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THE CURSED AND THE BLESSED.
saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners." There he fixes his hopes; there he casts the anchor of his soul. In the flesh he has " no confidence ;” but in God “ made flesh”—God in Christ reconciling the world unto himself-in this almighty Saviour he does put his entire and unreserved confidence. Christ crucified is his staff and stay. Great as his sins appear to him, yet a believing look towards that Saviour sets his fears at rest, and assures him that “where sin abounded grace did much more abound." In Christ's righteousness, wrought out for sinners, he wraps himself as in a garment, assured that being thus clothed, he shall not be found naked at the Lord's coming. His confidence in God extends to everything. Having trusted God for the salvation of his soul, he trusts him also for every other blessing. The Lord is his Comforter and Counsellor, his Instructor and his Guide. If he “lack wisdom,” he asks God for it. * If he be in trouble, he spreads his case before his Father.* If he want refreshment, he seeks it in God's book and at God's hand. If cares be on his mind, he casts his “burden on the Lord.”I If trials be appointed him, he submits to the Lord's will, and feels assured that all things are working together for his good. If mercies be delayed, he tarries the Lord's time, and believes that it is the best.
Such is this man's character. Hear what God says concerning him. Happy man, of whom the Lord writes “ blessed!” The Lord found a likeness for the first man in the withered “heath of the desert.” He finds also a likeness for this man. “He shall be as a tree planted by the waters, and that spreadeth out her roots by the river." Can there be a more refreshing sight than this? How strikingly does it show the happiness of the believer as compared with the prospect of the worldly self-righteous man! There is no lack of moisture where the tree is planted by the waters; nor is there any lack of comfort and refreshment to the man who is watered by the Spirit of God. These spiritual waters ever flow-never fail; and he who trusts in God shall never want their consolation. The tree is also well rooted; she “spreadeth out her roots by the river." So rooted and grounded is the man “whose hope the Lord is.” Who can pluck him from the hands of Christ?ll “I will strengthen thee,” says God, “ yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness." I
The tree, moreover, “ shall not see when heat cometh, and shall not be careful in the year of drought." Why? Look at the stream of water at its foot. It may bid defiance to heat and drought. The poor plant of the desert may wither under the sun, but this tree's “ leaf shall be green." So is it with + Jas. i. 5. + 2 Kings xix. 14. Psa. lv. 22. Rom. viii. 28. John X. 28. Isa. xli. 10. the man whose trust is " in the Lord.” The hot sun of persecution and affliction shall not scorch him. He shall still bear the green leaf of cheerfulness and peace amidst all that Satan or the world can do to blast or wither him. Until the river of God's grace can be dried up, he has a joy which “no man taketh from him." But that river of God is “ full of water."* The consolations of the Spirit are not to be exhausted. The believer, therefore, is not “ careful in the year of drought." When all is dry and dreary with the men of this world, he does not fear lest the sources of his hope should be cut off. These are “in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life."* And how green shall his leaf look in the day when every other shall be “twice dead, plucked up by the roots!”
Also, the tree is a fruitful one. However dry the plains around it, yet, planted by the river's brink, it ceases not " from yielding fruit." Such also is the believer. Strengthened by the Spirit of God, he is no barren tree, no cumberer of the ground. Nor is it at certain times and seasons only that he loves and serves his Father, and brings forth the fruits of the Spirit. No; every season is his working season. The Lord, who has wrought all his works in him, makes him to be never “barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge" of his Saviour.§ One duty is followed closely by another, and his life is a continual showing forth of the graces of the Spirit. The world may be dry and barren around him; that does not check his fruitfulness, which springs from a hidden principle of life within, such as the world knows not. Let the world be what it will, he works by love; he mortifies the body with its affections and lusts ; he is meek and lowly, patient and forgiving, “ gentle, and easy to be intreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy.”ll
This fruitfulness is one of the believer's blessings. It is not the cause of the Lord's blessing him, but the consequence. He is blessed because he puts his trust in God the Saviour; and holiness is one of the blessings which his faith procures. Yes; it is the true believer's highest pleasure to be fruitful in good works. He has great delight in God's commandments. He loves to be active in his Saviour's service. He is only grieved to feel that all his works are so polluted; and he longs for the time when he shall serve God day and night in his temple without sin.
Now every human being is like one or the other of these two men. They are types of the two great classes of the whole race. To one or the other every one belongs. O reader! among whom are you?the CURSED or the Blessed?
* Psa. Ixv. 9.
+ John iv. 14.
1 Jude 12.
$2 Pet. i. 8.
Jas. iii. 17.
GAIN AND LOSS. Men are urged on to sin by their own evil passions, or are drawn into it by outward temptations, or are led into a sinful course by the hope of gain. All motives to sin are delusive. How great is the mistake to suppose that there can be any real and lasting advantage in acting contrary to the commands of God! The experience of mankind, as well as the word of God, declares that wickedness profiteth nothing, Prov. x. 2; yea, worse than nothing: it is a positive evil. It brought misery and death into the world at the beginning; it has excited the anger of a holy God; it is still the great enemy to human happiness ; and, if unrepented of and unpardoned, it will sink the soul into hell for ever.
Do you expect to be a gainer in your WORLDLY CIRCUMSTANCES by sinful conduct? It is not denied that many wicked men pass prosperously through the world; yet is it not often seen that sin carries with it its own punishment? Behold the many thousands whom the love of strong drink has reduced from
comfort and prosperity into the lowest state of poverty. Do fraud and falsehood at all times serve a man's purpose, and remain undetected? Do swearing and blasphemy support the credit of a tradesman or a working man? Has dishonest and illegal traffic been, for the most part, found gainful? Is gambling the way to advance the interests of any man ? and is it at all times followed by success? Is it found, in the long run, that attending to our worldly calling on the Lord's day is the best way to succeed in business? In short, can it be proved that disobeying any one of the Divine commands tends, on the whole, and in the greater number of cases, to profit and advantage ? On the other hand, honesty, uprightness, and truthfulness in dealings, and general propriety of conduct, are often profitable and advantageous. Now, though it would not be right to hold out the prospect of riches to induce you to forsake sin, yet it may be truly said, “ A little that a righteous man hath is better than the treasures of many wicked.” “ The blessing of the Lord, it maketh rich, and he addeth no sorrow with it," Psa. xxxvii. 16; Prov. x. 22. “Many have lost for God," said a pious man, “but none ever lost by him.”
Will you gain in REPUTATION by sinning? What man was, and what he now is, are plainly set forth in the Bible. Created in the Divine image, he is now a transgressor of the Divine law. Originally “ upright," he has become a fallen creature. Once happy, and living in the favour of his God, he has sunk down into a guilty rebel and “a child of wrath.” Such is a sinner in the sight of God. But does sin really adorn the character in the eyes of the world? Who thinks the better of a man because he is guilty of drunkenness, or lying, or dishonesty, or of any other crime or vice? Do not these things lower a man in the esteem of his fellow man? while, on the other hand, an inward respect is very often felt for the consistent Christian, and that frequently, too, by those who may be disposed outwardly to deride and oppose his religious profession. God declares, “ Them that honour me I will honour; and they that despise me shall be lightly esteemed,” 1 Sam. ii. 30. . .
Is sin generally profitable to the HEALTH OF THE BODY? Look at our first father, Adam ; so soon as he had sinned, God pronounced the curse that should fall on his body, as a part of the penalty of his guilt, Gen. iii. 19. From that day, this world has become like a hospital: disease, sorrow, and death are the portion of mankind. in the Bible we have many instances which show that sinners are sometimes directly punished in
Gehazi, who was smitten with leprosy ; Elymas, who was struck blind; and Herod, who was eaten of worms. And now look around, and what do you behold ? Drunkenness ending in fever and apoplexy; the profligate sinking into an early grave; the lover of pleasure hastening on in a decline or consumption ; and thus, in many cases, fulfilling the Scripture, The wicked “ shall not live out half their days," Psa. lv. 23.
Will sin, in the main, promote the HAPPINESS OF THE MIND? Quite the contrary. The tendency of many sins is to weaken the powers of the mind, deaden the affections, and impair the memory. Some sins are enemies to knowledge, as all are to devotion and holiness; and where these are wanting, there can be no true peace and happiness of mind. The greatest pleasures sin can yield, fail to give lasting gratification even to a carnal mind: disappointment, vexation, and sorrow are so often the result. But even should a certain amount of enjoyment be obtained, a sick-bed and the approach of death will spoil it all. Such pleasures are like the lightning-a flash, and they are gone, to be followed by eternal darkness.
Is sin profitable to THE SOUL ? Now, could it be proved, which it cannot, that the advantage was, on the whole, on the side of sin, as it respects this life, and that it tends in many ways to your gain now, and yet would be found unprofitable to the soul hereafter, it would be the greatest folly to choose its service; for " what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?" Mark viii. 36. The fruit of sin in this world is often bitter; but in the world to come it is misery and death: “At the last it biteth like a serpent, and stingeth like an adder,” Prov. xxiii. 32. “The wages of sin is death,” Rom. vi. 23-eternal death. How will the sinner mourn at last, to find all his delusive pleasures end in unutterable pain, his false peace in hopeless misery, and his momentary profits in eternal loss !-to find that he has lost his soul, and happiness, and heaven, and God!
It is an old saying, which deserves to be remembered by all : “ Nothing worth having is gained by sin; nothing worth keeping is lost by holiness." Reader, it may be you are not among those who justify or think lightly of a sinful life. There are, perhaps, few who dare do this. You may be prepared to admit that sin is a great evil, and should be avoided ; and you may be even ready to acknowledge that a life of piety is most desirable, and most for the interests of man. You may freely confess that, as an individual, you are a sinner, and need mercy. Yet all this may be nothing more than natural convictions of the unprofit