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SENSIBILITY OF JESUS CHRIST.
Behold how he loved him.
By sensibility here, is meant that tender affection which Jesus bore for the family of Lazarus, and his kind anxiety for all his friends. What deep concern for the happiness of others, does Jesus shew in his prayer for his disciples, and in his conversation with them. How kindly, too, does he reprove Peter by a single look. The same thoughtful tenderness is seen in his address to the women who followed him to Calvary. Above all, you see this trait in his committing his mother to the care of John.
This delightful and attractive quality in Christ's character, shews the reality, truth and sublimity of his religion. He was truly great. He stands unrivalled. To have invented such a character, would have been a greater miracle than the New Testament records.
It is the character of Christ, Christians, which you must imitate. You should copy his tenderness. There are few of you, who do not ardently desire to die, like your Saviour, with tenderness in your hearts. You cannot forbear to reflect sometimes on death; and whatever lives you may lead, however obstinate may be your tempers, however harsh your words, however unkind your behaviour, and however implacable your resentments, you cannot endure the thought of leaving the world with such manners and feelings. If any sparks of affection are left in your bosoms,-and in whose breast are they totally extinguished?-you fondly hope, that in your last moments they will be enkindled into a vivid flame. In your imaginations you sometimes paint to yourselves the manner, in which you shall give up your spirits. You cannot promise yourselves, that you shall die with complete fortitude, with perfect resignation to the divine will; but you hope that you shall die with good will in your souls. You anticipate a disease, which may be lingering and painful, but which will not deprive you of your reason. There will be assembled round your dying bed the objects of your affection; the person, with whom you have been sometimes provoked, but who has still been always the nearest your heart; the children, who are dear to you; the domesticks, who have served you faithfully; and the friends, who have rendered life pleasant. To some you will give affectionate advice; and to all you will speak words of kindness. They will anxiously watch over you; and they will lament your death with unfeigned tears of the tenderest sorrow.
Such is the pleasing picture, which the imagination of those, who possess any goodness of heart, delights to paint. But it is not given to many to die in this manner. Some are tormented with remorse of conscience; some lose sight of their friends amidst eager specta; some die with acute pain, and some suddenly; and many are deprived of senses, reason and speech. Will you, then, postpone the love of your friends, or the forgiveness of your enemies to your last moments? No-love and cherish them now. There are evils in life; but the worst of them proceed from the want of tenderness
your friends; from your irascible passions; from your resenting the injuries of those, who immediately surround you; from your proud, unyielding, and implacable dispositions; from your harsh speeches; from rude and unkind behaviour. How many persons might become happy, if they would fill their hearts with mildness and tenderness !
DAILY USE OF SCRIPTURE.
The scriptures are profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for instruction in righteousness,
IT has been advised-I believe by Doddridge-that every one should select for himself, every morning, a verse, or short sentence from the Bible, which he may carry in his thoughts through the day; and apply for his self-government and religious improvement, in the various circumstances in which it may be employed, either for excitement or restraint. Those who are accustomed to begin every day with reading a portion of the scriptures, it will be obvious, how very easy it must be to make this selection; and it will demand but the thought of a moment to feel, if the text is judiciously chosen, actually retained in the memory, and applied with any fidelity, that this practice must greatly conduce to the formation and establishment of a christian temper, affections and habits. By faithfully persevering in this practice through a year, three hundred and sixty five texts will have obtained, not only our distinct attention to their import, but our personal application. And as perpetual dropping wears away stones, it would seem that this must be a sure means of wearing away, at least in part, any prevailing evil dispositions and propensities within us. As the amount of piety and virtue in our lives is formed of the distinct acts of duty to God and to our fellow creatures, to which we are every day and every hour called by the circumstances in which the providence of God places us, this daily and direct application to our own hearts and conduct, of some distinct principle or duty of his word, must daily enrich us more with the treasures of true glory and virtue; daily bring us to an increased preparation for the eternal service and enjoyment of God. It will indeed require vigilance and resolution, as well as prayer, to secure our fidelity, in this application to ourselves of the principles and duties of religion. But how imperious are our obligations to this watchfulness, and care, and perseverance, and prayer, when we consider that, by this word which God has given us, we shall each be judged in the last day!
I would call the attention of my readers to this subject. It will require but a very short time, in the morning, to select a text of scripture for the day. And I would propose, in making this selection,
1. That it should be the first work of every morning. 2. That the text be directly of a practical kind.
3. That it should be selected with a view to the establishment in the heart of some sentiment or principle, which we may think or know to be particularly important to the exigencies of our own character.
4. That in the secret prayer of the morning, before entering upon the business of the day, it should always be made an object of distinct petition to God, that the doctrine or duty so selected may be impressed on the memory, and faithfully applied for the regulation of thought and disposition, conversation and conduct. And
5. That every night, before going to rest, a few minutes at least be given to self-examination; and particularly to the inquiry, what influence has been excited, and what effect produced, by the principle or rule selected for the day?
Father, I thank thee that thou hast heard me.
AN ejaculatory prayer, is a short prayer quickly offered at any time or place, as circumstances may suggest. In the busiest hours of ordinary labour and in the highest enjoyment of worldly pleasure, we may secretly say, Thou God, seest me !-God preserve me! or, God I thank thee !-A heart disposed to love, trust and serve God, will every day find occasions which may excite fervent yet unuttered ejaculations. For example, are you looking upon a field. Whose is it? Your neighbour's? Thank God that he has it. Or is it your own? Thank God who has given it to you. Have you escaped any danger? Bless your Preserver. Has any one whom you love been rescued from peril? Acknowledge the hand that saved him. Are you able to minister to the necessities of another? Praise him who has given you the means, and the disposition. Do you see the deaf, the blind, the lame, the diseased, and think with joy that you are in health, and can see, and hear, move where you will, without pain? Let your joy be that of gratitude; and with your sympathies for those who suffer, let your thanksgivings for yourself ascend to heaven. Do you enjoy rest after fatigue? Consider who refreshes you, and renews your strength. Have your hours passed in tranquil pleasure? Think how they might have passed, and thank God for this season of serenity and peace. Are you angry with another? Say to God, 'Forgive me my trespasses, as I forgive others.' Are you oppressed with the cares of your family, or of your business? Remember that you are to give an account to God, and ask if they are ordered according to his will. Are you tempted to indulge any bad passion, or vicious appetite? Feel that the eye of God is upon you, and seek for his succour and deliverance. Are you doubting concerning any dispositions or conduct? Seek of God for grace to judge yourself, as you will be judged. Have you done to another as you would not that he should have done to you? Look up to God while you are considering how you may make amends for the injury. Are you sensible of having wasted your time, or abused any talent; of having spoken rashly, or acted unkindly? Ask God to guard you in future temptations. Are you suffering any affliction? Look up for consolation. Would you read the scriptures? Reflect that they are from God, and contain the words of eternal life. Do you remember what you have read? Ask for grace to practice it. Do you feel a good disposition? Request of God to strengthen it. Have you overcome a temptation? Thank him who made you victorious. Do you desire to overcome any evil propensity, or to feel more strongly the influence of any principle of piety or virtue? Seck the assistance promised to those who ask for it. Have you been ove by any appetite or passion? With your resolution of amendment, say, 'May God prosper me !'-What, in fine, is the object, and what the circumstance, which may not, and will not exercise the devotion of a heart, sincerely and strongly inclined to piety? In moments of fear and of security, of anticipation and of the accomplishment of desire, of joy and of sorrow, of adversity and prosperity, of sickness and of health, of solitude and of social pleasure, of business and of relaxation, the thoughts and affections may in a moment ascend to God, and in a moment may offer a prayer.
EXPLANATION OF THE WORD, CHRIST.
We have found the Messias, which is, being interpreted, the Christ.
THE word Christ, means, Messiah, anointed; invested with an high office; greatly favoured. It is an appellation given to the people of Israel, &c. It is especially appropriated to Jesus of Nazareth, as being that prophet that should come into the world, and as being anointed, with the oil of gladness above his fellows. Christ is said to give, and we to receive from him, that which, by him, God taught the world, or promised to them; thus we receive from him pardon and life, that is the promise or the hope of pardon and life. Christ is said to do what his gospel operates, or has a natural tendency to operate; thus he is said to guide, to strengthen, to comfort us, &c. He is said to save and to redeem us, because God by him, communicated and confirmed that doctrine, the genuine tendency of which is to deliver us from ignorance, and fear, and sin, and to inspire us with zeal, and cheerfulness, and activity in the practice of all virtue. Christ is said to do, also, that which, in the name of God, he promises or predicts and in general, the prophets are frequently commanded to do, or spoken of as doing or having done, that which they foretel. In correspondence with the foregoing observations, the phrases, through Christ, and in his name, signify the aid of his doctrine; by means of it, with its authority, according to it, in conformity with its requisitions, and agreeably to the rules which it prescribes. In correspondence also with this mode of speaking; to receive the hope of life from Christ, is to live by or through him. To live to, has a different meaning; it signifies, sometimes, to shape our conduct in such a manner as to do honour to; sometimes, perhaps, to be known to live, by him to whom we are said to live. In like manner, we are said to yield ourselves to Christ, to be governed by him, to be formed by him, when we admit and cherish the genuine influences of the gospel upon our hearts and lives. As Christ is said to save and to redeem us, because he was the instrument of God to convey and to confirm to us that doctrine which is most efficacious to accomplish the deliverance of mankind from errour, vice, and fear; so God also is styled our Saviour and Redeemer, not only because he is the ultimate author of all good, but because he is the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, and sent him into the world to bear witness to the truth which he had received from him. To preach Christ, is to deliver his history; to publish the doctrine that he taught: originally, to make known to the world what the reporters had themselves seen concerning Christ, and what they had heard from him ; at present to read to others the history of Christ and of his doctrine In the New Testament, or to relate what is found there concerning him, is most strictly and properly to preach Christ. The blood of Christ, his obedience unto death; that ministry, his fidelity in which cost him his life. They are said to be washed from their sins in the blood of Christ, whose hope of God's mercy and acceptance is encouraged by his ministry, his doctrine, his death, in which, and through which, as leading to his resurrection, his divine mission, and his fidelity in the execution of it were established; and they also are said to be thus washed, who, by the influence of these things upon their minds and hearts, have been engaged and enabled to break off evil habits, and have been brought to a just sense of their duty, and to the conscientious practice of it.
Jesus said,-Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.-This is the first and great commandment.
To love God, is to love those moral qualities which belong to the Supreme Being. The knowledge of the qualities is derived from our seeing them in others, and feeling them in ourselves. they are finite; in God, infinite.-Our love of God depends upon the moral sensibility of our hearts, for it must arise out of our perception of the moral excellencies of his character. In his eternity, he is awful; in his omnipotence, he is tremendous; it is in the moral glories of his character, that God is the object of our esteem, our veneration, and our love. It is his purity, his equity, his veracity, his fidelity, his love of virtue, his abhorrence of unrighteousness; his attention to the wants, his condescension to the frailties of his creatures, his tender mercies, and his liberal beneficence which extends itself to all his works; these are the perfections that we love in God, and in proportion to our sensibility to the excellence of these perfections, will be the vivacity of the love we bear to him. If we discern nothing excellent in these, we shall discern nothing excellent in God, except those attributes of independence and of power, which, separated from his moral glories, would render him an object of terrour, rather than of love. If our hearts are become so callous that these moral beauties can make no impression on them, the love of God can have no admittance ere.
The love of God is one of the most natural operations of the human heart, the most obvious and self-approved direction of its sentiments; for it is to admire, what is perceived to be truly admirable; to esteem, what is infinitely worthy to be esteemed; and to cherish in our hearts with complacency and delight, the idea of what confessedly deserves our supreme affection: it is, to cultivate a grateful sense of kindness that exceeds our tenderest thoughts, and of beneficence that passeth knowledge. To be devoid of the love of God, not only betrays an unnatural opposition to the dictates of self love, and of charity, but also to that other powerful and amiable principle, by whatever name you call it, which recommends all moral goodness to our hearts. It implies a strange insensibility to our own happiness, to the happiness of our brethren, and to the noblest obligations; a criminal prostitution of our affections, and a perverseness and inconsistency of character, alike wretched, deplorable, and guilty.
To love God, we must have lively apprehensions of his excellencies, and to attain these, our attention must not spend itself on those sensible and external things which comprehend the notices of them; it must not be wasted on the mirror, it must look on the image it contains; it must not be diverted by any foreign object, but fixed and regulated by the sincere desire, and the express intention to possess our hearts with the love of God. And, after all, to whatever degree of vivacity this affection may be raised by the power of serious contemplation, it will quickly need to be revived again. It is a plant too delicate not to stand in need of constant and unwearied attendance, and perhaps, with all our care, it may be impossible in this world that it should at all times be preserved in equal health and vigour.