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therefore, to rejoice in our prosperity as if we rejoiced not, for “ it is not in man o that walketh,” however prosperous his lot, “ to direct his steps.”
2. If we consider man in a state of adversity, a state to which he is also frequently reduced by the order and appointment of Providence, the s ametruth will
appear. Man since the fall was not destined by his Maker to walk constantly in paths strewed with flowers, and to enjoy uninterrupted happiness. The cloud of adversity was sometimes to hover around him ; dark nights were to succeed fair and pleasant days. He was occasionally to pass along the thorny road of affliction. There is a variety of troubles, distresses, and calamities, incident to human life, which the sagacity of mortals cannot foresee, nor their utmost power repel.
And it is when labouring under the weight and pressure of these, that we feel the imperfection and degeneracy of our nature, and are led to assent to the proposition in the text, that “ it is not in man that walk
“eth,” in such trying circumstances to order and “ direct his steps.” A melancholy gloom soon overspreads the mind, and forgetfulness and impatience, instead of calm and pious resignation, ere long disclose the dispositions of our souls, and manifest our real character. We forget the blessings we have formerly enjoyed; or should we happen to reflect upon these, it only serves to augment the bitterness of the present hour. Anxiety and dejection prey upon our spirits ; life becomes an intolerable burden, and the hand of the Lord, righteous in all his ways, and adorable in all his dispensations, is not humbly traced and acknowledged. Afflictions are looked upon as real evils ; and those messengers of Providence which were kindly intended to promote our best interests, are productive of no salutary impressions,-no saving benefit to the soul.
But it is not in an hour of deep distress only, that man is unable to direct “ his steps ;" the same thing will be found to hold true in every adverse circumstance of his lot.
his lot. Let Providence only
frown upon his designs, and, frail as water, he will immediately betray the weakness and imbecility of his powers. The smallest disappointment in his pursuits, and the least interruption of his worldly enjoyments, will rob him of his peace. There is a fear for the future which occupies his mind, and hinders him from discharging his present duty; and every unfavourable occurrence and trifling accident serve to bewilder and mislead him. I may appeal to yourselves, my friends, how easily you yield to misgiving thoughts, and how the least change of your circumstances and condition tends to perplex and fret
What trifling pleas are often urged in excuse for the neglect of your duty, and how little indisposes you for, and interrupts you in its exercise and discharge. I may therefore say with the prophet, in another passage of this Book, chap. xii. 5., “ If
you have run with the footmen, and “ they have wearied you, then how can
you contend with horses ? and if, in the “ land of peace, wherein ye trusted, they “ also wearied you, then how will you “ do in the swelling of Jordan ?”
In short, in no situation, whether
prosperous or adverse, is it in the power of man, frail and corrupt, “ to direct his 6 steps.” Should we make the experiment, (and who has not done so in some degree or other.) the event would turn out as might be expected, and discover our rashness and folly. The duties to which we are called are too difficult, the obstacles we have to surmount are of too arduous a nature, and our own strength by far too feeble, to give us reason to hope for success.
I therefore go on, secondly, To mention some lessons of instruction, which the consideration of this truth is calculated, and ought to teach us.
And here it is not my intention to insist
upon the great variety of instruction which the serious and thinking mind may derive from the consideration of the truth before us. If we are once sufficiently conscious, that “ it is not in man that 56 walketh to direct his steps," it will teach us several instructive lessons, and suggest many useful reflections which
more easily felt than illustrated.
There are two things, however, which the truth contained in our text is evidently calculated, and ought more especially to teach us. The first of these is, a becoming modesty and diffidence in our own powers.
There is no truth perhaps more plainly revealed in the page of Scripture, and more sensibly confirmed by the experience of
than the utter insufficiency of man for the purposes of life and of religion. His rational powers are weak and limited, his understanding dark, his passions violent and irregular, and the best principles of the human constitution are blended with the seeds of corruption. To trust ourselves in any matter of moment, under so many and real disadvantages as these, is at once to expose our folly, and lose sight of our truest interest. In the emphatic language of Scripture, it is “to sow the wind, and reap the 66 whirlwind” in return. The plans which we may think are deeply laid, and the designs which we may suppose are maturely formed, too often only give us, in the event, a proof of the weakness and imperfection of mortals. Whence is it, ac