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be a better state, but it is not a state of probation; it is not the state through which it is fitting we should pass before we enter into the other. For when we speak of a state of probation, we speak of a state in which the character may both be put to the proof, and also its good qualities be confirmed and strengthened, if not formed and produced, by having occasions presented in which they may be called forth and required. Now, beside that the social qualities which have been mentioned would be very limited in their exercise, if there was no evil in the world but what was plainly a punishment (for though we might pity, and even that would be greatly checked, we could not actually succour or relieve, without disturbing the execution, or arresting, as it were, the hand of justice); beside this difficulty, there is another class of most important duties which would be in a great measure excluded. They are the severest, the sublimest, perhaps the most meritorious, of which we are capable : I mean patience and composure under distress, pain, and affliction ; a steadfast keeping up of our confidence in God, and our dependence upon his final goodness, even at the time that every thing present is discouraging and adverse; and, what is no less difficult to retain, a cordial desire for the happiness and comfort of others, even then, when we are deprived of our own. I say, that the possession of this temper is almost the perfection of our nature. But it is then only possessed, when it is put to the trial : tried at all it could not have been in a life made up only of pleasure and gratification. Few things are easier than to perceive, to feel, to acknowledge, to extol the goodness of God, the bounty of Providence, the beauties of nature, when all things go well; when our health, our spirits, our circumstances, conspire to fill our hearts with gladness, and our tongues with praise. This is easy : this is delightful. None but ther who are sunk in sensuality, sottishness, and stupefaction, or whose understandings are dissipated by frivolous pursuits ; none but the most giddy and insensible can be destitute of these sentiments. But this is not the trial, or the proof. It is in the chambers of sickness; under the stroke of affliction ; amidst the pincluings of want, the groans of pain, the pressures of intirmity; in grief, in misfortune ; through gloom and horror, that it will be seen whether we hold fast our hope, our confidence, our trust in God; whether this hope and confidence be able to produce in us resignation, acquiescence, and submission. And as those dispositions, which perhaps form the comparative perfection of our moral nature, could not have been exercised in a world of unmixed gratification, so neither would they have found their proper office or object in a state of'strict and evident retribution ; that is, in which we had no sufferings to submit to, but what were evidently und manitestly the punishment of our sins. A mere subenission to punishment, evidently and plainly such, would not have constituted, at least would very impx stortly have constituted, the disposition which we Wawak of, the true resignation of a Christian.

Is mynus, therefore, to be argued with great probaNitrition the general economy of things around us, thee our puxesent state was meant for a state of proba8:48luvuse positively it contains that admixture of mind evil which ought to be found in such a state ***** answer its purpose, the production, exercise,

nement of virtue: and because negatively it the ti taw lis' intended either for a state of absolute hap

piness, or a state of absolute misery, neither of which it is.

We may now also observe in what manner many of the evils of life are adjusted to this particular end, and how also they are contrived to soften and alleviate themselves and one another. It will be enough at present, if I can point out how far this is the case in the two instances, which, of all others, the most nearly and seriously affect us, death and disease. The events of life and death are so disposed, as to beget, in all reflecting minds, a constant watchfulness. “ What I say unto you,

I say unto all, Watch :" Hold yourselves in a constant state of preparation : “Be ready, for ye know not when your Lord cometh.” Had there been assigned to our lives a certain age or period, to which all, or almost all, were sure of arriving ; in the younger part, that is to say, in nine-tenths of the whole of mankind, there would have been such an absolute security as would have produced, it is much to be feared, the utmost neglect of duty, of religion, of God, of themselves ; whilst the remaining part would have been too much overcome with the certainty of their fate, would have too much resembled the condition of those who have before their eyes a fixed and appointed day of execution. The same consequence would have ensued if death had followed any known rule whatever. It would have produced security in one part of the species, and despair in another. The first would have been in the highest degree dangerous to the character; the second insupportable to the spirits. The same observation we are entitled to repeat concerning the two cases of sudden death, and of death brought on by long disease. If sudden deaths never occurred, those who found themselves free from disease would be in perfect

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doubtedly true, that the sick bed and the death bed shall inevitably force these reflections upon us. In that it is right, though it be wrong in waiting till the season of actual virtue and actual reformation be past, and when, consequently, the sick bed and the death bed can bring nothing but uncertainty, horror, and despair. But my present subject leads me to consider sickness, not so much as a preparation for death, as the trial of our virtue; of virtues the most severe, the most arduous, perhaps the best pleasing to Almighty God; namely, trust and confidence in him, under circumstances of discouragement and perplexity. the feeble hands, and the languid eye: to draw and turn with holy hope to our Creator, when every comfort forsakes us, and every help fails; to feel and find in him, in his mercies, his promises, in the works of his providence, and still more in his word, and in the revelation of his designs by Jesus Christ, such rest and consolation to the soul, as to stifle our complaints, and pacify our murmurs; to beget in our hearts tranquillity and confidence, in the place of terror and consternation, and this, with simplicity and sincerity, without having, or wishing to have, one human witness to observe or know it, is such a test and trial of faith and hope, of patience and devotion, as cannot fail of being in a very high degree well-pleasing to the Author of our nature, the guardian, the inspector, and the rewarder of our virtues. It is true in this instance, as it is true in all, that whatever tries our virtue, strengthens and improves it. Virtue comes out of the fire purer and brighter than it went into it. Many virtues are not only proved, but produced by trials: they have properly no existence without them. “ We glory,” saith St. Paul,

VOL. VI.

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