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when you think over the past ! what a spring of holy desires and good resolutions, if you have the courage to make them, for the future!
If the Holy Ghost be dwelling in us, since he is a pure Spirit, and thoughts in his sight are as distinct and as real as actions; then every time you indulge wrong desires-proud, or covetous, or unkind, or lustful imaginations, you are as if you made God's church a place for actions of the same kind. Who then can remember his own past thoughts, and not be overwhelmed with the mighty sum of his offences committed in this way?
On the other hand, if the Holy Ghost be dwelling in you, since he is an Almighty Friend, there is hope even for the vilest : there is encouragement for those who have been most rebellious, to resolve anew and more earnestly, that they will be such no longer. Therefore, although it is fearful to think of him so very near us, considering what sort of persons conscience tells us we must be in his sight, yet we dare not pray as St. Peter once did, in hasty alarm, not knowing what he said, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord :" rather we pray every day, as the church has taught us, in the words of the penitent David, “ Cast me not away from thy presence, and take not thy Holy Spirit from me.” Cast us not away, though we have deserved the worst, and take him not away, though we have so often grieved and vexed him by our sins; but for the sake of him who is gone into heaven, to plead for rebels and sinners at his Father's right hand, grant, O Lord, that the holy Comforter may still continue with us on earth, and we with him in thy church : that what little good remains in us,
and seems often ready to die, may be strengthened; and that our evils, great and manifold as they are, may be purged out by thy grace and help: that when our king returns from heaven, we may not be found among “the rebellious."
RESTRAINT THE CHRISTIAN'S BLESSING.
PREACHED ON THE SUNDAY AFTER ASCENSION DAY.
DEUTERONOMY xii. 8, 9. « Ye shall not do after all the things that we do here this day, every man
whatsoever is right in his own eyes : (For ye are not as yet come to the rest and to the inheritance, which the Lord your God giveth you)."
These words are part of Moses' last admonition to the children of Israel in the wilderness. They had just ended their forty years' wanderings, and were on the point of entering on that promised land, which for so long a time had been the great object of their hopes and prayers. He, like a wise and affectionate friend, well knowing the stubbornness of their hearts, and what danger they were in of being spoiled by prosperity; while he speaks to them at large of the blessings of their new home, its corn, wine, and oil, its flowing with milk and honey, the wealth, peace, and glory, which they might expect in it; warns them also, no less carefully, of God's constant presence there, and of the exact obedience they would have to pay him, if ever they hoped to enjoy these blessings. He warns them, here in the text, that it would be a great mistake, if they supposed themselves more at their own ease and liberty, as to what they would do, and what they would leave undone, when they were in Canaan, than when they were in the wilderness. He mentions it as one of the advantages of Canaan, that they would have it in their power, and it would be their duty, to live by a stricter and more exact rule there, than they could possibly do, whilst they were moving about in the wilderness. " Ye shall not do after all the things that we do here this day, every man whatsoever is right in his own eyes: (For ye are not as yet come to the rest and to the inheritance, which the Lord your God giveth you)."
Now, there is a striking resemblance between the condition of the Jews, brought safely to the borders of Canaan, and waiting for God's signal to go in and possess it, and the condition of Christians, after our Savior had made perfect our redemption by his death, and was ascended into heaven, but before he had sent down his Spirit to make us fully partakers of the blessings of the gospel. And, accordingly, the church has ordained this part of the admonitions of Moses to be read at this solemn time; as most useful toward helping us to judge rightly of the great change, which the coming of the Holy Ghost has made, both in our blessings, and in our duties.
The blessing, of which it is proposed now to speak more particularly, is that of being more under controlof having our lives and ways more exactly orderedthan if we were not Christians. We are now come to the rest and to the inheritance, which the Lord our God was so long preparing for us; and therefore we are no longer to think of doing every man what is right in his own eyes. If it might be excusable in Jews or heathens to do so, it does not follow that it is excusable in us.
And therefore the gate, into which we must strive to enter, is called “strait," and the way which leadeth into life, narrow. And our Savior, inviting us to the blessings of the gospel, describe them as a yoke and a burden; easy indeed, and light, yet still a yoke and a burden.
And this very circumstance he mentions as a blessing; as the very reason why, coming to him, the weary and heavy laden might find rest : “Come unto me, all ye that labor, and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me, for I am meek and lowly in heart, and ye shall find rest unto
So that it appears, that both the law and the gospel, both Moses and Jesus Christ, consider it a great bles
sing, a great increase of comfort and happiness, to be kept under strict rules. The gospel was more strict than the law; and on that very account its subjects were happier. Canaan was a place, where men could not do what pleased themselves, so much as they could in the wilderness: and it was the more entirely and truly a place of rest.
But now, this way of thinking is by no means the way of the world. People in general like nothing so much, as having their own choice in all things. They account it a burden, and not a privilege, to be under the government of others. And there is not, one may venture to say, one man in a thousand, who would not rather be rich than poor, for this very reason ;—that a rich man is much more his own master, has much more of his own way in choosing how to spend his time, what company to keep, what employments and diversions to follow, than a poor man generally can have.
Again, every one has observed, I might say has experienced, the hurry which children are usually in, to get out of the state of childhood, and to be left to judge and act for themselves. There are few, it
be feared, who have not to charge themselves with some undutifulness toward their first and best friends, their own parents, on this account. Like the prodigal son, young persons are too often found so unthankful, as tó hurry on the time of separation from their parents, and say, give me the portion of goods that falleth to me :" as if it were a piece of preferment and happiness, to get away, as early as possible, from one's father and mother.
Farther : as most of us are, or have been, under authority of some kind, either as servants, or as scholars, or in some other way, we cannot be ignorant how jeal. ous we were of being interfered with by any but our own master; how unwilling to take advice even from the wisest, lest we should seem to give him a right to direct us; and how impatient of control even from our masters themselves, in matters which, as we imagined, lay beyond their authority. All of us, as it may seem,
naturally sharing, more or less, in the temper of that peevish Hebrew, who would not let Moses interfere with him, though it was only as a friend, to save him from a great sin. We put off our best friends with “who made thee a ruler and a judge over us?"
But the worst, and, unfortunately, the most common instance of this ungovernable temper in mankind is, our unwillingness to let God choose for us, and our impatience under the burdens he lays upon us. How very commonly does it happen, that the very condition people choose beforehand, the very place they wished to live in, and the persons they wished to live among, being obtained, becomes the ground of continual complaint and vexation. If they could but change at will, they say, they should like their situation well enough, but now they are tied down to it, they cannot, that is, they will not, help being fretful and impatient.
Yet this very circumstance, of being tied down to rules, and not having the power to change at will, is, as we have seen, reckoned a great blessing, both in the Old and New Testament, both by Moses and Jesus Christ. And the contrary (the having to choose for ourselves, and to do what is right in our own eyes) is spoken of as a great disadvantage. So different is the judgment of God from the judgment of men.
It is true, Moses is speaking of a particular point of conduct; but we shall presently see, that what he says will apply, just as reasonably, to every other part of our duty, and may serve to show us the benefit of subjection, and not being left to ourselves in any.
He was speaking of the question, where the Israelites should offer their sacrifices and solemn prayers to Almighty God. While they were in the wilderness, they sacrificed where they would; but when they should have come into the land of promise, his word of caution is this : “ Take heed to thyself, that thou offer not thy burnt-offerings in every place that thou seest : but in the place which the Lord shall choose in one of thy tribes: there thou shalt offer thy burnt-offerings, and there thou shalt do all that I command thee."