Page images
PDF
EPUB

sent peace and future happiness, we ought constantly to observe, and duly to regulate them.

Instead of dwelling always on the dark side of things, we should turn our thoughts to the animating doctrines and promises of the gospel, and those bright and exhilarating prospects which it opens to our view. Religion, while it makes every proper allowance for the frailties and infirmities of our nature, does every thing that can be done, in order to counteract and rectify them. Instead of being an enemy to all joy and cheerfulness, it calls upon us to serve the Lord with gladness, and to be joyful in our Maker. The law, the Psalms, and the prophets, are full of exhortations to this purpose. And surely we have much greater reason to rejoice under the gospel, compared with which the legal dispensation was servile, burdensome, and a spirit of bondage. Having, therefore, endeavoured to obviate those doubts and fears which obstruct the exercise of religious joy, I hope I may now be permitted to exhort those who have been the principal objects of this discourse to be followers of them who through faith and patience do now inherit the promises. Consider their example, their supports, their conflicts, their final triumph; and remember, that the same hand which conducted them is conducting you to a city of habitation. You are not travelling an unknown road through which none bas passed, nor has any temptation befallen you but what others have encountered and overcome through the same grace and strength that are offered to you. Wherefore, take to yourselves the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand in the evil day. Wait upon the Lord, and he will comfort thine heart; wait I say upon the Lord. For those blessings which God has promised absolutely to give, such as pardon, grace, and eternal life, we cannot be too earnest or explicit; but in regard to those which he dispenses in a more sovereign and restricted manner, such as exemption or deliverance from severe bodily pain, or from spiritual affliction and distress, we must be careful to ask these only in submission to the divine will. The promise is, indeed, as general and unrestricted as the precept. All things whatsoever ye ask in prayer, believing, ye shall receive. But still he hath reserved in his own hands both the time and the manner of bestowing the blessings he has promised. The things we ask may be improper or unseasonable; God therefore in mercy withholds them. So likewise as to the manner. We ask one good thing, and he gives us an equivalent. In the day that I called, says the psalmist, thou didst answer me, and strengthenedst me with strength in my soul. He asked for deliverance from trouble; the Lord

gave him strength to bear it. The same was the case with the apostle Paul. He besought the Lord thrice for the removal of a certain grievous trial. The answer he received was, My grace is sufficient for thee, for my strength is made perfect in weakness. It were easy to enlarge on this : let it suffice us to know, that what is good the Lord will give.

2. In the second and last place --Religion, let it be remembered, is intended to regulate our practice, as well as to soothe and elevate our minds.

This being the case, it will in general be found, that as in the natural so in the spiritual life, activity and enjoyment are essentially connected with one another, and that the more we attend to the weightier matters of the law, the more will our comforts abound. Consider then your different departments of duty, and the variety of means and talents entrusted to you, and endeavour to cultivate and improve them for the glory of God, and the good of all within the sphere of your influence. Are you in prosperous circumstances ? Consider yourselves as intended by Providence to be channels of conveying its bounty to the poor and necessitous, and suffer not your hearts to be hardened by the ungrateful returns of some you may meet with; for the blessing of others will come upon you. Or, if you can do but little in relieving the bodily wants of others, yet, if by soothing and comforting them by the consolations with which you yourselves have been comforted of God; if, by softening their pillow, giving them easy postures on a sick bed, and the many other minute and little attentions you can shew them; if, by these means, you can make them less sensible of the hardships of their state, you will not only contribute to their comfort, but also to your own. Even a cup of cold water given to a disciple of Christ, as such, shall not lose its reward.

This is only a specimen of what it would be delightful to enlarge upon, did time permit, of the

manner in which activity and enjoyment in the divine, life might be shewn to be essentially connected with one another. Let us then be follow, ers of God as dear children, and walk in love as Christ also hath loyed us, and hath left us an example that we should follow his steps; and the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep our hearts and minds by Christ Jesus,

XVIII.]

DISPENSATIONS, NOW MYSTERIOUS, &c.

959

SERMON XVIII.

DISPENSATIONS, NOW MYSTERIOUS, SHALL BE KNOWN

HEREAFTER

JOHN, XIII. 7. What I do thou knowest not now; but thou shalt

know hereafter.

ONE of the greatest difficulties which the Christian has to accomplish, and one in which the power of divine grace is most eminently displayed, is to conquer the natural antipathy of the heart against the self-denying doctrines of the gospel, and to bring the will into subjection to the mysterious dispensations of Divine Providence, which we cannot at present fully comprehend. We would have God to clear up his conduct towards us as he proceeds, and to account for every step of his procedure before his designs are completed. We want to comprehend now, that which he has assured us we shall know hereafter. He is leading us by a way

which we know not to a city of habitation; but because we know not the way by which he is leading us, we refuse to put that confidence in him which we are glad to place in a fellow-creature who is acquainted with the road by which we have to travel, but of which we ourselves are totally igno

« PreviousContinue »