« السابقةمتابعة »
plex our minds. Prosperous circumstances may become adverse; fair prospects may put on a gloom; and disappointments least expected may happen. In such cases, a careful attention to the Scriptures is necessary. This will prove the best mean to prevent wrong conclusions concerning God; to sustain us under difficulties and to tranquilise our souls. In many instances we lose sight of God's independence of us, and our dependence on him; this leads us to disapprove of, and fret at his procedure, and to have recourse to improper means for our own relief. We never act a proper part, and we are never safe, but when we fully acquiesce in the divine procedure, as wise, just and good; although we do not, for the time, discern it to be so. His word gives us such assurance of his faithfulness and truth; of his wisdom and righteousness; that no room is left for us to hesitate, in any case, about the propriety of his procedure. When we leave his word as our guide, we presume to dictate to him, we tax his conduct, and hesi tate not to say, that things would have been better otherwise. Let us allow to God, in all cases, the full exercise of his sovereignty; and we shall never be disappointed, nor moved. Much of our obedience, especially the more difficult and painful part of it, lies here. It is a hearty compliance with, and approbation of, the divine will, when it runs most opposite to our own. When his will and ours quadrate, it may be difficult to determine whether we are obeying him, or pleasing ourselves; but when we cordially sacrifice our will to his, no doubt remains about the sincerity of our obedience.
SOME of you are about to commemorate, in the symbols of bread and wine, the sufferings of the Captain of your salvation; and probably promise to yourselves, through him, a happy interview with your God. The
path of duty is plain before you, and the promises of the gospel offer you every encouragement you can desire, to proceed in your work. Let me remind you, however," that his way is in the sea, and his path in the great waters, and his footsteps are not known;" and that you must make great allowances for sovereignty to work. You have been examining yourselves, and purging out the old leaven; you have been seeking a revival of spiritual things in your souls, that you might be prepared for happy intercourse with God; your success has perhaps been considerable, and now your hopes are raised, your expectations sanguine, and your desires ardent; and you are promising yourselves much sensible enjoyment. Your love is strong and you expect displays of his love. You have been struggling with powerful lusts, to prevent them from occupying his place in your hearts; and you expect he will come and subdue them. You have been conflicting with Satan, who has been trying to divert your attention from the ways of God, or to disturb you in them; and you expect him to bruise this adversary under your feet. Perhaps you have been following your God in a gloomy path, and under considerable discouragements; yet have still persevered, and you expect that, at his own table, you shall see his face, and have your hearts filled with joy. You may trust him for all this, and remind him of his promises, and hope for their accomplishment; but you know not what sovereignty he may exercise in fulfilling them. He may conduct matters very differently from what pect and wish. He may dispel your darkness, or shed a gloom on your souls. He may restrain and subdue your enemies, or he may call you to a more violent conflict with them. He may appear to your joy, or hide himself that you cannot behold him.
He may conduct
you sensibly in a plain and easy path, or he may send you forth, as Abraham, not knowing whither you go. Let him act as he will, his word directs you to pursue the path of duty, to abide by his promises, and to urge them by faith and prayer; leaving to him, the time, the means, and the degree of their accomplishment; as these do not belong to your faith. Rely on him for what he has promised, and leave every thing else to himself. He has fixed a time when every vision and every promise shall speak, and not lie; but he has not specified the time to you; let it therefore satisfy you to know the time by their accomplishment, and to wait patiently for it.
PERMIT me here to caution you against a dangerous practical error, which you may be apt to commit, respecting the divine sovereignty. It has been no uncommon thing for believers to be disappointed in their hopes, expectations, and desires; especially with respect to their meeting with God in his ordinances, and obtaining deliverances from him; and perhaps your own experience corroborates the truth of this remark. That there is, in such cases, a display of sovereignty must be admitted, because it is evident. God is acting according to his own will. You must beware, howe ver, of concluding that there was no other reason than sovereignty for such procedure; for if you conclude so, you may throw a mighty obstruction in the way of your enjoyments. From the tenor of your conduct, and from the state of your hearts, God may have had good reason to disappoint your hopes. By doing so he signifies to you, the propriety and necessity of looking into the state of your souls with respect to sin and grace there; and surveying your past life, that you may see what errors you have committed, what
favours you have abused, and what precious seasons of promoting the good of your souls you have slighted. By such a survey of yourselves, you will be convinced that your hopes were too sanguine, and that your fitness was not suitable to the enjoyments you expected. Beware, then, of turning any displays of divine sovereignty into an occasion of indolence and inactivity. This will only remove your comfortable enjoyments to a greater distance, and render your present situation more painful than it is. The spouse, though disappointed once and again, when in quest of her beloved, did not relax her exertions; but persisted with increas ing ardour, until success crowned her efforts. God's sovereignty is not your rule; all your concern with it is, to acknowledge it, acquiesce in it, and justify every part of it, as wise, just and good. Attend, then, to yourselves, and be prepared to meet your God; being assured he is ever ready to meet you, and to admit you into the closest intimacy with himself. Guard against fears, discouragements, and hard thoughts of God; avoid all improper means of ameliorating your condition; and with assiduity attend to those that are proper, and to which the promise is annexed. Though he slay you trust in him. Though he seem to cast you out of his sight, look still towards his holy temple. Though you sit in darkness he will be a light unto you. Though, on account of his absence, sorrow may fill your hearts, he will see you again, and your hearts shall rejoice.
5. WE may farther infer the infatuation and wickedness of such as depreciate this way of salvation, and attempt to substitute another in its place. The wisdom of this scheme recommends it to the approbation of all. It has provided for the glory of God, in a display of his perfections, and a vindication of his law; and for the
salvation of sinners, by expiating their sins, and securing for them all the blessings of salvation. The wisdom of this scheme is the admiration of angels; "They desire to look into it," and from it to learn, "The manifold wisdom of God." They see it embracing many great and glorious designs, and accomplishing them by an extensive variety of means; many of which, in their nature, would rather obstruct, than expede them. Man, infatuated man, alone, impeaches this scheme as foolish. The gospel, which exhibits it was to the Jews a stumbling block, and to the Greeks foolishness; because it did not quadrate with their carnal and selfish views. Grecian wisdom was folly, as it did not lead to the knowledge of the true God. Vain man would be wise though born like a wild ass's colt. The gospel tends too much to magnify divine grace, and to debase the haughty selfish sinner, to meet with his approbation. It forbids him the enjoyment of his sinful pleasures, and strips him of that in which he glories. It rejects his own righteousness as contemptible, and directs him to free grace for justification; but this is so opposite to the pride of his heart that he treats it with contempt. He will be saved by his own works, as a scheme which he accounts much wiser than that of free grace; thus he prefers the obscurity and deception of his own mind to divine wisdom. He frustrates the grace of God, and depreciates the death of Christ as vain and unnecessary.
PERHAPS the greater part of you recoil at such thoughts, and affirm that you approve of salvation by the sufferings of Christ, and account it worthy of God. Would to heaven it were so. I am afraid, however, many of you never saw any wisdom in it, nor any end gained by it, which might not have been as well gain