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offering to heaven, arise from the proper improvement of adversity, The blessed above, whom the prophet saw arrayed in white be
. fore the throne, came out of great tribulation ; they learned the first notes of the song of Moses and the lamb on a bed of sorrow.
Such is the intention of afflictions, which Providence sends; and even under these afflictions, God is with his people. You are ever under the hand of a merciful Creator, who does not afflict willingly, nor grieve the children of men. He knows your frame: he remembers that you are but dust; he will afflict you no further than you are able to bear; and as your days are, he has promised that your strength shall be. Nay, in all your afflictions he is present with you and the hand that bruised you, binds up the wound. Let not, then, your hearts despond—bear up under the pressure of wo—rejoice because the Lord reigneth—exult in the language of the prophet :- Although the fig-tree should not blossom, nor fruit be found in the vine; though the labor of the olive should fail, and the field should yield no meat; though the flocks should be cut of from the field, and there shall be no herd in the stall; yet will I rejoice in the Lord, and I will joy in the God of my salvation.
VIII. Finally, from all that has been said on this subject, we clearly see how much it concerns us to perform those duties which a proper regard to Providence requires, and to obtain protection from that power which directs and disposes all. There cannot be a sounder maxim than this, that if a man only devises his way, while God overrules his devices and directs his steps, an interest in the favor of God is far more important than all the wisdom and ability of man. Without his favor, the schemes and devices of the wisest will be disconcerted and baffled ; under his protection and guidance, the simple are led in a plain and sure path. In vain do the giddy and profane throw Providence out of their thoughts, and affect to think and act as if all depended upon themselves. This boldness of conceit and self-sufficiency is affectation, and nothing more. For there are seasons when the man of the most wicked and daring heart feels the strong subjection under which he is held, and would gladly grasp at heaven. As long as human affairs move on in a smooth train, without any alarming presages
of change or danger, the man of the world may remain pleased with himself, and be fully confident in his own powers. 'Under such circumstances, resting in self-complacency, he may not distrust his own abilities. But whose life continues long in a tranquil and prosperous state, undisturbed by the cares of life and by the upcertainty of human events? Let any uncommon violence shake the elements around him, and threaten him with destruction; let the aspect of public affairs be so lowering as to forbode some great calamity; or let some sudden change arise in his private concerns to shatter his fortune ; or let sickness, or the harbingers of approaching dissolution, show him his frailty ; and how ready will be then be to send prayers from the heart, that Providence would in
* terfere and relieve him? Religion, my brethren, is not a matter of
speculation ; its foundations are laid deep in the nature and constitution of man. It lays hold of every man's feelings. In every
man’s heart and conscience, it has many witnesses to its imporLes tance and reality. If we fail to make religion our sanctuary and
God our friend, we are in the most exposed and defenceless state ; and shall find, sooner or later, every other shield to be wholly ineffectual in defending us against the adversaries of life, and utterly useless in the solemn and trying hour of death.
Let us, then, use every means which may be effectual in procursi ing the grace and favor of that Divine Providence on which so
much depends. Let no duties be overlooked or neglected, which belong to us as the servants of God. Let us humbly and devoutly engage in his worship, pour forth the song of grateful praise for all his blessings. Let us trust in his goodness, and yield implicit submission to his will. Let us render a constant and cheerful obedience to his laws. Let us be thankful that God has clearly
made known to us what he requires, in order that we may be ac. here cepted in his sight; and that he has not only revealed the rule of
duty, but that he has also pointed out to us in the gospel, the di. rect method of reconciliation with him, through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Let us rejoice that Divine Providence has condescended to become our great instructor in this article ; has taught us in what way our sins may be forgiven, our imperfect services accepted, and an interest in the grace of God attained by means of our Redeemer. Let us remember how inexcusable we shall be if we wantonly cast all this offered grace and mercy under our feet. In a world so full of vicissitudes and uncertainty, let us secure to ourselves one resting place-one habitation that cannot be moved. By faith and penitence, by purity and a virtuous life, by prayer and supplication, let us seek the friendship of the Most High ; so shall he who directeth the steps of man, and doth all his pleasure, conduct our path in such a course as shall, in the end, bring us to immortality and eternal life.
The Rich Youth Forsaking Christ. " Then Jesus beholding him, loved him, and said unto bim, One thing thou lackest: go thy way, sell whatsoever thou hast and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, take up the cross, and follow me. And he was sad at that saying, and went away grieved : for he had great possessions.”—Mark x., 21, 22.
It is very difficult to ascertain the true character of a man till he has been tried. Those who are the most confident of their own powers, when they are called into action, frequently discover the greatest timidity ; and those who most dread a conflict, when once they actually engage in it, sometimes approve themselves the most steadfast and heroic. The vehement protestations of the fidelity of Peter to his Master, and his eagerness to walk upon the waves, might have gained him a reputation of undaunted courage and of invincible firmness, had he not been left to prove, by actual experiment, the weakness and inefficacy of his resolutions. The man who engaged to follow Jesus whithersoever he might go, began to waver in his determination, as soon as he was informed of the destitute condition of the Son of God. Penetrated with the persuasion that he could derive little benefit from one who had not where to lay his head, he determined to abandon him, even without an exexperiment. So the young man in our text might have passed for the most excellent of characters, had he not been brought to the touchstone, and suffered to manifest the true dispositions of his soul. Jesus Christ, doubtless, fully understood his true character; he, therefore, gave him a command by which his character was fully elicited and publicly disclosed.
I. In the elucidation of his conduct, we proceed to consider, in the first place, the injunction given him : Go thy way, sell whatsoever thou hast, and give to the poor : and come, take up the cross and follow me.
It must be confessed, that the command was very difficult to obey. He was a youth of opulence and rank; the sentiments he had imbibed, the hopes he had entertained, the habits he had formed, must all have rendered the command under consideration extremely hard and difficult to obey. The change proposed to him was, doubtless, irksome and arduous in the extreme. change wealth for poverty, prosperity for adversity, ease for trouble, honor for disgrace, homage for contempt; this was hard, extremely hard, for human nature to endure. It is a trial which few could stand-an ordeal which few could pass. Indeed, nothing but Almighty grace could qualify the heart of any man for such a work as this.
But this command, however difficult, was not unreasonable. God had given to him his existence and his powers; his riches and his
honors; and had he not a right to recall what he had merely lent ? Had he any just cause of complaint, if God, who, for a time, had elevated him above his fellow-creatures, should now reduce him to a level with the poorest of his people? Had not God the same right to disperse his wealth among the poor, as he before had to accumulate upon one single man ? Moreover, this sacrifice, which he was called to make, would contribute very much to the comfort of suffering humanity, and would ultimately return with a rich and abundant recompense into his own bosom.
Can this command, then, under such circumstances, be deemed unreasonable? Is it not what the whole mercantile world are glad to do, to sacrifice the temporary possession of their treasures, in the hope and prospect of far richer treasules in return? Every trading man in the universe acts upon this principle; and upon this principle, the most splendid fortunes have been accumulated.
Neither was this command, however difficult, singular. This young man was a Jew, and with his countrymen in general, gloried in being a descendant of Abraham, who was called out from his country and kindred, to go he knew not whither, to subsist he knew not how. He was well acquainted with this historical fact, and he also knew that Abraham never found occasion to repent of his self-denying obedience. He furthermore had, at this very moment, before his eyes, persons who had obeyed a similar call, and who could say, Lo, we have left all, and followed thee. And, in fact, though we are not called to the same act of obedience, we are called to manisest that spirit which would ensure the performance of this act, if, in the course of Divine Providence, we are called to it. Every true disciple of Jesus must renounce, whatever of temporal good God in his providence requires, and must also submit to every privation, to every trial and affliction, which he may be called to endure in the faithful discharge of his duty. Nor was there anything in the latter part of this injunction either unreasonable or singular. He came to Jesus for instruction, and he bade him to become a stated attendant on his ministry. In the discharge of this duty, he would, doubtless, have a cross to bear ; but, had not all his disciples to bear the same cross ? and had not Jesus a far heavier cross to bear than any of them, or than all of them together? Indeed, had not he come from heaven to bear the cross for them? Was it unreasonable for them that the disciple should be as his master, and the servant as his lord ?
Had this young man been really desirous of obtaining salvation, there was nothing in the injunction given him which did not deserve a cheerful and unreserved compliance. Moses, in the very prime and vigor of life, cast behind his back all the honors and all the treasures of Egypt, choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasure of sin for a season ; for he had respect unto the recompense of reward. And had this youth been animated by the same principles, had the honor of God
and a desire for his own salvation been as deeply rooted in his heart as they were in the heart of Moses, he would not have found the least difficulty in obeying the injunctions given to him.
II. But we shall have clearer views of this subject, in the second place, if we consider the peculiar reasons for the command under consideration. Our blessed Lord, in his reply to the young man, designed to discover to him the depravity of his own heart. This young man was ready to imagine, because he had not been guilty of any notorious breach of the commandments, that he had no ground of humiliation and contrition. In this he was most wofully deceived. Our Lord, had he pleased, might have convinced him of his error, by opening to him the spirituality of the law; he might have shown him how greatly me was mistaken in supposing that he had kept all the commandments from his youth up. But he took a shorter and a more convincing method: he gave him a specific charge, which was his indispensible duty to obey. By his reluctance to obey his command, our Lord showed him that his heart was not so much in unison with the law of God as he imagined, and that he was greatly deceived on this subject. He taught him, that if duty and interest should stand in competition with each other, he would prove as great a rebel as most fagrant transgressors.
Thus our Lord sought to counteract his pride and self-complacency, by leading him to manifest the worldliness and carnality of his heart. He demonstrated to him, in a most clear and convincing light, that his heart was not right in the sight of God, and that he loved and served the creature more than the Creator. Alas, what powerful obstacles the possession of riches throws in the way of our duty. The love of money is the root of all evil: let those, therefore, who have large possessions beware of their danger, and take the alarm. Let them remember that they are surrounded with snares and temptations, which require constant watchfulness and care. Let them see that it does not darken the understanding and warp the judgment, and dispose them to neglect the duties they owe to their own souls, and also to society around them.
He also designed to wean him from self-confidence and self-dependence, which seem to have gained great ascendency over his mind. This is evident by the question which the young man so confidently asked—What lack I yet? It seems, by this question, that he saw no defects in his obedience, and had no doubt of his acceptance with God, on account of that obedience. The drift of his original question, What shall I do, that I may inherit eternal life? seems to have been to this effect: “Master, 1 perceive that thou art a teacher sent from God, and that thou requirest of us something different from what I have been accustomed to bear or practice, be so kind, therefore, as to inform me what it is; for I would not willingly omit anything, whereby I may secure the salvation of my soul.” It appears, according this view of the