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by that variety of dispensations of which we have been speaking. The workings of the soul under so many different circumstances will tend to shew a man what he really is, and consequently to humble him in the dust before God: whilst the dealings of God with him will wonderfully display the character of God himself, and lead forth the soul in the devoutest acknowledgments to him for past mercies, and in the most implicit confidence in him for future blessings. In a word, all the active and passive virtues will be generated in the soul, and be called forth into united and harmonious exercise; so that by these dispensations the Believer will be assimilated unto“ God, who is light itself, and in whom is no darkness at all?."] 2. To stimulate them in their way to glory
[Mercies have a tendency to fill the soul with love to God, and to make it pant for the full enjoyment of God in heaven. Judgments also operate to the same end, by weaning the soul from present things, and causing it to long for that rest which remaineth for it in a better world. It was not peculiar to the Apostle Paul to “ desire to depart, and to be with Christ.” Every one who feels the vanity of earthly things, and has a foretaste of the world to come, will be like-minded with him. A weariness of life may be felt, and is often felt, by the most ungodly of men. That, therefore, is not the experience which I am speaking of: that results from a total ignorance of God's mercies, and a dissatisfaction with their appointed lot. The state of mind to which I refer, is well expressed by St. Paul, when he says, “ We that are in this tabernacle do groan, being burthened: not that we would be unclothed, but clothed upon, that mortality may be swallowed up of lifem." To the voice of Christ, saying, “Behold, I come quickly," it responds with joyful confidence; “Even so, come, Lord Jesus n!”]
Whilst they answer such ends as these, we cannot but see, III. The light in which they should invariably be
viewed The saints in every age have acknowledged the goodness of God in them
[David, in my text, speaks of judgment, as well as mercy, as the ground of his devoutest acknowledgments. And he elsewhere not only declares that “it is good for him to have been afflictedo," but traces his afflictions to the faithfulness of GodP; evidently intimating, that he regarded them as comprehended in the covenant of grace, and as promised, so far as
11 John i. 5. m 2 Cor. v. 4. n Rev, xxii. 20. • Ps. cxix. 71. P Ps. cxix. 75.
they should be needful for him, by a faithful and unchanging God. St. Paul even “ took pleasure in them" in this view": and regarded them not only as light, but “as lightness itself," from the consideration that they were “ working out for him a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory.” The same experience also is ascribed to all the saints : for, of every true Christian it is said, “ We glory in tribulations also, knowing that tribulation worketh patience; and patience, experience; and experience, hope ; and hope maketh not ashameds."]
And we also should be prepared to join in their anthems of praise
[Our views of eternity should swallow up all inferior considerations; and that dispensation be most welcomed which most conduces to our eternal interests. To flesh and blood, that which is attended with present comfort appears best; but it is not really so. A wind that is somewhat cross will urge on a ship more steadily, and carry it forward more rapidly, than one which is quite direct; because it will fill all the sails. So a measure of adversity will operate more favourably on our Christian course, than a state of unmixed prosperity. Taken in connexion, the good and the evil mutually assist each other, and “work together for good unto all them that love God, and have been called by him according to his purposet.” Our blessed Lord himself “was made perfect through sufferings :" and what was subservient to his benefit, cannot fail of being conducive to ours also : and consequently, the acknowledgments which we should make respecting them in the eternal world should now at this time constitute an essential part of our thanksgivings to God.] Who does not see here
1. The value and importance of faith?
[Sense beholds things as they appear. Faith beholds them as they really are. Faith views them both in their source and end: it traces every thing to God, as the all-wise and infinitely gracious Disposer of all events. Faith comprehends that saying, “ Is there evil in the city and the Lord hath not done it?" It fully accedes, also, to that inspired declaration, “ Whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth.” Hence, if our mercies were unmixed, it would be far from regarding it as a token for good: it would rather suggest, that we were bastards and not sons; because there is no son whom a wise father chasteneth notu. Learn then, my Brethren, to "walk by faith and not by sight*.” You well know how greatly Jacob erred, when he said, “ All these things are against mey." In fact, the very events which he so much deplored, were the means which God had ordained for the preservation of himself and all his family. Job too, in the midst of all his trials, little thought in what they would issue. But “ you have seen the end of them?;" and if you will wait to see the Lord's end in every thing that wears a painful aspect in his dispensations towards you, I may venture to assure you that the time is coming when you shall add your testimony to that of old, “He hath done all things well." Your way may be circuitous and painful : but you will find, at the last, that “he has led you in the right way."] 2. The blessedness of true Believers ?
9 2 Cor. xii. 10. r 2 Cor. iv. 17, 18. The Greek. 8 Rom. v. 3-5. Rom. viii. 28. u Heb. xii. 6—8. * 2 Cor. v. 7.
[Where is the man under heaven, except the Believer, who can adopt the language of the text, or carry it into effect? Ungodly men may sing when all goes well with them : but where is he that will sing in the midst of his afflictions, and make his afflictions themselves a ground of joy? Nowhere is that man to be found, but in the Church of Christ; for it is to his believing people only that “God giveth songs in the night." On the other hand, there is not an individual in the Church of Christ who is not privileged to experience this joy, and who does not actually possess it in proportion as he has made a progress in the divine life. Hear the prophet of old : “ Although the figtree shall not blossom, neither shall fruit be in the vines; the labour of the olive shall fail, and the fields shall yield no meat; the flock shall be cut off from the fold, and there shall be no herd in the stalls; yet I will rejoice in the Lord; I will joy in the God of my salvationa." Take this for your pattern, Brethren. You may be brought into trials, which may seem to menace your very existence : but, however the storm may rage, your Saviour is embarked in the vessel with you; yea, and is also sitting at the helm. Only reflect on his conflicts, victories, and triumphs; and you will see the way that is marked out for you : and as He fought and overcame, and is set down upon his Father's throne, so shall you also overcome, and enjoy the full recompence of your trials upon your Father's throne for ever and ever. And say, whether there will be one incident for which you will not bless your God in the eternal world? If not, then view every thing now as proceeding from his love, and as leading to the full enjoyment of heaven: and sing now both of mercy and judgment, as you will sing, when they shall have come to their final termination, and all present scenes shall be consummated in eternal bliss. I conclude, then, with that direction of the Apostle which is so suited to the occasion, “ In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you b."] y Gen. xlii. 36. z Jam. v. 11. a Hab. iii. 17, 18. o 1 Thess. v. 18. DCLXVIII. A WISE DEPORTMENT DELINEATED. Ps. ci. 2. I will behave myself wisely in a perfect way. O
when wilt thou come unto me? I will walk within my house with a perfect heart.
EXTENSIVE influence is a most invaluable talent, which entails upon us an awful responsibility, and should therefore be improved with all possible care and diligence. The higher we are in the scale of society, the more our obligations to exert ourselves for God are increased. But, if wisdom direct not our measures, our most strenuous efforts will be in vain. David was well convinced of this truth : and, having seen in his own experience a wise admixture of mercy and of judgment in the dealings of God towards him, he determined, in his limited sphere of action, to imitate the conduct of the Governor of the Universe, and so to temper mercy with justice in the whole of his administration, that iniquity might be suppressed, and virtue cultivated, not in his own palace only, but throughout all his dominions. We might not unprofitably enter into an investigation of the principles which he laid down for the regulation of his conduct, and mark the specific course of action which he determined to pursue towards his courtiers ; but we shall wave the consideration of those particulars, and notice rather the general principle which he adopted, and which is equally applicable to persons in every station of life; “I will behave myself wisely in a perfect way; I will walk within my house with a perfect heart.”
A noble resolution this ! We will endeavour to point out, I. The great importance of it
The value of religion, generally, is acknowledged by all; but few are aware of the vast importance of a wise, discreet, and prudent deportment : yet on that essentially depend,
1. The peace and comfort of our own souls
[An indiscreet conduct, even where the person's intentions on the whole are good, will involve him in many difficulties, and rob him of those supports and consolations which under other circumstances he might enjoy. True it is, that the wisest demeanour will not avail to root out prejudice, or to make religion lovely in the eyes of carnal men: for the children of darkness cannot but hate the light: and our blessed Lord himself, in whose conduct not the slightest fault or error could be found, was an object of universal hatred to the whole Jewish nation. But it is no less true, that imprudence in religious characters calls forth against them, and, in appearance, justifies, the malignity of many, who, if their zeal had been better regulated, would never have raised their arm against it. Many parents, masters, magistrates, who would never have interposed their authority to obstruct a prudent exercise of religion, have been induced to exert their power in consequence of the indiscretion of those whom they were constrained to oppose. In such cases their opposition can scarcely be called persecution ; nor can the cross which the sufferers are called to bear, be called “ the cross of Christ :" it is their own cross, that they have to bear, and their own folly, that they have to blame. Enthusiasts do indeed persuade themselves that they are suffering for righteousness sake: but having no satisfactory evidence that such is indeed the true ground of their trials, they cannot feel that humble acquiescence in the divine appointments, which, if they had acted a wiser part, would have calmed their spirits, and sweetened their afflictions a.] 2. The benefit of all around us
[Nothing can be more unreasonable than that men should condemn religion for the faults of those who profess it: but they will do so, and will take occasion from the misconduct of religious people to defame and decry all vital godliness b.
It is of no consequence in their eyes, that the wise and prudent condemn the things that are complained of: no; their adversaries are not disposed to discriminate between the guilty and the innocent: they involve all. in the same obloquy: and will bring the faults of former ages as grounds of accusation against those who live in the present day. Even the errors that were acknowledged and lamented by the persons who in early life committed them, are still adduced as characterizing not only the persons who openly renounced them, but those also who have never in any degree approximated towards themd: and all this is done for the purpose of discrediting
a 1 Pet. ii. 19, 20. and iv. 15, 16. b 2 Pet. ii. 2.
c The errors of the Puritans are imputed to those who profess religion in the present day.
d This is particularly to be noticed in reference to the early journals