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bably will) that even things, in themselves indifferent, prove a snare, an entanglement, and a hinderance to you, in running the race that is set before you, pluck out these things, be they what they may, and cast them from you: though they be useful as a right hand, or as tender as a right eye. In a word, endeavour to hit the just medium; so as neither to make too much haste, nor too little speed; neither to loiter, nor to run yourself out of breath.
If the believer's journey should prove a long one, i. e. should he live to be far advanced in years, he must expect to meet with diversity of paths. The face of the country will not always be the same. Even with regard to temporal things, perhaps, he may experience a vicissitude of ups and downs. Sometimes the road will go rough; sometimes smooth. To-day it may be, he is high on the mount; to-morrow, low in the valley. Now, his way is carpeted with moss; anon, it is planted with the pricking briar and the grieving thorn. But, remember, O child of God, that both one and the other is thy Father's ground; that thou art still in the land of providence; and that the land of providence is also a land of grace, to them who are strangers and pilgrims upon earth.- So, likewise, in a spiritual sense when faith is in lively exercise, we may be said to travel through a rich, level, open country; where all is easy, lightsome, and pleasant. Soon, perhaps, may faith sicken (sicken it may, but blessed be God, it cannot die), and hope may flag its wing: fear may set upon thee, as a strong man armed, and the overshadowings of doubt may for a while eclipse thy comforts. In that case, let the believer still go forward, as well as he can. The way will mend, and the prospect brighten, in God's good time. And, in the meanwhile, that precious promise will be fulfilled, Thy shoes shall be iron and brass; and as is thy day, so shall thy strength be, Deut. xxxiii. 25.
-If thou canst not go on, sit down; but let it be by the way side. Wait; but let it be at Jacob's well. Ply the ordinances of God, and the God of ordinances will come to thee and bless thee. When poor Hagar, overwhelmed with distress of mind, and quite exhausted with fatigue of body, threw herself on the ground, unable to walk a step farther, an angel was sent, to point her to a fountain which she knew not of, and to give her the oil of joy for mourning, and a garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness. Godly sorrow ever was, and ever will be, the peculiar care and the tenderest object of Almighty love.
Travellers need not be told, that the weather is not always uniformly the same. At times, the affections of a saint are warm, sublime, and strongly drawn up to God and divine things. Anon, his affections may gravitate, grow numbed and cold; and like an eagle that is pinioned, be scarce able to creep, where once they used to fly. Yet, be not cast down. You may, like Sampson, be shorn of your locks for a season; but they will grow again, and your strength shall return as heretofore. Remember, that comfortable frames, though extremely desirable, are not the foundation of your safety. Our best and ultimate happiness is grounded on an infinitely firmer basis, than any thing in us can supply. The immutability of God, the never-failing efficacy of Christ's mediatorial work, and the invariable fidelity of the Holy Ghost, are the triple rock, on which thy salvation stands. Whence that of the apostle: The foundation of the Lord [i. e. the decree, or covenant of the Lord] standeth sure; having this seal, The Lord knoweth them that are his. And again: Though we believe not [though we may occasionally reel and stagger and faint] yet he [faith's unchangeable author and immoveable supporter] abideth faithful, and cannot deny himself. Was he to deny his decree, he must deny himself;
for his decree is himself decreeing. But he cannot do this. He cannot forego his covenant; for his covenant is himself covenanting. He cannot reverse his promise; for his promise is himself promising. Consequently, every believer is safe, and can never be ultimately left or forsaken. As surely as effectual grace stirred thee up to undertake the heavenly journey; so surely, shall glory crown thee at the end of thy pilgrimage.
Contentedly therefore embrace thy lot: knowing, that the whole disposal thereof is of the Lord. Be the weather fair, or foul; let the calm prevail, or the storm rage; be thy mind cheerful, or benighted; be thy path dreary with gloom, or radiant with sun-shine; commit thyself, in patience and well-doing to God, as to a gracious creator and an all-wise disposer. A traveller is not the worse for being weather-beaten. It teaches him to endure hardness, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ. Besides: he is at the worst of times, sure of invisible support; and every difficulty he encounters by the way, will be infinitely overbalanced, when he gets home to his Father's house. For the utmost sufferings of this present time, are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.
In point likewise of affluence and fortune, all the travellers to Canaan are not alike. Some of them are literally rich, and increased in goods. While others have but a small allotment of temporal wealth, barely enough to carry them to their journey's end. The former may be said, to be drawn in state to heaven; the latter, to trudge it on foot.
I say, some are drawn thither in state: for every coach does not take that road. But, so we at last get safe to the New Jerusalem, no matter whether we ride or walk. It will be all one by and by. As in death, so in heaven, the rich and the poor, who are partakers of saving grace, will meet together: and then where will be the difference between those
who came with a grand retinue; and those who travelled, pilgrim-like, with a scrip at their side, and a staff in their hand?
On earth, when two persons are literally going to the same place; and the one is either well mounted, or seated in an expeditious carriage, and the other goes on foot; the foot passenger must needs make the slower progress of the two. But, in spiritual things, this case is often reversed. The humble foot passenger frequently outstrips the rapid horseman, or the stately charioteer; and is seen not seldom, to make swifter advances in the knowledge of God and in the way to heaven: just as Elijah outran Ahab's chariot to the entrance of Jezreel. And thus that observation of the apostle is verified: Hath not God chosen the poor of this world, rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom? Yes, he has and some too who are opulent; for we read, that even Cæsar's household, the very court of Nero, was not wholly destitute of saints. But, since much wealth too often proves a snare, and an incumberance to the Christian racer; let him lighten the weight, by dispersing abroad and giving to the poor: whereby, he will both soften the pilgrimage of his fellow travellers, and speed his own way the faster.
A passenger to Zion, like most other passengers, must expect to meet with different kinds of company on the road; different, in some respects, though bound to the same place. I suppose that there are scarce ten persons in any civilized nation, whose religious and metaphysical ideas are, in every punctilio, exactly alike, any more than their faces. Examine the countenance of any man, and you will see some peculiar cast, some turn of features, which distinguishes that countenance from every other. Now, opinions are in some sense, the features of the mind and there will always be a diversity of mental features, during the present dispensation of
things. The elect will never perfectly resemble (a) each other, till they perfectly resemble Christ in glory. Hence appears, not only the illiberality, but also the absurdity of being at daggers drawn with other people, on account of differences merely extrinsic and circumstantial.-Narrow as the way is, which leadeth unto life; it is yet broad enough to admit persons of divided judgment in things indifferent. There may be several paths in one and the same road and shall I be so weak, or so malicious, as to suppose, that a professing brother is not in the way to everlasting happiness, only because he does not walk arm in arm with me, and tread in my particular track? I grant that there is but one road to heaven; namely, an interest in the atonement and righteousness of Christ: for no man cometh to the Father, but by him. I believe however, and feel myself unutterably happy in believing, that this only avenue to eternal rest admits of much greater latitude, than bigots of all denominations are aware of. Let therefore the travellers to the city of God bear in mind that amiable exhortation of Joseph to his brethren, See that ye fall not out by the way.
When persons undertake a journey to a distant, unknown country, it is not unusual to have recourse
(a) This puts me in mind of a candid and judicious remark, made by a valuable Christian brother, of a different denomination from myself, in a letter with which he favoured me, some years since. "I have seen a field here, and another there, stand thick with corn. A hedge or two has parted them. At the proper season, the reapers entered. Soon the earth was disburthened, and the grain was conveyed to its destined place; where, blended together in the barn or in the stack, it could not be known that a hedge once separated this corn from that. Thus it is with the church. Here, it grows as it were, in different fields; severed it may be, by various hedges. By and by, when the harvest is come, all God's wheat shall be gathered into the garner, without one single mark to distinguish that once they differed in the outward circumstantials of modes and forms."- -To these truly evangelical and truly benevolent sentiments, I deem it my honour and happiness, to subscribe with hand and heart.