Page images
PDF
EPUB

I will pluck up, even this whole land. And seekest thou great things for thyself ? seek them not, for behold, I will bring evil upon all flesh; ... but thy life will I give unto thee for a prey in all places, whither thou goest;" that is, seek not success, be not impatient, fret not thyself, be content, if, after all thy labours, thou dost but save thyself, without seeing other fruit of them.

And now, my brethren, does what I have been saying apply to all of us; or only to Prophets ? It applies to all of us. For all of us live in a world which promises well, but does not fulfil, and all of us (taking our lives altogether apart from religious prospects), begin with hope, and end with disappointment. Doubtless, there is much difference in our respective trials here, arising from difference of tempers and fortunes. Still it is in our nature to begin life thoughtlessly and joyously; to seek great things in one way or other; to have vague notions of good to come; to love the world, and to believe its promises, and seek satisfaction and happiness from it. And, as it is our nature to hope, so it is our lot, as life proceeds, to encounter disappointment. I know that there are multitudes in the retired ranks of society, who pass

their days without any great varieties of fortune; though even in such cases, thinking persons will have much more to say of them. selves than at first sight might appear. Still, that disappointment in some shape or other is the lot of man, (that is, looking at our prospects apart from the next world,) is plain, from the mere fact, if nothing else could be said, that we begin life with health and end it with sickness; or in other words, that it comes to an end, for an end is a failure. And even in the quietest walks of life, do not the old feel regret, more or less vividly, that they are not young? Do not they lament the days gone by, and even with the pleasure of remembrance feel the pain ? And why, except that they think that they have lost something, which they once had, whereas in the beginning of life, they thought of gaining something they had not ? a double disappointment.

Now is it religion that suggests this sad view of things ? No, it is experience; it is the world's doing; it is fact, from which we cannot escape, though the Bible said not a word about the perishing nature of all earthly pleasures.

Here then it is, that God HIMSELF offers us His aid by His

come.

word, and in His Church. Left to ourselves, we seek good from the world, but cannot find it; in youth we look forward, and in age we look back. It is well we should be persuaded of these things betimes, to gain wisdom and to provide for the evil day. Seek we great things? We must seek them where they really are to be found, and in the way in which they are to be found; we must seek them, as He has set them before us, who came into the world to enable us to gain them. We must be willing to give up present hope for future enjoyment, this world for the unseen. The truth is (though it is so difficult for us to admit it heartily), our nature is not at first in a state to enjoy happiness, even if we had it offered to us. We seek for it, and we feel we need it; but (strange though it is to say, still so it is,) we are not fitted to be happy. If then at once we rush forward to seek enjoyment, it will be like a child's attempting to walk before his strength is

If we would gain true bliss, we must cease to seek it as an end; we must postpone the prospect of enjoying it. For we are by nature in an unnatural state; we must be changed from what we are when born, before we can receive our greatest good. And as in sickness sharp remedies are often used, or irksome treatment, so it is with our souls; we must go through pain, we must practise self-denial, we must curb our wills, and purify our hearts, before we are capable of any lasting solid peace. To attempt to gain happiness, except in this apparently tedious and circuitous

way, is a labour lost; it is building on the sand; the foundation will soon give way, though the house looks fair for a time. To be gay and thoughtless, to be self-indulgent and selfwilled, is quite out of character with our real state. We must learn to know ourselves, and to have thoughts and feelings becoming ourselves. Impetuous hope and undisciplined mirth ill-suit a sinner. Should he shrink from low notions of himself, and sharp pain and mortification of natural wishes, whose guilt called down the Son of God from heaven to die upon the cross for him ? May he live in pleasure here, and call this world his home, while he reads in the Gospel of his Saviour's life-long affliction and disappointment ?

It cannot be; let us prepare for suffering and disappointment, which befit us as sinners, and which are necessary for us as saints. Let us not turn away from trial when God brings it on us, or play the coward in the fight of faith. "Watch ye, stand fast in the faith, quit you like men, be strong®;" such is St. Paul's exhortation. When affliction overtakes you, remember to accept it as a means of improving your hearts, and pray God for His grace that it may do so. Look disappointment in the face.“ Take .... the Prophets .... for an example of suffering affliction, and of patience. Behold, we count them happy who endure." Give not over your attempts to

serve God, though you see nothing come of them. Watch and pray, and obey your conscience, though you cannot perceive your own progress in holiness. Go on, and you cannot but go forward ; believe it, though you do not see it. Do the duties of your calling, though they are distasteful to you. Educate your children carefully in the good way, though you cannot tell how far God's grace has touched their hearts. Let your light shine before men, and praise God in a consistent life, even though others do not seem to glorify their FATHER on account of it, or to be benefited by your example. “Cast your bread upon the waters, for you shall find it after many days.... In the morning sow your seed, in the evening withhold not your hand; for you know not whether shall

prosper, either this or that; or whether they both shall be alike good®.” Persevere in the narrow way. The Prophets went through sufferings to which ours are mere trifles; violence and craft combined to turn them aside, but they kept right on, and are at rest.

Now, I know full well, that this whole subject is distasteful to many men, who say we ought to be cheerful. “ We are bid rejoice, why then do you bid us mourn?” I bid you mourn in order that you may rejoice more perfectly. “ Blessed are they that mourn, for they shall be comforted?.”

They that sow in tears, shall

reap in joy." I bid you take up the cross of Christ, that you may wear His crown. Give your hearts to Him, and you will for yourselves solve the difficulty, how Christians can be sorrowful, yet always rejoicing. You will find that lightness of heart and cheerfulness are quite consistent with that new and heavenly character which He gives us, though to gain it in any 258 JEREMIAH, A LESSON FOR THE DISAPPOINTED.

51 Cor. xvi. 13. 7 Matt. v. 4.

6 Eccl. xi, 1.6. 8 2 Cor. vi. 10.

good measure, we must for a time he sorrowful, and ever after thoughtful. But I give you fair warning, you must at first take His word on trust; and if you do not, there is no help for it. He says, “Come unto Me, ... and I will give you rest.” You must begin on faith ; you cannot see at first whither He is leading you, and how light will rise out of the darkness. You must begin by denying yourselves your natural wishes,-a painful work; by refraining from sin, by rousing from sloth, by preserving your tongue from insincere words, and your hands from deceitful dealings, and your eyes from beholding vanity; by watching against the first rising of anger, pride, impurity, obstinacy, jealousy; by learning to endure the laugh of irreligious men for CHRIST's sake; by forcing your minds to follow seriously the words of prayer, though it be difficult to you, and by keeping before you the thought of God all through the day. These things you will be able to do, if you do but seek the mighty help of God the Holy Spirit which is given you; and while you follow after them, then, in the Prophet's language, “your light shall rise in obscurity, and your darkness shall be as the noonday. And the LORD shall guide you continually, and satisfy your soul in drought, and you shall be like a watered garden, and like a spring of water, whose waters fail noto.

9 Isa, lviii, 10, 11.

SERMON CLVI.

ENDURANCE OF THE WORLD'S CENSURE.

EZEKIEL ii. 6.

" And thou, son of man, be not afraid of them ; neither be afraid of their

words, though briers and thorns be with thee, and thou dost dwell among scorpions ; be not afraid of their words, nor be dismayed at their looks, though they be a rebellious house.”

What is here implied, as the trial of the prophet Ezekiel, was fulfilled more or less in the case of all the prophets. They were not Teachers merely, but Confessors. They came not merely to unfold the Law, or to foretel the Gospel, but to warn and rebuke ; nor to rebuke only, but to suffer. This world is a scene of conflict between good and evil. The evil not only avoids, but persecutes the good; the good cannot conquer, except by suffering. Good men seem to fail, their cause triumphs; their own overthrow is the price paid for the success of their cause. When was it that this conflict, and this character and issue of it, have not been fulfilled ? So it was in the beginning. Cain, for instance, was envious of his brother Abel, and slew him. Enoch walked with God, and was a preacher of righteousness, and God took him. Ishmael mocked at Isaac ; Esau was full of wrath with Jacob, and resolved to kill him. Joseph's brethren were filled with bitter hatred of him, debated about killing him, cast him into a pit, and at last sold him into Egypt. Afterwards, in like manner, Korah, Dathan, and Abiram rose up against Moses.

VOL. V.

Y

« PreviousContinue »