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Let them reflect how important it is to prepare themselves for the future unknown vicissitudes of the world. For, if a man live many years and rejoice in them all, yet let him remember the days of darkness, for they shall be many.
Now, either in the prospect of future distress, or under present suffering, I say, that the religion of Christ gives rest to the heart by the fortitude which it inspires, and by the consolations which it affords.
First, It inspires fortitude. It discovers a supreme administration, so friendly to the interests of goodness, as never to allow the followers of Christ to dread, that in any situation of fortune, they shall be neglected by Heaven. From the abstract consideration of the divine perfections, men had always some ground to believe, that the general order of the universe was consulted by its great Ruler. But how far the interest of individuals might be obliged to yield, or, in many cases, might be sacrificed, to this general order, they were left altogether in the dark. Here the gospel of Christ comes to our aid by the explicit assurance which it gives, that, in the great system of Providence, the welfare of every single good man is particularly included. All things, we are expressly told, are made to work together, not merely for the order and perfection of the whole, but also, for good to them who love God. † The life of every person who comes under this description, forms a system complete within itself; where every event that happens to him possesses its destined place, and forms a link in that great chain of causes, which was ap
* Eccles. xi. 8.
+ Rom. viii. 28.
pointed, from the beginning of things, for carrying on his improvement and felicity. Such an arrangement of the affairs of the world, may appear astonishing to our narrow capacities; yet surely implies no effort beyond the reach of infinite power, joined with infinite wisdom and goodness.
Hence arises a degree of fortitude and constancy to good men, which can upon no other grounds be attained. Faith, in these principles of the Gospel, erects for them a fortress impregnable to the assaults of the world, into which they can at all times retreat. Sitting under the shelter of Divine protection, they calmly hear the storm, when it blows with its utmost violence around them. The floods have lifted up their voice; they have lifted up all their waves. But the Lord on high is mightier than the noise of many waters; yea, than the mighty waves of the sea. *
Of the man who possesses such principles, it is justly said, His heart is established; he shall not be afraid of evil tidings ; his heart is fixed, trusting in the Lord. † Tranquillity, order, and magnanimity, dwell with him; while all is confusion and trepidation among those, who have nothing to look to but the apparent disorders of the world.
The doctrine of Christ not only arms us, in this manner, with fortitude against the approach of evil ; but supposing evils to fall upon us with their heaviest pressure, it lightens the load by many consolations to which others are strangers. While bad men trace, in the calamities with which they are visited, the hand of an offended Sovereign, Christians are taught
* Psalm xciii. 3, 4.
| Psalm cxii: 7, 8.
to view them as the well-intended chastisements of a merciful Father. They hear, amidst them, that still voice which a good conscience brings to their ear ; Fear not, for I am with thee; be not dismayed, for I am thy God.* They apply to themselves the comfortable promises with which the gospel abounds. They discover in these the happy issue decreed to their troubles: and wait with patience till Providence shall have accomplished its great and good designs. In the mean time, devotion opens to them its blessed and holy sanctuary : that sanctuary in which the wounded heart is healed, and the weary mind is at rest; where the cares of the world are forgotten, where its tumults are hushed, and its miseries disappear; where greater objects open to our view than what the world presents ; where a more serene sky shines, and a sweeter and calmer light beams on the afflicted heart. In those moments of devotion, a pious man, pouring out his wants and sorrows to an almighty Supporter, feels that he is not left solitary and forsaken in a vale of woe. God is with him, Christ and the Holy Ghost are with him; and though he should be bereaved of every earthly friend, he can look
in heaven to a friend who will never die.
To these present consolations the religion of Christ adds the joyful prospect of that future state, where eternal rest remaineth for the people of God. This life they are taught to consider as only the house of their pilgrimage ; the temporary mansion of painful though necessary discipline. But let them endure for a little, and the pilgrimage shall end, the
* Isaiah, xli. 10.
discipline shall be finished; and all the virtuous be assembled in those blissful regions which are prepared for their reward. Such a prospect cheers the darkest hours of life, and affords a remedy to every trouble. The sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed.* They appear, in this comparative view, as no more than a distressing dream of the night, from which one awakes into health, and light, and joy. Peculiar is this high consolation to the religion of Christ. It is what all nations had eagerly wished for; what all philosophy had anxiously sought to discover; but what no research, no philosophy were able to ascertain to mankind, till Christ brought the assurance of life and immortality from heaven; and conferred on his disciples this noble and inestimable gift.
Thus, on the whole, the Christian doctrine is found to be the great medicine of life. It is the balm of human sorrows and cares. In our present state, where so many are suffering actual distress, of one kind or other, and where all have reason to dread the approach of distress, it is religion only that can alleviate the burdens of life, and smooth our passage through this evil world. Let this view of religion persuade us to improve the sacred ordinance of our Lord's supper for coming unto Christ in the way before explained : that is, joining ourselves to him as his disciples ; his disciples, not in words and professions only, but in heart and in truth; taking upon us his yoke, as is added in the words
Rom. viii, 18.
immediately following the text: and learning of him who is meek and lowly in heart. Let those who labour under the sense of remembered follies and crimes, come unto Christ with penitent dispositions, and they shall obtain pardon. Let those who labour under the suffering of present, or the apprehension of future sorrows, come unto Christ, and they shall receive consolation. All who are in any sense heavy laden coming unto him, shall find rest to their souls.
BEFORE concluding this discourse, there is another set of men not yet mentioned, to whom I must also address the exhortation in the text; those I mean who, labouring under none of the distressful burdens of life, are surfeited of its pleasures ; who labour under the burden only of languid ease, and the load of insipid prosperity. You drag, my friends, but a miserable existence. Oppressed by no sorrow, you feel vacuity and dissatisfaction within ; you are often weary of life ; and in your solitary hours, are disposed to confess that all you have experienced is vanity. Wherefore should you any longer spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labour for that which satisfieth not? Come to the waters which are now offered to you, and drink. Hear, and your souls shall live. Retreat from the corrupting vanities of the world to Christ, to religion, and to virtue. New sources of enjoyment shall then be opened to you. A world yet untried shall display itself to your view. You shall be formed to a relish for the quiet and innocent pleasures of piety and devotion; of friendship and good affections ; of useful knowledge, and virtuous activity ; of calm society and seasonable retire