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II. How far the godly are at liberty to indulge it
Certainly we are at liberty to wish for death : for St. Paul “ desired to depart, and to be with Christ," which he deemed far better than the happiest state on earth : and we all are encouraged to be “ looking for, and hasting unto, the coming of the day of Christ.” But the wish then becomes evil, when it is attended with impatience, or has respect to a mere deliverance from present troubles. This distinction is clearly marked by St. Paul, in the Second Epistle to the Corinthians : “ We that are in this tabernacle do groan, being burthened; not that we would be unclothed, but clothed upon, that mortality may be swallowed up of life?.” It was not so much to get rid of the storms and tempests to which he was exposed in this present life, as to obtain the glory and felicity of a better world. And this was a highly commendable state of mind. But when we long merely to be released from the troubles of life, and the conflicts which we are here called to sustain, we do not well : for we should be content, 1. That God should glorify himself in his own way
[God sends trials to his people, in order that he may afford them such effectual succour as shall advance his glory in the world. The trial of gold by fire is precious, because it purifies without consuming the gold: but “ the trial of our faith is infinitely more precious,” because it purifies the souls of men: and it will, therefore, " be to the praise and honour and glory of our God, in the great day of his appearing.” On the part of those who occasion trials to his people he is dishonoured: “ but in the steadfastness of his people he is glorified h.” Even in the sufferings of our blessed Lord this end was obtained; and therefore, though he deprecated sufferings as he was entitled to do, he submitted to bear his cross for the sake of reflecting glory on his heavenly Father: “ Now is my soul troubled; and what shall I say? Father, save me from this hour? but for this cause came I unto this hour. Father, glorify thy namei.” Thus, if only in the event God may be glorified in us, we should be willing to bear any sufferings, or sustain any conflicts, which God, in his wisdom, may see fit to lay upon us.] f 2 Cor. v. 4.
& 1 Pet. i. 7. h 1 Pet. iv. 14.
i John xii. 27, 28.
2. That he should complete his work in his own way
[He calls all his people to bear their cross, in imitation of their Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Now" the Lord Jesus, though he was a Son, yet learned obedience by the things which he suffered :" and "he was made perfect through sufferings;” and in the same way does God still teach and perfect
He makes tribulation the way to glory; purging us from our corruptions by means of it", and causing it to “ work out for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory!.” Does it become us, then, to be impatient under our troubles ; or to wish for the removal of them, before they have accomplished the end for which they were sent ? Surely we should be infinitely more anxious to have them sanctified, than
get them removed : and, however sorely they may press upon us, we should say, “ Not my will, but thine be done.” Be the furnace never so hot, we should welcome it, if only at last we may come out of it “ vessels of honour, meet for the Master's use. "] ADDRESS
1. Those who have hitherto been exempt from heavy trials
[Doubtless, as far as the mere exemption from trouble goes, you have reason to be thankful : but yet, if for want of it you are yet in a careless or lukewarm state, you have no great reason to congratulate yourselves: it were better that every bone in your body were broken, or that you
should have the sword of the Almighty inflicting the deepest wounds in your souls, than that you should be left to go on wickedly in the way of your hearts. I say not that you should pray for trials : for trials will do you no good, if they be not sanctified to your souls by the Spirit of God. But this I say, Let no rest satisfy you, except that which is to be found in the favour of a reconciled God, and in the hope of his glory -] 2. Those who are sinking under the weight of them
[Peradventure some may be here, who, like David, are bowed down under the weight of domestic troubles, or under a dread of God's heavy displeasure. And, if this be the case,
you where you may find rest unto your souls. You need not the wings of a dove to fly away: you have your refuge close at hand, even Jesus, who says, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” If you will but run to Him, you shall find him hiding-place from the wind, and a covert from the tempest; as rivers of water in a dry place, as the shadow of a great rock in a weary land m." Yes, in truth, “ He is a strength to the k Isai. xxvii. 9. Heb. xii. 10. 1 2 Cor. iv, 17. m Isai, xxxii. 2.
* Come unto me,
poor, a strength to the needy in his distress, a refuge from the storm, a shadow from the heat, when the blast of the terrible ones is as a storm against the wall".” Go to him then; take refuge in him; cast yourselves upon him; and let him give you rest, in his own time and way. Then will he walk with you in the furnace, as he did with the Hebrew youths; and in due season add you to the happy number of those who have come out of great tribulation, and washed their robes white in the blood of the Lambo." Then will your rest be glorious indeed: for “ then you will hunger no more, nor thirst any more; neither shall the sun rest on you, nor any heat. For the Lamb which is in the midst of the throne shall feed you, and shall lead you unto living fountains of waters: and God shall wipe away all tears from your eyes P."]
n Isai. xxv. 4. o Rev. vii. 14. p Rev. vii. 16, 17.
VOWS TO BE PERFORMED.
Ps. lvi. 12. Thy vows are upon me, O God; I will render
praises unto thee, VOWS were encouraged under the Mosaic Lawa; and many particular rules were given in relation to them. Nor are they altogether discouraged under the Christian dispensation. On the contrary, they are spoken of by the prophets as no less adapted to our state, than they were to the state of the Jews under the Mosaic economy. Where they relate to any particular act which is not otherwise required of us, I confess I think them not very advisable. They are for the most part calculated rather to ensnare than to edify the soula. But, where they are only a more solemn way of binding ourselves to the performance of acknowledged duties, they are as useful to ourselves, and as pleasing to God, as ever.
The particular ordinance which has recently been administered amongst us will lead me to shew you, 1. What vows are upon you
There are vows of a more particular nature, which may have been secretly made by different individuals; which are more fit for our own personal consideration before God than for any notice on a public occasion like this; and the rather because the points that would be interesting to one or two might excite no interest in the minds of the generality amongst us. But there are vows common to us all; for instance, those made by us, 1. At our baptism
a Numb. vi. 2, 5, 21.
b Numb. xxx. 2-15.
[When presented at the sacred font, we were, as the Scripture expresses it, “ baptized into Christe." As the Israelites, in their passage through the sea, were “baptized unto Moses," whilst, with a wall of water on their right hand and on their left, they were sprinkled with the surge, and consecrated, as it were, unto the Lord, to embrace the revelation which was then made known to them, and to obey the laws which were then delivered them'; so we, in our baptism, profess to regard the Lord Jesus Christ as our mighty deliverer, and to obey him as our only Lord. As it was not uncommon in the Apostolic age to baptize also by immersion, St. Paul represents it as being “buried with Christ in baptism into his death; that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life." In both these views, we see clearly what our vows have been; to believe in Christ, to follow Christ, dying unto sin as he died for it, and rising to a new and heavenly life, as he on the third day after his crucifixion rose to a life of blessedness and glory at the right hand of God. This was renewed,] 2. At our confirmation[As at twelve years of age
the Jewish children were presented at the temple, that they might come more fully under the yoke of their Law; so amongst us, at a somewhat later age, are young people called upon to present themselves unto the Lord, and to take upon themselves those engagements which were made for them at their baptism by their sponsors. You well know what the things are which were then promised in your name: first," that you should renounce the devil and all his works, the pomps and vanities of this wicked world, and all the sinful lusts of the flesh; next, that you should believe all the articles of the Christian faith; and, lastly, that you should keep God's holy will and commandments, and walk in the same all the days of your life.” Now, in reference to these very engagements, it was distinctly asked of you by the Bishop, "Do ye here, in the presence of God and of this congregation,
e Gal. ii. 27. f 1 Cor. x. 1, 2. 8 Rom. vi. 3, 4. VOL. V.
renew the solemn promise and vow that was made in your name at your baptism, ratifying and confirming the same in your own persons, and acknowledging yourselves bound to believe and to do all those things which your godfathers and godmothers then undertook for you?” And then "every one of you audibly and distinctly answered, I do.” Remember, then, that all these vows are upon you. They are not to be regarded as empty words, which might, at the close of the ceremony, be forgotten. No, indeed; by them your souls are bound : and every one who does not labour to carry them into effect, contracts the heaviest guilt; his whole life being one continued act of lying unto God.] 3. At the table of the Lord
[Those of us who have attained to fuller age have, for the most part, been frequent communicants at the Lord's supper; as it is to be hoped that many of you, my young friends, will ere long be: for I must say to you, that your confirmation is intended to be a preparation for that holy ordinance; and is of no real utility to you, if it be not followed up by a total surrender of yourselves to God at the table of your Lord. Now, at the Lord's table we give up ourselves wholly to the Lord. The word “sacrament,” by which that ordinance is often designated, refers to the oath which the Roman soldiers took to be faithful to their General: such an oath we all take, as it were, when we eat the body, and drink the blood, of our Lord and Saviour at his table. We engage to be good soldiers of Jesus Christ," and never to forsake his standard, but to be faithful unto him even unto death. The difference between our engagements at the three different periods is this: at our baptism the promises were made for us by our sponsors; at our confirmation we took upon ourselves all that had been engaged in our behalf; and at the Lord's table we carry it all, as it were, into effect; and, by an open recognition of the Lord Jesus Christ as our Saviour and our Lord, we declare before all, that we are determined, through grace, to live and die in his sacred cause; having no hope but in his atoning blood; no strength but in his grace; no rule but his revealed will; no end of life but the glory of his name.]
Such being the vows of God that are upon us, let us consider, II. The obligations thereby entailed upon us
These vows are to be performed : for “it were better never to vow at all, than to vow and not payh."
h Eccl. v. 4, 5.