« PrécédentContinuer »
pursuits of the world-that he may be indulging in an earthly or secular spirit; and there is reason to think that such a spirit is a prevalent evil in our times, as it is likely to be whenever the church is favoured with external security and tranquillity. Perhaps it may serve to give us some idea of the mischievous influence of a secular spirit in our religious hopes and joys, if we endeavour to contrast our feelings and habits with the feelings and habits of saints who possessed the full assurance of hope,-whose religion was to them a perpetual feast. On the contrast we perceive that they devoted more time to religious exercises, and relied more for happiness in religion. Try first to recollect the life led by the generality of christians in our times. Try next to picture to yourselves the life led by such a man as the apostle Paul. See him every hour of every day prosecuting with unquenchable ardour his apostolic labours; see him almost every hour of every day encountering insult and reproach; and often enduring still greater evils, -bonds and imprisonments, hunger and thirst, and cold and nakedness, for the sake of the gospel. You feel that the affections of such a man must have been completely detached from terrestrial things; that his thoughts must have been continually darting upwards to heaven, and onwards to eternity; that he must have felt with triumphant certainty that he had the approbation of his Saviour and his Judge; and that in anticipating the crown of righteousness, he had more than a compensation for all his earthly losses and sacrifices, and for all his toils and hardships. Perhaps you will allege that it is unfair to contrast an ordinary saint with a man altogether so peculiar, so pre-eminent for gifts and graces, for exertions and attainments and sufferings. If so, think of the circumstances and
habits of the primitive christians, and of our own ancestors during the persecuting period. For the sake of Christ, many of them had to suffer the loss of all things, and to endure stripes and imprisonments, and to seek shelter "in deserts and in mountains, in dens and caves of the earth." But they were perplexed by no agonizing doubt or misgivings as to their spiritual condition and prospects. "They exulted in hope of the glory of God; and not only so, but they exulted in tribulation also." "They took joyfully the spoiling of their goods, knowing in themselves that they had in heaven a better and an enduring substance."
Contrast, now, with these men, a christian from among the general mass of christians in our times; look on this picture and on that. Between the world and the church there is now a sort of truce, so that a christian in our country and in our times,-a professor of christianity, is not called to suffer much either in his person, his property, or character. Thus tempted to confide for happiness chiefly to earthly resources, no wonder that his spiritual joy is small, and his hope of heaven feeble.
Do you say that their conduct arose naturally out of their circumstances? To a certain extent it did; for many christians, if placed in their circumstances, would feel and act as they did. Should we then wish for persecution? No; outward peace is a blessing; but let us be aware of its temptations.
Thus I have attempted to point out the cause, or to point out the cure, of a spiritual evil.
TOPICS ILLUSTRATED EXTEMPORE.
If hope be weak, you are to blame.-" Open thy mouth wide, and I will fill it."-Clear views of the
gospel, &c. &c.-Why be satisfied to walk in darkness, when you might have the light of the sun?—to support your steps by a frail and not a strong staff?— to be at the mercy of winds and waves, when you might have an anchor sure and stedfast?-Address those who have no hope, or whose hope rests on a false basis.
ON DIVINE INFLUENCE.
EZEKIEL XXXvii. 9.-Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe upon these slain that they may live.
AMONG the numerous visions and allegorical representations contained in the scriptures, there are few more striking and affecting than that with which we are presented in this chapter. To conceive of it aright, we may suppose ourselves transported to a far stretching valley, or a vast plain, which at some former period had been the scene of a bloody contest between two immense hosts. Thousands upon thousands of human beings had fallen by each others' swords; their bodies, as was common in such cases, had been hastily covered with a little clay; but by a deluge of rain, or by some other accident, the clay has been removed; "the earth has cast forth her dead, and no more covers her slain ;" and now the whole field, as far as the eye can reach, forms a sort of Golgotha, or "place of skulls," presenting nothing to the contemplative spectator but heaps of human bones stript of their integuments, and, under the action of the elements, already beginning to crumble into powder.
Such was the melancholy spectacle exhibited to the prophet Ezekiel, and described in this chapter. "The hand of the Lord was upon me, and carried me out in
the Spirit of the Lord, and set me down in the midst of the valley which was full of bones, and caused me to pass by them round about; and behold there were very many in the open valley, and, lo! they were very dry." After the prophet had gazed a sufficient time on this heart-sickening scene, the question was put to him, "Son of man, can those bones live?" If the prophet had judged merely according to the suggestions of sense or of reason, he would probably have answered, No; the thing is impossible. Spring may repair the ravages of winter, and again deck the fields with herbage, and the woods with foliage; the various orders of living creatures that now inhabit the earth may be succeeded by tribes of animated beings similar to themselves; but the dead are for ever dead. These bones, solid and enduring though they seem, will in the course of ages moulder into dust, and become indistinguishable from the dust with which they are mingled; but to expect them to be reorganized into human forms, to be clothed with skin and flesh, and re-animated with life and breath, would be to expect a chimera and an impossibility. "As the cloud is consumed, and vanisheth away, so he that goeth down to the grave, shall come up no more."
Such probably would have been the reply of the prophet, if his reply had been dictated merely by natural reason. But the prophet knew that to him who proposed the question "nothing was impossible ;" and therefore he gave an answer which was not only more modest and humble, but more rational and pious. "And I answered, O Lord God, thou knowest."
The prophet was next instructed to prophesy upon the dry bones, and to proclaim to them the purpose of God to quicken and animate them. He obeys the divine instructions; and the effect which forthwith