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well-disciplined affections, and of that circumspection which the habitual fear and love of God will never fail to generate, we may take to ourselves the good that is before us, with thankful and cheerful hearts. We may “ taste " and see how gracious the Lord is,” not only in the spiritual blessings which claim our first and chief acknowledgments, but even in those temporal enjoyments which the plenitude of his never-failing loving-kindness hath abundantly provided, to cheer us on our earthly pilgrimage. And in so doing, we shall but emulate the examples of those in whom pure and genuine religion assumes the most attractive aspect ; whose prudence degenerates not into formality, whose blameless sanctity of life is not rendered repulsive by austerity or moroseness, whose abstinence from prohibited or excessive indulgence is not the mere result of constitutional temperament or assumed apathy; but who have learned the art of self-government from the instructions of heavenly wisdom ; and who impart to all around them a portion of that tranquillity and equanimity of spirit which results from “ the joy that no man taketh from them"."
To strengthen us, however, for that conflict with temptation, from which the most vigilant can never expect to be entirely exempt, let our constant supplications be offered up to Him who alone can enable us to withstand the assaults of those enemies of our salvation, which every where beset the path of the Christian, be his station or circumstances what they may. “Our sufficiency is of God.” From Him only cometh strength, and wisdom, and discernment, to guide us through the perils of our spiritual warfare. And since we are taught that even His grace may be quenched, may be grieved, may be rendered of none effect, by those who are regardless of its influence and think lightly of its dictates; it behoves us diligently and impartially to try and examine ourselves as to the progress we are making towards Christian perfection, and as to the grounds and principles on which we build our hopes as heirs of immortality. Ever let it be remembered that we are disciples of Him who hath commanded us to “ take up our cross and follow Him;" and that we are to partake of whatever enjoyments are placed within our reach, as passengers only through this transitory scene.
y John xvi. 29.
* Psalm xxxiv. 8.
That we may never swerve, however, from our line of duty in these respects, there are two events for which it will behove us to
live in a constant state of preparation ;-the day of adversity, and the day of judgment. It is folly to banish the thought of either of these. Evils there are in this present life, of which we must expect to have our portion ; and though this expectation need not embitter the enjoyment of present good, or excite a querulous anticipation of future evil; yet ought it to abate that excessive love of pleasure, which will only increase the weight of adversity when it comes upon us, and render us less able to bear its pressure. Still greater folly is it to repel from our thoughts the expectation of future judgment. This, indeed, is an event which every Christian knows to be inevitable. And what other re
his evil propensities can be equally effective? What stronger motive can be set before him, so to regulate all his enjoyments here, that they may not terminate in endless bitterness and woe hereafter? What warning can be so awakening, so urgent, so imperative as this, to restrain us all from falling under the fearful condemnation of being “ lovers of pleasure more than lovers of God ?"
JOHN xii. 43.
For they loved the praise of men more than the
praise of God.
AMONG the hard sayings which render the Gospel difficult of acceptance to worldly-minded men, are those which seem to discourage the desire of popular admiration. It is spoken of here by the Evangelist in reproach of some of the Jewish rulers, that “they loved the
praise of men more than the praise of God;" and the instance given of their conduct in this respect is stated in the preceding verse, that though they “ believed” on our Lord, yet
“ because of the Pharisees they did not confess him:” thus sacrificing their own convictions to a corrupt desire of obtaining favour from a powerful and overbearing sect. It is, indeed, mentioned of the Pharisees themselves, that they were of a similar disposition, making an outward show of sanctity and strictness, that they might be “ seen of “ men "," and " have their reward” in the veneration with which they were regarded by the multitude. Their almsgivings, their fastings, their prayers, their rigid observance of the ceremonial law, and of the numberless traditions engrafted upon it, originated, for the most part, in this desire of public estimation. Nothing could be more contrary to the spirit by which the disciples of Christ were required to regulate their conduct. A blessing was pronounced upon dispositions the most opposite to these. They were even to “ rejoice” when “ hated, reviled, or persecuted “ for righteousness' sake,” because“
great “ should be their reward in heaven.” The duties of prayer, and almsgiving, and fasting, were to be practised from the desire of serving and pleasing God, not for gaining the admiration of men; and the appetite for indiscriminate commendation was thus pointedly reproved ;—“ Woe unto you, when all men “ shall speak well of you b!"
There can be no doubt that these and many similar admonitions had especial reference to the difficulties under which the primitive Christians laboured. So hostile were the laws and usages, the sentiments and dispositions, a Matth. xxiii. 5.
b Luke vi. 26.