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a blessing where that duty is faithfully performed. Is it private? “Pray without ceasing." Prayer then, is one of those providential arrangements by which the plans and purposes of God are carried on, and from which aid is to be fully and continually derived. “Ask and ye shall receive, seek and ye shall find, knock and it shall be opened unto you.”—“If any man lack wisdom, let him ask of God, who giveth to all men liberally and upbraideth not.” Is there any one of you engaged truly in the work of religion ? Are you overpressed,—in difficulties,-persecuted? You have a Father in heaven; go to him; rest upon him; wrestle with him. Let me go, said the angel, for the morning breaketh. “I will not let thee go except thou bless me.” And he prevailed; he is said to have had power with God. You may be as sure of aid as if you could see the windows of heaven open, and the blessing visibly
So it is with other blessings of the same class directly placed before the Christian as the means of aid from the resources of the most high God. The word of God read and preached or expounded, or in any wise applied, furnishes him this aid. “It is a light to his feet, and a lantern to his path.”— “Whatsoever was written aforetime, was written for our admonition.”—“All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness;
that the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works."* The sword of the Spirit is the word of God.
2 Timothy ü. 16, 17.
So it is with the ordinances of the Gospel, especially the sacramental supper. The child of God engaged in the great work of religion,—the pilgrim who is travelling through this world, seeking a better country, that is an heavenly one, here finds meat indeed, and drink indeed, to refresh him on his journey. It gives new encouragements, animates his hopes anew, gives new energy to his faith.
Since of his goodness all partake,
With what assurance should the just
And saints to His protection trust :
Such guests shall to His courts be led
To banquet on his love's repast,
Of joys that shall for ever last.
Children of God engaged in the great work of salvation! the king permits you to draw from his resources full and abundant supplies. For your use he has permitted prayer; for your use his written word; for your use his consecrated temple; for your use his ordinances. These are sources of aid, placed on the highway you are travelling. Nothing have you to do but seize them in faith, and they place their help in your bosoms.
There is one more class of subjects which are intended actually and positively and directly to lend their aid to the Christian; and I scarcely know of any circumstances among the mere providences of God, from which he can draw aid so largely; I mean the trials and afflictions of this life.
So unhappily, nay, so desperately have our natures been affected by the fall, that until broken in upon by the omnipotence of grace, there is a ceaseless
tendency to have the affections of the heart fixed on the creature, rather than the Creator. And this is not only true as it regards the world of unconverted men, but it is in a degree true, even of those who are nevertheless engaged in the great work of religion : for the flesh always lusteth against the spirit. Under the circumstances in which he lives who is engaged in the great work of his salvation, afflictions are as necessary as the air he breathes, or the food he eats, and as these lend their aid to sustain the mortal body from perishing, and in the providence of God contribute to its growth, so afflictions lend their aid to the accomplishment of purposes of the richest mercy. I could lead you through multitudes of Scripture passages, and read you many a lesson from Scripture history, were it necessary. One striking passage, not often brought into this connexion, will be adduced as sufficient illustration. The Apostle Paul had been afflicted in the tenderest point-it matters not to go into the history—he had been sorely afflicted, and the conclusion which he draws is this : I know that even this shall turn to my salvation; that is, it shall fall in with the great design of God's mercy, and aid my growth in holi
I need not point you to the history of the saints of God. If there is any one thing to be learned it is this, that their various afflictions materially aided them in their way to heaven; and thus it is now. Even in relation to those engaged in the great work of religion, they are so full of folly and perverseness and worldliness; so subject to declension in religion; so apt to be languid, and cold, and formal; so ready to relapse into temptation; so prone to choose a flowery path rather than a safe one; so VOL. I.
little able to judge either of their dangers or their enemies, that they would inevitably depart from God, if his gracious care did not order and direct the affairs of life, so as to promote, not their fancy, but their benefit; not their feelings, but their graces; not their worldly schemes and projects, but their attention to their heavenly vocation; not the interests of time, but of eternity; not their ease, but their salvation. And it is here that God sends the aid of his dispensations of affliction. The very thing which our dispositions, our turn of mind, our duties and pursuits make most dear, he will sometimes smite, on purpose that we may adequately feel the stroke. Thus we learn to subdue an excessive passion, to be separated from the creature, to know our own hearts, to die to the world, and live by faith in closer union with Christ our Lord. No created thing ought or can be essential to our happiness; and in mercy as rich as imagination can conceive, God breaks up the idolatry which might and must otherwise have ruined our souls. And the same precisely is true as it regards those dark and cloudy days which mark the history of almost every Christian when God seems to hide his countenance in displeasure. The very reverse of this is the conclusion which ought to be drawn. It is then that He affords the individual engaged in the great work of religion, the glorious opportunity of proving his faith in the mercies and promises of the Gospel. In the darkest gloom that ever overhung the prospect of the penitent, God's hand is there.
There are many of you here this day who are engaged in the work of God. I beseech you not to misunderstand the dealings of God's providence
Judge not the Lord by feeble sense,
But trust him for his grace ;
He hides a smiling face.
Blind unbelief is sure to err,
And scan his work in vain :
And he will make it plain.
Perhaps you are surrounded with difficulties; you are opposed at home and abroad; you are laughed at, ridiculed, and despised; you suffer in every variety of form; sometimes God takes from you something on which the affections of your hearts were in danger of being too intensely fastened; sometimes, when likely to forget the dreadful evil of sin, and to fall into the approaches of self-righteousness, perhaps carelessness, your mind is suffered to be harassed with distressing doubts and fears. In all these things, do not misinterpret the intentions of God. These are faithful auxiliaries sent to you from heaven. Take advantage of the aid they bring. Repose with confidence on God—“For the mountains shall depart, and the hills be removed ; but my kindness shall not depart from thee, neither shall the covenant of my peace be removed, saith the Lord that hath mercy on thee."* Imbibe the spirit of the saints of God—“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from
* Isaiah liv. 10.