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How mean-spirited are the aims and taste of the worldly hero and philosopher, compared with this !
Here we behold the excellency of the soul. It is the prerogative of man only to be capable of such sublime satisfaction. But he was made for it; and his destination explains the enigma be now presents. Detached from this prospect, his greatness would be inexplicable. He would seem a vessel freighted at an incalculable expense, for an important enterprise, and as if designed 10 sail an immense voyage, only to cruise a few leagues and a few days, and then founder and be lost. Other creatures have a good suited to their nature, and they partake of it, and look no further, but are satisfied. Is man satisfied ? He has faculties which carry him beyond the limits of his condition. He has an imagination which nothing can realize. He feels desires and expectations which nothing fulfils. He is struck with novelty, and pleased with diversions; but these, after a while, lose their charm; and by the time he has reached sixty or seventy, he seems to have run his round, and feels an ennui irksome and intolerable, unless he is animated by the spirit of our text. This would explain, and relieve, and enliven all, by showing him that the present is only the threshold of existence; that he is now only in a state of instruction and discipline; that nothing is designed to detain him here; that this is only a passage to the home of his heart and his portion for ever.
But what a view does it give us of his blessedness, that it can, that it will satisfy every longing of the soul itself! Here two things will serve additionally to enhance its greatness. Our capacities will be amazingly enlarged hereafter to what they now are. Men who have put away childish things require far more to satisfy them than is necessary for infants. We should think highly of any thing that would satisfy such minds as Newton's and Bacon's. But the least in the kingdom of heaven will be greater than they. Then we must think of the duration of the pleasure. Many things will satisfy for a while; but here are thousands of ages to be provided for. What discoveries and employments, what acquisitions and enjoyments must those be, which will yield undeclining satisfaction for ever and ever!
What do you think of this? Is not such a prospect inviting ? Does any thing here satiate the hunger and thirst of the mind ? Do you not feel vanity in every success, as well as vexation of spirit in every disappointment? Yet this is your best condition-It is all the happiness you will know if you die out of Christ. You will then awake; but it will be to know the reality of the blessedness of which we speak—to know that you have lost it-lost it for everand lost it for nothing. You will therefore awake to everlasting shame and contempt.
But as for you, ye heirs of glory, turn the prospect of this satisfaction to your advantage. For which purpose-First, make it sure. Secondly, keep it clear. Thirdly, bring it near. Fourthly, use it daily. Carry it into your religious duties; it will enliven you. Carry it into your trials; it will sustain you. Carry it into the valley of the shadow of death; it will comfort you. A notion formerly prevailed, that if a man travelled with a myrtle wand in his hand, he would feel no fainting or weariness. Here is the reality of the fiction-This hope is the true myrtle staff. Take it constantly along with you; and you will renew your strength-you will run and not be weary, and walk and not faint.
NOVEMBER 27.-" He knoweth the way that I take.”—Job xxiii. 10. This, under the dark and distressing dispensation with which he was exercised, afforded Job relief and satisfaction-The knowledge of his covenant God and Father : “He knoweth the way that I take.” But what are we to understand by this knowledge ? Acquaint. ance and approbation.
First, acquaintance. So he knoweth the way that his people take: and so he knoweth also the way that others take. But they do not deem this a privilege ; yea, it is an irksome and fearful reflection; and therefore instead of having recourse to it for consolation they endeavour to banish it from their minds. “For he that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved." "" But he that doeth truth cometh to the light.” He feels pleasure in the thought, “Thou God seest me.” Not that he is so vain and ignorant as to imagine that he can bear censureless the gaze of Omniscience; far from it: he is conscious that God will see much that is amiss in him but he is conscious too, that God himself will see nothing wrong in him which he does not wish to have rectified. "I must be cured; and he alone can heal me; and therefore I rejoice that his knowledge prepares him to deal unerringly with me; and therefore I can pray, See if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting."
And as this relieves him with regard to his experience, so it comforts him with regard to his outward condition and circumstances in the world. He telleth all my wanderings. He knoweth all my walking through this great wilderness. He sees all my dangers, and can defend and guide me. I know not the way that I take, but he knoweth it, and my welfare depends upon his' knowledge, not mine. He is now bringing the blind by a way that they know not, and is leading them in paths that they have not known; and he will make darkness lighi before them, and crooked things straight; these things will he do unto them and not forsake them. All is now perfectly clear to him; and I can trust him when he says, And thou shalt know hereafter.
There is also another case. “Am I misunderstood by friends, and reproached by enemies, while acting conscientiously and uprightly? How pleasing is it to turn from creatures so liable to err, and appeal to him who searcheth the heart, and discerns our motives and aims! My witness is in heaven, and my record is on high." “Let my sentence come forth from thy presence ; let thine eyes behold the things that are equal”—“He knoweth the way that I take." Secondly, approbation. Thus" he knoweth the way of the righ
the way of the ungodly shall perish;" he'" is angry with the wicked every teous,” but does not know the way of the ungodly. Y of the righday." But if any man love God, the same is known of him. The Lord takes pleasure in them that fear him. The words of their mouths and the meditations of their hearts are acceptable in his sight. And that Job here peculiarly intends approbation as obvious from the words which follow: “When he hath tried me, I shall come forth as gold. My foot hath held his steps, his way have I kept, and not declined. Neither have I gone back from the commandment of his lips; I have esteemed the words of his mouth more than my necessary food.” So confesses the Church: All this is come upon us; yet have we not forgotten thee, neither have we dealt falsely in thy covenant. Our heart is not turned back, neither have our steps declined from thy way; though thou hast sore broken us in the place of dragons, and covered us with the shadow of death." And says David, “ For I am become like a bottle in the smoke, yet do I not forget thy statutes.” And it is well when in our sufferings we can approve ourselves unto God. You are not, says Peter, to suffer as evil-doers, but as Christians; and therefore he adds, “ Let them that suffer according to the will of God commit the keeping of their souls to him in well-doing, as unto a faithful Creator. Jacob had this satisfaction when he was returning from Padan-aram, and had to meet his infuriated brother: he could therefore plead, "O God of my father Abraham, and God of my father Isaac, the Lord which saidst unto me, Return unto thy country, and to thy kindred, and I will deal well with thee.” Thy word has brought me into this strait; and therefore I have a gracious right to rely upon thy care for safety and deliverance. It was otherwise with Elijah when he fled from the face of Jezebel, and concealed himself in the cave at Horeh: and therefore says God," What dost thou here, Elijah ?" He was unable to frame an answer that did not reflect upon his own fear and distrust; and had not God dealt with him better than he deserved, he would have found that the turning away of the simple slays them.
But whatever be our state and circumstances, let us seek the testimony that we please God, and labour that whether present or absent we may be accepted of bim. What can sustain and animate like this? “ Let them curse, but bless thou.”
NOVEMBER 28,—"Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christu -Ephes. i. 3.
There is a correspondence observable between God and his people; or, so to speak, a spiritual flux and reflux from God to them, and from them to God. He chooses them, and they choose him. He sanctifies them, and they sanctify him. He glorifies them, and they glorify him.
Thus, in the words before us, we have grace for grace, and blessing for blessing. “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ." All our happiness and duty are found in this circulation. If God does not bless us we are miserable ; if we do not bless God we are criminal.
Yet there is a great difference between these benedictions. His blessing us precedes our blessing him, and we love him because he first loved us. His blessing us is a real communication; and the Apostle characterizes the benefits which it bestows four ways: by their quality ; by their plenitude ; by their residence; and by their relation-He blesses us with “spiritual” blessings; with “all”
spiritual blessings; with all spiritual blessings "in heavenly places ;" with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places “in Christ.” But our blessing of God can add nothing to bis perfection. Our goodness extendeth not to him. He is exalted above all blessing and praise. Yet we can praise him declaratively; and he that offereth praise glorifieth him.
The soul of this is gratitude. Gratitude has been defined as a disposition to return a favour received. Towards man it may be thus expressed ; it may be thus fully expressed ; yea, more than an equivalency or compensation for a benefit has been often made: but in this manner it can never be expressed towards God. His goodness is infinite ; and therefore our gratitude is to appear not in discharging our obligations, but in feeling them, and in a concern to make suitable returns while adequate ones are out of our power. Thus David asks, “What shall I render unto the Lord for all his benefits towards me?" And thus we bless him, not only verbally, but practically, and show forth his praise, as it is beautifully expressed, not only with our lips, but in our lives, by giving up ourselves to his service, and by walking before him in boliness and righteousness all our days.
Who does this? Who is not condemned by this subject? Instead of blessing God we are senseless or silent. Instead of abundantly uttering the memory of his great goodness, we are murmurers and complainers. Suffer the clamour of a few trials to drown the voice of a thousand mercies-Yet Paul had suffered the loss of all things, and was even a prisoner when he used this glowing language: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ.”
We are backward to all religious exercises, but even selfishness may make us attentive to other duties. Compelled by our necessities, we pray; we call upon our Benefactor in the day of trouble ; but when we have gained our purpose, we soon forget his works, and the wonders which he has shown us. Were there not ten cleansed ? But where are the nine ? Even Hezekiah rendered not according to the benefit done him, for his heart was lifted up. Who can reflect upon this, and not exclaim, “O that men would praise the Lord for his goodness, and for his wonderful works to the children of men !"
Let me then lay down three rules, by observing which we shall experience and express more of this blessed and blessing temper of mind.
First. Labour to ascertain your own interest in Divine things. Seek the full assurance of hope unto the end. O! when I can view the blessings revealed in the Gospel as my portion, when “I can read my title clear to mansions in the skies," when I can draw near to God as my exceeding joy, then all the powers of gratitude are touched; then all its springs are opened ; then by the mercies of God I present my body as a living sacrifice; then I say, Speak, Lord, for thy servant heareth.
Secondly. Often and carefully consider your mercies. Nothing can affeet us but as it is in our thoughts. Therefore forget not all his benefits. Make them pass and repass in your reviews. Dwell upon
the evils from which you have been delivered, the provision with which you have been fed, the robes with which you have been adorned-Once a slave, now redeemed; once guilty, now justified from all things; once a child of wrath, now an heir of God, and a joint-heir with Christ. Ebenezer ! Surely goodness and mercy have followed me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.
Thirdly. Gain and preserve a growing sense of your unworthiness. There is an inseparable connexion between humility and gratitude. A proud man was never known to be grateful. Heap therefore whatever favours you please upon him, and what thanks have ye? And the reason is, because he thinks he deserves your kindness, and that you are doing justly rather than showing mercy. But he who is sensible that he is not worthy of the least indulgence, will feel obliged by every attention. And what is the fact with regard to us? We are not only mean, but criminal. For proof of this we need not go back to the days of unregeneracy. What have we been since we have known God, or rather have been known of him? Let us look at our omissions of duty, our misimprovement of privileges, our debasements of motive; the sins of our holy things. It is of the Lord's mercies that we are not consumed! Yet we are in the possession of grace! And in the prospect of glory!
NOVEMBER 29.—"A partner."- Philemon 17. The whole verse reads thus: “If thou count me therefore a partner, receive him as myself.” In this argument, on the behalf of Onesimus, Paul does not employ his authority or plead his apostleship. He does not describe himself from his extraordinary commission and endowments, but calls himself " a partner" with Philemon in the mutual interests of Christianity. John also speaks much in the same way when he refers to himself: “I, John, am your brother and companion in tribulation, and in the kingdom and patience of Jesus Christ."
As Paul here speaks of himself as a Christian, under the character of a “partner, we are led to observe that all Ćhristians are thus related to each other.
There are partners in business. This does not wholly apply to the case before us. The salvation of our own souls is an indivi. dual and a personal concern; and is carried on between God and ourselves. Others may do some things for us; but as they cannot eat, and drink, and sleep for us, so they cannot repent, and believe, and obey for us. Here the heart knoweth his own bitterness, and a stranger intermeddleth not with his joy. He that is wise is profitable to himself; and shall have rejoicing in himself alone, and not in another. Yet there is a common concern in which all Christians are jointly and equally engaged. It is to serve and glorify God by maintaining his cause in the world, and by endeavouring to enlarge his empire and multiply the number of his followers. This does not require them to live together in the same place, or to labour in the same way: but they are bound to co-operate in the use of all the means in their power to advance the same end-abiding with God in their callings-having gifts differing according to the propor