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it, he buckles on his armour, and endeavours to bear up, and act with fortitude and spirit in the · conflict.
To the christian in this period, indeed, as well as to all others, the events of futurity are unknown; yet he can look forward with a degree of confidence and pleasure. He has travelled half his journey; and from the remembrance of the support he has received in days that are past, he gathers hope for the future. " I will commit myself,” says he, “ into the hands of the same faithful guide. I will remember the interposition of his providence. He did not abandon me to the world, as I deserved. He conquered my foes when they surrounded me, I called upon him in the day of trouble, he heard me, and delivered me from all my fears. Why then should I doubt his love? Why should I despond, since he remains the same in his covenant, in his purpose, in his perfections, and in his promise? The Lord that delivered me out of the pas of the lion, and out of the paw of the bear, he will deliver me out of the hand of this Philistine." Unbelief has indeed, sometimes asked, “Will the Lord cast off for ever, and will he be favourable no more? Is his mercy clean gone for ever? Doth his promise fail for evermore? Hath God forgotten to be gracious ? Hath he in anger shut up his tender mercies ?" But Faith has answered, “ This is my infirmity: I will remember the vears of the right hand of the Most High. I will remember the works of the Lord; surely I will remember thy wonders of old. I will meditate also of all thy works, and talk of thy doings.” Ps. lxxvii. 7, &c. 1 Sam. xvii. 37.
But has the christian then, in this period, no. : thing to try him, nothing to weaken his faith, or cool his ardour ? We answer, he has. This is a time when he is more oppressed with care, more exposed to anxiety, than perhaps any other part of his life. It is now that he is immersed in business ; surrounded perhaps with a family; the love of gain increasing; occasions offering to excite jealousy, ambition, and envy, “Here he is encountered by the violence of an enemy. There he is supplanted by the address of a rival. The pride of a superior insults him. The ingratitude of a friend provokes him. Animosities ruffle bis temper. Suspicions poison his mind." These are the things which try the christian, and render this part of his life in many respects painful. What reason has he often to complain, through the intrusion of these evils, of the earthliness of his mind, the deadness of his soul to God, the lukewarmness of his frame, and the little he does for the glory of God! " My soul cleaveth to the dust : quicken thou me, according to thy word. From the uttermost parts of the earth have I heard songs, even glory to the righteous; but I said, My leanness, my leanness, woe unto me." Ps. cxix. 25. Is. xxiv. 16.
Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it,
Prone to leave the God I love :
Seal it to thy courts above.
Our Lord well knew what the christian would be exposed to at this period, and, therefore, he has left suitable cautions and exhortations, which all who are more particularly engaged in the con
cerns of this life ought to observe. " Take heed to yourselves, lest at any time your hearts be overcharged with surfi iting and drunkenness, and cares of this life.” Luke xxi. 34. For want of an attention to these salutary cautions, how many christians have lost their spirituality, their zeal, and their usefulness for a time! Alas! what an awful eclipse has been produced by the world's intervening between the christian and his Spiritual Sun. How have many gone mourning to the grave through the cares of temporal things ! Worldly wisdom, secular interests, commercial connexions, and too much of the spirit of the times, have so much influenced some good men at this period, as to draw them aside from the true path ; to pursue objects, which, however pleasant to the eye of sense, alas ! have only been calculated to injure the soul, and throw a damp on their exertions in the best of causes. But to return from this digression, notwithstanding the general temptations, cares, and anxieties of the christian at this season, and sometimes the too fatal consequences befalling those who listen to the tempter, yet, on the whole, the christian is gaining in experience; he is more sensible of his danger, more judicious, prudent, and dependant on his God. We do not see in him that levity of spirit that is too conspicuous in the young : not that he is without cheerfulness; “ but his cheerfulness is as different from the levity of the young, as the flight of the eagle is from the flut. tering of a sparrow in the air." There is now a solidity that marks his character, and this solidity is tempered with a humble joy. He is not now so easily elated nor so quickly depressed as for
the tem sequences 7501, and
merly. There is an equanimity of mind, learnt from a proper view of all things being under the controul and disposal of Him, who orders every thing after the counsel of his own will. There is a fortitude acquired by actual condicts with and conquests over the enemy. There is prudence derived from the recollection of former inexperi. ence. The senses, as the apostle Paul observes, by reason of use, can now discern both good and evil. Heb. v. 14.
Farther; we may consider this period as a time of usefulness. It is now that the christian possesses wisdom to instruct, experience which claims veneration, and influence which gains attention. In the early period of christian experience, the christian indeed is often filled with extraordinary desires for doing good; but, then, it often happens that he is destitute of that knowledge and prudence which should direct his exertions, and hence frequently does, harm instead of goud; but when he arrives to middle age, he is better capable of discerning what is to be done, and the best means which should be employed • to answer the end. Having had some experience · in divine things, and been of some standing in
the divine life, his knowledge becomes sound and extensive. The deceitfulness of the heart, the vanity of the world, the evil of sin, the temp.. tations of Satan, are subjects with which he is well acquainted. So likewise the doctrines of Christ, the graces of the Spirit, the duties of chris. tianity, and the consolations of religion, are things on which he can delightfuily expatiate. Now it is, therefore, that he becomes a shining light in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation,
218 Je of illur and sites has pa
The Experience of the
capable of illuminating the ignorant, re-animating the drooping, and strengthening the weak.
Experience excites veneration : hence it is that the christian who has passed his noviciate, and is arrived to the period we are now speaking of, is generally resorted to as a source of instruction, and as an object of esteem. We can take his decisions without hesitation, and follow his directions without fear. To him, therefore, the distressed repair for advice under the difficult circumstances of life; the young for knowledge and direction, the conscientious for the resolving of cases of conscience, and the persecuted for a refuge in times of opposition and reproach.
It is now also that the christian possesses more influence, and has greater opportunities presented to him of doing good. Now perhaps he is a father, and is anxious to bring his children up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. He feels for their souls; he is concerned for their best interests. He takes them in the arms of faith and prayer to the throne of grace, and be. seeches the Father of mercies to be gracious to them. He tenders suitable instructions, and enforces all by a holy example. It is now, perhaps, he is a master, and his servants under his care. He is deirous of their being instructed in the way of salvation : he affords them opportunities of reading the scriptures and hearing the gospel. Taught by the humble and mild spirit of christi. anity, he looks upon them as possessing souls equally as valuable as those of higher classes. He prays for them, and embraces every opportunity of doing them good.