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act, that the world will be constrained to take notice of that man, that merchant, that senator, as the Jews did of Peter and John, that they have been with Jesus.
Let us look at the Christian in different circumstances of personal experience. In adversity is your lot perhaps. If you are a Christian, your conduct will there appear beautiful, decided, unmistakable. When a worldly man suffers, he is deeply depressed, he sinks into despondency, or he alto gether despairs; or, if he be a stoic, he is insensible to it; or, if he be an ascetic, he flees from the world, hoping to avoid its trials by getting some sheltered nook where he thinks he will have perpetual sunshine and uninterrupted peace. But a Christian man in adversity prays; he looks up to Him who has told him that trouble comes not from the ground, that whatever a believer suffers is an expression, not of penal wrath from a judge, but of paternal affection from a Father. Such a one receiving affliction, merely feels that he is put in Christ's school, or, like fine silver, in God's furnace; and that in either case he is laid there, not by hate, but by love; and that he will be kept there, not so long as the devil would like, nor for so short a time as he would prefer, but precisely as long as God in his infinite wisdom sees to be good for him; and during that adversity, a believer, instead of desponding, or despairing, will exclaim, in language that in pitch rises far above the human, “ Although the fig-tree shall not blossom, neither shall fruit be in the vines; the labors of the olive shall fail, and the fields shall yield no meat; the flock shall be cut off from the fold, and there shall be no herd in the stalls ;” that is, if I lose all my property and possessions, and do not see where or whence to get bread for to-morrow, what shall I do? Despair, run away into the wilderness, commit suicide? No; "yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will joy in the God of my salvation." When a worldly man loses his figs and his vines, his olives, and his herds in the stall, he has nothing to fall back upon; his all is gone. But when a Christian has lost his goods, he has only lost certain expressions of God's love; the God who gave them still remains; and as the fountain is ever full and ever overflowing, he knows that God will either give him other vines, herds, and fig-trees, or he will give him what is as good, an equivalent in his heart that will inspire the conviction, “It was good that I lost them all.” Such is a Christian in adversity.
Let us look at a Christian in prosperity. It is much easier to manage adversity than prosperity; and for one that adversity depresses into despair, there are ten that prosperity makes forget God and themselves together. It is a very painful thing to have and drink from a bitter cup; but it is a very delicate and difficult thing to hold a cup that is full to the brim without spilling some of its contents. It is often wearisome to live in the shade, but it is still more perilous to live perpetually in the sunshine. It may often be very cross to our ambition to tread earth's lowly places, but it is still more dangerous to our spiritual safety to dwell in the high places of the earth. It is the loftiest cedar that is first struck by the lightning; it is the highest spires that first fall; it is they who walk the high places of the earth who are the least under the influence of grace, and of whom the fewest enter into the kingdom of heaven. If therefore you are prosperous, be not proud, be not earthly-minded, saying, “I will pull down my old barns, and build new ones; not so attached to the gift, that you forget the giver, and wlien reminded of God, go away sorrowful. Be not selfindulgent, saying, “ Soul, thou hast much goods laid up for many years; take thine ease, eat, drink, and be merry." If you be afflicted, as in the last case, pray ;
be prosperous, as in the present case, praise; and let your
versity and your prosperity equally bring you to Him who sweetens the bitterness of the one cup, and gives strength to hold steadily the over full cup of the other. Thus, if a Christian is afflicted, he prays; if he be merry, he sings psalms; and whether in adversity, or in prosperity, he sets his affections upon God, receives' thankfully, enjoys with moderation, gives liberally, and recognizes God as entitled to the glory and the praise of all.
Are you, Christian, placed in sorrow? There is a distinction between sorrow and affliction. Prosperous men may be sorrowful, as well as afflicted men. Adversity is a state that occurs in God's providence; sorrow is an experience implanted by God's Holy Spirit. “Blessed are ye that mourn,” says our Saviour; “for ye shall be comforted.” This sorrow is created by what you see within you. So much felt there that should not be, and so much wanting there that ought to be, constitute truly weighty reasons for that sorrow which the Saviour says is blessed. When you look back at those things you have done which you ought not to have done, and at those things you have left undone which you ought to have done; the long dark catalogue would sink you into despair, did you not see written across it, bright and luminous in the light in which it was written, “The blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin.” Sorrow also a Christian will feel when he looks around him, and sees how little progress the gospel has made, how little is doing or has been done in order to promote that gospel amongst mankind; and as Jeremiah said, “Oh that my head were waters, and mine eyes a fountain of tears, that I might weep day and night for the slain of the daughter of my people !” and as David said, “Rivers of waters run down mine eyes, because they keep not thy law;" so a Christian cannot see the drunkenness, the reck
lessness, and the depravity of a world around him, without grieving that it is so, and lamenting that so little is attempted to make it otherwise.
A Christian may be studied in his joys. Joy is distinct from prosperity, as sorrow is from affliction. There is first a natural joy, which is not forbidden; there is a sensual joy, which is very equivocal ; there is a carnal joy, which is fiendish; and there is a Christian joy, which is beautiful. A Christian's joy must be something like the joy of his Lord. It is said that Jesus shall see the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied. And again, it is said, “For the joy set before him” (what was that joy but the travail of his soul, the sinners that should be saved) “he endured the cross, despising the shame.” And, therefore, a Christian's joy is very much associated with the progress and the triumphs of the everlasting gospel. When he hears of new districts added to Christ, of new nations recognizing his sceptre' and his sway; of distant lands brought under the light of the Sun of righteousness; and of dens and lanes
; and alleys at his own threshold visited by the messenger of glad tidings, that never were visited before; like his blessed Master, he feels joy, and rejoices in spirit. A Christian ought to rejoice when he hears of the gospel's spread, and he ought to grieve when he hears of obstructions to its progress. In other words, if we are Christians, we shall have the same interest in the gospel that a politician has in the politics and progress of the party he belongs to. If you watch a politician, he says,
I move under a certain banner; I am associated with an existing or a deposed prime-minister, and I rejoice that such a one has been elected there, and such a one rejected here. In short, a thorough polititician is full of his party. He opens the paper the first thing in the morning, in order to see what his party has gained or lost. His whole heart is in his party. Let us
borrow a leaf from his book; let our chief thoughts and affections be in that cause which knows no party, and seeks no partisanship; or if a party at all, that to which all flesh should belong, to belong to which is to be a member of the general assembly of the church of the first-born, whose names are written in the Lamb's book of life.
Let us think of a Christian in that scene in which he must play a part, a death-bed. This is the testing scene. Many things occur in God's providence to test what we are; but this scene will occur in every man's biography, and will thoroughly test what he is. It is the scale that weighs him, the test that thoroughly distinguishes him. It is one, too, that he cannot avert. How shall we feel when we are placed upon that bed? Shall we be able to say, “I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, shall give me at that day?” Shall I be able to say, “I know in whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed to him. I have much to lament, much to seek forgiveness for, but I know that I have committed
my soul with its deepest and dearest interests to him; I know in whom I have believed, and I have not the least doubt that he is able and willing to keep that soul which I have committed to his hands against that day?” He who can say so will descend into the deep valley of the shadow of death with unfaltering footstep, because he knows that when he has reached its profoundest depth, he there begins his glorious ascent on the sunlit side that leads to the blessedness and glory of the everlasting and happy Jerusalem. He will die; but because he dies in the Lord, he will see opening before him a pathway to his Father who is in heaven, and to all who have preceded him to the rest that remaineth for the people of God.