« PoprzedniaDalej »
moment, under the dispensations of a merciful Providence, may be made effectual to the working out for us, of a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory.
Since, therefore, constant experience teaches every one of us, that we are liable to evil; to be disturbed by temporal losses, by pains of body, or infirmities of mind; by our own frailties, or the wickedness of others; since, with the fairest show of outward prosperity, some secret sorrow may prey upon the heart which knows its own bitterness: let me entreat your serious attention to the following considerations, and let them serve as a strong encouragement in all circumstances, "not to be overcome of evil.”
1st. Cherish not the groundless expectation that you shall be exempted from the common fate of all men, and therefore may relax your vigilance, and sink into a state of heedless indolence. Under the baneful influence of this disposition of mind, the adversary will attack you; and, before you are aware of your danger, an advantage over you may be gained; you may sustain an injury ever to be deplored; but, perhaps, never effectually redressed. He who is perfectly acquainted with our situation, and who knows whereof we are made, has, therefore, directed us to watch and be sober; to take unto ourselves the whole armour of God; to be patient and persevering, for that man is born to trouble, as the sparks fly upward.
Let these reflections be particularly recommended to the consideration of the young. Let them not be so enchanted with the gay prospect that surrounds them, as to make no provision for the difficulties and dangers of their future journey through life. They
will find upon experience, that the shrub, which appeared so beautiful at a distance, conceals many pointed thorns: as they travel along, they will often tread on venomous serpents lurking under fragrant flowers. Let the season of youth, therefore, be considered as a state of discipline preparatory to the approaching conflict. In the gaity of spring, and the warmth of summer, let the stores be collected which are absolutely necessary to mitigate the severity of the wintery storm.
2dly. When evils overtake us, that we may not be overcome by them, we are to divest ourselves, so far as may be, of the prejudices of self-love; not impatiently complain, as though some strange thing had happened unto us; not perversely magnify them; and then, with the peevish spirit of the prophet Jonah, maintain that we do well to be angry. The humble and the patient man, in the most grievous calamities, will always discover some alleviating circumstances: he will be ready to acknowledge, that in the midst of judgment, God always remembers mercy. Has he deprived you of riches? he has blessed you with health. Has he afflicted you with sickness? he has surrounded you with friends. Has he taken away one friend who was the source of much felicity? he has spared to you another, by whom you are equally beloved. Our compassionate Redeemer alone could say with propriety, "Behold, and see, all ye that pass by; if there "be any sorrow like unto my sorrow, which is done "unto me, wherewith the Lord hath afflicted me in "the day of his fierce anger!" To every one of us may be addressed the exhortation of the apostle to his Corinthian brethren; "Neither murmur ye, as some of
"them also murmured, and were destroyed of the "destroyer. There hath no temptation taken you, "but such as is common to man: but God is faith"ful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able: but will with the temptation also make "a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it."
3dly. Let it ever be remembered, that this is a probationary state; that we are engaged in a trying conflict with powerful adversaries; that we are made an interesting spectacle unto the world, and to angels, and to men; that the reward proposed to the victorious, is a crown of life and glory that fadeth not away. From these considerations, we are again to form the good resolution, not to be overcome of evil; to resist the devil, that he may flee from us; to be strong, and quit ourselves like men. By this severity of discipline, the soul is strengthened, and improved in all virtue-in the necessary qualifications for heaven, which otherwise could not have been acquired. "Tribulation worketh "patience; and patience, experience; and experience, "hope; and hope maketh not ashamed:" and the result of all this heavenly cultivation is; "the love of "God is more abundantly shed abroad in our hearts "by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us." For, we are to consider,
4thly. That under the Christian dispensation, we are not left to the exertions of the poor remains of our own strength; but we are supplied with supernatural aid from on high. To a weak and ignorant world, grace as well as truth came by Jesus Christ. In all our trials and distresses, his encouraging language is, "My grace "is sufficient for thee." In confirmation of which truth, one of his first disciples, who was called to the
severest toils in his Master's service, could say at the conclusion of his work; "His grace, which was be"stowed upon me, was not in vain; but I laboured "more abundantly than they all: yet not I, but the
grace of God which was with me." And, from this heavenly source he derived fortitude to bear, as well as strength to act; he learned passive, as well as active obedience to the will of his Lord-" I have learned, in "whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content. I "know both how to be abased, and I know how to "abound: every where, and in all things I am in"structed, both to be full, and to be hungry; both to "abound, and to suffer need: I can do all things "through Christ which strengtheneth me." And if these were the exulting declarations of the primitive saints in that gloomy hour of cruel persecution, shall we ever despair of being supplied with spiritual strength sufficient for the discharge of the ordinary duties of the Christian life? The lines have fallen to us in pleasant places, not infested with danger. It is not our hard fate, to resist unto blood, striving against sin. Utterly inexcusable shall we be, if, in the performance of our comparatively easy task, the weak hands be not strengthened, and the feeble knees confirmed; if we run not in the way of God's commandments without fainting, and walk not in all his ordinances without being weary.
The last motive which I shall urge, in order to induce a compliance with the apostle's injunction, "be "not overcome of evil," is drawn from the consideration of our Lord's example. "Was ever sorrow like " unto his sorrow? His visage was so marred by the
"strokes of pain, and his form more than the sons of "men." And yet, he suffered not for himself; "but "he was wounded for our transgressions; he was "bruised for our iniquities." And shall we, disobedient children, guilty sinners, "despise the chastening " of the Lord, and faint when we are rebuked of him? "Let us rather look unto Jesus, the author and finisher "of our faith; who, for the joy that was set before him, "endured the cross, despising the shame," Let us, with grateful affection" consider him that endured such "contradiction of sinners against himself; and be not "weary, nor faint in our minds. He suffered for us, leaving us an example, that we should follow his steps." And, under our severest conflicts with temporal distress, surely it is a source of abundant consolation to know, that if we suffer with our Redeemer, we shall also be glorified together.
Whatever, therefore, the trial may be in which you are engaged; whether it arise from the immediate appointment of a mysterious Providence; from your own frailties, or from the wickedness of others; whether it affect mind, body, or estate; recollect, that evil under various forms is the common lot of mortality: that judgment is ever tempered by mercy: that even angels are anxious spectators of that conflict by which we are now disciplined for heaven: that we need never to be destitute of the Holy Spirit of God, who helpeth all our infirmities: that we are encouraged by the example of our dear Redeemer, who is now highly exalted, and invested with all power to confer on his faithful followers an ample reward. Let these considerations be duly impressed upon your minds, and you will not be