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publications, indulging in useless, idle, unprofitable thoughts.
Whether we try to know, and feel, the value of our precious, irreparable time.
Whether we endeavor from day to day, in that state of life to which it has pleased God to call us, to do our duty-our duty, that is, what in God's sight is expected of us; for very often much less will satisfy the world, and our own easy consciences.
Whether we pray habitually, to be enabled to accomplish these our respective duties with resolution, steadiness, and perseverance; neither alarmed by danger if it should happen, nor moved by scorn and contempt; but expecting such trials as part of God's discipline, to bring our hearts into a fit state for our admission into the everlasting habitations.
We may farther observe, that the mean spirit of cowardice is always found in effect (in whatever way it is to be accounted for), a great hinderance to the growth of true charity, love for God and man.
“The fear of man bringeth a snare,” is the warning of inspired wisdom-even so great a snare as to withdraw the heart from loving and trusting Almighty God.
Cowardice is a selfish feeling, makes men think only of themselves, their own present interests and comfortsa state of mind quite repulsive of true charity and love.
Hence (says St. Paul), “ God gives not his servants the spirit of cowardice, but of power, and also of love," leads them both to be zealous and earnest in fulfilling their high duties, and at the same time tempers their zeal with meekness and love.
If we would then know, whether we are such in heart and life as Christians ought to be, we must ask ourselves, not merely whether we are earnest in our reliligion, but also whether, "all our things are done with charity,” love to God and man ;
Whether our hearts are really affected with a sense of gratitude and adoring confidence toward our heavenly Father and Redeemer ;
Whether for his sake we endeavor to keep alive in our
hearts affections of love, compassion, forgiveness toward our fellow-creatures, and especially our fellowChristians, ever remembering that what we do of good or evil to them, is accounted as good or evil done toward the Lord Jesus Christ ;-
Whether when we are zealous for the truth and honor of our Lord and Master, we take care that our zeal be according to knowledge, and still more, that it be according to charity ;
Whether we are best pleased with those who commend and flatter us, or with those who reprove us ;-.
Whether, so that God may be honored, and men edified, we are willing and ready to incur any personal trouble, loss, or shame; nor disposed to think that in such trials any “strange thing happens unto us-any
” thing to excite our alarm or apprehension.
Again, you will observe, that St. Paul intimates to us in the passage now considered, that it is not enough for the Christian to be zealous in his duty, even though his zeal be tempered and guided by love; unless also he be cautious and on his guard, so as in every emergency to retain his presence of mind, and always (as every person should who has any important matter in hand) to know what he is about.
This, I say, is the spirit and disposition which, as Christians, we are still to labor and pray for: nor shall we seek it in vain ; for to his faithful servants, God gives, not only the spirit of power and of love, but also of a sound mind; while, by his grace, he enables them to be harmless as doves, he would have them also wise as serpents-ever on their guard ; on their guard, that is, not so much against their earthly as their spiritual foes.
A person may be zealous and charitable, and yet not soundminded ; that is, may not look so closely and seriously into things as he ought, and therefore be liable to be disheartened, and upset, and to lose his pres
. ence of mind, when sudden or heavy trials befall him.
The calmness and courage of St. Paul, as displayed in many very severe trials, will best exemplify to us the sort of disposition best becoming a Christian-the sound mind, or presence of mind, spoken of in the text
“I suffer these things, nevertheless I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed.”
“Troubled, yet not distressed; perplexed, but not in despair"--not without help, or means (see margin).
“What mean ye to weep and to break mine heart? for I am ready not to be bound only, but also to die at Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus."
“ There is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day, and not to me only—'
Here, and in numberless other places, we see how far the blessed apostle was from all mean, cowardly, feelings; how largely he was endued with the spirit, not only of power and of love, but also of a sound mind; never thrown off his guard, or taken by surprise, but ever expecting to suffer in his master's cause, and suffering accordingly.
Now, this conduct of St. Paul, is not merely something for us to reflect on and admire, it is also what actually concerns us—it is purposely set before us, a pattern for us to imitate. To us baptized Christians, as well as to him, God hath given, not the spirit of cowardice, but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind; great and precious gifts these, for our use of which we must one day render an account.
Be it our care, then, my brethren, as many of us as are in earnest in our religion, to examine closely into our souls' state of accounts, to ascertain what our spiritual condition really is : what reason we have to hope, and what to fear?-and not put off this inquiry, as being a painful one ; for be assured, the longer we put it off, the more painful it will become, and the more difficult.
If our sins testify against us—if “they have taken such hold on us that we are not able to look up, and our hearts fail us ;” then we have no time to lose; we must at once cast ourselves before the mercy-seat, pleading the merits of that sacrifice which was offered on the cross for the sins of the world, and returning to
our merciful Father with deep penitence and amendment of life.
Then, when he sees us, though it be yet a great way off, coming toward him, he will turn and have compassion on us.
And if we still continue to follow him, amid every trial, he will by degrees renew our strength and courage-will enable us to overcome all cowardly fears, such as the world or the flesh would suggestwill fill us with love and charity, still increasing, and growing clearer and brighter as the mists of sin are cleared away from the heart—and will give us at last that soundness and presence of mind, that spirit of pure resignation, which strengthened Abraham to stretch forth his hand to take the knife to slay his son; which caused Daniel to kneel on his knees before his God, though death was the penalty ; which enabled St. Paul to say humbly and calmly, "The Holy Ghost witnesseth in every city that bonds and afflictions abide me: but none of these things move me, neither count I my life
I dear unto myself, so that I might finish my course with joy, and the ministry which I have received of the Lord Jesus, to testify the gospel of the grace of God.”
It cannot, then, be doubted what our duty is in this respect, nor in what frame of mind we ought to pray, and endeavor to live and die, free from all cowardly fears, and in a spirit of holy love and resignation. And may Almighty God grant, for his blessed Son's sake, that we every day and every week may be enabled more and more thus to be what Christians ought to be, till this our time of trial shall be over, and the Lord shall make up his jewels for eternity.
St. MATT. xxiv. 13.
“But he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved."
appears from the sacred history, that when the holy Jesus came up out of Galilee into Judea, at the last pass. over before his crucifixion, his custom was then (as probably on former occasions), to go every morning into the temple, and therein, or in some or other of its courts and cloisters, to spend the day; every evening going out of the city, either to the Mount of Olives, or to the village of Bethany, just beyond.
It seems also that he was employed during the whole, or a great part of each day, in giving advice, warning, or instruction, to those who were assembled within the precincts or courts of the temple, now in one part, now in another.
Thus, to limit our attention to one particular day, the last but one or two before his crucifixion (as we find in St. Matt. xxi., xxii., and xxxiii.); when he came into the temple on that morning, he was solemnly demanded of the chief priests and elders; that is, by a deputation from the Sanhedrim or great council of the Jews,“ by what authority he did those things.” To this he briefly replied, by offering another question respecting the nature of his mission, which they thought it best not to attempt to answer. And then he added two parables (at the end of chap. xxi.), setting forth in a n.anner, which could not be mistaken, the misery into which they were rushing.
After an interval, it appears that he proposed to the consideration of the people a third parable (beginning