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A third, by the power of the flesh; and his power over it and peculiar love of chastity, shows the heart subdued. A fourth by impatience under the cross, manifests humility by submitting to it.
4. Some wish to be humble before they believe: but faith produces humility.
5. An increase of knowledge of obligation, knowledge of duties, knowledge of the heart, knowledge of advantages, produces low thoughts of ourselves and our attainments.
No. CXXXVIII.-SOLITUDE IN AFFLICTION.
ONE of the advantages of afflictive dispensations is, a love of solitude. Here the mind reviews its past busy scenes, forms a juster value of its pursuits, estimates its own state, character, and prospects; collects its thoughts from their dissipated range, and unites their energy on subjects of endless moment. Here, too, unable to derive proportionable aid from the creature, the soul pours forth its desires, groans and tears, to God. Public prayer may be occasioned by custom, but private prayer becomes necessary under sanctified trials. It is one branch of wisdom, to obtain proper views of afflictions; and observe how they are described by God himself (whose thoughts are not as our thoughts), and how good and bad men judge of them. This difference can only be ascertained by a comparison of our experience, and observation, with the testimony of God.
The natural operation of trials on the minds of even good men, is often very distressing.
The representation which Job gives of his trials, and the effects they produced on him, are a striking illustration of this truth: "thou puttest my feet in the stocks, and lookest narrowly into all my ways, and puttest a print on the heels of my feet." A person put into the stocks, is apprehended as a malefactor. Our afflictions are the stocks, and Job saw a divine hand and felt its power, regulating his trials. The instruments in his trials might be visible; but he looked beyond them; saying, "THOU puttest my feet in the stocks." This preserved him, so far as it prevailed for venting his resentment against the immediate agents in his sufferings. It induced him to examine his heart and life, as he was certain God never acted without reason. "Show me wherefore THOU contendest with me.”
This thought sinks the mind into humble submission. “I was dumb, I opened not my mouth (to censure man, or murmur at my trial), because THOU didst it."
A person in the he cannot escape. of business, der capable of er will, covete
stocks, is uneasy from the restraint he is under;
checked, and diminished by the full employment of our thoughts on our own bodies and minds.
Like a man in the stocks, the sufferer finds his natural and social comforts abated, and his sinful pleasures embittered. "His affliction for the present is not joyous, but grievous." Some persons seek, and others affect nothing but comfort in affliction. Is this God's design? Does he afflict for our comfort? Would not the removal of the affliction answer this end, to a considerable degree ? Serious persons are tempted to appear comfortable when they are not so; and judge themselves and the dispensation, by the degree of comfort they receive, rather than the PROFIT they experience, because injudicious ministers and Christians have made comfortable frames in affliction, a criterion of their state.
No. CXXXIX.-ZEAL FOR GOD.
THERE are settled ministers and village preachers, who, by their great professions, diligence, liberality and concern for the salvation of souls, promise to the church, refreshment and fruitfulness; but under this appearance "seek their own glory;" and prove to be, "clouds without water."
It is no uncommon thing for persons governed by a party spirit, to deceive themselves and attempt to deceive others, by professing to have the glory of God, and the good of souls for their end. When, alas! nothing can be farther from their hearts. “With the mouth, they show much love" and zeal, whilst covetousness or pride, prejudice or resentment, aversion to a faithful ministry, or the lust of power, actuate them.
This self-deception is evident to others, by their silence in not mentioning an hundred instances of conversion by the minister whom they oppose; by their indifference to those church-meetings where the Lord's dealings with souls are related, whilst they blow the trumpet to extend one instance of an apparent conversion, by the man who is their tool. Nay, they will endeavour to conceal the usefulness of a faithful minister, or obscure it, to gratify their partymalignity.
This is surely diabolical. Nay, it is to be feared, that Loquacious, who is a bold and zealous professor,-would rather a soul remained unconverted, than that the minister he defames should have the honour of turning him to God!
And still worse, I have heard the same tongue that spread the fame of the minister for usefulness to many souls, after taking offence, deny his usefulness to any one!
In one instance, a person who gave me her written experience, in which she gratefully mentions the instrument of her conversion ;
afterwards, to mortify him for some offence he had given, she attributed her conversion to another minister.
The Lord's glory and the good of souls, are words of course, on their tongues, whilst-A NAME-a religious reputation is the end. Or, one malignant mind may influence many by "fair speeches," to believe his falsehoods and make them his tools for party purposes; for there are in every Christian society, weak brethren-false brethren, or both.
These deceived persons have the glory of God and the good of souls, always ready to conceal "the poison of asps under their lips;" for they employ months and years in slander, and no one comes out of their company uninjured. Mendar will introduce himself to you on the subject of the Missionary or Bible Society.
His name stands a subscriber of from one to ten pounds, or more. Having gained your ear, he brings forward the character he intends to strike; which is frequently that of a minister of the gospel. But pause, self-deceiver;-does thy defaming a minister's character,censuring the church as severe in discipline, because faithful,-tend to glorify God? Why do you prejudice souls against a useful minister? Is it to promote his usefulness, and their good?
Those persons who are most forward to proclaim their zeal and faithfulness, are always to be suspected. Jehu covered his cruelty and ambition, by-"come, see my zeal for the Lord !"— Zeal for the Lord? No, he was zealous for his own honour and gratification.
THE hypocrite boasts of liberty, and walks as a slave to some sin. Prosperity is to him a sign of divine favour; godliness is his trade for gain. Believe his heart is good when his life is evil, and he gives it the name of charity. He hears the gospel, and loves the world; and like Demas, makes gain the rule of conscience, and leaves this minister to complain,-"Demas has forsaken me; having loved the present world." Anxious in affliction for deliverance from disease and trouble; joyful in his health, and prosperous business; he talks of heaven, is weary of the world in its crosses, and yet cleaves to the world. He affects to repent, fearing death and hell; and when relieved from fear, stops the vein of sin from bleeding, lest he should endanger its life. If, then, he use his gifts in prayer or preaching, to shine, not be useful.
No. CXLI.-MEN OF NO PRINCIPLE.
THERE are many persons in these days of freedom from violent perfection, who are dissenters, because education, marriage, money, has made them such. A change of circumstances would lead them to profess to be members of the Established Church. If a party between the church and dissent is found, and a suitable temptation presents itself, they join them. They profess moderation, and call the consistent man who acts on principle, a bigot. How comes it to pass, that these persons, on another change of circumstances, return, and again they become dissenters or churchmen? Why so yielding to circumstances? It is easy to account for their encouraging profession; they have no principle: their moderation is indifference to principle. Instability of principle produces inconsistency of conduct; for " a double-minded man is unstable in all his ways." He can think, act, and speak one way this day, and change with the first wind. The fact is, he is not a churchman; nor a dissenter; nor a man of moderate principles as he pretends: he acts not from principle, but convenience, covetousness, lust, thirst for power, or resentment:-or he has LOST HIS CHARACTER with that society which he has left, or rather perhaps, which expelled him. Do not suppose him fixed.-No! "he will turn,-return,—overturn,——— take any turn to serve his own turn."
No. CXLII. SUITABLE BEHAVIOUR IN PUBLIC WORSHIP.
How important is a suitable behaviour in the House of God!— Important to the person who exhibits it, as a lively, fixed attention is necessary to his profit; but, if careless hearers are encouraged in their indifference, by my example, by seeing in me the wandering eye, varying postures, listlessness, heaviness, or levity, what serious injury have I done! My minister too,-how painfully discouraging to him, to see me unable to sit one hour to hear a sermon, without evident restlessness, when he knows I can sit quietly a whole afternoon, to hear the news and chit-chat of the day! Perhaps the minister of God has a succession of painful thoughts rapidly passing through his mind,-that hearer's heart is "going after his covetousness," or his passions are exercised on objects unknown to me: but as I have scarcely his ear, I am sure his heart is not interested in my subject. Let me turn my eyes from this discouraging, chilling hearer, and look at a more interesting hearer. There he sits:I know where to find him, and relieve myself: he is a poor man, living in all the simplicity of faith in divine truth. He understands, believes, enjoys, and exclaims, "Verily thou art a man of God; and the word of God in thy mouth is truth!"
"KNow ye not that Christ is in you, except ye be reprobates?" Reprobates! that is, disapproved and rejected of God! In the church of Corinth too, where such various and resplendent gifts abounded? Reprobates! hearing the gospel? hearing a Paul preach Christ? Reprobates! after joining in church communion at the Lord's-table? Reprobates! after two epistles of instruction and admonition? Reprobates! after convictions, sorrows, persecutions, the good opinion of the members of the church? Reprobates! after witnessing the fall of some professors, to warn us; and the power of grace in others, to encourage us? Reprobates! after visiting the sick, taking our turn in prayer at the Prayer-meetings? Reprobates! after the reproofs we have given to saints and sinners; and after the reproofs we have received ourselves, in sermons, personal and relative afflictions? Reprobates! after the fears which have agitated us, the tears we have shed, the means of grace we have attended, and the vows we have made? Prayed in the family, the closet, and yet reprobates! Conversing on religion with good men, reproving bad men,-singing the praises of God with the congregation, with a loud voice, and reprobates! Instructing the ignorant in Sunday Schools, sanctioning the Missionary, Bible, and Tract Society, by my presence, my voice, and my purse, and yet a reprobate! In the office of village preacher, a deacon, a settled minister, and a reprobate! an admirer of ministers, bringing others to hear the gospel, and a reprobate! Sound in my sentiments, regular in my attendance on ordinances; mourning over the negligence of others,. and a reprobate!
Instrumental in the conversion of souls, by persuading them to hear the gospel, by my example in hearing it, by giving them bibles, and a reprobate! Speaking against sin, opposing self-righteousness, encouraging weak believers, and bringing them to the Lord'stable, and a reprobated! Reading the word of God to, praying with the sick, and affording them temporal relief, and yet a reprobate! Yes, all this may be said, and felt and performed, and yet you may be reprobates.
Pride, self-righteousness, unbelief, the lust of the flesh, the lust of money, the lust of power, the lust of reputation, the lust of singularity, the lust of party, the lust of self-exaltation after all, may govern you. You may trust in "the littleness of your sins; and the sufficiency of duties to counterbalance them," and, after all your advantages, and professions and feelings, be a reprobate, a cast-away, a rejected character!
But granting that my present character is such, that a holy God must disapprove and reject; may I not repent and believe, and be
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