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support and shelter to one another: where one is cut down, as it happens with the trees of the forest, others, in proportion to their proximity, must suffer by the fall.
This world, besides, is a state of moral discipline; and it often happens, that a course of trials and afflictions is most conducive to our final happiness. We know not what is best for us, amidst: the shortness of our views and pettishness of froward appetites.* Many, who have coveted honour, and riches, and ease, have found them to be snares; and we know not, what effect they might have upon our tempers.—It pleased God to visit St. Paul with what he calls a thorn in thejlefi, some great and trying affliction. Feeling, like other men, he prayed for its removal: but the gracious
'pro bonis mala amplectimur, optamus contra id, quod optavimus, pugnant nostra vote cum votis, consilia cum consiliis. Seneca. Ep. 45.
inflicter, inflicter, to teach him patience, and, through him, to teach all future generations the same valuable virtue, revealed the beneficent tendency of the visitation. It was for his good: it tended to his moral improvement, and, in consequence of that, to the increase of his future reward. Here the venerable sufferer had nothing more to say: he submitted to the gracious discipline; and teaches us, by his example, the wisdom and necessity of resignation.
But how happy and full of comfort must a good man be, in this gloomiest season of distress! He has the consciousness of being at peace with God; he has a conscience either unstained by sin, or cleansed by the blood of Christ, and the tears of a sincere repentance; he has the consolations of the holy spirit, and the blefled hopes of immortality to support his fortitude.
True faith raises all the passions a
bove temporary accidents. —Well may
H3 the the poor deluded sinner, who confines all his hopes and desires within this narrow sphere, grieve, bewail, and abandon himself to despair, when his worldly comforts forsake him —■ They were his all; they are his portion and inheritance: they are the only goods, he knows or chooses to pursue. But a spiritual creature has higher views, higher purposes, and should have a superior elevation of soul, and look down upon the revolutions of this present life, as little transient events, in which the man of God is but in a lower degree concerned. A safe and quiet passage to the grave, is all he requires: his final interest lies beyond: and where his treasure is, there his heart habitually is, there his principal desires and hopes are fixed: other things move only in subordination to this higher view.
Many men, from motives of private ease and worldly prudence, have kept themselves from being too deeply interested
rested in the busy, noisy, tumultuous conflicts of life: the philosophic mind thinks it necessary to happiness to be abstracted from it, to hear its din and tumult at a safe distance, and to view the ruffled scene with sedate undisturbed indifference. And what shall we think then of the christian's choice and happiness, whose mind is capable of such an elevation, that he can look down upon life and all its temporary interests and evils with magnanimity and generous contempt?
Such christians have existed in every age of the church: such a man, every one may be, by a proper use of the instrumental duties of religion.
Whether faith be, as some make it, the cold deliberate assent of the mind upon a course of rational deduction, or, as others say, the effect of Divine Grace on an honest ingenuous heart, or rather whether there be not something of both, in its origin and progress; this is cerH 4 tain y tain; faith is but a dead principle, unless it be quickened and invigorated by frequent and habitual exercise in the various offices of religion.
And happy the man, (to return again from this digression) happy he, who studies to have this faith, this true victory, which overcomes h the world! He is prepared for all states, and all vicissitudes of fortune.
He considers himself as living under a Moral Governor, who is conducting man to future happiness, by the various methods of his present Providence. Living ever under a sense os his authority, he receives prosperity as his mercy with gratitude, and his visitations, as necessary remedies of his corruption, with humility and submission. Thus every thing assumes a chearful aspect around him. Disappointment, sickness, poverty, and other natural evils are considered by him as necessary in-? struments of future glory. Kept by