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of our various duties, as men, no less than SERM. VII. as Christians. I cautioned you, however, against permitting worldly affairs to gain the ascendancy in your hearts; I told you that they might engage, but not engross, your affections; and that whenever you found your temporal and eternal interest at variance, the former must, without a moment's hesitation, give place to the latter. I added likewise, that in censuring a desertion of the duties of this world, I was not to be understood as speaking of a temporary retirement from it; that there were times when this was not only salutary, but absolutely requisite; that the approaching season of the sufferings and death of our Redeemer had been particularly dedicated by the primitive Christians to such purposes, and therefore was peculiarly proper; and it was on this subject of temporary retirement that I engaged to speak more at large.
I propose, on the present occasion, to fulfil this promise by pointing out the employment which should engage us in our retirements, and the advantages which may be expected to arise from them.
But here I must premise, that though retirement be necessary for all men in some degree, the length of it must be determined in a great measure by a man's situation in life: some may dedicate weeks, some days, and some perhaps only hours to it; but all may spend some portion of their time in solitude and consideration, and some gain will accrue even from the least time thus spent.
The employment, then, of our retirement should be, meditation on our condition as created, accountable beings, on our past life, and on our future prospects; reflection on the manner in which we have discharged our duty towards God, and our neighbour, with the hope which our behaviour
viour may promise us of the approbation SERM. of our Maker, and eternal happiness after death.
Let not those who already know how to conduct this self-examination be wearied, while I point out to them, who are not so well instructed, some few questions to put to themselves it is my duty to attend to the necessities of all.
When, then, you have retired for the salutary purpose of self-examination, let your thoughts and enquiries be of this kind :
I find myself placed in a busy world, to which my wants and desires are continually drawing my attention; its cares or its pleasures require so much of my time, that perhaps I have scarcely yet found leisure to ask myself how long I am likely to continue in the same state, and what is to become of me when I go into another. Let me then ask it now, and ask it seriously, Am I to continue here for ever? and if not,
SERM not, what is to be my condition when I go from hence? With respect to the first question, both experience and scripture will tell me," that man that is born of a wo"man has but a short time to live," that three score or four score years at most are the days of his pilgrimage, but that he may, and probably will, be cut off much sooner: let me think how many of those who set out with me in life are already silent in the grave, and let me not presume on the continuance of that breath, of which the next moment may deprive me, which when I recollect how many of my companions have gone before me, it is a subject of wonder that I have enjoyed so long. This life, then, I cannot but allow is uncertain; it may be put an end to immediately, and at all events will not be very lasting. What then follows? Shall that stroke, which reduces my body to the dust whence it originally sprung, put an entire period
period to my existence ? Must I bid an SERM. eternal adieu to that being and those faculties which I received from my Maker? Have I been so far raised above the beasts of the field in life, only to be levelled with them in death? Both reason and the Bible join to assure me, that this will not be the case; that in leaving this world, I only change, do not part from, my existence; and though after my flesh, worms may destroy my body, yet that it will be raised again at a certain time, and re-united to my soul, and I shall live. But what then, shall I be happy, or shall I be miserable? This, the scriptures tell me, depends altogether on myself; my behaviour now, while I am in this world, will determine it; if that be conducted according to the will of my Maker, I shall be beyond my utmost conception happy; but if on the contrary, I am wicked and rebellious to his laws, I shall be in an equal degree miserH 3