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when a preacher of our own days presumes to form himself after such excellent models; when he would copy the example of Elijah, who said to Ahab, I have not troubled Israel: but thou and thy father's house, 1 Kings xviii 18. when he would follow the example of Nathan, who said to David, Thou art the man, 2 Sam. xii. 7: or that of John Baptist, who said to Herod, It is not lawful for thee to have thy brother's wife, Mark vi. 18: then the cry is, What audacity! What presumption! It would be improper, my brethren, to extend any farther my remarks on this subject at present; but I may be permitted, at least, to borrow the words of Jesus Christ, addressed to his disciples; I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now, John xvi. 12.
If we are unable to digest públic discourses of the description which we have been giving, much less are we disposed to bear with the private admonitions of a judicious and sincere friend, who is so faithful as to unveil to us our own heart. What a treasure is a friend, who keeps constantly in view, I do not say our honor only, our reputation, but more especially our duty, our conscience, our salvation! What a treasure is a man, who employs the influence which he may have over us, only for the purpose of undeceiving us when we are in an error; of bringing us back when we are gone astray; of assisting us to unravel and detect the pretences which the deceitfulness of the human heart uses to justify to itself its wanderings and weaknesses! What a treasure is a man, who has the honesty to say to us, according as circumstances may require: "Here it was your want of experience that misled you: there, it was the prejudice of a faulty education: on that occasion, you was betrayed, through the seduction of those
flatterers, in whose society you take so much delight on this, it was the too favorable opinion which you had formed of yourselves, which would persuade you that you are ever sincere in your conversation; ever upright in your intentions; ever steady in your friendships!"
Nevertheless, we usually look upon this precious treasure not only with disdain, but even with hʊrror. It is sufficient to make us regard a man with an eye of suspicion, that he has discovered our weak side. It is sufficient for him to undertake to paint us in our true colors, to be perfectly odious to us. A real Christian employs all the means with which he is furnished, to unveil his own heart to himself. Having acquired this important knowledge, he seriously and resolutely sets about personal reformation, and he makes progress in it. He examines this new state into which divine grace has introduced him; and finding within himself the characters of Christianity, he lays hold of its promises. He becomes assured of his being in the class of those to whom they are made. And what is it to possess such assurance? It is to have an anticipated possession of all the blessings which are the object of it. It is to be already quickened, already raised up, already made to sit in heavenly places together with Jesus Christ.
III. Finally, the believer is quickened, he is raised up, he is made to sit together in heavenly places, by means of the foretastes which he enjoys of his participation in the exaltation of the Saviour of the world. Should any one accuse me, of myself running, under this head, upon that rock of the marvellous, against which I cautioned my hearers, under a preceding branch of my discourse, I would request his attention to the following series
of propositions, which I barely indicate in so many words.
1st Proposition. God possesses a sovereign empire over all the perceptions of our souls; he is able to excite in them such as he pleases, either with the concurrence of external objects, or without that concurrence.
2d Proposition. In the order of nature, God has united the compendious road of sensation to the more circuitous one of reasoning, for the preservation of our body. What is noxious to the body, makes itself known to us, not only by a process of reasoning, but by certain disagreeable sensations, which warn us to keep at a distance from it. Whatever contributes to its preservation, makes itself known by pleasurable sensations, and thereby engages us to make use of it.
3d Proposition. It by no means involves a contradiction, to say, that if it was the will of God, in the order of nature, that the compendious road of sensation should supply the more circuitous one of reasoning, he may sometimes be pleased to conform to the same economy, in the order of grace.
4th Proposition. We are assured not only by reason, that God may adopt this mode of proceeding, but scripture and experience assure us, that he actually does so, in the case of certain Christians of a superior order.
I compare those sentiments of grace, to the movements by which the prophets were animated, and which permitted them not the power of doubting whether or not it was the effect of the presence of God in their soul; movements, which produced conviction that God intended to make use of their ministry, and constrained them, in many cases, to act in contradiction to their own inclinations. Never was mission more glorious than that of Je
remiah. Never was mission more difficult and more burthensome. He was called to open his mouth in maledictions, levelled against his fellow citizens, and to be himself exposed as a butt to the execrations of that people. Overwhelmed under the pressure of a ministry so distressful, he exclaims: Wo is me, my mother, that thou hast born me a man of strife, and a man of contention to the whole earth, chap. xv. 10. He does more. He forms the resolution of renouncing a ministry which has become the bitterness of his life: The word of the Lord is made a reproach unto me, and a derision daily; then I said, I will not make mention of him, nor speak any more in his name, chap. xx. 8, 9. But God lays hold of him, by invisible bonds, and which he finds it impossible to shake off: the word of the Lord is made a reproach unto me, and a derision daily; then I said, I will not make mention of him, nor speak any more in his name: but his word was in mine heart, as a burning fire shut up in my bones, and I was weary with forbearing, and I could not stay, ver. 9. O Lord, thou hast deceived (enticed) me, and I was deceived: (enticed) thou art stronger than I, and hast prevailed, ver. 7.
I am persuaded that many among you have experienced, in your vocation, something similar to what the prophet experienced in his. I am persuaded that many of you have been attracted by those irresistible bands, and have felt that sacred flame kindled in your soul which the Holy Spirit communicates to the regenerated, and which put these words in the mouths of the disciples, who were travelling to Emmaus: Did not our heart burn within us while he talked with us by the way, and while he opened to us the scriptures? Luke xxiv. 32.
Now, if you call upon me to go into a more particular detail on this subject, I will say to you, that however mysterious this operation of the grace of God may be; whatever difficul y may appear in exactly ascertaining the time of its communication, it is imparted to believers in five situations chiefly. 1. When shutting the door of his closet, and excluding the world from his heart, the Christian enjoys communion with deity, 2. When Providence calls him to undergo some severe trial. 3. When he has been enabled to make some noble and generous sacrifice. 4. When celebrating the sacred mysteries of redeeming love. 5. Finally, in the hour of conflict with the king of terrors.
1. When shutting the door of his closet, and excluding the world from his heart, he is admitted to communion and fellowship with deity, in retirement and silence. There it is that a commerce is instituted, the charms of which I should to no purpose undertake to display, unless they were known to you by experience. There it is that the believer compensates to himself the time of which he bas been constrained to defraud his God; and there it is, that God compensates to the believer, the deLights of which the commerce of the world has deprived him. There it is that the believer pours out into the bosom of his Father and his God, the sorrow excited by the recollection of his offences, and that he sheds the tears of a repentance which love has enkindled, and expresses in terms such as these:
My God, I know that love is thy predominant character, and that it cannot be thy will I should perish; but I am ashamed of my own weaknesses; I am ashamed of the little progress I have made in religion, since the time thou hast been pleased to