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comforts to afford him peace and joy, let us consider, for a moment, his difficulties and discouragements.
See him, then, assailed by the violence, and exposed to the snares, of the inveterate foe of God and man.
With unwearied activity, this malignant agent goes about “ seeking whom he may de“vour."* In strength, he is more than a match for the travellers to Zion; and the devices of his subtlety are dark and numberless. Often has he made their way dangerous, and their minds faint. As when he persuaded our first mother to believe his assertion,“ ye shall not surely die ;”+ he whis. pers false suggestions to their minds, and endeavours to beget doubts of the being and attributes, the promises and threatenings, of their God. He attempts to deter them from persevering in their journey heaven-ward, by setting before them, in exaggerated forms, the toils, and mortifications, and dangers of the way: or, he allures them from the right path, and entangles them in perilous and thorny mazes, by presenting to them his own deceitful pleasures, and ensnaring gains; as when, to shake the fidelity of our Lord, he shewed and promised him “ all the kingdoms of the world, and the
glory of them.”# And how dreadful an enemy is this to the christian ! How trifling the oppressions of hunger, and thirst, and weariness, in a wil. derness where there is no water, to the assaults of
principalities and powers, the rulers of the dark"ness of this world !" :. In aid of the devil, come the things of that world over which he rules, to stagger the faith, and distract
Gen. iii. 4 #Matt. iv. 8.
I Peter v. 8.
the soul of the wayfaring christian. In innumerable forms these set themselves in array against him. By the weight of public opinion, the malicious seek to make him ashamed of his cause, or to render his perseverance in it an object of contempt. His circumspection is termed timidity. His temperance and moderation are ascribed to weakness of mind. His attention to the ordinances of religion is called hypocrisy or fanaticism. His scruples, where the line of duty is obscure, are regarded with scorn, Snares are laid to entrap his virtue; and if it be ensnared, his humiliation and repentance are the subject of derision. In the world, too, he sees the wicked great in power; while the excellent ones of the earth are involved in obscurity, or, if known, are known only to be reproached. There, his most commendable schemes are often defeated ; his sweetest and most innocent prospects often darkened; and his soul is ready to become the prey of distrust and disappointment, of weariness and vexation. There, also, a thousand objects continually solicit his regard, which cannot be pursued without guilt, nor enjoyed without remorse. To resist their attractions costs him a painful struggle ; while every compliance fills his soul with tumult and with anguish; and breaks his peace with God, and with himself. “ In the world,” said Jesus to his followers,“ in the world ye shall have tribulation ;"* and their daily experience confirms his words.
Powerful, however, as these outward enemies are, they should prove less destructive to the christian's comfort, were they not aided by an internal foe. But when depravity from within, not only
* John xvi. 33.
welcomes, but invites temptation; when indwelling sin affords the adversary a strong hold in the heart; how severe must be our conflicts, how deep and frequent our mortifications and our sorrows ! It is this that damps the heavenly ardour of the soul; and fetters it in every laudable exertion. It is this that drains away the springs of grace; and stints the growth of the divine seed in the heart. This swells your bosoms with spiritual pride, when your graces seem to flourish. This renders you dejected, and without hope, when you find them languish. This makes you forgetful of God, when his candle shines upon your tabernacle; and this fills you with impatience and disquieting thoughts, when beset with the ills of life. As the cares of the world are the thorns, which choke the good seed, when it springs, that is the soil where they take root and thrive; the native soil of peevishness and discontent, of doubt and distrust, and of all the pernicious weeds, which check the growth of the plant of renown in the soul:
Amidst all these spiritual evils which we feel as sinners, and the stings which they add to the many troubles that we are doomed to bear as mortals, say, then, have we not need of consolation and support? Truly this is a dry place; and the land, which we traverse, is a weary land. With grateful hearts, then, let us attend to the aids and comforts administered by him, who is, to the dry place, “as rivers “ of water;" and “ as the shadow of a great rock” in the weary land.
Sin not only subjected us to condemnation, but rendered us incapable of true felicity. Without, therefore, doing more than merely delivering us
from punishment, the mediation of Christ would have been incomplete; since without happiness, and the means to fit us for enjoying it, our lot, though exempt from positive evil, could not have been pleasant, or desirable in itself. But it is our comfort, and invaluable privilege, that weary as the land of our sojourning is, Jesus, as we pass through it, sanctifies us by his Spirit. He shall be as“ ri
vers of water.” The plenteous stream enables the traveller to purify himself from the defilements of the way. It cleanses, and with healing coolness, allays the sores, which the roughness of his path had caused. Those, who are familiar with scriptural phraseology, know that, from this useful and distinguishing property of water, it is frequently employed to denote the sanctifying influence of the Spirit of Christ. Thus it is prophesied of his advent—" In that day, there shall be a fountain
opened to the house of David, and to the inhabit
ants of Jerusalem, for sin, and for uncleanness."* And, says the apostle, “ Not by works of righteous
ness which we have done, but according to his mercy, he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost; which he
shed on us abundantly, through Jesus Christ our “ Saviour.”+ This celestial fountain, and its blessed streams, are like the pool of Bethesda ; but without those limitations in their virtue, to which the efficacy of the pool was subject. In these, whosoever washes shall be made perfectly whole of whatsoever disease he hath. The least serious reflection must convince us, that we are not only offenders
+ Tit. iii. 5, 6.
* Zech., xiii. I.
in practice, but that sin is born in our nature : and, though scripture had not declared it, universal experience proves, that sooner shall “ the Ethiopian “ change his skin, and the leopard his spots,” than those “ that are accustomed to do evil, shall do
How miserable and hopeless, then, is man's natural condition! Though the guilt of his sins were expiated, their pollution he cannot remove, and their power he cannot subdue. But in the fountain opened by Jesus, there is a remedy for all our maladies and pains. It hath virtue to wash away every stain, to purify us to true holiness, and to fit us for the enjoyment of everlasting life. The devil may employ his arts to blot our souls with the infernal colours of his own character ; but mighty and artful as he is, the Spirit of the living God is mightier than he; mightier to cleanse than he to defile. The world may seek to ensnare, and to contaminate us by its vanities; but the spirit of holiness can infuse into our minds the faith and the hopes of a nobler state, and by their purifying influence, purge our affections from earthly pollution. The lusts of the flesh cannot be totally eradicated, while flesh remains; and they also may be excited, by the objects of temptation, to exert their defiling power: but he will teach us
put off the old man, which is corrupt, according to the deceitful lusts; and to put on the new man, which, after God, is created in righteous
ness and true holiness.”+ Dangerous and powerful as these enemies are, they shall be unable to fix any lasting stain upon our characters: being justi. Jer, xiii. 23.
+ Eph, ii. 29 4.