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der. Let us not be thus unjust to religion,
prove, notwithstanding its fair appearance, a barren and joyless state.
The Psalmist, in the text, by an image taken from one of the most beautiful objects in nature, describes a man who flourishes in full prosperity. But to whom is the description limited ? To him, as the preceding verses inform us, that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful, but hath his delight in the law of God. ly is like the tree planted by the rivers of water ; whilst the ungodly, as he adds, are not so ; but, how prosperous soever they may appear to the world, are in truth but like the chaff which the wind driveth away.
In confirmation of this doctrine, I shall lay before you some of those circumstances which distinguish the prosperity of the good man beyond that of the
sinner ; and shall conclude, with pointing out the dangers and miseries into which the latter is apt to be betrayed by his favourable situation in the world.
I. Piety and gratitude to God, contribute in a high degree to enliven prosperity. Gratitude is a pleasing emotion. The sense
of being distinguished by the kindness of another, gladdens the heart, warms it with reciprocal affection, and gives to any possession, which is agreeable in itself, a double relish, from its being the gift of a friend. Favours conferred by men, I acknowledge, may prove burdensome. For human virtue is never perfect; and sometimes unreasonable expectations on the one side, sometimes a mortifying sense of dependence on the other, corrode, in secret, the pleasure of benefits, and convert the obligations of friendship into grounds of jealousy. But nothing of this kind can affeet the intercourse of gratitude with Heaven. Its favours are wholly disinterested ; and with a gratitude the most cordial and unsuspicious, a good man looks up to that Almighty Benefactor, who aims at no end but the happiness of those whom he blesses, and who desires no return from them but a devout and thankful heart. While others can trace
their prosperity to no higher source than a concurrence of worldly causes, and, often, of mean and trifling incidents, which occasionally favoured their designs; with what superior satisfaction does the servant of God remark the hand of that gracious power which hath raised him up ; which hath happily conducted him through the various steps of life, and crowned him with the most favourable distinction beyond his equals ?
Let us further consider, that not only gratitude for the past, but a cheering sense of God's favour at the present, enter into the pious emotion. They are only the virtuous, who in the prosperous days hear this voice addressed to them: Go thy way, eat thy bread with joy, and drink thy wine with a merry heart ; for God now accepteth thy works. * He who is the Author of their prosperity gives them a title to enjoy, with complacency, his own gift. While bad men snatch the pleasures of the world as by stealth, without countenance from God, the proprietor of the world ; the righteous sit openly down to the feast of life, under the smile of approving heaven. No guilty fears damp their joys. The blessing of God rests upon all that they possess ! his protec
Eccles. ix. 7.
tion surrounds them; and hence, in the habitation of the righteous is found the voice of rejoicing and salvation. A lustre unknown to others, invests, in their sight, the whole face of nature. Their piety reflects a sunshine from heaven upon the prosperity of the world ; unites, in one point of view, the smiling aspect, both of the powers above and of the objects below. Not only have they as full a relish as others, of the innocent pleasures of life, but moreover, in these they hold communion with God. In all that is good or fair, they trace his hand. From the beauties of nature, from the improvements of art, from the enjoyments of social life, they raise their affection to the source of all the happiness which surrounds them; and thus widen the sphere of their pleasures, by adding intellectual and spiritual, to earthly joys.
For illustration of what I have said on this head, remark that cheerful enjoyment of a prosperous state which King David had, when he wrote the twenty-third Psalm ; ' and compare the highest pleasures of the riotous sinner, with the happy and satisfied spirit which breathes throughout that Psalm.- In the midst of the splendour of royalty, with what amiable simplicity of gratitude does he look up to the Lord as his shepherd ; happier in ascribing all
his success to divine favour than tothe policy of his counsels, or to the force of his arms! How many instances of divine goodness arose before him in pleasing remembrance, when with such relish he speaks of the green pastures and still waters beside which God had led him: of his сир
which he hath made to overflow; and of the table which he hath prepared for him in presence of his enemies! With what perfect tranquillity does he look forward to the time of his passing through the valley of the shadow of death: unappalled by that Spectre, whose most distant appearance blasts the prosperity of sinners! He fears no evil, as long as the rod and the staff of his Divine Shepherd are with him ; and through all the unknown periods of this and of future existence, commits himself to his guidance with secure and triumphant hope. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life ; and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever. What a purified, sentimental enjoyment of prosperity is here exhibited! How different from that gross relish of worldly pleasures, which belongs to those who behold only the terrestrial side of things ; who raise their views to no higher objects than the succession of human contingencies, and the weak efforts of human ability ; who have no protece