed to take, we may reckon upon it as certain, that this year shall prove to us, as many past have proved, a checquered scene of some comforts and some troubles. In what proportion one or other of these shall prevail in it; whether, when it ends, it shall leave with us the memory of joys or of sorrows, is to be determined by him in whose hands our times are. Our wisdom is to be prepared for whatever the year is to bring ; prepared to receive comforts with thankfulness, troubles with fortitude; and to improve both for the great purposes of virtue and eternal life.
ANOTHER important instruction which naturally arises from our times not being in our own hands is, that we ought no longer to trifle with what is not in our power to prolong : but that we should make haste to live as wise men; not delaying till to-morrow what may be done to-day; doing now with all our might whatever our hand findeth to do; before that night cometh wherein no man can work.
Amidst the uncertainty of the events which are before us, there is one thing we have too much reason to believe, namely, that of us who are now
assembled in this congregation, and who have seen the year begin, there are some who shall not survive to see it close. Whether it shall be you, or you, or I, who shall begathered to our fathers before the revolving year has finished its round, God alone knows. Our times are in his hand !-- But to our place, it is more than probable that some of us shall have gone. Could we foretell the month, or the day, on which our change was to happen, how diligent would we be in setting our house in order, and preparing our. selves to appear before our Maker! Surely, that ought to be prepared for with most care, concerning which we are ignorant how soon it is to take place. Let us therefore walk circumspectly, and redeem the time. Let us dismiss those trivial and superfluous cares which burden or corrupt our life, in order to attend to what is of highest importance to us as men and Christians. The beginning of each year should carry to us all a solemn admonition of our folly in neglecting to improve suitably the years that are past. It should call up mis-spent time into our view; and be like the hand coming forth upon the wall, in the days of Belshazzar, and writing in legible characters over-against us, “ O man! thy days are numbered ; “ thou art weighed in the balance, and found want
ing; take care lest thy kingdom be on the point “ of departing from thee.”
WHEN we consider, in the next place, that our times, as I before illustrated, are in the hand of God as a sovereign Disposer, it is an obvious inference from this truth, that we should prepare ourselves to submit patiently to his pleasure, both as to the events which are to fill up our days, and as to the time of
our continuing in this world. To contend with him we know to be fruitless. The word that is gone out of his mouth must stand. In the path which he has marked out for us, whether it be short or long, rugged or smooth, we must walk. Is it not then the dictate of wisdom, that we should previously reconcile ourselves to this sovereign ordination, and bring our minds to harmonize with what is appointed to be our destiny? Let us mortify this temper, by recalling that reflection of the wise man; who knoweth what is good for man in this life ; all the days of his vain life which he spendeth as a shadow ? *
To enjoy long life, and see many days, is the universal wish ; and, as the wish is prompted by nature, it cannot be in itself unlawful. At the same time, several circumstances concur to temper the eagerness of this wish; and to show us that it should always be formed under due submission to the wiser judgment of Heaven. Who among us can tell whether, in wishing for the continuance of many years on earth, we may not be only wishing for a prolongation of distress and misery ? — You might live, my friends, till you had undergone lingering rounds of severe pain, from which death would have proved a seasonable deliverance. You might live till your breasts were pierced with many a wound from public calamities or private sorrows. You might live till you beheld the death of all whom
you had loved ;
you ; till you were left as desolate strangers on earth in the midst of a new race, who neither knew you, nor cared for you, but who wished you off the stage.
* Eccles. vi. 12.