« PreviousContinue »
spontaneously abound with all her productions, and lavish on man her choicest goods. It is designed as an encouragement for human exertion. And, in similar circumstances, where a people are the most industrious and economical, there the good things of this life are enjoyed in the greatest profusion. All nature teems with life and activity; and to the slothful, her voice of admonition is, Go to the ant, thou sluggard ; consider her ways, and be wise. As it is true, that without the blessing of God, in giving fruitful showers and the genial influence of the sun, the labours of man would be vain, so is it equally true, that in the constitution of natural things, we may be led to see the necessity of human activity, in order to obtain what are denominated natural blessings.
2d. Individual prosperity in earthly good things, is connected with human activity. It is true that wealth or riches are distributed by the hand of Providence, whether mankind are born to affluence, or whether they acquire wealth by the means of their labours. It is also a matter of fact, that the industrious do not always become wealthy, nor that riches are always to men of understanding. But, still we often see this truth verified, That idleness will clothe a man with rags; but the hand of the diligent maketh rich. Property is generally acquired by the use of means; either by bodily or mental exertions, and frequently by both. Some by persevering labour and an enterprising spirit, not only obtain a competence, but accumulate great riches. The
person in want is convinced, that human activity is the proper means to relieve his necessities. Such may trust in Providence; but this is only by looking to God for a blessing on their labours or honest exertions. And we may frequently see from the conduct of such, that necessity is the mother of invention. The worthy poor man does not give himself up to idleness ; but he gives diligence, by some honest calling, to obtain food and
raiment, and the varied comforts of life. Whether any one be more or less successful in the lawful pursuits of secular concerns, he must depend on the blessing of God to crown his endeavours with suc
Still this dependance is not a discouragement to exertion; but a ground or reason to excite to action. Not only the word of God, but also the conduct of mankind serves to show, that human activity is a means for individuals to obtain earthly good things.
3d. In time of sickness or of some natural calamity, human activity and means, are necessary in order to obtain a blessing from God. Although it is true, that it is appointed unto man once to die, and that his days are nuinbered with the Almighty as the days of an hireling, that he cannot pašs; yet it is equally true, that where life is prolonged, means are included. In times of sickness of an alarming nature, how quickly is the physician called, and how carefully his prescriptions observed. In some cases without his assistance, life would not be endangered; but, in ten thousand instances, without his speedy aid, death would inevitably ensue; whereas, through his instrumentallity, the years of many are multiplied. Still it is the blessing of God, which alone can give efficacy to medical aid, to raise from the borders of the grave, and restore to health. How are the most skilful exertions baffled, unless he give efficacy. But, notwithstanding the keys of life and of death, are in the hands of God; yet how readily do mankind make use of human exertions and means, in order to preserve life and promote health.
And whether the Lord grant blessings by a natural or miraculous cause, he has instituted means to be used, and demands human activity. Sometimes, however, men despise the directions from heaven, and would prescribe the means to be used for their own selves, as if they were wiser than their Maker. The story of Naaman, captain of the Assyrian host, and who was a leper,
may be happily brought to view in this place. By a little Hebrew maid, he hears of a prophet in Israel. With a letter from the king of Assyria, he departs; taking ten talents of silver, and six thousand pieces of gold, and ten changes of raiment, as a price or present for his healing. So Naaman came with his horses and his chariot, and stood at the door of the house of Elisha. And Elisha sent a messenger unto him, saying, Go and wash in Jordan seven times ; and thy flesh shall come again unto thee, and thou shalt be clean. But Naaman was wroth, and went away; and said, Behold, I thought he will surely come out to me, and stand and call on the name of the Lord his God, and strike his hand over the place and recover the leper. Are not Abana and Pharpar, rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel? may I not wash in them and be clean? So he turned, and went away in a rage. And his servants came near, and spake unto him and said, My father, if the prophet had bid thee do some great thing, wouldest thou not have done it? how much rather then, when he saith unto thee, Wash and be clean. Then went he down, and dipped himself seven times in Jordan, according to the saying of the man of God: and his flesh came again like unto the flesh of a little child, and he was clean. We may notice, that Naaman despised simple means, and desired to have pompous ones substituted. And that the advice of his servants was the means, which induced him to follow the directions of the prophet, without which his leprosy must have remained upon him. The Saviour's anointing the eyes of the blind man with clay, and his restoring sight, are worthy of consideration. Why was clay used, and not proper eye-salve? Because the power and blessing of God might not appear so conspicuous. Hence he would use means which would not appear to have any inherent virtue or efficacy, that the esficiency might appear manifest from God alone. Now let us attend
to the words of the text. To the man whose hand was withered, says the Saviour, Stretch forth thine hand. And he stretched it out, and his hand was restored whole as the other. The question now arises, Why was the man commanded to stretch forth his hand, when he laboured under a natural inability. I answer, because means or human exertion was to be made to appear, to be inseparably connected with the end, or the restoration of the hand. The moment the man made an effort to raise his hand, which he was unable of himself to do, power was communicated from the Saviour to restore its vital energies, that it might be raised. Divine agency immediately accompanied human; and unless the man had made an attempt to comply with the command, we have not the smallest evidence, that his hand would have been restored. Though means are to be used, the power and excellence must appear to be from God. Thus we may see, that in time of sickness or some natural calamity human activity and means are necessary in order to obtain a blessing from him.
Ath. It is through the blessing of God and by human activity, that our natural talents are improved. In the first period of our existence, we are human beings only in miniature. The works of nature and the privileges of society, are the great inlets of knowl. edge; but these are so varied and extensive, that we may make constant improvements in learning those things, which are becoming dependant and accountable beings. When we behold the wonders of creation, if we duly exercise our minds, we may contemplate the being and perfections of God ; for the invisible things of him may be clearly seen, from the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead. And from the blessings of educatin and society we may obtain clear and enlarged views of the various doctrines and duties of the gospel. Some have far more extensive opportunities of instruction than others; yet, still, in all cases much depends on
human activity. The light of creation, Providence, and revelation, must not be shut out of the mind, but improved, would we form consistent and exalted views of the character of God and of his wondrous works, It is not only through human activity, that the mind is expanded in all its faculties; but human exertions are necessary, that it make use of proper means, and be engaged in suitable employments, Our dispositions and manners depend much on our own forming. It is true, that our gifts and privileges are blessings from God; but our improvement of them, are inseparably connected with human activity.
5th. It is through the blessing of God, that the minds of any are deeply impressed with a sense of divine truth ; still the agency or activity of man is not excluded. It is the work of grace, that any of the human race are awakened and convicted; for mankind, in a moral point of view, are asleep, and do not wish to be disturbed from their slumbers. The Holy Spirit is the great agent to awaken and convince men that they are sinners, and make them feel their guilt; but their activity is necessary in order to cherish the strivings of the Spirit.
The light and force of divine truth, will now and then break in and shine into the minds of men, which, by their exertions, they may either kindle or quench. To have the mind habitually impressed and open to conviction, requires serious meditation and prayer. Some have their minds occupied with light and trifling thoughts, much of their time; because they are pleased with vain things, and exent themselves to bar the avenues of the soul against the arrows of conviction. On the other hand, those who have generally solemnity of mind, strive to banish sinful and vain thoughts as an enemy to seriousness. Some resort to the pleasures and amusements of life, that they may lose their serious impressions. Others seeķ scrious company and religious conversation ; deeply solicitous, lest they resist the strivings of the Spirit. From experience, and from the warnings and