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God hath sent; the blast sweeps by unheeded ; secure in our own abodes, we feel not the rocking of the tempest without; we sleep on in peace, and are never aroused, until our own dwellings begin to totter, and our safety is endangered,then we“ cry unto the Lord in our trouble," and seek for comfort and security in his protection. Happy therefore is it for us, that God from time to time visits us in our own homes, that he presses the awful truth of our mortality upon our own hearts, with a force that we must feel, and with a conviction that we cannot withstand. Happy for us, that he takes our friends, one by one, from our embrace, and leaves us mourners here, that our mourning may be turned into joy hereafter. Happy, when he disciplines us in the school of affliction, and draws us by the merciful rod of his correction from this world unto himself.
He was a wise man, my brethren, who wrote those words of my text, “it is better to go to the house of mourning than to the house of feasting,” for affliction is indeed a better teacher than prosperity ; the one instructs us in true wisdom, the other but beguiles us with falsehood and deceit; the dark cloud which casts however melancholy a gloom on our earthly happiness will fall in a plentiful shower of blessings on our souls; the full sunshine of worldly joy too commonly only dazzles the sight, so that it cannot "look steadily up to heaven,” or scorches up the spiritual nutriment of the heart, leaving it a barren wilderness of thorns and briars, and unproductive of those fruits which alone can flourish to all eternity.
The truth however, and the wisdom of the saying of the preacher, rest upon the truth of that gospel which we have received, and which
professes to have “ brought life and immortality to light.” Were man like the beasts that perish, destined for no nobler end, with no soul within him, formed to survive the decay of the body and the lapse of time, I would not preach to you such a doctrine as this; my labour would be in vain, for I could not hope to dry one tear of sorrow, by bidding you look forward to a blessed day when you shall
reap in joy. I should know, and you would know, that affliction then, though it might still be borne with fortitude, or mitigated by resignation, could on no account be esteemed a blessing
And truly, too many do live as if this supposition were really true, and there were no better life to come. How carefully do they shun all serious thought as if it were the very bane and poison of their pleasure. How do they shut up every avenue of their mind against the unpleasant intruder. How do they hurry from one amusement, from one scene of festivity to another, as if their sole object were to avoid themselves, to expel reflection from their bosoms, and to let death come upon them without provision or preparation. Condemn me not as too severe, before you have considered well whether I speak the truth. Consult your own experience; ask
your own consciences whether or not there be such characters as I have described ; are there not, do you not know there are, men and women in multitudes, and that in the midst of a Christian community, and themselves bearing the Christian name, who live in perpetual thoughtlessness about all the most important subjects of Christianity, as if the world were their everlasting home, earthly pleasure their greatest good, death but an idle term, heaven and hell but empty fables, God an imaginary being, or too distant to behold them, or too much occupied with other matters to notice their proceedings? Do you say that such questions are inappropriate here, when all give proof by their presence that the character does not belong to them? Alas, my brethren, many a man and woman attend the place of public worship without more of real religion in their hearts than those whom I have mentioned. A careless life is not counterbalanced by a formal observance of the sabbath. It may be, that the very sabbath itself is a weariness and disgust to them; it may be that its duties are regarded as an irksome task, as an intrusion upon their enjoyments, an interruption to their more agreeable pursuits ; it may be, that they regret its arrival, and though they go through, with decent forbearance, the tedious observance of the day, that they rejoice at its close. It may be, that there is nothing of the sacred influence of the sabbath either felt in their hearts, or produced in their conduct, during the rest of the week; and if so, shall we set down even the most scrupulous attention to the outward ceremonial of the sabbath to the score of religion? Oh no, it is with them but a constrained rest from business or pleasure, a formal confession required by the now established rules of society; it finds them worldly, and it leaves them so. I lay this therefore totally out of the question, and I ask again, whether there are not many nominal Christians, who live without religion, without God in the world, as if they had no souls, as if there would be no judgment hereafter? What are their occupations? Pleasures and amusements, the pursuit of wealth or worldly honour, from morning to night. What is their conversation? Devoted to the most trifling levities perhaps ; at the best, to the graver
follies of the world. What are the subjects of their thoughts? Sensuality, vanity, show, worldly anxieties, any thing but religion. What are their prayers ? Perhaps they offer none; or if any, mere words repeated, devoid of meaning, unsanctified by any feeling of devotion, or conceived in an unholy spirit. What is their repentance, their self-denial, their faith, their piety, their charity ? Mere names of graces and virtues, which they have never cultivated. What time do they devote to holy contemplation, and religious exercises of heart and life? They have none to spare, pleasure engrosses all. How are they prepared then for death? By banishing the thoughts of it, and plunging blindfold into the indulgences of life.
Now if, my brethren, there be such characters, where are they to be found ? In the “ house of feasting," amidst the scenes of worldly joy, among the votaries of fashionable dissipation. Do not suppose me to be passing a sweeping and uncharitable censure on all who partake of the gaieties and luxuries of social life. Purity, and innocence, and piety, are sometimes preserved in the midst of allurements, although it is certain they can never be produced or fostered by them. Nor do I say that there cannot be an occasional indulgence in festive recreation, so moderate as to be free from danger, and void of blame. Yet