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enjoyment;—though men cannot be too thankful for them, yet it is well for them to be aware, that neither can they well be too watchful. They have reason to fear, lest their flow of spirits, and even way of enjoying themselves, day after day, and week after week, tempt them gradually away from their Saviour, and make them feel as if they had need of nothing. I say, to those who have good health and keen spirits are more especially addressed those texts of Scripture, which call on men to deny and mortify themselves. God has not as yet begun to warn them, by pain or weakness, how frail they are. So much the more need have they to provide themselves warnings from time to time; by fasting and other acts of secret self-denial, by waiting on sick beds, and on persons in pain, by much and deep remembrance of the sufferings and martyrdom of the Saints; and, above all, by representing to themselves our Blessed Saviour tormented on the Cross. These thoughts are good for the afflicted, in order to make them ashamed of repining; and surely they are not less, but if possible more necessary, for the healthy and strong; not only that they may have compassion on their brethren, but also that they may learn to fear God's wrath, and those dreadful pains which await sinful bodies hereafter.
I am well aware how strange it seems, to young persons especially, to be called away from their enjoyments, how simple and innocent soever, and bidden to deny themselves, to wait on those who are in pain and want, to fix their imaginations on the torments of martyrs, and on the Cross of our LORD and SAVIOUR. But let them seriously consider one thing. They kneel down every day of their lives (else they are not Christians at all) to recommend themselves to ALMIGHTY God by prayer in the Name of our LORD JESUS CHRIST, to ask His pardon and the gift of His Holy Spirit. Now which do they find suits best with their prayers: the diversions of which they are so fond, or these thoughts of pain, and sickness, and the Cross, which it seems to them strange to be reminded of? Again, which of the two do they think are most like the thoughts and meditations of our Blessed Saviour? We never read of His joining in any
diversion ; but we know that He spent His life in self-denial, and in waiting on those who were in pain and sickness. You cannot seriously doubt that His rule of life was the best. If so, you will in earnest fear to lead a life of bodily pleasure, a life of mere ease and indulgence. When God sends sickness or want upon you, or upon any of your friends, and so makes a life of mere indulgence impossible, you will reconcile yourself to the severe trial, by looking forward to that world, for which, as we shall one day understand, sickness and want are often the best preparation.
Finally, since “Christ is risen from the dead, and become the Firstfruits of them that slept," a Christian heart will feel reconciled, not only to sickness and want, but to death itself, the last enemy. For even the body of a faithful Christian cannot properly be said to die. It is only laid with our Lord in the
grave, for a short time, sure soon to awake, and then never more to return to corruption. In our flesh we shall see God." What manner of persons then ought we to be in all holy conversation and godliness ! how reverently ought we to preserve our bodies from sin, how scrupulously to respect the bodies of our brethren! since Christ will one day call both them and us from the grave, and earnestly desires, if our sins prevent Him not, to carry us all with Him into Heaven.
PATIENT WAITING FOR PROMISES.
PSALM xlviii, 8.
“ We wait for Thy loving-kindness, O God, in the midst of Thy temple.”
THESE words of the Prophet and Psalmist seem to contain a short and plain account of the temper and behaviour of the friends and Apostles of our LORD, during those days of hope and patience, which came to an end on the morning of the first Whitsunday. Our LORD, on departing, told them, that as surely as John had baptized with water, they should be baptized with the Holy Ghost, not many days from that time. How many He did not say; but He distinctly forbade their moving out of Jerusalem, or doing any thing in their great office of witnesses to Him, until they should be so endued with power from on high. They were to wait for the promise of the FATHER, which they had heard from Him. Accordingly, having solemnly worshipped Him on His departure, they returned to Jerusalem with fear and great joy; and were continually in the temple, praising and blessing God. Thus exactly did they fulfil the description, which the Holy Spirit by the mouth of David had so long before given in the text, of the temper and behaviour which He approves of in His Church, and in every member of the same, concerning His great and precious promises. We are to "wait for His lovingkindness in the midst of His temple.” “He that believeth shall not make haste.” “There is need of patience, that after we have done the will of God we may obtain the promise.”
We naturally think the time long, while we are expecting any blessing, more especially when the Word of God is pledged to us for the blessing itself. And the blessing, which the Apostles were now waiting for, was both in itself, and to them, infinitely beyond all others that could be desired. It was the return of Him who had just departed from them, not leaving them comfortless, but coming to them again by His Spirit. But so perfect had their faith now become, that they endured His absence, not only patiently, but with a holy and reverential joy; in this, as in other things, offering an instructive contrast to the behaviour of God's elder Church, the Church of the Israelites in the wilder. ness, when their Mediator had been out of sight in the mountain for several days. They began to complain, -" As for this Moses, we wot not what is become of him;"—and their complaining ended, as you know, in profane idolatry. But the spiritual Israel, those out of whom God was about to complete the foundation of His Church,--they waited patiently for the LORD. They had taken it on His word, however unaccountable it might sound, that it was expedient for them, His going away; and they were prepared to trust Him still further, and to abide in faith and quietness any length of time, during which the COMFORTER might delay His coming.
Further; observe the place where they waited. The prophecy had described God's people as waiting in the midst of His temple. Our LORD ordered His Apostles to tarry in the city of Jerusalem, and they were continually in the temple. And as it is said in one of the oldest Prayer-books of the Church, it was “ in an upper room of holy and glorious Sion,” where they were assembled with one accord, when the windows of heaven were opened, and the unspeakable Gift poured forth; the same upper room, no doubt, which is mentioned in the first chapter of Acts, to which they had gone from Mount Olivet, immediately after our Lord's ascension, where all the Apostles abode together, “ with the women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with His brethren.” There they continued, with one mind, in prayer and supplication : they were also continually, that is, at the services, in the temple, praising and blessing God, until the great miracle of miracles happened, and the kingdom of heaven was opened to all believers.
Now, does not this teach us something as to the disposition and frame of mind, which God approves of and will bless in His Church, and in all to whom His promises are made ? Does it not seem to show, first of all, that patient waiting is the strength of God's people; that they greatly err if they pretend to fix His times, or to take His matters into their own hands; and, secondly, that they are to take things as they find them, and set out on God's work in their social callings from the present moment, and the present state of things, whenever and whatever it be? They are to make the best use they can of it, in doing or suffering their MAKER's will: even as the Apostles did not separate themselves from the temple worship, imperfect as they knew it to be, nor from the communion of the unbelieving Jews, though newly stained with their Master's blood; they continued, as we have seen, in the temple; they solemnized the great day of Pentecost, which the Jews kept in remembrance of the giving of the Law, by assembling together with one accord at the third hour; which was one of the Jewish hours of prayer,- -an hour no where appointed in the Law, but ordained by the voluntary piety of God's ancient people, and so far approved by God's testimony, as that He several times answered the devotions of His people at that hour with great and signal blessings from Heaven.
In these and other instances, the holy Apostles showed themselves the true followers of Him, who came not to destroy the Law but to fulfil; and they seem to set us an example how we too should follow His steps. In other words, we are not to draw back, and let our time pass unimproved, or indulge in any sort of spiritual idleness, on the plea, that “ really the state of things is so very bad, we would mend it if we could, but we cannot; and therefore we will just behave ourselves as the world does. If we had lived among the first Christians, or if our own families, or neighbourhood, or acquaintance, were more favourable to such efforts than they are, then the case would be different, we would try and do something ; but, as it is, we are sure it would do no good; it is not for us to reform the world; we are not called to it; so we will even stay as we are for the present, and wait until God shall send us better opportunities.”
This is no uncommon way of speaking, as might be shown by many familiar instances. Did you never, for example, know a