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look for such things, be diligent that ye may be found of him in peace, without spot, and blameless." Can you be indifferent to any of your actions, when they are recorded in the book of his remembrance, and will be published before an assembled world? What you are doing now you are doing for ever. It is a light thing to know how you are to be disposed of for a few months or a few years —What is to become of you when you go hence, and are seen no more! It signifies very little whether you class with the rich or the poor, the learned or the illiterate, the honourable or the despised. The question is —In what rank will you be found, when " before him shall be gathered all nations, and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats?" Will that trumpet call you to "lamentation, and mourning, and wo! or will its language be, "lift up your heads with joy, for your redemption draweth nigh V
He who will then be the Judge, is now the Saviour. He will then say to the wicked, * Depart"—but, blessed be his name, he does not say so now to any—His language is, "Come." "Come," says he; "come unto me, all ye that labour, and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest Him that cometh onto me I will in no wise cast out"
And this reminds me of another trumpet, of which Isaiah speaks in these striking words: "It shall come to pass in that day that the great trumpet shall be blown, and they shall come which were ready to perish in the land of Assyria, and the outcasts in the land of Egypt, and shall worship the Lord in the holy mount at Jerusalem." This trumpet you have heard. But, alas! how have you heard it? Has this "grace of God which bringeth salvation," taught you " to deny all ungodliness and worldly lusts, and to live soberly, and righteously, and godly, in the present world, looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ!" 0 let the judgment-trumpet awaken your attention to the Gospel-trumpet; and may the latter prepare you for the former! Amen.
RELIGIOUS THINGS, PLEASANT
(LORD'S DAY EVENING.)
Our holy and our beautiful house, -where our father* praise it thee, is burned up with fire: and all our pleasant things are laid •waste. Isaiah lxiv. 11.
Thus spake these pious Jews. And we may consider the words either as expressing an affliction, or as discovering a disposition.
The captivity had destroyed all their civil and sacred institutions. The temple was a magnificent building, endeared by a thousand claims; but now it exhibited to the passing eye only a scene of ruins—their "holy and beautiful house"—was burnt with fire. One circumstance could not fail to touch and impress their minds—it was the place " where their fathers praised him." What a veneration does an edifice acquire that has stood for ages the sanctuary of devotion, and in which successive generations have worshipped God! What a solemn thought is it, that we occupy seats once filled by those who have gone "the way of all the earth! The fathers, where are they? and the prophets, do they live for ever?" And we are "accomplishing, as an hireling, our day," and are making room for our children. Here they heard his word, called upon his name, sung his praise, offered up prayers and vows for us! Their example reproves and alarms us. They were alive m his service; does our devotion discover any degree of seriousness and fervour i Are we "followers of them who, through faith and patience, inherit the promises?" Shall we one day join our pious ancestors, "and sit down with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, in the kingdom of God?" Again: "All their pleasant things were laid waste"—the sacred utensils employed in the service of God; the ministers of the sanctuary; the altar, the table of showbread, the ark, the pot of manna, Aaron's rod tliat budded, the cloud of glory, their new moons and sabbaths, the callings of assemblies. This, to the pious among the Israelites, was a far greater affliction than the loss of all their temporal privileges. Their country was dear to them, but Jerusalem was dearer; and they "loved the gates of Zion better than all the dwelling-places of Jacob."
This affliction, blessed be God, is not ours. Our civil and religious privileges are still continued, and we hope, will pass down unimpaired to the latest posterity. But the words discover a disposition which will be found to harmonize with the feelings of all the people of God. I refer to the manner in whieh they speak of the service of God, and the exercises of devotion: "Our pleasant things." Hence, we observe, that the means of grace, the ordinances of religion, are, to the Israel of God, Pleasant Things.
And First, what are they?
In the number of their pleasant things, they include the sanctuary. To them the temple is not a prison, a place of confinement and correction; but it is the house of their heavenly Father, their "holy and beautiful house;" and beautiful because holy. "I was glad when they said unto me, let us go into the house of the Lord. For a day in thy courts is better than a thousand. I had rather be a door-keeper in the house of my God, How amiable are thy tabernacles, O Lord of Hosts!"
than to dwell in the tents of wickedness, i has done for their souls." These are some of
In the number of their "pleasant things," they include Sabbaths. To many indeed God's holy day is uninviting, and even irksome: they therefore cry out, "what a weariness it is to serve the Lord! when will the Sabbath be gone, that we may set forth wheat?" pursuing their gain, or finding their own pleasures. But the Christian "calls the Sabbath a delight, and considers the holy of the Lord honourable." To him it is a time of refreshing from the presence of the Lord; a weekly jubilee; and wearied with the toils, and follies, and vexations of the world, he hails a day of seclusion from it; a day that "brings him to God's holy mountain, and makes him joyful in his house of prayer—This is the day which the Lord hath made, we will rejoice and be glad in it"
And are not the Scriptures some of their "pleasant things!" Job could say, "I have esteemed the words of his mouth more than my necessary food." David could say, "More to be desired are they than gold, yea, than much find gold; sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb." Jeremiah could say, "Thy words were found, and I did eat them; and they were unto me the joy and rejoicing of my heart" It is the character of a good man, and the pledge of his blessedness: "his delight is in the law of the Lord, and in his law doth he meditate day and night; and he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper."
This too will apply to the preaching of the word. The Christian does not wish to be always hearing sermons, for he knows that every thing is beautiful in its season, and the claims of duty are numerous and various— but he values opportunities of hearing the glad tidings of salvation: he welcomes the message and the messenger, and exclaims, "How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things!" And though their trials be many, "and the Lord gives them the bread of adversity, and the water of affliction," yet they find an ample compensation and relief in this—that "their eyes behold their teachers, and their ears hear a voice behind them, saying, this is the way, walk ye in it, when they turn aside to the right hand, and when they tum to the left."
They find it a pleasant thing to approach God in prayer, and to "cnme before his presence with singing"—a pleasant thing to surround his table, and to refresh their minds with the memorials of a Saviour's dying love —a pleasant thing to be in the circle of pious friends, and to hear from their lips " what God
their " pleasant things."
Let us inquire, Secondly, how they become so Powerfully ATTHACTiVE! For it is certain that they are not so universally: by numbers they are not only neglected, but despised. Whence then do real Christians find them so pleasmg?
First, there is in them a suitableness to their dispositions. Thus we know music charms those who have an ear for it Money is a pleasant thing to the covetous; honour, to the ambitious; scandal, to the slanderous. In all these instances there is something that meets the taste; and that which gratifies always delights. So it is here. "That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit They that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh; but they that are after the Spirit, the things of the Spirit" The pleasure of the Christian does not depend upon persuasion—but inclination: he is not merely told that the provisions of the Gospel are good, but he has a spiritual relish. Since he is a "new creature," he has new appetites, and "hungersand thirsts afler righteousness."
Experience, however, is another source of this pleasure. We are attached to books which have afforded us peculiar satisfaction. The kindnesses of friends endear them. A spring, which in a scorching day, and when we were ready to expire, yielded us a refreshing supply, will be thought of with pleasure. The new-born babe is at first urged by a natural instinct, but afterwards it cries for the breast not only from a sense of want, but a sense of enjoyment So it is with the Christian. He has found these things to be good for him. Having "tasted that the Lord is gracious," his language is, "Evermore give us this bread! Many do not know what it is to enjoy God in the means of grace; they are not attached to ordinances, because they have derived no profit from them. But Christians have strikmg proofs of their beneficial influence in their own experience: they know that in keeping them there is great reward: they remember how they have been owned of God—at one time, by delivering their souls from the power of temptation—at another, by filling them with "all joy and peace in believing." Some seasons and exercises they can review with singular feeling. In these they were "abundantly satisfied with the fatness of his house:" they were made to "drink of the river of his pleasures. In his light they saw light" And the memory of these peculiar communications and discoveries makes them long with David "to see his power and his glory as they have seen him in the sanctuary!"
Continual need also renders them pleasant things. Though the Christian hopes the good work is begun in him, he feels how far it is from being complete. Hisdeficienciesare great and many. Something is lacking to his faith, his hope, his knowledge. Sometimes also he feels decays. His zeal cools into indifference. Earthly things sensualize his mind. He wants to have his convictions renewed; his impressions regenerated. And how are these deficiencies to be filled up; these decays to be repaired? Read the promise—" In all places where I record my Name, I will come unto thee, and I will bless thee. They that wait upon the Lord, shall renew their strength: they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run and not be weary, and walk and not feint" Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you.
Let us review what we have said—and learn,
First, TO JUSTIFY RELIGION FROM THE REPROACHES Of The World. The world pretends that the services which religion demands of us are all slavery and gloom; and they spread this evil report of the good land to check inquiries, especially the young. But if you are willing to enter in, "let no man's heart fail him!" The Scripture assures us that " her ways are ways of pleasantness, and all her paths are peace." And "wisdom is justified of all her children." Those who have tried (and these are the only competent witnesses), instead of complaining of bondage, find the Saviour's service to be perfect freedom, and own—especially compared with the yoke of their old master—that "his commandments are not grievous."
Secondly. Let Us Try Ourselves By This Rule. A man may want assurance, and still be in a state of safety; but if he be habitually a stranger to pleasure in divine things, and can pass through all the services of religion as a mere formalist, it is an awful proof that "he has no part nor lot in the matter: his heart is not right in the sight of God." A number of speculative opinions, cold ceremonies, cheap moralities, in which the affections have no share, can never be a substitute for real devotion. "The Lord looketh to the heart" He does not value those exercises which are performed from necessity; unwillingly, grudgingly. He abhors the sacrifices of those who are glad of excuses to keep them from his worship; who would be thankful were he entirely to dispense with their services; who feel him as a task-master while they are performing the drudgery of his work. The question is—Are spiritual things your "pleasant things?" If not, you are destitute of the mark of a real Christian, and you have a poor prospect before you in eternity. God will not force you into heaven to make you miserable; but miserable you would be, even in heaven, in your present state. The nature and duration of its employments—an eternal sabbath—a temple in which ynu shall serve
him day and night—an intercourse only with those who are perfectly pure and holy—all this would be intolerable to an unrenewed mind, who is "saying to God, depart from us, we desire not the knowledge of thy ways."
Thirdly. What an affliction do Christians sustain when they are Deprived Of Their "Pleasant Things!" This may be done two ways. First, by the removal of these privileges from them. Thus persecution has sometimes forbidden them to assemble together, and has silenced their preachers, destroyed their sanctuaries, and banished all religious ordinances from a neighbourhood. God sometimes inflicts his judgments upon a place for neglect and abuse of Gospel privileges. He can send a more dreadful dearth than a " famine of bread," even "a famine of hearing the word ul'the Lord." He can as easily convey an evangelical ministry from one country to another, as we can carry a candle from one room into another:—" I will remove thy candlestick out of his place, except thou repent" Or, secondly, by removing Christians from these privileges. Thus business may call them away from a favoured situation, accidents or sickness may detain them prisoners from the courts of the Lord. And though in these cases he does not leave them comfortless, still they feel their loss, and can say, "When I remember these things, I pour out my soul in me: for I had gone with the multitude, I went with them to the house of God, with the voice of joy and praise, with a multitude that kept holy day."
Let us, Fourthly, be very Thankful That
THESE "PLEASANT THINGS" ARE WITHIN OUR
Reach—that we have been so long favoured with them—that we have them in so rich an abundance—that we have liberty to partake of them—and strength to go forth and enjoy them:—surely "the lines are fallen to us in pleasant places; yea, we have a goodly heritage. Let us enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise." And Finally, Let Us Raise Our Thoughts
AND DESIRES AFTER THE " PLEASANT THINGS"
Of Heayen. Philip Henry often said, when he had finished the delightful exercises of the Sabbath, "Well, if this be not the way to heaven, I know not what is." Yes, these are introductory to the glory that shall be revealed: they are foretastes to endear it, and earnests to insure it And when you come to die—if you can say, in sincerity, "Lord, I have loved the habitation of thy house, and the place where thy honour dwelleth"—you may plead with confidence, "Gather not my soul with sinners, nor my life with bloody men." No: he will not gather you, in eternity, with those you never loved in time. Bemg let go, you shall join your own company, and be for "ever with the Lord."—And if the streams be so sweet, what will the fountain be ?" In his presence there tifidness of joy, and at his right hand there are pleasures for evermore.'" Let us sing—
.* These are the joys he lets us know,
But keeps his noblest feast above.
"In paradise, within the gates,
NEARNESS TO THE CROSS.
JVbw there stood by the cross of Jesus hie mother, and hit mother's sister, Mary the wife of Cleophas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus therefore saw his mother, and the disciple standing by, whom he loved, he saith unto his mother, Woman, behold thy son! Then saith he to the ilisciple. Behold thy mother! And from that hour that disciple took her unto his own home.—John xix. 25—27.
This is one of the most remarkable passages in the history of our Saviour's passion. The language is peculiarly simple and affecting. The scene is exquisitely tender. The characters are in the llighest degree interesting; and the circumstances in which they are placed, altogether new and wonderful. O for a class of feelings becoming the subject! Let us fix our minds on three things. I. The
SITUATION OF THE MOTHER. II. The ADDRESS
Of The Sayiour. III. The Obedience Of
Women are more than once brought forward in the Gospel, and the notice taken of them is always to their honour. Thus, while others have forsaken him and fled, we here find three females rising above the fears of their sex, braving the horrors of the execution, piercing through the crowd, and approaching the foot of the cross—there to testify their sympathy with their suffering Lord —to show how willing they are to die with him—to admire his patience and his meekness—and to secure his dying words. "Now there stood by the cross of Jesus his mother, and his mother's sister, Mary the wife of Cleophas, and Mary Magdalene." What were the feelings of these three Marys!
I. The MOTHER OF OUR LORD IN THIS
(situation demands a larger share of our notice. I admire in her the efficacy of Divine grace. She is able to stand near the cross; she does not faint away and drop down. She keeps her feelings within due bounds. Here are no outrageous exclamations, no bitter complaints flung at Heaven for not avenging him of his adversaries, no imprecations on his
murderers, no rending of garments, no wringing of hands, no plucking of the hair! She feels as a mother, she endures as a Christian; and, submitting to the mysterious designs of Providence, suffers with all the dignity of an angel.
The people of God know not what they can bear, till they are tried. When the "time of need" comes, then comes " the grace to help," and it is always found to be sufficient for them. I shall never despair of the support of a Christian, in any situation, however distressing, after beholding Mary standing near the cross of her dying son. Ye tender mothers, who may be called to part with beloved children! remember, religion allows you to feel, but forbids you to faint You are not to be swallowed up of over-much sorrow, but to preserve a calm of mind favourable to the exercises of reason and of grace. You are to endeavour to say, "It is the Lord, let him do what seemeth him good: the Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away, and blessed be the name of the Lord." Think of Mary, and say —" What can my affliction be, compared with hers!"
For who can adequately imagine her an
fuish! When old Simeon saw the infant lessiah, he said to his mother, "Yea, and a sword shall pierce through thy own soul also!" And now the prediction is accomplished.—Oh! to see her son enduring such a death! Suspended in torture! Oh! bow would she agonize when she saw the nails driven through his hands and feet! And then for such a son to endure all this extreme of anguish!—a child foretold by prophets, announced by angels—all goodness, excellency, perfection!—who had never displeased her, but endeared himself by every word, by every action!—A child, the glory of her house, the consolation of her age—for to crown all, she was now a widow! Joseph her husband was dead—but Jesus her son was yet alive, and in his power and kindness she was sure to find a resource. But now her remaining prop is struck away, and her "only coal in Israel is quenched!" And she is to be thrown out, a bereaved, exposed, helpless, penny less widow, upon a selfish, unfeeling, cruel world!
II. In such a condition, and with such prospects, she attracts the eye of our Lord; and He Speaks. He addresses her in a manner suited to her trying circumstances. "When Jesus therefore saw his mother, and the disciple standing by, whom he loved—be saith unto his mother—Woman, Behold thy son!" Though I die, there is one who will discharge the filial office; who will guard, and nourish, and provide for thee—Behold thy son! Then saith he to the disciple—" Behold thy mother! Receive her—not as a pauper, or a mere pensioner on thy bounty, but regard her, as you would the tenderest of all connexions—Behold thy mother!"
This is very instructive. It reminds us, first, of the indigence of our Lord and Saviour. Many talk of poverty, but he icns poor. In ordinary cases he was sustained by alms; in extraordinary ones, by miracles. When he came to die, he had no personal property, no landed estate to leave. All he had to bequeath was his wearing apparel; and even this never came to his mother. "They parted his raiment among them, and for his vesture did they cast lots: these things therefore the soldiers did."
What becomes then of riches? Are we such fools as to fall down and worship this idol of general adoration? Does money produce—does it imply—worth? A man may be an apostle, and be moneyless. "Silver and gold have I none," says Peter. "Foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests, but' the Son of man hath not where to lay his head"—yet he was "the brightness of the Father's glory, and the express image of his person!"—But, alas! all this will not keep numbers from thinking money the essence of all excellency. Money can add charms to ugliness: money can transform wrinkles into youth: money can fill brainless heads with wisdom, and render nonsense oracular: money can turn meanness into virtue; and, falling like snow, can cover a dunghill, and give it the appearance of whiteness and innocency!
Behold, secondly, an instance of the Divine goodness, which ought to encourage the poor and needy. When one comfort is withdrawn, another is furnished. When Jesus is removed, John is raised up. A Christian should never despair. Our heavenly Father has more than one way of providing for his children. His resources are innumerable and inexhaustible.
"O fear the Lord, all ye his saints; for there is no want to them that fear him: the young lions do lack and suffer hunger; but they that seek the Lord shall not want any good thing." Let those who are dying without wealth, and have nothing to leave behind them, hear him saying, " Leave thy fatherless children; I will preserve them alive: and let thy widows trust in me." Let those who fear that by bereavement they shall be reduced and impoverished, say, with David, "When my father and my mother forsake me, then the Lord will take me up. In him the fatherless findeth mercy."
Thirdly, we learn that we should endeavour to be useful, not only living, but dying. We see the Saviour attentive to the duty of every season, and every circumstance. Never so occupied, even by his sufferings, as to forget others: he dies as he had lived; and not only when "going about," but even when nailed to the cross, we behold him—" doing
A Christian, if he has not done it before, should now "set his house in order." He should arrange his affairs, and dispose of his
effects, and secure guardians for his children —so as norto occasion perplexity and discord after his decease. He should be also attentive to the spiritual improvement of those around him. If able to speak, he should recommend the Saviour, and speak well of his ways. Dying words are impressive. This is the last time you can do any thing for your generation. "By faith Jacob, when he was dying, blessed both the sons of Joseph, and worshipped, leaning upon the top of his staff" "Now the days of David drew nigh that he should die; and he charged Solomon his son, saying, I go the way of all the earth: be thou strong therefore, and show thyself a man; and keep the charge of the Lord thy God, to walk in his ways, to keep his statutes, and his commandments, and his judgments, and his testimonies, as it is wriiten in the law of Moses, that thou mayest prosper in all that thou doest, and whithersoever thou turnest thyself." Mr. Bolton said to his children, who stood around his dying bed, " See that none of you meet me in an unconverted state at the day of judgment," Dr. Rivet said, in his last illness, "Let all who come to inquire after my welfare be allowed to see me: I ought to be an example in death as well as in life."
Fourthly. A lesson of filial piety is clearly deducible from this subject Children are under an obligation to succour and relieve their parents according to their ability. And this is not to be considered as charity, so much as common justice. The Apostle therefore calls it a requiting:—" Let them requite their parents." I admire the disposition of David, who, when wandering from place to place, seemed regardless of himself, if he could provide a safe and comfortable situation for his father and mother: "He went to Mizpeh of Moab: and he said unto the king of Moak, Let my father and my mother, I pray thee, come forth and be with you, till I know what God will do for me." I admire still more David's Son and David's Lord, who, even in the agony of crucifixion, commends his poor mother to the care of the beloved disciple.
And here you ask—but why did he this! Could he not have provided for her himself? —He who turned water into wine, and made a few loaves sufficient to feed a whole multitude—could not he have furnished means for the subsistence of a destitute mother T Behold, in answer to this, another reflectionHe does not needlessly work miracles. The manna which followed the Israelites in the wilderness ceased as soon as they could provide themselves with the corn of the land. He generally fulfils his kind designs by common means, and in the established course of things. His care extends to the poor as well as to the rich. He has made the rich stewards, but not proprietors: he has given them an abundance, not to hoard up, but to expend