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10.--Obedience to the Commandments of God will be rewarded.
THE heathen, unsupported by those prospects which the gospel opens, might be supposed to have sunk under eyery trial; yet, even among them was sometimes displayed an exalted virtue,-a virtue, which no interest, no danger, could shake; a virtue, which could triumph amidst tortures and death-a virtue, which, rather than forfeit its conscious integrity, could be content to resign its consciousness for ever. And shall not the Christian blush to repine? the Christian from before whom the veil is removed? to whose eyes are revealed the glories of heaven? Your indulgent ruler doth not call you to run in vain, or to labour in vain.-Every difficulty, and every trial that occurs in your path, is a fresh opportunity presented by his kindness, of improving the happiness after which he hath taught you to aspire. By every hardship which you sustain in the wilderness, you secure an additional portion of the promised land. What though the combat be severe? A kingdom,-an everlasting kingdom, is the prize of victory.-Look forward to the triumph which awaits you, and your courage will revive.-Fight the good fight, finish your course, keep the faith: there is laid up for you a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, shall give unto you at that day. What though, in the navigation of life, you have sometimes to encounter the war of elements? What though the winds rage, though the waters roar, and danger threatens around? Behold, at a distance, the mountains appear.-Your friends are impatient for your arrival; already the feast is prepared, and the rage of the storm shall serve only to waft you sooner to the haven of rest.-No tempests assail those blissful regions which approach to view-all is peaceful and serene; there you shall enjoy eternal comfort, and the recollection of the hardships which you now encounter shall heighten the felicity of better days. Moodie.
11.-The Birth of the Saviour announced.
WHEN the Saviour of mankind was born in Judea, his birth was attended with no external splendour which could mark him out as the promised Messiah. The business of life was proceeding in its usual train. The princes of the world were pursuing their plans of ambition and vanity. The chief priests and the scribes, the interpreters of revelation, were amusing the multitude with idle traditions. Jesus lay neglected in the stable of Bethlehem; and the first rays of the Sun of Righteousness beamed unnoticed on the earth. But the host of heaven were deeply interested in this great event. They contemplated, with pleasure, the blessings which were about to be dispersed to men; and from their high abode a messenger descended to announce the dawn of that glorious day, which the prophets had seen from afar, and were glad. The persons to whom these tidings of joy were first proclaimed, were not such, indeed, as the world would have reckoned worthy of so high a pre-eminence. They were not the wise, the rich, or the powerful of the earth. That which is highly esteemed among men, is often of little value in the sight of God. The rich and the poor are alike to him. He prefers the simplicity of a candid mind to all those artificial accomplishments which attract the admiration of the giddy multitude. It was to the shepherds of Bethlehem that the angel appeared,--to men obscure and undistinguished among their brethren, who, in the silence of the night, were following the duties of their peaceful occupation, far from the vices of courts, and the prejudices of the synagogue. But the manner in which the birth of the Messiah was announced, was suited to the dignity of so great an occasion. At midnight, these shepherds were tending their flocks, and all was dark and still in the fields of Bethlehem; when, on a sudden, a light from heaven filled the plain, and the angel of the Lord stood revealed before them. So unusual an appearance struck them with awe: they knew not with what tidings this messenger might be charged. But
the voice of the angel soon quieted their fears: it was a message of mercy with which he was intrusted. Behold bring unto you good tidings of great joy, which shall De to all people. For unto you is born this day, in the city of David, a Saviour, who is Christ the Lord.
12.-The Truth frees us from the slavish Fear of Death.
FROM the bondage of fear', Christ has made his followers free. By making an atonement for their sins', he has disarmed death of his sting'; and by rising as the first fruits of them that sleep', he has secured to us the victory over the grave'. Discovering the reality of a future world, and revealing its connection with the present', he hath elevated our aims above the region of mortality, and given a new' aspect and importance to the events which befal us on earth'. Its joys lose their power to dazzle and seduce', when viewed through the glory that remains to be revealed. Its employments cease to be a burden', because we see them leading to an endless recompence of reward'. And even its sorrows! can no longer overwhelm us, because, when compared with the whole' of our duration, they last but for a moment`, and are the means appointed by our Father' to prepare us for our future inheritance. How cheering' are these considerations under the severest trials to which we are exposed! From how many perplexing`, anxious, enslaving terrors have they set us free! What is it, Ó child of sorrow, what is it that now wrings thy heart', and binds thee in sadness to the ground? Whatever' it be, if thou knowest the truth', the truth shall give thee relief. Have the terrors of guilt' taken hold of thee? Dost thou go all the day long mourning for thy iniquities, refusing to be comforted'? And on thy bed at night do visions of remorse` disturb thy rest, and haunt thee with the fears of a judgment' to come? Behold the Redeemer' hath borne thy sins in his own body on the tree'; and, if thou art willing to forsake them, thou knowest with certainty that they shall not be remembered in the judgment against thee. Hast thou, with weeping eyes,
committed to the grave the child of thy affections', the virtuous friend of thy youth', or the tender partner whose pious attachment lightened the load of life'? Behold they are not dead. Thou knowest that they live in a better' region with their Saviour' and their God; that still thou holdest thy place in their remembrance; and that thou shalt soon meet them again to part no more'. Dost thou look forward with trembling to the days of darkness that are to fall on thyself`, when thou shalt lie on the bed of sickness', when thy pulse shall have be come low-when the cold damps have gathered on thy brow and the mournful looks of thy attendants have told thee that the hour of thy departure' has come? To the mere natural' man this scene is awful and alarming. But if thou art a Christian-if thou knowest and obeyest' the truth, thou needest fear no evil. The shadows which hang over the valley of death shall retire at thy approach'; and thou shalt see beyond' it the spirits of the just`, and an innumerable company of angels', the future companions of thy bliss', bending from their thrones to cheer thy departing soul', and to welcome thee into everlasting habitations. Why then should slavish terrors of the future' disquiet thy soul in the days of this' vain life which passeth away like a shadow? The gospel hath not given thee the spirit of fear', but of confidence' and joy'. Even now' there is no condemnation to them who are in Christ Jesus', who walk not after the flesh', but after the spirit': and when they die', (a voice from heaven' hath proclaimed it)" Blessed' are the dead, which die in the Lord', from henceforth'; yea', saith the spirit, that they may rest from their labours', and their works do follow them." Finlayson.
13.On the Hope of Immortality.
THE hope of immortality has been common to all the nations of the earth. It is encouraged by the instincts of nature, and supported by the deductions of reason. At the same time we must observe, that the hope which rests on these foundations is feeble and unsteady. Futurity is covered with a thick veil, through which the
eye of mortals can scarcely penetrate. So dim indeed is our natural prospect into the country beyond the grave, that we are unable to distinguish the condition and employment of its inhabitants. We are even perplexed, at times, with the discouraging thought that the scene which we paint to ourselves may be nothing but a vision, which exists only in the delusions of the fancy, and which the hand of death will dissipate for ever.
The gospel, however, has lifted up the veil which covered futurity from mortal eyes, and given us a clearer view of the land of spirits. It has given us a complete assurance that this land has a real existence; that the condition of its inhabitants will be determined by the nature of their conduct in the present probationary state; that, if they have been good, they shall be raised to a pure, and glorious, and delightful society; that their employments shall be the most honourable and improving; and that their happiness shall be without interruption, and without end.
This information the gospel conveys to us both by explicit declarations and by symbolical representation. And besides these methods of instruction, the three apostles on the Mount of Transfiguration received a transient, but direct view of the celestial glory. They were introduced to the spirits of departed saints; witnessed the perfection to which these spirits were now exalted; and felt, in the influence of the scene around them, a passing foretaste of the happiness of heaven. Their feeble frame was overpowered by the rapturous emotions which it produced; and in an ecstacy of joy they exclaimed," it is good for us to be here."
14.-The Departed Spirits of the Just are Spectators of our Conduct on Earth.
FROM what happened on the Mount of Transfiguration, we may infer not only that the separated spirits of good men live and act, and enjoy happiness, but that they take some interest in the business of this world, and even that their interest in it has a connection with