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Psalmist to declare that, in the course of a long life, he had never seen the righteous forsaken? Perfect felicity, I repeat, is given to none; and that definite felicity, which arises from wealth and power, is no where promised to God's children. But the promise is most blessed which, without determining the exact share of temporal advantages which may fall to them, assures them, in every state of life, of support, of comfort and protection, and so much, and no more, of worldly happiness or wordly sufferings, as He who loves them best, and knows them best, perceives to be most for their advantage.
It yet remains for me to discuss the nature and number of those spirits, by whose agency, as disclosed in my text, the Almighty interposes in the defence and assistance of His servants. This will be the subject of a future sermon. But I cannot conclude my present discourse without shortly calling your attention to the practical results which flow from the doctrine of a particular Providence, in the hope that God may bless their consideration to our holiness here, and our everlasting happiness hereafter.
In the first place, few considerations are more full of comfort, or more apt to excite in us an unbounded gratitude or veneration, than the knowledge that the events of life are not administered by blind chance or inexorable destiny, but by the immediate superintendence of the wisest and best of Beings, by whom our wants are known, by whom our prayers are heard, by whom our exertions after hap
piness are rendered efficacious and successful, who “ careth for those who cast their cares upon Him," and makes “ all things work together for good to those who love” Him. Verily " the Lord reigneth, let the earth rejoice, let the multitude of isles be glad thereof.” “Wegive Thee thanks, O Lord God Almighty, because Thou hast taken to Thee Thy great power, and hast reigned."*
Secondly, it must shew how greatly godliness has the advantage in this world as well as the world to come, if we consider that, as neither good nor evil is dispensed to mankind at random, so if we are fit for good, good will come to us; while if we are ready to faint under the gracious chastisement of God, the surest way to obtain relief is, by the diligent amendment of our lives, to render that chastisement unnecessary. Nor can a stronger inducement be found to think humbly of our own success in life, and charitably of the failures of other men, than the assurance that both they and we can only so far succeed as God has determined for us, and that “it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that sheweth mercy.”+
And, lastly, when we accustom ourselves to look up to God as His daily and hourly pensioners, and to ascribe whatever we receive or obtain to His bounteous and only dispensation, we may learn to look on prayer not only as a duty but a privilege, and to
* 1 St. Pet. v.7. Rom. viii. 28. Psalm. xcvii. 1. Rev. xi, 17. † Romans ix. 16.
apply to His throne for the good things which we desire from Him, with as much earnestness and regularity as we now betake ourselves to the outward and ordinary means of obtaining the gratification of our wishes. Yea more, with this pervading and abiding sense of God's infinite presence and power, the necessary pursuits of the present life will, themselves, become devotional, as we go forth to our toil, and commence our studies in His name from whom every good gift proceeds, and consecrate to His service whatever increase He shall bestow of knowledge, or renown, or prosperity!
ON THE MINISTRY OF GOOD ANGELS,
[Preached before the University of Oxford, 1818, and at
2 Kings vi. 16. Fear not! for they that be with us are more than they which
are with them.
We are now arrived at the second branch of the inquiry which these words have suggested, the existence, namely, and the number of those invisible beings, by whose agency the Almighty (as in the case of the prophet Elisha) protects or consoles His servants.
For that they were spiritual and celestial guards to whose presence Elisha thus referred, and on whose power and numbers he reposed his hope of safety is plain, both from the reason of his words themselves, and from the miracle by which those words were corroborated, when the eyes of his attendant were so purged from the film of mortality as to behold those terrific ranks, whose chariots thronged the mount, and interposed their burning wheels between the prophet and his Syrian enemies. But though the literal and obvious sense of the words is thus undoubted, a question has still been
raised whether the expression of Elisha is not capable of a figurative meaning; whether by the angels who are thus said, in Scripture, to encamp around the righteous, any thing more is intended than to express, in lively colours and imagery familiar to eastern eloquence, the ever-watchful care and ever-ready help of Providence; or at most those powers of the material world which are wielded by the immediate and invisible sway of Him, who “maketh the winds His messengers,” in whose cause the heavenly bodies “in their courses fight together," and to whose call “the lightnings answer.” The “ famine," “ the pestilence,” and “the sword," are apostrophized and personified as His servants in the same glowing flights of oratory; and His glory is said to be proclaimed, and His praises sung by " the deep,” “the mountains,” “ the corn-fields, and the “morning-stars.” We know what is meant when Minerva reminds Achilles of that which his own reason might well have suggested to him; and the prudence of Jacob, and the blessing which the Almighty bestowed on his labours might, with equal propriety, be described in the sacred volume as “ the angel” which led him by the way, and delivered him in all his troubles. There are instances in the Apocalyptic visions where the mortal protectors of the Church, or the mortal invaders of the Roman empire are supposed to be allegorically described as angels engaged in the execution of God's judgments. The plagues and diseases which befel the Egyptians, are spoken of by the Psalmist as