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THE CONFLICT, AND THE TRIUMPH
OF THE CHRISTIAN.
"The Christian is a man not merely contending, but successfully contending. He has not only entered on the enemy's country, but is daily gaining new victories over him. To this effect are the injunctions and declarations of the Apostle : Fight the good fight of faith: Lay hold on eternal life."
THE church in which the Rev. Mr. Ingleby preached, was very pleasantly situated in the rural part of the parish; and though its local distance from the village was unfavourable for the attendance of the people, yet it was generally thronged with attentive and devout hearers. Indeed such was the impassioned fervour with which he preached, and such the power that accompanied the truth that fell from his lips, that the most careless were awed into an admission of the importance of religion; while those who mixed faith with what they heard, usually enjoyed a mental feast while listening to him. On the morning when the Roscoes formed a part of his audience, his subject was taken from Rev. iii. 21, To him that overcometh, will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne. After a few introductory remarks, he said,
I. I will endeavour to prove that the Christian is animated in his course by a hope of the honours which await him at the end of it. ver. 21. 1. In his course he has to contend with a most powerful enemy. Who is this powerful enemy? The world! I do not mean to insinuate that Satan does not oppose him by his temptations, but as he generally employs some external objects, or circumstances, as the medium through which they are presented to the mind, I presume by fixing on them, I shall be able to give a more visible-a more tangible form, to the great enemy of our faith and our happiness. The world sometimes opposes the Christian by its frowns, its censures, and its threatenings. Here is one who rises in the bosom of an irreligious family, or connection, and professes the faith of Christ! What treatment does he meet with? Applause? No, censure! Is he allowed to pursue the noiseless tenor of his way
without opposition? No! in some instances bonds and imprisonment await him; in others he is threatened with the loss of parental and social regard--stigmatized by his nearest relatives and professed friends, as a fanatic-an enthusiast-and reproached as though he carried about with him the evil principles, by which the peace and prosperity of the world were to be destroyed. This is a species of persecution more refined than that which made such havock amongst the disciples of Jesus Christ in former ages, but it is not less cruel; and though it may not attract such a high degree of public attention, yet it requires great firmness to resist and overcome it.
Sometimes the world opposes the Christian by its fascinations. He rises in his profession-his wealth increases the number of his associates multiply-his society is courted-deference is paid to his judgment his virtues place him on the vantage ground of public opinion-and the claims of friendship and of patriotism are urged upon his attention with a force which he cannot withstand. Amidst all this halo of worldly glory which surrounds him, is there no enemy lurking? Is there no subtle influence corrupting and demoralizing the ethereal temper of his mind? No evil passions awaking up in his inner man, to hush to a state of death-like slumber, his pious principles? Are there no habits forming which will unfit him for the sublime and hallowed exercise of communion with God?.
It is not the rude blast of adversity which forces from the Christian pilgrim the cloak of his profession, but the warm sun of prosperity; for while the winds blow he wraps it closer around him, but when he feels the genial heat, he gradually unfolds it, till he is tempted to relieve himself from its incumbrance.
"More the treacherous calm I dread, Than tempests bursting o'er my head."
2. The world though an enemy, is an enemy over which the Christian triumphs.
Some who have assumed the Christian name, have been so terrified by the threatenings of the world, or so allured by its smiles, that they have renounced their profession of religion and returned to their former state of impiety, or indifference. Yes, how often have the daughters of Judah mourned over the defection of their
numbers! But, Christian brethren, be not alarmed, stronger is he who is for you, than they who are against you. The captain of your salvation, who overcame and is set down with his Father on his throne, will secure to you the victory which is to precede your triumphant exaltation. This is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith, 1 John v. 4. This faith is of divine origin; and such is its imperishable nature, that no force can destroy it; such its energy, that it raises an impassable and indestructible barrier against your potent adversary; and such its mystic influence, that it invests the invisible realities of the eternal world, with a power vastly supe rior to every object which is either seen or felt. In calling your attention to the nature and the operations of this faith, I would observe,
(1.) That it leads us to form a proper estimate of the precise degree of respect which we ought to pay to the threatenings, and the smiles of the world. Matt. x. 28, Fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.
(2.) Faith leads the mind to such an habitual association with the Redeemer, that the manifestations of his favour are preferred to any source of gratification which the world can present.
If, my Christian brethren, I could give you this morning the entire history of the visible church, what scenes should I disclose! Here you would see the faithful minister torn from the bosom of his family, and from the embraces of his devoted charge-hurried along through a crowd of enraged spectators despised and insulted -denied the melancholy pleasure of bidding the last adieu to the objects of his fondest regards-thrust into a gloomy prison, where, laden with the chains of delin
Alas! nor wife, nor children more may he behold,
Nor friends, nor sacred home.
But even in this recess of infamy, which the material light of heaven is forbidden to illumine, his mind walks abroad in her native majesty, looking with an air of comparative indifference on the implements of cruelty, prepared against the day of torture, and he says,
"Nor exile I, nor prison fear,
Nor castle walls, nor dungeons deep,
If I could bring over your imagination, the gone-by visions of former times, you would see the venerable sire the aged matron-the lovely virgin-the ardent youth, willing to embrace death in its most horrid forms, rather than renounce the faith of Christ to partake of the pleasures and honours of this world. You would in that case hear them singing the most enchanting songs, even amidst the loud crackling of the flaming faggots, which are gradually consuming their vital parts; and behold the features of a glorified spirit, impressed on their countenance, as the columns of smoke are drifted aside by the gentle breezes of heaven.
How will you account for this magnanimity-this insensibility to life-this utter abstraction from pain, during its most violent tortures-this ethereal participation of the joys of eternity, amidst the insults, the reproaches, the invectives, which infuriated malice disgorges on her half consumed victims?
To the eye of philosophy this fact appears as a phenomenon incapable of solution, unless it be found in the derangement of the intellect, or the ardour of ungovernable passion. But when presented to the keener eye of Christianity, she discerns the exercise of that faith, which so associates the mind of its possessor with the person of the Redeemer, that a separation becomes impossible. Who, when such scenes are passing before him, is not reminded of the triumphant language of the Apostle; Rom. viii. 35-39, Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written, For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter. Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors, through him that loved us. For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth,
nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. And allow me to say, my Christian brethren, that if there are not in the present day, such splendid examples of ardent attachment to the Lord Jesus, it must not be attributed to a want of principle, but to a want of an opportunity. Cannot you perceive the operation of this great principle in that young disciple, who is willing to sacrifice all his connections, rather than renounce his attachment to Jesus Christ;-in that more advanced Christian, who takes more pleasure in the exercises of public devotion, than in pursuing his lawful occupations; and who feels a higher elevation of bliss, by one sacred manifestation of his Lord's favour, than can be produced by any terrestrial object.
(3.) Faith leads us to anticipate the possession of the honours of the heavenly world. These are expressed in our text, ver. 21, To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me on my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father on his throne. The human nature of the Redeemer, which is still united to his divine, is seated on the throne of the eternal Father; which denotes a participation of his glories and his honoursWhat a lovely! what a grand! what a transporting scene will burst open on a glorified spirit, the moment after its dismissal from the body. He will see the Redeemer elevated on the throne of the divine majesty; wearing the diadem of the celestial world; looking around him with the most benign satisfaction, on those who are placing their crowns at his feet; while they unite to sing, Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood, and hath made us kings and priests unto God and his Father; to him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen. Rev. i. 5, 6. Is this fictitious? It may be in your estimation; but it is not in the Christian's. He believes it; and in addition to this, he believes, that if he overcome, he shall partake, in some small degree, of the same honour, and of the same bliss, which the Redeemer more largely possesses. That like him he shall be hailed as a conqueror. Yes! when you enter the heavenly world, you will thus be addressed by him who sitteth on the throne,-Well done, thou good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few