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enemies to all manner of knowledge, as well natural as divine.”
I therefore earnestly recommend it to every serious man, who wishes to be convinced of Christianity, to consider it in the morning,' before either the cares of the world, or the fumes of that intemperance? which conviviality sometimes occasions, blunt the feelings of the heart, and spread a film over the visual nerve of the mental eye. 3
On improving Afflictions duly, as a Means of Grace
and belief in the Gospel.
AceLEBRATED divine, * on his recovery from a severe fit of sickness, is reported to have said, “I have learned, under this sickness, to know sin and God.” He had studied divinity, during many years, with great attention; he had prayed and preached with great ardour; yet he acknowledges, that till the affliction of sickness visited him, he was unacquainted with those important subjects, sin and God; subjects which he had so frequently considered in private, and discoursed upon before an admiring audience.
1 Those that seek me early (mane) shall find me. Prov. viii.
2 Si præceptor, homo, gravatur homini disciplinam humanam committere, puta dialecticen aut arithmeticen, somnolento, osci. tanti, aut crapula gravato; quanto magis sapientia cæletis dedignabitur loqui voluptatum hujus mundi amore temulentis, cælestium rerum neglectu, nauseantibus ? Erasmus." If á preceptor, a mere man, hesitates to give merely human instruction; for instance, lectures on logic or arithmetic, to a pupil who is drowsy, who yawns, or who is sick with the intemperance of yesterday ; how much more will the heavenly wisdom disdain to speak with those who are drunk with the pleasures of the world, and who, from a total neglect of heavenly things, sicken at the mention of them ?
3 Verum hæc impransus. Hor.-" These let him learn before the fumes of indigestion cloud over the faculties."
It is good for me that I have been afflicted,' said one, who had sinned egregiously in his prosperous days, and who was rendered wise by affliction.
Afflictions, if suffered to have their perfect work, will certainly become the means of grace, cause belief in the consolatory gospel, and ultimately lead to salvation. The wandering mind returns, like the prodigal son, when under the pressure of distress, to the bosom of its father. The kind father goes forth to meet it on its return, and the interview happily terminates in perfect love and reconciliation.
More have been convinced of the truth of Christianity by a severe illness, a great loss, a disappointment,' or the death of one whom the soul
"Le moment de la grace, c'est une humiliation que Dieu vous envoie, et qui vous eloigne du monde, parceque vous n'y pouvez plus paroitre avec honneur. C'est la disgrace d'un maitre a qui une lache complaisance vous faisoit en mille rencontres sacrifier les interets de votre conscience; le changement d'un ami dont le commerce trop frequent vous entrainoit dans le vice et vous y entretenoit. C'est une perte de biens, une maladie, un chagrin domestique, ou etranger ; ce sont des souffrances; tout, hors Dieu, devient amer ; on ne trouve plus de consolation que dans lui ; et rebuté des choses humaines, on commence a gouter les choses du ceil. Bretonneau.“ The season of grace is, when God sends you some humiliating affliction, which with
loved, than by all the defences, proofs, and apologies which have ever been produced in the most celebrated schools of theology. The heart was opened, and rendered soft and susceptible by sorrow, and the dew of divine grace enabled to find its way to the latent seeds of Christian virtue.
Such being the beneficial effect of afflictions, it is much to be lamented, that many will not suffer them to operate favourably on their dispositions, and thus counteract, by the good they may ultimately produce, the pain which they immediately inflict. They fly from solitude, they banish reflection. They drink the cup of intoxication, or seek the no less inebriating draught of dissipating pleasure. Thus they lose one of the most favourable opportunities of receiving those divine impressions which would give them comfort under their afflictions, such as the world cannot give; and afford them such conviction as would render them Christians indeed, and lead to all those beneficial consequences of faith, which are plainly represented in the Scripture.
draws you from the world, because you can no longer appear in it with honour. It is some disgrace thrown upon you by a master, to whom a base obsequiousness led you, in a thousand struggles, to sacrifice the interests of your conscience. It is the alienation of a friend, your connection with whom too often led you into the snares of vice, and kept you there. It is the loss of property, it is a disease, an uneasiness either domestic or from without; it is a state of suffering, when every thing, but God, becomes bitter to a man, when he finds no consolation but within himself; and when, disgusted with the vanity and vexation of human affairs, he begins to taste the sweetness of things heavenly.”
On Devotion—a Means, as well as an Effect, of
Grace—no sincere Religion can subsist without it.
MANY theologists, who have written with the acuteness of an Aristotle, and the acrimony of a Juvenal, against all sorts of infidels and heretics, in defence of Christianity, seem to have forgotten one very material part of religion—that which consists of devotional sentiment, and the natural fervours of a sincere piety. Some of them seem to reprobate, and hold them in abhorrence. They inveigh against them as enthusiasm; they laugh at them as the cant of hypocrisy. Such men have the coldness of bishop Butler, without the ingenuity; the contentious spirit of Dr. Bentley, without the wit or erudition.
True religion cannot exist without a considerable degree of devotion. On what is true religion founded but on love—the love of God, and the love of our neighbour ? And with respect to the love of God, what says our Saviour ? Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength. No language can more expressly and emphatically describe the ardour of devotion. Out of the heart the mouth speaketh. If the heart feels the love of God, in the degree which our Saviour requires, the language of prayer and thanksgiving will be always glowing, and, on extraordinary occasions, even rapturous.
The 'effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much :' if it be not fervent, it cannot be sincere, and therefore cannot be expected to avail. Love must add wings to prayer, to waft it to the throne of grace.
“ Man has a principle of love implanted in his nature, a magnetism of passion,”' by which he constantly attaches himself to that which appears to him good and beautiful; and what so good, what so beautiful, as the archetype and model of all excellence ? Shall he conceive the image, and not be charmed with its loveliness ?
Worship or adoration implies lively affection. If it be cold, it is a mere mockery, a formal compliance with customs for the sake of decency. It is a lip-service, of which knaves, hypocrites, and infidels are capable, and which they render, for the sake of temporal advantage.
Will any man condemn the ardour which the Scriptures themselves exhibit ? Must they not be allowed to afford a model for imitation ? And are they written in the cold, dull style of an academical professor, lecturing in the schools of divinity ? No; they are written in warm, animated, metaphorical, and poetical language; not with the precision of the schoolmen; not with the dryness of system-makers; but with florid, rhetorical, impassioned appeals to the feelings and imagination. What are psalms, but the ebullitions of passion, sorrow, joy, love, and gratitude ?
The truth is, that the most important subject which can be considered by man must, if considered with seriousness and sincerity, excite a warm in