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to enter on a new course.
The frivolous objects which before engaged their attention seem to have lost their charm, and a flattering prospect is exhibited of their turning into the path of wisdom. From their subsequent conduct, however, it is manifest their passions were only laid asleep, while their principles continued unchanged. The influence of the world was suspended, not destroyed. The novelty of their situation put new thoughts into their minds, and awakened fears to which before they had been strangers. But as the whole impression was to be ascribed to circumstances, when these circumstances were changed, the mind returned to its former state. Their “ goodness was as the morning cloud, and as the early dew which passeth away.” The serious impressions they felt during the season of affliction were never followed up. They terminated in no regular attachment to the serious exercises of piety; or, if they were led to pray at all, they were not sufficiently deep and abiding to produce a perseverance in that duty. The recovery of health, or the return of prosperity, gradually, but speedily, effaced every trace of serious feeling, and left them, perhaps, in a state of deeper alienation from God than ever.
3. Ephraim is here represented as reflecting upon it. (Proximate causes of the inefficacy of correction by itself.)
4. Inattention to the hand of God, and, as a natural consequence, their neglecting to pass from the contemplation of their sufferings to their sins.
Religion begins with consideration. Till they are brought to thorough reflection, no real improvement can be expected. It was a frequent complaint with the Messiah, “My people will not consider.” “ The Lord crieth unto the city, and the man of wisdom shall see thy name: hear ye the rod, and who hath appointed it."* If we consider affliction as springing from the dust, and content ourselves with looking only at secondary causes, or human instruments, no wonder,
Men are apt to spare themselves; to give way to a dangerous pusillanimity, by shrinking from reflections which, however useful in their tendency, they find to be painful. They are apt to consider their sufferings as expiatory.
5. In the serious purpose of a religious life, formed under afflictive dispensations, too many depend entirely upon resolutions formed in their own strength. To such purposes may be applied the beautiful image of Nahum : “ As the great grasshoppers, which camp in the hedges in the cold day, but when the sun ariseth they flee away, and their place is not known.”+
II. The prayer,—“ Turn thou me,” [may be] enforced by such arguments as these :1. The plea of necessity. There is no other re
It is evident something is wanting, some divine [agency), which shall produce the effect which external events have failed to [produce].
+ Nahum iï. 17.
* Micah vi. 9.
2. To entreat God to turn is not to ask an impossibility. The residue of the Spirit is with him.
3. It is worthy of his interposition. The turning the heart is a fit occasion on which Omnipotence may act.
4. The plea may be enforced by precedents. It implies no departure from his known methods.
5. We may enforce it by a reference to the divine (mercy].
ON THE COMFORTS OF CHRISTIANS UNDER EITHER
WORLDLY OR SPIRITUAL TRIALS.
Psalm xciv. 19.-- In the multitude of my thoughts within me thy
comforts delight my soul. Let us take a brief survey of the internal thoughts, of a distressing nature, which are apt to arise in the mind of a good man; and next observe the tendency of the comforts of the gospel, to assuage or remove the uneasiness which they have occasioned.
I. Let us take a survey of some of the distressing thoughts which are apt to oppress the mind of a good man. They may be considered as relating to these objects: the state of the world, the state of the church, and his own state as an individual.
1. The state of the world. When a good man surveys the general prevalence of irreligion and impiety, when he considers how few there are, comparatively, who seek after God, or are moved by any impression of a serious nature, he cannot but be affected. “ I beheld the transgressors,
* Preached at Leicester, December, 1815.
and was grieved. Horror hath taken hold upon me because of the wicked that forsake thy law.”* When, again, he considers whither such a course must tend, and in what it will possibly issue, the prospect is still more alarming. It is no want of charity to suspect that the greater part of mankind fall short of the condition of salvation; it is the very consequence of submission to the authority of revelation. “ Wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat.”+
2. The state of the church. The palpable inconsistency between the lives of numerous professors of religion, and the real import of that profession. The many instances of gross
immorality which are found in the christian church, [supply] the subject of much distressing reflection to the sincere follower of Christ. It was to St. Paul: “For many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ.” The injury sustained by the divine honour, the discredit reflected on the gospel from this quarter, surpasses calculation.
The obstructions permitted to present themselves to the propagation of divine truth are of a sinister tendency, and give birth to many a * Psalm cxix. 158, 53.
† Matt. vii. 13.
painful reflection in the minds of such as have the interest of Zion at heart. In how
instances is the introduction of saving light prevented by the exercise of intolerance, while the most detestable corruption and idolatry are sanctioned and upheld by the same means? In how many instances have the fairest prospects of good been suddenly blasted by superior power, the faint embers of the true religion almost extinguished, and its possessors exposed to all the severities of persecution ?
Such is the state of the protestants in France at this moment. * From an authentic statement, lately sent me, it appears that they are treated with the utmost cruelty, compelled to quit their habitations, hunted and driven like wild beasts; infants are torn from their mothers, in order to be initiated into the mysteries of antichrist; and, in some instances, whole families are massacred. Who can fail to be affected ? So contrary to recent expectation, so offensively repugnant to the design of Providence and the dictates of prophecy, who can fail to exclaim with the pious Joshua—“What wilt thou do unto thy great name ?”
“ Have the workers of iniquity no knowledge, who eat up my people as they eat bread ?”+
3. Uneasy thoughts arising from his state as an individual. Every heart knows his own bitterness, and a stranger intermeddleth not therewith.”
Here we may briefly [advert to] trials of a worldly and trials of a spiritual nature. * See note, p. 279.
† Psalın lüi. 4.