Page images
PDF
EPUB

which separated us from eternity, and that glorious light which shines with unclouded brightness in the heavenly kingdom, can reach even this lower world, and shed a mild and cheerful influence upon our vale of darkness,

Among the many spiritual feelings and affections which appear to have animated the heart of the Apostle, none seems to have been more constant, more wakeful, or more lively, than Gratitude to God for his abundant and never-failing mercies. This diposition of mind is visible in all the writings of St. Paul. He seems to have been ever on the watch to observe indications of the bounty of Providence, and his feelings instantly responded. He appears to have lived in a state of continual thankfulness; and when we consider that the whole of his life, from the hour of his miraculous conversion to his martyrdom, was but one unvaried scene of pain, weariness, contradiction, and

persecution, how fervent must have been that faith, how highly spiritual and heavenly that temper of mind, which could triumph so entirely over all the ordinary feelings of humanity, and overflow with the most árdent gratitude, in the midst of those sufferings which are apt too often to depress and sour the finest dispositions! Natural sweetness of temper is one of the qualities which in this world is most universally valued. And it is justly valued. But who has ever known or heard of a temper so perfect, as to be able, in its own resources only, to sustain such a series of provocations, labours, and sufferings, 'as St. Paul endured through a long course of years? It is the grace of God, the strength and peace imparted by Him who is most truly entitled the Spirit of hope and consolation, that can alone form the soul to so heavenly a state, that, like the finest steel, it shall only become more firm and perfect in the intense heat of the furnace, and conflict the hardest and roughest substances without losing its edge. Nothing distinguishes so certainly that true benignity of soul which belongs to the established Christian, from a natural cheerfulness, facility, and gentleness of disposition, as its power to resist the shocks and trials of adversity. Many, whose sullen or sarcastic natures now excite a general dislike, were once gay and cheerful, and even admired for those very qualities of which they appear to be so destitute. The fault probably was not so much in the original cast of their dispositions; as in an habitual disregard of those means, which are alone effectual to bestow a settled complacency and benevolence of heart. The condition of such persons is indeed most melancholy. Every thing within, and every thing around them, is gloomy; for the same passions which alienate others are a torment to themselves. We should be exceedingly careful not to increase the distress of such persons, by yielding to those feelings of irritation or dislike, which we are apt to experience when exposed to their infirmities.

But let the example of St. Paul teach us a lesson of still higher value:—that Religion, where it is really vigorous, is a remedy against every temptation, and every sorrow.

He was a man of strong passions and the most acute sensibility; and the trials to which he was exposed, were such as perhaps no one, except our blessed Redeeiner, ever supported. Did they render him gloomy, desponding, irritable, or severe? Read his writings. Every page breathes hope, and joy, and love, tranquillity, gratitude, and confidence. Does religion produce in our hearts the same dispositions and feelings? If not, it is not the religion of St. Paul; it is not the religion of Christ. There is something erroneous or defective.

There is another point of view, in which the gratitude of St. Paul well deserves to be contemplated. It is quite manifest, that such thankfulness under such afflictions, must have had its foundation in the deepest humility. Nothing tries the state of the heart more closely than affliction. A proud man, (and we all are in some degree proud by nature,) has but little sense of the goodness of God in the mercies he bestows, for they seem but the proper recompense of his merits; and if he falls into misfortunes, it is to be feared, unless they reform the heart, they will harden it; for we are naturally averse to those who cause us to suffer, and unless our sufferings produce reflection, repentance, and humility, there can be no doubt that this principle of our nature will operate, even where the author of our punishment is God himself. It is highly probable that the malignity of evil spirits is

VOL. II.

Сс

owing in a considerable measure to this cause. But the sentiments of the Christian in distress are of an opposite kind. He knows that he has sinned greatly against his Creator and sovereign. He knows that he has merited none of the bounties and blessings which he enjoys, but far more than the whole of the severest pains to which he is subjected. He knows that God is both righteous and merciful: that he chastens his servants from no cruel or angry motives, but because it is needful that his government be sustained, and his glory vindicated; because too, chastisement will both contribute to work the reformation of the offender, and to warn him against future sins: he knows that the most favoured of the children of God, have been subjected during their earthly pilgrimage to heavy trials and afflictions; and he knows too, that there is an inheritance of endless and unspeakable felicity prepared for those who patiently endure unto the end; “ that our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory.” The true Christian bows humbly under the hand of God. It requires however, an exceedingly deep sense of our guilt and demerits, to be really thankful in suffering; because our natural feelings are powerful, and though at another moment we might be willing to acknowledge our true deserts, human infirmity is apt to disturb and shake in the hour of trial, even our most reasonable convictions. The example however, of the blessed Apostle, may well excite us to aspire to a temper of mind, which will render us (through the ever present help of the Holy Spirit,) superior to all the inclemencies of this stormy region. That such a temper is exceedingly to be desired, no Christian certainly will doubt; that it is attainable, the history and writings of St. Paul, even if no other example could be found, might sufficiently assure us. Of such a temper Humility is the first principle; the low but sure foundation on which the whole moral edifice must be erected.

ON THE SACRAMENT OF THE

LORD'S SUPPER.

The Sacrament of the Lord's Supper was instituted by our Saviour Jesus Christ, just before he laid down his life upon the cross for the sins of all mankind. He commanded his disciples to celebrate

this Sacrament through all ages, as a memorial of · his love to us, and his sufferings for us, and as a

means of obtaining grace and help from God to do his will. It cannot therefore be habitually neglected without great sin, and very imminent danger of losing all the benefits which Christ died to purchase for us.

But some are afraid to come to this Sacrament,

« PreviousContinue »