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They seem to imply that favourable regard of the Almighty, which will secure to us the communication of his spiritual mercies, and that tranquillity of soul, which naturally arises from a perception of such mercies, and from an attendant sense of our effectual reconciliation to God through Christ Jesus. They are the natural, and it may even be said, the necessary accompaniments of true Religion; its evidence, its fruits, and its reward. They grow immediately out of the great doctrine of justification by the death and merits of our Redeemer ; the cordial acceptance of which, united with that 'entire abandonment of sin which belongs to it, places us in a relation to the great Author of all things, which carries with it the inestimable assurances of Grace and Peace: assurances as effective and necessary to the advancement of sanctification in our hearts, as they are to our happiness ; for it is scarcely possible for us to love God with our whole hearts, while we believe that he entertains sentiments of hostility towards' us; or to submit cheerfully and entirely to his will, till we have at least a lively hope that it is consistent with our final good, and may tend to promote it.
If the Apostle so frequently prays for grace and peace in behalf of his Christian converts, we too, may well offer up the same petition for ourselves and for others. And while we beseech the Father of all goodness to increase upon us these spiritual blessings, let us not be insensible to his peculiar and amazing mercy, in having brought us to that state,
and bestowed on us that religious light, to which alone they can belong. Men, who are sinful by nature, and still more sinful by habit, could not possibly, in their natural condition, enjoy any reasonable hope of possessing the favour of God, a being of perfect holiness; and without his favour, what is there that could afford to a reflecting mind any lasting tranquillity ? Even if, in his abundant mercy, he had found a way for our pardon and reconciliation, still, unless he had so graciously communicated to us this joyful intelligence, how sad and cheerless, how full of doubt and darkness must have been our condition here. What misgivings, what inquietude, what agitating apprehensions would have harassed our happiest days; what a deep and awful gloom would have hung over the bed of death! When the friends to whom our hearts had been allied through life by gratitude and affection were called away, how little consolation could we have found in the bright hope of being again united to them in happier regions ! And when we, in our turns, were preparing to follow them, would not the kind attentions and sympathy of those who sur vived, have awakened in our hearts at that awful moment, a pang almost as bitter as their neglect? Far different is our present condition. The knowledge of the mercy of God in Christ Jesus, has destroyed the fear of death, by opening a scene of joy and triumph beyond it, which the warmest imagination, unenlightened by divine truth, could not have conceived. The veil has been drawn up which separated us from eternity, and that glorious light which shines with unclouded brightness in the heavenly kingdom, can reach even this lower world, and shed a mild and cheerful influence upon our vale of darkness,
Among the many spiritual feelings and affections which appear to have animated the heart of the Apostle, none seems to have been more constant, more wakeful, or more lively, than Gratitude to God for his abundant and never-failing mercies. This diposition of mind is visible in all the writings of St. Paul. He seems to have been ever on the watch to observe indications of the bounty of Providence, and his feelings instantly responded. He appears to have lived in a state of continual. thankfulness; and when we consider that the whole of his life, from the hour of his miraculous conversion to his martyrdom, was but one unvaried scene of pain, weariness, contradiction, and perge. cution, how fervent must have been that faith, how highly spiritual and heavenly that temper of mind, which could triumph so entirely over all the ordinary feelings of humanity, and overflow with the most ardent gratitude, in the midst of those sufferings which are apt too often to depress and sour the finest dispositions ! Natural sweetness of temper is one of the qualities which in this world is most universally valued. And it is justly valued. But who has ever known or heard of a temper so perfect, as to be able, in its own resources only, to sustain such a series of provocations, labours, and
sufferings, 'as St. Paul endured through a long course of years? It is the grace of God, the strength and peace imparted by Him who is most truly entitled the Spirit of hope and consolation, that can alone form the soul to so heavenly a state, that, like the finest steel, it shall only become more firm and perfect in the intense heat of the furnace, and conflict the hardest and roughest substances without losing its edge. Nothing distinguishes so certainly that true benignity of soul which belongs to the established Christian; from a natural cheerfulness, facility, and gentleness of disposition, as its power to resist the shocks and trials of adversity. Many, whose sullen or sarcastic natures now excite a general dislike, were once gay and cheerful, and even admired for those very qualities of which they appear to be so destitute. The fault probably was not so much in the original cast of their dispositions, as in an habitual disregard of those means, which are alone effectual to bestow a settled complacency and benevolence of heart. The condition of such persons is indeed most melancholy. Every thing within, and every thing around them, is gloomy; for the same passions which alienate others are a torment to themselves. We should be exceedingly careful not to increase the distress of such persons, by yielding to those feelings of irritation or dislike, which we are apt to experience when exposed to their infirmities. But let the example of St. Paul teach us a lesson of still higher value:-that Religion, where it is really via
gorous, is a remedy against every temptation, and every sorrow. He was a man of strong passions and the most acute sensibility; and the trials to which he was exposed, were such as perhaps no one, except our blessed Redeeiner, ever supported. Did they render hiin gloomy, desponding, irritable, or severe? Read his writings. Every page breathes hope, and joy, and love, tranquillity, gratitude, and confidence. Does religion produce in our hearts the same dispositions and feelings? If not, it is not the religion of St. Paul; it is not the religion of Christ. There is something erroneous or defective.
There is another point of view, in which the gra-. titude of St. Paul well deserves to be contemplated. It is quite manifest, that such thankfulness under such afflictions, must have had its foundation in the deepest humility. Nothing tries the state of the heart more closely than affliction. A proud man, (and we all are in some degree proud by nature,) has but little sense of the goodness of God in the mercies he bestows, for they seem but the proper recompense of his merits; and if he falls into misfortunes, it is to be feared, unless they reform the heart, they will harden it; for we are naturally averse to those who cause us to suffer, and unless our sufferings produce reflection, repentance, and humility, there can be no doubt that this principle of our nature will operate, even where the author of our punishinent is God himself. It is highly probable that the malignity of evil spirits is Vol. II.