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actively employed in the support and preservation of what was thus at first formed and set in motion. Now, upon the very face of the matter, it would seem to be absurd and presumptuous in us to say, Thus far the divine superintendence extends_but all beyond that line is left entirely to the effect of fortuitous incident, nor has the Deity any thing to do with it, or is merely an indifferent spectator. But the great difficulty is, to reconcile the belief of a superintending Providence with the existence of natural and moral evil, and with the freedom of human actions; and so insurmountable did it appear to many of the ancient heathen philosophers, that they maintained that the gods did not interrupt the happiness they enjoyed in the upper regions, by concerning themselves with what passed in the world below. But neither sound reason nor divine revelation will authorise the belief of any such absurdities; and however incapable we may be of solving every hard problem which the apparently confused state of things in this world presents, it is impossible, upon any consistent and satisfactory grounds, to disbelieve the cognisance of an omnipresent, all-intelligent Spirit, or that directive impulse which is given to the actions and affairs of mankind, so as to answer the great intentions of Him who “worketh all things after the counsels of his own will." In the fine language of Mr. Addison,
« The ways of Heaven are dark and intricate, « Puzzled in mazes, and perplexed with errors; “Our understanding traces them in vain, " Lost and bewildered in the fruitless search;
6. Nor sees with how much art the windings run, « Nor where the regular confusion ends."
In effect, if we were to discard the belief of this most important truth, we should lose our principal, our only support under those calamities and misfortunes which we feel it utterly out of our power to foresee or prevent. It would be, with a desperate hand, to cut away the only anchor of our hope, and to abandon our frail bark to the boisterous winds and the raging billous—it would be a conduct equally unworthy our character, as rational beings, or as Christians.
We are now arrived on the borders of one of those seasons in which it has been usual (and sorry I am to observe, that a custom so useful and becoming seems to be losing ground among us,) to make a serious pause, and to devote a portion of it to suitable religious exercises. Many hours of the past year have perhaps been idly and unprofitably, if not still more blameably spent. A few yet remain, before it is irrecoverably ingulfed in the ocean of past eternity-Let us then employ a part of them, according to the distribution suggested by the words of my text, in reflecting on the past-considering the present and contemplating the future, with an especial reference to the all-governing providence of God.
So helpless is the condition of man when first he opens his eyes upon the light of this world—so uus merous and various are the accidınts and diseases by which the slender thread of life may be snapped asunder, and which the instinctive solicitude and care of parents can only tend to prevent, but from which they cannot effectually secure him, that instead of
surprise at the greatness of the number which perish at that early period, it may well excite our astonishment that so many survive. Which of us has not often been told, by a fond mother, of her anxieties and alarms, her alternate hopes and fears, while watching the progress of disease or the symptoms of recovery. How many of us can recollect hair-breadth escapes from the jaws of death during the heedless days of childhood and youth! escapes which we cannot justly ascribe to any thing but the interposition of an invisible hand. Since our entrance upon
the active and busy scenes of life, although we cannot accompany the Apostle with our own experience through the long detail of his sufferings, many of us may, like him, have been in deaths often, in journeyings often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in p'rils in the sea. In these last, several of us who have left our native land, can in particular join issue with Paul. We can, doubtless, remember moments when death seemed to ride on every wave, and destruction to howl in every blast-when the last remains of hope were ready to expire, and when the mercy of the Omnipotent, then perhaps invoked by lips which had seldom uttered his name but to iinprecate his vengeance, appeared as the only refuge from absolute despair. Yet he who rebuketh the winds and the raging of the water, who maketh the storm a calm, hath dissipated our fears, and at length brought us to our desired haven.
Nor less hath his preserving care been exercised over us in our removes from place to place by land. Whether our abode be in the city or the country, so many thousands of times do we go out and return in
safety, that we are too apt to overlook the hand that guides and guards us. It is therefore right-it is necessary, that we should be sometimes reminded of our obligations by painful experience. We may leave our liabitations in full health, spirits and activity, and be brought back with a fractured or dislocated limb. There may be but a moment between perfect bodily vigour and tedious confinement or long pro. tracted decrepitude, if even life itself escape immediate or consequent extinction, for in numberless instances it is literally true that there is but a step between us and death."* When we consider how many circumstances, apparently the most trifling and altogether unapprehended, may occasion the most serious calamities, their comparative infrequency ought to excite in us the most lively sense of, and the most devout gratitude for, the preserving care of our divine benefactor, and to forbid all murmuring and complaint when they are suffered to befal us.
When we feel ourselves happy in the enjoyment of health, we are very apt to mention it with an expression of thanks to Gud; and if it be done with due sensibility and seriousness, nothing can be more proper, for in no respect is our dependence upon him more absolute and entire. We have it much more in our own power to destroy our health, than either to preserve or to recover it. Mortality is so universal and inevitable-death enters our frame by such innumerable avenues, and its approaches are sometimes so gradual and imperceptible, that our doom is seal
* This and some similar sentiments were suggested by an ac. cident which the author met with in the course of this year, and under the effects of which he still does and must continue to labour.
ed before we are aware of our danger, and nothing is left us but resignation to the divine will. This ought to convince us that we are equally in the hands of God when our day of health is at the brightest, and that if our mountain hath hitherto stood strong, it is through his favour alone. Here then is ample room for grateful recollection-But how much more if we have been recalled, as it were, from the gates of the grave, and if the sentence of dissolution, which we had received within ourselves, has been respited! Every one who has been in this situation must be convinced, that the manner in which medicine operates is so little known, that the art so often fails in the hands of its most skilful professors, and that its success is at best so uncertain, that recovery ought to be traced to an higher cause-even to that almighty Physician, who having wounded can heal, and in whose hands are the issues of life and death.
Have we been successful, or otherwise, in our secular affairs and plans of business? We must-have had but small experience if we have not perceived that it is but little we can do, to insure success, or prevent disappointment. Both the one and the other depend upon such combinations of circumstances, and such a complicated chain of events, as the keenest sagacity and the longest experience cannot always take advantage of, or be guarded against. But here perhaps, more than in many other cases, has the hand of Providence been disregarded. If disappointment has ensued, we have been too ready to charge it to the account of our ill fortune-if otherwise, to say, “Mine hand hath gotten me this wealth" to sacrifice to our own net and burn incense to our