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thy God will hold thy right-hand, saying unto thee, fear h6t I will help thee." But still, as Satan will not be idle, we must, while we stedfastly rely upon the truth and faithfulness of God, take care that he do not corrupt our worship, or our doctrine, or intrude his own servants upon us, and that he do not lull us into a state of ease and carnal security. It is but too well known^ that after the primitive church had for ages endured all sorts of persecution; when it pleased God to. give it great peace and quietness, when the empire became christian,, and honour and power and riches were possessed by many of the ministers, the life and power of religion soon began to. decline. And it was said by some, that till then they had wooden candlesticks in the church, but golden preachers, but afterwards they had golden candlesticks, but wooden preachers. And what has befallen others may also befall us, therefore it nearly concerns us to take heed to ourselves; as well as our doctrine, that he who hath preserved us hitherto, may continue so to do, and make good his promise to us, even to the end.
The promise may be considered as made to individuals in the church of God. If so, then we should observe, that although there is no condition expressed, yet there must be one implied, or it is not true; as we well know that Satan's weapons have prospered against particular persons, such as David, Solomon, and St. Peter, with too many others in our own time. That this promise may be daily fulfilled to us, it is highly necessary that we should know our danger, that we are in an enemy's country, and that Satan is always upon the watch, that he may ensnare us. Had Peter seen the danger he was in, he would rather have been upon his knees at prayer, than sitting among the avowed enemies of his Lord. A man unconscious ef danger, is too apt to grow secure, but a sense of danger leads to watchfulness and prayer.
We ought to have a deep sense of our own weakness, of our inability to withstand the devil, or to escape the many snares which he may lay for our feet. If we begin to presume upon our own strength, and think that we are able to contend with our enemies, this self confidence will surely betray us, and we shall be overcome. But if we are sensible of our own insufficiency, we shall endeavour as much as possible to keep out of harm's way, and to cleave ume the Lord, that he may uphold us.
He who would be kept from the powers of darkness must stand upon the watch-tower. This was our Lord's advice to his Apostles, "Watch and pray, lest ye enter into temptation," and it is equally necessary for us. "Keep thy heart with ail diligence, sajth Solomon, for out of it are the issues of life:" And he who would wish to conquer must always remember this, and act accordingly: An unwatchful, trifling soul, will surely be overcome, and will make much work for repentance. And we must join constant fervent prayer with watching, that we may receive continual supplies of spiritual strength from above, so shall we be enabled to stand in,the evil day. A praying soul shall be strengthened with might by the spirit of God, and shall be upheld by his powerful arm, and the devil shall not be able to gain any advantage otfer him. ° , ,'..
We must add to all the rest the constant exercise of faith in that all-powerful God, who alone can support and defend us: Having clear views of his all-sufficiency and his readiness to assist all who look unto him, we must call upon him in prayer, that he may fulfil to us his faithful word, we must remind him of his promise, and lay our case open before him. O ray God, thou seest what powerful Weapons are formed against me, accomplish thy own design, and let not one of them prosper. Thus going to the Lord in prayer, and relying upon his truth and faithfulness, we shall find, according to our faith so will he deal to us, and we shall have strength according to our day. That it is the merciful design of God to make his grace suffi-. cient for us, throughout the various trials and difficulties of this life, we cannot doubt if we believe this promise, as well as inany others of the same kind. And although we are in continual danger, yet we need not live in constant fear; for then our life would be very uncomfortable indeed. But our Lord wbuld -have all our -graces to be improved; therefore he gives us proper occasion for the exercise of patience and resignation, of spiritual courage and divine fortitude, likewise for trust and confidence in himself, that he will be our helper. And while we steadily trust in God we shall not painfully fear, nay, rather we shall rejoice in hope of seeing his power and goodness manifested in our deliverance, and being delivered^ and seeing his promise fulfille% we shall feel that gratitude and love to our deliverer, which .will lead us to praise and thanksgiving. So that notwithstanding all the trials, difficulties, afflictions and dangers of the present life, yet enjoying the presence of God, and being enabled at all times to trust ia him for support, we shall enjoy that solid happiness which the test of mankind are entire strangers to.
We come now to consider the last of these promises. And every tongue that shall rise up in judgment against thee thou shalt condemn; "Marvel not, said our Lord, if the world.hate 217
you." This has generally been the portion. of the people d.f God iii all ages :, And if. the world hate us, we may expect they will shew their hatred by reproachful, uncharitable, unkind, ungenerous, and sometimes by bitter and cruel language. They will lay to our charge things which we knew; not of. There are still people in the world, " whose lips are1 spears and arrows, and whose tongue is a sharp sword." Thd heart of man is still deceitful and desperately wicked, and therefore will be ready enough in inventing and devising evil, and the tongue of man is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison, and such will send forth their arrows, even bitter, and soul-wounding words. But we have here a gracious promise of God to comfort us, and he will make it good to those who walk uprightly.
Let .wisdom dwell with prudence, and let us walk before the Lord so as to ive no ust occasion :6f offence
the Lord so as to give no just occasion :6f offence tb any but let us endeavour to please all men for good to their edification. Let us live in the daily exercise of the sincerest good will, of the most unfeigned love towards all around us; let this amiable temper influence all our conduct; let nothing of sternness, sourness, or unkindness, appear at any time: but on the contrary, the greatest courtesy, affability, meekness^ gentleness, humility, and love. Above all, let us live as in the presence of God, and constantly maintain the Christian spirit and temper; let us be universally conscientious and uniformly pious. Let us daily exercise ourselves in keeping a conscience void of offence both towards God and man. In a word, let us be wholly devoted to God, endeavouring in all things to please him, and to keep a clear sense1 of his approbation. And then we shall have no just cause to fear any man^ noi shall we heed to be ashamed to speak with o'uf bitterest enemies in the gate. Let the men of the world say what they will; when we.can go before him, who searches the heart, and make our appeal to him, Lord thbu knowest I airi innocent in this matter, we may leave our caus£ tyith hifn^ wlioin due time will make our innocency to1 appear ds the light,' and our just dealing as the noon-day. When it is in our power, we ought to take proper measures to clear Ourselves, ahd not let the gooct that is in us, be evil spoken of; but this is not always in our -lxiwer, many instances may occur, when we can bring no other proof of our being free from blame, but our own solemn declaration.
, "Who shall lay any thing to the charge of God's elect, it is God who justifieth, who is he that shall condemn." But
when \\j«*Tonsider that our Lord hath said, "The time will come wcenVhosoever killeth you will think he doth God service $" ij£ed we wonder that wicked men will say all manner .of evil of us, merely because we belong to Christ. How little do such men consider that word of God; "He who toucheth these,toucheth the apple of mine eye:" But we may derive much comfort from it, and may commit ourselves wholly to our gracious God, so shall we be kept from the power of our enemies, till he shall say unto us come up hither, then shall we dwell in a peaceful habitation forever.
i Peter in. 12, 13.
Tlie eyes of the Lord are over the righteous, and hit ears are open to their prayers; but (he face of the Lord is against them that do evil: And who is he that shall harm you, if ye be followers of that which is good?
.1 HE more attentively we consider the writings of the holy Apostles, and the more clearly we shall see, as they had received an extraordinary commission from the great and glorijied Head of the Church, to preach the everlasting Gospel to mankind: So he had also blest them with extraordinary abilities, for the performance of that great and blessed work. The spirit of wisdom and love rested upon them, and by the mighty power of God, they boldly withstood all their enemies, they bore lip under the severest persecutions, and endured the greatest hardships: And by the wisdom given them from abpve, fully declared the whole counsel of God to the people, and delivered to every description of men, their proper portion of his holy word. They did not "take the children's bread and cast it to the dogs;" they did not apply the great and exceedingly precious promises of the gospel, to poor, wretched, impenitent sinners; neither did they apply the terrible threatehings which God hath denounced against those who live in rebellion against him, to those who were walking in the fear of his sacred Name. But they constantly adapted their publjc discourses, as well as their private epistles, to the spiritual state of the people, for whom they were intended.
When St. Paul was called to bear a public testimony for his Master, to a congregation of heathen philosophers, he solemnly warned them of their sin and danger, saying, " At the times of ignorance, God had winked; but now commandeth all men, every where to repent:" And he enforced this solemn warning, by farther declaring, " God hath- appointed a day, in which he will judge the world in righteousness." But in what a different manner does this Apostle address a