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whom they are made, though they may doubt whether they will be fulfilled to them, unless they cordially embrace them. And this leads me to observe,
3. That the faith of true christians in the promises of God implies a cordial approbation of them. The ancient patriarchs not only understood the nature, and were persuaded of the truth and certainty, of the divine promises, but embraced them; which implied a cordial approbation of them. Unbelievers may understand the nature, and be persuaded of the truth, of the divine promises, while they hate and oppose them, and have no heart to embrace them. But the faith of real christians in the promises of God implies a cordial approbation of the spiritual and everlasting good which they contain and secure. They esteem them great and precious promises, because they contain great and precious good. The divine promises led the patriarchs to "look for a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God." And the same promises lead christians, who embrace them, to look for the same celestial city, where God will display the riches of his grace, and make them completely holy and blessed for ever. This is the spiritual future and eternal good, which the promises of God secure to christians who understand, believe and embrace them.
I now proceed to show,
II. That such a firm and cordial belief in the great and precious promises of God leads christians to live and act as strangers and pilgrims on the earth. The apostle tells us that the faith of the ancient patriarchs, who lived in the early and dark ages of the world, had such a powerful and transforming influence upon their hearts and lives. "These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth." It is natural to suppose, therefore, that the faith of christians in the great and precious promises of the gospel, which has brought life and immortality to light, should more sensibly and forcibly lead them to feel and act as pilgrims and strangers, while passing through the shifting, trying and dangerous scenes of this present evil world. There is such an obvious and striking resemblance between a pilgrim and a saint, that saints in all ages seem to have agreed in representing their momentary and fatiguing lives under the easy and familiar similitude of a pilgrimage. When Pharaoh asked the patriarch Jacob how old he was, he replied, "The days of the years of my pilgrimage are an hundred and thirty years: few and evil have the days of the years of my life been, and have not attained unto the days of the years of the life of my fathers in
the days of their pilgrimage." David, under the pressure of adversity and bodily infirmities, felt and spake like a pilgrim before God. "Hear my prayer, O Lord, and give ear unto my cry; hold not thy peace at my tears: for I am a stranger with thee, and a sojourner, as all my fathers were." And the apostle Peter exhorts christians to feel and act as strangers and pilgrims, and to pass the time of their sojourning here in fear. A pilgrim is a traveller; a traveller is a sojourner; and a sojourner is a stranger. But since a pilgrim properly signifies a traveller on a religious account, I shall illustrate the point before us, by tracing the resemblance of christians who live under the influence of a realizing faith in the promises of God, and pilgrims, in a variety of particulars.
1. Pilgrims never feel at home. They find no place which they can call their own; where they can reside as long as they please. They are constrained to go from stage to stage, and to change their situation from day to day. And though they may sometimes find pleasant and desirable places, yet they can find no place in which they can feel at home.
In this respect, those who live in the faith of the promises of God feel like pilgrims. They have had their worldly prospects cut off. Their inward thought once was, that their houses should continue for ever, and their dwelling-places to all generations. But when God opened their eyes to look into eternity, they were fully convinced that eternity was their proper home, and that they were swiftly travelling to it; and though at first they dreaded the idea of going into eternity, yet as soon as they became reconciled to God, and confided in his promises, they were pleased with the hope of leaving the world and going to their long home. As soon as men become christians, therefore, they immediately view time, and all the objects of time, in a very different light from what they did before. They no longer consider this world as their home, and no longer desire it to be so. They would not live alway. They realize the shortness and uncertainty of life, and feel that they are constantly travelling to the grave. Like Paul, they die daily; and like him, they are in a strait betwixt two, having a desire to depart and be with Christ, which is far better than travelling the rugged road of life. This is their habitual feeling; and though the objects of time may often interrupt their views of eternity, yet their own frailty, or the mortality of others, or some heavy calamity, will soon give them a realizing sense that they are going the way of all the
2. Pilgrims feel very much alone in the world. They find but a few travelling their way; and if some now and then fall
into their company, yet they are strangers to their views and feelings, and afford them but very little comfort or entertainment, and generally they obstruct rather than animate and quicken them in their journey. So that notwithstanding they see and converse with a multitude of mankind, yet they feel very much alone through the whole course of their pilgrimage.
This is the case of christians who live by faith in the promises of God. Though they remain among their former friends and acquaintance, and are as willing to converse with them as ever they were, yet they find a coldness, indifference and alienation in those who once were fond of their company and familiar intercourse. Having set their faces towards heaven, those who are going in a contrary direction wish to avoid them as much as possible, so that they find their Saviour's observation verified, that the tender ties of nature are dissolved, and the father and the son, and the daughter and mother are at variance, and a man's foes are they of his own household. This throws christians into a state of solitude. They are alone in the midst of company. The primitive followers of Christ were deserted of the world, and left to walk alone in the strait and narrow way to the kingdom of heaven. And this is the case of those who come out from the world and determine to walk with God. They find themselves, like pilgrims, walking alone in this busy and stupid world.
3. Pilgrims always feel themselves exposed to danger. Travelling in a foreign country, they are unacquainted with the disposition of the inhabitants, and unused to their customs and manners. On these accounts, they never know when or where they are safe. They cannot place entire confidence in those with whom they converse, whether they wear a friendly or unfriendly aspect. They feel exposed to every kind of injury, and can depend upon nothing but their own vigilance, caution, and prudence, to protect them. They are exposed to contempt from the great, to fraud from the unjust, and to every evil from the lawless and malevolent. The poor Jew who fell among robbers was a pilgrim. And all pilgrims are always exposed to danger.
In this point, likewise, christians in the present evil world resemble pilgrims. If they were of the world, the world would love their own; but because they are chosen out of the world, therefore the world hate them. This was the declaration of Christ, who knew what is in man. And agreeably to this declaration, he warned all his followers to beware of men. The ancient patriarchs met with innumerable dangers, while passing through their weary pilgrimage. Jacob was defrauded by Laban, and assaulted by Esau. Joseph was inhumanly
treated and sold into Egypt, by his brethren. Moses was obliged to flee his country, and become a pilgrim and stranger in a strange land. The seed of Jacob were oppressed and cruelly treated, by Pharaoh. David was dreadfully harassed by Saul, and driven from his kingdom by his undutiful son. And some of the saints, the apostle tells us in the context, 66 were stoned, they were sawn asunder, were tempted, were slain with the sword; they wandered about in sheep-skins, and goat-skins, being destitute, afflicted, tormented." And the primitive christians met with no better treatment from the world, while passing through their painful pilgrimage. The nature of this world is not changed. It still lies in wickedness, and remains a dangerous enemy to those who are passing through it, in their way to heaven. Christians find they have occasion to fear both the objects and men of the world. They feel that they are in an enemy's land, and need to go trembling, watching, and praying, until they arrive where the wicked cease from troubling, and the weary are at rest.
4. Pilgrims feel thankful for all the agreeable accommodations which they meet with on their way. They are sensible of their dependence on providence, and on the favor and assistance of their fellow men. They are thankful for plain and smooth paths, for pleasant weather, and for good stages for rest and refreshment. And they are thankful to every stranger who faithfully directs them and kindly treats them. Every favorable circumstance appears better than they feared, or expected, and therefore makes a grateful impression on their minds.
And thus it is with christians, who live by faith in the divine promises. They have an habitual sense of their constant dependence upon God and their fellow creatures. They do not expect much good from the world; and every favor they receive either from the hand of God, or man, surpasses their expectation, and fills them with gratitude. Abraham was thankful for the kindness of the children of Heth, in the day of his sore bereavement; Jacob was thankful for his hard pillow at Bethel; Ruth was thankful for the favor of gleaning in the field of Boaz; and all christians are given to gratitude. They are thankful for the Bible, for the Sabbath, and for all the means of grace. They are thankful for agreeable connections and faithful friends. They are thankful for life, for health, and for all outward prosperity. They are thankful for opportunities of doing as well as of getting good; and they are thankful for preventing goodness, by which they are exempted from the numberless evils and calamities which they see daily falling upon their fellow men around them. They are ready to say with grateful emotions, "It is of the Lord's mercies, that we are not consumed."
5. Pilgrims take nothing with them but what they deem necessary for their journey. They throw aside all superfluities as incumbrances. They carry no more clothes and property than they expect to use. They justly conclude, that every thing which is not useful, will be detrimental. They travel from a sense of duty, and not for the sake of pleasure or amusement. They do not wish to attract the observation or admiration of strangers, but only to pass among them with ease and safety. And upon this principle, they carry nothing with them but necessaries, and if any thing else be offered to them, they will gratefully refuse it. For they mean to fit themselves for travelling, and for nothing else.
In this particular, all christians whose treasures and hopes are in heaven, resemble pilgrims. They have been crucified to the world, and the world to them, by the cross of Christ. They have chosen to have their portion, not in this, but in a future life. To purchase the pearl of great price, they have sold all that they have in this world. Their love to heavenly things has detached their supreme affections from earthly objects. These appear to be vanities of vanities to all who take God for their portion. But since food and raiment and many other things are necessary for their support and usefulness in life, they desire them for use in their way to heaven. The prayer of Agur expresses their feelings on this subject. "Give me neither poverty nor riches: feed me with food convenient for me." They feel that more than this would be inconvenient. Hence they labor not to be rich, and seek not great things for themselves. As pilgrims, who pass by houses, and fields, and flocks, which they do not need, feel perfectly contented without them, so christians behold the abundance of the rich with an indifferent eye. They feel better without such possessions than with them. They realize that as they brought nothing into the world with them, so they can carry nothing out. They are sensible that life and all its enjoyments are of short and uncertain continuance, and that the fashion of this world is rapidly passing away, and they are as rapidly passing away with it. They consider all their temporary accommodations as the dervis did the palace of a prince. As the dervis was travelling, he came to the palace of a prince, and without ceremony went into one of its apartments and lodged. In the morning the prince asked him how he dared to make so free with his palace. He replied, he took it to be a caravansary; that is, a house for the convenience of pilgrims. The prince demanded how he came to think so. In reply, the dervis asked him, who lived there before him? He answered, his father. The dervis asked again, who lived there before his father?