Page images

self waded through such a sea of troubles, and in his passage had encountered many vicissitudes of storms and sunshine, and by turns had felt both the extremes of all the happiness and all the wretchedness that mortal man is heir to.

The beginning of his days was crowned with eve. ry thing that ambition could wish for ;-he was the greatest of all the men of the east,-—had large and unbounded possessions, and no doubt enjoyed all the comforts and advantages of life which they could administer.-Perhaps you will say a wise man might not be inclined to give a full loose to this kind of happiness, without some better security for the sup. port of it than the mere possession of such goods of fortune, which often slip from under us, and sometimes unaccountably make themselves wings and fly away. But he had that security too ;—for the hand of Providence which had thus far protected,

is still leading him forwards, and seemed engaged in the preservation and continuance of these, blessings.-God had set a hedge alvout him, and about all that he had on every side ; he had blessed all the works of his hands, and his substance increased every day. Indeed, even with this security, riches to him that hath neither child nor brother, as the wise man observes, instead of a comfort, prove, sometiines a sore travail and vexation. The mind of man is not always satisfied with the reasonable assurance of its own enjoyments, but will look forwards, as if it discovers some imaginary void ; the: want of some beloved object to fiil his place after him, will often disquiet itself in vain, and say, “ For « whom do I labour, and bereave myself of rest ?”

This bar to his happiness God had likewise taken

[ocr errors]

away, in blessing him with a numerous offspring of sons and daughters, the apparent inheritors of all, his present happiness. Pleasing reflection ! to think the blessings God has indulged one's self in, shall be handed and continued down to a man's own seed ! how little does this differ from a second en-. joyment of them to an affectionate parent, who nato; urally looks forward with as strong an interest upon his children, as if he was to live over again in his own posterity !

What could be wanting to finish such a picture of a happy man ?-Surely nothing, except a virtuous disposition to give a relish to these blessings, and direct him to make a proper use of them.-He, had that too; for he was a perfect and upright man ; one that feared God and eschewed evil.

In the midst of all this prosperity, which was as great as could well fall to the share of one man ;whilst all the world looked gay, and smiled upon him, and every thing round him seemed to promise, if possible, an increase of happiness,in one instant all is changed into sorrow and utter despair !

It pleased God, for wise purposes, to blast the fortunes of his house, and cut off the hopes of his posterity, and, in one mournful day, to bring this great prince from his palace down to the dunghill. His flocks and herds, in which consisted the abundance of his wealth, were part consumed by a fire from heaven ; the remainder taken away by the sword of the enemy : his sons and daughters, whom 'tis natural to imagine so good a man had so brought up in a sense of their duty, as to give him all reasonable hopes of much joy and pleasure in their future lives natural prospect for a parent to look forwards

[ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors]

at, to recompense him for the many cares and anxi-
eties which their infancy had cost him! these dear
pledges of his future happiness were all, all snatch-
ed from him at one blow, just at the time that one
might imagine they were beginning to be the com-
fort and delight of his old age, which most wanted
such staves to lean on ;--and as circumstances add
to an evil, so they did to this ;-for it fell out, not
only by a very calamitous accident, which was griev-
ous enough in itself, but likewise upon the back of
his other misfortunes, when he was ill prepared to
bear such a shock; and what would still add to it,
it happened at an hour when he had least reason to
expect it, when he would naturally think his chil-
dren secure and out of the way of danger :-“ For
" whilst they were feasting and making merry in
“ their eldest brother's house, a great wind out of
" the wilderness smote the four corners of the house,
" and it fell upon them.”

Such a concurrence of misfortunes is not the common lot of many : and yet there are instances of some who have undergone as severe trials, and bravely struggled under them ; perhaps by natural force of spirits, the advantages of health, and the cordial assistance of a friend. And with these helps, what may not a man sustain ?-But this was not Job's case ; for scarce had these evils fallen upon him, when he was not only borne down with a grievous distemper, which afflicted him from the crown of his head to the sole of his foot, but likewise liis three friends, in whose kind consolations he might have found a medicine,-even the wife of his bosom, whose duty it was with a gentle hand to have softened all his sorrows-instead of doing this, they cru

[ocr errors]

elly insulted and became the reproachers of his integrity! O God! what is man when thou thus bruisest him, and makest his burden heavier, as his strength grows less !--Who, that had found himself thus an example of the many changes and chances of this mortal life ; when he considered himself now stripped and left destitute of so many valuable blessings which the moment before thy providence had poured upon his head ;-When he reflected upon this gay delightsome structure, in appearance so strongly built, so pleasingly surrounded with every thing that could flatter his hopes and wishes, and beheld it all levelled with the ground in one moment, and the whole prospect vanish with it, like the description of an enchantment-who I say that had seen and felt the shock of so sudden å reyolution, would not have been furnished with just and beautiful reflections upon the occasion, and said with Job in the words of the text, that “ Man that is born of « woman, is of few days, and full of misery ;-that 6 he coineth forth like a flower, and is cut down ; " he fleeth also as a shadow, and continueth not !"

The words of the text are an epitome of the natural and moral vanity of man; and contain two distinct declarations concerning his state and condition in each respect.

First, that he is a creature of few days ; and seco ondly, that those days are full of trouble.

I shall make some reflections upon each of these in their order, and conclude with a practical lesson from the whole.

And first, That he is of few days. The comparison which Job makes use of, " That man cometh forth like a flower,' is extremely beautiful, and more


to the purpose than the most elaborate proof, which in truth the subject will not easily admit of ;-the shortness of life being a point so generally complained of in all ages since the flood, and so universally felt and acknowledged by the whole species, as to require no evidence beyond a similitude ; the intent of which is not so much to prove the fact, as to illustrate and place it in such a light as to strike us, and bring the impression home to ourselves in a more affecting manner.

Man comes forth, says Job, like a flower, and is cut down ;-he is sent into the world the fairest and noblest part of God's works,-fashioned after the image of his Creator with respect to reason and the great faculties of the mind ; he cometh forth glori. ous as the flower of the field : as it surpasses the vegetable world in beauty, so does he the animal world in the glory and excellencies of his nature.

The one-if no untimely accident oppress it, soon arrives at the full period of its perfection, is suffered to triumph for a few moments, and is plucked up by the roots in the very pride and gayest stage of its being :-or, if it happens to escape the hands of violence, in a few days it necessarily sickens of itself and dies

away. Man likewise, though his progress is slower, and his duration something longer, yet the periods of his growth and declension are nearly the same, both in the nature and manner of them.

If he escapes the dangers which threaten his tender years, he is soon got into the full maturity and strength of life ; and if he is so fortunate as not to be hurried out of it then by accidents, by his own folly and intemperance ;-if he escapes these, he


« PreviousContinue »