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Can we reasonably hear such an announcement with indifference? Are there none amongst us whose share of the business of life is often oppressive to them; who not unfrequently find themselves so harrassed by its cares, and weighed down by its toils, and soured by its disappointments and privations, as to feel weary of it? Are there none whom frequent and severe afflictions have at times almost weaned from their attachment to the present life, and accustomed to turn their thoughts heavenwards ? Are there none whom a consciousness of growing infirmities causes to make the attainment of repose a frequent object of their desires ? Are there none, in fine, who, conscious of weakness and instructed by past failures, shrink with terror from the multiplied temptations by which they are surrounded; whose minds are too frequently the scene of that internal struggle between principle and passion, the result of which is stated by the apostle, when he says, “the good which I would, that I do not; the evil which I would not, that I do ;” and who look forward with earnest desire to the arrival of a period, when the continuance of this painful and dangerous conflict shall be no longer necessary to their improvement or welfare? If, my Christian friends and brethren, there be persons here present who find themselves included under any of the preceding classes, we call upon them to hear with interest and faith, and to meditate upon, with pleasure and gratitude, the announcement contained in the text, that “ there remaineth a rest for the people of God.” Yes, my friends, a glorious and an eternal rest awaits them: not the rest which bounds the horizon of the Atheist, a gloomy, cheerless, hopeless annihilation ; but a sweet repose from the toils, and cares, and calamities, and temptations of this imperfect state; a rest which holds out to all who shall be deemed worthy of it, the prospect of renewed and increased activity, and is but the prelude to occupations and enjoyments, pure, and blissful, and everlasting.
But for whom, my brethren, is it here declared to us that this rest remaineth? It remaineth for the people of God; for those whose faith in the Lord Jesus, as a teacher and a saviour, whose obedience to his precepts and imitation of his example entitle them to be ranked amongst the peculiar people of the Most High. Dare we, then, lay claim to this honourable distinction? Can we, in the presence of a heart-searching God and of our brethren, appeal to the testimony of conscience that we have sincerely and earnestly endeavoured to think and speak and act as becomes disciples of Jesus? If not, oh! let us seriously resolve, before it be too late, to amend our conduct. Let us remember that, whilst we continue in our present condition, the rest of which we are speaking, desirable as we must acknowledge it to be, remaineth not for us. But if, on the other hand, upon a calm and deliberate review of our conduct, the testimony of conscience be in our favour; if we have the evidence of that inward witness, that we are daily aiming at nearer approaches to Christian perfection; if, in short, our hearts condemn us not, then, indeed, we may venture to indulge a humble confidence towards God. Then may we rejoice in the thought, that we have an interest in the precious promise upon which we have been meditating; and cherish the glorious, the delightful hope, that when, in God's good time, we are called upon to take a final leave of this world, with all its joys and sorrows, we may be found amongst the number of those whom our beloved and glorified Master will be commissioned to make
THE DESIRE OF ADVANCEMENT.
Philippians iii., 13, 14.
Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended; but this one
thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high-calling of God in Christ Jesus.
You cannot fail to have observed, my fellowChristians, that many of the exhortations contained in the New Testament, and more particularly in the epistles, are addressed to those who had formerly been idolators. The important change which had taken place in these early converts is alluded to under many different images. They are said, for example, to have passed from darkness to light, and from slavery to liberty, and from having been strangers and aliens, they are described as having become fellow-citizens with the saints, and of the household of God. They are frequently exhorted to display their gratitude to God for having thus, as it were, created them anew in Christ Jesus, by acting in a manner worthy of the high privileges with which they have been gifted. Now, my brethren, you will immediately perceive that such exhortations as these are not naturally and primarily applicable to the generality of Christians in the present day, who have been blessed, from their earliest infancy, with the light of the gospel, and with the glorious liberty of the children of God. At the same time, we are far from being disposed to deny, that the change which every man must experience who passes from a life of sinful indulgence to one of patient and persevering virtue, bears a very striking resemblance to that by which these exhortations were at first suggested; and, consequently, that such exhortations may not unfrequently be addressed with much propriety to those who have experienced such a change. There is a second class of exhortations, however, which were addressed to the primitive disciples, as Christians, without any immediate reference to the change which had taken place in their spiritual condition, in which they are called upon, as such, never to relax in their efforts, but to be perpetually aiming at the attainment of higher degrees of spiritual perfection. To the latter class, my brethren, the exhortation implied in the words of the text evidently belongs. The apostle is plainly desirous of recommending his own con