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thou wilt answer me. Fortitude. If thou faint in the day of adversity, thy strength is small. Patience. Patient in your tribulation, possess ye your souls, and let patience have her perfect work. And, to comprise all these virtues in a single word, Resignation. The cup, which my Father hath given me, shall I not drink it? Not my will, o God, but thine be done.
The reflection, that if our affliction does not make us better, it will assuredly make us worse, is, to those who have recovered, solemn, and full of awful thought. To grow worse under the discipline of Providence, is the most deplorable and desperate state, into which a moral being can sink. In the time of his distress did he trespass yet more against the Lord : this is that king Ahaz. Believe me, this is no chimerical danger. The fire, which does not melt, will harden; the stain, which is not purified by the furnace, will be more deeply engrained. If sickness, for instance, have not taught us the vanity of some of our dearest pleasures, we shall only return to them with appetites sharpened by abstinence, and desires rendered more ungov. ernable by temporary restraint. If it has not impressed upon us also the uncertainty of health, and prepared us better for the loss of life, it has probably increased our presumptuousness, and induced us to hope, that disease has now discharged his quiver of arrows, and that, as soon as our wounds are healed, we have little more to fear from this dreaded enemy in our passage through the troubled path of life. If we have not learned resignation, it is probable we have become more impatient, discontented and irritable. If we have learned no' humility, we have probably learned perverseness, and what is still more to be lamented, what we can hardly contemplate without horrour-it will require a harder blow to make us feel hereafter, a severer chastisement to make us submit. And who shall say, whether the next chastisement shall be inflicted in this world, or
in another? Who will be so hardy as to assure us, whether it shall be part of the discipline of this state of probation, or a portion of the sufferings in a state of punishment ?
4. Lastly, if there is any one, who, despairing of the return of health and strength, labours under the gradual advances of an incurable disease, to such an one I would say, it may be good even for you, to be afflicted. There are advantages even in the long continuance of confinement, and in the prospect of inevitable and slowly approaching death. To him who knows, that he must soon close his eyes on this pleasant scene, it is no small preparation, that every morning's sun rises upon his sight with daily diminishing lustre, luxuries pall gradually upon bis taste, sounds die away gently upon his ear, and the ties, which bind him to earth, weaken by degrees, and at last the silver cord is loosed with gentle hands, without painful or perceptible disruption.
Long confinement, also, brings with it the advantages of drawing us off from those partialities, which bind us to society in general; and, though it may strengthen our attachment to those, who watch immediately around our bed, and are the inmates of our decaying hours, yet even here the energy of the affections wastes with the energy of the body, and the dissolution of the ties of love and friendship is, by the kindness of Heaven, rendered as gentle as the dissolution of the soul and body. Lengthened illness, too, not only draws off our attention gradually from a world we must leave, but it seems to usher into view, by a similar and solemn gradation, the world which we are about to enter. It places us in an extended and narrow vista, in which the various objects on each side are excluded, and eternity, that vast object at the termination of the view, seems to enlarge, as we approach it, till it fills at last, and
without silver con earth, upon higally upolaily dimery
without painful old is loosed wity degrees, an
agrosses the coapproach it, till the view, s
LUKE xiv. 18.
AND THEY ALL WITH ONE CONSENT BEGAN TO MAKE EXCUSE.
and benefactor. To somente
This parable, of the invitation refused, who ever read without indignation at the contemptuous inci. vility and ingratitude of these men? A nobleman, we are told, on the marriage of his son, proclaims his intention of making a liberal entertainment. Many guests are invited. To some, we may suppose, he was a benefactor ; to others, a friend; to all, a kind and condescending superiour. At the hour of supper his servants are again despatched to urge their coming, to inform them, that every thing is ready, and that he waits only their arrival. With one consent they begin to excuse themselves. Without any expression of regret, they all find other - engagements of business or of pleasure, with which
they cannot dispense. One must visit his farm, another must attend to his merchandize, and a third is detained at home by domestic cares.
It is unnecessary to inform you, that by this parable our Saviour represents the perverseness and prejudice, with which the Jews rejected the Messiah, But it is also true, that this parable, which with such gentle remonstrance exhibits their ingratitude, holds out a faithful picture of a numerous and increasing class of men within the pale of christendom; and those upbraiding discourses, which ought to have belonged to Jews only, we find are not inapplicable to christians. Do you ask, if it be possible, that such contemptuous and frivolous excuses are still offered to extenuate neglect of religion, and to quiet an insulted conscience? Yes ; they are yet offered, and yet admitted, not indeed by God; seldom indeed, and not without reluctance by our consciences; but easily and often by a thoughtless and indulgent age. In the time of our Saviour, they were offered to excuse the rejection of the Messiah; now, to excuse a neglect of the peculiar duties of his religion, even where its truth is acknowledged. The gospel feast is still open. Religion offers her repast of pleasures, unadulterated, inexhaustible and immortal. The master of the feast continues to send forth his servants to repeat his urgent invitations, to express his unabated good will, and even while he is waiting to welcome us to his presence, we still venture to return some one of these worthless excuses, which seem to have served even to the present day as a manual of apologies for irreligious negligence,
Let us then take a rapid review of the excuses, which are offered to palliate indifference to religion ; let us see if their importance consists not rather in their number, than in their strength. The profligate and incorrigibly wicked seldom offer excuses ; those of the professed infidel demand a longer and closer attention, than the limits of a discourse allow ; the excuses of the christian world only, we propose now to examine. .
1. First, then, it is often said, that time is wanted for the duties of religion. The calls of business, the press of occupation, the cares of life, will not suffer me, says one, to give that time to the duties of piety, which otherwise I would gladly bestow. Say you this without a blush? You have no time, then, for
the especial service of that great Being, whose goodness alone has drawn out to its present length your cobweb thread of life ; whose care alone has continued you in possession of that unseen property, which you call your time. You have no time, then to devote to that great Being, on whose existence the existence of the universe depends; a Being so great, that if his attention could for an instant be diverted, you fall never again to rise ; if his promise should fail, your hopes, your expectations vanish into air; if his power should be weakened, man, angel, nature perishes.
But, let me ask, by what right do you involve yourself in this multiplicity of cares? Why do you weave around you this web of occupation, and then complain, that you cannot break it? Will you say, that your time is your own, and that you have a right to employ it in the manner you please? Believe me, it is not your own. It belongs to God, to religion, to mankind. You possess not an hour, to which one of these puts not in a preferable claim ; and are such claimants to be dismissed without allotting to them a moment ?
But for what else can you find no leisure ? Do you find none for amusement ? Or is amusement itself your occupation ? Perhaps pleasure is the pressing business of your life ; perhaps pleasure stands waiting to catch your precious moments as they pass. Do you find none for the pursuit of curious and secular knowledge ? If you find none then for religion, it is perhaps because you wish to find none; it would be, you think, a tasteless occupation, an insipid en. tertainment.
But this excuse is founded on a most erroneous conception of the nature of religion. It is supposed to be something, which interrupts business, which wastes time, and interferes with all the pleasant and profitable pursuits of life. It is supposed to be some
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