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getable creation should answer all the purposes of their being, apparently without any concurrence or volition of their own; and that his rational offspring are furnished with powers, capacities, and forethought for taking advantage of an established series of causes and effects, is equally ascribable to his wisdom and goodness-the benevolence of his intention therein is no less unquestionable. He is the enacter of that law whereby "while the earth remaineth, seed time and harvest, and cold and heat, and summer and winter shall not cease"-upon these things we can as certainly depend as if it were revealed to us from heaven that we should be miraculously furnished with food and clothing, which we' have originally as little share in procuring for ourselves; their regularity and certainty sufficiently prove that they are not the effect of chance, and that our being and our well-being depend not upon any such precarious principle. Generally speaking, if we fail not in doing our part, God will not be wanting on his for whatever is necessary to our support and conducive to our delight, and if ever he retrenches the superabundance of his supplies, if sometimes he withholds the former and the latter rain, it is that we may be reminded of our absolute dependence on him, and be brought humbly to acknowledge that there is an operation and an influence far beyond our power to controul; that he gives us corn and wine and oil, and that if we are ungrateful and disobedient he can take them away in the season thereof and recover his wool and his flax (see Hosea, ii. 8, 9.).
Farther-We may gather from the apparent design of the Creator in arraying so splendidly the lilies of the field, and from the manner in which
Christ mentions it, that there is not only nothing unlawful, but something commendable, in a proper attention to ornament and elegance. Even all the glory of Solomon, of which much is recorded to his honour, and as an accomplishment of the divine promise, is said to be outdone by a single individual of that numerous family intended for the delight of mankind in every station and at every age. It seems indeed to be the dictate of innocence itself to borrow graces from this "breath of nature and her endless bloom," and the characteristic of an advanced stage of civilisation to make them a standard of correct taste. They furnish patterns for the amusing studies of the pencil and the lighter tasks of the needle. They are bidden to live through every season in articles of female attire, in the furniture, on the walls, and on the floors of our apartments. Nor is there any thing in this of which religion needs to be ashamed, or that strict propriety can condemn-it is only censurable when carried to such a length as to be incompatible with necessary economy, or so as to discover a light and frivolous turn of thought-a disproportionate attention to external decoration, while solid advantage and real utility are slighted. Justly would that man stand convicted of inexcusable folly who should convert his whole estate into a flower garden, though ever so tastefully and artificially laid out, and stocked with exotics from every quarter of the globe, while he neglected those simple and wholesome productions which must be obtained by the plainer and ruder operations of the plough and the harrow, and the severer toils of the scythe and the sickle. And let me intreat you, my young friends, to consider this advice as particularly addressed to you. If you con
sume precious time and valuable talent upon things which are chiefly admired by those whose warm but misjudging approbation is bestowed rather upon what is shewy and superficial than what is really praiseworthy, you will find them no more proof against the scorching heats and chilling blasts to which you will be exposed in your passage through life, than a frail and delicate flower, though reared and nursed with the utmost assiduity, and at the greatest expense of time and attention, is able to resist the extremes of the weather-nay, that very circumstance will only tend to show the more evidently its total want of real worth and durability-whereas true wisdom, inflexible virtue, and genuine religion, will, at such trying seasons, be like the firm-rooted tree, covering you with a friendly shade, or against which you may lean with confidence and find support and safety. You can be at no loss to foresee the fate of him who should waste the whole of spring and summer in the fanciful disposition of the parterre, at the same time suffering the soil that ought to supply him with necessaries for the winter to lie fallow or be overrun with weeds and briers. And if your whole attention, during your early years be taken up with fashionable follies, "what will ye do in the day of visitation? To whom will ye flee for help, and where will ye leave your glory?" (See Isaiah, x. 3.)
And here we are unavoidably led, from "considering the lilies how they grow," to consider them as they decay, and to learn from thence some serious and useful lessons! We may now possibly be watching attentively the putting forth of their buds, and looking forward with pleasing expectation to their appearance in full bloom of beauty and richness of
odour-yet, but a little longer and the lustre becomes dim-the flower falleth-the grace of the fashion thereof perisheth-the stem withers, is broken down and trodden to the earth. Such is the state of man— From very early times a parallel has been drawn between his existence and that of the tenderer productions of the earth. Job says (ch. xiv. 2.) “He cometh forth like a flower and is cut down"-David (Ps. ciii. 15, 16.) “As a flower of the field so he flourisheth; for the wind passeth over it and it is gone and the place thereof shall know it no more”—And Isaiah (ch. xl. 6—8.) "All flesh is grass, and the goodliness thereof as the flower of the field-the grass withereth, the flower fadeth." And, if he fall not by some unexpected and sudden stroke, and live out the full period of the days of his years-though he come forth in the vernal promise of beauty and vigour, and arrive at perfect maturity-yet these will change intò the sickly tints of autumn, and the wastes of winter will inevitably follow. This is the universal lawmortality is inscribed upon the most finished productions of nature-beauty fades-strength declinesold age approaches-death closes the scene. And such as we ourselves, so are our dearest comforts We behold them for a time, as we do the fresh-blown lily, with delight; but while we look they fade-we even sometimes shorten their duration by our anxiety to prolong it.
Thus is the creature made subject to vanity. Have we then any right to quarrel with this order of things? To accuse the Creator of viewing his work with complacency for a short time, and then casting it away in caprice or with disgust? Nay, but O man, who art thou that repliest against God? Shall the thing
formed say to him that formed it-why hast thou made me thus?" (Rom. ix. 20.) Or shall he not do what he pleaseth with his own? Have we no claim upon him for existence at all, and shall we not thankfully accept, upon such conditions as he has thought fit to bestow it? We ought to be far less concerned whether our lives be longer or shorter, than to answer the purpose for which they were given, and that we may not in this respect be of less value than the flower whose date begins with the morning sun, and ends when he sinks below the horizon. We can neither alter nor amend the plans of infinite wisdom, and therefore should be only solicitous to discharge the part assigned us in that grand and comprehensiv system, of which it is impossible that our limited capacity should understand all the bearings and connexions. If indeed the whole business of a rational being in this world were to pursue what is falsely called pleasure, or to exhibit a magnificent dress and equipage before the giddy gaping crowd, even if life were protracted to an antediluvian extent, we might make complaints of its brevity, for we might arrive at the end of it still dissatisfied. Solomon in the height of his glory tried both these and found them vanity. But though so many of us commit mistakes in our search after happiness, it is not the less true that our benevolent Creator has placed a reasonable portion of it within our reach. Let us only take the direction that true wisdom points out, and the seasons may
"As ceaseles round a jarring world they roll, "Still find us happy."