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ever consumes more time, or money, or thought, than it is expedient, I might say necessary, to allot to mere amusement, can hardly be approved by any one, who considers these talents as precious deposits, for the expenditure of which he will have to give an account. Whatever directly or indirectly must be likely to injure the welfare of a fellow creature, can scarely be a suitable recreation for a Christian, who is to love his neighbour as himself; or a very consistent diversion for any one, the business of whose life is to diffuse happiness.
But does a Christian never relax? Let us not so wrong and vilify the bounty of Providence, as to allow for a moment that the sources of innocent amusement are so rare, that men must be driven, almost by constraint, to such as are of a doubtful quality. On the contrary, such has been the Creator's goodness, that almost every one, both of our physical, and intellectual and moral faculties, and the same may be said of the whole creation which we see around us, is not only calculated to answer the proper end of its being, by its subserviency to some purpose of solid usefulness, but to be the instrument of administering pleasure. Our Maker also, in his kindness, has so constructed us, that even mere vicissitude is grateful and refreshing; a consideration which should prompt us often to seek, from a prudent variation of useful pursuits,
that recreation, for which we are apt to resort to what is altogether unproductive and useless. Yet rich and multiplied are the springs of innocent relaxation. The Christian relaxes in the temperate use of all the gifts of Providence. Imagination, and taste, and genius, and the beauties of creation, and the works of art, lie open to him. He relaxes in the feast of reason, in the intercourses of society, in the sweets of friendship, in the endearments of love, in the exercise of hope, of confidence, of joy, of gratitude, of universal good will, of all the benevolent and generous affections, which, by the generous ordination of our Creator, while they disinterestedly intend only happiness to others, are most surely productive to ourselves of complacency and peace. Oh! little do they know of the true measure of enjoyment, who can compare these delightful complacencies with the frivolous pleasures of dissipation, or the coarse gratifications of sensuality. It is no wonder, however, that the nominal Christian should reluctantly give up one by one, the pleasures of the world, and look back upon them, when relinquished, with eyes of wistfulness and regret, because he knows not the sweetness of the delights with which true Christianity repays those trifling sacrifices, and is generally unacquainted with the nature of that pleasantness which is to be found in the ways of religion. It is indeed true, that when any one,
who has long been going on in the gross and unrestrained practice of vice, is checked in his career, and enters at first on a religious course, he has much to undergo. Fear, guilt, remorse, shame, and various other passions, struggle and conflict with him. His appetites are clamorous for their accustomed gratification, and inveterate habits are scarcely to be denied. He is weighed down by a load of guilt, and almost overwhelmed by a sense of his unworthiness. But all this ought in fairness to be charged to the account of his past sins, and not to that of his present repentance. It rarely happens, however, that this state of suffering continues very long. When the mental gloom is the blackest, a ray of heavenly light occasionally - breaks in, and suggests the hope of better days. Even in this life it commonly holds true; 'they that sow in tears shall reap in joy.' Neither when we maintain, that the ways of religion are ways of pleasantness, do we mean to deny that the Christian's internal state is, through the whole of his life, a state of discipline and warfare. But if he has solicitudes and griefs peculiar to himself, he has joys also with which a stranger intermeddles not.
'WE are as water spilt on the ground, which cannot be gathered up again.'
We are as water, weak and of no consistence, always descending, abiding in no certain place, unless where we are detained with violence, and every little breath of wind makes us rough and tempestuous, and troubles our faces; every trifling accident discomposes us; and as the face of the waters wafting in a storm so wrinkles itself, that it makes upon its forehead furrows deep and hollow like a grave, so do our great and little cares and trifles first make the wrinkles of old age, and then they dig a grave for us; and there is in nature nothing so contemptible, but it may meet with us in such circumstances, that it may be too hard for us in our weaknesses; and the sting of a bee is a weapon sharp enough to pierce the finger of a child or the lip of a man; and those creatures which nature hath left without weapons, yet they are armed sufficiently to vex those parts of men which are left defenceless and obnoxious to a sunbeam, to the roughness of a sour grape, to the unevenness of a gravel stone, to the dust of a wheel, or the unwholesome breath of a star looking awry upon a sinner.
But besides the weakness and natural decayings of our bodies, if chances and contingencies be innumerable, then no man can reckon our dangers, and the preternatural causes of our deaths; so that he is a vain person whose hopes of life are too confidently increased by reason of his health; and he is too unreasonably timorous, who thinks his hopes at an end when he dwells in sickness. For men die without rule, and with and without occasions; and no man suspecting or foreseeing any of death's addresses, and no man, in his whole condition, is weaker than another. A man in a consumption is fallen under one of the solemnities and preparations to death; but at the same instant the most healthful person is as near death, upon a more fatal and a more sudden, but a less discerned cause. There are but few persons upon whose foreheads every man can read the sentence of death written in the lines of a lingering sickness, but they sometimes hear the passing bell ring for stronger men. No man is surer of tomorrow than the weakest of his brethren; and when Lepidus and Aufidius stumbled at the threshold of the senate, and fell down and died, the blow came from heaven in a cloud; but it struck more suddenly than upon the poor slave that made sport upon the theatre with a premeditated and foredescribed death. There are sicknesses that walk in darkness, and there are ex