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it is not put off till distress drives us to it. Seriousñess
. We may then fairly arrive at this conclusion, that there is no happy death but that which conducts to a hapoy im mortality ;-No joy in putting off the body, if we have not put on the Lord Jesus Christ-No consolation id es. caping from the miseries of time till we have obtained a well grounded hope of a blessed eternity,
AFFLICTION is the school in which great virtues are acquired, in which great characters are formed. It is a kind of moral Gymnasium, in which the disciples of
Christ are trained to robust exercise, hardy exertion, and seyere conflict.
We do not hear of martial heroes in “ the calm and piping time of peace," nor of the most eminert saints in the quiet and unmolested periods of ecclesiastical history. We are far from denying that the principle of cou rage in the warrior, or of piety in the saint continues to subsist, ready to be brought into action when perils beset the country, or trials assail the church ; but it must be allowed that in long periods of inaction, both are liable to decay.
The christian, in our comparatively tranquil day, is happily exempt from the trials and the terrors which the annals of persecution record. Thanks to the establishment of a pure christianity in the church, thanks to the infusion of the same pure principles into our laws, and to the mild and tolerating spirit of both-a man is so far from being liable to pains and penalties for his attachment to his religion, that he is protected in its exer. cise ; and were certain existing statutes enforced, he would even incar penalties for his violation of religious duties, rather than for his observance of them.*
Yet still the Christian is not exempt from his individual, his appropriate, his undefined trials. We refer not merely to those “cruel mockings,” which the acute sen. sibility of the Apostle led him to rank in the same catalogue with bonds, imprisonments, exile and martyrdom itself. We allude not altogether to those misrepresentations and calumnies to which the zealous Christian is pe culiarly liable ; nor exclusively to those difficulties to which his very adherence to the principles he professes, must necessarily subject him ; nor entirely to those occasional sacrifices of credit, of advancement, of popular applause; to wbich his refusing to sail with the tide of popular opinion may compel him; nor solely to the dis. advantages which under certaiu circumstances his not preferring expediency to principle may expose him... But the truly good man is not only often called to strug. gle with trials of large dimensions, with exigencies of obvious difficulty, but to encounter others which are better onderstood than defined.
And doller would he be shan the fat weed
That rots itself at ease on Lethe's wharf, • We allude to the laws against swearing, attending public worship, &c.
were he left to batten undisturbed, in peaceful security on the unwholesome pastures of rank prosperity. The thick exhalations drawn up from this gross soil render the atmosphere so heavy as to obstruct the ascent of piety, her flagging pinions are kept down by the influence of this moist vapour; she is prevented from soaring,
... to live insphered
Which men call earth. The pampered Christian thus continually gravitating to the earth, would have his heart solely bent to
Strive to keep up a frail and feverish being, i
After this mortal change, lo ler true servants.' , It is an unspeakable blessing that no events are left to the choice of beings, who from their blindness would sel. dom fail to chuse amiss. Were circumstances at ourown disposal we sliould allot ourselves nothing but ease and success, but riches and fame, but protracted youth, pere petual health, unvaried happiness. · All this, as it would be very unnatural, so perhaps it would pot be very wrong, for beings who were always to live on earth. But for beings who are placed here in a state of trial and pot established in their fipal home, whose condition in eternity depends on the use they make of time, nothing would be more dangerous than such a power, nothing more fatal than the consequences to which such a power would lead.
If a surgeon were to put into the hand of a wonnded patient the probe or the lancet, with how much false tenderness would be treat himself! How skin-deep would be the examination, how slight the incision! The patient would escape the pain, but the wound miglit prove mortal. The practitioner therefore wisely uses his instraments himself. He goes deep perhaps, but not deeper than the case demands. The pain may be acute, but the life is preserved. ;; ;..
Thris He in whose hands we are, is too good, and loves us too well to trust us with ourselves. He knows that we will not contradict onr own inclinations, that we will not impose on ourselves any thing unpleasant, that we will not inflict on ourselves any voluntary pain, lowever necessary the infliction, however salatary the effect.
God graciously does this for us himself, or he knows it would never be done.
A Christian is liable to the same sorrows and sufferings with other men : He has no where any promise of immunity from the troubles of life, but he has a merciful promise of support under them. He considers them in another view, he bears them with another spirit, he improves them to other purposes than those whose. views are bounded by this world. Whatever may be the instruments of bis suffering, whether sickness, losses, calumnies, persecutions, he knows that it proceeds from God; all means are his instruments. All inferior causes operate by his directing band. .
We said that a Christian is liable to the same suffer. ings with othermen. Might we not repeat what we have before said, that his very Christian profession is often the cause of his sufferings? They are the badge of his discipleship, the evidences of his father's love ; they are at once the marks of God's favour, and the materials of his own future happiness.
What were the arguments of worldly advantage held out through the whole New Testament to induce the world to embrace the religion it taught? What was the condition of St. Paul's introduction to Christianity? It was not-I will crown him with honour and prosperity, with dignity and pleasure, but-“ I will shew him bow great things he must suffer for my name's sake."
What were the virtues which Christ chiefly taught in his discourses? What were the graces he most recommended by his 'example ? Self-denial, mortification, patience, long-suffering, renouncing ease and pleasure. These are the marks wbich have ever since its first ap.. pearance, distinguished Christianity from all the religions in the world, and on that account evidently prove its di. vine original. Ease, splendour, external prosperity, conquest, made no part of its establishment. Other empires have been founded in the blood of the vanquished, the dominion of Christ was founded in his owo' blood. Most of the beatitudes which infinite compassion pro. nounced, have the sorrows of earth for their subject but the joys of heaven for their completion.
To establish this religion in the world, the Almighty, as Ils own word assures us, subverted kingdoms and altered
the face of nations. “For this saith the Lord of Hosts" (by his propbet Haggai) “yet once, it is a little while, and I will shake the heavens and the earth, and the sea and the dry land ; and I will shake all nations, and the desire of all nations shall come.” Could a religion, the kingdom of which was to be founded by such awful means, be established, be perpetuated, without involving the sufferings of its subjects?
If the Christian course had been meant for a path of roses, would the life of the Author of Christianity have been a path strewed with thorns ? “ He made for us,” says Bishop Jeremy Taylor, “a covenant of sufferings, his very promises were sufferings, his rewards were sufferings, and juis arguments to invite men to follow him were only taken from sufferings in this life and the reward of sufferings hereafter."
But if yo prince but the prince of peace ever set oift with a proclamation of the reversionary nature of his empire-if no other king, to allay avarice and check ambition, ever invited subjects by the unalluring declaration that “his kingdom was not of this world”-if none other ever declared that it was not dignity or honours,* valour or talerits that made thiem “ worthy of him," but “ taking up the cross”-if no other ever made the sorrows which would attend his followers a motive for their attachment--yet no other ever had the goodness to promise, or the power to make his promise good, that he would give “rest to the heavy laden.". Other sovereigns have “ overcome the world” for their own ambition, but none besides ever thought of making the “ tribulation" which should be the effect of that conquest, a groupd for animating the fidelity of his followers--ever thought of bidding them “ be of good cheer," because he had overcome the world in a sense which was to make his subjects lose all hope of rising in it.
The Apostle to the Philippians enumerated it among the honours and distinctions prepared for his most favoured converts, not only thats they should believe in Christ' but that they should also a sutter for him.” Any other religion would have made use of such a promise as an argument to deter, not to attract. That a religion should flourish the more under sich discograging javitations, with the threat ofeven degrading circumstances and absolute losses, is an unanswerable evidence that it was of no human origin.