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“ God, and to the remembrance of thy name. With my
foul have I desired thee in the night, yea, with my spirit within me will I seek thee early. My “ soul waiteth for thee, O Lord, more than they that “ watch for the morning; yea, more than they that " watch for the morning."
To engage us more effectually to the performance of this part of our duty, let us consider the general obligations we lie under, as rational creatures, to serve the Lord with fervency of spirit, and then the particular obligations that arise from Christianity.
And, in the first place, as the Almighty is the Cre. ator of the world, and the Father of the human race, he is likewise their Preserver, and the Author of or. der and harmony in the universe.
In his Providence, he takes us, the children of men, into his particular tuition, in giving us, from his immediate hand, all things requisite for our subfistence, well-being and delight in this world, our well-ordered habitation; in making nature spontaneously unlock to us her hidden stores; in causing the wide creation, one way or other, to administer to our pleasures, as if heaven and earth contended which should be most liberal of their favours to happy man; and in fine, admitting us, above all the other inhabitants of our earth, into the plan of his creation, and making us spectators of that beauty, original and supreme, the image of himself, which he hath poured forth over all his works.
But when we consider his particular Providence, with respect to every one of us, our obligations will be infinitely heightened. Here we discern the finger of God. His goodness lent a favourable ear to all
our feeble cries and complaints, when we were upon the breast; he guarded us from a thousand dangers and diseases which hung over our heads, and cut off more than one half of our equals in age. He hath led us, as it were, by the hand through the various stages of life, affording us many deliverances, and many tokens of his loving-kindness, which only ourselves and Heaven were privy to; and when all things in the world seemed to combine against us, he was a friend that never failed. Seeing then he upholds our existence, and is the parent of so many mercies, has he not, as our Supreme Benefactor, a title to the service of our whole lives, and to all the fervour of our spirits ?
This will appear still more, in the next place, when we consider the superior obligations which we are laid under by Christianity. While
nations are sitting in darkness, and the shadow of death, on us hath the Sun of Righteousness arisen, in full glory. We are let into the mystery kept hid from ages. We have seen the Deity, in human form, descending upon earth, to teach the benighted nations the knowledge of salvation ; to set a pattern of goodness and perfection for the world to imitate ; and, by expiating the guilt of fin upon the cross, to finish our redemption. We have now a new and living way opened into the Heaven of Heavens, by the blood of Jesus. Life and immortality are brought to light, and promised to all who sincerely believe and obey the gospel. So that we may now rejoice with the Poet of Israel, “ As the heaven is high above the " earth, so great is the mercy of the Lord towards of us; for as far as the east is from the west, so far
« hath he removed from us all our iniquities : he “ redeemeth our lives from destruction, and crown“ eth us with loving-kindness and tender mercies.”
When we are obliged to any of our fellow-creatures for an important favour, what pleasure is it to a generous heart, to be able to make the least return ! If our benefactor be above us in his station in life, if he bestowed the favour without any solicitation on our part, and promises still to continue our friend, shall we not take every occasion of showing that we are not ungrateful, and search for opportunity of serving him, as for hid treasure ? What thanks, what praises, what services, shall we not then render to our Supreme Benefactor, who hath translated us from the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of his Son; who delivered up his Son unto the death for us, and with him freely gives us all things!
We have abundance of ardour and zeal in our temporal concerns. We rise early, and fit up late : we deny ourselves the pleasures and comforts of society : we forego our native country, and all the dear connections of early life : we traverse the whole terraqueous globe, expose ourselves to the mercy of winds and waves, and bear alternately the extremities of heat and cold : we breathe in the regions of infection and of death, to amass a few pieces of shining dust, whose acquisition costs us such sore trouble, and whose poffeffion gives us so little happiness. ' Almighty God ! shall we be thus fervent and zealous in every temporal, in every trivial concern, and remain cold and dead unto thee! If thus we continue, my brethren, the very heathens, issuing forth from their regions of darkness, will set up a
tribunal, and call us before thein. " The men of “ Nineveh shall rise up in judgment with us, and shall "condemn us; because they repented at the preach
ing of Jonas, and behold a greater than Jonas is “ here ! The Queen of the South shall rise up in
judgment with us, and shall condemn us ; for the “ came from the uttermolt parts of the earth, to • hear the wisdom of Solomon, and behold a great. “ er than Solomon is here !"~" Verily, it shall be “ more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomor. ~ rha, in the day of judgment, than for our city.”
Do ye consider, my brethren, the dignity and importance of that religion, to which your attachment is required ? Do ye reflect, that this is the masterpiece of infinite wisdom ; that here the Almighty made bare his holy arm, and put forth all his Ttrength ? The introduction of this religion was the object of all the dispensations of the Deity upon earth. This is the centre in which terminates every line in the great circle of Providence. If one nation was victorious, and another put under the yoke; if war was commissioned to ravage and lay desolate the earth, or peace to make the joyful inhabitants fing beneath the vine ; if kings were crowned, or were de. throned ; if empires rose or fell, all was preparatory and fubfervient to this grand event.
The monarch. ies which prevailed in the world, whether Affyrian, Persian, Grecian, or Roman, were erected as intro. ductory to the Messiah, whose kingdom was to be without bounds, and whose reign was to be without end. That great image which the Monarch of the East beheld in his dream, whose head was of gold, whose breast was of silver, whose thighs were
of brass, and whose feet were of iron, was set up by Providence, to prepare the way for the Stone which was cut out without hands, which was destined to smite the image, become a great mountain, and fill the whole earth. All events, whether prosperous or adverse, whether malignant or benign, have co-operated towards the advancement of our religion. Saints have established it, by their lives : martyrs have confirmed it, by their deaths : hypocrites have added strength to it, by their dissimulation i tyrants have purified it, by their persecutions : infidels have corroborated it, by their opposition : the arrows of its enemies have served for its protection : the refiftance which it has met with, from the combined wit and genius and malice of mankind, have brought forth those illustrious and immortal defences, which establish its truth upon the basis of demonstration.
Shall we not, then, reckon ourselves eternally indebted to the infinite goodness of God, and stir up all that is within us to bless his holy name ? saying, in the language of true fervour of spirit, “ We will “praise thee, O God! we will praise thee with our “ whole heart ! Our lives shall be thy facrifice ! We " will adore thee in death, and through eternity!"
God, from his throne in heaven, doth not behold an object more noble, and more worthy of his view, than a pious man; a man who, conscious of the dig. nity and immortality of his nature, employs himself with fervour and zeal, in those devout exercises which assimilate him to the Divinity ; who, measuring time by his improvements in devotion and virtue, never loses a day. He is the favourite of Heaven. The arm of the Almighty is stretched out in his behalf.