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SECTION XXIV. On improving Afflictions duly as a Means of Grace
. and Belief in the Gospel.
CELEBRATED 'divine *, on his recovery from a severe fit of sickness, is reported to have said, “ I have learned, under this sickness, to KNOW: SIN AND “ God.” He had studied divinity, during many years, with great attention; he had prayed and preached with great ardour; yet he acknowledges, that till the affliction of sickness visited him, he was unacquainted with those important subjects, SIN AND GOD; subjects which he had so frequently considered in private, and discours.ed upon before an admiring audience. .
It is good for me that I have been afflicted, said one, who had sinned egregiously in his prosperous days, and who was rendered wise by affliction.
Afflictions, if suffered to have their perfect work, will certainly become the means of grace, cause belief in the consolatory gospel, and ultimately lead to . salvation.
The wandering mind returns, like the prodigal song · when under the pressure of distress, to the bosom of its
father. The kind father goes forth to meet it on its return, and the interview happily terminates in perfect love and reconciliation. *
More have been convinced of the truth of Christianity by a severe illness, a great loss, a disappointment t, or
* Oecolampadius. ...
† Le moment de la GRACE, c'est une bumiliation qui Dieu vous: envoie, et qui vous eloigne du monde, parceque vous n'y pouvez plus paroitre avec honneur. C'est la disgrace d'un maitre a qui une lache coinplaisance vous faisoit en mille rencontres sacrifier les interets de votre conscience; le changement d'un ami dont le commerce trop frequent vous entrainoit dans le vice & vous y entretenoit. C'est une perte
the death of one whom the soul loved, than by all the defences, proofs, and apologies which have ever been produced in the most celebrated schools of theology. The heart was opened, and rendered soft and susceptible by sorrow, and the dew of divine grace enabled to find its way to the latent seeds of Christian virtue.
Such being the beneficial effect of afflictions, it is much to be lamented, that many will not suffer them to operate favourably on their dispositions, and thus counteract, by the good they may ultimately produce, the pain which they immediately inflict. They fly from solitude, they banish reflection. They drink the cup of intoxication, or seek the no less inebriating draft of dissipating pleasure. Thus they lose one of the most favourable opportunities of receiving those divine impressions which would give them COMFORT under their afflictions, such as the world cannot give; and afford them such conviction as would render them Christians indeed, and lead to all those beneficial consequences of faith, which are plainly represented in the scripture,
On Devotion-a Means, as well as an Effect, of Grace
, no sincere Religion can subsist without it.
M ANY theologists, who have written with the acuteness of an Aristotle, and the acrimony of a Juvėnal, against all sorts of infidels and heretics, in defence of Christianity, seem to have forgotten one very mate
de biens, une maladie, un chagrin domestique, ou etranger; ce sont des souffrances; tout, HORS Dieu, devient AMER; on ne trouve plus de consolation que dans lui; & rebute des choses humaines, on coma mence a GOUTER LES CHOSES DU CIEL. BRETONNEAU,
rial part of religion--that which consists of devotional sentiment, and the natural fervours of a sincere piety. Some of them seem to reprobate, and hold them in abhorrence. They inveigh against them as enthusiasm; they laugh at them as the cant of hypocrisy. Such men have the coldness of Bishop Butler, without the ingenuity; the contentious spirit of Dr. Bentley, without the wit or erudition. .
True religion cannot exist without a considerable degree of devotion. On what is true religion founded but on Love—the love of God, and the love of our neighbour? And with respect to the love of God, what says our Saviour? Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thine heart, with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength. No language can more expressly and emphatically describe the ardour of devotion. Out of the heart the mouth speaketh. If the heart feels the love of God, in the degree which our Saviour requires, the language of prayer and thanksgiring will be always glowing, and, on extraordinary occasions, even rapturous.
The effectual FERVENT prayer of a righteous man availeth much: if it be not fervent, it cannot be sincere, and therefore cannot be expected to avail. Love must add wings to prayer, to waft it to the throne of grace.
“ Man has a principle of love implanted in his nature, “ a magnetism of passion*,” by which he constantly attaches himself to that which appears to him good and beautiful; and what so good, what so beautiful, as the archetype and model of all excellence? Shall he con.ceive the image, and not be charmed with its loveliness?
Worship or adoration implies lively affection. If it. be cold, it is a mere mockery, a formal compliance with customs for the sake of decency. It is a lip-service, of
which knaves, hypocrites, and infidels are capable, and which they render, for the sake of temporal advantage.
Will any man condemn the ardour which the scriptures - themselves exhibit? Must they not be allowed to afford a model for imitation? And are they written in the cold, dull style of an academical professor, lecturing in the schools of divinity? No; they are written in warm, animated, metaphorical, and poetical language; not with the precision of the schoolmen; not with the dryness of system-makers; but with florid, rhetorical impassioned appeals to the feelings and imagination. What are PSALMs, but the ebullitions of passion, sorrow, joy, love, and gratitude?
The truth is, that the most important subject which can be considered by man must, if considered with seriousness and sincerity, excite a warm interest. The fire of devotion may not, indeed, be equably supported, because such equability is not consistent with the con
stitution of human nature; but it will, for the most part, - burn with a clear and steady flame, and will certainly, at no time, and in no circumstances, be utterly extin. guished.
Where the heart is deeply interested, there will be eagerness and agitation. Suppose a man, who speaks, in the church, of the Holy Ghost, and other most important religious subjects, with perfect sang froid, repairing to the Stock-exchange, and just going to make a purchase. The price fluctuates. Observe how he listens to his broker's reports. His cheeks redden, and his eyes sparkle. Here he is in earnest. Nature betrays his emotion. It is not uncharitable to conclude that his heart is literally with his treasure; and that with respect to the riches of divine grace, he values them little; and, like Gallio, careth for none of these things, View him again, at a great man's levee, and see with what awe he eyes a patron. His attention
approaches to adoration. He is tremblingly solicitous to please, and would undergo any painful restraint, rather than give the slightest offence. The world will not condemn, but applaud his anxiety; yet if he is" earnest and fervent, when his interest is infinitely greater, in securing the tranquillity of his mind, under all the changes and chances of life, he is despised as an enthusiast, a bigot, a fool, or a madman. . A man of sense and true Goodness will certainly take care not to make an ostentation of his devotional feelings; but at the same time he will beware of suppressing, in his endeavour to moderate and conceal them.
He will never forget, that the same sun which emits light, gives, at the same time, a genial heat, that enli. vens and cherishes all nature.
On Divine Attraction..
SHALL we believe our Saviour himself, or some -poor mortal, who has learned a little Greek, Latin, or Hebrew, and upon the strength of his scanty knowledge of those languages, and a Httle verbal criticism, picked up in the schools of an university, assumes the pen of a Controversialist, and denies the evident meaning of words plainly and emphatically spoken by Jesus Christ? Qur Saviour says, in language particularly direct, “No
man can come unto me, except the Father, which hath K sent mę, DRAW HIM,"
Faustus Regiensis, Wolzogenius, Brenius, Slichtingius, Sykes, Whitby, Clarke, and many others, endeavour to explain away the meaning of the word DRAW,