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Admitting, however, that the Holy Spirit is the exclusive source of saving light and holy joy, and that to be wise for eternity we must be his disciples, it is certain that the ordinary events of life expound some of the leading statements of the Bible, and that our duties and afflictions prepare us both to seek and to receive the blessings which are set before us in that sacred book. Revelation speaks, when the oracle of nature is dumb; and the glories of God and of Christ would for ever have been concealed, had not the eternal Spirit disclosed them. No hand but His who established the throne of grace, can suspend the veil, behind which are concealed the mysterious and merciful arrangements of the Almighty Occupant. Divine love must tell her own tale, portray her own beauties, unfold her own designs, and pour the tide of her melody and of her gifts, into the ear and heart of the man whom she purposes to gratify and bless. But as the visible world which we now inhabit, is, to us, the frontier dominion of God's boundless possessions, and as here we are “made meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light,” time is an index to eternity; and the events of this life awaken inquiries, and suggest reflections, respecting the life to come. Providence always has subserved, and always will promote, the purposes and plans of sovereign grace. “The Most High doeth according to his will in the army of heaven, and among the inhabitants of the earth ;” and in one world, he lays the foundation of the temple, the top-stone of which he will bring forth in another, “ with shoutings of Grace, grace unto it.”
A state of grace is not so dissimilar to a state of glory, as that believers in Christ upon earth, have nothing in common with their sainted brethren in heaven. On the contrary, grace is the beginning of glory, and glory is the consummation of grace. It is therefore to be expected, that those whom “God hath called unto the fellowship of his Son Jesus Christ our Lord,” will learn and love the truth, out of which springs the hope of the sinner at the cross, and the joy of the “spirits of just men made perfect” before the throne. “All flesh is grass, and all the glory of man as the flower of grass. The grass withereth, and the flower thereof falleth away: but the word of the Lord endureth for ever. And this is the word which by the gospel is preached unto you."
Ministers and hearers of the gospel, --congregations and pastors, receive and ponder the hints of a friend—the admonitions of a brother!
Christian brethren, time flies, but truth remains. One year hath passed away, another hath come, and this will be as fleeting as the last. About the past you must have painful impressions. The recollection of your ingratitude, unbelief, and worldly-mindedness, is no doubt distressing. Innumerable evils have compassed you about. In the soul, in the family, in the church, in the high places of commerce, there is, we doubt not, many a dark spot ; and as the mind gazes, the heart weeps; as the understanding perceives the failure, the conscience bleeds over it; and great is the anguish occasioned by a review of neglected duties, broken vows, faithless promises, “idle words," vain imaginations, treacherous actions. As we attempt to read the history of the year, the eye is suffused with tears, the cou nance is flushed with shame; and before we have well pondered the records of a day, we are constrained to drop upon our knees to pray, to fall prostrate in the dust, to confess, and that we may hope and plead, we are obliged to flee “to the fountain opened for sin and uncleanness.” So great is our guilt, and so sensible are we of our delinquencies, that but for the cross of Christ, but for a fresh application to the blood of atonement, but for the renewed assurance that there is mercy with Him with whom we have to do, we should be confounded. “If thou, Lord, shouldest mark iniquities, O Lord, who shall stand ?” But he has not done this, nor will he do it; therefore we have hope in him as to the future,—therefore are we thankful to him as to the past. He will bless us. He has blessed us ; mercies have followed us week by week, day after day; into our hours he has poured the light of his favour, and moments have distilled the dew-drops of his love upon our hearts. Verily the Lord hath been good ; his compassion hath not failed; he hath been faithful to his promises ; we must, we will praise him. We sigh at the remembrance of our imperfections. We sing as we review his conduct, “Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless his holy name.”
But another year has dawned upon us, and in its dim morning light we can catch the indications of His will who rolls the seasons round, and who crowneth them with his loving-kindness. Privileges have come with the opening year. Shall we not use them? Shall we not use them all? Beloved, now are we the sons of God.” His children we are both by birth and adoption. We have the name and the nature of children. He is our Father, and his provisions for our safety, honour, and happiness, are various and ample. We are to love him, to serve him, to walk with him, in the holy fellowship to which he hath called us; and he, having assured us of his love,-of our interest in his unchanging love, expects that we shall follow his counsels, confide in his care, lean on his arm, plead and hope for the fulfilment of his promises. Never may we forget that we are the sons and daughters of the Lord Almighty; and recollecting our parentage, may we aspire to the spiritual dignity of our name and calling. It is indeed an honour to have our names enrolled with Zion's children; a mercy, which, when rightly estimated, will outweigh the heaviest of our cares. But shall we use our privileges without remembering their order and their end? Shall we sit at our Father's table, walk at our Father's side, and luxuriate in the bright manifestations of our Father's presence, and forget the love in which our filial connexion with him originated,
and the purpose upon which it is based ? No. Never may we drink the waters of life,our happy home waters, without grateful perceptions of the source whence they flow. “ Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ : according as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy, and without blame before him in love : having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will, to the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the Beloved.” The foundation of our adoption into the family of God, was laid in Christ ; the end of it is the Divine glory; the cause of it was the free grace of God; and to this state of personal and relative blessedness, we were predestinated from eternity. Wonder, O heavens! be astonished, 0 earth ! at this. This is a fact, a clearly revealed, a divinely authenticated fact; a fact of interest; a fact of power; a fact about which there is thrown a charm, a glory, a beauty, that cannot fail to delight the renewed mind. We are sons of God by virtue of a vital union to Christ—a union which the Holy Spirit formed when he regenerated us by the word of his truth ; but he formed it in pursuance of the fixed purposes of God that so it should be. We cannot, therefore, we dare not, attempt to separate the state into which we are brought by the work of the Spirit, from the everlasting purpose of Him who, loving us from the beginning, devised means that we might be restored to his image and favour.
Christian brethren, take another, a higher, a firmer hold of truth ; of that truth which has made you free, and which has already afforded you so much solace and hope. Contend for the truth; plead for the truth; make sacrifices for the truth. Watch the interests, be jealous of the honour, yield to the claims of truth. As you value your freedom, your purity, your peace, your strength, frown upon error, smile upon the truth. Truth is immutable, immortal. Deviate not from the path of truth, the good old way which apostles and martyrs trod, -which conducted them to their rest on earth, and to their thrones in heaven. This is the path of life ; and the path we must tread to honour Christ, and to progress in his ways. Shall we not watch our steps, and observe the finger of God as it points out our course? The direction which the Holy Spirit takes as the guide of his people, is the direction in which our interests lie, and is, therefore, the one that we must adopt. Adopting it, we must never relinquish it. Neither the misguided understandings, nor the corrupt taste, of “erring brethren,” must be allowed to influence our decisions. To the Lord's voice we must give heed; to his will we must bow. May this be a more spiritual year than any that has preceded it!
But, as with privileges we have cares, and as cares involve responsi
bilities, there are other reasons, besides those we have urged, why we should cleave to the truth, and bind it about our loins as a strengthening girdle. “The word of the Lord endureth for ever.” We would neither alarm the timid, nor discourage the doubting ; yet we must say that to calculate wisely, is to anticipate the ordinary duties and trials of life ; and that to act prudently, is to prepare for them. To ten afflictions we can surely number a hundred mercies; and taking the most sombre view of things as they are, and as they are likely to be, we dare not indulge a desponding state of mind.
“Let cares like a wild deluge come,
And storms of sorrow fall,"
the Lord will be our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble ; and as our days, so will our strength be. Of this we have no doubt; and we are confident that God will sustain and realise the expectations which his promises have awakened : “ The desire of the righteous shall be granted.” Still, with our knowledge of the world, and of the Bible, we cannot expect a thornless path, nor hope to escape the trials which are common to all who fear God. Our sweetest pleasures may be embittered, our fondest comforts may be destroyed, our most stable enjoyments may vanish, the fairest and the most beauteous scenes of life may be overcast with gloom, there may be but little in our circumstances or in our connexions to cheer or even to console ; days and nights may be wearisome, afflictions may crowd about our persons, and linger about our homes, as if to make us and those connected with us their victims; and should this be the case, shall we not need the support which Divine truth alone can give ? Self-sustained we are not, nor can we ever hope to be. We are always dependent on God; and he bears up the hearts of his people against the calamities that may befall them, by “the truth as it is in Jesus.” The Gospel is the power of God in the church as well as in the world. Oh the power of saving truth! With a knowledge of the truth, with a cordial attachment to the truth, with the consciousness of right with which the truth inspires the believing heart, we are prepared for all duties, and all trials, and all conflicts. And the truth that delivers us from the grasp of the tempter, arms us against his temptations, even in their most subtle, their most insinuating forms ; so that to be prepared for the events of a year, we must have daily fellowship with the Gospel, and with Him of whose love the Gospel is a faithful witness. God may try his church, and the members of it, by prosperity; in which case they will need the guarding, the restraining, and the prompting power of truth; and this they cannot hope to have, if they do not welcome it to their hearts, if they do not promote its reign within them. The truth by which they are consoled, is a sceptre by which they are governed ; and their subjection to authority is their
introduction to rest and peace,—to that rest which strengthens them for the duties of a wakeful hour, and to that “ peace which keeps the heart and mind through Christ Jesus." The truths of the Gospel, and by these we mean “the doctrines which are according to godliness,”—have an influence over the Christian's entire nature ; and by this power he is enabled to throw off the withering, the soul-blighting influence of carnal things, and to preserve his inward peace, and his outward consistency. The understanding, the heart, the will, the conscience, the memory, are all affected by the truth. Truth is God's witness in the soul that believes it; and the record of his character and conduct in the Bible, becomes law to the principles and habits of the man who understands it. In this world, in these times, at this hour, just when vital interests are in jeopardy ; when moral elements are in a disturbed state ; when the enemy of righteousness is devising and executing his malicious plans; when attempts are made in opposite directions and by opposing parties to deprive the church of her liberty, of her glory, of her power, either by obscuring her light, or by poisoning her food, or by substituting forms and ceremonies for vital sentiments and saving knowledge; and when, too, as the results of the whole,-as they are felt in the world, and in the kingdom of Christ, —the principles of godly men are tested, and they are in danger of losing a measure of their spirituality, which is their strength, it is of the utmost importance that those who value their peace above rubies, and who are desirous of walking in the fear of the Lord, and in the comfort of the Holy Ghost, and who are concerned for the glory of Christ and the welfare of souls, should contend for the truth, avow their attachment to it, and derive from it the hope and the strength of which it was intended by its Divine Author to be the never-failing medium. Christian friends, the truth of the Gospel,—the truth of which your pastors and teachers are the defenders and expositors,—is immutable ; and although this truth, apart from the grace of Him to whose beauty, love, and power, the truth bears testimony, will neither quicken nor comfort you, yet be assured, that the truth is the instrument by which his mercy accomplishes his will. If you ever become indifferent to the truth of his Gospel, you will lose the conscious support of his arm, the light which flows from his presence, and the guiding star of your hopes will be no longer visible. Let us value and adorn the truth,-evangelical, protestant truth. God commands this, our spirituality requires this, our support and comfort through the trials and afflictions of the year, will mainly depend on this. “Buy the truth, and sell it not.”
Christian brethren, whom the Lord hath counted faithful for the ministry of his truth,—another year of responsibility, of care, of toil, has dawned upon us. Our own souls must be cared for, or they will languish. We must watch for souls, as they that must give account.