תמונות בעמוד

meet within the circle of this brief term ; and if we knew all that passed in the world during the rapid flight of twelve short months, we should not be a little astonished to observe how every moment is marked by the vicissitudes of time and circumstance. There is not an instant in which anguish, affliction and misery, are not scattering their ravages among the sons of men. They labour without ceasing to hurl down the flimsy structures of temporal felicity, and to prove to man that his best hopes are to be extended to, and can only be realized in, a world beyond the present. Their correction is indeed severe, but it is, at the same time, always more or less salutary.

By the evils of life are frequently “ chastened unto the day of redemption.” They often withdraw us from the vanities of this fugitive scene, and exaltour minds to the endless realities of eternity. We may generally look upon our sorrows here but as bitter medicaments that shall finally impart a healthful energy to the soul for the enjoyment of its everlasting inheritance.

The flux of a single year furnishes us with a lesson full of interest and information. The rapidity of its progress leaves upon the mind a solemn impression of the speed of time, and consequently of its value. It suggests to us that every moment must be important, because we


have much to do in the few that shall be, at the most, allotted to us. It further instigates our diligence in the security of our eternal interests, because we know not how soon we may be summoned to that “land of darkness and of the shadow of death, which is without order, and where the light is as darkness," since our condition in time, as well as in eternity, is in the hand of God, and none but Omnipotence can tell how soon we may be called from the one to enter into the other. “ Man knoweth not when it shall be, for who can tell him when it shall be?" At the end of every year we ought therefore at least to be wiser, and we ought surely to be better; because in the one case our experience has been encreased; in the other the time of our pilgrimage has diminished; and surely the nearer we approach its termination, the more assiduous should we be in preparing for an eternal futurity. But it is time that we should begin to consider the text in detail.

First, then, we shall infer from it that in this dependant condition mere human means can never be adequate to realize any certain end. For, secondly, events do not depend upon the provisions wbich we make to produce or obstruct them. Thirdly, that as we have no control over time, so can we have only a relative, and no positive, control over any thing that may occur in time. Fourthly, that happiness in this life is not necessarily associated with any of those external circumstances which are so often and so earnestly desired as a presumed means of establishing it. And lastly, as a conclusion from these four propositions, I shall consider, that therefore contentment with such things as we have, and as divine Providence, in his wisdom, shall think fit for us, is the best mode of securing that happiness here, which is only the incipient progress towards our happiness hereafter. These several subjects I propose, with God's blessing, to extend through this and next Sunday mornings' discourse, and shall confine myself therefore on the present occasion to the two first portions of the subject.

I observed in the former of these that, in this dependant condition, mere human means can never be adequate to realize any certain ends. “Paul planted, Apollos watered," but it was God that gave “ the encrease.” Without Him, in fact, we can do nothing but what is evil. In worldly matters merely, the issue of our most strenuous exertions seldom, perhaps never, comes up to our expectations; and how often does it fall very far below them ? The end, moreover, even supposing we obtain it, which is always uncertain, can in no one instance be proportionate to the means employed, where

God is not propitiated in the exercise of those means; "for what is a man profited if he gain the whole world and lose his own soul ?" If therefore a man“ lose his own soul,” though he happen "to gain the whole world,” the end cannot be proportioned to the means, when, by the application of the same means, with the divine aid, he might have procured salvation. We shall recollect that in his attempt to gain, he may lose the whole world and his own soul together ; because the acquisition of the one does not solely depend upon his exertions, though the loss of the other certainly will upon his neglect; and no man can attend to the salvation of his soul who absorbs all his time in endeavouring to gain the world,

The insufficiency of human means, as applied to our external circumstances in this life, arises from their insecurity, and is also a natural consequence of the incapacity of our minds to trace any thing beyond the past; for the present is simply that delicate line of division betwixt the past and future, which preserves the necessary link of connexion between them ; but which is in itself, strictly considered as a portion of duration, so imperceptibly minute as to defy the most ready acuteness of thought to trace and detain it. Whilst our foresight is baffled by that darkened mirror of uncertainty through which only we can look into the dim and secluded

future, we are not of course in a capacity to provide against any of those sudden and unexpected contingencies with which that future is stored, to counteract the best concerted schemes of mere worldly policy, and to frustrate the hopes of the most aspiring projector. So long as we can neither foresee nor prevent contingencies, whatever means we employ towards temporal results, there can be no security for the end. They may succeed, they may fail. They may be accompanied with better, they may be attended with worse consequences than we had apprehended. Utter ruin may be our loss, the whole world may be our gain. Where then can be the policy of devoting all the little time allotted to us here to a perpetual conflict with uncertainties, when there are no certainties upon which we can securely calculate, but those of the life to come ; and which we can only render available by preparing ourselves suitably in this life to possess them. If we properly employ the means provided for us, we may ensure all we can desire in the next world, but we can ensure nothing in this. “For the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, neither yet bread to the wise, nor yet riches to men of understanding, nor yet favour to men of skill, but time and chance happeneth to them


These words may serve to confirm, and be

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