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observed and lamented the mutability of all earthly things; and we need only keep our eyes and our ears open, to learn this truth, by some fresh example, every day we live.
How often do we see riches make unto themselves wings, and fiy away as an eagle towards heaven? What a variety of accidents may suddenly deprive a man of all his substance, and reduce him to the lowest state of poverty and want? A storm at fea, or a fire at land, will in a few hours consume the labours of many years : and he who, whilft I speak, poffefseth plenty of all things, and promiseth himself a long succession of prosperous days, may, before to-morrow's sun, find himself stripped of all his substance, and obliged to depend upon the bounty of others for the commón necessaries of life. How many, who boasted that their mountain stood strong, have suddenly been thrown down from the highest pinacle of power and greatness ? Even princes, when they least dreamt of it, have been forced to exchange their palace for a prison ; and have learnt, by fad experience, that crowns are but tottering emblems of power, and that royalty itself hath no exemption from the
vicissitude of fublunary things. Reputation and friends, health and all bodily advantages, yea reason, with all the endowments of the mind, are so uncertain and mutable, that no man can promise on the possession of them. The fairest character may be sullied with the breath of calumny; our friends may prove false, or abandon us through mistake ; or, when they are faithful, and in all respects comfortable to us, yet death may snatch them from us, one after another, till we are in a manner left folitary in the midst of the earth. Health and strength, and whatever else belongs to the body, are of all things the least durable, and the most subject to change. Life itself is but a vapour, which, for any thing we know, may vanish into air the very next breath we draw. We see frequently also, that the mind, as well as the body, is liable to many fad disasters. In some men, the intellectual powers are so blunted and impaired, that they seem to be almost totally extinguished; and, in others, so strangely disordered, that, instead of being of use to them, they serve only to render them more completely wretched. In a word, our condition upon earth is liable
to continual alteration, and there is nothing we can be secure of, so much as for one moment. How foolish, then, are they who promise themselves any durable happiness in this world ? Such persons may truly be said to build their house upon the sand; and though, perhaps, they may be allowed to raise it to some height, yet, ere long, some sudden unforeseen storm shall lay it in ruins, and bury all their vain expectations under it.
But what I would chiefly observe upon this head is, that frequently the people of God are exercised with the severest trials, and meet with the sharpest afflictions while they remain upon earth. For this mutability of the creatures, is not the effect of chance, but of design. God thereby designs to render all those inexcufable, who choose them for their portion : and when his own children are in danger of being ensnared by them, he pulls them, as it were, with violence out of their hands, that they may beware of contracting too close an alliance with them in future. He will not suffer them to continue long in so dangerous an error; and he sends the rod to undeceive them : he frequently repeats the stroke, to
remind them that they are only sojourners in a strange land, and to quicken their desires for their Father's house above ; for their Father's house, where alone they shall have fullness of joy, and pleasures for evermore. ..
2dly, As the inconftancy of the creatures is here supposed, so this promise necessarily implies, that the presence of God with his people is a sufficient ground of confolation in every state and condition of life. David was senfible of this, when he said, in the 23d Pfalm, “ Though I walk through the valley of the « Ihadow of death, I will fear no evil, for “ thou art with me:" and upon the same principle, the Prophet Habakkuk triumphs in name of the church. “ Although the fig-tree “ shall not blossom, neither shall there be fruit “ in the vines, the labour of the olive shall “ fail, and the fields shall yield no meat, the “ flock shall be cut off from the fold, and 66 there shall be no herd in the stalls; yet “ will I rejoice in the Lord, I will joy in the • God of my salvation."
We read in the book of Daniel, that after Nebuchadnezzar the king had caused Shadrach, Melhech, and Abednego, to be cast into the burning fiery furnace, he was astonished, and rose up in haste, and said unto his counsellors, “ Did not we cast three men “ bound into the midst of the fire ? And lo, “ I fee four men loose, walking in the midst “ of the fire, and they have no hurt: and the “ form of the fourth is like the Son of God.” Is there a man who reads this passage, that does not prefer the condition of these captives, • to all the splendours of the Babylonish throne ? How little does the trembling monarch seem, though surrounded with his counsellors? How glorious do the three young Jews appear, whilst walking amidst flames with their God and Saviour ? How would they rejoice in this exalted privilege ? And yet, my brethren, all the faints who have God really present with them, although they cannot see him with their bodily eyes, have equal cause to rejoice in the midst of tribulation. For if God be with them, then he is with them who is infinitely wise, who is perfectly acquainted with all their wants, and can never be at a loss to know what is good for them. He is with them who is infinitely powerful, and can eafily perform whatever his unerring wisdom