« AnteriorContinuar »
ceitful do all these dreams of happiness often prove! While many are saying in secret to their hearts, To-morrow 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 be gathered 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 ourselves 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; till you survived all those who love 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.
Of a nature so ambiguous are all the prospects which life sets before us, that in every wish we form relating to them, much reason we have to be satisfied that our times are in the hands of God, rather than
THIS Consideration is greatly strengthened, when, in the last place, we think of God acting, not as a Sovereign only, but as a Guardian, in the disposal of our times. This is our great consolation in looking forward to futurity. To God as a wise Ruler, calm submission is due; but it is more than submission that belongs to him as a merciful father; it is the spirit of cordial and affectionate consent to his will. Unknown to us as the times to come are, it should be sufficient to our full repose that they are known to God. The day and the hour which are fixed in his counsels for our dismission from life, we ought to be persuaded are fixed for the best; and that any longer we should not wish to remain.
When we see that last hour drawing nigh, though our spirits may be composed on our own account, yet, on account of our friends and families, no little anxiety and sorrow may be sometimes apt to take possession of the mind. Long we have enjoyed the comfort of their society, and been accustomed to consider them as parts of ourselves. To be parted from them for ever is, at any rate, a bitter thought; but to the bitterness of this, is over and above added the apprehension of their suffering much by our death. We leave many a relation, perhaps may leave young children, and a helpless family, behind us, to be exposed to various dangers, and thrown forth on an unfriendly world. Such virtuous anxieties often op
press the tender and feeling heart at the closing periods of life. My brethren, look up to that God, in whose hand the times of your fathers were; in whose hand the times of your posterity shall be. Recollect, for your comfort, the experience of ages. When were the righteous utterly forsaken by God in times past? Why should they be forsaken by him in times to come? Well did he govern the world before you had a being in it: Well shall he continue to govern it after you are no more. No cause have you, therefore, to oppress your minds with the load of unknown futurity. Commit your cares to a father in heaven. Surrender your life, your friends, and your family, to that God who hath said, The children of his servants shall continue, and their seed shall be established before him. *- Leave thy fatherless children, I will preserve them alive; and let thy widows trust in me. t
I HAVE thus shown what the import is, and what the improvement should be, of the doctrine of the text, that our times are in the hand of God. It asserts a fact, the truth of which can be called in question by none; a fact which, whether persons have any sentiments of religion or not, is calculated to make a serious impression on every mind; especially at seasons when the revolution of years gives us warning that our duration on earth is measured, and advances toward its period. To persons who are religiously disposed, who study to improve life to its proper purposes, to do their duty towards God and man, and through the merits of their Redeemer to ob
*Psalm cii. 28.
+ Jeremiah, xlix. 11.