Page images

of the hands of his enemies to serve God without fear; the time of his bondage, under the elements of the world, and the dominion of sin, appeareth as a dream, from which he now findeth himself most happily awaked; awaked to the prospect of a bliss that is not visionary, of a real and substantial good, that melteth not into air, as the shadowy enjoyments of this world do, but affordeth solid comfort to the person who is possessed of it; awaked to follow after that honour which cometh from God only, those riches which neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, those pleasures which are at God's right hand, and that wisdom which maketh wise unto salvation; awaked to a steady and uniform pursuit of these glorious objects, instead of that endless desire of novelty and variety which wearieth the men of the world, leaving them always disappointed of their hope; in a word, awaked to the knowledge and love of an inheritance in light, that fadeth not, but shall endure for ever in heaven, even when the world itself shall fly away as a dream, and the very remembrance of it vanish as a vision of the night.

If, therefore, these things be so-and surely the Scriptures say they are so; if the state of the sinner, or man of the world, be one of darkness, insensibility, and delusion; and if such a state be not judged preferable to one of light, and sense, and substantial reality; let no man be disobedient to the voice of the church, which, through the course of this penitential season, incessantly addresseth every one of her children; "Behold, now is the accepted time;, "behold, now is the day of salvation." Awake,

therefore, thou that sleepest: awake, and sing, ye that dwell in the dust, and mind earthly things: awake, O thou Christian soul, and utter a song in praise of him who hath redeemed thee: awake, awake, put on the Lord Jesus thy strength, put on righteousness and holiness thy beautiful garments; shake thyself from the dust, and set thy affections on things above the night is far spent, the day is at hand; cast off therefore the works of darkness, and put on the whole armour of light: arise, shine, for thy light is come, and the glory of the Lord is risen upon thee: arise, and stand up from the dead, and Christ shall give thee the light of life.

Awakened by these repeated calls, be it our care to arise without delay to newness of life, not suffering ourselves, through sloth and indolence, to relapse into evil habits, like the sluggard upon his bed, who requireth always "a little more sleep, a little more

[ocr errors]

slumber, a little more folding of the hands to sleep." Let us arise at the first admonition, because, that being rejected, God may not vouchsafe us another; and there will be more difficulty in obeying it, if he should do so. Let us therefore dread a relapse, and guard against it.

For this purpose, let us be constantly employed in some good work, and much of the danger will be removed; since listlessness of the mind, like a lethargy in the body, is best cured by motion and exercise; and when temptations are creeping upon us, there is no better method of baffling and putting them to flight, than by forcing ourselves to read, or pray, or perform some other work of piety to God, or charity to our

[ocr errors]

neighbour. Above all things, let us beware, that surfeiting and excess do not oppress and weigh down the heart, inducing sleep upon the soul, as well as the body. Let us be temperate, let us be sober, walking evermore as children of the light, not in rioting and drunkenness, not in chambering and wantonness, not in strife and envying; for all these are the works of darkness; but that darkness is past, and the true light now shineth. Thus shall we be qualified to set and keep that constant watch, which is absolutely necessary to perceive and repel the enemy, at his first approach. "What I say unto you," saith Christ to his disciples, "I say unto all"WATCH." This if we do, we shall spend our time, as it ought to be spent, in working out our salvation, and not dream away, in vanity and folly, the precious and fleeting hours allowed us for that purpose. And happy, thrice happy, the man, who, in the evening of life, taking a survey of what is past, shall be able to say, with an humble confidence, to his blessed Master, as that Master, in the days of his flesh, said to the Father; "I have glorified thee on the earth, "I have finished the work which thou gavest me to "do." His body shall lie down in the dust in perfect peace, and rest in hope, till the dawning of the great day; when that likewise shall receive its summons from heaven, by the voice of the archangel; "Awake, thou that sleepest, and arise from the "dead, and Christ shall give thee light."




ACTS, VIII. 34, 35.

And the eunuch answered Philip, and said, I pray thee, of whom speaketh the prophet this? of himself, or of some other man? Then Philip opened his mouth, and began at the same Scripture, and preached unto him JESUS.

WE are now drawing towards the close of that penitential season, set apart by the wisdom of the church for retirement and recollection, confession and humiliation, mortification and self-denial, meditation and devotion; to the end that, having discovered and cast out our sins, having subdued pride, and extinguished concupiscence, having brought the body into subjection, and rendered the spirit tender, and humble, and holy, we might be prepared to attend our blessed Redeemer at the celebration of his last passover; to accompany him from the garden to the high-priest's palace, from thence to the prætorium, and from thence to mount Calvary; there to take our station, with the Virgin Mother, and the beloved disciple, at the foot of the cross, and "look

"on him whom we have pierced." The history therefore of the Ethiopian nobleman's conversion, effected by St. Philip's expounding to him the 53d chapter of Isaiah, seemeth no improper subject whereon to employ our thoughts, at a time when the church is enforcing on us the duties of repentance and faith, by the same argument which first produced them in the heart of that illustrious person; namely, the unexampled sorrows and sufferings of the Son of God for the sins of the world; to the contemplation of which is dedicated the great and holy week upon which we this day enter; a week, spent in such a manner by them of old time, as made it evident to every beholder, that these were "the days in "which the bridegroom was taken away." For now (as the ancient canons and constitutions inform us) men gave over all worldly employments, and, making the happy exchange of earth for heaven, betook themselves wholly to devotion, heightened and improved by those religious exercises, which the experience of pious men in all ages hath evinced to be conducive to that end. Dismissing therefore from our thoughts the cares and pleasures of a vain and transitory world, every thing that perplexeth, and every thing that defileth, let us take a view of the no less engaging than interesting circumstances of the history before us.

St. Philip, commonly styled the Evangelist, one of the seven deacons, and next in order to St. Stephen, being driven from Jerusalem by the persecution which arose at the time of the protomartyr's death, went down to the city of Samaria; and, ever mindful

« PreviousContinue »