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Allow me, my Christians friends, to commend to your notice and patronage the Baptist College at Stepney, whose interests have brought us together this evening. It presents to you a medium through which you may become “labourers together with God." In answer to the prayers of the churches for more labourers in the Gospel field, the Lord has raised up these young men and endued them with gifts suited to the ministry. But before they enter on its more stated and important duties it is desirable that their minds should be stored with suitable knowledge, and that they should be trained to those habits which will conduce to their future usefulness. By supporting the Institution which affords them leisure and most efficient aid in prosecuting their various and important studies, you become labourers with them in the service of the Lord, and the churches and the world will reap the fruit of your labour.
When a church is bereaved of its pastor, it is desirous of obtaining an able minister; a man whose talents, respectable attainments, and active, prudent habits promise well for the people over whom he is to preside. Then let every church contribute towards the encouragement and education of pious and suitable young men, who may hereafter occupy your pulpits, break unto you the pread of life, and prove amongst you " goud stewards of the manifold grace of God.'
THE LORD THE PORTION OF HIS PEOPLE.
REV. T. DALE, A.M.
ST. BRIDE'S CHURCH, FLEET STREET, JULY 3, 1836.
“ The Lord is the portion of mine inheritance, and of my cup: thou maintainest my lot.'
Psalm xvi. 5.
THERE are two things intimately connected with each other, and bearing much upon ourselves, which can neither be expressed nor conceived
the extent of human misery, and the depth of human sin. As to the former, we are told in Scripture, and the declaration is continually verified by experience, that the heart knoweth its own bitterness: as to the latter we are assuredand here also it will be a happy thing if it be experience does not justify the assertion—that “ many imagine wickedness, and pursue it; every one in the secret of his heart."
Now it would be well for the best interests of the human race if the connexion between sin and misery were more generally discerned, and more practically understood; if those who suffer in mind, in body, or estate, in their circumstances, in their connexions, or in their affections, would calmly and deliberately trace how large a portion of their sorrows ought to be ascribed to their own neglect of duty, to their own unwatchfulness against sin, to their own laxity of Christian principle in their intercourse with others, and to the total absence of it perhaps in the dealings of others with them. It may be truly said, however paradoxical the assertion may appear to some, that the world is held under the iron sway of misery in exact proportion as it is
eager in the pursuit of happiness. But the solution of the seeming paradox is as simple as it is obvious : it is, that men perversely seek happiness in paths that lead to misery. They seek it in the accumulation of wealth, in the dissipation of pleasure, in the gratification of vanity or ambition : and in doing this they take into consideration a part only, and that much the smaller part, of the necessities of man. They provide for the present at the expense of the future, not duly considering that a day will certainly arrive when they will reap as they have sown, and gather as they have strawed.
Now the subject on which we are to meditate this day will put us in direct contrast with the gloomy and revolting picture that must be drawn of the end of such by those who speak the truth. It calls us not to measure the extent of human misery, so much as to look at the mercy of God to all them who fear him, which is as high as heaven is above the earth, and as wide as from the east to the west. It calls us not to let down line and plummet into the abyss of huinan depravity, but to look upon an exhaustless and perennial spring of consolation—the river that maketh glad the city of God, and of which we may drink for ever. It calls us not to look on the dying agonies, and listen to the self-upbraidings of those who have chosen wrong ; but to describe the happy condition of those who have chosen right, to dwell on their present privileges, their future anticipations, their enjoyment of peace, comparative peace on earth -the prospect of an enduring and perfect peace in heaven. Yes-taking man as he is, a being of affection as well as of appetites, of feeli.gs as well as passions—of moral sensibilities and social sympathies, as well as of sensual indulgences and sordid interests—of high and expansive capacities, as well as tendencies to grovel in the mire of ignorance and impurity; taking man as he is—the heir of immortality, though the child of clay-and formed for higher destinies though born in sin and moulded in dust-we fearlessly assert, and undertake to establish the assertion, that they only are happy who can adopt for their own the declaration of the Psalmist, “ The Lord is the portion of mine inheritance, and of my cup: thou maintainest my lot:" and such' only will be able to say, “ The lines have fallen unto me in pleasant places; yea, I have a goodly heritage."
We shall consider, first, the character here described, and secondly, the blessing here affirmed : and God grant that there may be many present who will feel themselves described and blessed this day!
Much, very much, is implied in the emphatical clause, “ The Lord is the portion of my inheritance." It conveys to us the idea that God is to the man who can say this from the heart what God ever ought to be--first: he is recognized, as he ever should be, in his real character-sovereign and supreme: all is felt to be from him-all that is enjoyed here or expected hereafter is resolved alike into his infinite and unmerited bounty: he is acknowledged and felt in all. The man thus described not only knows that God has made him, and that he is the God who preserves him, but believes that God redeems him, and is persuaded that the future may be safely trusted where the present is so well supplied.
Here, then, is the important point of the comparison (O that your minds may rest upon it!) between those who serve the Lord and those who serve him not. As to this world, all paths, even of apparent happiness, are just as open to the believer as to the man of the world; all instruments and appliances of happiness are bestowed on him in equal abundance with them : affluence or competence, reputation and esteem, he may possess as well as they: the resources of a well-stored intellect, the gratification of cultivated tastes, the bounties and the beauties of creation are spread forth in equal prodigality and beneficence for him: and he may range through the trackless regions of the imaginative world. For him those kindred hearts, those social sympathies, that kindliness of friendly intercourse which contribute to make up the sum of human happiness, may exist, not only in an equal, but most generally in a superior, degree as compared with others, because of the tendency of his principles to generate and to cherish them.
Thus far therefore the influence may at least be held in equipoise : but in all and above all that he occupies (for he owns nothing) the believer can say “ The Lord is the portion of my inheritance:” and this is the portion and the only portion that cannot fail. The old man who showed such kindness to David when he fled with his army from the face of his son Absalom, and who was, in the emphatic language of Scripture, " a very great man," portrayed most powerfully the intrinsic impotence of all worldly goods to constitute lasting happiness, by the very terms in which he declines the request of David to accompany him to Jerusalem—" How long have I to live, that I should go up with the king unto Jerusalem ? I am this day four-score years old; and can I discern between good and evil ? can thy servant taste what I eat, or what I drink ? can I hear any more the voice of singing men and singing women? wherefore then should thy servant be yet a burden unto my lord the king ?" We too will hope that this benevolent old man was possessed of a richer, and a brighter, and a more enduring portion than his flocks and his herds, his storehouses and his granaries; a portion to be realized in the solitudes of Mahanaim, where he dwelt, as well as within the precincts of the holy city, or the sacred halls of the regal dwelling. But his declining forms the most expressive comment on all earthly sources of happiness, and suggests the obvious consideration-What a wretched and pitiful creature would this rich and great old man have appeared if he had received all his portion in this life, if there had been no stay for his declining life, no prospect of an inheritance beyond the grave!
Now it is not oniy tħat old age mast, ov tke very condition of human existence, bring with it, as to all woriday things dowever beloved, and as to all distinctions however much coveted, and as to all persons however tender and beloved, a comparative deadness and incapacity of enjoyment. We are at all times on very weak warning, perhaps without any, liable to be placed in the same condition with those in fast declining years. The evil days may be at hand; the minutes may be drawing nigh when we shall say we have no pleasure in them, when there will be no pleasure in all we have enjoyed under the sun. At this very moment there are many living—and alas! some dying instances, around the temple wherein we are professing to worship God, that sickness anticipates old age, and that the world, with all it contains, are inferior to that world for which all of you are tending.
But the man who can adopt the sentiment of my text-who, in the midst of his health and strength, has made the only provision for the days of languor, of infirmity, of exhaustion, of weariness of spirit the man who has returned to God through the way opened in Christ, and has cast all his care on his heavenly Father, who careth for him—that man may delight himself safely, since he delights himself temporarily, in all that God has given him ; because, so far as concerns the treasure that is above all price, he is exposed to no danger, and is placed beyond all risk of shame. “ This God," said the Psalmist,“ is our God for ever and ever; he will be our guide even unto death :" and himself added, “I am the Lord; I change not: therefore ye sons of men are not con sumed.” O what an unutterable benefit in the world, which is full of sudden and disastrous visitation, to stay the soul upon One who can, and who will, keep it in perfect peace-in whom there is no variableness nor shadow of turning-One whose counsel will stand, and he will do all his pleasure ; while his pleasure is the salvation of his people, and his counsel that all things shall work together for the good of those who love him.
But I should trespass needlessly on your time were I to demonstrate at full length how preferable is the condition of the man who has God for his portion, to those who “ hasten after another God"-those whose corrows shall be multiplied, while as his portion the blessing is ensured. Your time may be better
employed in considering, first, whether the Lord is the portion of your inheritance, and if not, by what means he may be entreated and prevailed upon to become so.
Now there is, we know, on authority which cannot mislead us, one way, and only one, of coming to God. “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life: no man cometh to the Father but by me.” A sense of unworthiness, therefore, a consciousness of insufficiency, a thorough persuasion that we have no power of ourselves to help ourselves, a full conviction that we have not, and cannot have, in the incalculable interests of the future, any portion in this world-all these may be regarded as essential in taking the first step towards God: and one means of attaining these, if we have not yet attained them, is, an examination of our wants as arising out of the experience of the past ; and another is, a comparison of the ascertained wants of others with those which will one day be our own. But do we know of none whose prospects of happiness in this world are for ever blighted—none who are descending into the grave by a protracted malady? Do we know of none who are brought down to the tomb in the meridian of strength and vigour, in whom the restlessness of the body is but too true an index of the disquietude of the soul ? Do we know none who feel at this moment (God preserve you from it!) that they have turned away opportunities which will never return, that they are now plunged deep into sorrow, and trembling on the very verge of judgment without any hope of an advocate with the Father, even Jesus Christ the righteous ? Do you know of any such? It is not because there is none such to be found like to it: therefore while you have the means in your power, never be as they. And so far as your own consciousness is concerned you have the power: God is reconciled to you: you can seek him, you can turn to him ; you can determine that from this hour God shall be first; you can resolve thus, he aiding you in those means of grace which he will bless because he has ordained them. We are all here in his sanctuary; that is much : we come here, with few exceptions I trust, from a home which had previously witnessed our prostration in the privacy of prayer. If these are our habits, the Lord is already the portion of our inheritance; for the man who has learned to pray from the heart has been brought home to God. O then, let him be the portion of our hope! Let us not decline the sacred pledge of Christ's brotherhood, and of our membership with each other. Let us take the cup of salvation, and call on the name of the Lord. This, if done rightly, in fervent love, with humble faith, and hearty desire, will bind us all, as by a heaven-formed band, into one body of vital and practical religion. The natural impulses, and affections, and desires, sanctified by the Spirit of our God, into one character of holiness, rightly felt and applied, imports consistency with our religion, and brings us in the terms of the blessing, “ Thou maintainest my lot."
It is evident from these words that the distinctive feature of the blessing intended by our text, is perpetuity. The “ lot" of the believer, is a lot to be “ maintained:" whether he is tossed for a time on a sea of trouble; or whether, bereft of all earthly ties and all appearances of comfort, he is walking through life as through a wilderness; or whether he is treading the dark valley of the shadow of death, concerning which the Psalmist has said, “ Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for Thou art