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SERMON but on many occasions they seem to be The ray of light which we had traced for a while, suddenly forsakes us ; and, where we had looked for the continuance of order, we meet with confusion and disappointment. For instance; when we examine the constitution of the human mind, we discern evident marks of its being framed with a view to favour and reward virtue. Conscience is endowed with signal authority to check vice. It brings home uneasiness and remorse to the bad; and it sooths and supports the righteous with selfapprobation and peace. The ordinary course of human things is made to coincide in some degree with this constitution of our The worthy and the good are, in general, honoured and esteemed. He that walketh uprightly is, for the most part, found to walk surely. The chief misfortunes that befal us in life can be traced to some vices or follies which we have committed; and it almost never happens but the sinner's own wickedness is made, sooner
or later, to reprove him, and his backslidings
to correct him.
All this carries the impress of a just
Providence, of a wise and a benevolent SERMON administration of the universe. not avoid perceiving that the Almighty hath set his throne for judgment. At the same time, when we pursue our enquiries, the Almighty appears to hold back the face of his throne, and to spread his cloud upon it*. For in looking abroad into the world, how many scenes do we behold which are far from corresponding with any ideas we could form of the government of Heaven? Many nations of the earth we see lying in a state of barbarity and misery; sunk in such gross ignorance as degrades them below the rank of rational beings; or abandoned to be the prey of cruel oppression and tyranny. When we look to the state of individuals around us, we hear the lamentations of the unhappy on every hand. We meet with weeping parents, and mourning friends. behold the young cut off in the flower of their days, and the aged left desolate in the midst of sorrows. The useful and virtuous are swept away, and the worth
* Job, xxvi. 9.
SERMON less left to flourish. The lives of the best men are often filled with discouragements and disappointed hopes. Merit languishes in neglected solitude; and vanity and presumption gain the admiration of the world. From the From the scourge of calumny, and from the hand of violence, the injured look up to God as the Avenger of their cause; but often they look up in vain. He is a God that bideth himself. He dwelleth, as to them, in the secret place of darkness; or, if he dwelleth in light, it is in light to which no man can approach. Resignation may seal up their lips; but in silence they drop the tear and mourn while they adore,
SUCH, it must not be dissembled, are the difficulties which encounter us when we attempt to trace the present ways of God. At the same time, upon reflection, we may be satisfied that causes can be assigned for things appearing in this unfavourable light; and that there is no reason to be surprised at the divine conduct being mysterious at present.
The monarchy of the universe is a great SERMON and complicated system. It comprehends numberless generations of men, who are brought forth to act their parts for purposes unknown to us. It includes two worlds at once; the world that now is, and which is only a small portion of existence; and a world that is to come, which endures for eternity. To us, no more than the beginnings of things are visible. We see only some broken parts of a great whole. We trace but a few links of that chain of being, which, by secret connections, binds together the present and the future. Such knowledge is afforded us as is sufficient for supplying the exigencies and wants of our present state; but it does no more. Peeping abroad from a dark corner of the universe, we attempt in vain to explore the counsels that govern the world. It is an attempt to sound an unfathomable deep with a scanty line; and with a feeble wing to ascend above the stars. In any complicated work, even of human art, it is found necessary to be acquainted with the design of the whole, in order to judge
SERMON of the fitness of its parts. In a scheme
so complex as the administration of the world, where all the parts refer to one another, and where what is seen is often subordinate to what is invisible, how is it possible but our judgments must be often erroneous, and our complaints ill-founded? If a peasant or a cottager be incapable of judging of the government of a mighty. empire, is it surprising that we should be at a loss concerning the conduct of the Almighty towards his creatures? What I do, thou knowest not now.
BUT, on this argument still more can be said for our satisfaction. We are to observe, that complete information respecting the ways of God, not only was not to be expected here; but, moreover, that it would have been hurtful, if granted to us in our present state. It would have proved inconsistent with that state; with the actions which we have to perform in it, and the duties we have to falfil. It would indeed have overthrown the whole design of our being placed in this world, We are placed here un