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1. Because, if his despondency be not arrested in its progress, HE IS IN DANGER OF DISHONOURING
It will always be an argument of the greatest efficacy with a Christian, that, whatever be his difficulty, it comes from God. Affliction springs not from the ground: it is delivered out in weight and measure. There is no evil in a city, which the Lord hath not done; and the good man knows that ‘God is faithful, who will not suffer him to be tempted above that he is able.'
But if a man yield to despondency and melancholy, it is the effect of unbelief: it is calling in question the truth of God: it is forgetting the promise of Christ, and that covenant of God, which is ordered in all things and sure: it is forgetting that this world is a school; and that a school will have its tasks and its discipline: and that God brings us under these lessons for some wise end, and calls on us for credit and assurance. The prophet, therefore, wisely says,
Although the fig-tree shall not blossom, and there shall be no herd in the stall, yet will I rejoice in the Lord, I will joy in the God of my salvation.'
2. But it is the duty of a Christian to resist such despondency, because it has A TENDENCY TO WEAK
Religion is exertion. We fight not only with flesh and blood, but with principalities and powers. So that a Christian is a soldier; but, if the soldier is seized with a panic, he is unstrung in his joints, he cannot stand up in the conflict, his heart is dismayed. The achievements of an army in hope, courage, and spirits have astonished the world: while very large armies have given place to a handful of men, when those armies have been out of heart. If a Christian gives place to a melancholy and forlorn state of mind, and says, “ My hope is perished : I shall one day fall: the
enemy gains ground, and it is in vain to fight and strive:" no wonder that Satan takes the advantage.
3. It is the duty of a Christian to resist despondency, because it is A SNARE TO HIS NEIGHBOUR,
Why,' therefore, says David, 'should I go mourning because of the enemy? and why should they daily say unto me, Where is thy God? Why, indeed? And why should we give occasion to say it? Why should we not always call on our souls, when cast down, to say, “Why art thou cast down, O my soul? Hope in God! Therefore rejoice not against me, O mine enemy : though I fall, I shall arise.
If a Christian stands firm in all weathers and seasons, a spectator will ask, “On what principle does this man act? When called to pass through difficulties, I have nothing to support me; but this man stands up: he has some secret spring, some consolation, of which I know nothing. There is something grand and supporting in religion. I will inquire after this man's principles: for his religion recommends itself to me in giving him these Songs in the night." III. I have to set before
in the night, and this resistance of a melancholy and desponding spirit, proceed on this single principle, that God is an ÎNFALLIBLE RESOURCE to the godly in all cases of trial–HOPE IN GOD.
This is the only way of treating such cases radically. All other proposals made to the wretched will do them no good in the end. All other resources are but as the resource of the drunkard, who, when in pain, has recourse to his cups, which do but increase his malady: he is easier for the moment, but is visited with aggravated pains. Such are carnal resources ! But the Christian has solid and substantial repose :Hope thou in God.
An able seaman once said to me, “ In fierce storms, we have but one resource: we keep the ship in a certain position: we cannot act in any way but this: we fix her head to the wind; and, in this way, we weather the storm." This is a picture of the Christian: he endeavours to put himself in a certain position : “My hope and help are in God: he is faithful: Weeping may endure for a night, but I will bear
the indignation of the Lord."" The man who has de learnt this peace of heavenly navigation, shall wea
ther the storms of time and of eternity; for he trusts a faithful God, and he shall find him faithful. This confidence has supported thousands in perishing situations, where others would have given up all in despair.
When the traveller, Park, sinking in despondency, in the deserts of Africa, cast his eye on a little plant by his side, he gathered courage: “I cannot look around,” said he, “without seeing the works and the providence of God?" And thus asks every Christian :-“Will God feed the young ravens? Does he number the hairs of the head? Does he suffer a sparrow to fall to the ground without his notice, though two are sold for a farthing ? Should not i then hope in God? 'He, that spared not his own Son, but freely gave him up for us all, how shall he not with him freely give us all things ? If comfort, therefore, was the best thing for me, he would have given me comfort." A Christian, too, as a wise man, takes care that he is building his hope on that foundation which is warranted. He is not ferried over the waters by Vain Hope, according to Bunyan's ingenious allegory; but he has a title and right to heaven, because his trust is in Christ Jesus. He is warranted, he is commanded thus to believe. Nothing is, in this view, so much to be dreaded as unbelief: nothing should alarm us so much, as that, when God has been at such an infinite expense to raise
our hope, we should not be found building on his foundation.
Hope in God: that is, hope according to his word: rest on that which cannot be broken, and on that God who cannot deny himself,—a Covenant Saviour who has commended his love to sinners, and called them to come weary and heavy laden to him for rest; who tells them he can make darkness light, and crooked things straight; who can supply all their need out of his fulness, nor ever forsook the man that trusted in him.
A Christian has experienced this confidence. He can say—“Do not I know, as David did, what it is to be taken out of the miry clay, to be lifted out of the pit, and have my feet set upon a rock, and my goings established ? Do not I know what it is to be brought through dark and trying dispensations, and afterward to praise God for deliverance? Do not I know what singular assistance I have received ? Have I not known what it is to be cast down one day, and have my mourning turned into dancing another? I must hope, therefore, in God from past experience of his mercy.”
As to particular cases, we cannot even glance at the character of Omnipotence, without seeing that all cases to him are alike; that there is nothing great, nothing little, with God: nothing plain, nothing intricate: nothing hard, nothing easy! As Asa said, 'It is nothing with thee to help, whether with many, or with them that have no power.' God has but to speak, and it shall be done: to command only, and it shall stand fast; but to speak again, when it stands fast, and it shall be broken in pieces. With him are power and might: 'none can stay his hand, or say unto him, What doest thou? Hope, therefore, in God, because. he is Almighty, and he will supply all thy wants. Be then the case of a Christian what it may, let him hope in God: and let him add, ‘for I shall yet praise him, who is the health of my countenance, and my God.'
I have endeavoured to point out to you then the DEEP DEPRESSIONS, encountered by the best of men --the DUTY OF SUCH MEN—and their ONLY INFALLIBLE RESOURCE, HOPE IN GOD.
Before I dismiss the congregation, I would speak a word to another sort of persons :-Men whom we may term HOPERS. They also hope; but it is their misery, that their confidence is ill placed. They hope; but it is not in God.
You ask, perhaps, “Whom do you mean? To whom do you speak ?”—1 reply, Ask yourselves, “Do I hope in God? Do I seek acquaintance with him in his own way? Do I carry my troubles to him? Have I formed any saving acquaintance with him in his word ? Are not my hopes placed on something else, however mean, and base, and foolish ?” Ask yourselves, if you entertain any hope at all—and who is the man that is not kept alive by hope ?-ask on what thy hope is placed.
The most unthinking man talks of hope: the very hypocrite talks of hope; but does not lay it to heart, that it is said, “The hope of the hypocrite shall perish.'
The most carnal man talks of hope :—something that shall comfort him by and by, if not now. Did not Ahab hope to comfort himself in Naboth's vineyard? Did not Solomon hope that in his riches he should find satisfaction? Yet, after all, he found all but vanity and vexation of spirit. Did not Haman build high, because he was the favourite of the King ? did he not think, “The king is my friend :" and that he might bless his soul, and tell his family of his prosperity ?—and what became of Haman?
In the ancient sacrifices, it was the custom to crown the victim with garlands, and lead it to the altar with music. Behold the picture of all vain hopers! They hope not in God: and the decree is gone forth, They that turn away from him, shall perish.'