Page images

ness. We read of our being "alienated from the life of God, through the ignorance that is in us, because of the blindness of our hearts;" and we are told that "the God of this world hath blinded the minds of them that believe not." Our Saviour sends Paul "to open their eyes;" the Apostle prays for the Ephesians, "that the eyes of their understanding may be enlightened;" and David prays for himself, "Open thou mine eyes, that I may behold wonderous things out of thy law.'

If a blind person were to say, "I see," we should be disposed to censure or pity him; we should suspect that he was influenced either by pride or insanity; and be satisfied that if a trial were made, the result of it would prove that what he affirmed was false. “Let him work-see where he seeks for his instruments, and how he uses them. Let him walk-see whether he can escape that stumblingblock or that pitfall. Desire him to pull a mote out of a brother's eye. Show him a fine painting, and ask him to mark its beauties." Men may deny their ignorance; but their lives and actions prove it. For instance: "He that loveth not, knoweth not God." And do men love God? Is he in all their thoughts? Is their meditation of him sweet? Are they inclined to speak of him? The Saviour is "fairer than the children of men; yea, he is altogether lovely" but they see "no form nor comeliness in him; no beauty that they should desire him." "Though destruction and misery are in their paths," they see them not; " and the way of truth, though revealed in the Scripture, have they not known." Is not this blindness?

Though Bartimeus was surrounded with landscapes, they were nothing to him. Though the sun shone upon his head, he saw nothing of its lustre. He saw not the guide that led him to and fro he never saw his own features; and had he been possessed of the finest mirror in the world, it could not have shown him what manner of man he was. Thus blind is man; thus unacquainted is he even with himself: thus ignorant is he, under all the advantages of external helps, and even of the Bible too-without divine teaching. "The natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him; neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. But he that is spiritual judgeth all things; yet he himself is judged of no man."



POOR MAN. In all these miracles our blessed Lord holds himself forth as the all-sufficient helper of sinners. By the cures which he wrought on the body, he shows how able he is to save the soul; and they were performed and recorded on purpose to lead us to

him for spiritual and everlasting deliverance. Hence, says the Evangelist, speaking of the signs which Jesus did truly in the presence of his disciples-"These are written that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that, believing, ye might have life through his name." Rejoice, therefore, that He who raised the dead can quicken those who are dead in trespasses and sinsthat He who healed the leper can cleanse the soul from all unrighteousness,-and that He who opened the eyes of the blind can lead inquirers into all truth.

Did he refuse this man? Did he ever refuse any who applied to him in distress? Had he rejected but one suppliant, it would have been the means of discouraging some to the end of the world; they would have feared that there was something similar in their own case. But what can we say now? We see that his actions spoke the same language with his gracious lip-"Him that cometh unto me, I will in no wise cast out."-"Come unto me, ALL ye that labour, and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest." This is to characterize him in every age: he is "the same yesterday, to-day, and for ever." He is therefore equally willing.

"But I am so poor and mean. Many of my fellow-creatures, who are only raised a little above me in circumstances, despise me. And will the King of glory concern himself in my affairs?" Yes; he condescends to men of low estate. He preached the Gospel himself principally to the poor-and to show you that your mean condition is no disadvantage in applying to him-behold him pausing, and listening to a beggar in the road. "This poor man cried, and the Lord heard him, and saved him out of all his trouble."

But you say, he is no longer here. Oh! were he now on earth, dwelling among us, how happy should we be to betake ourselves to him in all our difficulties and distresses! but the heavens have received him until the restitution of all things. Yet though no longer visible, he is still accessible; though not to be seen, he is to be found-to be found in his word, and upon his throne, and in his house: we read of "the goings of our God and King in the sanctuary;" he is now passing by, "full of pity, joined with power;" address him. Bartimeus only heard that he was passing by; he did not see him when he addressed him. Address him, then, in the same circumstances, and you will soon find that he "is nigh unto them that call upon him, to all that call upon him in truth."

Take therefore a Third admonition. BE PERSUADED TO IMITATE THE IMPORTUNITY OF THIS BLIND BEGGAR, IN CRYING FOR MERCY. For this purpose reflect upon the sadness of your present condition. Think what a degraded, uncomfortable, unsafe state you are in, and how certainly, unless you are deli

vered from it, you will soon pass from the darkness of sin into the darkness of hell. And then consider the happiness of those who have been delivered from the kingdom of darkness. "Blessed is the people that know the joyful sound; they shall walk, O Lord, in the light of thy countenance. In thy name shall they rejoice all the day, and in thy righteousness shall they be exalted; for thou art the glory of their strength, and in thy favour our horn shall be exalted." Pray therefore that you may be made a partaker of the inheritance of the saints in light.

Fourthly, If he has healed you! If you can say, "One thing I know, that whereas I was blind, now I see"- -LIKE BARTIMEUS, BE

And especially let your importunity, like this poor man's, appear with regard to two things. First, like him, seize the present moment. Let not the opportunity afforded you be lost by delay. You know not whether you will have another. Your indifference may provoke him to withdraw in anger, resolving to return no more. Your heart may be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin. You may be deprived of reason. This very night your souls may be required of you! How many are falling around you in the bloom of life! How many are called away without warning! And are you secure? "Seek ye But what will it be, when he will be seen the Lord while he may be found, call ye upon in company with all his people on the heahim while he is near." Secondly, like him, venly plains! What a day when the Rebe not silenced by discouragement and oppo- deemer will be seen with all his captives; sition. Many may try to check you. Infi- the Physician of souls with all his patients; dels may tell you to hold your peace-and and all of them acknowledging that by his say, "It is all delusion." Philosophers may grace they are what they are! What a mul tell you to hold your peace and say, "It is titude! How full of joy, and how full of all enthusiasm." Physicians may tell you to praise! And on his head will be many hold your peace and say, "It is all nervous crowns! He will inhabit all the praises of depression-away to company and the thea- Israel! "Then he shall come to be glori tre." Even divines may warn you to be sober-fied in his saints, and to be admired in all minded, and to avoid being righteous over- them that believe!" much. Formalists may tell you, "It is needless to be so warm." Companions, friends, relations, may surround you with objections, entreaties, insults, threatenings-And youwhat will you do under all this? Do!-why say, "This is a case in which another is not to judge for me. It is a personal concernand it is an affair infinitely, everlastingly important. I must succeed or perish. Lord, help me!"


This is the best way to evidence your cure. None follow him blind: but those whose eyes he has opened, see so much to admire and so much to desire in him; they feel such a dependence upon him, and such an attachment to him; that they are willing to forsake all, in order to follow him whithersoever he goeth. And every proof of your conversion, separate from this adherence to the Saviour, is fallacious and ruinous.

the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light." Follow him, then, as an imitator of his example. Follow him as a servant, to obey his orders and to bear his reproach. Follow him, to spread his fame and to be a witness of his power and his goodness.

This is also the best way to improve your deliverance. Thus you will "show forth

What an affecting sight must it have been in the days of his flesh, to have seen him moving about, followed by a number of persons whose complaints he had removed, and who acknowledged that to him they owed all the happiness they enjoyed-to hear one saying, He restored my son-another, He unstopped my deaf ears and a third, He opened my blind eyes! He is not alone now in our world. There are some who are following him in the regeneration. They are the trophies of his free and almighty grace. They were once sinners, but are now renewed in the spirit of their mind. They were once darkness, but they are now light in the Lord, and are all looking to him and saying, "Not unto us, O Lord, not unto us, but unto thy name give glory, for thy mercy and for thy truth's sake!"



Thou hast made winter.-Psalm lxxiv. 17.

AND he makes nothing in vain. Winter therefore is as worthy of our attention, as either of the former seasons which have passed under our review.

The scenes indeed all around us, which we lately beheld, have assumed a new and chilling appearance. The trees are shorn of their foliage. The hedges are laid bare. The fields and favourite walks have lost their attractions: and the garden, now it yields no perfumes and offers no fruits, like a friend in adversity, is forsaken. The vegetable creation looks dead. The tuneful tribes are dumb. The cattle are grave, and no longer play in the meadows. The north wind blows. "He sendeth abroad his ice like morsels; who can stand before his cold?"-We rush in for shelter.

[blocks in formation]

Snow is a warm covering for the corn; and while it defends the tender blades from nipping frosts, it also nourishes their growth. Isaiah remarked this long ago; and speaks of "the snow-coming down from heaven, and watering the earth, to make it bring forth

and bud." The case is this. When the snow thaws, it melts into genial moisture; sinks down into the soil, and leaves the nitrous particles with which it is charged in the pores. Thus the glebe is replenished with that vegetable nutriment which will produce the bloom of spring and the fertility of autumn.

Winter therefore is only the needful repose of Nature, after her labours for the welfare of the creation. But even this pause is only to acquire new strength; or rather it is a silent and secret energy of preparation to surprise and charm us again with fresh abundance. Nor has the Creator forgotten our well-being and comfort during this period:

For Winter is, Secondly, a season which has its pleasures. I love to hear the roaring of the wind. I love to see the figures which the frost has painted on the glass. I love to watch the redbreast with his slender legs, standing at the window, and knocking with his bill to ask for the crumbs which fall from the table. I love to observe the husbandman carrying forth the provender for his harmless charge while the creatures of his care, not with boisterous impatience, but with waiting eyes turned towards the place of their supplies, ask for their "meat in due season"and I here see one of the many ways in which "HE openeth his hand and satisfieth the desire of every living thing."

Is it not pleasant to view a landscape whitened with snow? To gaze upon the trees and hedges dressed in such pure and sparkling lustre? To behold the rising sun labouring to pierce a fog which had enveloped the heaven and the earth, and gradually successful in dispersing these vapours-so that objects by little and little emerge from their obscurity, and appear in their own forms, while the mist rolls up the side of the hill and is seen no more?

A few things also brave the rigour of the season and remain evergreen. The box, the laurel, the yew-tree, the laurustinus, are grateful exemptions from the law of desolation. Nor should we forget the curling ivy, nor the crimson berries of the wild hawthorn. Winter affords recreation for the understanding, as well as for the senses. If we

are less abroad, we have more intercourse within. If rural pleasures are diminished, social ones are increased.

"O Winter!

I love thee, all unlovely as thou seem'st, And dreaded as thou art!"

"Compensating his loss with added hours
Of social converse and instructive ease,
And gath`ring, at short notice, in one group
The family dispersed, and fixing thought,
Not less dispers'd by daylight and its cares-
-I crown thee king of intimate delights,
Fire-side enjoyments, home-born happiness,
And all the comforts that the lowly roof
Of undisturb'd retirement, and the hours
Of long uninterrupted evening know."

without having recourse to noisy, public disYes, there are amusements to be found, sipations, in which health, innocency, and peace, are frequently sacrificed; where virendered incapable of relishing genuine pleacious passions are cherished, and persons are


"-Cards are superfluous here, with all the tricks
That idleness has yet contrived
To fill the void of an unfurnished brain,
To palliate dulness, and give time a shove."
"Discourse ensues, yet not trivial, yet not dull,
Nor such as with a frown forbids the play
Of fancy, or proscribes the sound of mirth:
Nor do we madly, like an impious world,
Who deem religion phrensy, and the God
That made them an intruder on their joys,
Start at his awful name, or deem his praise
A jarring note."

Thirdly. Winter is a season in which we should peculiarly feel gratitude for our residence, accommodations, and conveniences. Things strike us more forcibly by comparison. Let us remember how much more temperate our climate is than that of many other countries. Our winter is nothing, when we turn to the Frigid Zone. Think of those who live within the Polar Circle: dispersed; exposed to beasts of prey; their poor huts furnishing only a miserable refuge; where linger months of perpetual night and frost; and, by the absence of heat, almost absolute barrenness reigns around.

When the French mathematicians wintered at Tornea, in Lapland, the external air suddenly admitted into their rooms, seizing the moisture, became whirls of snow; their breasts were rent when they breathed it; and the contact of it with their bodies was intolerable. We read of seven thousand Swedes who perished at once, in attempting to pass the mountains which divide Norway from Sweden.

And while our Winter reigns here with great comparative mildness, how many blessings distinguish our portion from that of others around us, and demand our praise! We have a house to defend us; we have clothes to cover us; we have fire to warm us; we have beds to comfort us; we have provisions to nourish us;-"What shall we render? Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits."

Fourthly. This season calls upon us to exercise Benevolence. Sympathy is now

[ocr errors]

more powerfully excited than at any other | ruptions-it is therefore favourable to appli period; we are enabled more easily to enter cation. Let us read, and study, and prepare into the feelings of others less favoured than for action and usefulness in life.

And let us not pass heedlessly by these subjects of reflection and improvement, which the very season itself yields. How instructive, for instance, is the goodness of God, not only in the preservation of the human race, but, in taking care of all the millions of animals during a period which threatens to What a number of retreats destroy them! does he provide for them! Some of them, by a singular instinct, change the places of their residence. Some of them are lulled into a profound sleep for weeks and months. Some live on the fat they have replenished Some themselves with during the summer. carry their provisions beforehand, and lay them up in their cells. "God takes care for oxen; and hears the young ravens that cry." And all this teaches us, First, to resemble him, and be kind to every being. If we learn of him, we cannot be cruel to the brute creation. We cannot be indifferent to their shelter and nourishment, when we remember, that "his mercies are over all his works."-Secondly, to trust in him. He who provides for animals, will not abandon children. "Behold the fowls of the air for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are ye not much better than they?"

The season is also instructive as an emblem. Here is the picture of life-thy flowery spring, thy summer strength, thy sober autumn are all hastening into winter. Decay and death will soon, very soon, lay all waste. What provision hast thou made for the evil day? Hast thou been laying up "treasure in heaven ?" Hast thou been labouring for "that meat which endureth unto everlasting life?"

Every thing decays except Holiness. This therefore is the true character of man; and this shows us that he was designed for a religious state rather than any other. Pursue

away from you."

Ah! ye unfeeling, ye worldly-minded, that "stretch yourselves upon your couches-that chant to the sound of the viol-that drink wine in bowls, and anoint yourselves with the chief ointments, but are not grieved for the affliction of Joseph!"-oh! ye, who can repair to every avenue of dissipation, and trample on so much distress, and shut your ears against so many groans in your way thither on what do you found your title to humanity?"—"Thy judgment is to come." this then as "the one thing needful; and Or do you lay claim to religion? Merciless choose that good part that shall not be taken wretch, can knowledge or orthodoxy save thee?"Whoso hath this world's good, and seeth his brother have need, and shutteth up his bowels of compassion from him; how dwelleth the love of God in him? My little children, let us not love in word, neither in ness." No winter there-but we shall flourIf a bro-ish in perpetual spring, in endless youth, in tongue, but in deed and in truth. ther or sister be naked, and destitute of daily everlasting life! food, and one of you say unto them, Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled; notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful to the body; what doth it profit? even so, faith if it hath not works is dead, being alone."

Soon Spring will dawn again upon us, in its beauty and its songs. And "we, according to his promise, look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteous

"Then let our songs abound,
And every tear be dry;
We're marching through Immanuel's ground,
To fairer worlds on high."

To conclude. Winter should improve us in knowledge.

It affords leisure, and excludes many inter

ourselves. And while we are enjoying every conveniency and comfort which the tenderness of Providence can afford-O let us think of the indigent and miserable. Let us think of those whose poor hovels and shattered panes cannot screen them from the piercing cold. Let us think of those, whose tattered garments scarcely cover their shivering flesh. Let us think of the starving poor, who, after a struggle which to relinquish, give up their small pittance of bread to get a little fuel to warm their frozen limbs. Let us think of the old and the infirm; of the sick and the diseased. When the evening draws on, let us reflect upon the scene so exquisitely touched by the pencil of sensibility

"Poor, yet industrious, modest, quiet, neat,
Such claim compassion in a night like this,
And have a friend in every feeling heart.
Warmed while it lasts, by labour all day long
They brave the season, and yet find at eve,
Ill clad, and fed but sparely, time to cool.
The frugal housewife trembles when she lights
Her scanty stock of brush-wood blazing clear,
But dying soon like all terrestrial joys.
The few small embers left she nurses well:
And, while her infant race, with outspread hands
And crowded knees, sit cow'ring o'er the sparks,
Retires, content to quake, so they be warm'd."

Let "the blessing of them that are ready to perish come upon us." Who would not "labour, that he may have to give to him that needeth!" Who would not deny himself superfluities, and-something morethat his bounty may visit "the fatherless and the widows in their affliction!"

They are not of the world.-John xvii. 14.
MANY have a form of godliness while thev

[ocr errors][merged small]


What in such a case are we to do? Let us abide by the judgment of God, which is always according to truth. Let us examine the Scriptures. There-real religion is held forth in its unbending dignity and matchless purity. And let us remember too-that in every age there have been some, though comparatively few in number, and generally little known, who have embodied their principles in their lives, and "adorned the doctrine of God our Saviour in all things." And the Saviour sees them, and knows them, and confesses them: and said to them all, in his intercessory prayer-"I have given them thy word; and the world hath hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world."

It is the middle clause only of this passage to which we would now call your attention. -Christians are not of the world. Let us, I. EXPLAIN AND ESTABLISH THE TRUTH OF THE ASSERTION; and, II. APPLY THE REFLEC

[blocks in formation]

In many cases therefore it is lawful to associate with the people of the world. Such are cases of necessity-when we are compelled by our situations to live among them. Such are cases of business-in which we are called to trade with them. Such are cases of charity and piety-in which we endeavour to relieve their temporal distresses, or to awaken their minds to religious concerns. Such also are cases of civility and affinity for godliness does not make us rude; nor does it banish natural affections; nor disband the relations of father and child-husband and wife-brother and sister, which have been established by nature and Providence.

tify the familiarity. The authority of God forbids it. "Save yourselves from this untoward generation. Have no fellowship with. the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them. Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you, and will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty." The peace of his fellow Christians forbids it. Such bold intimacies with the world would grieve the strong, and throw a stumblingblock in the way of the weak; and "when ye sin so against the brethren and wound their weak consciences, ye sin against Christ." He therefore cannot say as some do, in justifying his worldly freedoms-"I do not regard what others think of me, my own conscience does not condemn me." He considers others as well as himself; and never supposes his conduct innocent in the sight of God while it is censurable in the eyes of men. Oh! what a noble, what a delicate, what a selfdenying disposition does the Gospel produce! "Wherefore," says the Apostle, "if meat make iny brother to offend, I will eat no flesh while the world standeth, lest I make my brother to offend." The welfare of his own soul forbids it. "Can a man take fire in his bosom, and his clothes not be burned? Can one go upon hot coals, and his feet not be burned?" Why did God warn the Jews of old not to mingle with the surrounding nations? Because he foresaw that such intercourse would seduce them— and so it fell out-"They were mingled among the heathen, and learned their works; and they served their idols, which were a snare unto them." And it is owing to such intimacies with the people of the world, in our day, that "the love of many waxes cold;" that they are drawn off by degrees from the house of God; and yield up one thing after another, to avoid giving offence, till their profession becomes not only their disgrace, but their burden, and they completely throw off the restraint.

And here, my young friends, I would particularly address you! Beware of wicked company; beware of infidels; beware of sceptics; beware of those who deride the leading doctrines of the Gospel, or even the infirmities of the people of God. Your seducers generally begin very remotely from the place where they mean to leave off While they are endeavouring to obtain your regards, they often conceal what, if divulged at once, would shock your feelings; but,. when they have engaged your affection and confidence, they will draw you on, till you look back with horror upon the distance you have passed; or, what is worse, be given up to "a reprobate mind!" Break off therefore such connexions-your safety requires it.

But further than this a Christian will not go. He cannot choose the people of the world as his companions and friends; he cannot seek after intercourse with the world when it depends upon his own option, and none of the afore-mentioned reasons can jus

« PreviousContinue »