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than on extent of capacity. For the most part, the first sentiment which strikes a good man, concerning what he ought or ought not to do, is the soundest, and suggests the best and wisest counsel. When he hesitates, and begins to deliberate how far his duty, or his honour, can be reconciled to what seems his interest, he is on the point of deviating into a dangerous path. At the same time, it is of great consequence, that he who seeks to surrender his conduct to the direction of integrity, should be well apprized of what true integrity requires. Let him guard against burdening conscience unnecessarily; lest asuperstitious regard to trifles lead him to relax in matters of higher obligation. Let him avoid minute scrupulosity, on the one hand. Let him keep at a distance from loose casuistry, on the other. But when he is satisfied that his conscience has been well informed, let him, without wavering, adhere to its dictates in the whole of his conduct. This will prove the truest wisdom both for this world and the next. For he who walketh uprightly, walketh surely. The path of the just is as the shining light: And it shall shine more and more unto the perfect day.

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JOB, ii. 10.

Shall we receive good at the hand of God, and shall we not receive evil?

FEW subjects of religious exhortation are of more general concern, than those which respect the distresses incident to human life. For no society, no family, no person, can expect to be long exempted from them; and when we speak of the prosperous, we can only mean those who are more rarely subject to them than others. Now, under those distresses, religion performs two offices: it teaches us how we ought to bear them; and it assists us in thus bearing them. Materials for both are found in the words of the text, which contain a sentiment so natural and just, as to carry conviction to every reasonable mind. They were the words of Job, at a time when, to his other calamities, this domestic affliction was added, that one who ought to have assuaged and soothed his sorrows, provoked his indignation by an impious speech. Thou speakest, Job replies, as one of the foolish women speaketh: What! shall we receive good at the hand of God, and shall we not receive evil? Three instructions naturally arise from the text: First, That this life is a mixed state of good and evil Secondly, That both the goods and the evils in it proceed from God: And, thirdly, That there

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are just reasons for our receiving with patience the evils of life, from the same hand which bestows its goods.


I. THIS life is a mixed state of good and evil. This is a matter of fact, which will be denied by none, and on which it is not necessary to bestow much illustration. It is evident to the slightest inspection, that nothing here is unallayed and pure. Every man's state is chequered with alternate griefs and joys, disappointment and success. No condition is altogether stable. No life preserves always the same tenor. The vicissitudes of the world sometimes bring forward the afflicted into more comfortable circumstances; and often trouble the joy of the prosperous. This is the train in which human affairs have ever been found to proceed; and in which we may expect them always to go on.


But though this be universally admitted in speculation, and often confessed in discourse, the misfortune is, that few think of applying it to their own The bulk of mankind discover as much confidence in prosperity, and as much impatience under the least reverse, as if Providence had first given them assurance that their prosperity was never to change, and afterwards had cheated their hopes. Whereas, what reason ought to teach us, is to adjust our mind to the mixed state in which we find ourselves placed; never to presume, never to despair; to be thankful for the goods which at present we enjoy, and to expect the evils that may succeed. Thou hast been admitted to partake of the feast of life. Its good things are distributed, in various portions, among the guests. Thou hast had thine allotted

share. Complain not when thy portion is removed. It is not permitted to any one, to remain always at the banquet.


II. WE are taught by the text, that both the goods and the evils which compose this mixed state, come from the hand of God. A little reflection may convince us, that, in God's world, neither good nor evil can happen by chance. If there were any one. moment, in which God quitted the reins of the universe, and suffered any power to interfere with his administration, it is evident, that, from that moment, the measures of his government must become disjointed and incomplete. He who governs all things, must govern continually; and govern the least things as well as the greatest. He never slumbers, nor sleeps: There are no void spaces, no broken plans, in his administration; no blessings that dre upon us without his intention; nor any crosses that visit us, unsent by him. I am the Lord, and there is nonė else. I form the light, and create darkness. I make peace, and create evil. I the Lord do all these things. *


How it has come to pass, that this life should contain such a mixture of goods and evils, and that the mixture too should be of God's appointment, gives rise to a difficult enquiry. For how can any thing but what is good proceed from the God of love? Can darkness issue from the source of light? or can it be any satisfaction to the Father of mercies to behold the sorrows of creatures whom he has made ? -Here there was room for much perplexity, till revela

* Isaiah, xlv. 6, 7.

tion informed us, that the mixture of evils in man's estate is owing to man himself. Had he continued as God originally made him, he would have received nothing but good from his Creator. His apostacy and corruption opened the gates of the tabernacle of darkness. Misery issued forth, and has ever since pursued him. In the present condition of his nature, that misery is partly punishment, partly trial. He is become incapable of bearing uninterrupted prosperity; and by the mixture of evils in his lot, merciful designs are carried on for his improvement and restoration.

What the text leads us at present to consider is,: the effect that will follow from imitating the example of Job, and referring to the hand of the Almighty, the evils which we suffer, as well as the goods which we enjoy. Such a reference of the distressful events of our life to the appointment of Heaven, not only is a duty which piety requires, but tends also to mitigate distress, and to suggest consolation. For to dwell, as is too commonly done upon the instruments and subordinate means of our trouble, is frequently the cause of much grief, and much sin. When we view our sufferings as proceeding merely from our fellowcreatures, the part which they have acted in bringing them upon us, is often more grating than the suffering itself. The unreasonableness, perhaps, of an enemy, the treachery of a friend, the ingratitude or insolence of one whom we had much obliged, add weight to a load laid upon us by means so provoking. The thoughts of their malignity, or of our own neglect in guarding against it, serve to poison the sore. Whereas, if, instead of looking to men, we behold the cross as coming from God, these


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