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We may therefore conclude, that when affliction renders a man humble, and resigned to the will of God; when it tends to wean him from the world, and produces a change in his whole spirit and conduct; it is, because the God of all grace is employing it as a mean, whereby to lead him to deep consideration; and through the accompanying power of the Spirit, to true repentance, faith, and holiness.
So, when in prosperity the heart expands with benevolence; when a man is cheerfully employed in diffusing a portion of that comfort around him which he himself enjoys; when he is labouring to glorify his Redeemer, by aiding those institutions which have for their object the dissemination of divine truth ; when he is led to consider himself as a steward of the manifold gifts of God; and when all this is accompanied with true humility, unostentatiousness, and self-denial : then we may safely conclude that God has blessed his basket and his store ; that all his fruitfulness is the effect of grace alone, and not the natural consequence of mere worldly abundance.
How precious then is the grace of God. Natural evils are converted into spiritual blessings, when thus sanctified by divine grace. And without this grace, patural blessings, such as health, plenty,
friends, and influence, become snares and excitements to sin and rebellion.
O! then let me ever pray for grace to use both affliction and prosperity aright. Lord, impart unto me this inestimable treasure. When thou givest grace, thou givest thyself: “ Thyself, of all thy gifts the crown."
Be still, my soul, and know the Lord,
Thy path is strew'd with piercing thorns;
Soon shall the painful conflict cease;
There shall thy joy for ever flow,
LVI. ON THE CHARACTER OF MARTHA AND MARY.
With what beautiful simplicity is the interview between Jesus and the sisters of Lazarus related by St. Luke, in the 10th chapter of his Gospel.
How gentle and yet how forcible is the reproof, which our Lord gave to Martha. How gracious the testimony which he bore to the piety of Mary. Mary sat at Jesus' feet and heard his words. Happy and favoured station ! She sat at the feet of him who is infinite wisdom, and heard with teachableness and delight, those gracious truths which proceeded from his lips. The Lord inclined her heart, as he did Lydia's, to attend unto the things which he spake unto her.
His words fell like good seed into a soil prepared by sovereign grace, and brought forth the blessed fruits of righteousness.
Martha was cumbered with much serving, and careful about many things. Her mind was ruffled at the apparent inattention of Mary, who had left her to serve alone. But Jesus, instead of reprov
ing, bestows his commendation on Mary's conduct ; since he came to their house, not for the
of feasting himself with their earthly dainties, but to feast them with the delicious truths of Gospel grace.
This family picture is often exhibited in the Christian world. We are naturally more inclined to the bustle of religious occupations, than the retired devotional exercises of meditation and prayer.
Martha's hospitality was in itself commendable, and sprang from love to her Saviour: but the hurried state of her mind, and her neglect of a precious season for spiritual improvement, were highly reprehensible. She forgot her own spiritual wants; and the great object of Christ's visit. She was cumbered with much serving. Her spirit got ruffled. An improper feeling carried her away beyond the bounds of affection and decorum. She even interrupted our Lord in his discourse with Mary, and wished him to dismiss her with a suitable reproof for neglecting her household concerns. “ Lord, dost thou not
my sister hath left me to serve alone? bid her therefore that she help me." The reproof however, unexpectedly fell upon herself.
" Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things, but one thing is needful; and Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from hier.” This faithful admonition, was no doubt sanctified to her ; for, “ Jesus loved Martha, and her sister, and Lazarus."
We cannot contemplate this family scene without being struck with the value of a meek and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price.
A mind active and ardent, alive to neglect, and susceptible of irritation, is generally admired by the world, as indicative of a noble spirit; whilst a retired, noiseless, yet humble and obedient frame of heart is ridiculed or despised, as low and unmanly.
But the Lord seeth not as man seeth. Man looketh at the outward appearance, but God looketh at the heart. That which is highly esteemed amongst men, is abomination in the sight of God.
Like Mary, I too am privileged to sit at Jesus' feet ; for when I read the Holy Scriptures, I read the word of Jesus. When I hear the Gospel faithfully preached, I hear the Gospel of Jesus. With what reverence then should I listen to the words of eternal truth : with what delight should I receive the glad tidings of salvation, proclaimed by him who came down from heaven to seek and to save that which was lost; and who hath graciously declared, that all who look unto him, who come unto him, who receive him, and believe in his name, shall not perish but have everlasting life.
Lord, give me faith, and hope, and love, that all my affections may be fixed upon thee; and my whole life devoted to thy glory. But alas ! how often do I resemble Martha ? Daily do I need her salutary reproof.
The various occupations and businesses of life; the multiplied cares and anxieties about earthly things; nay, even the very labours required in actively conducting religious institutions, have a tendency, without great watchfulness and prayer, to weary the spirits; to clog the wheels of the mind in its ascent heavenward; and to render us unfit for that tranquil, spiritual posture of soul in which Mary was found, when she sat at her Saviour's feet.
To be actively employed, is good for the Christian; whilst a too great seclusion unfits the mind for general usefulness. There is, however, a happy combination of activity and retirement, which at once strengthens the mind, and preserves its spirituality from decay.
The characters presented to our view in the Holy
Scriptures are drawn by the unerring pencil of truth. There we see man as he really is, both in his best and worst estate. The excellencies of the saints are recorded with remarkable conciseness ; whilst their defects and falls are dwelt upon with awful particularity. The reason seems to be apparent ; to humble the natural pride of man ; and to demonstrate, that he who glorieth, must glory in the Lord.
The Bible tells us the unwelcome truth, that “ Man in his best estate is altogether vanity;" that “there is not a just man' upon earth, who liveth and sinneth not.” • It is absurd then, to expect perfection ; but not unreasonable to expect consistency."
Whilst I labour to promote the spread of the Gospel through the benighted regions of the earth, I must beware lest I neglect to cultivate, by close communion with Jesus, the work of grace in my own soul. When, like Martha, I find my mind cumbered with much serving ; when I begin to feel an increasing distraction of thought, and a growing unfitness for spiritual meditation ; then let me betake myself with redoubled frequency to Mary's happy station.
At the feet of Jesus, I am permitted to ask for every blessing
In secret fervour of spirit, I may there implore that all-sufficient grace, which is so freely promised to all who sincerely seek the heavenly treasure.
Lord, enable me to cultivate diligence with devotion; to employ my humble powers in thy service, both in the active range of Christian benevolence; and in the passive exercise of self-denying resignation. Mould my will to thine. Let holy love be the ever-moving spring of all my actions; that whatsoever I do in word or deed, I may do all with a view to thy glory, and the spiritual good of a perishing world.