« ZurückWeiter »
we live in this world, is of a frail and fleeting nature, and, in some respect, nothing at all. And into whatever parts or periods we divide it, if we consider the miseries, and lamentable calamities, with which it is fraught, the life, even of a child, may seem too long; but, if we consider the time only, we must conclude the life of the oldest man to be exceeding short and fleeting.
A great part of mankind no sooner look upon themselves to be capable of worldly affairs, and think on entering upon some profession suitable to a state of manhood, but they are cut off, in the very beginning of their course, by an unforeseen and untimely death; and, to be sure, this is the great distemper of young, and even of old men, that, by their desires and designs, they launch out a great way into futurity, and form a series of projects for many years to come; while, in the mean time, they rarely, or at least very superficially, consider, how foolish and precarious it is to depend upon to-morrow, and how soon this present form of ours may disappear; how soon we may return to our original dust : “And that very day, as the royal prophet warns us, our thoughts, even the wisest and best concerted thoughts of the greatest men, and most exalted princes, perish.” And this I take particular notice of, that no such illusion may get possession of your minds : for it is not the common sort of mankind only, that impose upon themselves in this respect, but the generality of those, who desire to be accounted not only men of learning, but also
adepts in wisdom, and actually pass for such. Not that I would prohibit your making an early and prudent choice, under the divine direction, of the employment and profession of life you intend to pursue ; nay, I would use every argument to persuade
to make use of such a choice, and when you have made it, to prosecute the intention of it with the greatest diligence and activity. I only put you upon your guard, not to entertain many and towering hopes in this world, nor form a long series of connected projects ; because you will find them all more vain and fleeting than illusions of the night: some necessary means will fail, some favourable opportunity be missed ; after all your industry, the expected event may not happen, or the thread of your life may be cut, and thereby all your projects rendered abortive. And, though your life should be drawn out to ever so great a length, and success constantly answer your expectations, yet you know, and I wish you would remember it, the fatal day will come at last, perhaps when it is least expected ; and that fatal and final day, I say, will at last come, when we must leave all our enjoyments, and all our schemes, those we are now carrying on, and those we have brought to perfection, as well as those that are only begun, and those that subsist only in hopes and ideas.
And these very arguments, that have been used to confine your minds from indulging themselves in too remote prospects, will also serve to persuade you, in another sense, to look much farther; not with regard to worldly enjoyments, for such prospects, strictly speaking, cannot be called long, but to look far beyond all earthly and perishing things, to those that are heavenly and eternal: and those that will not raise their eyes to such objects, as the apostle Peter expresses it, “ are blind, and cannot see afar off.”
But of you, my dear youths, I expect better things; I need not, I imagine, use many words to persuade you to industry, and a continual progress in human studies, and philosophical learning. If the violence and infelicity of the times has deprived you
of any part of that period of years, usually employed in these studies at this university, you will surely repair that loss, as soon as possible, by your subsequent reading and application. But, if no such misfortune had happened, you are not, I believe, ignorant, that our schools are only intended for laying the foundations of those studies, upon which years, and indefatigable industry, are to raise the superstructure of more complete erudition; which, by the accession of the divine Spirit, may be consecrated into a temple for God.. And this is what I would recommend to your esteem, and your earnest desires, beyond any other study whatever, “ That you may be holy, because our God is holy;" that, when you leave this university, those, with whom you converse, may not find you puffed up with pride, on account of a little superficial learning, nor bigotted, talkative, or fond of entering into unseasonable disputes; but con
you all as patterns and examples of piety, purity, temperance, modesty, and all christian virtues; particularly that humility, that shone so brightly in Christ himself, and which he earnestly exhorts all his disciples to learn from him. I will not suspect, that any one of you will turn out to be an immodest person, a glutton or drunkard, or, in any shape, impious and profane; but I earnestly exhort and beseech you, my dear young men, to make it, above all other things, your principal study, to have your hearts purged from all impure and ignoble love of the world and the flesh, that, in this earth, you may live to God only; and then, to be sure, when you remove out of it, you will live with him for ever in heaven.
May the honorary title, you have this day received, be happy and auspicious; but I earnestly pray the Father of lights, that he would deign to bestow upon you a title more solid and exalted, than is in the power of man to give, that you may be called the Sons of God, and your conversation may be suitable to so great a name, and so glorious a Father.
Let us pray.
ETERNAL King, thy throne is established and immoveable from everlasting, and will continue so throughout all the ages of eternity: before the mountains were brought forth, before thou hadst formed the earth and the world, even from everlasting to everlasting, thou art God. All things
that exist, whether visible or invisible, derive from thee their being, and all that they possess, and they all, from the least to the greatest, are subservient to thy purposes, who art their supreme King and Father : many of them, indeed, act without knowledge, or design, yet serve thee with a constant and unerring obedience; others pay their homage from principles of reason and inclination, and all the rest are forced to promote thy intentions, though by constraint, and against their wills. Thou art great, O Lord, thou art great, and greatly to be praised, and of thy greatness there is no end. The heavens are far raised above the earth, but thy majesty is much farther exalted above all our thoughts and conceptions. Impress, we pray thee, on our hearts, most bountiful Father, a profound sense of our meanness and insignificancy; and make us acceptable to thee, through thy grace, in thy beloved Jesus, blotting out all our sins by the blood of his cross, and purifying our hearts by the effusion of thy Spirit from on high. Illuminate, most gracious God, this assembly of ours by the light of thy divine favour, and let thy effectual blessing, we pray thee, attend the work, we are now employed about (by thy approbation, and the gracious disposition of thy providence,) and may the result of all be to the glory of thy name, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.