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PLEDGES OF PROVIDENCE.
Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass of the field, which to day is and tomorrow is cast into the oven, shall he not much more clothe you?
THE providing care of God over all his creatures is not only declared by revelation but manifested by all the works of nature. Turn our eyes where we will, we see in every part of creation evidences of the fostering hand of its author and preserver. Not the meanest reptile that crawls on the ground, or insect almost invisible to the eye, but has ample provision made for it, suited to the condition in which it is destined to exist, and act :-provision for its birth, its growth, its sustenance, its protection, its enjoyment: provision, which could not be the work of chance, or of any skill or foresight of its own; but plainly evincing the operation of infinitely and inconceivably superiour power and wisdom, guided by unlimited benevolence. So superior a being as man in this visible creation, could not have been disregarded in this bounteous system; and he may draw every confidence and hope, in his present and future welfare, from this pledge which nature gives him of the supervising care of God.
It is plain that our Lord appeals to this constitution of nature to encourage this confidence; and to repress that distrusting solicitude respecting the requisites to present existence, so often encouraged by men; springing from their extravagant and hurtful desires, which it is the greatest kindness to disappoint.
It is not intended to discourage laudable and useful industry in the affairs of life; or necessary and moderate prudence, and forethought for the support of themselves, or those who may be entrusted to their care; but to direct their main attention from needless riches, and ideal wants, to "the kingdom of God;" to those great principles of christian faith and disposition, which will secure to them an entrance into a better and more permanent state of existence; and to induce them to leave to their Maker, that care for their temporal and animal existence which he has given such abundant proof of having assumed.
A mind wishing to be satisfied of a divine superintendency, should examine creation. Let it contemplate the curious organization of any flower or herb of the field, and the attention bestowed on even its outward figure; and then consider whether it is probable, that the Being who so wonderfully wrought such a substance, can neglect any intelligent creature, or be inattentive to any circumstance of his existence; whether he who has with perfect exactness adjusted the parts of dead matter to one another in the most trifling plant, must not be proportionably exact in what is of infinitely greater moment, the adjustment of pleasure and pain to a human soul.Has God, in the lowest of his works, been thus lavish of wisdom, beauty, and skill, and is he sparing of these in the concerns of reasonable beings?
Let this care of God be an anchor of trust and hope—and secure, that all which depends on him will be effected; that all our wants natural and spiritual, will be provided for in every state of existence; let us strive to perform that which depends on us; the cultivation of religious dispositons; and we need have no solicitude for the future; but may contemplate with confiding tranquillity our eternal destiny.
Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth give I unto you.
THE peace of the christian is not that which is purchased by wealth or enforced by power; not that which is acquired by flattery to the passions and accommodation to the follies of mankind. It is not a timid shrinking from necessary danger; or a careless disregard of valuable rights, or important truth it is not secured to us by the vigilant justice of civil government; or the protecting terrour of defensive armies. The external quiet derived from these sources is the hollow peace which "the world giveth," and beneath the veil of a prosperous tranquillity, which seems to surrounding eyes to be guarded in safety from every storm, a war is raging in the unseen spirit, more terrible and destructive than the convulsions of empires. There glittering temptations encounter with active perseverance the wavering phalanx of resolution; there infuriated desire demolishes the fortresses of prudence; there malice, and anger, and revenge, lay in ruins the fairest creations of fancy and enjoyment; there dark remorse calls up from the shadows of the past, the terrible spectres of committed sin.
Christianity comes with the white banner of celestial truth, to dispel this internal war it banishes from the breast of its true converts those unhallowed passions which harrow it into commotion; or awes them into silent submission, and filling their abdicated thrones with higher and nobler sovereigns-with Faith, which fixes her firm undeviating stand on the solid basis of divine revelation, with Hope, which raises her enraptured eye to the world of future glory; with Love, which calls round her ever-kindled altar, the sympathetic hearts of intelligent creation; imposes a self denying correction; moulding the whole soul into harmonious tranquillity.
He, who though buffetted by the world; "despised and rejected," called to a life of sorrow and temptation and suffering, endured for the good of his persecutors, yet possessed a peace of which they were unconscious, and has left it to his followers. Disciples of Christ! cherish his precepts, and "that peace which passeth all understanding," shall be your solace and strength amid the trials which encompass you here, and shall triumph in unsullied lustre in the regions of eternal felicity.
There is no peace which can ever be incorporated with a worldly or irreligious life-no peace which can accord with the ignorance or the pride of infidelity-with the presumption of the scorner-or with the impenitence of the hardened. But great peace have they who live by the faith of the Son of God, and who love God's law. Nothing shall offend them, whatever be their lot, and whatever may be the department of duty, or the course of discipline selected for them. The peace of God rules in their hearts, amidst all the vicissitudes of this uncertain world; and they go from strength to strength, while they anticipate, with faith and confidence, the blessedness and the security of an eternal world.
OBEDIENCE TO CHRIST SECURES HIS LOVE.
If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father's commandment and abide in his love.
OUR blessed Lord, distinguished above all beings within our knowledge, by the greatness of his powers and the purity of his character, ascribes all the love borne to him by his Father in heaven, to his obedience to his commands; and has assured us that a like obedience on our part will in like manner secure his love to us. Disciples of Christ! what commands would you not obey to obtain the love of this celestial, this glorious, this affectionate being the love of him who has ascended to the right hand of the everlasting Father, far above all principalities and powers; angels and archangels being made subject to him. Did he command you to undergo a life of toil, and difficulty, and pain-to surrender every earthly good, and travel through paths of unmixed adversity; would not these sacrifices be a cheap price for so great and estimable a love? and indeed little short of this, was the trial and suffering his love brought him to endure for us. But his commands are not grievous; his yoke is easy and his burden light. Self denials and fortitude are indeed enjoined; but nothing which is not for our real happiness here and hereafter-nothing for his own benefit or pleasure, nothing but what is given in friendly discipline.
Christ indeed came to set us free, and deliver us from a yoke which our fathers could not bear-but it is freedom from sin and errour and the corruptions of the world, and the tyrannical passions of our own hearts-but not to make us independent of his holy and righteous sway. In obedience to him we shall find that truth which will make us free indeed, and find the sweetest liberty in our most implicit allegiance.
And shall we not obey such a master as this? shall we not obey him, not grudgingly, but with joy and cheerfulness? Let us yield our whole hearts to him, devote our whole strength to his serviceour whole will to his precepts without deviation and without a
Love to Christ became to his followers the grand moving spring of christian activity. "The love of Christ constraineth us, because we thus judge, that if one died for all, then, all died; and that he 'died for all, that they who live should not henceforth live unto themselves; but unto him who died for them and rose again.' Love to Christ was a prominent and distinguishing feature of the christian character. 'Grace be with all them that love our Lord Jesus Christ with sincerity.' The strongest terms that can be selected, are not too strong to express his claims to our attachment; his title to the entire surrender of our hearts. We are called upon to join in these rapturous ascriptions, in which all creation is represented as uniting-Blessing, and honour, and glory, and power, be unto Him that sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb, forever and ever.
Lord as the lustre of thy beaming love
CHARITY AND CANDOUR IN JUDGING OF OTHERS.
Judge not, and ye shall not be judged; condemn not, and ye shall not be condemned.
PERHAPS there is no way in which we more frequently do injustice to others, than in forming a judgment of their actions and even of their motives, without sufficient knowledge of their sentiments, feelings or circumstances to warrant any decisive opinion on our part concerning them. It is true we cannot associate with others, especially if on terms of familiarity, without obtaining some general knowledge of their characters; indeed it is our duty to seek such information, that we may know how to bestow, or receive good impressions, in our intercourse with fellow beings; but while we allow the propriety and even necessity of such inspection and investigation as shall render our acquaintance with them safe and profitable; there will be many instances of an equivocal kind in the conduct of our general acquaintance; and some even in the conduct of our friends, which demand from us a charitable construction, and on which christian candour should teach us rather to suspend our judgment, than to pass a severe censure, even in our own minds.
There is no stronger indication of christian humility and christian charity than an unfeigned kindness and candour in judging of others; and this we may doubtless consider as the reason why the promise in our text is added to the precept. He who is sensible of his own defects, errours and sins, who secretly laments them, and strenuously endeavours to correct and purify his own character; who constantly implores the divine guidance and assistance in this most important work, will possess a tenderness of heart, a benevolence of feeling which will lead him to desire the virtue and improvement of his brethren-and this tenderness, this affection will impel him to make such allowances for the frailties and temptations of others, as he is disposed to hope will be made for his own. He cannot therefore be uncharitable in his judgments, he will not condemn the conduct of a fellow being while any circumstance remains on which a favourable construction may be reasonably grounded. And if, when all is known which can be known to man, he is obliged to acknowledge his neighbour's guilt, and pass on his conduct the censure which truth and justice must award to vice and immorality; he will mingle compassion for the sinner with hatred of the sin, and in the spirit of that "charity which hopeth all things" for the benefit of others, he will pray for conversion and reformation of the wretched offender.
It is requisite however to make a wide distinction between charitable judgment, and the habit of indifference with regard to character which induces some with a good natured carelessness to speak well of all their associates indiscriminately; this is not charitable judgment, in fact it is a want of judgment altogether; and though preferable to asperity and detraction, is really no virtue. It is often as much a duty to reprove vice as to commend virtue; and where either is obvious, the duty is plain; but the judgment which men pass on others, whether severe or charitable, often take for granted motives and principles which can only be conjectural, and it is in such cases that the christian will involuntarily adopt the sentiment enjoined by his divine Master, he will wish, and hope, and believe the best, and his expressions and his conduct will manifest the tenerness of his feelings and the charitable nature of his judgment.
PRINCIPLE IN ALL CASES BINDING.
Be not ye called Rabbi, (or Master) for one is your Master, even Christ and all ye are brethren.
WHILE there are different ranks in society, some must be subordinate, and consequently some must have precedence of, and controul over others, both in secular and domestic concerns; there is yet one circumstance, in which all the distinctions of life are lost; in which all difference of station should be disregarded. It is that, wherein the rights of conscience are concerned; where private judgment is opposed by public or individual opinion. In this case you must call no man Master, you ought not, you cannot transfer your own responsibility to another. However humble your own station may be; your sense of duty, your obligation to perform it, is as precious, as important as that of any other human being; and you cannot justify yourself to God or your own conscience for violating this right, by pleading the authority of the greatest man on earth. There is no man who has a right to command you to do wrong; and should any one assume this prerogative it is your duty to resist it. You may be gentle and humble; you ought to be meek and courteous; you ought to submit to the "powers that be, as ordained of God;" so far as they accord with his divine will; but you are bound to enquire earnestly, and consider seriously, what is the divine will; and having satisfied your own mind on that most important point, let your obedience, or conformity to others be regulated by their accordance therewith. Remember also, while you thus claim an inalienable right for yourself, that you are equally bound to allow it to those over whom you may have personal influence; and beware that you do not abuse the title of Parent, Guardian, Friend or Benefactor, by requiring or expecting sacrifices of principle from those whom you have previously obliged and benefitted. A grateful heart, or one oppressed by the weight of obligation, may be tempted to make such a sacrifice; and if you place such a temptation in the way of any fellow being you are highly criminal. You are permitted to sacrifice your property, your time, your talents; when by so doing you can benefit another. You are even required in some instances to make such sacrifices, when the good which you can thereby bestow, is greater than the evil you suffer. This is in fact christian benevolence. But no consideration can warrant a voluntary sacrifice of principle. Nothing can justify you in yielding your own sense of right to the wishes or the will of another. Such a sacrifice can never be made-c -can never be required, by one who feels that he is accountable to God.; who feels that one is his Master, even Christ, and that all mankind are his brethren, over whose conscience he has no controul, over whose faith he has no dominion; and to all of whom he owes the debt of kindness, courtesy, and good will.
In yielding your sense of right, you sin against God; by treating with disrespect his two best gifts, reason and revelation. He first gave you faculties to examine doctrines and principles, adding the light of revelation to your mind. No one can require you to neglect what both reason and revelation teach, and yet be your friend.
Yield not to erring man, thy Saviour's claim;