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be with Christ, which is far better? Does not this regard immediate enjoyment? It is perfectly vain, as our enemies do, to contend, that a thousand years would have seemed to him but as a moment when he awoke from the tomb. Paul is not speaking of how the thing would be in review, but in anticipation; and knowing all, I would ask, could Paul reasonably be expected to prefer a state of nothingness to a continuance in a condition in which he could serve his Lord and Saviour, and enjoy him too, as he did, amidst all his trials, “ rejoicing with joy unspeakable and full of glory?"
Christians, some of you here have had many of your pious friends and relatives removed from you : but remember, they who have fallen asleep in Jesus do not perish until the resurrection : no; they now inherit the promises : no; delivered from the burden of the flesh they are now enjoying the felicity of heaven. They have done with sorrows, and, what is best, they have done with sin: they are freed from all their infirmities and all their distractions: they have not known what a wandering thought, or an impatient feeling, or an emotion of earthly mindedness is since they entered that blessed world of light and life, of peace and joy; they are there for ever with the Lord, and waiting to receive you into everlasting communion,
Having ascertained our models, and having seen their present condition, let us now consider, thirdly, THEIR PREVIOUS DISPOSITIONS. Let us, then, observe, first, their dependence and order. • Faith and patience." Not patience and faith : patience does not precede faith, but follows it: so does every thing. Faith is not the superstructure, but the foundation : “Building up yourselves," says Jude, “in your most holy faith." Faith is the initiatory of every thing in real godliness
. Other things are the stream; this is the spring: other things are the produce; this is the root. And yet some weak and foolish people are afraid of our saying too much about faith, not considering . that this is all and in all, and that as this prospers every thing will flourish.
And, secondly, the nature of their service. One word here will explain this fully; it is the word “ through"_" through faith and patience," says the apostle, “they inherit the promises." This shews us at once their present use and their future cessation. Neither of these graces will be found in the future world. Where is the need of faith, when we see and know ; and where is the need of patience when we have nothing to endure: where is the need of armour when the warfare is accomplished, and the enemies whom we now see shall be no more for ever?
But both of these are admirably adapted to our present state, and are of unspeakable use and advantage in our passing through this world. What could you do without either of them? What could you do without faith Take the most simple principle in religion: we should suppose, that if there was any discovery reason could make, unaided by revelation, it would be the creation of the world; for every thing that is made must have a Maker: yet it is well known that the heathen philosophers commonly believed in the eternity of the world, or that it was produced by a casual concourse of atoms. And the apostle expressly tells us, that “ Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the Word of God; so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear.” What wonder, therefore, that as to other things these should depend upon faith? As the apostle says, “ Eye hath note
seen, nor ear heard, neither hath entered into the heart of man to conceive the things which God hath revealed;"-revealed them unto us by his Spirit. Says the apostle to these Hebrews, “ Without faith it is impossible to please God; for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.” “We are saved through faith :" there is no justification without faith ; there is no sanctification without faith. Do we live? “ We live by faith." Do we walk ? “We walk by faith." Do we stand? “By faith we stand.” Do we overcome? “This is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith." We read of “the word of faith ;" “ the operation of faith ; " " the fight of faith;" " the household of faith ;" and so of the rest: as if every thing was of faith; as if every thing in religion was only a modification of faith. No wonder, therefore, if, as you heard on Friday morning, the Christian cries out, with tears, “Lord, I believe, help thou mine unbelief:" no wonder the Apostle prayed, “ Lord, increase our faith."
What could you do without patience ; and how necessary is it, therefore, that you should pray that patience may have its perfect work ; that you may be perfect entirely, lacking nothing. Patience has two offices to perform; the one regards waiting for good, and the other, the bearing of evil. It has been much disputed which of these two be the greater trial or of the more difficult exercise. · We apprehend this can never be perfectly decided; there must be some reference to a man's constitution, and to his circumstances in life, Surely some are by their natural complexion, as well as by their mode of life, more prepared for the one than for the other: but both of them will be constantly required while we are here. In some cases they both are required, at the same time particularly. The apostle John, therefore, in spirit, referring to a great persecution of the people of God, exclaims, “ Here is the faith and patience of the saints.” So were they succoured, so were they exercised. But though there are some occasions in which the exercise of both are particularly required, I need not tell you, Christians, that both of them are always necessary, daily, and hourly, and it is only through these, through faith and patience, that you can ever inherit the promises.
Having ascertained our models, and having seen their present condition, and also their previous dispositions, let us, in the fourth place, observe OUR DUTY IN REFERENCE TO THEM ; which is, to be followers of them: “ Be ye followers of them who through faith and patience inherit the promises."
The injunction implies three things : First, that there is nothing unattainable and impracticable in the examples of those who have gone before us. We may, we can, follow them. They were exercised by the very same temptations, and they had the very same passions with us. They were not always watchful; they were when they exercised their faith and patience. They were ® by nature children of wrath, even as others." “ In them, that is, in their flesh, dwelt no good thing." What they were they were by grace ; what they did they did by grace ; and that grace is the same yesterday, to-day, and for ever. There is no reason, therefore, why we should ever despond. “Yea," says the Apostle, in reference to his own case, “ I obtained mercy, that in me first Jesus Christ might shew forth all long-suffering, as a pattern to them which should hereafter believe on him to life everlasting."
Secondly, that we should acquaint ourselves with them. Without this you cannot follow them; you cannot follow or pursue what you are ignorant of. Imitation is something voluntary, something intentional, something that requires observation, frequent observation, and to have the thing much before the eye of the mind, in order to have the mind impressed. You should, therefore, search the Scriptures, in order to see what God has there recorded of them, what of their principles, what of their actions, what of their sufferings. You should behold them in the various relationships and conditions of life ; you should see how they behaved in prosperity, and in adversity, in life and in death. These examples are recorded for this very purpose.
And the third thing is, that you should not be satisfied with any thing short of resemblance and conformity. You are not to be contented with a vain curiosity, or an idle admiration of these characters--you are to imitate and follow. With these striking examples before you, you are not to “ behold, and wonder, and perish.” With these men labouring in the vineyard you are not to stand all the day idle, or lounging, or to lean upon a gate talking idly with others. You are to work too. If they denied themselves, you must deny yourself: if they mortified the deeds of the body, you must mortify the deeds of the body; if they had their conversation in heaven, you must have your's there also; if they walked by faith and not by sight, so must you walk. You are to be " followers of them who through faith and patience inherit the promises."
In this conformity allow me just to mention two things which are worthy of your regard. First, you should distinguish what was peculiar in their situation to themselves, and what was common and general. The best way of teaching is always by instances and examples. You remember Ahaz sent a captain with five soldiers to take Elijah. He was sitting on the brow of a hill, and he commanded fire to come down and consume them. This was a supernatural impulse ; this is proved by the event: he could not command the clouds ; the elements of God would not have come down on the instant to work a miracle in vain, or merely to humour his pettishness and his revenge. Well, you remember when the Saviour was going up to a village of the Samaritans the Samaritans would not receive him, and the disciples said, “ Lord, shall we command fire from heaven to consume them, as Elias did ?" “ Why," says he, “ you are not under the same dispensation, you are not called to execute the judgments of God. Ye know not what manner of spirit ye are of. If you think these feelings are suggestions from above, you are mistaken; it is your own unhallowed fire, for the Son of man is not come to destroy men's lives, but to save them."
Then, again, with regard to such things, in which they were exemplars, you should attend to these things chiefly as regards yourselves. There is a disposition in persons the very reverse of this. They love to hear of the duties of others, not of their own. Subjects love to hear of the duties of sovereigns, and sovereigns love to hear of the duties of their subjects ; people love to hear of the duties of ministers, and ministers love to hear of the duties of their people towards them; wives love to hear of the duties of husbands, and husbands love dearly to hear of the duties of wives. But would it not be better for us all to seek after our own particular duties, whatever be our rank, whatever our station, whatever our condition in life, going to the Book, or going to the preaching, with the disposition of David, when he said, “ I will hear what God the Lord will speak to me," or with the question of Saul of Tarsus, « Lord what wilt thou have me to do ?"
Are you to bury a beloved child? Why, then, think with Abraham, when he received that command, “ Take now thy son, thine only son Isaac, whom thou lovest, and get thee into the land of Moriah, and offer him there;" and think of his rising early in the mornng the next day, in order to accomplish it. If you have been injured by others, think of Joseph, who, though he was envied and hated by his brethren, and sold as a slave, and intentionally murdered, yet not only forgave them, but fell upon their necks and kissed them, and laboured to prevent an excess of remorse, telling them that God had sent bim before them to preserve them. And so of other instances.
Having ascertained our models, and having seer Kheir present condition, and their previous disposition, and observed our duty with regard to them, let us finally remark, WHAT IS NECESSARY IN ORDER TO DISCHARGE IT; namely, that you fling away sloth. “ Be not slothful, but followers of them who through faith and patience inherit the promises." A philosopher was asked, “What is the sin most universal to all mankind ?” and his answer was, and we are persuaded that he answered truly and justly, “ Idleness and sloth.” See a child: with what difficulty can you obtain any thing like continued serious attention to subjects you are attempting to teach it. It is like your endeavouring to tie it with a ball of mercury to the legs of a table. Look at man: in what state should we find the community now, of how many thousand things should we remain ignorant, if individuals were not urged by the most powerful consider ations of want or advantage. But mental sloth is much greater than bodily sloth, and spiritual sloth is much greater than even mental. It seems very astonishing as well as unnatural; allowing that a man is on the bed of sloth, we should suppose that it would be impossible for him to remain there when he
his eyes and looks about him in the light of revelation. Can he see such honours as these, and not feel something like ambition? Can he see such riches, and not feel something like avarice? Can he learn that the Judge standeth at the door and not be afraid? Can he see such a heaven and not agonize in order to enter it? Can he see hell moving to meet him at his feet (for however he may proorastinate, damnation slumbereth not); can he see this and not tremble, and flee from the wrath to come?
I would not apologize for any thing wrong in itself. Young converts have sometimes been much censured for some improprieties. They are sometimes severely condemned, as if they were too exclusively attentive and earnest in regard to the things that belong to their everlasting peace, and so suffer themselves to be drawn away a little too much from other concerns, which it is their duty to regard. I would only observe here, that the people of the world never complain of a man for not being righteous enough, but only for being righteous overmuch. The truth is, that in matters of religion a deficiency in such a case would be as blameable as excess, if excess indeed can be. Yet you never find this to be the case. If a man prays rather unseasonably he is lampooned ; not the man who lives without God in the world. I remember the case of a farmer in the West of England many years ago; I looked upon the man as acting very imprudently, for for every thing, as Solomon says, there is a time; but this man, in his fervency and zeal, used sometimes to call together from the field in the day time, his hay-makers, and reapers, and labourers, in order to engage with him in a religious exercise. I observed that this poor man became the scorn and contempt, not only of the parish, but also of the parson of the parish ; but they never took any notice of the drunken, swearing, sabbath-breaking farmers, who never prayed at all with their families or their servants. This, by the way, is another proof that the carnal mind is enmity against God. But, to return : really when we consider the infinite importance of eternal things, and how suddenly and how surprisingly sometimes they break in upon the minds of people at first, and of minds, too, frequently, not well informed upon any subject, what wonder is it if at times they should produce a little impropriety? Yea, the wonder is, that with such consequences depending, we can fight so faintly as we do; that with such a prize exhibited before us, we run so sluggishly as we do the race that is set before us. How diligent are men in the ordinary transactions of life ; how diligent are they in these things : they rise early and sit up late, and eat the bread of carefulness, and compass sea and land, in order to advance temporal concerns, which after all have very little connexion with their happiness. A hint is sufficient there. You don't want the preacher in your shops, in the market, or on the exchange: no, but where spiritual things are concerned, one day out of seven must be applied to this purpose, to stir you up to be followers of Christ. There must be sanctuaries all over the country; there must be preachers without, there must be conscience fixed within. There must be the various dispensations of providence; we must be goaded and wooed; we must be blessed and chastised. Sometimes the desire of our eyes is taken away by a stroke ; sometimes our wife, or child, or friend is taken away by a stroke; sometimes we are reduced to poverty by an untoward event; sometimes our bodily health is taken away, and we are left to waste away by lingering disease: and all this is in order to induce us to think of a better, even a heavenly inheritance. And yet, alas, all this is too little; all this is in vain! But was it by the indulgence of sloth that these characters, who through faith and patience now inherit the promises, rose to their eminence and distinction, and entered the kingdom? Do you imagine that all that is necessary is, to step into the boat, and lie down, and go to sleep, and leave it to the current? This is enough if you are to sail with the stream, and you have no objection to the gulf of perdition below : but if you are to sail against the stream, there must be oars, and therefore exertion; you will find all these necessary, or you will never reach the fountain of life. I would ask, Is it possible that a slothful man can ever fight the good fight of faith, or run the race that is set before him, or take the kingdom of heaven by violence; or strive to enter in at the strait gate? Yet all these are images employed by the Spirit of God to describe the nature of the heavenly life. “Go to the ant, thou sluggard, consider her ways, and be wise : which having no guide, overseer, or ruler, provideth her meat in the summer, and gathereth her food in the harvest." “I went by," says Solomon, “the field of the slothful, and by the vineyard of the man void of understanding; and, lo, it was all grown over with thorns, and nettles had covered the face thereof, and the stone wall thereof was broken down. Then I saw, and considered it well: I looked upon it, and received instruction." May you do the same.