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our pleasures ought to be tempered with a serious sense of God; that scenes of gaiety and enjoyment should never make us forget that we are subjects of his government, and have a part allotted us to act in this world ; that on no occasion they should be prolonged so much, repeated so often, or suffered to transport us so far, as to lead us to break any of the Divine laws, or to act inconsistently with the character of men and Christians. A prevailing sense of God on the mind is to be ever held the surest guard of innocence and virtue, amidst the allurements of pleasure. It is the salutary mixture which must be infused into the cup of joy, in order to render it safe and innoxious.
This sense of God should lead us, in the language of the prophet, to regard the work of the Lord, and to consider the operation of his hands; which expressions may be understood as requiring us to have God upon our thoughts under two views; to regard his work, as the Author of nature, and to consider the operation of his hands, as the Governor of the world. Let us attend more particularly to each of these views of the Supreme Being.
In the first place, we are to view God as the Author of nature, or to regard the work of the Lord. With his works we are in every place surrounded. We can cast our eyes no where, without discerning the Hand of Him who formed them, if the grossness of our minds will only allow us to behold Him. Let giddy and thoughtless men turn aside a little from the haunts of riot. Let them stand still, and contemplate the wondrous works of God; and make trial of the effect which such contemplation would produce.--It
were good for them that even independently of the Author, they were more acquainted with his works ; good for them, that from the societies of loose and dissolute men, they would retreat to the scenes of nature; would oftener dwell among them, and enjoy their beauties. This would form them to the relish of uncorrupted innocent pleasures ; and make them feel the value of calın enjoyments, as superiour to the noise and turbulence of licentious gaiety. From the harmony of nature and of nature's works, they would learn to hear sweeter sounds than what arise from the viol, the tabret, and the pipe.
But to higher and more serious thoughts these works of nature give occasion, when considered in conjunction with the Creator who made them. Let me call on you, my friends, to catch some interval of reflection, some serious moment, for looking with thoughtful eye on the world around you. Lift your view to that immense arch of heaven which encompasses you above. Behold the sun in all his splendour rolling over your head by day; and the moon by night, in mild and serene majesty, surrounded with that host of stars which present to your imagination an innumerable: multitude of worlds. Listen to the awful voice of thunder. Listen to the roar of the tempest and the ocean. Survey the wonders that fill the earth which;
Contemplate a steady and powerful Hand bringing round spring and summer, autumn and winter, in regular course; decorating this earth with innumerable beauties, diversifying it with innumerable inhabitants, pouring forth comforts on all that live; and, at the same time, overawing the nations with the violence of the elements, when it
pleases the Creator to let them forth. - After you have viewed yourselves as surrounded with such a scene of wonders; after you have beheld, on every hand, such an astonishing display of majesty united with wisdom and goodness; are you not seized with solemn and serious awe? Is there not something which whispers you within, that to this great Creator reverence and homage are due by all the rational beings whom he has made? Admitted to be spectators of his works, placed in the midst of so many great and interesting objects, can you believe that you were brought hither for no purpose but to immerse yourselves in gross and brutal, er, at best, in trifling pleasures; lost to all sense of the wonders you behold; lost to all reverence of that God who gave you being, and who has erected this amazing fabric of nature, on which you look only with stupid and unmeaning eyes ? - No: Let the scenes which you behold prompt correspondent feelings. Let them awaken you from the degrading intoxication of licentiousness, into nobler emotions. Every object which you view in nature, whether great or small, serves to instruct you. The star and the insect, the fiery meteor and the flower of spring, the verdant field and the lofty mountain, all exhibit a Supreme Power, before which you ought to tremble and adore; all preach the doctrine, all inspire the spirit of devotion and reverence. Regarding, then, the work of the Lord, let rising emotions of awe and gratitude call forth from your souls such sentiments as these : “ Lord, wherever I am, and whatever I
enjoy, may I never forget thee as the Author of “ nature! May I never forget that I am thy creas6 ture and thy subject! In this magnificent temple
“ of the universe, where thou hast placed me, may « I ever be thy faithful worshipper; and may the
reverence and the fear of God be the first senti“ ments of my heart !” — It is to such consideration of God I would now recall your thoughts from the wine and the feast, as proper to check the spirit of levity and folly ; and to inspire manly and becoming sentiments, in the place of criminal dissipation. But,
In the second place, there is a consideration of a nature still more serious to be employed for the same purpose; the consideration of God as not only the Author of nature, but the Governour of his creatures. While we regard the work of the Lord, we are also to consider the never-ceasing operation of his hands. We are to look up to an awful and irresistible Providence, stretching its arm over our heads; directing the fate of men, and dispensing at its pleasure happiness or misery. In the giddy moments of jollity, the wanton and thoughtless are apt to say: “ Let us eat and drink, for to-morrow we die. “ Nothing is better for man, than to rejoice as “ much as he can all the days of his vain life; “ and to keep himself undisturbed by superstitious 66 terrours. He who sitteth in the heavens bestows " no minute attention on the sons of earth. He “ permits all things to come alike to all ; one event “ to happen to the righteous and to the wicked.” — Be assured, my brethren, it is not so.
You greatly deceive yourselves, by imagining that your Creator and Governour is indifferent to the part you are now acting; or that the distribution of good and evil, which now takes place, has no relation to your moral
conduct. In some instances, that relation may not be apparent; because the moral government of God is not completed in this world. But a multitude of proofs show government to be already begun; and point out to you the train in which you may expect it to proceed.
In the history of all ages and nations, you cannot but have observed a thousand instances in which the operation of the divine hand has been displayed; overtaking evil-doers sooner or later with punishment, and bringing on their own heads the ruin they had devised for others. You are not to imagine that this displeasure of Providence is exerted only against the ambitious, the treacherous, and the cruel, who are the authors of extensive misery to the world. Under this idea, perhaps you may be desirous to shelter yourselves, that your excesses are of a harmless kind; that you seek nothing more than the enjoyment of your own pleasures; that your feast and your wine interfere not with the order of the world
; and that therefore you have done nothing which should awake the sleeping thunder, and bring it down from heaven on your heads. Though not stained with the blackest colours of guilt, your conduct may nevertheless be highly offensive to the Ruler of the world. His government is not of that indolent inattentive kind, which allows impunity to every lesser criminal. He beholds with displeasure the behaviour of those who degrade their nature by vicious disorders ; and contaminate, by their example, every society with which they are connected. His measures are taken, that, in one way or other, they shall suffer. Look around the circle of your acquaintance, and