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to exclude the possibility of sickness or accidents; of unfaithful servants or insolvent debtors: of dear purchases and cheap sales: u if he foresaw and secured all the events of the year himself—While he was not sure thit he should be able even to begin his journey, and knew not what should be even on the morrow. Well does the Apostle call this rejoicing "boasting," and say, that "all such rejoicing is evil."
Things may be within the reach of our knowledge and not of our power; but how cm that be within the reach of our power thatdoes not fall under our knowledge? How can we ward off dangers of which we are not apprized? How can we arrange and regulate occurrences of which we can have no foresight? Now this is our case. We know only the present; and what superstructure can we build on such a narrow foundation? How often, even while forming a plan, has the lapse of a few days so varied circumstances, that we have been compelled to new model it, or to abandon it altogether!" Let no man deceive himself. If any man among you seemeth to be wise in this world, let him become a fool, that he may be wise. For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God. For it is written, "He taketh the wise in their own craftiness. And again, The Lord knoweth the thoughts of the wise, that they are vain. He leadeth counsellors away spoiled, and maketh the judges fools."
We dare not infer the future from the present David erred here. After he had been delivered from Saul, and other enemies, he tells us that he had too much confidence. And in "my prosperity I said, I shall never be moved. Lord, by thy favour thou hast made my mountain to stand strong:" but hear what he adds—" Thou didst hide thy face, and I was troubled." The rich have been often stripped of their wealth; and the caressed of their honour. Many a fair morning has turned out a very stormy day.
Thirdly, the same considerations which should check presumption, should also prevent despair. Seeing we know not how it will go with us, why should we look only for evil? It may be far better than the foreboding of our fears. Our deliverance may be much nearer than we imagine.
"The Lord can clear the darkest skies.
Indeed, our extremity is often his opportunity.
Fourthly. Since we see not how it will go with us, let us draw off our attention from future events to present duties. We are to cast not our work, but our care upon the Lord. Duty and means belong to us, but
events are entirely his. And he says to us, as the king did to his prime minister: "Attend you to my affairs, and I will attend to yours." "Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Suflicient unto the day is the evil thereof Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus." Such is the temper and the business of a Christian. The child at school is not to lean his elbow on the table, and vex himself by thinking how he shall find raiment, how he shall get home, how the expense of his education is to be defrayed. He is a learner; he is to mind his book—the father requires no more of him—he will provide. The farmer is not to muse from day to day about the weather, "perhaps it may not be a fine season —there may be a blight—and all my labour may be lost" No: but he is to act; he goes forth bearing precious seed, commits it to the ground, and then pursues his other business— and what can his anxiety do afterwards! "So is the kingdom of God, as if a man should cast seed into the ground, and should sleep, and rise, night and day, and the seed should spring and grow up, he knoweth not how. For the earth bringeth forth fruit of herself, first the blade, then the ear, after that the full corn in the ear." The soldier is to learn his exercise, to obey the word of command, to keep his arms bright, to be always at the post assigned him; but he is not to neglect all this, by busying himself in drawing plans of the campaign, and describing the duties of the general.
Finally. Our ignorance of what may befall us should lead ns to seek after a preparation tor all events. Do you ask, where shall we find it? I answer, in the blessed influence of Divine grace. This drew prayer from Jacob when he went forth with a staff; and praise when he returned with a fortune. This preserved Daniel in the court of Darius and in the lion's den. This enabled Paul to say, "I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound: everywhere and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me. And seeing we have not the ordering of the weather, nor the choice of our food—happy is the man, whose constitution enables him to bear any weather, and whose appetite enables him to relish any food. This leads us, III. To inquire What There
IS TO ENCOURAGE US UNDER ALL THIS DARKNESS And Uncertainty. You say, I see not how it will go with me. And it is well you do not You know as much as it is good for you. For it is with the mind as it is with the
senses. A greater degree of hearing would incommode us; and a nicer degree of seeing would terrify us. If our eyes could see things microscopically, we should be afraid to move. Thus our knowledge is suited to our situation and circumstances. Were we informed beforehand of the good things prepared for us by Providence, from that moment we should cease to enjoy the blessings we possess, become indifferent to present duties, and be filled with restless impatience. Or suppose the things foreknown were gloomy and adverse, what dismay and despondency would be the consequence of the discovery! and how many times should we suffer in imagination what we now only endure once ia reality! Who would wish to draw back a vail that saves them from so many disquietudes! If some of you had formerly known die troubles through which you have since waded, you would have fainted under the prospect
You say, You see not how it will go with you; but God does. And he is your friend, and your father, and loves you better than you love yourselves, and is far more concerned for your happiness than you can be. "Why sayest thou, O Jacob, and speakest, O Israel, My way is hid from the Lord, and my judgment is passed over from my God?" Nothing is hid from him. "He knows thy walking through this great wilderness. He knows thy soul in adversity." He sees all thy dangers and all thy wants. Nothing can surprise him whose eyes are in every place. Nothing can elude his notice who numbers the heirs of thy head. When Abraham was called to leave his own country, and his father's house, he obeyed; and "he went out, not knowing whither he went" But though he knew not "whither he went," he knew with whom: he knew that he followed a guide who could not lead him astray. And thus Job relieved his mind under a pressure of perplexity: "Behold, I go forward, but he is not there; and backward, but 1 cannot perceive him: on the left hand, where he doth work, but I cannot behold him: he hideth himself on the right band, that I cannot see him: but he knoweth the way that I take: when he hath tried me, I shall come forth as gold."
You say, You see not how it will go with you. But you know, "that it shall be well with them that^fcar God." You know that if you are hia, though your way may be thorny, " your shoes shall be iron and brass;" and that as "your day is, so shall your strength be." You know that love is the spring of all your trials, as well as of your comforts. And that though no "chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless, afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness to them which are exercised thereby." You know
that "God is faithful, who will not suffer yow to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it" In a word, and is it not enough to know this? —you know that "all things work together for good to them that love, (rod; to them that are the called according to his purpose."
You say, You see not how it will go with you. But your ignorance only regards tone: all in eternity is sure. Beyond this land of darkness dwells everlasting light Your uncertainty only regards the roughness or smoothness of the way—for you kno'w what stands at the end of it—It is your Father's house, where are many mansions!
"Sec the kind angels at the pates
Yes, you know how it will go with you there.
There you will "enter into peace;" there
"the days of your mourning will be ended;"
there you will be "for ever with the Lord!"
"There—shall we see his face,
And never, never sin;
There from the rivers of his grace
Drink endless pleasures in."
Ah! blessed privilege—and happy they who can enjoy it! They have enough to relieve them in every distress. Their afflictions must be light and momentary indeed, when they are persuaded that they are working out for them a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory. But this is not my case. My perplexity seems to increase in proportion as I advance. To me the otber world seems darker than this; and it is a gloomy valley that leads to it Oh! if I knew that all would end well!—But this is that which adds a pressure to every burden, and embitters all my comforts—I see not bow it will go with me At Last."
My Christian friend: I designed not by what I have said, to intimate that such a persuasion is essential to your safety, but only that it is a desirable privilege; and in this we are agreed. But remember it is attainable. You may have "a good hope through grace," and "the full assurance of hope." You are commanded to seek it In the mesa time, I would observe, that the solicitude you feel, is no bad evidence in your favour. In proportion as the mind feels the importance of salvation, it longs for certainty, and, fearful of deception, is not satisfied with slender evidence. May the Lord, you are now following sorrowful and in darkness, shine upon your path, and "fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you mav abound in hope, through the power of the Holy Ghost"
But if we cannot begin the new year with confidence and joy, let us do it with seriousness and prayer. Let us resolve to walk before him m newness of life. Let us commit ourselves to the care of his Providence, to the word of his grace, to the agency of his Holy Spirit And let us lift up our hearts with our voices while we sing,
•' And now, my Boui, another year
RELIGION MORE THAN
Saving a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof.—2 Tim. iii. 5.
And what is godliness! It is the tendency of the mind towards God: and is exercised in believing in him, loving and fearing him, holding communion with him, resemblmg his perfections, and employing ourselves in his service. It is the introduction of God into all our concerns, our acknowledging him in all our ways, our doing all we do m his name, and with a reverence to his authority and glory, through the mediation of the Saviour, and by the influences of the Holy Spirit
This is godliness; and nothing else deserves the name. This godliness however has its form and its power; and this distinction enables us to arrange four classes of characters.
For, first, there are some who have neither the power nor the form of godliness. They are as destitute of the pretension as they are of the reality; and often glory in this—for we read of some " who glory in their shame."
Secondly, there are some who possess both the power and the form. And these are the most worthy of our esteem and imitation. May their number daily increase!
Thirdly, there are some who have the power of godliness, but not the form. Their religion is a kind of disembodied spirit: and because some have laid too much stress upon outward things, they lay too little. They carry their notions of the spirituality of divine worship so far as to exclude social considerations; the influence of the body over the mind; and the use which the Supreme Being himself makes of our senses, to aid our graces, and which is simply the principle upon which
baptism and the ordinance of the Lord's Supper are founded. They do not remember that though the substance be confessedly the main thing, circumstances are often very beautiful and impressive and beneficial; that we are not only to possess, but to profess religion; that we are not only to serve God individually, but to unite ourselves to a body of Christians, and walk in holy fellowship, "striving together for the faith of the Gospel; and that we are bound not only to "glorify God in our spirits," but " in our bodies also, which are God'a" So that the form when attached to the principle, is so far from being improper, that it is commendable and import. ant
But here we have reached the Fourth class to which we referred, those who have the form, but deny the power. These are awful characters; and therefore, says the apostle, to Timothy, "From such withdraw thyself." We should do this as much as possible with regard to their persons, but above all with regard to their state. In order to this—let us, I . Consider The Power Of Godliness; and, II. Inquire Whence It Is That So Many
WHO DENY IT ARE STILL DISPOSED TO MAINTAIN THE FORM.
I. The "Power" Of Godliness Is Here
DISTINGUISHED FROM THE MERE " FORM :" and
indeed it is easy to show the difference between them. The one is principally external, and deals in words—the other is internal) actuating our feelings, and governing our actions. The one is the name—Jhe other is the thing; the one is the appearance—the other is the reality. The one is the body—the other is the soul, that inspires every member, and penetrates every particle of the frame. The one is the picture—the other is the original: the one shows us the Christian on canvass—the other presents him to us alive and in motion.
Now what I want to convince you of here is this—that real godliness is more than a show, a fancy, a form—it has an efficacy in it—there is a power attending it For consider how it is produced and maintained. It is in its existence, as well as in its revelation, a Divine principle. Hear how the Apostle speaks of it in his epistle to the Ephesians. "God is able," says he, "to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think"— "according to the power that worketh in us." I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ—" that he would grant you, according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man." And again, he prays for them, that they may know—what is the exceeding, greatness of his power to us-ward who believe, according to the working of his mighty power, which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead, and set him at his own right hand, in the heavenly place*:" where we find—that the same almighty energy which quickened into endless life the entombed body of our Lord, is actually put forth in the renovation of the believer: "that like as Christ was raised up from the dead, by the glory of the Father, even so we also walk in newness of life." Hence it is called "the life of God;" and "the participation of the Divine nature." What is the water that the Saviour promises to give to those that ask him? "Living water." "And," says he, "the water that 1 shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life." Here is nothing stagnant and dead; but every thing is expressive of influence and activity. Thus the Apostle tells the Thessalonians that the Gospel came to them—"not in word only, but in power:" and that they received it, not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, "which effectually worketh also in you that believe." And thus, to view the subject more separately, and in parts, we read of "the work of faith, the labour of love, and the patience of hope."
Observe the subjects of Divine grace. This principle distinguishes them from others: and is capable of producing a holy singularity. If you have only the form of godliness, there will be no practical difference between you and others; if servants—you will be as idle, as gossipping, as regardless of the property of your employers, as others: if wives—you will be as unsubmissive; if husbands—as tyrannical: if tradesmen—as grasping and overreaching as others. But if you have the power—you will resemble good Nehemiah. "The former governors," says he, "were chargeable to the people—but so did not I, because of the fear of God." Piety would not suffer him to act like them. And if you are under the influence of it, you will not, in your various relations and circumstances, be borne down by the errors and vices around you: but you will be able to act uprightly: you will be kept from consulting custom, and be constrained to listen to conscience: you will not be permitted to sin as do others, or "sleep as do others—you will not be conformed to this world, but be transformed, by the renewing of the mind, that you may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect will of God." A dead fish can swim with the stream, but a live one can swim against it
Yea, this principle distinguishes the man from himself. Thus, under the influence of it, the drunkard becomes sober; the swearer learns to fear an oath, and the liar a lie. He that stole, steals no more, but labours. The churl becomes liberal, and the niggard bountiful; it cannot be otherwise. If the man has been moral before, he continues to avoid the same vices, to perform the same duties, and to attend the same means of grace as before—
but from very different motives, and in a Tot different manner. He has now also much more to engage his attention. His regard is no longer confined to externals only, but he is taken up with "the hidden man of the heart;" and prays with David, "Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew i right spirit within me." Hence spring exercises to which he was once a stranger; and he feels himself engaged in a warfare which often perplexes him, and leads him to exclaim, "If I am his, why am I thus!"
Behold then the life of the real Christian, and trace the operation of the power of godliness there.
It appears with regard to the ordinances of divine worship. Others who have only the form, come without expectation and prayer, and return without reflection and concern: they are satisfied with their attendance—but he is not He is anxious to derive spiritual advantage from it: he enters the closet before he approaches the temple, and his language is, "Oh that I knew where I might find him, that I might come even to his seat?" Oh that I may be of "the circumcision who worship God in the spirit, rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh."
It appears with regard to the dissipatious of the world. He voluntarily resigns three amusements in which he once placed so much of his happiness: and he returns no more a them. And why? If he were mindful of the country whence he came, he has opportunity to return: he is surrounded with the same allurements as others—why then does he not engage in these diversions again!— Because he has found something infinite!? more noble and more satisfying. And » greater good has power to abolish the impressions of a less. When the sun arises, the stars disappear. And the grapes of Eshcol cause us to forget the leeks and onions of Egypt
You may see it in the mortification of sm. He denies himself; he crucifies the flesh with the affections and lusts; he plucks out a right eye, and cuts off a right hand, fa may see it in what he is willing to sacrifice and to suffer. Read history: read the book of martyrs; read the eleventh chapter of the epistle to the Hebrews—and see what the force of this powerful principle can accomplish. There you see an Abraham at the command of God, " leaving his own country, and his father's house, and going out, not knowing whither he went:" and, in obediencelo the same authority, "when tried, offering up Isaac; his son, his only son; of whom it was said, that in Isaac shall thy seed be called. There you see a "Moses, when come to years, refusing to be called the son of Pharaoh's daughter; choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season; esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures of Egypt: for he had respect onto the recompence of the reward. By raith he forsook Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king: for he endured as seeing him who is invisible. And what shall I more say? for the time would fail me to tell of Gideon, and of Barak, and of Samson, and of Jephthah; of David also, and Samuel, and of the prophets: who through faith subdued kingdoms, wrought righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, quenched the violence of fire, escaped the edge of the aword, out of weakness were made strong, waxed valiant in fight, turned to flight the armies of the aliens. Women received their dead raised to life again: and others were tortured, not acceptmg deliverance; that they might obtain a better resurrection; and others had trial of cruel mockings and scourgings, yea, moreover of bonds and imprisonment: They were stoned, they were sawn asunder, were tempted, were slain with the sword: they wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins; being destitute, afflicted, tormented; (of whom the world was not worthy:) they wandered in deserts, and in mountains, ana in dens and caves of the earth."
"But we are not called to such scenes as these." Blessed be God, you are not But every Christian, says Luther, is a piece of a martyr; "yea," says the Apostle, "and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution." There is the same malignity in human nature against vital religion as formerly; and it will operate as far as it is permitted by circumstances. And when religion is vital, it will enable a man to abide the test; and resolve to go forward, notwithstanding the ridicule of infidels, the sneer of worldlings, and the reproaches of relations and friends. And this requires a degree of the same grace as martyrdom.
The vigour of this principle appears also in other suflerings. How many are there at this moment, enduring a variety of grief in private, whose names will never be published in history, but who, in the eye of God, are greater than the admired heroes of the age! They act nobly, without the prospect, or the desire of notice, or of fame: they breathe no revenge towards instruments; they neither charge God foolishly nor unkindly m any of the disappointments and afflictions which have befallen them; they are strangers to impatience and repining; and all you hear is, "I mourn, but I do not murmur. I pray, bat I do not prescribe. 'The Lord gave, and the Lord hath token away, and blessed be the name of the Lord.' I have more reason for thankfulness than complaint I know not what he is doing with me—but 'he knoweth the way that I take.' Whether the trial be removed or continued, increased or di
minished, it is with him to determine—so it should be—and so it shall be. 'Behold, here I am, let him do to me as seemeth good unto him!'"
Yea, we have seen and heard the saints "joyful in glory, and shouting aloud upon their dying beds;" raised above the fear of "the king of terrors" himself, and exulting, "O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? The stmg of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law: but thanks be unto God, that giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ" Surely, therefore, in the religion of the blessed Jesus, there is an excellency, an efficacy, a power.
But this power, derived from a Divine influence, and distinguishing the Christian from others and from himself—this power, which enlivens him in ordinances, raises him above the world, subdues his corruptions, and supports and comforts him in all llis sufferings—this power, many, alas! are ignorant of, and in works, if not in words, really deny.
II. They Yet Assume And Maintain Th« Form—and some of the reasons which induce them to do this, are the following:
First, because the form is comparatively easy. The difficulty lies in the power. It is an easy thing to pretend to be rich; to purchase splendid apparel and furniture; and live in style upon the property of others— which is the fashion of the day. This differs exceedingly from the economy and industry and labour of the man who in his calling gains a competency lawfully. It is an easy thing to prof^ to be wise: but to acquire knowledge by the weariness of study; by rising early and sitting up late; by keepmg the mind always olive, and attentive to perceive, appropriate, and classify fresh intellectual stores—here is the difficulty. And thus it is in the case before us. The form of godliness requires no strenuous exertions; demands no costly sacrifices. It is the power of it that renders the Christian life a "striving to enter in at the strait gate;" a " pressing into the kingdom of God;" a " wrestling with principalities and powers;" a "running the race that is set before us;" a " fighting the good fight of feith." And it is this too that incurs opposition from the world. It will indeed be acknowledged that sometimes the very form draws forth the rancour of others: and of all people those are most to be pitied who are persecuted for what they have not; who are reproached as Christians without deserving the honour. But upon a nearer inspection of these mere formalists, the world is generally made quite easy. They see that they were mistaken in the characters; they find that they are "of their own," though wearing a religious uniform. And discovering in them their own spirit, which disposes