Page images

is good in all that he doth-and in the fulness of glory which, at the resurrection of the just, consummates the felicity of the righteous, both in body and soul-perceiving, in these divine and spiritual realities which by faith he contemplates, objects infinitely more worthy of his solicitude and pursuit than any of those which gratify only the senses, while too frequently they corrupt the heart, the Christian loves not the things of the world, which are seen; his enlightened vision, penetrating beyond the objects of time and sense, lays open to his enraptured contemplation the glories of the spiritual and eternal world; elevated above this abode of doubt, of error, of sin, and of sorrow, his spirit pursues its flight to the regions of light and glory, where it enjoys, in God's presence, a felicity which it sought in vain in the world. It is by the powerful and elevating principle of faith that the Christian looks not at the things which are seen : a citizen of heaven, heaven is his country, his home-though for a while he is an exile on the earth.

Thus, then, the Christian lives above the world, as it respects his principles.

2. Let us regard him as it respects his duties.

These are all discharged (even those which arise from his connexion with the world, and which will cease when that connexion is dissolved,) with fidelity, with a fidelity more uniform and pure than that with which the mere man of the world

performs the same duties, because necessary to his comfort and advancement in the present life. They are often faithfully discharged by those who acknowledge and feel the influence of no higher

principles than such as arise from the dictates of nature, from worldly interest, from considerations of personal comfort and reputation, of domestic enjoyment, and of social order and prosperity. But the Christian advances further. In the discharge of every relative and social duty he disclaims not the influence of motives of a temporal nature ; but he controls and regulates them all by the higher motives of a regard to the will of his Almighty Maker and Sovereign, and to the salvation of his soul. Under the paramount sway of these principles, bis fidelity in the discharge of his worldly duties is secured, even when temporal motives cease to operate, or when indeed they have raised an opposing current. Acting at all times from those elevated motives which, arising from divine and spiritual things, are not subject to the changes and impurities from which no sublunary object is exempt, the Christian is uniform, prompt, vigorous, and decisive in the discharge of his duties, directing his view beyond every earthly interest, and every temporal consideration, to the tribunal of his Maker, where he is to be judged, and to the glories of eternity, that are to be his rewards.

3. But, in regard to the trials to which he may be called, the Christian most emphatically lives above the world.

He makes no pretensions indeed to that apathy which professes to be unmoved at calamities affecting those worldly interests and joys which are entwined around our hearts, and from which they cannot be sundered without pain. Still less does he boast of that indifference which beholds, in the loss of worldly comforts, the deprivation merely of objects not essential to our real dignity or enjoyment, or to that philosophical composure which submits to the stroke solely from the consideration that it is inevitable and irremediable.

No; the Christian feels as a man. Though far from regarding the good things of the present world as necessarily connected with his virtue or his peace, he values them as important means both of Usefulness and enjoyment, and therefore, when lost, to be regretted; and as to the higher joys of relative and social affection, pure in their origin, benignant in their influence, could they be wrested from him without a pang, it would prove him to be not above, but below the finest feelings of nature. He knows also that it would be folly to fret at calamities not to be averted, but, on the contrary, aggravated by murmuring and repining. The Christian is composed and submissive; but his composure and submission do not subdue, but control that sensibility which gives animation to virtue and sprightliness to joy, and which, when chastened by Christian faith, turns even mourning into rejoicing. The Christian is composed and submissive, because his trust is firmly stayed on that Almighty Being who rules over all, in the wbirlwind and the storm, as well as in the sunshine and the calm; and who, refreshing him here by his favour, is preparing for him hereafter the fulness of bliss.

Is he disappointed in some favourite expectation, from which he anticipated wealth or enjoyment ! He acknowledges the superintending agency of that all-wise and all-merciful Being, who often disappoints our expectations, because the gratification of them would be injurious to our virtue, and not promotive of our real happiness; and who hath promised, in that degree and at that period which infinite wisdom and goodness deem most fit, to those who seek his kingdom and the righteousness thereof, all things necessary to their temporal comfort.

Do adverse events, in rapid succession, overwhelm the edifice of the Christian's prosperity ? Holding fast his confidence in God, the tempest agitates indeed, but does not prostrate his soul. In the midst of the wreck of his worldly goods, he can cast the look of composure and of trust to that Being who never yet afflicted but for the good of his creatures, never but in proportion to their deserts, and never without opening to the dejected spirit those consolations of his favour, those hopes of future bliss, which the world could neither give nor take away. The Christian, confiding in the promise that he will not be forsaken, is animated to those exertions that may be necessary to repair the ruin that has overwhelmed him. There is an unfailing promise" Sorrow may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning.” Often the morn of joy succeeds, even here, the night of sorrow; but assuredly, a morn that no sorrow can cloud, the morn of an eternal day, will dawn, and bring the fulness of felicity to the soul of the Christian. Light is sown for the righteous, and joyful gladness for the upright in heart.

Do bereavements still more severe than the deprivation of worldly goods pierce with anguish the spirit of the Christian ? Are his friends and his relatives, one by one, wrested from him; and is he left desolate on the bleak desert of the world! He rises above it, rises in holy faith to that celes

tial region which is his home, the home to which his Christian relations and friends are translated before him, and where he will again meet them in the presence of God, never to experience the anguish of separation, or to suffer any diminution of the fulness of their bliss.

The Christian, animated by faith in God, lives above the trials of the world.

4. Lastly. Under the influence of the same holy principle, he lives above its enjoyments: not that he childishly disregards them-not that he proudly deems them unworthy of his attention-not that he pharisaically refrains from them, as necessarily incompatible with his virtue. Incompatible with virtue they often are, through excessive indulgence, or through the particular temperament of the individual, or the circumstances in which he may be placed. But to refrain from the good things of the world, when they do not abate the strength and fervour of our pious principles, or relax our virtuous efforts, would be an ungrateful contempt of the bounties of that gracious Being who hath conferred them upon us, that in the submissive, and thankful, and moderate enjoyment of them, we might glorify him, the beneficent Giver.

Still, the Christian, surrounded as he may be by worldly comforts and enjoyments, lives above them. He bears in mind that he is the heir of joys infinitely more exalted in their nature, and endless in their duration; not subject, as are his present joys, to the changes of time, to the imperfections of the world, to the stroke of calamitybut fixed in God's presence, and pure and exalted as the divine glory. In his progress to these joys,

« PreviousContinue »