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up in us a sense of our constant dependance upon his goodness, and to draw us into a more intimate familiarity with himself, by these frequent applications to the throne of grace. And the remembrance of our being children, when we come thither, teaches us, not only why, but how we ought to ask, viz. with a becoming resignation of mind, and all due deference to his wisdom, who knows better how to choose for us, than we do for ourselves; with an humble confidence in his goodness, that whatever he sees most expedient, shall never be refused us; and with a faithful perseverance in those requests, which, though not always denied when delayed, are yet often delayed, for our much greater benefit: for God is the proper judge, not only of the things to be given, but of the measures and the seasons of giving. And therefore to them, who are careful to ask with all the duty and reverence of children, greater encouragement cannot possibly be imagined, than the giving us leave to put him in mind what he is to us. And this we are not only permitted, but commanded to do, by him, who taught us to begin our prayers with that most endearing of all titles, Our Father, which art in heaven.'
So again, when our Lord would moderate that anxious and inordinate concern, with which men's minds are so apt to be tortured about the necessaries of the present life, he does it with this reflection, that our heavenly Father knoweth we have need of all these things:'-implying, that it can never consist with the character of a father to leave us destitute of those supplies, which it is always in his power to furnish:-and the mistake of those who are apt to think themselves neglected upon these occasions, is, first, that they make wrong judgements of their own condition, in supposing themselves to want what really they do not; and then, that they stretch those promises, which are our security against the necessities of nature, to so many engagements for convenience, and ease, and abundance. And once again we should know, that even with respect to necessaries, it makes no difference whether we be supplied from our own, or from other hands; whether by our substance or our labour, or by the liberality of those friends whom God raises up for us, in our disability and distress; for both these are the Lord's doings, and he who hath obliged himself to furnish us, hath left himself at liberty to choose what particular methods he will furnish us by. But, after all, the most
effectual way of silencing all murmurings of this kind is, to consider that this is a spiritual relation: consequently that the comforts, rising from it, though they extend to wants of every kind, are chiefly such as meet with our spiritual wants. Constant and seasonable recruits of inward strength and grace, the bread of life and wine of elect souls, the mystical banquets of the body and blood of Christ, and all the supports and refreshments requisite to nourish us up unto life eternal; these are the sustenances agreeable to such a Father. And in these, we may rest assured, he will never be wanting to his children. Not only so, but when his table has fed us, and we are grown up by the bounty of it, to the 'fulness of the stature of perfect men in Christ Jesus,' he hath laid up for us a plentiful portion; and, like a truly provident father, taken effectual care for our future settlement; a settlement durable beyond time itself, and ample and noble as his own immortal happiness. For this is the sum of all our privileges, this the crown of all our obedience, and all our expectations, that if we be sons,' then 'are we heirs too,' even heirs of God through Christ.'
FIRST SUNDAY AFTER CHRISTMAS.
THE DEATH OF THE OLD YEAR.
2 COR. v. 17.-Old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.
THE departure of the old year, and the entrance of a new one, cannot but suggest many useful and very important reflections. It may be fitly compared to the death of an old friend; and our behaviour in one case regulated by that, which generally obtains in the other.
1. When we have lost a friend, our first care naturally is, to see that he be decently interred; to follow him, mourning, to the grave; to let his funeral remind us of our own; and to erect a monument to his memory.
The past year is, to all intents and purposes, lost to us, and
numbered among the dead. It is gone to join the multitude of years, that have died before it. They arise from their seats in the repositories of the dead, to receive it among them; it is now become like one of them; and all that hurry and bustle of business and pleasure, which distinguished and animated it, have sunk into silence and oblivion. It will return no more upon the earth; and the scenes that were acted in it, are closed for ever. It has lived, however, and we have enjoyed it; let us pay it the honours due to the deceased, and drop a tear over its tomb. We cannot take a final leave of any thing, to which we have been accustomed, without a sentiment of concern. Objects, otherwise of the most indifferent nature, claim this, and they never fail of obtaining it, at the hour of parting. The idea of the last is always a melancholy idea; and it is so, perhaps, for this among other reasons, because, whatever be the immediate subject, an application is presently made to ourselves. Thus, in the case before us, it is recollected-and let it be recollected-it is good for us to recollect it—that what has happened to the year, must happen to us. a day must dawn, which is to be our last. have buried a few more years, we must ourselves be buried; our friends shall weep at our funeral; and what we have been, and what we have done, will live only in their remembrance. The reflection is sorrowful; but it is just, and salutary :-equally vain and imprudent would be the thought of putting it away from us. Meanwhile, let us cast our eyes back on that portion of time, which is come to its conclusion; and see whether the good thoughts that have occurred to our minds, the good words that have been uttered, and the good deeds that have been performed by us, will not furnish materials, with which we may erect a lasting monument to the memory of the departed year.
On each of us When we shall
2. When a friend is dead and buried, we take a pensive kind of pleasure in going over again and again the hours we formerly passed with him, either in prosperity, or adversity. Let us pursue the same course; it may be done to great advantage, in this instance. The grand secret of a religious life is, to set God always before us;' to live under a constant sense of his providence; to observe and study his dispensations towards us, that they may produce their proper effects, and draw forth suitable returns from us. Too often we suffer them
to glide unheeded by us, and never afterwards think of recalling them to consideration! It were well if we kept a diary of our lives, for this purpose; if we 'so numbered our days, that we might apply our hearts unto wisdom.' But certainly, no year should be permitted to expire, without giving occasion to a retrospect. The principal events that have befallen us in it should be recollected, and the requisite improvements be raised from them severally, by meditation. What preservations from dangers spiritual or temporal have been vouchsafed; what new blessings granted, or old ones continued, to me and mine; to my friends, my neighbours, my church, my country; and how have I expressed, in word and in deed, my gratitude and thankfulness for them? With what losses, or crosses, what calamities, or sicknesses, have we been visited; and have such visitations rendered us more penitent, more diligent, devout, and holy, more humble, and more charitable? If the light of heaven hath shined on our tabernacle, and we have enjoyed the hours in health and happiness, let us enjoy them over again in the remembrance: if we have lived under a dark and stormy sky, and affliction has been our lot, let us consider that so much of that affliction is gone, and the less there is of it to But whatever may be gone, or to come, all is from God, who sends it not without a reason; and with whom, if we co-operate, no event can befal us, which will not, in the end, turn to our advantage. Such reflections as these should indeed be always made at the time, when the events do befal us. But if not made then, they should be made at some time; which yet will not be done, unless some time be appointed for making them. And what time so fit, as that, when one year ends, and another begins? when, having finished a stage of our journey, we survey, as from an eminence, the ground we have passed; and the sight of the objects brings to mind the occur rences upon that part of the road?
3. When a friend is taken from us, we begin to consider, whether we profited by him, as we ought, while he was with us; whether we sufficiently observed his good example, to imitate it; his wholesome advice, to follow it; his faithful and kind reproofs, to be better for them, by amending our faults. In the course of the foregoing year, many good examples must we have seen and heard of; and by means of books and conversation from without, and hints from our own consciences
within, much wholesome advice, many faithful and kind reproofs, must we have met with. For all these admonitions are we the better, and have we profited by them? Let it be supposed, for instance, that we had been accustomed aforetime to pray but seldom, and when we did, to pray without attention, and without fruit: Do we now observe the hours of prayer with more constancy, and less distraction? Do we really and truly find any pleasure in our devotions? Or are we dragged unwillingly to them as a task, and, consequently, rejoice with all our hearts, when they are over? For years together, per haps, we have turned our backs on the Communion-table: Is it in our intention to give that holy ordinance a more frequent attendance for the future? Does the current of our thoughts flow in any degree more purely than formerly? Is our conversa, tion become innocent, at least, if not improving; free from slander and scandal, from pride and conceit? Are our actions more and more directed by the rules of justice and charity? Above all, what use do we make of the talents with which it hath pleased God to intrust us, particularly those two, our time, and our fortunes? Is it altogether such, as that we shall be able, on our death-beds, to think on it, before God, with comfort and confidence? When we examine ourselves as to the progress we have made in the Christian life since this day twelvemonth, do we find that we have made any progress at all; that we have discarded any evil habits, or acquired any good ones; that we have mortified any vices, or brought forward to perfection any virtues? In one word, as we grow older, do we grow wiser and better? These are the questions, which should be asked at the conclusion of a year-and may the heart of every person here present return to them an answer of peace!
4. While we are following a friend to his grave, it is obvious to reflect, that his day of trial is at an end, that the time allotted him for his probation is over, and his condition fixed for eternity. Engaged in the awful speculation, we can hardly avoid the following reflection:-if, instead of his being taken from us, we had been taken from him,-what, at this time, had been our lot and portion in the other world? By the favour of God, we have lived to the end of the year: we might have died before it. In such case, where had we now been? Have we no misgivings within? Do we feel, as if we thought that all would have been right? Are we conscious to ourselves