صور الصفحة
النشر الإلكتروني

the unerring light of revelation, they take for their guide the illusive dictates of reason, and the corrupt impulses of their passions. A fearful war was waged, of atheism, irreligion, and licentiousness, against religion, virtue, and social order. The din of the conflict still sounds in our ears-the traces of its ravages are not yet obliterated in the nation which it desolated. The spirit of enmity to religion and to social order that kindled this conflict and so long fed its flames, exerts among us the deadly purpose of exterminating our holy religion, that licentiousness may have no control on its corrupt and desolating reign. Let us cling with renewed steadfastness to that pure, enlightening, and consoling system of religion revealed in the word of God, which will secure us from the corrupting principles of that world, "the fashion of which passeth away," and conduct us to everlasting perfection and bliss in the future existence which it reveals.

Unchanging and substantial happiness is not to be found but in the love and favour of the everliving God, the means of obtaining which are revealed in the Gospel of his Son. May his grace excite you from the heart to embrace, and strengthen you to hold fast his divine truths and promises. May his blessing, that maketh truly rich, that conveys unfailing and sure light and peace, follow you in all your enjoyments and pursuits. May his merciful providence preserve you, to come before him in this holy temple, on many returns of this day, more fervent and vigorous in your love and trust in him, more sincere and devoted in his service.

May he, the almighty and eternal God, be your VOL. III.


refuge and your portion, that when the vain wisdom of this world passeth away, your peace, stayed on him, the rock of ages, may endure for ever. May he be your Deliverer and Saviour, that, beyond this transitory and perishing world, you may find an inheritance eternal, undefiled, and that fadeth not away,



ECCLES. ix. 11.

I returned, and saw under the sun, that the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, neither yet bread to the wise, nor yet riches to men of understanding, nor yet favour to men of skill; but time and chance happeneth to them all.

THE universe is governed by that almighty Being whose power called it into existence. That it owes its origin to some cause, and that this cause must be intelligent, infinitely powerful, and infinitely perfect, is a strong dictate of reason. "The fool only saith in his heart, there is no God."*

But if the world be created by an infinitely powerful and perfect Being, it must be preserved and governed by him. The same intelligence and power which produced it, will be necessary to sustain it. The infinite perfection of the Creator cannot permit him to be a passive spectator of the work of his hands, nor his infinite goodness to leave his intelligent creation unprotected. "The Lord he is God in heaven above, and upon the earth beneath."+"He is the Governor among the nations."+

Under the control of the sovereign Lord of heaven and earth, the physical and moral world is

*Psalm xiv. 1.

† Deut. iv. 39.

Psalm xxii. 28.

regulated by those general laws which he hath established. From the use of certain means, a certain result generally follows; but God, by his providence, sometimes interposes, and orders matters totally contrary to human calculation, and to the ordinary course of human affairs. The second causes, by which the great first cause governs the world, usually operate with certainty and uniformity; but sometimes the general effect does not follow; means the most likely to produce an end are sometimes ineffectually employed, and the end is sometimes produced by the most unlikely means. Things do not always issue according to the general laws by which God governs the world. This is the truth declared by the wise man in the text"I returned, and saw under the sun, that the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, neither yet bread to the wise, nor yet riches to men of understanding, nor yet favour to men of skill; but time and chance happeneth to them all."

Solomon had been surveying the whole compass of nature," from the cedar of Lebanon, to the hyssop that springeth out of the wall." "He gave his heart also to seek and to search out by wisdom concerning all things that are done under heaven."t Thus turning his thoughts from one subject to another, he contemplates and reproves, in the verse preceding the text, those slothful and desponding persons who, on account of the uncertainty of human affairs, discontinued the use of those means by which, ordinarily, success is obtained. Them he exhorts to diligence, to do with all their might whatsoever their hand findeth to do. In the words

* 1 Kings iv. 33.

+ Eccles. i. 13.

of the text he then goes on, "I returned"-he turned his view to a contrary extreme in the conduct of men, perhaps more common-a presumptuous confidence in their own wisdom and exertions, as if by these, independently of the aid and blessing of God, success were to be obtained. This presumptuous conduct he reproves, by declaring that he saw under the sun, in the course of human affairs, events do not always take place according to the ordinary operation of second causes. "The race

is not to the swift"-he who is the swiftest we should expect would always, according to the general laws of nature, win the race, and yet some untoward event may give the prize to an inferior rival. "Nor the battle to the strong"-victory we should suppose would attend the banners of the army the most formidable in numbers and in strength, and yet the most potent army, through some unlucky mischance, has been compelled to leave the field to a contemned adversary. "Nor yet bread to the wise, nor yet riches to men of understanding❞—wisdom and understanding, in planning and executing schemes of aggrandizement, are the established means of success, and yet we see in the world that the most ingenious and acute in vain strive to attain the wealth which sometimes is poured into the lap of those who have neither the wisdom judiciously to form plans of obtaining it, nor the understanding prudently to execute them. "Nor yet favour to men of skill"—honour, in general, rewards the men of skill, and yet we see that some lucky accident sometimes advances suddenly to distinction those who have not the faintest claims to it, and do not possess talents that merit distinction. "Time and chance hap

« السابقةمتابعة »