Page images





[ocr errors]

Single out whom you please, yet there are very few with whom we would exchange conditions—all circumstances considered-in every particular. Such an one you take to be in general happy; but if you descend to particulars and take into the account, it may be visage, or his health, or his person, or his abilities, or his temper, or deportment, you would rather continue as you are than make a thorough exchange. Further; the cause why men generally repine at misfortunes, is the very reason why they ought to be thankful. For the cause why we are so much discontented is, the uncommonness of our misfortunes. If we were inured to grievance, like veterans who have already received many scars, we should bear up with undaunted courage against new assaults; but being unaccustomed to hardships, not being trained in the school of severity, the least disaster unhinges our minds, just as the least cold or inclemency of the air affects those who have been bred up with over-much delicacy and tender

A thousand blessings which we have enjoyed pass unregarded, merely because they are become familiar and common to us. One affliction, merely because it is uncommon, leaves deep traces behind it. Whereas, the chief sensibility or resentment that it ought to raise in us, is that of gratitude to God for sending those chastisements so rarely. It may be further observed, that we lie under a mistake if we imagine that they are the great, the mighty and extraordinary misfortunes that sour our temper. For these too rarely befall the generality of mankind, to beget in them a habit of petfulness. They are the little cross incidents of life-some trivial neglect that has been shewn to us—some expression dropped in conversation that seems to reflect upon us; in short, any untowardly affair that in the least crosses our inclinations and does not exactly tally with our designs, which by degrees entirely embitters the mind, and produces an habitual peevishness and acrimony of spirit.

Another motive for contentment is, that the time is coming, and must shortly be, when, if we have retained our integrity and piety, it will signify little or nothing what else we have lost; but if we have lost these, it will signify little or nothing what else we have acquired or retained. However rugged and uneven the ways may be, yet it is some comfort, that, as one expresses it, they lead to our Father's house where we shall want nothing. One other reason for contentment, which we shall mention is, that could we see through the whole contexture of things, we should find we have as much reason to thank God for what he has withholden from us, as for what he has granted to us. We should leave it to him alone to dispense his blessings as he pleases—who alone knows what will prove a blessing to us in the final issue of things. The Lord may administer not what is palatable, but what is salutary to us, who have no health in us; and the longings of a distempered feverish soul, are no more to be gratified than the longings of a sick feverish body, without increasing our distemper, endangering our welfare, and making that which might have been cured, a sickness unto death,-God's great will be done without reserve! For if ours were done without reserve, and each exorbitant wish gratified, there would need nothing else to make us completely miserable. We often owe our happiness to this, that it is not in our power to make ourselves unhappy, which we seldom fail of doing where it is. What was the severest curse that God inflicted on the Israelites? Was it when he curbed and laid a restraint on their inclinations ? No: it was when he gave them up to their hearts' desire, and




[ocr errors]

allowed them to follow there own inclinations. We pray for honors : but God may withhold us from honors, because he would not expose us to infamy— because he knows whether those virtues which flourish in the shade might not whither away in the sunshine. This God only knows. What falls within the com pass of our knowledge to abate our fondness for honor, is, that unless a man is born to greatness, he seldom can become great, without becoming little first. We mean, he must stoop to a thousand littlenesses and basenesses which a generous nature disdains. To purchase honors, he must often part with that uncomplying virtue and integrity, which all the honors in the world itself cannot give him an equivalent. Honor and advancement here are often like death, the wages of sin: in the next world they will be the gift of God, and therefore the reward of piety. Whatever greatness is founded on any other basis, is not the greatness of a regular well-proportioned man-it is the greatness of a monster, where there is no grace or comeliness that we should desire it, but every thing is unsightly and deformed. We pray for riches, but God alone knows whether riches would not beget, in us, an undue opinion of ourselves, and lay us open to the impressions of flattery from servile dependents, who would practice upon our weakness: whether a continued succession of gaiety, pomp and pleasure might not dazzle the mind and divert it from the one thing needful, till we became like the soil, from whence our riches were first dug out, barren and unfruitful. Add to this; that the same wealth which sits easy upon every person bred up in high life, would be an awkward incumbrance to men exalted on a sudden, from a low condition. So much reason is there for that prayer of the philosopher: “O God, avert from us whatever is evil, though we do

pray for it; and grant us whatever is good, though we do not pray for it.” Or in the comprehensive words of our blessed Saviour: “Deliver us from all evil,”—from evil in general, without specifying what evil; but leaving it to him, whose unerring wisdom can only determine in most cases what is evil for us; and whose unbounded goodness will grant whatever is good for us, upon our serious, constant, and affectionate prayers to him.

Here our mistake lies : we suppose that happiness consists in indulging each gay and florid fancy—each fond and effeminate desire-each dear conceit that rises uppermost in our minds when our spirits run high; and if this were true it would undoubtedly follow that affluence is necessary to happiness. But God who sees not as we see, knows that happiness is produced by correcting our vain imaginations, by disciplining our passions, and bringing us to a just sense of Him, of ourselves, and every thing else that concerns us. Let us then co-operate with God, and look into our hearts. Are there no clamourous passions there, which like so many wayward children, the more they are indulged the more headstrong and refractory they grow, distracting the parent's breast that bred and cherished them? If there are, we may depend upon it, this world cannot make us happy; for heaven itself cannot make that man happy, who has these sources of wretchedness within him. In fine, you must form a true relish of life, just as you do of painting. You must not suffer your eye to be captivated by gay glossy coloring, by gaudy ornaments, however they may strike and dazzle you for a while. You must dwell upon the more austere and manly graces, which never please upon a transient view; but when they have once pleased you, please you for ever after. The allurements of sensual pleasures catch the heedless and injudicious. But the beauties of holiness do not at first sight invite the eye-they have something severe in them ; and you must dwell

[ocr errors]



upon and consider them thoroughly, to be enamoured of those graces which depend not on changeable fancy, but are founded on truth and justness of thinking, -graces which will never please you while you are thoughtless, nor be disrelished by you till you become so. However wisely and industriously you pursue worldly things, you can never be secure against a disappointment. There is one pursuit in which you can meet with no disappointment; and it is the pursuit of piety. Since every honest and spirited endeavour after piety is, piety in some degree—which if we do not slacken our exertion, will lead us on to a greater—till our goodness shines more and more to perfect day.

Meditation on our Lord's Passion.
(Translated from the Meditationes Sacræ' of John Gerhard, D.D.)

“Behold Christ suffering."

pours out his

Behold, O faithful soul, the grief of the suffering, the wounds of the suspended, the torture of the dying Redeemer on the cross ! That head, reverenced by angelic spirits, is wounded by the sharpness of the thorns; that face, “fairer than the sons of men,' is defiled by the spit of the wicked; those eyes, clearer than the sun, are closed in death; those ears, which heard angelic praises, are stunned with the insult and reproaches of sinners; that mouth, which uttered divine sayings, and taught the angels, is soaked with gall and vinegar ; those feet, at the footstool of which he is worshipped, are fastened with nails; those hands which spread the heavens, are stretched on the cross and nailed; that body, the most holy seat and pure habitation of the Godhead, is scourged, and wounded with a spear; nothing remains uninjured but his tongue, that he might pray for those who crucified him! He who reigns in heaven with the Father, is most bitterly afflicted by sinners on the cross ; God blood, suffers, and dies. From the costliness of the ransom, you may reckon the greatness of the danger; from the value of the remedy, you may estimate the danger of the disease. Great indeed must those wounds be, which nothing but the wounds of that quickening and life-giving flesh can heal; great indeed must the disease be, which can be cured only by the death of the Physician!

Think, O faithful soul, on the most violent wrath of God! After the fall of our first parents, the eternal, only begotten, and well-beloved Son of God, became our Intercessor; still his anger was not turned away. He, by whom the world was made, interceded,—he, the chief Advocate of our salvation, took the cause of us miserable sinners into his own hands; still his anger was not turned away. He transferred sin and the deserts of sinners to himself.

His body was bound, beaten, wounded, pierced, fixed on the cross, and laid in the grave. The blood flows copious as the dew from all his members; his most holy soul is above measure sorrowful; nay, he is sorrowful even unto death; he is subjected to the torments of hell. The Eternal Son of God exclaims that he is forsaken of God. He who comforts all the angels, pours out so much bloody sweat, feels such agonies, that he needs the comfort of an angel. He dies, who is the Giver of life to the living. 'If this be done in the green tree, what shall be done in the dry? If this be done to the Just and holy One, what shall be done to sinners?' How will he punish sin committed, who thus punished sin imputed? How can he bear that perpetually in the servant, which he thus severely punished in his Son ? If he whom he loves thus suffer, what must they

[blocks in formation]

suffer whom he hates ? If Christ die not without the scourge, who was indeed without sin, of how many stripes are we worthy, who are born, live, and die in sin ? Shall the servant rejoice while the beloved Son is suffering so severely for his fault? Shall the servant keep up the anger of God, while the Son doth thus labour to pacify and appease his Father's wrath ? O the infinite wrath of God ! -the inexpressible fury,—the unsearchable rigor of Justice, which thus rages against his only begotten and well- beloved Son, partaker of his own essence, not for any sin he hath committed, but because he intercedes for the servant ! What will be do to the servant who securely persists in sin and disobedience ? Let the servant fear, tremble, and be sorrowful for his offences, since the Son is punished for the sin of others. Let the servant who continues in sin be afraid, seeing that the Son thus suffers for sin. Let the creature tremble, who thus crucifies his Creator. Let the servant fear, who slays his Lord. Let the ungodly and the sinner tremble, who thus afflict the Just and holy One.

Beloved let us hear his cries, let us behold his tears; he thus cries from the cross, ‘Behold, O man, what I suffer for thee; I cry unto thee, because I die for thee : behold the punishments I suffer, behold the nails with which I am pierced, and see if any grief be like unto my grief. Although my outward grief be thus great, yet my inward grief is more grievous, because I find thee so unthankful!' Have mercy, have mercy upon us, thou whose property it is to have mercy, and convert our stony hearts unto thee !

A Moral Sketch.


From the only window of a small uncomfortable room in that part of modern Jerusalem, which stands on Mount Calvary, looked out a young man of interesting appearance. He seemed care-worn, but cheerful; grave, and yet happy; and he surveyed, with no common emotion, the objects which met his view. He fixed his eye first on a spot, some mile or so distant, encompassed with a low wall, and studded with eight olive trees of a venerable age, where he had more than once prayed for the outpouring of the Divine Spirit on the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and where the Saviour of the world, eighteen hundred years before, had 'offered up supplications and prayers, with strong crying and tears.' His eye thence travelled slowly over Mount Olivet, remarking the abounding verdure, the undulating surface, the tufting of olive trees, the winding road to Jericho, and the scenery of the Dead Sea and the Arabian desert in the distance, till it rested on the summit of the Mount, whence the Lord Jesus had ascended from the presence of his disciples, and been received up into the clouds of heaven.' The observer looked next on Mount Moriah—the place where Abraham had offered his son Isaac, where Solomon had built a temple to the Most High, where Jehovah had for ages tabernacled with men in the cloud of his glory? – and, while he gazed on its four minarets, and its mosque, and its beautiful esplanade, he sighed to think how its precincts might not be entered by a Christian but on pain of death, and how its holy ground-its ‘Holiest of all' where dwelt the Shecinah, and its "outer court which was honoured by the personal presence of the Messiah-could now be trodden only by Mussulmans, the

[blocks in formation]
[ocr errors]

followers of the 'false prophet.' He now turned his eye toward a splendid edifice surmounted by a dome, and situated, like his own residence, on the Mount of Crucifixion; and he gazed long, and with troubled looks, on that building—the church of the holy sepulchre’-reflecting on its having once been the scene of the entombment and the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and on its now being the scene of at once lying wonders' and abominable hypocrises practised by his pretended followers. The observer had been within the walls of the edifice; he had witnessed the pretended miracle of the holy fire; he had seen the practical heathenism of the professing Christians, Greeks, Latins and Armenians, who had made pilgrimages to its shrines; he had literally burst into tears while looking at 'the place where the Lord lay,' and comparing the lessons which it taught with the profanation of them which was perpetrated on the spot, and he could not now but utter a groan when he thought how the impostures and the superstitions exhibited there were the chief and caricatured display of Christianity afforded to the modern inhabitants of Jerusalem. Lifting his eye from off the church of the holy sepulchre, he turned it heavily over the various districts of the holy city,' remarking that the very turbaned head-dress of its inhabitants betokened devotion to another prophet than Jesus, and that the flat roofs of its housesthe like of which had, eighteen hundred years before, been covered with a crowd of people, so anxious to see the miracles of Jesus, that they tore away the pavement in order to let down a paraylatic to his presence-were tenanted only by frivolous idlers, or by worshippers whose prayers either denied or affronted the only Lord God who bought them; and though in a different sense and in reference to a different people, he could not refrain from echoing the words of his Lord: 'Oh Jerusalem, would that thou, even thou, hadst attended to the things that make for thy peace !

He whom I picture to have made these observations and reflexions, was Pliny Fisk. He had crossed the wide waste of waters' from America, in order to repeat' the glad tidings of great joy' which had been first published, after the death and resurrection of the Saviour, in their own city; and, during the earliest weeks of his sojourning amongst them, he had hardly known whether had prevailed most, the confirming of his own faith, by visiting the scenes of Immanuel's miracles, and sufferings, and death, or sad and depressing wonder at the infidelity or the hypocrisy which the daily witnesses of those scenes were in the habit of displaying Scarce had he finished that survey of the city, which we have described, en, on his door being opened in answer to a call for admittance, there entered his apartment a body of Turkish soldiers, to the number of about twelve. He had more than once been visited before by parties of the military, as well as of civilians, who asked from him copies of the scriptures; and he did not feel any surprise, or think anything unusual had happened in the present intrusion. He went, however, in an incidental way, into another room, and from that to another, and was followed, on each occasion, by a soldier; and he then surmised that he had become a prisoner, though on what accusation he could not conjecture. His situation was soon explained. He had, some days before, received, and had begun to issue, a supply of copies of the scriptures from the British and Foreign Bible Society; and he was now to be taken before the tribunals of man, literally on account of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus. The soldiers locked up and sealed his apartments, and led him away to the palace of the governor. There he was formally arraigned for the crime of issuing copies of the revealed will of Jehovah ; and while he stood before the judgment-seat of the successor of Pontius Pilate, proclamation was made throughout the city, that

[ocr errors]


« PreviousContinue »