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Yet did not our Lord himself, nor does the christian moral he taught, countenance a morose abstraction from the world, or refusal to be found in the social meetings of friends.
For his own practice was different, though his situation was so singular and extraordinary, and his time filled up with such important things, and necessary demands for every moment.
I mean his public life, of which alone we have any records.
But then, to draw .to a conclusion, whereever we go, or with whomsoever we are, we are always to carry this along with us ; that life is a serious thing; a beginning, preparatory state; in which we are to be continually labouring to make advances, and aspire after greater heights and attainments in virtue, and to approve ourselves to the perfectly holy, righteous, benevolent, and good!
This will not diminish, but heighten every innocent pleasure and satisfaction with which this passing state abounds, and will bring us by degrees, to sit loose to life itself; without which we should be unhappy, as we must soon leave it, whether we will or no.
So that whilst in the midst of many imperfections we daily thank our kind and merciful
Creator for his large bounty which we have already experienced, we shall look forward with joyful hope to those unknown scenes in futurity, when we shall serve him more faithfully, and enjoy a clearer and more unbounded prospect of his goodness, which is over all his works, and which endureth for ever and ever!
Unto him be. thanks, glory, and praise, for ever and ever!
O God, blessed and magnified for ever!
Who, out of thy boundless ineffable goodness, hast not only called us into existence out of nothing, and placed us in the high order of rational beings, but intendest us to live before thee for ever, if we are not wanting in fulfilling the part required for us for our own happiness :
Assist us, we beseech thee, in forming just sentiments of our proper business here, that we may not entertain the vain dream of living in thoughtless vanity and self-indulgence, which would enfeeble and unfit us for the hard task and severe trials, to which thou seest it proper to put us in this our first
probationary state :--but that, by learning to restrain and regulate our passions and desires of worldly things, we inay be free to give-up or to endure any thing which our duty to thee, or the services we owe to others, may demand of us.
And as the soft flowery paths of pleasure are more insinuating and more dangerous oft, than open assaults of pain and suffering from unreasonable men ; make us ever on our guard against these secret underminers of our virtuous
purposes, which imperceptibly draw us away from the loyalty and obedience we owe to thee and thy sacred laws; that whatever temptations thou sufferest to come upon us, may, through thy gracious aid, be surmounted, and may add to our future crown and happiness at the appearing of Jesus Christ our appointed judge.
We thank thee, O Lord our God, for the various provision thou hast made to bring back the degenerate sons of men to thyself, and their true happiness.
And as thou didst of old send thy servant Elijah to thy people Israel, sunk in idolatry and wickedness ; and didst appoint John the Baptist to prepare men, by the preaching of
repentance, for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, thy last great prophet and messenger of thy will: · Raise up, we pray thee, other servants and messengers to awaken those who make no use of the knowledge and superior advantages afforded them; and to call the nations that know poc thee, to the light of thy truth, that the kingdom of darkness, idolatry, and vice, may at length be destroyed.
Finally, O heavenly Father, let that blessed state and future happiness, which thy goodness proposeth to us, be ever in our sight, to support our weary steps here below, and carry us on in our progress towards it; that we may be enabled to lay in such a foundation of holy habits and virtuous dispositions as may fit us for it, and for whatever work and employment thou, our Maker kind and good, mayest design for us in those blest abodes.
Now unto tbec, O Father, &c.
November 30, 1785.
1 Peter v. 8, 9.
Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary,
the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour : wbom resist, steadfast in the faith; knowing that the same afflictions are accomplisbed in your
brethren that are in the world.
As the wrong understanding of this and other similar passages in the New Testament is wont to minister occasion of ill-placed mirth and ridicule to those who show no regard to religion, and is oftentimes the cause of groundless fears and anxieties to sincere minds, I shall endeavour to point out what appears to be the apostle's intent in the language here used concerning the adversary, against whom he would guard the christians to whom he is addressing himself; and shall go on afterwards to consider their trying situation at that period, and the lessons for our own christian conduct which we may derive from it, and from the exhortation here given to them.