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thanksgiving because they are ordinary and frequent; -any more than the common blessings of the light and warmth of heaven, and the refreshments of the air that surrounds us, cease to be blessings because they are common.
Next to actual danger, is the expectation of danger either in our persons or in our circumstances. A calamity, indeed, which we fear, is often more oppressive to our spirits than one that actually befals us. The dread that some evil will happen, though the moment of its arrival is, for the present, deferred,the apprehension of misfortune, of poverty, of disgrace, or of deep disappointment ;-these frequently sink deeper into our hearts, while they are merely expected, than they would if the events themselves had positively overtaken us. When, therefore, they are dispelled by those gracious operations of the divine providence which worketh effectually, though unseen-how can we profess ourselves to be true worshippers of God and faithful adherents to his blessed Son,-how can we hope for the consolations of the Holy Spirit and for the light of grace,-if the preventing mercies of our heavenly Father's love are lost upon us ?
Another subject of thanksgiving to every Christian, is, the escaping from temptations. These beset us in every shape ;-and the strength of our principles is best shown by resisting and overcoming them :-for then “greater is He that is in us, than he that is in the world.” If, by the armour of God, we are enabled to struggle against them, and to prevail,—is not this a victory which deserves to be thankfully acknowledged in the presence of Him who endues us with strength and courage, who supplies us with weapons and defence, and who,“ with the temptation, also hath made a way to escape, so that we have been able to bear it
The evil workings of our own passions and desires are more likely to accumulate into a spiritual disease, and are calculated to do us more harm than all the dangers and temptations that can affect or threaten us. They form, if we may borrow a comparison from the subject of our text, the leprosy of the soul. Religion can have no place within us, nor any force upon our hearts, so long as we are determined to follow our own imaginations and our perverse will. The conquest of these is Christian victory—a victory which must be purchased with many efforts, and many severe wrestlings, with much prayer to heaven, and with the holy aid that proceeds from above. If our “eyes have been turned away from beholding vanity,"* it is because God has “ quickened us in his* way.” If we are “ removed from the way of lying,” it is because He has “granted us his law graciously.”|| If we have “cleansed our way,”+ it is because He has enabled us to “ take heed thereto according to his word.”+ If we have “ forsaken the foolish, and go in the way of understanding,”I it is because his corrective wisdom has been our lamp and guide. “ The preparations of the heart are from Him,” and it is his free spirit that sanctifies us, and makes us pure. O that we would, therefore, praise Him for that greatest of mercies, by which He preserves us from ourselves, and releases us from the inward enemies that infest and corrupt the soul !
* Psalm cxix. 37. || Ib. 29. † Id. ix. Prov. ix. 6.
The last subject of thanksgiving which I shall now mention, is the common providence of God which supplies us day by day with the necessaries and ordinary enjoyments of life,—with health and humble peace,—with food and raiment,--with the safety of our homes and the society of our families and friends. These are blessings which we may be apt to overlook, for the very reasons which should give the greatest value to them ;-because they are within our reach ; --and because they are continued to us.
But if we are so insensible as to disesteem them on account of their being in our possession, let us, without delay, turn our thoughts inward, and consider what would be our distress and sorrow, if they were taken from us, and what is the distress of grief of those who are without them. And may the spirit of grace enable us to think and to judge aright of all those mercies and benefits which God, the source of all wisdom and of all goodness, has plentifully bestowed upon the children of men ! We shall then feel it to be our greatest happiness, to render unto him, “ as we are most bounden, our continual thanks,” through the mediation of his only Son, our Lord and Saviour.
THE LAW OUR SCHOOLMASTER.
GALATIANS üi. 24.
The law was our schoolmaster, to bring us unto Christ ;
St. Paul's object in writing this Epistle to the Galatians was, principally, to withdraw the Jewish converts from their blind attachment to the Mosaic dispensation, and to preserve the Gentile converts from those false and perverse notions in favour of the ceremonial law, with which the Jews were endeavouring to infect them. He shews them that it was only a temporary institution, enacted for a season, as a proper means of promoting a nobler and more extensive design ;--and that, in whatever light it was regarded, it would evidently be much inferior to the Christian dispensation, to which it was but preparatory. He declares that its chief excellence consisted in its being so preparatory ; since it served as “a schoolmaster, to bring us to Christ.”
What we un
derstand by the master of a school, is not the sort of person of whom the Apostle is speaking, when he describes the character of the Mosaic law. His words, strictly translated are," the law was our pedagogue to bring us unto Christ.” Now a pedagogue was a man-servant, kept in respectable families to attend to their sons while they were very young, to conduct them to school, and home again,-to watch them at their exercises, and remind them how they ought to behave,-and to report them to their fathers, if they proved untractable. The meaning, therefore, of the text is, that the law was intended for the discipline of the Jews while they were, religiously speaking, in an infant state, and not yet of full age for the righteousness that is in Christ through their justification by faith. It was, by the Divine condescension, adapted to their weakness, in order to fit them for the reception of the Gospel.
Let us take a survey of the Jewish law, in its institution, its nature, and its design. We shall thus be enabled to discover clearly the wisdom of God in first establishing it ;-and his wisdom and goodness in the repeal and abolition of it will also appear conspicuously and distinctly.
Natural religion,-or religion considered in itself without any outward institution, is eternal and unchangeable, as a law to rational and moral creatures. It consists in believing the existence of God," that He is a Rewarder of them that diligently seek Him.” It includes also the method of seeking Him, by a