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You are surrounded with dangers, which require incessant vigilance and prayer. You have a thousand mistakes to rectify, and excellencies to acquire. -What is the life of a good man? What is it that distinguishes him from others? But a faithful investigation of his faults; and attention to moral improvement; and endeavour to make each day, a practical criticism on the past. He observes, how he was hindered: and remarks where he fell, or was likely to fall. And thus he levies ą, contribution of profit even upon his losses; and derives wisdom from his ignorance, strength from his weakness, and zeal from his indifference.
To urge you to this four-fold review, remember the intimation we gave you at the beginning of this address, and which is so fully expressed in the words of the apostles. So then every one of us shall give an account of himself to God.” Therefore, judge yourselves, that you may not be condemned with the wicked. This account will be personal, public, and impartial. “He will bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil.” And from whence will he bring them? From the book of his remembrance: there he has recorded all your means and mercies, troubles and sins. From the book of your own memory: there also they are secured. For there is a difference between remembrance and memory: the former often fails, but what is inscribed upon the latter, abides indelibly, and only requires something to shine upon the letters, to render it legible. Have you not observed that what seemed dead in the mind, only required circumstances to revive it? With what freshness and force, have things long forgotten, sprung up in the memory,
when recalled by occurrences. Thus all the history of man will hereafter be retraced, in order to be tried—and tried in order to be approved or condemned. " Wherefore, beloved, seeing that ye look for such things, be diligent that ye may be found of him in peace, without spot and blameless."
With this solemn thought, let us close the period of our time that is now going to be numbered with the years before the flood. It has seen many carried down to their graves, and has brought us so much nearer our own. 6. The fathers where are they? And the prophets-do they live forever? Man goeth to his long home, and the mourners go about the streets. And when a few years are come, we shall go the way whence we shall not return, We are accomplishing as a hireling our days; and our neighbours, our friends, our relations, will soon seek us—but we shall not be,” Let us sing, “Lord, what a feeble piece
Is this our mortal frame!
That scarce deserves the name!
That built our body first!
'Tis mouldering back to dust,
Nor will our minutes stay;
Are sweeping us away.
We'll keep their end in sight,
And let them speed their flight.
They'll waft us sooner o'er
This life's tempestuous sea;
Of blest eternity.”
OUR IGNORANCE OF FUTURITY.
(NEW YEAR'S DAY.)
-So soon as I shall see how it will go with me.
Phil. ii, 23.
I have the pleasure to address you on the first day of another year. The day is only distinguished from others by human institution-but this has given it various advantages and characters, natural and civil, intellectual and moral.
It is often a season of peculiar transactions; in which persons balance their accounts, commence business, form connexions.
It is a period marked by humanity and benevolence. Children beseech time mercifully to spare the guides of their youth. The father and mother hope to see their dear offspring long coming around them. The husband congratulates the desire of his eyes, and the wife hails the companion of her journey. Friendship renews every lively desire—and all, however indifferent at other times, yield to custom, and wish your returns of this day to be many and happy.
It is a season of thankfulness and joy. We praise the preserver of men, who has held our souls in life, and carried us through the unnumbered dangers of another year-while our feelings are tempered to solemnity by the reflection, that many have finished their course, and that we look for some of our own relations or acquaintances in vain!
For it is a period of seriousness and recollection. It reminds us of the instability of the world, and the rapidity of time. Of this, indeed, every day, and every hour should remind as; but the changes made, and the losses occasioned by these variations, are too common and inconsiderable to awaken reflection-but the termination of a year rouses even the careless, impresses even the insensible: and if we do not allow the subject to operate on the mind—who does not feel, for the moment, the sentiment of Job: “ When a few years are come, I shall
whence I shall not return!"
But there is another relation in which we may consider this day. When we begin a new divi. sion of time, we naturally look forward, and endeavour to penetrate our future condition. The prospect is intimately connected with many of our duties, and will become injurious, or profitable, according to the manner in which it is indulged. Let us, then, confine our attention to this view of the subject. And consider, I. Our inability to determine our future circumstances, II. Show what use we should make of our ignorance. And, III. Search for something to satisfy and comfort us under all our suspension and uncertainty.
I. Though the endowments which distinguished the apostles, were extraordinary, they were not
absolute, but limited in their exercise, by Him who gave them.-In some cases, Paul could discern spirits, and foretell things to come but in others he was held in ignorance, and could only reason from probabilities. Thus he said to the church of Ephesus, “And, now, behold I bound in the spirit unto Jerusalem, not knowing the things that shall befall me there.” He was now a prisoner at Rome. His trial was depend. ing, but the result of it he was unable to determine. He could, therefore, only form his plan conditionally, and resolve to send Timothy to the Philippians, “so soon as he should see how it would go with him.”
And will not this apply more fully to our circumstances?
When we look into futurity, all that meets the eye is a dark unknown. Even in those cases in which God has announced things to come, the prophecy is wrapped up in so much obscurity, that the fulfilment and the explanation generally arrive together. We can previously ascertain nothing. And how often has this been exemplified in the calculations of wise men and some not very wise-with regard to those predictions which remain to be accomplished! Not only have they been drawn off from more useful duties, but they have frequently survived their laborious schemes, and been ashamed of the confidence with which they have published them. After gazing from the tower of their folly, they found that God had gone by in another road than that which they appointed him, and had used other instruments than those which they had put into his hands. They did not consider, that the advantage of prophecy is to be derived from the