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prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, he makes his requests known unto God; and the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, keeps his heart and mind through Christ Jesus. "I hope in him for eternal life, and it would be shameful not to trust in him for every present supply. 'He who spared not his own Son,' will 'withhold no good thing' from me. It is comparatively a matter of little consequence what befalls me here; I am only ' a stranger and a pilgrim;' my God 'ruleth over all;' and he has promised that 'he will never leave me nor forsake me.' 'The Lord is my helper; I will not fear.'"
"He shall not be afraid of evil tidings; his heart is fixed, trusting in the Lord."—Tell him, his substance is destroyed: No, says he, my " inheritance is incorruptible and undented, and fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for me." Tell him such a friend or relation is dead: but, says he, "The Lord liveth, and blessed be my rock, and let the God of my salvation be exalted." And you yourself are decaying and dying: Yes, says he, I am sent for, and am going home. With regard to public calamities, he feels, and in some respects he feels more than others. Divine grace produces sensibility, and excites a public spirit He knows the desert of sin, and the indications of approaching wrath make him shudder: "My flesh trembleth for fear of thee, and I am afraid of thy judgments." But, strange as it may appear, there is a firmness and a composure of mind blended with all these feelings. He knows that " the Lord reigneth ;" that he is " doing all things," and doing all things " well;" that whatever becomes of other empires, the Gospel shall spread, the Church is safe: and these are the most important interests—these render the world valuable. He can therefore join with Luther, who said, whenever he heard of any alarming intelligence, "Come, let us sing the forty-sixth psalm—' God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble; therefore will we not fear, though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea. God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved; Cod shall help her, and that right early. The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge. Selah.'"
Secondly. Let us seek after this blessed condition of the godly. Till the mind be stayed on God, it has no resting-place. It is union with God that gives the mind solidity. How light is it, detached from God; it is blown about easier than the down of a thistle in the wind. Out of him, as the sanctuary of the soul, every storm annoys, every trifle disquiets: and "man at his best estate is altogether vanity." If any thing could add force to these reflections, it would be the nature of the times in which we live. We be
hold a "cloudy and dark day." The revolutions which have taken place, and the general aspect of things at present, are dreadful to those who have no God. O let a sense of our danger endear the only refuge, and the vanity of this world induce us to seek after the real happiness of another! Let us abandon the practice of sin, and no longer "lay up for ourselves treasure upon earth," which only serves to debase the soul and fill it with perpetual alarms—and let us ask for God "our Maker, who giveth songs in the night;" let us depend upon him, cleave to him, live in him.
On what else can we rely, that will not, instead of settling the mind, discompose it the more i Is it Honour? WJiat so precarious and variable as the praise of man! Is it affluence ?" The rich man's wealth is his strong city, and as a high wall in his own conceit" But does not every day's observation, as well as Scripture, cry, "Trust not in uncertain riches, but in the living God?" Is it Moral Philosophy; a strength of reasoning? There are circumstances in which the calmest reflections and the noblest resolutions will be only as stubble before the wind. In the time of trial, all other supports will fail: the storm increasing, will drive us from our holdings: there is only one "anchor of the soul, sure and steadfast" It is, a scriptural hope in God. This will prepare a man for all the vicissitudes of time; this will help him to go on his way rejoicing through all the troubles of life; and this will finally enable him to look " the king of terrors" out of countenance, and to exult with the apostle, "Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through hun that loved us. For I am persuaded that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord."
Thou renewett the face of the earth.
All nature is a book, and the various parts of it are so many multiplied pages in which we may read and consider "the wonderful works of God." The Seasons of the year are every way interesting. They are necessary for the production of our food, and the preservation of our health. Their succession adds to the beauty of creation. Their revolutions furnish us with subjects of reflection, and lessons of importance.
The season is arrived in which we behold
the renovation of nature. Let us endeavour to render it profitable.
L David was an attentive observer of the works of creation. Many a fine evening did he employ in "considering the heavens, the works of God's finger; the moon and the stars which he has ordained." He rose early, and beheld the "sun as a bridegroom coming out of his chamber, and rejoicing as a strong man to run a race." He looked abroad in winter, and exclaimed, " He sendeth abroad his ice like morsels; who can stand before his cold." He rejoiced when more favourable weather encouraged him to walk abroad: he observed "the birds building their nests, the springs running among the valleys, the grass growing. for the cattle, and herbs for the service of man," and, hailing the revival of a faded world, lifted up his eyes and said, "Thou renewest the face of the earth."
There are few real lovers of nature; there axe few who so behold its scenes as to pause and admire, till they have imbibed a sympathy with them; till they feel themselves at home in them; till they are detached from every thing human, and little, and debasing. Let us go forth into the field to meditate: meditation is often better than books. Our own thoughts will do us much more good than the opinions of others. Wisdom and truth are shy in the world; but here they are easily discovered and secured. Danger often attends our perusal of the works of men; but there is no hazard in pursuing knowledge among the works of Goa. People complam of the world, and confess whenever they return from its companies and diversions, that "all is vanity and vexation of spirit"—why will they not come forth, and refresh themselves here? Why will they not leave the wilderness, and enter this garden of the Lord f Here I live in a world of my own— here I feel my independence and my freedom—here I can learn how I have been overcome, and where I must place a watch and a guard—here the good thoughts, which were scattered and weak before, are collected into a powerful motive, and bear down all opposition to duty—what was wavering before, is now decided—what was timid, grows courageous. When I go into the field, I enter my closet; I shut the door about me; I admit what company I please; I exclude the vicious who would pulluto, and the trifling who would interrupt; 1 hear not the folly of the vain, or the slander of the malicious— that world of iniquity which drops from the tongue; "I pray to my father which is in secret; mine eye poureth out tears unto God;" I have an emblem of final repose—" here the wicked cease from troubling, and here the weary are at rest"
"God made the country, and man made the town." Nevertheless, how many are there who
leave the works of the Creator to bury themselves among those of the creature; and while professing to admire the beautiful and the marvellous, disregard the wonders that are perpetually springing up around them! They will go any distance, incur any expense, to see a piece of mechanism, sculpture, painting; while in their way they pass by productions infinitely more curious, and finished. They are struck with a fine robe; but never contemplate a lily: and yet "Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these." When a man of fame announces a design to perform any thing, thousands flock around him; while God, working day by day the most astonishing effects, is unnoticed; and no one is drawn forth to attend to Aim, though he has said, "I will that men magnify my works which they behold."
II. It becomes us not only to observe nature, but to observe it devotionally, and as Christiana There is a difference between viewing and improving these things: there is a diflerence between our studying them as mere admirers and philosophers, and applying them as men formed by divine grace for a life of communion with God. It is the command of the Apostle—" Whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him."
See a Christian among the works of nature. He looks after God m all—for he needs him in all: and he is enabled to find him. Though familiar with the effect, he does not disregard the cause. With him, common instrumentality does not conceal divine agency. He maintains in his mind a connexion between the author and the work; and the one reminds him of the other. He walks with him in the ways of his Providence, as well as in his goings in the sanctuary; adores him in the field as well as in the temple; and acknowledges him in the ordinary course of nature, as well as in the extraordinary displays of his power, and wisdom, and goodness.
He also makes them images to remind him of better things. The rismg sun brings to his thoughts "The Sun of righteousness arising with healing under his wings;" a flowing spring, the influence of the Holy Ghost; the ram and the dew, the doctrine of the Gospel. Thus, by a holy chemistry, he extracts heaven from earth.
From these scenes he also derives motives to devotion, and encouragements to confidence. For instance: does he view a proof of divine wisdom, he cries, " O how able is this God to teach me, to manage all my concerns—how wonderful in counsel, how excellent in working!" Does he contemplate a display of Divine power, "How able is this God to preserve, sustain, deliver me!' Is any thing too hard for the Lord V" Does he observe instances of his bounty, he asks—" Can 'he who hears the ravens that cry,' refuse supplies to his children V
Nor does he partake of the bounties of nature like a brute, only concerned to gratify his animal appetite, and entirely regardless of him from whom every indulgence comes. He receives them from the hand of his heavenly Father; he tastes his love in them; he cries, "' O that men would praise the Lord for his goodness, and for his wonderful works to the children of men! Bless the Lord, O my soul—who giveth me all things richly to enjoy,' and who provides, not only for my relief, but my delight I will live to him who lives in so many ways for me, and by 'his mercies I will present my body a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable unto him, which is my reasonable service.'"
HI. Let us observe and adore this wonderworking God in renewing the face of the earth. How many times has he done this since the creation! He does it every year. The change is equally remarkable and pleasing. See the winter drawing off his army of winds, and frosts, and snow, and hail-^-and spring succeeding the monarch of desolation. Under his soft and gentle reign, all begins to smile: life in a thousand ways breaks forth: all is verdure, and fragrance, and beauty; all is joyous. What variety of colours, what harmony of sounds!" The valleys stand thick with rising corn, and the little hills rejoice on every side," while a voice from the fields and meadows calls—" Arise, and come away; for lo! the winter is past, the rain is over and gone. The flowers appear on the earth; the time of the singing of birds is come, and the voice of the turtle is heard in our land."
1 Let us remember, that he who renews the face of the earth, can renew the Church. Think of any particular cause—however depressed, he can revive it; however small, he can increase it When his influences descend, "his word comes down like rain upon the mown grass, as showers that water the earth;" and his people are "filled with all the fruits of righteousness"—the congregation is like a field which the Lord has blessed." Or think of his cause at large. He can drive away errors, and superstition, and animosities from the nations of the globe, and bless the world with the Gospel of peace, and the means of salvation—and the "wilderness and solitary place shall be glad for them; and the desert shall rejoice and blossom as the rose. It shall blossom abundantly, and rejoice even with joy and singing: the glory of Lebanon shall be given unto it, the excellency of Carmel and Sharon; they shall see the glory of the Lord, and the excellency of our God."
He can also renew the soul. The Fall has reduced our spiritual powers to a state of desolation the most deplorable. Now when a sinner is led to see and feel this, he prays,
"Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me." And we re&d of the "renewing of the Holy Ghost;" and of " being renewed in the spirit of our minds.'" Thus "God beautifies the meek with salvmtion;" and the change in nature is an imperfect representation of the change made in the soul by divine grace. This can illuminate the darkest understanding, and soften the most rebellious will; this can tranquillize the most troubled conscience, and sanctify the most depraved affections.—After conversion, the people of God may have a winter season; their growth may be checked; every thing. may appear to be dead; they may feel the chilling absence of the "Sun of righteousness," and sigh, "O when wilt thou come unto me V But when he returns, all revives. Then the believer is quickened, then he expands, and buds, and brings forth "much fruit" "He has life, and he has it mores abundantly."
Again. He can renew the body. Has sickness invaded thy frame—art thou " made to possess months of vanity, and are wearisome nights appointed unto thee"—art thou saying, "my purposes are broken off"— "mine eye shall no more see good?"—Remember, "he killeth and maketh alive; he bringeth down to the grave and raiseth up." Every disease is under his control, and goes at his bidding. He can re-colour thy cheeks, "strengthen thy weak hands, and confirm thy feeble knees, so that thy youth shall be renewed like the eagle's." Let the body die—even then we are not hopeless— he shall renew it "So is the resurrection of the dead. It is sown in corruption, it is raised in incorruption; it is sown in dishonour, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; it is sown a natural body, it shall be raised a spiritual body." "According to this promise, we look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness." "And God shall wipe away all tears from our eyes: and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away."
To conclude. The Seasons of the year have often been considered as emblems of human life.— Youth is the Spring. Yes, my young friends, yours is the season of which nature, lovely nature, now reminds us. Think of this in all your walks. How pleasing and how beautiful is Spring! But how short, how fading! Yet how nnportant! On this all the year depends. If no blossoms now appear, or if these blossoms be destroyed, no glory in summer, no abundance in autumn, no provision in winter.
My young friends, you are now forming your future destiny, and giving a character to your future years. O seize these valuable hours for purposes the most momentous—The
improvement of your understanding—the correction of your tempera—the formation of your habits—the enlargement of your capacity to serve God and your generation—and, above all, diligence in " working out your salvation with fear and trembling.
And, O thou God of all grace, hear our prayer!" Let thy work appear unto thy servants, and thy glory unto their children, and let the beauty of the Lord our God be upon us: and establish thou the work of our hands upon us; yea, the work of our hands establish thou it: that our sons may be as plants grown up in their youth, and our daughters as corner-stones, polished after the similitude of a palace." Amen.
THE HAPPY FAMILY.
JVY- w Jetut loved Martha, and her titter, and J.tizarut.—John xi. 5.
The Scripture is not filled with the creations of worlds, the revolutions of empires, the palaces of kings, the intrigues of politicians, the exploits of heroes. In perusing it, we are often led into common and private life; and are called upon largely to observe individuals who made no splendid figure in the eyes of mankind. But a character may be important and interesting without secular honours. He that is born of God is truly great, and he that is beloved of the Saviour is truly happy. Many persons of distinction who once lived in Judea are now forgotten; their names, their places of abode, their connexions, have all perished from the earth; but there is one family transmitted down to our own times with peculiar marks of regard, and which will be had "in everlasting remembrance." It resided at Bethany, and consisted of a brother and two sisters. These three happy individuals lived together in harmony and m piety—and what crowned the whole was this—"Now Jesus loved Martha, and her sister, and Lazarus." Let us consider—
THK OBJECTS of this love THE NATURE of
it—and The Manner in which it was ExPressed.
L The Objects of this love were Martha, and her sister, and Lazaras.
It is worthy of our observation, that several of our Lord's immediate followers were related to each other. Peter and Andrew were brothers; John and James were brothers; so also were James and JuiIe. The ruler whose son our Lord cured, "believed, and his whole house." And here our Saviour had three disciples in one dwelling, when perhaps the whole village scarcely produced a fourth.
I pity the family where there is no one beE
loved of Jesus—no friend to attract the Saviour's regards—no protector to stand in the breach and keep back invading judgments— no intercessor to draw down the blessing of Heaven—no good example to reprove, encourage, stimulate. What does an angel think when he passes by such an irreligious dwelling!
- It is a mercy to find even one pious individual m a house. And whoever that distinguished character be, I would say to him— Be thankful; be circumspect; remember,every eye observes you; and every tongue is asking, "what do ye more than others?" Labour to be the happy instrument of the conversion of the rest Render your religion amiable: "whatsoever things are lovely, and of good report, think on these things. For what knowest thou, O wife, whether thou shalt save thy husband? or how knowest thou, O man, whether thou shalt save thy wife?" But how happy is that family "where' two or three can gather together m his Name," and know that he is "in the midst of them;" where the whole number "are of one heart and of one soul;" where all are connected together by claims more endearing than those of nature —by ties which death cannot dissolve, nor eternity impair! And such was this family.
But though these three were all beloved of our Lord, they appear to have differed from each other very considerably. Of Lazarus indeed much is not said. lie seems to have been a serious, solid, established professor of religion. But the two sisters are more strongly marked; more minutely characterized. Mary, it is probable, had been lately called. She was full of those pleasing, but often transient emotions which generally accompany the beginning of the Christian* life. Wondering at the gracious words which proceeded out of his mouth, "she sat at the feet of Jesus." Of a devotional taste, a contemplative turn of mind, she was disposed to give more time and attention to her favourite exercises, than perhaps prudence would justify. The reverse of this was the defect of Martha. She was anxious, and eager. She was susceptible of domestic vanity; and therefore too fond of parade and expensive entertainment—" cumbered about much serving." She was also fretful, and by the loss of temper betrayed into such indiscretion as to break in upon our Lord's discourse, and petulantly to require him to send Mary to her assistance, and thus drew upon herself the rebuke of the Saviour: "Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things: but one thing is needful: and Mary hath chosen that good part which shall not be taken away from her." But our Lord loved Martha as well as Mary. He knew her frame; he saw kindness reigned in her heart, and that she was no less attached to him than her sister, though she baa mistaken the best way of showing her esteem.
And hence we should do well to observe two things.
First That the real followers of Jesus may have their peculiarities, their mistakes, their imperfections. Christians are new creatures. They really difler from others, and the general tenour of their lives shows that they "have not received the spirit of the world, but the Spirit winch is of God." But they feel in.* firmities; and too frequently give proof to those around them that they are renewed but in part. We do not mean to plead for sin; but it is obvious from the history of the first disciples of our lard and Saviour, that while the grace of God has a holy influence, it seldom if ever changes the constitutional complexion ; and that while it sanctifies the powers of human nature, it does not give us new ones. It renders the possessor open to conviction, and makes him willing to retract what he has done amiss; but it does not lay him tmder an impossibility of doing wrong. Hence a diversity of character in the Church of God. Hence a variety of degrees in the spiritual life. Hence blemishes mixed with excellences, and defects rendered the more observable by the neighbourhood of some very praiseworthy qualities in the same individual. And hence, while religion appears to be divine in its origin and its tendency, we can easily discern that it is human in its residence and its exercise.
Secondly. We should leam to esteem and value imperfect goodness. Yea, an old divine goes further, and says, "We should love one another, not as saints but as sinners." Not that we are to love sin, or cease to reprove it This is not his meaning: but he would intimate, that we are to be tender and pitiful; that we are to consider ourselves, lest we also be tempted; that we are not to be indiscriminate in our censures, but to praise as far as we can; and that the strong are to bear the infirmities of the weak, and not please themselves. "For who hath despised the day of small things?" Behold "the Shepherd of Israel! he gathers the lambs with his arm, and carries them in his bosom, and gently leads those that are with young." Behold "the Lord mighty in battle! a bruised reed •hall he not break, and smoking flitx shall he not quench, till he send forth judgment unto victory." Behold the sufferer in the garden of Gethsemane! he compassionately apologizes for the infirmities of his followers: "What! could ye not watch with me one hour? the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak." "Be ye followers of him as dear children." Remember, " he loved Martha, as well as Mary and Lazarus."
But II. How did he love them? I answer —as a Friend—and as a Sayiour.
First Love is a passion of human nature. It shone forth in our Saviour with peculiar partiality. This is to be accounted for in the
congeniality peculiar to certain dispositions,
by which they immediately attract each other and unite. Though the humanity of our Lord was real, it was also sinless; and, as his mind was perfectly free from every improper bias, doubtless nothing engaged the preference of his regard but what was virtuous and of gcod report. The vicious, the sceptical, the worldly-minded, we may be assmed, had no charms for him, whatever were their accomplishments. There is one thing we may learn from this part of his example—it is, to justify the partiality of friendship. He would not have us to shut up our bowels of compassion against any of our fellow-creatures; for we are to do good as we have opportunity unto all men; but he teaches us by his own practice, that we are not bound to take every one into our bosom. We are at liberty to choose and select Our Lord regarded all the Apostles; but John is called "the disciple whom Jesus loved." He was kind to all his followers; but it is said, "now Jesus loved Martha, and her sister, and Lazarus." But to "know Christ after the flesh," and to enjoy his peculiar affection under the advantage of his human nature, was a privilege confined to few.
There is therefore, secondly, another sense in which he loved Martha, and Mary, and Lazarus, and in which also he has loved us. It is, with the divine love of a Saviour; a love which existed long before we had a being; a love which sprang from no excellency in us, but was entirely self-derived; a love not only the most undeserved, but the most costly and powerful. It led him to undertake our cause, to assume our nature, to suffer and die for us, "He bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we being dead to sin, might live unto righteousness: by whose stripes we are healed. Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends:" but he has discovered a greater: be laid down his life for enemies; he "died for the ungodly: while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us." The same love gave us the Gospel, called us by his grace, and pardoned all our sins, for his name's sake. And the same love will perform all our reasonable desires; make "all things work together for our good;" and "keep us by his power, through faith, unto salvation, ready to be revealed in the last time." But this leads us
III. To observe the manner in which he expressed his love to these three favoured individuals. Every thing is not recorded; but several circumstances are noticed, which will prove instructive and useful.
First He visited them. This interview was doubtless often refreshing to our Lord himself . While "foxes had holes, and the birds of the air had nests, the Son of man had not where to lay his head;" he had no house nor room of his own: and we have reason to believe, that sometimes at least, after preach