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God, and a higher degree of spiritual illumination, see not that they are acting in open defiance of the laws of their country, are incurring the heavy guilt of unnecessarily dividing the unity of the church, are breaking down the fences of ecclesiastical order and authority, are invading the property and province of the lawful pastors of the church, are setting themselves up as guides and teachers, amid their temerarious followers, without authority, without ability, and without cause.
But let not their abuse of this duty discourage us from endeavouring to reap the advantages of it, which are so great and many.
Wouldst thou then enjoy real and lasting happiness, seek it not in crowds and tumults, amidst the giddy train of lawless riot or thoughtless dissipation :-genuine happiness ever loves solitude, reflection and retirement, and therefore dwells not there.
It is only to be found with Isaac in the fields at eventide, in the still hour of meditation, when the passions are calm and undisturbed, when the cares and competitions of the world are banished, when the clamour of interest is silenced, and the still small voice of reason can be heard. Thither then direct thy steps in pursuit of fo incstimable a treasure. Set the
world, from before thee, with all its cares and pleasures. Consider what thou art, and what thou oughtest to be. Weigh well thy past actions, and mark with a cautious eye thy yarious failures and deviations from the great line of God's law, and from thence leam caution and humility. Look forward also into the various snares and temptations which surround thee, lest innocence should fall a prey to surprize and incogitancy. + Art thou in danger of falling into any sin, stop a moment, and ask thyself this question: What am I going to do? Life is short, and death is certain : Will then the momentary enjoyinent I promise myself from the commission of this sin compensate for the loss of iọnocence and reputation, the favour of God, and the hopes of eternal happiness? Where is the lust, where is the pleasure that can stand such a question as this? But, if this be not a sufficient fence against the power of temptation, ayticipate in thought that awful moment, when death shall put a period to all thy hopes and joys. Sober and impartial reason will direct thee
think thus with thyself:--I had once a father, who has now paid the last debt of nature. I myself am made of the same frail materials, and therefore, like him, must soon lie down upon the bed of mortality. And when that awful moment shall approach, when the stores of
medicine are unable to relieve my afflicted body, when my weeping friends have taken their final adieu, and the awful prospect of eternity, is before me; what will then be my opinion of all the pleasures and temptations, which now so strongly allure and captivate my soul? Will wealth or title speak comfort to my soul? Will guilty pleasures support my sinking spirits ? Will the song of riot accord with dying groans ? Why then should I now embitter my dying moments by doing that, which, for one short moment of pleasure, will entail upon me an eternity of pain ?
Every man is sensible of the force of these questions, when he is awaked to reason by the pressure of calamity, or is alarmed by the fear of death. He must be insensible to the best impressions of nature, who has not felt the force of them, at some period of his life. But the grand misfortune is, that men will not suffer just and serious thoughts to enter frequently, or at least to continue long in their minds. They fly to dissipation and riot, to the worst of company and the greatest of misery, to avoid that sober reflection, which would ensure to them peace and happiness. For surely, if happiness is to be had on this side the grave, he bids the fairest for it, who, by meditation, prepares himself for all
events. He has weighed the storms and dangers of life, and therefore fears them not. He has seen the fallacious sunshine and smiles of fortune, and therefore is guarded against their treacherous allurements. Under oppression, reproach, or misery, he has considered what man can do, and therefore dreads not him whose greatest power is, that he can kill the body. He has anticipated, by meditation, the various forms and approaches of the great King of terrors, and therefore shrinks not at his uplifted arm. In all things he is instructed, both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need; having learned, in whatsoever stato he is, therewith to be content.
Keep then in view, by frequent meditation, the great business and end of life. Your happiness and your virtue depend upon it. It will secure to you peace, amidst the changes and chances of the present world, as far as peace can belong to man. And when death shall summon you to prepare for another, it will save you the hazard of trusting the review of a whole life to a few hours, at a time when you are least fit for such a task, or of being cut off in a moment, without the power or ability to undertake it.