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many are very backward to see. But where christian faith and doctrine are despised, or neglected, or buried in oblivion, you will not find these fruits. However pleasantly and elegantly such men may talk of virtue, it is but talk: They cannot practise it, in whose hearts Christ dwells not by faith.
And methinks these considerations may serve to fortify young minds against the fashionable evils of the day. It is the fashion--and young people catch it very eagerly,—to despise the examples of ancient wisdom and piety. The world, in its old age, seems now fallen into dotage, and sets aside all former maxims and rules. Men seem inclined to settle religion, government, and morals, quite in a new way; by new-invented theories; with an entire contempt of all that is gone before us. I shall continue, I hope, not to regard these extravagant theories, till I can see some better proof of their utility than hitherto appears. Young people are led by them into a high opinion of their own understanding. The fear of God and all the principles of christian doctrine; reverence for law and order, and a respectful attention to the wisdom and examples of our elders and forefathers,—these things are trampled under foot. Men's souls are much endangered by this spirit, and therefore I am in my right office when, from this place, I warn young people against them.
It is very probable that Esau, the brother of Jacob, falling in with ambitious and presumptuous spirits of this sort, learnt to be profane, and to despise the godliness of his fathers Abraham and Isaac. Observing that godly men were few comLet young
pared with the number of licentious characters, he would become more daring in impiety. The Spirit of God directed Jacob in a different manner. The lives of his forefathers Abraham and Isaac, even if there had been no good men in the world besides, deeply impressed his mind, and proved effective in showing him what a divine and excellent thing the fear, and faith, and love of God was. And he walked in their steps, and followed not a multitude to do evil.
To finish this third observation. people attend to the godly examples of those who have gone before them. Let them follow their faith, considering the end of their conversation. Let them see how God was with them; how well they lived; and in what peace they died. Let them then compare with this the pretensions of new theories in religion, however plausible, and however generally supported by the great ones of the earth. Let them remember that experience is on our side; and, on the other side, mere reasoning without facts; in one case humility and the fear of God, in the other impiety and presumption. In the first, view a life of godliness and useful charity to men; in the other, an open contempt of godliness and high-sounding pretensions to charity, but without real fruit; unless sedition, impudence, ambition, and ostentation be the proper fruits of charity. To a well-regulated mind the contrast appears striking. Leave then new fancies, follow the old religion; and walk before the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob : And, if your own families afford examples of this sort, look up to them with reverence and affection, and imitate them with diligence and resolution.
4. We may observe, also, what a blessed thing it is to have a God to depend upon, whom we can gratefully acknowledge as the God, who has fed us all our life-long unto this day. What a cheerful idea is this to good old Jacob! His life had been spent amidst a variety of sufferings : Yet he sees his God had always taken care of him : and in the crisis of his distress, from time to time, had stepped in to his relief, and heard his prayers. This is the God to whom he commits his children: a friend, that never forsakes those who depend on him.
And here let us learn, with Jacob, to adore the Providence of God, and to take notice of his hand in all that befals us. How Atheistic is it, to receive bounties from God continually, and to take no notice, to make no acknowledgements; to be even worse than the brute beasts! “ For the ox knoweth his owner, and the ass his master's crib,” and a dog, in his own way, will show a grateful sensibility for kindnesses received. How much more than brutish is it, then, for persons to be fed to the full; and, for years, to have lived on the Providence of God, unthankful, senseless, proud, ashamed even to own any thing of God in their conversation, and ascribing to themselves what belongs to him. “My power and the might of mine hand have gotten me this wealth.” Surely, to have been supported and fed by God all our days, though with many trials, if attended with a sense of the goodness of God upon the heart, is infinitely better than to have amassed thousands of gold or silver, and to have lived like Pharaoh, saying, “Who is the Lord?”
For, surely, that which sweeteneth life, that, which makes it grateful indeed, and substantially
cheers the soul, is this ; to have God with us as a Father and a Friend. His loving kindness is better than life itself. And when he lifts up the light of his countenance, and grants us a sense of his favour,—this is blessed indeed! For meat, and drink, and worldly advantages of all sorts, cannot feed the nobler part of man, the soul. The love of God only,—however ridiculed by profane persons the feelings of it in the heart may be,—this only is proper food to the soul ; and this only gives the right relish to inferior bodily comforts. Besides, life is precarious, and its duration like a shadow that departeth. What are you to do, when the things you set your heart on shall be taken away from you ?
Acquaint, then, yourselves with God in Christ : Seek him in the way of his Gospel; and, in following this salutary advice, you will possess the inestimable comfort of knowing him as the author of your mercies, and not be as those who live without God in the world. For this God is your God for ever and ever, and will be your guide unto death.
5. But when I consider the next clause, “the Angel which redeemed me from all evil,” I am led carefully to distinguish the God of Jacob from the imagined God of those who are called Deists, or of any who believe not according to divine Revelation. The true God, who made heaven and earth, cannot be approached by us guilty creatures in way than through the mediation of Jesus; and we are too corrupt ever to bring our own hearts to a cordial acquiescence in this doctrine, without the influence of the Holy Spirit. And this is the Scripture doctrine of the Trinity : “ Through Christ we
have access by onę Spirit unto the Father.” This was ever the faith of good .men. It is not a mere point of speculation. It is practical. Whoever thinks that he can come to God absolutely without the mediation of Christ, and without the influence of the Holy Spirit, may safely be pronounced ignorant of the true God, and of his own depravity. When men come to know themselves, they find that they are unclean; and, that a just and holy God condemns them : Nor can they rest till they become acquainted with him through Christ. And they find they cannot know him through Christ, but by the influence of this same Holy Spirit. It was thus that Jacob knew him, when he called him " the Angel which redeemed me from all evil.” It was a very different thing from that general knowledge of God, which is attainable by the light of nature. Such a knowledge as this would not have supported Jacob in the prospect of death. When he cries, “I have waited for thy salvation, O Lord,” he looked for heavenly enjoyments through the Mediator. He knew himself to be full of evil, and unfit to approach God.
But the God whom he served was the “ Angel who redeemed his soul from all evil.” And this view of things is not, in any degree, natural to man in his unconverted state.
In Jacob's case, and in that of all men who really love God, it is effected by the operation of the Holy Ghost.
To finish then this observation. Let us see that our meditations and preparations for death be attended with right views of God in Christ, as saying us unworthy and miserable sinners, of his goodness alone. In this light we shall be both humble and