« PreviousContinue »
our temporal state, we are indebted to him even for our diurnal food, much more must we be for any advantages which we may happen to possess over our fellow-creatures. It will show at once our utter dependency upon him who, in the expressive language of the Psalmist, “satisfieth thy mouth with good things, so that thy youth is renewed like the eagle's,” and the claim which he therefore has to the reverence and obedience of those upon whom he has conferred such signal obligations. Is it not natural, while the casualties of life are so perpetually challenging our experience and the vicissitudes of time so abounding, that we should put our whole trust and confidence in him in whose hands are the issues of life, who alone can adapt his benefactions to our wants, and without whom the very bread we eat would not be produced, and we should consequently find nothing around us but the bitters of privation, and the dark elements of death. I would ask
is it not reasonable that every truly grateful heart should not only pant to receive God's blessings, but be anxious to make a suitable return for them ; that we should all do our best to win the divine approbation, and be able to exclaim with the Patriarch,“ my foot hath held his steps, his way have I kept and not declined, neither have I gone back from the commandment of his lips; I have esteemed the
words of his mouth more than my necessary food.”
As we are dependent upon divine providence from day to day for what we enjoy, and even for what is needful for the support of our bodies, is it not clear that, if this support were denied to our supplications, we should be in a deplorable condition? We consequently pray that it may be continued, because if we do not show ourselves sensible of the debt of gratitude which we owe to God for this daily boon, we clearly run a risk that he will withhold it altogether. And although it may indeed be true that many of the most profligate among us eat their daily bread, even while they are rebelling against him who supplies it, “ for he is kind to the unthankful and to the evil,” yet is this no argument that he may not cut off this supply when the measure of his wrath is full, and make those defaulters feel the terrors of his vengeance, for he is a God who, though he “retaineth not his anger for ever, because he delighteth in mercy,” yet“ will he by no means clear the guilty."
When God commands us to pray, we may be assured that it is only for our own good ; it can be of no benefit to him, because the condition of perfection cannot be improved, and with him this is unchangeable and eternal. He does not desire our prayers for his own advan
tage, but for ours alone. “Can a man be profitable unto God, as he that is wise may be profitable unto himself ?" By doing homage to the Creator, we advance our own best interests ;all the benefit of preferring such homage accrues to ourselves. Therefore it is that he not only commands us to pray, but has provided a prayer by which he desires to be addressed.
This prayer has a tendency, if sincerely offered, to render us content with such things as we have ; if rich, to be humble under the load of anxieties which riches bring with them ; and if poor, to be resigned to those privations that but too generally accompany poverty. It is in truth no common triumph over the temptations with which a vigilant enemy is perpetually assailing us, to acquire that humility which shall submissively refer all our sufferings to God's parental chastening, and our enjoyments to his paternal benefaction. A full reliance
upon the “author and finisher of our faith” is the climax of the Christian's probation, and the trump of victory shall sound wherever this spiritual conquest is obtained. When the rich man looks to his divine benefactor for his daily bread, he may truly be enrolled among the poor in spirit,” and need I remind
that “theirs is the kingdom of God.”
ON THE INFLUENCE OF LOVE.
ROMANS, CHAP. XIII. PART OF 10th verse.
Love is the fulfilling of the law.
When the numerous obligations of retigion are looked at in detail, their number and importance minutely calculated, and the severe moral discipline which they exact considered, we are apt to shrink from the apparent difficulties which the fulfilment of such numerous and weighty obligations presents to us, to grow disheartened under the array of impediments which seem to stand in the way of our progress towards salvation, and in proportion as these imagined impediments,-for they are in truth but imaginary,—are magnified to our apprehensions, our obedience becomes inert, our views contracted, and our reasonings sophistical. We are apt to look upon religion as “ a burden too heavy for us to bear,” and are thus often actuated in our feeble obedience to its precepts more by a fear of what may be the
consequence of neglecting those precepts, than by a love of Him who mercifully promulgated them, at once to promote our happiness and his own glory. But the religion which we profess, far from being complex, is remarkable for its simplicity and singleness of purpose. Once fix your attention to the key-stone of the structure, and every apparent difficulty vauishes in a moment.
If instead of looking at religion as intricate in its system, as perplexing us by a multitude of demands, as accumulating upon us a succession of duties which we despair of being able to fulfil from their variety and severity ;--if instead of looking at religion as an infliction upon an erring race rather than as a merciful provision from a compassionate Creator towards a sinful creature, we would trace it to its primitive element, we should find it the simplest thing in the world. We should find that all its requisitions are the natural fruit of one great principle which, wherever earnestly maintained, must“ bring forth this fruit abundantly ;" and that principle is love, “ for love is the fulfilling of the law.” This in fact is the centre whence all the excellencies of the human heart—those sparks of the divine image not yet extinguished there—diverge and radiate in ten thousand channels through every gradation within that mighty circumference which alone is bounded by perfection. Love is the fountain of all good,