« AnteriorContinua »
appetite: at this season the head-strong and tumultuous passions rush in upon, and overwhelm us, temptations on every fide allure, examples on every side encourage; hope flatters us in the pursuit of folly, and health invigorates us in the practice of it. When our minds are moit susceptible of pleasure, we are least aware of the consequences of it; and when reason and religion, thoie best of guides, could be of most service, they are generally absent from us; and both the heart and spirit are fo enfamed and corrupted, that we have no de. fire, no power, to call away our transgressions, or to make us a new heart and a new spirit
. · Pafs we cn then to that calmer, softer feafon, the Autumn of human life: that season when, if ever, we may hope for peace and tranquility; when the fruits of knowledge are arrived at their long wilhed-for maturity, and the seeds of industry, if any have been fown, shoot forth into a plenteous harvest. The sea is now smooth and unruffled before us, the waves of fortune begin to fubfide, the storms of luft and ambition are almost blown over, the affections of the soul, like the limbs of the body, are settled into strength and firmness: the voice of reaton calls out loudly unto us, the hand of judgment is ready to guide and direct us.
But if, with all these advantages of experience and maturity, we fill suffer the follies of youth to enslave, and the influence of example to corrupt us; if to lust and ambition succeed avarice and revenge; if we only dethrone one
tyrant to set up another, what have we to be proud of? or how shall we call ourselves the fons of liberty, when all the freedom we can boast is but that we have changed our master?
If at this season we permit the old leaven of vice to remain; if we do not make us a new heart and a new spirit, the greater doubtless will be our reproach, and the heavier our condemnation. Our errors have now no longer the sanction of youth to alleviate, or the plea of inexperience to excuse them: we cannot say wrong without knowing that we say it; we cannot do wrong without knowing that we do it: what before was but idle now becometh wicked, and what was venial becomes unpardonable.
Shall we proceed to the last gloomy and uncomfortable season, the Winter of human life, or shall we throw a veil over the melancholy scene? Here indeed the year of nature, and the year of man but too visibly resemble each other. The verdure is gone, and the sun-fhine is departed from us. The fruit is withered, and the flowers are decayed: the chearful face of things which once delighted us, with the representation of all that was fair and beautiful, is deformed by storm and tempest, and rendered an image of barrenness and horror.
Dreadful indeed is the condition of those amongst us who have deferred till this late hour the necessary work of repentance, who are grown old in sin, and have filled up the measure of their iniquity. As well might we
expect in the winter of nature to see the earth cloath itself in fresh verdure, and the trees to be white with blossoms, as in the winter of man to see the mind assuming new habits, or putting on the robes of innocence after it hath been long cloathed in fin, and worn iniquity as a garment: it is not to be expected at this season that the foul can recover her health and strength, or that a new heart and new fpirit can be established within us.
In this dark and distressful period of our existence nothing can administer comfort or fatisfaction but a conscience void of offence towards God and towards man. Even in the depth of winter the sky, we know, doth not always lour, nor the storm always blow. There is now and then a refreshing dew to fertilize the earth, and a ray of the sun to brighten the horizon. And so it is with the winter of man: if he hath like a skilful husbandman, layed in a store of useful knowledge; if integrity hath gained him friends; if virtue hath sanctified his name, and innocence secured his peace, age will not four his dispofition, nor decay oppress his heart: though he cannot flatter himself with the prospect of another spring in this life, yet he will look forward to it in a better and more durable one; in a place where there will be no winters to chill, no storms to affright him; where one perpetual and unfading spring for ever flourishes, where a new heart and a new spirit await to crown him with lasting glory, and reward him with eternal happiness.
Briefly then to apply what hath been said, and bring it home to our breasts: let not the year of nature pass unobserved by us, but let the whole convey one useful and important lesson; and as we pass through the various seasons, let every one of them teach us to avoid the dangers incident to, and to practise the virtues that are required in them.
If ever there was a time when a new heart and a new fpirit were more immediately necessary, it is at present: it is in this venal, vicious, and degenerate age, when even infancy is corrupted by early and unseasonable vice, when youth is blafted and destroyed by folly, fashion, and debauchery; when manhood and maturity are disgraced by follies which heedless youth would be ashamed of, and old age drains the cup of intemperance to the last dregs: at a time when, amidft dangers, distress, and calamities abroad, murmurings, díscontent, and divisions at home; when, amidst all this, new pleasures are perpetually rising up to allure, new tempations are perpetually thrown in tó corrupt us, and we meet with scarce any thing but universal profligacy, and universal diffipation; when the whole head is fick, and the wiole heart faint, nothing, in short, but an universal reformation of manners, nothing but a heart and a new spirit, can save us from inevitable destruction.
Let us then, I beseech you, my brethren, lay these things seriously to heart. from this moment cast away from us all our transgressions, whereby we have tranfgressed,
and make us a new heart and a new spirit. From this day let us count our reformation, from this ara, let us date our virtue: let the new year bring along with it new passions, new delires, new hopes; the passion of piety, the desire of God, and the hope of eternity: let us intreat the gracious Author of our being to fend down his divine grace to make a new heart and a 112w Spirit within us; such a heart, and fuch a spirit, as alone can recommend us to his almighty favour and protection. So shall we, from this day forth, instead of indolence and luxury, meet with industry, temperance, and fobriety: fo shall every man, by his private virtues, ensure and promote public good, and public happiness: so shall we exchange murmurings and discontent for loyalty and affection, neglect for duty, and rebellion for obedience; war, danger, and discord, for peace, safety, and unanimity.
So teach us to number cur days, that we may
apply our hearts unto wisdom. THERE is not any thing which morality
can inculcate, or religion enjoin, that will more easily persuade men to a considera