« PreviousContinue »
Shall we then not cry aloud, as we are commanded, in the hope of awakening such unthinking persons to a sense of their own miserable condition, and the hopes afforded by the gospel ? Happy for ourselves and our fellow-creatures, if we could address a slumbering world with the trump of an archangel, uttering these enlivening words, 'Awake, thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead; and Christ shall give thee light.'
All persons whatever, however decent and moral, that are in an unregenerated state, are represented, in the strong metaphorical language of Scripture, as dead; but happily it is a death from which we may raise ourselves by prayer; and returning life will be cherished by heavenly influence.
For what says the friendly call ? Christ shall give thee light.' The sun of righteousness shall shine into the dark chambers of thy bosom, dispel the shades of ignorance, and disperse the phantoms of folly and vanity that sported in the sunless region. Think, poor darkling mortal, what is promised thee! ‘Christ shall give thee light. As the sun in the morning breaks into thy chamber windows, and thou arisest from thy bed to feel his genial beams, and see all nature reassuming her beautiful colours; so the light of Christ, the light of grace, shall beam upon the soul, by the operation of the Holy Ghost, and thou shalt arise, and see the truth as it is in Jesus
see the beauty of holiness—the day-spring from on high-feel new vital warmth glowing in thy bosom; and though you have lien among the pots, (in the mire and rubbish of worldly vanity,) yet shall you be as a dove which hath silver wings, and her feathers like gold.''
After living the few days of our pilgrimage thus awake to God, awake to Christ, awake to the blessed influences of the Holy Ghost, your body, indeed, shall lie down, and pay that debt to nature which we must all pay; yet your soul shall separate from it, (though not without a pang, yet) full of hope. Old age, or disease, or accidents will indeed bring your poor, frail, perishing flesh (for such is that of the strongest, the youngest, the most beautiful of us all) to the grave; your bones must lie down in the dust, from which they were taken, and the mourners shall go about the streets; but let them not mourn without hope. Thy flesh shall rest in hope ; peaceful shalt thou sleep till the morning of the resurrection; when the trumpet shall sound, and a voice shall be heard, sweeter than the sweetest music to the reviving ear: “ Awake! awake! thou that sleepest, and, arise from the dead, and I will give thee light, life, glory, and immortality. Sleep no more ! Arise, put on thy beautiful garments !—My glory is rising upon thee. Go-blessed spirit,--and in the vesture of a new and glorified body, shine among the spirits of just men made perfectthyself a spirit, an immortal spirit. Sleep no more in the arms of death; for death is subdued; and as, like a faithful soldier, you watched with me in the militant state, you shall now join me in the triumphal. Sleep no more the sleep of death ; but rise, and exult in light ineffable !"
" Psalm lxviii. 13.
On the Peace of God, that calm and composed State,
which is produced by the Christian Philosophy, and is unknown to the Epicurean, Stoic, and all other Philosophy, ancient and modern.
A GENERAL prospect of human life presents a scene of turbulence, of which the troubled ocean is an emblem. But there is a sweet, a peaceable, a tranquil state of self-possession, whether external circumstances are prosperous or adverse, which constitutes the most solid happiness of which human nature is capable. This enjoyment, arising from moderate desires, a regulated imagination, lively hopes, and full confidence in the Deity, is that chief good, which philosophers have vainly sought in the schools, by the strongest efforts of unassisted reason. What then can point it out, if reason, improved by science to the highest degree, has not been able to find it? The answer is ob. vious. The religion of Jesus Christ offers to its sincere votaries the peace of God, which passeth all understanding ;' a kind and degree of happiness, which no language can clearly express; which the understanding cannot adequately conceive, though the heart can feel it, with the most delightful experience.
“ The peace of God,” (says the world,) “ what is it?” They know it not. Many have no conception of happiness, independent of external circumstances; the toys of childhood protracted to age. They do not search for it in themselves, but in the eyes of the world. All their enjoyments must be violent, sensual, or, at least, ostentatious. Admire them, talk of them, flatter them; let the diurnal papers exhibit their names in capitals, and fashion crowd to their door; let their equipages be splendid, and their mansions magnificent, their egress and regress recorded in the daily histories, or they sicken in the midst of health ; they pine in the midst of abundance; the rose on their bosoms loses its fragrance; the honey on their palates, its flavour. To be celebrated, even for folly, even for vice, is to them an enviable notoriety ; to be unnoticed in public circles, in the midst of every real blessing and solid comfort at home, infuses a bitter into all those sweets, which God in his bounty has lavished.
But the felicity arising from the peace of God is neither the tumultuous ecstacy of the fanatic, nor the noisy merriment of the prodigal. It seek no plaudits, it makes no parade. It blazes not out like the sudden eruptions of a volcano; but burns like the vestal fire, clear and constant, with a warmth that invigorates, without scorching; with a light that illuminates, without dazzling the visual faculty.
Thus desirable, how is the peace of God to be obtained ? It is an important question. Let us enter on the research. If we enter on it with dispositions truly humble and sincere, there is little doubt but we shall experience the truth of that comfortable declaration : “ Ask, and it shall be “ given ; seek, and ye shall find.'
What said the wisdom of pagan antiquity, on the means of securing peace or tranquillity ? Much that was plausible; little to the purpose.
It was the advice of an ancient philosopher : “ Subject yourself to reason, and you shall be reduced to no other subjection.” Experience, however, has evinced that human reason, under a variety of circumstances, is too weak and fallible to be depended upon, for the full security of human happiness. What he vainly attributed to reason, may with justice be ascribed to religion. Religion, duly understood, and duly attended to, is capable of giving much of that freedom from passion and perturbation, to which philosophy in vain pretended. Not that I mean to arrogate too much, or claim more than truth and experience will allow, even in favour of religion. While man preserves the nature which God gave him, he must continue subject to the transient impulse of those sensations from external objects which excite passion, and disturb repose.
All I contend for is, that religion, vital religion, the religion of the heart, is the most powerful auxiliary of reason, in waging war with the passions, and promoting that sweet composure which constitutes the peace of God. Reason may point out what is right, but she wants authority in the minds of most men, to enforce obedience to her commands. Here religion steps in with majestic mien, and gives the sanction of a law to the dictates of discretion.
I recommend, therefore, to him who wishes to obtain the peace of God, a diffidence in human reason, however strong by nature, and however improved by study. A confidence in it leads to