Imágenes de páginas


had many comforts and few sorrows, considered themselves so too. I have been taught to consider God as the All-wise Disposer of events, and to trace the hand of his Providence in the daily occurrences of life; and have supposed that it was as general for people to receive blessings with gratitude, and afflictions with resignation, as to attend to any other religious duties. How, then, am I surprised and disappointed, upon entering into the world, to find that I have been mistaken! It is a source of serious grief to me, to observe how great a spirit of discontent exists in minds which ought to be the abode of peace and gratitude. I have recently had peculiar opportunities of observing its baneful effects; and being extremely desirous that all, and particularly young people, should be warned against encou» raging so great an evil, I venture to offer a few remarks, tending to set forth the value of a grateful, contented disposition.

The praises of a contented disposition are sounded by people who are little aware of its highest value; who little understand the source from whence it should flow, or the ends to which it should be made subservient; and whose meaning would, perhaps, be better expressed by the term thoughtlessness, or apathy. I desire, therefore, to make myself clearly understood as to the kind of disposition I would so strongly recommend. I wish my readers to distinguish between that self-complacency with which the worldling would say to himself, "Soul, take thine ease; eat, drink, and be merry;" and that happy state of mind which Habakkuk enjoyed when he declared, that, however adverse worldly circumstances might prove, yet" he would rejoice in the Lord; he would joy in the God of his salvation." Among the numerous disorders to which the human mind is subject, there is perhaps not one

so fatal to its happiness as a discontented temper. It poisons every source of rational enjoyment, and casts a gloom over the fairest pros spects of life. Not contented with magnifying trifling inconveniences into serious trials, it deprives blessings of their value, and "shades with sorrow, what with smiles should glow." But to speak of it as destructive to worldly happiness alone, is to bestow upon it a very small part of the censure it deserves: it is much to be feared, that whoever suffers his mind to be imbued with this temper, is very little un der the guidance of that religion which enjoins us "in every thing to give thanks."

Senex is surrounded by social comfort and domestic blessings, and possesses a share of health and vigour more than common to pers sons of his age. "Tis true the buoyant spirits and the activity of youth are fled, and he must now resign to more nervous limbs those employments and recreations in which he once delighted. These deprivations, trifling as they are, compared with those that other aged persons endure, are converted, by the discontented temper of Senex, into sources of continual dis quietude. Regret for blessings that are past, makes him look with an eye of indifference on those which remain, and neglect the talents he has yet to improve. Though the hand of old age lies so lightly upon him, he seems to consider it an insupportable burden. In every transient pain, in every uncomfortable sensation, he sees the seeds of some distressing disease, that is to carry him through a long course of suffering to the tomb. This frame of mind accom panies him through the daily walk of life, and renders every circum stance a cause for dissatisfaction. Thus does he waste the time which for him is so soon to be no more; thus does he trample under foot those blessings, of the use or abuse

of which he is so soon to give an account. O Senex, be persuaded to lay aside these fruitless cares, these restless anxieties :· submit with humility and gratitude to that Being who has led you through a long life of health and comfort, and who still: "daily loadeth you with benefits." With all your care and anxiety, you will not mitigate the sufferings of old age, nor delay the approach of death. Be assured, God's holy will will be done in you; let it therefore be your care that it is done by you, by gratefully enjoying or patiently suffering the blessings or trials it is his wisdom to dispense.

Flavia is placed in a situation of life, as free from real evil, and abounding as much in valuable blessings, as any this. imperfect state affords. The pleasures of social and the endearments of domestic life are continually before her, and she possesses the power and opportunity of being useful to her fellow-creatures in an eminent degree. These blessings, though of such high value, she seem's scarcely to consider as such, whilst, in the petty cares which every mistress of a family must experience, and indeed in almost every occurrence, she finds subject for murmuring and discontent. Turning aside from the pleasant path marked out for her by Providence, she entangles herself (if I may be allowed the metaphor) in the briers and brambles which were intended only to keep her in the right way, and to remind her that she is not yet arrived at that country where the rose shall blossom without a thorn.

Alas, how widely does this differ from Christian perfection! How might these characters glorify God, and increase their own happiness, would they but conform themselves to the precepts of that religion "whose ways are ways of pleasantness, and all whose paths are peace!" Strangers, as they must be,

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

to that calm serenity, that heartfelt joy, which he alone enjoys who in the daily occurrences of life traces the hand of a wise and beneficent Providence, where can they turn for comfert, to whom apply for consolation? From the restless anxiety and dissatisfaction they evince, we feel inclined to ask them, in the words of an eminent divine, "When do you begin to permit God to govern the world?" Had the Almighty delegated to them the office of ordering the events of their life, and conducting the course of nature as far as it relates to themselves, their embarrassment and discontent could hardly be greater; and then, indeed, it would be natural and unavoidable. But, as it is, acknowledging, as they do, an Allwise Governor of the world, and professing to believe that Book which assures us, not a sparrow falleth to the ground without his knowledge; how inconsistent, how blind to their duty and interest, do they shew themselves! Perhaps they say that it would be presumptuous to suppose that a Being so high in majesty and glory as Jevovab, should condescend to attend to the petty concerns of such mean creatures as they are. But this they know to be an idle excuse, a vague assertion. Let them rather reflect with comfort, that, though the Almighty is "the high and lofty One that inhabiteth eternity;" though "He rideth upon the circle of the earth, and the inhabitants thereof are as grashoppers;" though before Him

[ocr errors]

the nations are as a drop in the bucket, and the small dust of the balance;" yet "his eyes are over the righteous, and his ears are open to their prayers." Let them assure themselves, that the of Omniscience is "about their bed, and about their ways;" that he marks the gloomy countenance, the tone of impatience, the sigh of discontent; and will require an


[ocr errors]

account of moments spent in fruitless regret or impious distrust, which might have borne to heaven some tribute of praise or token of meek submission.

The Christian, who knows that to love God is his highest happiness, as well as duty, will be anxious fully to appreciate every blessing he possesses, in order that the gratitude he feels for them may continually increase his divine love. The peculiar advantages of his situation in life, the opportunities he may have of being useful to his fellow-creatures, and his mental endowments, will be the subjects of continual thankfulness. But it is not alone the signal instances of God's goodness that will raise his gratitude, and inspire his love: in "the narrow sphere of sweet domestic comfort," he will look around, and see innumerable blessings which call for his acknowledgment and improvement. Trifling as they may be in themselves, they will be sweet to him; for he will enjoy them for the sake of the Giver, and he will feel how much greater they are than he deserves. The content and satisfaction which will then be diffused over the soul, will give cheerfulness to his demeanour, pleasantness to his temper, and activity to his kindness. He will be desirous that others should share the happiness he enjoys and thus will he shew forth, in his life, the praise that ever hangs upon his lips. When it shall please Providence to resume his gifts, he will not murmur or repine, but will patiently dismiss them, happy in the reflection, that they have in some measure answered their intended purpose; and that, at the great day of account, they will appear as so many witnesses to bear testimony to the faithfulness of his stewardship. Even under severe afflictions his contentment will not forsake him, for he will know that they are only blessings in a rougher guise; he will still possess the means of grace and hopes of

glory ;" and these he will consider pearls of so great a price, that he will willingly relinquish any thing to secure them. Thus cheering, thus smooth, is the path of Christian holiness. Thus peaceful is his mind whose constant aim it is both to do and suffer the will of his heavenly Father. Unharassed by doubt and distrust, he can take a calm survey of the objects of time and sense, and he finds them unworthy to disturb the tranquillity or engross the powers of a soul formed for heaven and immortality.

Oh, you, whose tempers are yet unfixed, whose minds are yet susceptible of the emotions of gratitude, endeavour to maintain within yourselves this happy disposition. Then will you find comfort and satisfaction in whatever station you are placed. As you proceed on your journey through life, you will cull with pleasure the flowers which a kind Providence strews in your way; and, when your path is rugged and perplexed with thorns, the steady arm of faith shall support and guide you, whilst

Hope shall point to distant years, Fair op'ning through this vale of tears A vista to the sky.


FAMILY SERMONS. No. LXXV. Acts xi. 24.-He was a good man. No expression is employed with more various meaning than that of the text he is a good-man." Sometimes you hear the title applied to a man who, without having the least religion, is benevolent: sometimes to him who, without being even benevolent, is goodtempered: sometimes to him who, without possessing any other good quality, is just. Often, when persons have been stating some such fault in the conduct of another as plainly condemns him in the sight of God, you hear them conclude the statement by saying, “I believe him, however, to be a good man."

Now, if such language had merely the effect of rendering us more charitable to others, the abuse of language might be less condemned for the sake of the practical benefits arising from it. But the fact is, that such low estimates of goodness have the effect of confounding good and evil; of destroying the serip. tural standard of right and wrong; of leading us to view in ourselves and others, without any feelings of indignation or regret, vices which it is essential to our safety to subdue. If we deem ourselves or others sufficiently "good," it is obvious that we shall attempt nothing for their improvement or for our own. But, amidst this variety of opinion, how are we to decide who is really the good man? There is only one means, an appeal to some common standard; to some Judge, in whose decision all parties will be disposed to acquiesce. And such a standard I may venture to say is the Bible, and such a Judge is God Almighty. Now, turn to the text. Here is a person who is said, by God himself, to have been a good man." Let us then examine the conduct and character of Barnabas, who is the person thus described, and we shall at once discover to what class of men the description really applies. There are five distinct circumstances in the history of Barnabas which are worthy of notice, and these I shall proceed to point out.

Ghost. And with this sentiment
the general doctrine of the Bible
accords. It teaches, that no man
is esteemed good in the sight of
God, who is not thus influenced by
his Spirit. "Except (it says) a man
is born again of the Spirit, he ean-
not enter into the kingdom of
God"-" except ye be converted
(or changed by the Holy Spirit),
ye cannot enter in the kingdom of
God"-" if any man has not the
spirit of Christ, he is none of his"-


as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God.” You see, then, that the first feature of the " good man" of the Scriptures is, that he is influenced my the Spirit of God; that his understanding is enlightened; that his nature is renewed; that his heart is sanctified; that his conduct is governed by a power without and beyond himself a power not human, but Divine. How, then, my brethren, allow me to ask, can that man be really "good," who, though possessed of many amiable qualities, is plainly not under the influence of the Holy Spirit-perhaps denies all such influence; or undervalues it; or neglects all the means of grace, to the use of which the gift of the Holy Spirit is promised? He may possibly be amiable, may be gentle, may be benevolent; but he is not "good"-he has not that "holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord." How emphatic is the description of Barnabas!" He was full of the HolyGhost;"an expression which, had it been employed by man, had at least bordered upon blasphemyan expression conveying the idea that every motive, wish, principle, taste, desire of the heart, was so occupied by a heavenly influence, as to exclude every other; that, as the Shechinah, the cloud of the Divine presence, descended and ex-filled the temple, so God had descended, and made the body of Barnabas the temple of the Holy Ghost. Mysterious, indeed, is such language, but full of comfort

1. In the first place, he is described in the words immediately following the text, as a man “full of the Holy Ghost.This expression cannot, of course, apply merely to his power of working miracles, because many bad men possessed that power in common with himself. Many," it is said, "shall say, In thy name have we cast out devils;" to whom Christ will reply, "I never knew you." The pression, therefore, extends to the ordinary gifts of the Spirit-to the change and sanctification of the heart by the influences of the Holy


to the devout mind. May it teach us to pray, in the language of our Church," Cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of thy Holy Spirit, that we may perfectly love thee, and worthily magnify thy holy Name!".

2. A second feature pointed out in the character of Barnabas is, that he "was (also) full of faith"— "a good man, full of the Holy Ghost and of faith."-The Holy Spirit does not act upon men as though they were machines. God has given us reason, and memory, and many affections and passions of the mind; and it is upon these the Holy Spirit acts. God has especially given us a power, under the blessed influence of his Spirit, to believe or reject certain truths; and the belief of the truths he teaches is, in the Scriptures, called "faith." Barnabas, then, was full of faith; full, that is, of a new belief, communicated by God, which, as a master-principle, guided and controuled every action of his life. If you look into the history of mankind, you will find that a man can scarcely believe in any new truth or fact without its producing some change in his conduct. Much less, then, can his faith be unproductive when he either believes in general the doctrines of the Gospel, or the single fact, that the Son of God died for the sins of the world. Such a faith must produce a powerful effect upon his character. Now, of this living, practical "faith," Barnabas was "full." He believed, that is, in the whole revelation of God. He believed there was a God; the Maker, the Father, the Righteous Governor of the universe, to whom all beings should answer for the deeds done in the body. He believed that the wicked should finally go away into everlasting punishment, and the righteous into life eternal. He believed that the world on which he now stood, would soon be shaken to its foundation; but be looked H

of spirits a world of inconceivable joy and splendour, lighted by a sun which never goes down, and watered by that river which "makes glad the city of God." He believed, also, that the Son of God was the Lamb who had died for the sins of the world. And, amidst all the perplexities and calamities of life, he looked forward to a state where his unceasing employment and privilege should be to ascribe honour, and glory, and dominion to Him that sitteth on the throne, and to the Lamb for ever and ever. Here, then, was a faith which so enlarged and changed his views, that it evidently constituted the main feature of his character. It was the fountainhead of his actions, tempers, and desires. It was the good principle which formed the "good man.' But, if this was the case, what right have we to call him " good" who is wholly wanting in this principle; who, perhaps, suspects or despises it; who, perhaps, little concerns himself with what he is to believe; who, perhaps, does not read the book in which his faith is to be formed; who adopts the creed which he finds in his family, or in his neighbourhood, or which is suited to his interest and his pleasures. Surely if the good man of the Bible was "full of faith"so exclusively occupied by it, that no other motive or principle deserved to be named with it--if the "good man" of the Scriptures was "full" of this, he cannot be "good" who does not possess it, and will not seek it. Here, also, then, may we be led to pray, Lord, we believe; help thou our unbelief."

[ocr errors]

3. A third feature in the character of Barnabas was, that religion was the business of his life, and, I may add, the joy of his heart. Of the time, thought, and labour which he dedicated to religion, the whole book of Acts is one great monument; and as to the joy with which he contemplated its growing interests, the verse

to world hefore my text may he taken as an

« AnteriorContinuar »