« PreviousContinue »
The breastplate was to guard the heart from danger; and righteousness, or an habituals regard to all God's holy and righteous commandments, will serve the same purpose. It will give us confidence in God, as having begun the good work in us which he will carry on till the day of Jesus Cirrist ; it will enable us to repel the fiery darts of the wicked one; and it will defend us from the stings and arrows of an accusing conscience, so discouraging and enfeebling in the day of trial and conflict.
And as you are to march forward in a rugged path, your feet must be shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace. That is, your motives and encouragements to animate you in your Christian warfare must be derived from a clear and comprehensive knowledge of the gospel scheme of salvation, or of that method of obtaining pardon and peace with God, through Jesus Christ, which is therein revealed. A well grounded hope of his favour will bear up your minds under every difficulty, will enable you to endure tribulation, and to feel comparatively little inconvenience from the briars of temptation, and the thorns of adversity that may lie in your way to heaven. .
Above all, take to yourselves the shield of faith. This is the most important part of all the Christian armour. Believing the testimony of God, realizing his presence, trusting in his promises and grace in Jesus Christ, you will be able to ward off the temptations of Satan, as soldiers were wont to receive the darts of the enemy on shields which no dart could penetrate.
And take the helmet of salvation; or, as it is elsewhere expressed, take to yourselves for an helmet, the hope of salvation. The hope, or expectation of victory, founded on the power, and promise, and faithfulness of God, will serve as an helmet, (which soldiers wore to cover their heads in the day of battle) by counteracting that discouragement which doubt and uncertainty infuse into the mind. Faithful is he who hath promised.
The sword of the Spirit is next mentioned, and this we are told is the word of God. A thorough acquaintance with its doctrines and duties, its promises, admonitions, threatenings and warnings, will pierce the vitals of lust, slay the enmity of the heart, and frustrate all the attempts of the enemies of your
salvation. But in order to this, You must pray always with all prayer. We may be said to pray always, when we maintain such a holy and devout temper of mind, as to be ready and disposed at any time to lift up our hearts to God in prayer; or, when we not only observe stated times for prayer, but intermix secret ejaculations with our other duties. And let it be remembered, that it is not the voice but the mind that prays; that it is not the language of the lips, but the fervour of the heart, that constitutes devotion. Wherever we are, we may think of God, we may realize his presence, and trust in his promises, and pour out the desires of our hearts to him, who is acquainted with all our wants, and is able to do for us exceeding abundantly above all that we can ask or think.
Such is the Christian armour. And our blessed Lord, in order to animate and encourage us to go on in his name and strength, conquering and to conquer, thus addresses us from the throne of his glory: To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne. A throne is the highest pinnacle of worldly greatness : and the heavenly happiness is the highest possible glory and felicity—the noblest expression of divine munificence, the richest preparation of divine bounty and love. I beheld, says John, and lo, a great multitude which no man could number, of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues, stood before the throne, clothed with white robes, and palms in their hands; and cried with a loud voice, saying, Salvation to our God which sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb. And he which sitteth on the throne shall dwell among them. They shall hunger no more, neither thirst any more, neither shall the sun light on them, nor any heat. For the Lamb which is in the midst of the throne shall feed them, and shall lead them unto living fountains of waters ; and God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes.
SOURCES AND REMEDIES OF DISQUIETUDE.
PSALM XIII. 2.
How long shall I take counsel in my soul, having
sorrow in my heart daily?
PRESUMPTION and despair are the two fatal rocks on which we are in danger of making shipwreck of faith and of a good conscience. A vain conceit of our own righteousness and strength exposes to the one; sad and gloomy reflections on our own sins and corruptions, as if they exceeded the mercies of God, and excluded us from the hope of forgiveness, plunge us into the other. Both of them are extremes, against which we are frequently and faithfully warned in the scriptures, both of the Old and New Testament. There is, however, a godly jealousy of ourselves which is highly proper and necessary, as it leads to watchfulness and circumspection, and a constant dependance upon divine strength. But this jealousy may, like zeal, be without knowledge, and may exceed its just and proper limits. There are fears which are unfounded, and against which it is the duty of those who proclaim the glad tidings of salvation to guard their hearers in their public discourses, as well as when they are called, in the course of providence, to listen to their complaints when they are laid upon a sick bed, and stand in need of all the consolations which the gospel affords. The message addressed to us is, Comfort ye, comfort ye my people, saith your God. And it is the duty of those who are addressed to mix faith with their hearing, and to apply what
may be advanced, as far as it may be founded on the word of God, to their own cases, as they may happen to be described.—I request your attention, therefore, whilst I endeavour to point out some of those things on account of which good men take counsel in their souls, and have sorrow in their heart daily.
1. Many humble and sincere Christians are apt to complain of irregular and wandering thoughts in prayer, and other religious duties. Whence they conclude, that their minds are not duly impressed with a sense of divine things, and that their delight in the worship and service of God is far from corresponding with the infinite value and importance of religion.
Doubts and fears of this nature constitute the grand distinction between man, as a being capable of religion, and the inferior creatures. Irrational animals have a feeling of bodily pain, but they have no such fears and apprehensions as man experiences from self-reflection. The utmost they can possibly feel is present pain or suffering : whereas man is often uneasy at the past, affected with that which is present, and apprehensive of