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finally be made objects of his heavy displeasure for their abuse of them. He bears with them for a season: but “ their feet shall slide in due time b;" and then “ they will be cast down into everlasting destruction." O how terrible is their transition in a single instant, from a fulness of all earthly comforts to an utter destitution d even of “ a drop of water to cool their tongue!" Think of the Rich Man who was clothed in purple and fine linen, and fared sumptuously every day: what a change did he experience the moment that his soul departed from the body! The next thing we hear of him is, that “he was in hell, lifting up his eyes in torment,” such as no words can describe, no imagination can conceive. Lazarus, on the contrary, who in this world had not the most common necessaries of life, was enjoying unspeakable and endless felicity in Abraham's bosom. Who that beholds the termination of their career, would not infinitely prefer the temporal estate of Lazarus, even though it should last a thousand years, before all the vanishing gratifications of the man of wealth? If it should be thought that this rich man was more addicted to sin than others, the account we have of him suggests no ground for it whatever: on the contrary, it tells us, that his five surviving brethren, who inherited his wealth, were, like him, yielding to the sad influence of the temptations which it offered, and therefore were hastening to that same place of torment, to which he had been consigned'. Doubtless it is painful to reflect on the thoughtless security of millions, who, if not guilty of any flagrant enormity, have no conception of the predicament in which they stand. But the Scripture speaks too plainly on this subject to admit of any doubt Say then, Are these to be envied ? Alas! if viewed aright, they must be regarded only as persons accumulating wrath upon their own heads“, or as victims fattening for the slaughteri: and consequently, their superior prosperity in earthly things affords no ground for complaint to the godly, however destitute they may be, or however afflicted.] Let us LEARN then from this subject, 1. To mark the motions of our own hearts
[We greatly deceive ourselves if we imagine that our actions afford a sufficient criterion for judging of our state. There are many who indulge in all manner of evil thoughts, whilst yet they are restrained by merely political considerations from carrying them into effect. Whilst therefore man
b Deut. xxxii. 35.
ver. 19. e Luke xvi. 23, 24. f Luke xvi. 27, 28. & Ps. xcii. 7. Job xx. 4—7. and xxi. 30. Prov. xxiii. 17, 18. h Rom. ii. 5.
i Jam. v. 1, 2, 3, 5.
sees nothing amiss in us, God may see our “ hearts to be full of evil.” It was not any overt act that the Psalmist spoke of in our text, but of his thoughts only: and yet he acknowledges, that they had well nigh destroyed and ruined his soulk. O let us observe from time to time the various thoughts that arise in our corrupt hearts, (the proud, the vain, the envious, the wrathful, the vindictive, the impure, the covetous, the worldly thoughts, and let us humble ourselves for them in dust and ashes, and pray, that “ the thoughts of our hearts may be forgiven us?!" If we view ourselves as we really are in the sight of God, we shall see that we may, on many occasions, justly, and without hyperbole, say, " So foolish am I and ignorant, I am even as a beast before thee m.”] 2. To be satisfied with our condition
[To Judas was consigned the custody of the stock provided for the daily support of our Lord and his disciples. What if the other disciples had envied him that honour ? would they have been wise? Judas was a thief: and the pre-eminence he enjoyed, afforded him an opportunity of gratifying his covetous desires, whilst the rest were free from any such temptation. God knows that many of those things which we would fain enjoy, would only prove snares and temptations to our souls. sees, not only the evil that does exist, but the evil also that might arise, within us: and he withholds in mercy many things, which he knows would be injurious to our spiritual welfare. How happy would it have been for the Rich Youth in the Gospel, if, instead of being possessed of wealth, he had been as poor as Lazarus! It was his wealth alone that induced him to forego all hope of an interest in Christ: and, if he had been a poor man, he might, for aught we know, have been at this moment a blest inhabitant of heaven. Let us then remember, that if God sends us trials which we would gladly escape, or withholds comforts which we would desire to possess, he does it in wisdom, and in love: and in all probability we shall one day see reason to adore him for the things which we now deplore, as much as for any of those benefits in which we are most disposed to rejoice.]
3. To seek above all things the prosperity of our souls
[Here is full scope for our ambition. We may “covet, as earnestly as we will, the best gifts.” We must not indeed grudge to any their higher attainments: but we may take occasion from the superior piety of others to aspire after the highest possible communications of grace and peace. Were we to possess the whole world, we must leave it all, and
go k ver. 2, 3. 1 Acts viii. 22. m ver. 22. n Mark x. 22.
as naked out of the world as we came into it.” But, if we possess spiritual riches, we shall carry them with us into the eternal world, and have our weight of glory proportioned to them. The operation of these upon our souls needs not to be feared: they bring no snare with them; or, if they be accompanied with a temptation to pride, they will lead us to Him, who will assuredly supply an antidote, to screen us from its injurious effectso. If we are o rich towards God," we truly rich; yea, though we possess nothing in the world besides, we may exult, as having nothing, and yet possessing all things P."] o 2 Cor. xii. 7-9.
P 2 Cor. vi. 10.
DCXXV. THE CHRISTIAN'S EXPERIENCE AND HOPES. Ps. lxxii. 23, 24. I am continually with thee: Thou hast
holden me by my right hand. Thou shalt guide me with thy counsel, and afterward receive me to glory.
THERE are in the Holy Scriptures many expressions which are difficult to be reconciled with each other. For instance, the Psalmist, in the very words before my text, says, “So foolish was I and ignorant, I was as a beast before thee.” Yet behold, in the text itself, he speaks as one enjoying the sublimest communion with his God, and possessing a most confident expectation of his favour. Now, how is this to be explained ? The fact is, that he had been sorely tempted to envy the ungodly world, when he saw how prosperous they were, in comparison of many
of God's most faithful servants. But when he reflected on “the end” that awaited them, he condemned his former thoughts, as betraying rather the ignorance of a beast than the judgment of a real saint: and then he congratulated himself as elevated far above the most prosperous of ungodly men, in that, whatever he might want in this world, he possessed God himself for his friend, his counsellor, his everlasting portion.
I shall take occasion from these words to consider the saint in, I. His present experience
Here we see, the saint with his God, in a way of humble dependence; and his God with him, in a way of effectual support. 1. The saint with his God
[Numberless are the difficulties with which the Christian is encompassed, whilst yet in himself he has not power to surmount the smallest of them. In fact, he has to wrestle not only with flesh and blood, but with all the principalities and powers of hell itself. What then shall he do? How shall he entertain a hope of a successful issue? He would sit down in utter despair, but that he remembers he has with him, at all times, a Friend, who is almighty, and all-sufficient for him. He has been taught to look unto God as his Father in Christ Jesus: he has been assured, that, since he has fled to Christ for refuge, and sought for reconciliation with God through Him, he is entitled to regard God as a friend, and to commit into his hands his every concern.
Hence he becomes composed, in the midst of all his trials; and comforts himself with the reflection, 'I am continually with my God: I see him ever present with me: confiding in him, I have no fear: it is a small matter to me what confederacies there may be against me: having him at hand, I need no other help: I therefore repose all my confidence on him, and “ cast all my care on him”.'] 2. His God with him
[To enter fully into this idea ; conceive of a child passing over rocks where there is scarcely room for his feet; and where the path is so slippery, that it is scarcely possible for him to stand; and where there are precipices on every hand so steep and tremendous, that a single false step, must of necessity cause him to be dashed in pieces. Conceive a father guiding his beloved child in all this way; holding him by his right hand,” that he may not fall; and raising him up, if at any time he have fallen; and preserving him from all the dangers to which he is exposed. Here you see our God with the soul who trusts in him. Not for a moment does he leave the trembling saint: and it is altogether in consequence of this effectual help that any saint in the universe is enabled to pursue his way. Hence every child of God ascribes his safety to him who has thus upheld him; and with unfeigned gratitude exclaims, “My foot standeth fast: in the congregation will I bless the Lorda."]
In unison with his present experience, are, II. His future prospects
a Ps. xxvi. 12.
“Knowing in whom he has believed,” he expects1. Guidance in all his
way-[In addition to all the difficulties of his journey, he knows not which way he is to pursue. He has a general notion of his path: but an infinite variety of circumstances occur from time to time, to render it difficult to discern which is the way in which it will be best and safest for him to proceed. He is aware that one single step may lead to consequences inconceivably important. Joseph was sent to visit his brethren. The step was good : but oh! to what a diversity of trials did it leadb! David also was sent to visit his brethren: here too the step was good; and from it resulted the victory over Goliath, and the deliverance of Israel from their oppressors In the consciousness that God alone can guide him, he asks counsel of the Lord every step he takes : and God vouchsafes to guide his feet into the way
There are many different means which God is pleased to make use of for the direction of his people: sometimes he guides by his word; sometimes by his Spirit; sometimes by his providence, opening or shutting a door, as is pleasing in his sight: diversifying these as he sees occasion, he accomplishes his gracious ends; just as, in the days of old, he led his people Israel through the trackless wilderness, till they came in safety to the · Promised Land.
The entire process may be seen, as it were, realized in actual life. Behold the saint's desire of counsel, as expressed in the prayers of Davida - and mark the accomplishment of that desire in the consolations and encouragements administered to the waiting soule --- And this is exactly what every believing soul is warranted to expect: “I will instruct thee, and teach thee in the way thou shalt go: I will guide thee with mine eyef.”] 2. Glory at the end
(Never will God cease from his offices of love, till he has completed all his gracious purposes, and fulfilled the utmost desires of those who wait upon him. Glory is that to which every soul looks forward, as the consummation of its bliss : that is "the joy that is set before us, the prize of our high calling," “ the recompence of our reward ;" and God will not suffer his people to come short of it. “He will fulfil in them all the good pleasure of his goodness,” till the work which has been begun in grace is consummated in glory. Of this St. Paul was confidents; and in the prospect of it every believing soul
b Gen. xxxvii. 14.
c 1 Sam. xvii. 20.
d Ps. cxliii. 4-8.