Imágenes de páginas
[ocr errors]

and who, though - all nations before him are as nothing, less than nothing, and vanity ;” and though all the whole world is not sufficient for one offering to him, yet condescends, kind Father that he is, to instruct man, and to “ say unto him, Behold, the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom, and to depart from evil is understanding

The second book for us to read is that of Providence. The doctrine of providence, like that of creation, is abundantly taught in the Holy Scriptures; and our Saviour represents God in Providence, under what I will venture to call his favourite notion of God, the idea of a Father. 6 One sparrow shall not fall on the ground, without

your Father: your Father knoweth that ye have need of meat, and drink, and clothing." Let it not seem strange to you, that God is considered as the friend of a sparrow ; for it is no more beneath the majesty of God to provide for a mean animal, than it is for him to create it.

If you would attend to this subject properly, you must distinguish two sorts of providence; the one I cail natural, the other moral : but I will explain myself. By natural providence, I mean that wise care which God hath taken so to dispose all his works, as to make them produce the end for which they were created, which respects all things that do not come under the description of good and bad, righteous and wicked. There is a dependence of one thing upon another, like links in a chain, among all the creatures in the world. These words of Hosea will explain my meaning : “ The Lord saith, I will hear the heavens, and they shall hear the earth, and the earth shall hear the corn, and the wine, and the oil; and they shall hear Jezreel.” Jezreel is either the son of the prophet, or the inhabitants of a place called Jezreel. The health and strength, the rest and the lives of these people depended on corn, and wine, and oil. Corn and wine and oil depended on the earth; the earth depended on the heavens, that is, the dew, the air; the sun ; and all these depended upon God; and on this account the Lord calls all the productions of the earth his own. 66 She did not know that I gave her corn, and wine, and oil, and multiplied her silver and gold”—she said, “ my lovers give me my bread and my water, my wool and my flax"_but I the Lord will


return, and take away my corn and my wine, and will recover my wool and my fax;" and by so doing, I will instruct these ignorant and forgetful children, that I the bud of the tender herb to spring” forth; that I am the “ Father of the rain,” the Author of "the drops of the dew," the Creator of ice, the Parent of the “hoary frost of heaven,” and of all the powers and productions of the world. This is the wisdom which Solomon sent the sluggard to an ant-hill to learn ; and it is on supposition that we observe these things, that the Scriptures direct us to consider how lilies grow, how ravens live, and what attention oxen and asses pay to their owners. This should teach us to be humane and kind to animals, because animals have no depravity, the peacock no pride, the horse no malice, the bee no anger; the fowls that take your seed do not steal it; the cattle that break your fences have no guilt for doing so; for they have a charter, which says, “1, God, have given every herb, and every tree to you for meat; and to every beast of the earth, and to every fowl of the air, and to every thing that creepeth upon the earth wherein there is life, I have given every green herb for meat :” but “let man have dominion over them” all. You, little boys, while I think of it, let me give you a lesson. Do not make yourselves sport with what gives other creatures pain. Do not torment and kill frogs, birds, and flies. You would not, I sure, hack, and chop, and torture my horse, or my cow, my milch-ass, or my chickens, because they are mine ; and though you may not love them, yet you would not hurt them for love of me. Remember, my good boys, all live creatures belong to Almighty God, and he will be displeased with you if you hurt them. When you become men, you will know that some animals, like some men, must be put to death for the safe y of the rest ; but none are put to death, except such as do mischief to others; and the way for you to come to that end is to learn, by tormenting and killing animals, how in time to pluck up your hearts, and murder men.

By moral Providence, I mean that connexion which God hath established between virtue and happiness, vice and misery ; and by which he discovers himself the just pro



tector of goodness, and the punisher of wickedness. Gluttony, drunkenness, and debauchery, are attended with diseases, and often death itself. Envy, malice, and revenge, are productive of uneasiness, guilt, and shame. Conscience makes man happy when he does right, and miserable when he does wrong; and it is here, in the heart, that you are to look for this kind of government of God, and not in the outward circumstances of your neighbours. In some cases, it is not in the power of outward calamities to make a man unhappy! in other cases, the stings of conscience are so piercing and keen, that it is not in the power of all the wealth and splendor in the world to make a man happy. Do not judge of this moral order by the stroke of a thunderbolt, the falling of the tower in Siloam, the cruelty of Pilate to the Galileans : but look at the king of an hundred and twenty-seven provinces, who could not command one night's rest. Look at the king walking in his palace, and saying, “is not this great Babylon, that I have built for the honour of my majesty ??! See his pride distracts him ; he is 6 driven from men, and eats grass like an ox."

Observe the restlessness of cruel Pharaoh, the convulsions of carousing Belshazzar, the distress of treacherous Saul, and the despair of covetous Judah. So true is that saying, whether we see it or not; “ The wicked man travelleth with pain all his days; a dreadful sound is in. his ears; trouble and anguish prevail against him, as a king ready to the battle ; and he knoweth that the day of darkness is ready at his hand.” All these discover God as the Father and Friend of piety, justice, and benevolence; and so a “ Father of the fatherless," and the husband of the desolate widow. So the 66 poor hath hope, and iniquity stoppeth her mouth."

The third book is literally that of Scripture. My brethren, know the worth of this book ; it

may serve to


for a life of uncommon length, a genius of uncommon penetration, and an experience of uncommon exertion. The Bible, as a history, makes you acquainted with the substance of all that passed in the world worth remembering, for the space of four thousand years, and upwards. By acquainting yourselves with this history, you will seem to be alive with Adam, to outlive the flood, to travel with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; to go down into Egypt, to come out through the wilderness and Red Sea with Moses, to sit with the Judges, to reign with Solomon, to weep in captivity with Ezekiel, to return to Judea with Nehemiah, to see John the Baptist, to hear Jesus Christ, and to go with his apostles over various countries. By acquainting yourselves with this book, you will understand a thousand subjects, which otherwise you could never know. You will sit in the councils of princes, dive into the designs of armies, see through the temples of idols, behold the various modes of worshipping the true God; yea, you will be admitted into the councils of God, and know the thoughts of peace he thinks towards you."

By acquainting yourselves with this, you will have all the benefit, without the pain of experiment. All the trials of Solomon to make himself happy in creatures ; all the trial of Jonah to protect himself in disobedience to God; all the exercises of Job under affliction, and of David in raptures of devotion"; all the pain of Peter when he fell ; and all the pleasure of Paul under persecution; all these will be yours : advantages which a long life, a fine genius, and a thousand trials could not have procured you. If you attend properly to this book, I am confident you will say, 6 these things were our examples, to the intent we should not lust after evil things, as they lusted,”? One will say, “ I will not be an idolater, as were some of them; as it is written,-The people sat down to eat and drink, and rose up to play :” another will say, I will “not commit fornication, as some of them committed, and fell in one day three and twenty thousand :" a third will say, I will not tempt Christ, as some of them tempted, and were destroyed of serpents :" a fourth will say, I will not murmur, as some of them also murmured and were destroyed of the destroyer." In every period of this history, God seems to say of each of us, wilt thou not, from this time, cry unto me, My Father, thou art the guide of my youth? Thou shalt call me, My Father, and shalt not turn away from me.

The last book, in which you may read the favour and friendship of God, is Jesus Christ, whose person indeed is in heaven; but who, by his history, contained in the four


Gospels, may be said, in some sense, to be living, and walking, and preaching among us. I am sorry to say,

the coming of such a person, on such an errand, into this world, supposes that we were ignorant, wicked, and idle children. Such children might well be afraid to go home at night to a father, whom they could not but know they had grievously offended. Our heavenly Father knew this, and 56 so loved the world, that he sent his only begotten Son, the brightness of his glory,” to calm our fears ; his own exact likeness, as far as man could represent God, to publish his eternal love to his abandoned family, and to declare, that whosoever believed in Jesus Christ, how poor, how wicked, how wretched soever he had been, need not be afraid of the gloom of death, and the midnight of eternity, but should have everlasting life.” Such good news, so undeserved, and so far beyond the manner of man, demanded proof of an extraordinary kind; and this proof Jesus Christ gave by fulfilling prophecy, and working miraeles; which he wrought not for the sake of ostentation, but to fix beyond a doubt, in this forlorn world, full and everlasting proof of the truth of his doctrine. Draw near to this express image of God, ye ignorant and disobedient children! See, in his eyes, how the God of thụnder, and lightning, and terror, will look at you. Behold, you are the prodigal son, and he is the Father,

who sees

and 5 has compassion, and runs and falls on your neck, and kisses you, and says, Bring forth the best robe, and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet; and bring hither the fatted calf, and kill it, and let us eat and be merry; for this my son was dead, and is alive again ; he was lost, and is found.” Do not say, this is an old history of what was done eighteen hundred years ago: no such thing, it is a history of all ages, and hath been doing every day, from the time in which 6 the voice of the Lord God walked in the garden of Eden in the cool of the day, and said unto Adam, where art thou? Hast thou eaten of the tree whereof I commanded thee that thou shouldest not eat ?" Did the serpent beguile thee? 66 Cursed be the serpent above all cattle : but the seed of the woman shall bruise the serpent's head.” Every penįtent, convicted in his own conscience, and returning to


« AnteriorContinuar »