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from his sin to his knees. " It is the Lord : let him do what seemeth him good. He is a Sovereign; he must work his own will, he must accomplish his own plan. It is wrong for a worm to struggle under the foot of God, for a rebel to accuse his Sovereign, for a delinquent to criminate his Judge. It is good, therefore, that a man should both hope and quietly wait for the salvation of the Lord, for he does not affliçt willingly, nor grieve the children of men.” 1 Sam. iii. 18. Lam. ji:. 26, 33.
Another advantage which the christian derives from experience is that of candour and forbear. ance; and by candour we are not to understand that disposition of mind which leads a man to view all actions alike, and to speak equally favourable of all, . No; the true christian will frown upon vice wherever he finds it ; he will not spare reproof whenever it is necessary, nor be ashamed of that singularity which causes him to differ from the multitude, to whom sin appears as trifling, and by whom it is only considered as an unavoidable infirmity. He knows the weakness of man, he feels the seeds of sin within himself, and dare not boast of what he is, nor can he tell what he may be. He recollects that a Samson, the strongest man, was overcome ; a Solomon, the wisest man, to have acted foolishly; and David, the holiest man, to have manifested the greatest depravity. He finds there is much truth in the observation, “ that there is nothing so silly that some wise man has not said, and nothing so weak that some prudent man has not done.” And, indeed, the sacred scriptures justly observe," that
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there is not a just man upon earth that doeth good, and sinneth not." Eccl. vii. 20.
There are some unfeeling minds, however, that are ready to condemn all who do not come up to their standard; and there are others not less culpable, who, blind to their own infirmities, seem to take delight in magnifying those of others, But these are not experienced Christians; these know little of themselves, and less of that religion which breathes nothing but kindness and charity, The experience of the energy and power of the gospel of Christ teaches him “ to bear long, to think no evil, to hope all things, and to endure all things.” 1 Cor. xii. 7. Faults are not magnified into crimes, occasional deviations are not considered as wilful transgressions, ignorance or mistake is not misconstrued into vice. No; the christian learns to attend to the rule of the Apostle, .who says, “If a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual restore such an one in the spi. rit of meekness, considering thyself, lest thou al. so be tempted. Bear ye one another's burdens, and so fulfil the 'law of Christ. We, then, that are strong, ought to bear the infirmities of the weak, and not to please ourselves.”
From what he has seen of the prejudices of men, the distorted medium through which ob. jects are viewed, the credulity of some, and the obstinate rashness of others, he has learnt to be cautious as to his decisions respecting his fellow creatures. The representations to which he has sometimes listened have proved exaggerated. In the moments of passion, things have been carried into extremes. Incidental circumstances, he has seen, have been seized to magnify the evil, and
to apologize for opposition. From these things he has learnt prudence, and determined not to be too precipitate in his own conclusions.
Nor will the experienced christian be a bigot. Oni first entering the christian world, he might have imagined that there could be little difference between persons who are travelling the same road, belong to the same family, and have the same end in view. But a closer examination of the human mind, a more extensive acquaintance with things, teaches him that minds, as well as countenances, are not exactly alike; that the early association of ideas, prejudice, custom, the temperament of the human frame, and the mode of education, have caused a considerable difference of sentiment as to many things, though there may be an agree. ment as to the main object on the whole. What then? Does he pronounce anathemas on all who differ from him? Does he reprobate with more zeal than knowledge the conduct of those who do not see exactly as he does ? Verily, however he might be thus disposed at first, from want of a clear view of things, he now finds that others must have the same liberty which he takes him. self. But it may be asked, Has not a bigotted spirit been as prevalent among christians as among others? Has not persecution, and every species of cruelty, been exercised by christians one towards another? Alas, there is too much ground for the charge! But then it must be enquired, What kind of christians these were ? Were they, in general, men inquenced by the spirit of chris. tianity, whose minds were illuminated by the Spirit, and whose hearts were expanded by the love of God? Certainly not. They were christians
in name only, contending only for externals, without knowing any thing of the power and efficacy of the religion of Christ. He who is a true disciple, who knows any thing of the truth experimentally, will feel a liberality of soul which a bigot knows nothing of. He will not condemn a · whole community for the worthlessness of a few individuals, nor will he form an uncharitable opinion of others because they differ from him in non-essentials. As he travels along, he beholds different companies in the same road, each dis. tinguished by their little peculiarities; but as they are going to the same home where all shall meet and unite, he feels an attachment to them, and wishes them prosperity in the name of the Lord.
But, among all the advantages of christian experience, that of hope is not the least. This is one of those graces which the Apostle Paul emphatically declares experience produces. We all know what pleasure is derived from hope, how friendly it is to man, how often it sweetens human life, how it bears up the mind under its hea. viest burdens. Hence it is that there is no temper so generally indulged as hope : other passions operate by starts on particular occasions, or in certain parts of life; but hope begins with the first power of comparing our actual with our possible state, and attends us through every stage and period, always urging us forward to new acquisitions, and holding out some distant blessing to our view, promising us either relief from pain, or increase of happiness.” If hope, in general, be so valuable, how useful must it be when well founded; how peculiarly advantageous to the christian ! From the experience he has had of
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the divine munificence, the many interpositions of Divine Providence, and the fulfilment of the divine promises, his hope is strengthened, and he looks forward with a degree of cheerfulness and confidence. “Having obtained help of God," he exclaims, “ I continue unto this day. He has led me forth in a right way. Why, then, should I doubt of future support ? Will he conduct me part of the way, and abandon me at last? That be far from him! God is my refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore will not I fear, though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea.” Acts xxvi. 22. Ps. cvii. 7. xxiii. 6. xlvi. 1, 2. Thus experience feeds hope, and hope produces courage, stimulates to exertion, and fills the soul with pleasure. How sweetly does it whisper to the christian, as he passes along, Persevere, O christian; strength shall be given equal to thy day. Temptations may discourage, darkness may intimidate, and opposition may alarm; but these are all under the power of thy Sovereign Guide. He knows the way; he can support, yea he will not leave nor forsake thee. The mountains shall become a plain, and crooked things straight, as they have already been; all shall work together for good : and at last you shall arrive at that house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. Thus 6 hope is as the anchor of the soul, both sure and stedfast, and entereth into that within the vail. We are saved by hope. We have for an helmet the hope of salvation. We rejoice in hope, and by hope we are purified, even as he is pure." Heb. vi, 19. Rom. viii. 24. 1 John iii. 3.