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But, left, in the contemplation of these inferior creatures, we fhould feem to defcend below the dignity of a religious fubject, we will confine ourfelves to the examples prefented to us by the fcripture itself, which always treats the moft familiar fubjects with such a dignity, as gives them importance and commands refpect.
I. The beafts reprove our unmindfulness of, and ingratitude to our Divine Benefactor.
"Hear, O heavens," fays the prophet, "and give ear, O earth, for the Lord hath spoken; I have nourished and brought up children, but they have rebelled againft me. The ox knoweth his owner, and the afs his master's crib; but Ifrael doth not know; my people doth not confider."
The prophet here felects for an example those. creatures which are generally esteemed dull and intractable. Yet even thefe, he fays, rebuke the unthankfulness of men; for they look to the hand from which they have been fed, and repair to the crib from which they have been supplied. They wait for their master's bounty, and receive it with tokens of gratitude. But man, thankless man, forgets the beavenly benefactor, who daily loads him with benefits, and gives him all things richly to enjoy. Man lives on God's goodnefs, yet God is feldom in his thoughts. He feeks his fupplies without a fenfe of dependence, and eats his meals without an acknowledgment of obligation. He rises to his labour without imploring the divine bleffing, and lies down to fleep without asking the divine protection. He has been, from his youth, fuftained by God's care, and yet continues in rebellion against him.
Look to your domeftic animals are they as unmindful of you, as you are of your God? Do they treat you with the neglect, with which you
treat your heavenly parent? The want of language to exprefs a fenfe of dependence they fupply by fignificant actions. You have language: employ your tongue in prayers and praises to God. You have reafon : let his mercies perfuade you to glorify him in all your actions. While you live in difobedience and unthankfulness to God, without a fenfe of his goodness, and without a regard to his will, the beafts, which ferve you, reprove and condemn you.
II. How many are there, who, while they enjoy a fulness of worldly good, are difcontented with their worldly condition, and always murmuring against the ways of providence, as if these were partial and unequal? Do you fee this difpofition in the brutes?" Doth the wild ass bray, when he hath meat? Or loweth the ox over his fodder ?"
The brutes have their natural wants; and when these are fupplied, they are contented. But man is ever craving, and can never have enough. His avarice has no limits; his ambition knows no bounds. The wants of nature are few and small. The wants of imagination are endlefs and infatiable. The world is full of complaints. Every one feems more or lefs diffatisfied with his own condition, and defirous to exchange it for that of fome other man. The general enquiry is, "Who will fhew us any good?" But what do you want? Have you not much good now? You enjoy health, liberty and competence. You have food to eat, raiment to put on, houfes to dwell in, and friends to converse with. You have fecurity in your perfons and properties, ability to labour in your callings, and capacity to enjoy the fruits of your la bour; you use them as your own, difpofe of them as you please, confume what you need, and lay by the reft for future occafions. And why are
you not contented?-One murmurs at the une qual diftributions of providence; another complains of the injuftice of his fellow men; this man is diffatisfied with one thing, and that man with another, and almost every man with fomething. But all this murmuring proceeds from unreasonable paffions, from pride, avarice, ambition and luft. Pride demands more homage, than men are willing to beftow. Avarice feeks more property than the world has to give. Ambition afpires to more power than can be lodged in mortal hands. Luxury afflicts itself by feeking more pleasure than an animal can enjoy. It is the difappointment of these reftlefs paffions, which is the ground of all our complaints. The beaft is free from these paffions, and contented when his real wants are fupplied: man, who is endued with reason, should fubdue these paffions; then he will be contented in his place. This is the inftruction of religion, "Let "Let your converfation be without covetoufnefs, and be content with fuch things as ye have; for ye brought nothing into the world, and ye can carry nothing out of it."
III. The fowls of the air reprove our inattention to the warnings of providence.
"The ftork in the heavens," fays the prophet, "knoweth her appointed time, and the turtle, the crane, and the swallow observe the time of their coming; but my people know not the judgment of the Lord: How do ye fay, We are wife, and the law of the Lord is with us? Surely in vain made he it; the pen of the fcribes is in vain."
The fowls exactly mark and punctually obey the admonitions of the feafons. No aftronomer is more accurate, than they, in obferving; no seaman is more careful, than they, in following
the afpects of the heavens. They defcry the prog nofticks of approaching ftorms, and feek fecure, retreats. As winter advances,, they fly to warmer regions; and again they return with the returning fpring. But how inattentive are men to the figns, which warn them of threatening dangers, and which call them to immediate repentance, as the means of fafety?
God inftructs us by his word, and admonishes, us by his providence. The language of his provi dence is explained by his word. When iniquities abound, we are taught, that judgments are preparing. When judgments are abroad, we are exhorted to learn righteousness. The calamities, which fall on others, we are commanded to regard as warnings to ourfelves. But how inatten tive are men in general to thefe admonitions? A fudden death will perhaps have a temporary effect on fome but how few are awakened to prepare for a death as fudden? The prevalence of mortal fickness creates an alarm within the circle of its ra vages, and excites a folicitude to prevent, or ef-, cape its attacks: but rarely does it produce a gen-, eral and durable reformation? We hear of fuch a. calamity at a distance; we make it a fubject of enquiry and converfation; we fpeculate on the natural caufes, the probable preventives, and most approved remedies; and thus let it pafs away as an uninterefting piece of intelligence, While others are deftroyed from morning to evening, they perifh without any regarding it. A mortality near to us affects us more fenfibly, than a mortality at a diftance; but whether diftant or near, its moral inftructions and admonitions are the fame. In both cafes, it alike teaches us the uncertainty of our health and life-of our chil dren and friends; and the importance of an imme
diate preparation for the events, which await us in this changing, dying world. And yet how few apply it to this wife and serious purpofe? Do not the fowls, who obferve the temperature of the air, and the afpect of the fkies, difcover a wifdom, which condemns our folly? They regard the feafons appointed them for changing their climes: we neglect the feafon affigned to us to prepare for a greater change; a change of worlds. When we fee their attention to the tokens given them in the course of nature, let us pay equal attention to the admonitions given us in the courfe of providence.
IV. The fcripture fends us to the fowls to learn heavenly affection and zeal. "They who wait on the Lord fhall renew their ftrength; they fhall mount up with wings, as eagles; they fhall run and not be weary; they fhall walk and not faint." -The eagle is defcribed, in the book of Job, as a fowl of vigorous wing, elevated flight and pene. trating eye." She mounts aloft, makes her neft on high, and her eyes behold afar off." She loves the fublimer regions of the air, foars above the clouds, and lives in the beams of the fun. If the defcends to the earth, it is to collect her food foon the returns to dwell in her favourite skies.. She is an emblem of Chriftian faith and hope, heavenly mindedness and zeal. She delights in a lofty afcent. Shall Chriftians cleave to the duft? We are, indeed, like the eagle, to feek on earth food for the fupport of our bodies: but our fouls muft rife on the wings of hope and faith to dwell in a higher region and a purer fky.
The gospel opens to our view a glorious world, where God manifefts his wonderful perfections, where the redeemer difplays his lovely character, and where faints rejoice in adoration and praife.