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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. +
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.
tain grace and favour from heaven, the doctrine of the text is still more important. Among them it tends to awaken impressions which are not only serious, but, as I have shown, salutary and comforting to the heart. Thankful that our times are in the hand of a sovereign, who is both wise and gracious, let us prepare ourselves to meet the approaching events of life with becoming resignation, and at the same time with manly constancy and firm trust in God. As long as it shall please him to continue our abode in the world, let us remain faithful to our duty : and when it, shall please him to give the command for our removal hence, let us utter only this voice: “In thy “ hand, O my God, my times are. Thou art calling “ me away. Here I am ready to obey thy call, and " at thy signal to go forth. I thank thee that I « have been admitted to partake so long of the « comforts of life, and to be a spectator of the wis“ dom and goodness displayed in thy works. I thank “ thee that thou hast borne so long with my infirmi“ ties and provocations; hast allowed me to look “.up to thy promises in the gospel, and to hear " the words of eternal life uttered by my great • Redeemer. With gratitude, faith, and hope, I “ cominit my soul to thee, Lord, now lettest thou “ thy servant depart in peace ; for mine eyes have seen “ thy salvation.” Such are the sentiments with which every pious and good man should conclude hiş life. Such indeed are the sentiments which he ought to carry through every part of life. With these may we begin, and with these conclude, every succeeding year which God shall think fit to add to our earthly existence.
On the Mixture of BAD MEN with the Good in
MATTH. xiii. 30.
Let both grow together until the harvest.
THE parable of which these words are a part,
contains a prophetical description of the state of the church. Our Lord predicts that the societies of Christians were to be infected with persors of loose principles and bad dispositions, whom he likens to tares springing up among wheat. He intimates that there should arise some whose officious zeal would prompt the desire of exterminating immediately all such evil men; but that this were contrary to the designs of Providence, and to the spirit of Christianity; that a complete separation was indeed to be made at last between the good and the bad ; but that this separation was to be delayed till the end of the world, when, in the style of the parable, the tares should be entirely gathered out from among the wheat. Let both grow together until the harvest.
When we look around us, nothing is more conspicuous in the state of the world than that broad mixture of the religious and the impious, the virtuous and the wicked, which we find taking place
in every society. Strong objections seem hence to arise against either the wisdom or goodness of divine Providence: especially when we behold bad men not only tolerated in the world, but occasionally exalted in their circumstances, to the depression of the just. Why, it will be said, if a Supreme Being exist, and if his justice rule the universe, does he allow such infamous persons as the records of history often present, to have a place, and even to make a figure in his world? Why sleeps the thunder idle in his hand, when it could so easily blast them? What shall we think of one who, having the power of exterminating them always at his command, permits them to proceed without disturbance; itay, sometimes appears to look on them with complacency?It becomes highly worthy of our attention to 'consider what answer can be made to these objections ; to inquire whether any reasons can be given that serve to justify this dispensation of Providence, in allowing a mixture of bad men to continue on the face of the earth until the end of time. This inquiry shall make the subject of the present discourse, together with such reflections as naturally arise from surveying the state of human affairs.
But, before entering directly on such inquiry, it may
be proper to take notice, that in our estimation of who are the good, who are the bad, we are often in hazard of committing mistakes. The real characters of men are known only to God. They frequently depend on the secret and unseen parts of life. As in judging of themselves men are always partial, so in judging of others they often err, through