Imatges de pàgina

too late for thee, O man, when thy feet are ftumbling upon the high mountains, and the shadows of the evening have overtaken thee.

There is no wish more common, though at the same time none more vain or absurd, than that which is fo frequently formed by those who have trod with observation the paths of human life, the wish that they might be permitted to live over again their past days.

If the best author that ever wrote were carefully and dispassionately to revise his works after a deliberate and impartial criticism, he 'would see in them a thousand errors which had escaped his notice, a thousand errors and imperfections which he had never thought on: how happy would he esteem himself, were it poisible, that he could write it all over again! -And in like manner, if the best man who ever lived was to look back on the volume of his past life, how many pages would he find in it blotted with sin and corruption, how many full of idle and trifling occurrences, how many leaves totally blark: How ashamed would he be of such a work to be read over and confidered by such a judge, by an impartial and allknowing God! how would he wish, if it were possible, to live it over again! But this is a privilege which it would be as unreasonable in hiin to request, as it is impotlible for him to enjoy. As man, therefore, hath but one volume to write, which is to determine his merit, but one task to perform, which is to decide his fate, to make him happy or miserable for ever; to the execution of that let him zealously


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and steadily apply; anů rest assured, that if he hath exerted his utmost abilities, if he hath done it with all his might, he will be rewarded for it, not according to the intrinsic value of the performance, but in proportion to his care, zeal, and alacrity in the execution of it.

What then, upon the whole, is the lesson of instruction to be learned from the royal monitor's advice, as expressed in the words of my text?

That we should be active, vigilant, and industrious in our several stations and profesfions; that when we set about any work or device which our hand findeth to do, we should not slightly and carelesly perform it, but bestow on it those pains and that attention which alone can render it perfect and complete; that, above all, in pursuit of the one thing needful, that wisdom and knowledge on which our eternal happiness depends, we should be awake, zealous, and indefatigable, constantly keeping in view the great end of our being: that we should frequently reflect within ourselves on the shortness and vanity of human life, obferve the years as they roll, and the hours as they pass along, remembering that every hour brings us nearer

to that period which must put an end to all our labours, which must at once ftamp our character, and seal our fate, that important crisis which must recommend us to the divine favour, or consign us to everlasting punishment. Let these confiderations, my brethren, sink deep into our hearts : they may


be useful to us in every rank and condition, in every age and period of human life.

It will become the rich and great to reflect that the more is given the more will be required; that the greater and more frequent opportunities they have of doing good, the more indipensible is their obligation to perform it; that the more time and leisure they are masters of, the greater care and assiduity will be expected from them in the proper employment of it; that as they have superior advantages to allist them in the acquisition of knowledge and wisdom, their want of neglect, their abuse or misapplication of them, will be the more inexcufable; that neither their talents or abilities, any more than their riches, can follow them to the grave; and if they have not used them profitably in this world, they can only rise up in judgment and bear witness against them in that which is to come.

To the poor, on the other hand, it may be a confolation to reflect, that if they are sober, diligent, and industrious in their calling and profeflion, if they do whatever their hand findeth to do with with all their might, God, who is no respecter of persons, will reward them not according to the splendor and dignity of their office, but to the manner in which it is performed: that as there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, neither is there at the fame time any rank or distinction ia the grave whither they are going: that they are approaching to a place where there is no pre-eminence but that of goodness, no superio

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rity but that of virtue : that no knowledge or wisdom will find acceptance with God, but that which they were as capable of attaining as the rich and great, the wildom from above, and the knowledge unto salvation.

But further, and to conclude: as the words before us may afford ample matter of confideration to all ranks and degrees, so likewise may they convey instruction to every age and period of human life.

Let those who are in the bloom and vigour of youth learn from hence, not to suffer their faculties to languish and decay from sloth and inactivity, but to exert them whilft in the zenith and meridian of their power. Let them remember, that it is not the length of life, but the use which we make of it, that will entitle us to a reward from the Antient of Days : that wisdom is grey hair unto men, and an unspotted life is old age: that if, at this dangerous but important period, when the unthinking and voluptuous indulge in sensual pleasures, they employ their hours in the culture of their minds, and the improvement of their understanding ; if they search after wisdom and knowledge, old age as it advances, initead of being attended by remorse and repentance, will bring along with it the pleasing remembrance of their past conduct, and a delightful prospect of future felicity.

Let those who are arrived at maturer years, when they reflect on the advice given in my text, consider, (if they have not already consi. dered) that the levity and carelessness of youth


would ill become them in a more advanced age; that they should do every thing with all their might and power, because that might and power cannot last long; and that therefore it is incumbent on them ftrenuously to exert it; and that this is the only opportunity of acquiring those perfections which alone can impart present satisfaction, or ensure future happiness,

Laitly, let those whom God hath graciously bleft with length of days, learn with humble gratitude to adore the divine Author of them. What their weak and impotent hand findeth to do, let them do with all their might, with all the little remains of power and strength that are still left them. If they have hitherto been listless, negligent, and slothful, let them endeavour to make amends for past indolence by extraordinary industry and application : that fo, though they come into the vineyard but at the eleventh hour they may hy unwearied diligence and assiduity merit the same reward as the labourers of the first, who have borne the heat and burthen of the day. Let them reflect, that the time is near at hand when every avenue to wisdom and knowledge must be closed up, and but a few hours are left for light and instruction; these therefore let them husband with the utmost caution, and give up their whole time and attention to the one thing needful; fo may God in his tender mercy accept their imperfect facrifice, forgive their past errors, pass over their numerous tranfgreffions, inâruct them with his own divine know


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