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perfection; and that, at the last, under the light of the Sun of Righteousness, we might join "that in"numerable multitude of all nations, and kindred, "and tongues, who stand before the Throne and "the Lamb for ever."
On the return, then, of those seasons by which we number our days, it is wise in us to think how our years have hitherto been employed; what it is that we have been doing in the time we have enjoyed; and whether we have indeed been fulfilling the great ends for which we were brought into being. Meditations of this kind become us all; and, while they remind us of the magnificent purposes for which we were born, they fit us to enter upon a new year with comfort and resolution. I pray God that it may be with these solemn, but elevated sentiments, that all of us may now enter upon the new season, which is given us by "Him that liveth for ever."
At this time, however, my brethren, we have entered upon a greater period. The same hour which closed the year, closed also a Century of years, and, what is to us more important, it closed the eighteenth century of the religion of Him "who "has brought Life and Immortality to light by his "Gospel." There are innumerable reflections which will arise in every thoughtful mind upon so solemn and so unusual an occasion. The course of time has led us, as it were, to a higher eminence in the prospect of human nature. The past and the future seem more distinctly to lie before us, and
a solemn pause is afforded us, in which we can more truly estimate what life has brought, and what it is to bring.-The moment itself is profuse in instruction; and I shall limit myself to suggest to you some of those simple and obvious reflections, which seem most naturally to arise from the circumstances in which we now assemble.
1. The first and the most powerful of these reflections is, that of our dependence upon "Him who "inhabiteth eternity." We are arrived, in our generation, at the opening of the nineteenth age of the Religion of Christ, and we have presented this day, to the Throne of Heaven, the same petitions which have been offered by the faithful who have gone before us, in every age of that memorable time. They are all now mouldering in their graves; but He that made them never dies. The same ear which listened to their petitions, now listens to ours. The same spirit which was in the midst of them, and the infant assemblies of the church, is in these moments in the midst of us, and of every congregation that is met in his name: and the same arm, which, in every difficulty or danger, has made the Church of Christ triumphant to our day, is still uplifted to protect the progress of the "everlasting Gospel." There is something, my brethren, inexpressibly consoling to the weakness of humanity, in this reflection: while we stand as it were amid the ruins of time, and see the races of men thus successively rising and falling before us, we see, at the same
time, the Eternal Mind that governs the whole design. We see a system carrying on, in which all things "are working together for good" to the wise and to the virtuous; and which is to close at last, "in honour, in glory, and in immortality." Meditations of this kind are fitted to strengthen and elevate every heart. They are fitted to give a voice to time as it passes, and to make it speak to us of the goodness" of Him who liveth for ever and "ever." They are fitted still more to prostrate us, in the opening of a new age, before the Throne of Eternity; to dispose us to cast all our cares upon that God who careth for us; and to subject every thought and desire of our own to the will of Him, in whom alone are all the treasures of wisdom, "and who" alone "was, and is, and is to come."
2. In descending from this first and greatest reflection, we are led to consider, in the second place, the nature of that age, of which we have witnessed the close. Every thing tells us that there is some progress going on in Nature,-some advance of the human race, either to improvement or degradation; and it is natural to us to inquire, whether the age which is gone is likely to transmit happiness or misery to posterity. In this respect also, my brethren, we have much reason for consolation. The century which has now left us, has doubtless been one of the most distinguished in the annals of human nature. It succeeded ages of rudeness and barbarism, and has
fully discharged its duties in the improvement of humanity. Nations who before lay in darkness and ignorance, have emerged into day, and taken their position upon the theatre of society. A new world has risen with gigantick steps into maturity, and already begins to display the lights of knowledge, and the wealth of industry. The boundaries of that world we inhabit have at length been explored and a path is opened for the introduction of the gospel to the remotest habitations of man.
In the progress which will for ever distinguish the eighteenth century, our own country, my brethren, has taken an exalted share. In the course of a period, so long for the instability of man, we have enjoyed the greatest portion of national happiness and prosperity that has ever fallen to the lot of the societies of men. The crimes and agitations of a former age have expired: and the constitution of our land has settled into that wise balance of power and of liberty, which no speculation of philosophy could have foreseen, but which is now substantiated, for the instruction of the future world, by the evidence of a hundred years of unprecedented welfare, and of expanding prosperity. Even in the present moments, my brethren, an event has taken place, which promises to give no mean addition to the prosperity and dignity of the empire. The union with our sister kingdom, so long wished for by the wise and benevolent, and so long opposed by national, and, above all, by religious preju
dices, at length, by the perseverance of the legislative wisdom, dignifies the opening of the new century and I trust in God, that the same sound of publick rejoicing which announced it to us, will announce to that long neglected, and perhaps oppressed people, the commencement of a new era of wealth, of liberty, and of happiness.
The age which is past has left us another subject of national gratulation,-that, I mean, of the extension which it has given to human knowledge. In no age, certainly, has the spirit of science so fully been awakened, or so generally disseminated: and were we to compare the state of knowledge at the beginning and the end of the period we are considering, the step which the human mind has made in that time would appear almost incredible. On every side, indeed, the boundaries of science have been enlarged; our acquaintance with nature increased; and the labours of philosophy withdrawn from visionary speculation, to those practical ends by which humanity may be bettered or improved. Under this influence, the arts of social life have been cultivated with unprecedented success; the foundations of national wealth and greatness have been investigated; and that great doctrine first taught from the schools of science, which unites national prosperity with national justice, and which will one day reduce the conduct of nations to the strictest rules of Christian benevolence. But, above all, the extension of know