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best exertions to obtain ; and if those exertions be neither suitable nor proportioned to the magnitude of the possession, upon what ground of reason can we expect to secure it ?
However we may view the subject, it must be clear that the paramount object of our endeavours should be our happiness in eternity and not in time; because “the voice of mirth, the voice of gladness, the voice of the bridegroom, the voice of the bride,” in short, all our joys upon earth, must soon pass away, whilst those of “just men made perfect” are subject neither to interruption nor change. Why then do we dole out our time so niggardly to Him who has declared that he will only award salvation to those who serve him faithfully? Why do' we content ourselves with such partial and insufficient homage as that must be which occupies a mere fractional portion of our days, and when even this is, in too many instances, but indifferently devoted to Him who has such an undoubted right to claim them all? Why do Christians so often come to the tabernacle of the Lord to address their supplications to him, to offer up to him their devotions of praise and thanksgiving, and insult His Divine Majesty by their abstraction from every thing sacred, by their frequently worse than indifference and inattention? Why do they call so solemnly upon the name of their Saviour, when they take little or
no pains to render his propitiation for their sins available to them? Let them remember the unequivocal declaration of the Redeemer himself, that “not he who saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven, but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven;" and he elsewhere assures us that “a good man out of the good treasures of his heart bringeth forth that which is good.”
We come now to the application of the whole subject, which is that contentment with such things as we have, and as God in his wise providence shall think good for us, is the best means of conferring upon us that happiness here which is only the incipient progress of our happiness hereafter. Contentment with such things as we have, implies at once a full and requisite satisfaction with the just dispensations of providence, however unfavorably they may appear to affect us, and satisfaction is the primary step to happi
To be discontented with the distributions of infinite wisdom, is virtually to question his right to dispose of his favours as he shall judge expedient. Now as we have seen that however we endeavour to establish our own. temporal fruition, it is still subject to interruptions which we cannot prevent, and that we are not a moment secure of its possession ; it is clear that we bestow upon it more anxiety than it can be worthy of, when we make it the chief con
cern of our lives, and especially too when by so doing we must necessarily run a great risk of failing to secure it where alone it can be uninterruptedly enjoyed.
We are advised by a wise man “to lay up our treasures”- the word treasures must be understood here in the scripture acceptation of spiritual gifts—we are advised, I say, to “lay up our treasures, according to the commandment of the Most High, and that they shall bring us more profit than gold.” The Apostle too tells us that where “we have lived upon earth and been wanton, we have nourished our hearts as in a day of slaughter.” Whilst we are content with that measure of God's favours which he has seen it fitting to extend to us, however sparingly supplied, we are naturally led into the way of improving our happiness, even in this life, without seeking to do so ; by shaking from our minds many cares and anxieties; by having them therefore less perturbed than when agitated by that restlessness which is ever consequent upon a continual thirst after novelty or acquisition. As our thoughts under such circumstances will be less occupied with the world, we shall consequently find more time to devote to the pursuits of religion, and thus to the acquisition of treasures in heaven. So that our content will be a sort of initiatory virtue which shall guide us into many others, and we shall infallibly derive from it the fruit of good works.
When we remember that He who was called “ Wonderful, Counsellor, the mighty God, the everlasting Father, the Prince of peace,” was satisfied with a stable for his birth-place, a manger for his cradle, and that during the eventful period of his ministry, "he had not where to lay his head,” how can we murmur or even feel dissatisfied with our lot, however humble, when the God of our salvation was
despised and rejected of men;" when he submitted to poverty, to persecution, to death, and finally made his grave with the wicked,” that we might not suffer the penalties of sin ? Our only real happiness here is that which owes its existence to the hopes we are enabled to entertain of happiness hereafter. In fact, there can be no happiness in time where there is no prospect of it in eternity; and the more completely we can render our minds contented with the condition of this life, however straitened it may prove, the more completely we promote its true interests ; the more truly therefore and the more innocently we enjoy it, whilst this enjoyment is confirmed by our consciousness that when it is renewed to us in the life to come, our fruition shall be uninterrupted and perfect “ There the sun shall be no more our light by day, neither for brightness shall the moon give
her light unto us, but the Lord shall be unto us an everlasting light, and the days of our mourning shall be ended.”
My brethren, a new year is before us ; let us therefore endeavour to supply the failure of that which has just closed by encreased devotion during the progress of this which has now begun. Those melancholy reflections which can scarcely escape the mind when we have bid farewell to a departed year, are fit to be encouraged by us all as lessons of conscience. When we recur to our actions, during the last twelve months, perhaps most of us shall retrace more, many more, that inflict a pang upon the memory than that carry joy into the heart. We shall remember how many awful events have occurred to which we had never looked forward, and for which therefore we were utterly unprepared. We have had signal exemplifications of the uncertainty of human events, the vanity of human expectations, the fickleness of human enjoyment, the instability of all things connected with time. We have indeed all of us had sufficient experience, within the term of the past year, to make us “wise unto salvation.”
Every year sufficiently warns us of the flight of time, of the fearful celerity of its progress,
of our near approach to death, and thence to the kingdom of Christ or the kingdom of Satan. Every year is a friendly monitor to our bosoms,