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« fect; for all his ways are judgment: a God of truth
and without iniquity, just and right is he."
II. THIS WORLD
IN FOR A SEASON. It is probable, that if our weak reason were allowed to speculate concerning the state of the righteous, it would decide on the propriety of raising them to the high places of the earth; of delivering them from all tribulation; of withholding from them no joy, or rather, of calling them away from this region of sin, from this vale of tears, from this miserable exile, to “ sit down with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, in the
kingdom of heaven.” The Scripture seems to countenance this notion. It calls, “ arise ye, and depart, “ for this is not your rest; because it is polluted; it “shall destroy you even with a sore destruction.” It commands us “not to be unequally yoked together " with unbelievers :" and asks, “what fellowship hath $ righteousness with unrighteousness ? and what com" munion hath light with darkness ? and what concord “ hath Christ with Belial? or what part hath he that “ believeth with an infidel ?" How perfe&ly has the Creator arranged every thing in the universe! How wisely has he separated the day and the night, dry land and sea, the various classes of beasts and birds ! And will he join the living and the dead? Will he mingle error and truth, virtue and vice, and confound the pious with the wicked? Yes; this world so opposite to their heavenly nature, so unsuitable to their de. sires, so incapable of affording them happiness, while from every quarter ít wounds and vexes; forcing
[SER. XII. from them many a sigh, “woe is me, that I sojourn “ in Mesech ;” “O that I had wings like a dove ! " for then I would fly away, and be at rest; I would « hasten my escape from the stormy wind and tem, « pest”—This world is to retain them year after year, and our Saviour does not pray to take them out of it.
First, From their remaining here, the wicked derive innumerable advantages. They have instances of religion before them, which encourage while they con: demn. By these they learn that godliness is practica, ble and profitable. They see persons of the same passions, of the same age, of the same occupations with themselves, walking in the paths of righteousness; and much oftener than we imagine, the portion of the righteous forming a comparison with their own unhappy circumstances, .leads them to exclaim, “how goodly “ are thy tents, O Jacob, and thy tabernacles, O Israel! “ Let me die the death of the righteous, and let my “ last end be like his.” It is in the very nature of religion to render christians active in doing good. They are often the means of “ saving a soul from death, " and of hiding a multitude of sins.” Sometimes a few individuals have changed the moral face of a whole neighbourhood; and thus the language of prophecy has been realized, “the wilderness and the solitary
place shall be made glad for them, and the desert " shall rejoice and blossom as the rose.”
The disorders which prevail in the world are great ; but the state of society would be far worse, not to say: intolerable, were the righteous to be withdrawn, and the licentiousness of sinners to be no longer repressed,
or counteracted by their rebuke, their example, and their influence. They s are the salt of the earth ;" they are “ the light of the world.” They are blessings in the families, cities, countries, in which they reside. They have frequently by their prayers obtained deliverances for those among whom they live. They have “stood in the breach," and held back the invading judgments of the Almighty; and “except the 6 Lord of Hofts had left unto us a very small remnant,
we should have been as Sodom, and we should have « been like unto Gomorrha.” While a father sees his children standing intermixed with his foes, he levels not his arrows"; the one is preserved for the sake of the other. When God has secured his people, the wicked become the fair mark of his indignation ; the vials of his wrath are poured down; time shall be no longer; the heavens pass away with a great noise ; the earth is burned up:
Again ; Some reasons are taken from christians themselves. We know that all things work together for good to them that love God.” And does not their situation in the world call forth every active, every suffering virtue ? Can there be any grandeur of character, where there are no difficulties and dangers ; Can there be a triumph where there is no warfare, or a warfare where there is no enemy? When do the righteous feel motive, to keep them humble ? when they behold in the wicked an image of themselves. When are they urged to gratitude for distinguishing grace? when they are reminded by sinners of what they were
by nature” as well as others. When do they display their compassion, and increase their benevolence ?
While feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, teaching the ignorant, and endeavouring to rescue their fel. low-creatures from perdition. Can they exercise divine patience and forgiveness? Yes, while they have an opportunity to “render good for evil.” They can discover their holy courage while bearing the “
proach of the cross,” and enduring “ the defaming « of many." Here, by the sacrifices they are called to make, and their readinest to leave father or mother, son or daughter, lands or life for his sake, they demonstrate the supremacy of their love to the Saviour, Here, their sincerity and resolution appear unsuspicious, by not drawing back, or turning aside when the world would terrify by its frowns, or allure by its smiles. Here, we behold the vigour of those principles, which bear sway in the minds of the godly ; in heaven we shall glorify God ; but heaven is not a state of trial ; there sin never enters; and what is it to live innocent where there is no temptation ? But to see evil patterns, and not copy them; to breathe pestilential air, and not inhale the infection; to renounce our inclinations, and say “thy will be done ;" to live with our conver, sation in heaven, when every thing conspires to bind us down to earth, here the christian honours God, and here he gathers glory in a manner the most distin: guishing, and all this is peculiar to his residence in this world. Let him therefore avail himself of the singular opportunities his situation affords; and while he re. mains here, let him labour to fulfill the design of heav, en in his continuance, both with regard to himself and others. Let him remember that all rash and eam ger wishes for death are improper ; that it may be
& I wait untill iny change come.” The man in har.
“ needful for him to abide” longer “ in the flesh;". that of this expediency, he must leave God to judge ; that his pleasure will be discovered by the event; that he will not be detained a moment longer than is ne. cessary to accomplish some valuable purpose ; that in: stead of indulging in impatience, it becomes him to say
with Job, “ all the days of my appointed time will
vest, while bearing the burden and heat of the day,”. may occasionally look up to see where the sun is ; and may console himself with the reflection, “ the evening “ shades will by and by come on, and invite me to an « honourable retreat ;" but it does not become him to throw down his implements, and hasten home, before he obtains such a discharge.
As christians are to think of living for a while in the world, it is not unreasonable for them to be affected with its occurrences and changes. Some plead for a kind of abstracted and sublimated devotion; which the circumstances in which they are placed by their Creator render equally impracticable and absurd. They are never to notice the affairs of government, or the measures of administration ; war, or peace; liberty, or slavery ; plenty, or scarcity; taxes, or money to pay their debts; all is to be equally indifferent to them; they are to leave these carnal and worldly things to others-But have they not bodies? Have they not families ? Is religion founded on the ruins of humanity? When a man becomes a christian, does he cease to be a member of civil society? Allowing that he be not the owner of the ship, but only, a passenger in it ; has he nothing to awaken his concern in the voyage ? 'IE.