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In due time the Lord will regulate every thing externally, as well as internally, in the best manner. In the mean while, we must make the best of things : we must aim to be satisfied respecting our own conduct, as in the sight of God; to be moderate and candid in our own judgment concerning those who differ from us, and patient under their censures of us; and-learning what that means, I will have mercy, and not sacrifice to be careful not to lose sight of the great end of all religion, for the sake of some of the disputable means of attaining it. For, at last, nothing availeth in Christ Jesus, but Faith which worketh by love, and A new creature, manifested in newness of life.
METHODICAL REVIEW OF LIFE. In reviewing this abstract of the Lord's conduct towards Israel, as a people, from the choice and call of Abraham to the days of Nehemiah, (Nehem. ix. 7-31.) we perceive a continued display of His power, wisdom, truth, and love; requited by persevering ingratitude and perverse disobedience. .
But, especially, we should each of us STUDY OUR OWN HISTORY. Let us divide our lives past into distinct periods ; and carefully investigate the mercies and the transgressions of each, until we have brought down the inquiry to the present hour; praying, all the while, that the Holy Spirit may assist our recollection, and enable us to form a proper estimate of the Lord's
dealings with us, and our behaviour towards him; and so deduce proper conclusions from the whole, with suitable affections. And if prejudice, ignorance, or self-flattery, do not blind our minds, we shall certainly see abundant cause for deep humiliation, and for admiring gratitude ; and to acknowledge that all our sufferings have been justly merited, all our comforts mercifully bestowed.
Besides the temporal provision which we have from the Lord's bounty (though not by miracle), we are favoured with means and opportunities of becoming wise unto salvation, even beyond what Israel enjoyed, in their most favoured times. We have the sacred oracles, now completed, and ever at hand, to give us light, and to show us the way in which we should go. We have the Gospel preached among us, and the holy sabbaths and ordinances of our God: but have we never neglected, profaned, and despised them? We have not been without salutary chastisements, and merciful deliverances, perhaps in answer to prayer : but have we not requited them by returning unto sin ? We have had not only the testimony of God's servants, but the strivings of His good Spirit: but have we never hated and despised the one, and quenched the other? Nay, we are especially under the ministration of the Spirit; yet, perhaps, have neglected to pray for His gracious influences, and derided those who did. And have not we proudly cast off the authority of God's law, and as proudly endeavoured to justify ourselves before him ?
Even if, by the Lord's choice of us, and his grace given to us, we have, on the whole, been made and found faithful to him; and if his covenant have been ratified to us with all its precious promises; we shall not only have cause to adore him for these inestimable mercies, and for his Son Jesus Christ, and redemption by his atoning blood, as the foundation of them all ; but we shall, upon every review, see cause to admire his present patience and gentleness, and to lament our ingratitude and disobedience. We have been delivered from a far worse oppression than that of the Egyptian tyrant; and, by a far more wonderful exertion of Almighty power and love. We are guided by a superior light, sheltered by a more glorious protection, and favoured with stronger consolations, than Israel of old. We feed upon “ the Bread of life”, which came down from heaven, to give life unto the world; we drink the waters, which flow from the “ Rock of Ages”, who was smitten for us: we are clothed with the robe of righteousness and salvation ; our “ feet are shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace"; and the good Spirit of God is not only our condescending instructor and sanctifier, but our Comforter also, who deigns to make our hearts his temple ; and we possess the hope and earnests of everlasting glory. But, while we rejoice in the Lord's great goodness to us, what requital do we make? We are, perhaps, kept from habitual and gross disobedience ; but we are conscious how often we are setting up our idols, and in heart returning to our bondage; how
often we forget him, grieve his Holy Spirit, and neglect his service; and how often we are kept from still greater revolts, by no higher motives than the terror of his judgments, and the anguish of his salutary chastisements; which yet we soon forget, when he has mercifully removed them. Were he not slow to anger, and ready to pardon, he would have cast us off long ago. But our heavenly Advocate still pleads, and we are spared; and His mercies, and our privileges, are continued to us!
TIME REDEEMED FROM WORLDLY BUSINESS,
(FUNERAL SERMON ON JOHN THORNTON, ESQ.)
It is in the next place worthy of observation, that this friend of mankind, in the exercise of his beneficence, not only contributed his money (which often is done to very little purpose), but he devoted his time and thoughts very much to the same object : doing good was the great business of his life : and may more properly be said to have been his occupation, than even his mercantile engagements, which were uniformly considered as subservient to that nobler design.
To form and execute plans of usefulness; to superintend, arrange, and improve upon those plans ; to lay aside such as did not answer, and to substitute others in their place; to form acquaintances, and collect intelligence for this purpose; to select proper agents, and to carry on correspondence, in order to
ascertain that his bounties were well applied; these, and similar concerns, were the hourly occupations of his life, and the ends of living, which he proposed to himself: nor did he think that any part of his time was spent either happily or innocently, if it were not in some way instrumental, directly or indirectly, to the furtherance of useful designs. Admitting, therefore, that this was his plan of life, (which is, in fact, indisputable,) and that the means he used were Scriptural and proper; it must follow, that the sum total of good which he did to mankind, by persevering in these habits, during many years, must exceed all computation, and can only be ascertained at the Great Day of account and retribution.
As a proof how much his business was rendered subservient to his beneficence, it may be remarked, that he not only made the gains of his commerce, in a great degree, a fund for the support of his charity; but his commerce itself was often an introduction to the knowledge of the wants, calamities, and deplorable condition of mankind in distant regions of the earth ; and a medium, through which to communicate to their necessities, and to circulate among them the word of God, and other means of instruction, for the benefit of their immortal souls.
To support such numerous and expensive designs of usefulness, without embarrassing his affairs, or interfering with the real interests of his family, he observed a strict frugality in his expenses. It was not necessary for him to live in that style, which those