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you lay all these things together, and weigh them deliberately and impartially, your minds must be formed in a very peculiar manner indeed, if they are not most thoroughly impressed with faith in the Son of God, and the Gospel which he taught.
Taking it, then, for granted, that you firmly believe the Scriptures to be the word of God, that of course they contain those heavenly doctrines and rules of life by which you are to be guided here, and saved hereafter; that the present scene is nothing more than a state of trial and probation for another world; that all mankind must rise from the grave, and stand before the judgment seat of Christ, to receive from his lips their final doom; and that there is NO OTHER NAME GIVEN UNDER HEAVEN BY WHICH YOU CAN BE SAVED, BUT THAT OF JESUS ONLY; no other possible way of escaping the punishments, or obtaining the rewards of the Christian covenant, but faith in Christ, reliance on his merits, and an earnest endeavour to practise every virtue, and fulfil every duty prescribed in his Gospel; taking it for granted that you believe all these things to be true, let me then ask you, what is the course of life which every wise man, which every man of common sense, must feel himself irresistibly called upon to pursue? Is it possible, that, with such awful, such divine truths as these deeply impressed upon your souls, you can allow yourselves to be so entirely occupied with the various pursuits of this life, as to exclude, I will not say all thought (for that is impossible), but all serious solicitude concerning your future and eternal destiny? Are there any delights that this world has to offer, that can compensate for the loss of heaven? Some of you have, perhaps, run your career of power, of pleasure, of gaiety, of luxury, of glory, and of fame, and can tell the true amount, the real value of these enjoyments. Say, then, honestly, whether any one of them has answered your expectations; whether they have left your minds perfectly content and satisfied; whether they have proved so solid, so durable, so perfect, as to be worth purchasing at the expense of eternal happiness? I will venture to abide by your answer. Trust, then, to your own experience, and be no longer the dupes of illusions which have so long misled you. And if you have any feeling, any pity for the young, the thoughtless, and the inexperienced, let them profit by the instructions, the salutary lessons you are so well qualified to give
them; let your warning voice restrain them from rushing headlong into those errors, into which you have perhaps been unfortunately betrayed. Tell them (for you know it to be true), that whatever flattering prospects the world may present to their ardent imaginations at their first entrance into life, there is no solid ground for permanent comfort and content of mind, but a conscientious discharge of their duty to God and man, an anxious endeavour to recommend themselves to the favour of the Almighty, and a hope of pardon and acceptance through the merits of their Redeemer. These alone can smooth the path of life and the bed of death; these alone can bring a man peace at the last.
Reflections such as these must, in all times, and under all circumstances, operate most powerfully on every considerate mind; but they receive tenfold weight from the peculiar complexion of the present period, and the awful situation into which, by the dispensations of Providence, we are now cast. Never since the world began were such tremendous proofs held up to the observation of mankind, of the slender and precarious tenure on which we hold every thing that we deem most valu'able in the present life, as have been of late presented to our view. Look around you for a moment; consider what has been passing on the continent of Europe for the last ten years, and then say what is there left for you in this world worthy of your attention, on the possession of which, for any length of time, you can with any degree of security rely? You must have been very inattentive observers indeed, not to have perceived, that all the great objects of human wishes, rank, power, honour, dignity, fame, riches, pleasures, gaieties, all the pomp, and pride, and splendour, and luxury of life, may, when you least think of it, contrary to all expectation and all probability, be swept away from you in one moment, and you yourselves thrown as it were a miserable wreck on some desert shore, not only without the elegancies and the comforts, but even without the common necessaries of life. That this is no imaginary representation, you all know too well; you see too many melancholy proofs of it in those unfortunate exiles who have taken refuge in this country; many of whom have experienced, in the utmost extent, the very calamities I have been here describing; and who, but a few years
ago, had as little reason to expect such a dreadful reverse of fortune as any one who now hears me.
It is true, indeed, that hitherto we have been most wonderfully preserved by a kind Providence from those miseries that have desolated the rest of Europe, and have maintained a noble, though a bitter conflict, during many years, for our religion, our liberty, our independence, our unrivalled constitution, and every thing that is dear and valuable to man. But it must at the same time be admitted, that we are still in a most critical and doubtful situation, and that our final success must principally depend on that to which we have a thousand times owed our preservation, the favour and protection of Heaven.
The rapid, the astonishing, the unexampled vicissitudes, which have repeatedly taken place during the whole of this arduous contest, most clearly show, that there is something in it more than common, something out of the ordinary course of human affairs, something which baffles all conjecture and all calculation, and which all the wisdom of man cannot comprehend or control. What then is this something, what is this secret and invisible agent, which so evidently overrules every important event in the present convulsive state of the world, and so frequently confounds the best-concerted projects and designs? Is it fate: is it necessity: is it chance: is it fortune? These, alas! we all know, are mere names, are mere unmeaning words, by which we express our total ignorance of the true cause. That cause can be nothing else than the hand of that Omnipotent Being, who first created and still preserves the universe; who is "the governor among the nations, and ruleth unto the ends of the earth." To make him then our friend is of the very last importance; and it highly behoves us to consider, whether we have hitherto taken the right way to make him so. The answer to this question is, I fear, to be found in the unfavourable aspect of affairs abroad, and severe distresses arising from un propitious seasons at home, which too plainly show, that the hand of the Almighty is upon us; that we are a sinful people, and he an offended God*.
Let it not, however, be imagined, that I am here holding the language of despondency and despair; no, no
* This Lecture was given in the Spring of the year 1801.
thing can be farther from my thoughts. But in the present calamitous situation of this country, this glorious and still unrivalled country, to which all our hearts are -bound by a thousand indissoluble ties, it would have been unpardonable in me to have passed over, with unfeeling apathy and cold indifference, those awakening and unexampled events, which are forcing themselves every moment on our observation, and which call aloud on all the sons of men to reflect and to repent. I felt it to be my indispensable duty, in this my last solemn address to you, to press upon you every motive to a holy life that could influence the heart of man, and with this view to draw your attention to all those astonishing scenes that are daily passing before your eyes, and which add irresistible force to every thing that has been advanced in the course of these Lectures. You now see displayed, in visible characters, in the actual vicissitudes of almost every hour, those great truths which I have been for four years past inculcating in words: the uncertainty of every earthly blessing, the vanity of all human pursuits, the instability of all worldly happiness, and the absolute necessity of looking out for some more solid ground to stand upon, some more durable treasures on which to fix our affections and our hearts. For many years past God has been speaking to us by the various dispensations of his providence, by acts of mercy and of justice, by his interpositions to save us, by his judgments to correct us. He has been speaking a language which cannot be misunderstood; a language which is heard in every quarter of the globe, which makes all nature tremble, and shakes the very foundations of the earth.
Yet still, though there is just cause for apprehension, there is no occasion for despair. If from these judgments of the Lord we learn that lesson they were meant to teach us; if we turn without delay from the evil of our ways; if we humble ourselves under the mighty hand of God, and acknowledge our transgressions with the truest penitence and contrition of soul; if we set ourselves in earnest to relinquish every vicious habit, every secret fault, as well as every presumptuous sin; if we deny ourselves, and take up our cross to follow Christ; if we lay our follies, our vanities, our gaieties, our criminal indulgences, at the feet of our Redeemer, and purify ourselves even as he is pure; if, in these times
of unexampled scarcity of all the necessaries of life, we open our hearts and our hands wide to the necessities of out suffering brethren; if, in short, by the purity of our hearts, the sanctity of our lives, the fervour of our devotions, the sincerity of our faith and confidence in Christ, we recommend ourselves to the favour of Heaven, Í scruple not to say, that we have nothing to fear. By the mighty hand of God we shall be protected here; by the merits of him who died for us we shall be saved and rewarded hereafter. And we may, I trust, in this case, humbly apply to ourselves that consolatory declaration of the Almighty to another people, with which I shall finally close these Lectures; and which may God of his infinite mercy confirm to us all in this world, and in the next!
"How can I give thee up, Ephraim? My soul is turned within me. I will not execute the fierceness of my anger; I am God, and not man*. In a little wrath I hid my face from thee for a moment; but with everlasting kindnesst will I have mercy on thee‡."
*Hosea xi, 8, 9.
+ This kindness has in fact (as far as the public welfare is concerned) been in several important instances most graciously and conspicuously extended to this highly-favoured land since these Lectures were finished; and it evidently calls for every return, on our part, of affection and obedience to our heavenly Benefactor, that the deepest sense of gratitude can possibly dictate to devout and feeling hearts. March, 1802. + Isaiah liv, 8.