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our regards to run out toward them inordinately. Otherwise they may become our idols : and all idols a jealous God will utterly abolish.
Let us accustom ourselves to contemplate all creatures as the mere vehicles or conduits, through which the Fountain of all goodness is pleased to convey felicity to us. Still let us account the felicity as coming from Him : never forgetting that
every creature is that to us, and no more, which God maketh it to be.” Be it our study to make him “ our exceeding joy," and to live less upon the mercies of God, than upon the God of our mercies ! Let us place our enjoyment as much as possible in spiritual things : this will make us more independent of temporal comforts, and prove the way to their sanctification and continuance. This will render them comforts indeed.
It is a remarkable counsel of Epictetus, a heathen, “If thou hast a pitcher,' (orevos) 1 (remember it is but a pitcher : then when it is broken, thou wilt not so greatly grieve after it.'
To act in the above manner, however, will require the exercise of unceasing vigilance and prayer : yea, of a holy violence and resolute self-denial, such as the apostle Paul inculcates; " But this I say, brethren, the time is short; it remaineth that they that have wives be as though they had none, and they that weep, as though they wept not, and they that rejoice, as though they rejoiced not,
2 Cor. iv. 7. where the very same term is used, to express
"Coi our bodies.
" that so we
and they that buy, as though they possessed not, and they that use this world, as not abusing it.”— Why ? “ For the fashion of this world passeth away,” like a pageant from a stage; as the original imports.
Again, we should cease from man, in regard to honour and reputation. Total carelessness as to public opinion cannot be wisely recommended : we should "shun all appearance of evil,” and “provide things bonest in the sight of all men; may not prove stumbling-blocks to others, but " adorn the doctrine of God our Saviour.” At the same time, we should not be excessively desirous of the golden opinions of our fellow-beings. “With us it should be a very small thing, ".
a matter of very little moment, “to be judged of man's judgment.” What so notoriously fickle as popularity ? People cry, “ Hosanna !” to-day, and, “Crucify bim !” to-morrow. The populace of Lystra were one moment about to sacrifice to Paul and Barnabas, as gods; and presently after, were about to sacrifice them to their fury. They drew the apostle out of the city, baving stoned bim! Truly is it said, “Favour is deceitful.” 3 A person who places his joy in the admiration and applause of men, rides upon a plank in a tempestuous ocean, and can have no rest or quietness. 4 Yea, the greater the satisfaction he derives from
oxunua, i Cor. vii. 31. 2 Acts xiv, 19. 3 Prov. xxxi. 30.
4 O momentary grace of mortal men,
such a source, the more tormenting will be his anxiety, lest he lose it. Besides, this is a most morbid state of mind. Happiness is thus built on an entirely wrong foundation. “Should not a people seek unto their God ? for the living to the dead?” In thi case, in order to the recovery of a sound state of mind, we must completely change our habit. We must shift our attention from man to God, and place our rejoicing in bis favour and the testimony of our own conscience. Then only will it be settled upon a sure and immoveable basis.
Once more, it behoves us to cease from depending on man, to assist us in straits and difficulties. When we neglect the Lord, and rely on this or the other friend to relieve us in an extremity, what do we frequently find ? Either that he is not available at the time, or else, that from some cause or another he is wanting to us, while relief is supplied from quarters on which we did not at all calculate. Bishop Reynolds too truly observes, When in any kind of straits we have recourse to the creature for supply : either we find it, like our Saviour's figtree, without fruit, or, like our prophet's vine, as good as empty, the fruits thereof not worth the gathering; o grapes of gall and bitter clusters; full of vanity, windiness, vexation and disappointment. Friends fail either in their love, or in their power. In a word, take any creature helps in the world, and there will be something, nay, very much, of defect in them. All being, but God's, is mixed with not being.' 1
Who builds his hope in th' air of men's fair looks,
2 Cor. i. 12.
7 Hosea xl.
Reader ! have you not realized the justness of these observations ? When you embarked your affections on any particular object, have you not afterwards found, that either that object was removed, or else, that you, from some failing or infirmity discovered in it, were doomed to feel its vanity and insufficiency ? Or when you relied on some particular resource, to relieve you in an emergency, have you not found it at the hour of need, 'a brook in summer,'—dried up when most required ? And did not the Almighty in all these experiences, emphatically say to you, “ Cease ye from man!”
It is subjoined in the Scripture, as one reason for the duty inculcated, that “the breath of man is in his nostrils : ” as if it were fluttering there, like a bird at the open door of its cage, ready at any moment to take its flight. And indeed, the transitory and uncertain character of our present existence is set forth in the inspired word by a variety of images, each strikingly expressive of brevity and evanescence; for examples, “ a fading flower,' yea, a “ flower of the field ” (liable to be trodden down at any instant by the foot of a beast;)“grass growing upon the housetop; " "in the morning green, and in the evening dried up, cut down, and
1 Sermons on Hosea,
withered ;-—"a post” speeding with all possible despatch toward his place of destination ;-"a shadow,"_" a weaver's shuttle : "-"a vapour tbat appeareth for a very little time, and then vanisheth
Besides, there is a flaw of imperfection even in the best of men.
We find in the Bible the most eminent saints sometimes failing in the exercise of those
very virtues for which they have been most distinguished. Thus, Abraham, for his remarkable confidence in God, was styled “the father of the faithful ; ” yet, through weakness of faith he twice equivocated concerning his wife Sarah.' How sincere a man of God was Jacob: Israelite indeed : " yet of what egregious guile and falsehood was he guilty, in procuring his father's blessing in place of his elder brother. Moses was the meekest man in all the earth, yet, on one occasion, he so lost that characteristic grace, as to draw down the Divine anger signally upon him.: David was a model of clemency and forbearance, yet what enormous cruelty did he perpetrate in the matter of Uriah ! Once more, the apostle Peter, after receiving the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost, was conspicuous for his courage in the cause of truth ; 5 yet, how did he afterwards compromise the truth, through fear of the Jews.
1 Gen. xii. 19.; xx. 2--5. 2 Ib. xxvii. 20-24. 3 Gal. ii. 11, 12.
4 Numb. xx. 3-13. Psalm cvi. 32, 33.