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this world, anxious I have lived in it, and agitated with trouble I leave it:-First Cause of all things, pity me!” A Christian has certainly advantages, which the famous but unhappy Stagyrite never possessed; yet is he not exempt from a portion of the same misery. Anxiety respecting the past, fretfulness concerning the present, and solicitude about the future occurrences of life, may equally throw the mind from the even balance of tranquillity, and unfit it for devotional exercises.
These are so many separate sources of care.
Sometimes the Christian reviews the past, like a traveller who retraces the ground over which he has gone; the eye often fixes on a series of disasters and disappointments, but unnumbered mercies are overlooked and disregarded. While we are poring over our griefs, losses, calamities, and bereavements, we forget how many deliverances from danger God has wrought, how many consolations in affliction, and how many supplies in necessity, he has bestowed. Perhaps our hopes were built on slight grounds, or suspended on slender threads; and yet disappointment is felt, like the shock of an earthquake. We wonder that so fair, and apparently so firm a fabric, should be suddenly overthrown, when in fact we have caụse rather to wonder at our own folly and presumption in expecting it to have been capable of standing, Perhaps we cherished an extravagant fondness for the gourd, while we sat under its refreshing shade; and therefore, when it was blasted by the east wind, or devoured by a worm at the root, we began to indulge immoderate sorrow. How frequently does the recollection of unfavourable and afflictive events, cast a thickening gloom over the mind, and clog the free motions of the soul, with accumulated and almost insupportable burdens of care! Thus the venerable patriarch poured out his pathetic language: « Oh that I were as in months past, in the days when God preserved me; when his candle shone upon my head, and when, by his light, I walked through darkness; as I was in the days of my youth, when the secret of God was upon my tabernacle." Job xxix. 2-4.
Sometimes the Christiaņ murmurs at the state of his present circumstances.
“ The smoothest course of nature has its pains,
And truest friends, through error, wound our peace.”
But when unusual impediments block up our path,--when troubles come not singly, but in troops that beset us on all sides,--when foes multiply and friends fail,-impatience too soon chafes and irritates the spirit, and causes repining. Discontent is a weed which exhausts and impoverishes the soil in which it grows, and poisons every wholesome plant around with its deadly shade. It generally happens, that a man full of anxious care, looks about and imagines every person more fortunate and prosperous than himself. Weighing the lots and comparing the conditions of many others, he rashly concludes his own to be the worst; his farm is less productive, his business less lucrative, or his office less honourable than those of his neighbours; he has more slights from his acquaintance, more trouble with his children, or vexation with his servants, than any body else. Why, says he, does this and the other man rise and flourish in the calm sunshine, while so many black wintry storms are continually breaking upon me? Why do even wicked men succeed in all their purposes and plans, and undertakings, while my endeavours, grounded on equity, and guided by prudence, prove always, vain and ineffectual? The ingenious fable of the ancients, represents Prometheus as chained to a barren rock, with a vulture incessantly feeding on his liver; and is not this fiction realized and reduced to fact, in every man who becomes the prey of anxious, unmitigated, heart-eating care?
- Fret not thyself because of evil doers, neither be thou envious against the workers of iniquity.” Sometimes the Christian, with deep solicitude, anticipates the future. This is one of the most copious and prolific springs of care. Though
the gift of prophecy has been long withdrawn, multitudes take upon them to foretell the things which are to come. Solicitude always predicts perilous times and grievous troubles. What will become of us? what will become of our families? what will become of our country, (she cries, when the gathering tempest bursts, when the covered mine takes fire and explodes? Imagination, active in shaping and colouring events ere they arrive, is 'apt, during the melancholy mood, to give them all a terrific aspect; and then wants, and woes, and monsters, and direful chimeras of every kind, fill the gloomy prospect. Thus discord and war, famine and plague, persecution, exile, and death, are predicted as the sure and speedy effects of causes operating at the present hour. What can be more absurd than such dark and cheerless forebodings? Are we privileged to draw aside the veil, and look into futurity? Since the Pagan Fates have ceased to spin and splice, cut and sever the threads of human destiny, shall we foolishly set fancy to take up and perform their task? Leaving the anchor of hope fixed in the immovable word of truth, shall we eagerly launch out into the dismal chaos which conjecture makes?
What can be more strange and unreasonable, than to distrust the wise and universal Providence, which controls all agents, and connects all
events? If there must be pains and privations, distresses and trials, for us, it is the extreme of folly to go out and meet them. 6. Take no thought,” says our great Teacher, (or be not anxious) “ for to-morrow; for to-morrow shall take thought for the things of itself: sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof." By unavailing regrets over the past, and painful solicitudes about the future, we with rash hand open the sluices of sorrow in opposite directions, and are tossed and driven by those floods, which might otherwise never have reached us.
II. Shew how worldly cares hinder and spoil our communion with God.
1. The cares of the world often encroach upon the time avowedly set apart for meditation and prayer. A Christian may have the fullest assurance, that communion with God is his first and last, his highest and best privilege, and yet be sometimes taken away from it. His ordinary concerns require much attention, and it may be, engagements often multiply so as to crowd upon
each other. In this case, he thinks his credit and character imperiously demand that he should labour more diligently, and (if I may so speak) work double tides. When, however, the press of business once destroys the calm serenity of the mind, confusion