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ward in heaven. He will not have his progress stopped, his journey interrupted. I will not say that no case of public provocation can happen which would move him ; but it must be a case clear and strong, it must be a species of necessity. He will not stir until he see a great and good end to be attained, and not indeed a certain, because nothing in human life is so, but a rational and practicable way of attaining it. Nothing extravagant, nothing chimerical, nothing in any considerable degree doubtful, will be deemed a sufficient reason with him for hazarding the loss of that tranquillity in which he earnestly, for himself at least, desires to pass the days of his sojourning here upon earth. Then as to all ambitious, aspiring views, which are the great annoyance of public peace and order, they are killed and excluded in the heart of a Christian. If he have any ambition, it is the silent ambition of pleasing his Maker. If he aspire to any thing, it is the hope, and yet even that a humble and subdued hope, of salvation after his death. That religion, therefore, by its proper nature generates in the heart a disposition, though never adverse, but always friendly to public order and to good government, inasmuch as public order cannot be maintained in the world without it, is, I think, a general and plain truth, and is confirmed by experience, as well as dictated by reason, for although the name and pretence of religion, have at divers times been made the name and pretence of sedition and of unjustifiable insurrection against established authority, religion never was.
But secondly; religion is not only a source and support of national happiness, but the only source and support to be relied on. I mean, that there arise such vicissitudes and revolutions in human affairs, that nothing but this can be expected to remain or is adapted to the changes which the course of this world is sure to bring along with it. To expect always to continue in health would be a most unreasonable expectation in any man living; and to possess a temper of mind which would be pleased and easy whilst we were well, but which could bear neither pain nor sickness, would be a very unsuitable temper, a very poor provision of spirits to go through the world with. It is just so in civil life. To be quiet whilst all things go on well; to be pleased in prosperity ; not to complain when we thrive ; not to murmur or accuse amidst affluence and plenty, is a state of mind insufficient to meet the exigences of human affairs. Great varieties and alterations, both of personal and natural condition, will inevitably take place. Rich men will become poor, and the poor will become distressed ; and this whatever
eek of profits of for a very empen
course of prosperity a nation seeks. If a people go into trade and manufactures, innumerable accidents will fall out in the circumstances either of the country itself, or of other countries with which it is connected, for it depends upon them also, that must check and interrupt the progress and extent of its commerce. No wisdom hath ever yet been able to prevent these changes, or ever can. If the cultivation of the soil be more followed, and trade less so; still, though the public security be greater, the security of individuals is not greater. A harsh season, a storm, a flood, a week or even a day of unfavorable weather, may spoil the hopes and profits of a year. Disappointments therefore, and losses, and those to a very great extent, will happen to many. Now there is but one temper which can prepare the mind for changes in our worldly affairs, and that is the temper which Christianity inspires. The Christian regards prosperity at all times, not only as subject to constant peril and uncertainty, but even at the best, and in its securest state, if any state of prosperity can be called secure, regards it as an inferior object of his solicitude ; inferior to a quiet conscience, inferior to the most humble endeavours to please God, and infinitely inferior to the prospect of future salvation. The consequence of viewing worldly prosperity in this light, which is the safest and truest light in which it can be seen, is, that the Christian uses it when it falls to his lot with moderation ; considers it as a trust, as a talent committed to him; as adding to his anxiety, and increasing his obligation to do good, and thereby bringing with it a burden and accountableness which almost overbalances its value. And for the same reason that he uses the good things of life temperately and cautiously whilst they are his, he parts from them, or sees the diminution of them, with equanimity. When he had them, he was far from inaking or considering them as instruments of luxury, indulgence, or ostentation ; least of all, of intemperance and excess. Now therefore that he has them not, he has none of those pernicious gratifications to resign. Whatever be a man's worldly estate, a true Christian sees in it a state of probation, of trial, of preparation, of passage. If it be a state of wealth and plenty, it is only that, if it be a state of adversity, it is still the same. The only difference is, whether he come at last' out of the fire,' tried by the temptations of prosperity or by the strokes of misfortune and the visitations of want; and he who acquits himself as he ought in one condition, will be equally accepted and equally approved as he who acquits himself as he ought in the other. We are wont to admire the
rich man who conducts himself with humility and liberality, studying to spread and diffuse happiness and goodness around him; and he is deserving of praise and admiration. But I must be allowed to say, that the poor man, who, in trying circumstances, in times of hardship and difficulty, carries himself through with patience, sobriety, and industry, and, so far as he can, with contentment and cheerfulness, is a character not at all beneath the other in real merit; not less entitled to the esteem of good men ; but whether he receive that or otherwise, not less entitled to hope for the final favor of God.
Having seen, therefore, how beneficially religion acts upon personal characters and personal happiness, it only remains to point out how, through the medium of personal character, it influences public welfare.
Disputes may and have been carried on, both with good and with evil intentions, about forms and constitutions of government; but one thing in the controversy appears clear, that no constitution can suit bad men, men without virtue and without religion ; because, let such men live under what government they will, the case with them must ever be this; if they be born to, or happen to meet with greatness and riches, they fall into dissipation, dissoluteness, and debauchery, and then, if either the experience of vice, or any accident of fortune, de prives them of the means of continuing their courses, they become desperately miserable, and being so, are ready to promote any mischief or any confusion. On the contrary, let power and authority be granted to honest and religious men, they exercise that power without hurting any one, without breaking in upon any reasonable enjoyment, or any reasonable freedom; without either plundering the rich, or grinding the poor; by affording a protection to one as well as the other equally strong and equally prompt, and, so far as human means can do it, or as civil institutions can do it, by rendering both happy in their stations.
And that knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep, for
now is our salvation nearer than when we believed.
I HAVE made choice of this text, both because I always thought it a solemn and affecting piece of scripture, and because it appears well calculated to raise in us a train of reflections suitable to the beginning of a new year. The apostle, we observe, is speaking to converts; that is, to those who were converted from Heathenism to Christianity, after they were come to years of discretion. Some of these, it is probable, did not at once change their course of life with their religion, but continued in that state of sin and sensuality, of insensibility to the calls of conscience and duty, which St Paul frequently terms a state of sleep, of night, and of darkness.
The apostle, in the text, tells them if they did not when they first believed, when they first took up the profession of Christianity, awaken out of their former sleep, out of their negligence and security about their conduct, it is now, at least, high time that they should ; 'for now is our salvation nearer than when we believed.' A length of time has elapsed; we are drawing considerably nearer to the term and period which is to fix our everlasting destiny, than when we first embraced the faith of Christ. It has been supposed, and with probability, that St Paul expected the coming of Christ to be not far off, and this expression now is our salvation nearer,'alluded to that coming, which being, as they thought, to happen soon, now drew sensibly nearer every day. These two particularities, the computing the date from the time that they became converts, and their expecting the coming of Christ to take place soon, though they clear up the meaning of the words, do not make them so strictly and precisely applicable to us; but the general doctrine, the great and solemn admonition contained in them, is still as much for us to lay to heart, as suitable to our circumstances and religious condition, as it was to theirs to whom the letter was written. The time of any man's death is to him the time of his salvation ; that is, the time when his destiny in another life is fixed; and we are
taught by the text to reflect that we are hastening very fast to that period, that every year draws us sensibly and considerably nearer to it. Then for this reason it is high time, if we have not already done it, to awake out of sleep; to shake off that dulness and insensibility to religious matters which cleaves to our souls; to rouse ourselves to virtue and to action; to have done with these wild and distempered dreams of worldly pleasures and pursuits, which have hitherto influenced us, and to open our eyes, as one just awake from a sleep, to views of heaven and of hell, to a sight of our real business in this world, to making sure of a favorable sentence at the day of judgment.
This meditation I think extremely suitable to the beginning of a new year, One year more, my brethren, has brought us nearer to our salvation, nearer to the term that is to fix us for ever. We now enter upon another year, and it surely is a proper opportunity to pause; to consider for a while whence we came, where we are, whither we are going, what we are about, what we have to look for.
And first, they who suffer year after year to pass over their heads without any serious thoughts, or any serious endeavours after their immortal interests, know or consider little what a year is. A year is a very material portion of the whole time we have for our work. We talk of seventy or eighty years; but how few ever reach that number! The youngest, the strongest, the healthiest man living cannot be allowed to reckon upon more than thirteen or fourteen years; I mean, in worldly transactions. The very best life, and one in the very bloom and vigor of age, is not expected to be much more than that ; for the generality of us, that is, for five out of six of all who are not the youngest, not half that. Let it then sink into our thoughts that a year is probably the sixth or the seventh part of all the term we have before us; that a year neglected is one step lost or gone backward in the business of salvation, and that such steps are but few. And it may show us the value and the consequence of a single year to look back upon the last, to recollect what changes it has made, what alterations it has produced in our neighbourhood, or amongst our acquaintance; that, of those with whom we have met together, sat, and conversed, several are gone down into the grave; that the time of trial is over with them, the opportunity of salvation closed and finished forever ; that death is abroad and amongst us; that our turn is near, that it cannot be distant; that when we see what one year has produced around us, we cannot but reflect in many ways what another may bring to ourselves. Is this a time to