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THE CONDITION OF CHRISTIANS IN THE
St. John xvii. 15.
I pray not that thou shouldest take them out of the world,
but that thou sloouldest keep them from the evil.
HESE words were spoken by our Saviour, on a very memorable occasion ; an “ hour" unparralleled in the annals of time. “ Having loved “ his own which were in the world, he loved them "unto the end.” While he was with them, he had withheld no proof of his kindness and care. He gave them free access to his presence, he removed their doubts, he relieved their complaints, he bore with their infirmities. Such an intercourse of sacred friendship had endeared him to their affections, and rendered the profpect of separation inexpressibly painful. When the venerable Samuel died, “ all the Israelites were “ gathered together, and lamented him.” When the amiable friend of David fell“ on his high places,” the bleeding survivor said, “ I am distressed for thee, my « brother Jonathan; very pleasant hast thou been to “ me ; thy love to me was wonderful, passing the love
66 of women.” When Elisha beheld the reformer Elijah afcending, “ he cried, my father, my father, " the chariots of Israel, and the horsemen thereof." The case of the disciples was more peculiarly afflictive; and “ sorrow filled their hearts." Our Saviour was never deprived of self-possession ; in every state he had the full command of his powers; and even in the immediate view of his tremendous sufferings, he does not forget one circumstance which claims his attention. He thinks more of his disciples than of himself; he enters into their feelings; they were to remain behind, poor and despised; “ as sheep among wolves ;' as passengers in a vessel “ tossed by the waves." He will not leave them “ comfortless.” On the evening before his crucifixion, and a few moments before his agony, by the gate of the garden of Gethsemane, surrounded with his family, “he lifts up his eyes to “ heaven," and commends them into the hands of his « Father and our Father, his God and our God.” Do not say, my fellow-christians, this prayer was for the apostles; it was for them primarily, but not exclufively. Hear his own words ; 6 neither pray I for “ these ALONE, but for THEM ALSO which SHALL BE"LIEVE on me THROUGH THEIR WORD.” Thus it extends to all the followers of our Lord in every age, in every place; he prays for you; even for you; and this is his language; “I pray not that thou shouldest “ take them out of the world, but that thou shouldest “ keep them from the evil.”
From these words the following instructions may be derived. I. IT IS THE PROVINCE OF GOD TO TAKE US OUT OF THE WORLD. II. THIS WORLD IS
A PROPER SITUATION FOR THE RIGHTEOUS TO LIVE IN FOR A SEASON. III. THERE IS EVIL IN THE WORLD, TO WHICH THEY ARE EXPOSED, AND BY WHICH THEY MAY BE INJURED. IV. THE DIVINE PROTECTION IS ESSENTIAL TO THEIR SECURITY. V. IT IS ENCOURAGING TO REMEMBER THAT OUR LORD AND SAVIOUR PRAYS FOR OUR PRESERVATION.
I. IT IS THE PROVINCE OF GOD TO TAKE US OUT OF THE WORLD.
It is the obvious design of the Scripture to bring the mind into a pious frame, by inducing us to aca knowledge God in all our ways; to apprehend him in . every occurrence; to adore him in the field, as well as in the temple; to hold communion with him in his works, as well as in his word, in his dispensations, as well as in his ordinances. While our minds are perplexed and discomposed by beholding the mass of hu.' man affairs, and the perpetual fluctuations of worldly things; this blessed book tends us a principle, which when applied reduces the confusion to order, explains the mystery, satisfies and calms the inquirer. It teach. es us that nothing occurs by chance; it shews us the Supreme Being superintending the whole, “ seeing the "end from the beginning ;"66. working all things after 6 the counsel of his own will ;” advancing towards the execution of purposes worthy of himself, with steady, majestic steps; never turning aside ; never too precipitate ; never too flow. We see divine Providence fixing 6 the bounds of our habitation," and presiding over all the circumstances of our birth, and
our death. In our appointed time we appear; in the places designed for us we are dropped. When we have finished our course, and ended our work, “he , & fays, Return, ye children of men;" and it is not in the power of enemies to accelerate, or of friends to retard the period of our departure. “Is there not an “ appointed time to man upon earth ? are not his days 6 also like the days of an hireling ?” “His days are “ determined, the number of his months are with thee; " thou hast appointed his bounds that he cannot pass."
r. The righteous and the wise, and their works, are in “ the hand of God.” Does he “number the hairs 56 of your head," and not the years of your pilgrimage? Does “not a sparrow fall to the ground withtout your heavenly Father ?” and are ye not "of " more value than many fparrows?”
This world, we have reason to believe, was never designed fully to accomplish the purpose of God in the original creation of man. It was to precede a nobler Itate; and the mode of tranlition from glory to glory, would have been easy and delightful. But the passage is now become rough and dismaying. “By one man
fin entered into the world, and DEATH by sin; and “ so death hath passed upon all men, because all have " sinned.” It is not pleasing to human nature, to think of being taken out of” these bodies in which we have tabernacled ; “out of” these houses in which we have lived ; " out of” these circles in which we have moved; “out of” this "world,” in which we were born, and to which we have been so long accus. tomed ; to be laid hold of, and detached from all we
now enjoy, by the messengers of “the king of ter
rors ;'' to be divided ; to lie down and putrefy ; to enter a new and untried world. But irksome as the consideration may be, the christian cannot banish it from his thoughts; he endeavours especially in particular circumstances to render it familiar, and there are things which have a tendency to encourage his mind in the contemplation of it. : The enemy is disarmed of his sting; while 5 walking through the valley of the “ shadow of death,” God will be with him. The event is entirely under the controuling influence of his heavenly Father. How pleasing is the reflection; 66 Well; my times are in his hand. On him depend " the occurrences of my history, and the duration of “iny life. He is best qualified to judge of the scenes 6 through which I am to pass, and of the manner in “ which I am to leave the world, whether it be sud« den, or lingering; by accident, or disease ; alone, or 5 surrounded with friends in youth, or in age. It is " the Lord; let him do what seemeth him good.
. Have I been bereaved of beloved relations, and use“ful connections ? my soul hath it ftill in remem. < brance; but were they not his? He had a right to u do what he would with his own. He came and “ took them away, not as a thief, but as a proprietor. “He employed in the seizure not only power, but wil«dom and kindness.. What I know not now, I shall (* know hereafter. Behold he taketh away; who can « hinder him? Who will say unto him, what doeft
thou? I was dumb, I opened not my mouth, bei Scause thou didît it., He is the rock, his work is per