Images de page

for a longer continuance, and our thoughts of it have much more of vivacity and impressiveness. First, We begin to think of religion more frequently than we did. Heretofore we never thought of it at all, except when some melancholy incident had sunk our spirits, or had terrified our apprehensions; it was either from lowness or from fright that we thought of religion at all. Whilst things went smoothly and prosperously and gaily with us, whilst all was well and safe in our health and circumstances, religion was the last thing we wished to turn our minds to: we did not want to have our pleasure disturbed by it. But it is not so with us now: there is a change in our minds in this respect. It enters our thoughts very often, both by day and by night, "Have I not remembered thee in my bed, and thought upon thee when I was waking?" This change is one of the prognostications of the religious principle forming within us. Secondly, These thoughts settle themselves upon our minds. They were formerly fleeting and transitory, as the cloud which passes along the sky; and they were so for two reasons: first, they found no congenial temper and disposition to rest upon, no seriousness, no posture of mind proper for their reception; and secondly, because we of our own accord, by a positive exertion and endeavour of our will, put them away from us, we disliked their presence, we rejected and cast them out. But it is not so now: we entertain and retain religious meditations, as being in fact those which concern us most deeply. I do not speak of the solid comfort which is to be found in them, because that belongs to

a more advanced state of christian life than I am now considering: that will come afterwards; and, when it does come, will form the support and consolation and happiness of our lives. But whilst the religious principle is forming, at least during the first steps of that formation, we are induced to think about religion chiefly from a sense of its vast consequences, and this reason is enough to make wise men think about it both long and closely. Lastly, our religious thoughts come to have a vivacity and impressiveness in them which they had not hitherto: that is to say, they interest us much more than they did. There is a wónderful difference in the light in which we see the same thing, in the force and strength with which it rises up before our view, in the degree with which we are affected by it. This difference is experienced in no one thing more than in religion, not only between different persons, but by the same person at different times, the same person in different stages of the christian. progress, the same person under different measures of divine grace.

Finally, would we know whether we have made, or are making any advances in christianity or not? These are the marks which will tell us. Do we think more frequently about religion than we used to do? Do we cherish and entertain these thoughts for a longer continuance than we did? Do they interest us more than formerly? Do they impress us more, do they strike us more forcibly, do they sink deeper? If we perceive this, then, we perceive a change, upon which we may

ground our hopes and expectations; if we perceive it not, we have cause for very afflicting apprehensions, that the power of religion hath not yet visited us; cause for deep and fervent intercession with God for the much wanted succour of his holy Spirit.




1 JOHN, iii. 2.

"Beloved, now are we the sons of God; and it doth not yet appear what we shall be; but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is?"

ONE of the most natural solicitudes of the human mind is to know what will become of us after death, what is already become of those friends, who are gone. I do not so much mean the great question, whether we and they shall be happy or miserable; as I mean the question, what is the nature and condition of that state, which we are so soon to try. This solicitude, which is both natural and strong, is sometimes however carried too far: and this is the case, when it renders us uneasy, or dissatisfied, or impatient under the obscurity, in which the subject is placed: and placed, not only in regard to us, or in regard to common men, but in regard even to the apostles themselves of our Lord, who were taught from his mouth, as well as immediately instructed by his Spirit.

St. John, the author of the text which I have read to you, was one of these; not only an apostle, but of all the apostles, perhaps, the most closely connected with his master, and admitted to the most intimate familiarity with him. What it was allowed therefore for man to know, St. John knew. Yet this very St. John acknowledges "that it doth not yet appear what we

shall be;" the exact nature and condition and circumstances of our future state are yet hidden from us.

I think it credible, that this may in a very great degree arise from the nature of the human understanding itself. Our Saviour said to Nicodemus, "If I have told you earthly things, and ye believe not, how shall ye believe, if I tell you of heavenly things?" It is evident from the strain of this extraordinary conversation, that the disbelief, on the part of Nicodemus, to which our Saviour refers, was that which arose from the difficulty of comprehending the subject. Therefore our Saviour's words to him may be construed thus. If what I have just now said concerning the new birth, concerning being born again, concerning being born of the Spirit, concerning the agency of the Spirit, which are all " earthly things," that is, are all things that pass in the hearts of christians in this their present life, and upon this earth: if this information prove so difficult, that you cannot bring yourself to believe it, by reason of the difficulty of apprehending it; "how shall ye believe?" how would you be able to conquer the much greater difficulties, which would attend my discourse, "if I told

« PrécédentContinuer »