Page images

That is a diftant world; but our eyes, like the eagle's, should fee afar off. We fhould look beyond this cloudy atmosphere, into the regions of eternal day-regions which need not our fun, being always enlightened with the glory of God. " If ye be rifen with Chrift," fays the apostle, "feek the things, which are above, where Chrift fitteth on the right hand of God; fet your affection on things above, and not on things on the earth; for ye are dead, and your life is hid with Chrift in God; and when he fhall appear, then fhall ye also appear with him in glory.'

If the eagle, forgetting her wings, fhould reft on the ground, and feed on the dunghill, fhe would be a proper emblem of fuch inconfiftent Christians, as place all their affections, and employ all their cares on this world, while they profess to live by the faith and hope of a better.

V. The fowls rebuke our unreasonable carefulness and anxiety about the things of the prefent life.

"Take no thought for your life," fays our Lord, "what ye fhall eat, or what ye shall drink, nor for your body, what ye fhall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body more than raiment? Behold the fowls of the air; for they fow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly father feedeth them. Are not ye much better than they ?"

God's providence over his creatures is exercised in a manner adapted to their different natures. Some infects and animals are endued with an inftinct, which directs them, in fummer, to provide ftores for their fupply in winter. But the fowls, which are formed for paffage, have no occafion for winter ftores; for when fupplies fail in one place, they can with speed and facility pass to another. They have neither ftore-houses, nor barns, but

commit themselves to providence in the way, in which nature guides them. In this way God fupplies their wants. "He gives to the beaft his food, and to the young ravens which cry. These all wait on him, and receive their meat in feafon." Men are endued with intellect, forethought and a capacity for labour; and for them God provides by fmiling on their prudence and induftry. "They are to work with their hands the thing which is good, that they may have lack of nothing, and may have fomething to give to fuch as need." "He who gathereth in fummer is a wife fon; but he who fleepeth in harveft is a fon who caufeth fhame." While we pursue the duties of our calling with diligence, and ufe the fruits of our labour with temperance, we are to trust the care of pro vidence without anxiety. This is our Lord's meaning, when he fays, "Take no thought for the morrow." That thoughtfulness for the things of the world, which is attended with immoderate defire, perplexing fear, distrust of God and neglect of duty, is condemned by religion, by reafon, and even by nature itself. "Take no fuch thought for these things; for these are the things, after which the gentiles feek; but feek ye firft the kingdom of God, and these things fhall be added to you, as far as you need ; and your heavenly father feeth, how far you need them." What good will your anxiety do you? Can you by this add a cu bit to your ftature, or a moment to your life? God has hitherto preferved your life: can you not truft him to preserve it ftill, and to afford its conveniences.? Look up to the heavens; and fee how he fuftains the fowls. They live on his bounty without anxiety. What he gives, they enjoy with cheerfulness. What he fcatters they gather and are filled with good. Can you not VOL. V.



trust the providence, which fupports them? Purs fue, like them, the course, which he has marked for you; and doubtless you will receive fuch things as you need. "Commit yourselves to him, for he is a faithful creator. Caft all your cares upon him, for he careth for you."

VI. These thoughts naturally introduce another leffon. Solomon fends the fluggard to the ants, that from them he may learn diligence, prudence and forethought. "Go to the ant, thou fluggard, confider her ways, and be wife, which, having no guide, overfeer, or ruler, provideth her meat in fummer, and gathereth her food in harvest."

The man, who neglects the proper feason of bufinefs; who gives to fleep and amufement the time which he owesto his own and his family's fupport; who fubftitutes fruitless wifhes for active labours ; who raises imaginary difficulties that he may excufe himself from neceffary duties, we call a fluggard; and Solomon calls him fo too. But many, who are the reverfe of this character in common life, deferve it in the moral fenfe. Wholly occupied in the affairs of the world, they pay no attention to the culture of their minds, the correction of their tempers, the reformation of their lives, and their preparation for the world to come. It is the diligent hand which makes rich, in spiritual, as well as in temporal treasures. How much foever one may labour for treasures on earth, if he lay up none in heaven, he is ftill idle, and ftill poor.

Solomon counfels the fluggard to confider the ways, and learn the wisdom of the ant. She looks well to the future," providing her meat in fummer:" fhe improves the favorable opportunity, "gathering her food in harvest :" fhe attends to her work with diligence, while the feason lafts.

Thus fhe lives through winter, in which a thoufand more gay and musical insects perish with hunger and cold.

All this she does, though fhe has no guide to prescribe her work; no overfeer to urge her diligence, and no ruler or judge to punish her negfect. How does this fmall and contemptible creature reprove the folly and negligence of men?

Many give themselves to indolence, pleasure and diverfion, while their worldly neceffities urge them to industry. Many devote themselves to the cares of the world, when there is one thing needful, which demands their attention. Many bestow all their thoughts and labours upon the interests of this mortal ftate, when they ought to look forward to the eternal world, and provide for a happy existence there. How is the day of falvation neglected? How is the fine season of youth wafted? How are fabbaths profaned? How are the warnings of providence despised? How are the ftrivings of the fpirit refifted?

Thus thousands live in floth and negligence, though they have a guide, overfeer and ruler. There is a confcience within them, which reproves their neglect; there is a law given them to direct their conduct; there is an allfeeing God, who infpects their actions, and who will bring every work into judgment with every fecret thing, whether it be good or evil, and will render to every man according to his doings.

Go, then, to the ant, thou fluggard; confider her ways, and be wife.

I fhall add only one example more. That in all our Chriftian conduct we may learn to unite innocence with prudence, and fimplicity with caution, Chrift refers us to the ferpent and the dove. hold," fays he to his difciples, "I fend you forth,


as lambs among wolves: be ye therefore wife as ferpents, and harmless as doves."

Our Lord, when he was on earth, would not commit himself to men; for he knew what was in men. The fame caution he injoins on his dif ciples. "If they perfecute you in this city, flee to another." This probably is his intention, when he fays, "Be ye wife as ferpents." For the wif dom of the ferpent lies principally in his art to obtain his fuftenance, and in his caution to avoid his enemies. But then our Lord inftructs them, that with their wisdom they must join innocence, of which the dowe is a pattern. She is ever harm, lefs and inoffenfive: fhe never molefts other crea tures fhe makes no war on birds of a different fpecies: with those of her own fpecies the af. fociates in amity and peace; and in her special friendships the is diftinguished by her fidelity and love.

In times of danger, we are to confult our fafe. ty. When evil threatens us, we are to foresee it, and hide ourselves. But whatever unjust defigns we may fufpect, we must use no finful artifice to defeat them. Whatever injuries we receive, we must indulge no thoughts of revenge. This is Saint Peter's advice to Chriftians in a time of perfecution; "Let none of you fuffer as an evil doer, or as a bufybody in other men's matters; yet if any man fuffer as a Chriftian, let him not be ashamed. For it is better, if the will of God be fo, that ye fuffer for well doing than for evil doing. And let them, who fuffer according to the will of God, commit themselves to him in well doing. For who is he that will harm you, if ye be followers of that which is good?" But if any be fo malignant, as to harm you for your goodness, remember, "that when ye fuffer for righteoufnefs' fake, happy are ye."

« PreviousContinue »