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§ REFLECTIONS ON PSALM XXXIX. 4.
cannot pass.' Frequently and seriously let us think, therefore, on the probable bounds of our lives, and on our daily approach to those bounds that cannot be exceeded j — and how soon may we appear on the verge of the eternal state !—Yet, alas! such are the many attachments to human life, that but few can be found, among the busy tribes of men, who sufficiently estjmate ' the measure, the hourly shortening measure of their days, what it is!'—how short it is, even in the longest instance, and how short it may probably be in our own I Hence
The inspired penman next adverts'to his own frailty: 'That I may know how frail I am.' — Death is gradually and secretly undermining our constitutions. This should lead us to consider * how scanty the stock of life is^ and how faint the spirits, which are as oil to keep that lamp burning.' 'Verily, every man at his best state is altogether vanity.' He is- a mutable, mortal, dying creature. How frail, how liable either to be soon or suddenly, broken is the,' earthen vessel' that contains the immortal mind I Lord, give to each of us a deep and perpetual conviction of his own frailty! Lord, grant that I may know how frail I am !— that I may know and consider it aright! that I may reflect how frail this mortal tenement is! that my time is short; and that there is 'but a step between me ancf death!'
This sentiment of the devout Psalmist, which nas occasioned the foregoing explanatory reflections, powerfully urges upon us a serious improvement of our remaining days. The label written on each revolving day and week, month and year, is this, — Redeem the time !— Why should the end of life be so much forgotten? Why should a due preparation for it be so universally* neglected? The busy and the thoughtless may attempt to argue and procrastinate; but both Reason and Conscience will still urge, that the great business of life is to prepare for its termination; and Scripture speaks yet louder in their ears,—' Prepare to meet thy God!' The shortness of life should awaken and keep alive all our diligence. * Be diligent to make your calling and election sure.' * So teach us tonuniber our daysy that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom.' The question is, Who are these wise and devoted characters? They are penitent sinners, and believers in Jesus ;—they walk by faith, and not by sight;—they are led and sanctified by the Spirit; —they are humble and heavenly-minded ;— they are weaned from this world, and long for a better; and they are always abounding in the work of the Lord. Happy xharactere indeed! Let the iveakness of your frame induce patience and resignation! If you are saying with Job, ' All the days of my appointed time will I wait till my change come,* you shall have ' an entrance ministered unto you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ!'
REDEEMING THE TIME.
REFLECTIONS ON EPHESIANS V. 16.
Time is so precious that not any of it must be lost. The Hrhole time of our life must be employed either about our souls, in the service of God, or in the works of our callings; but particularly the time 'of youth, — the time of health and strength, — the time of affliction,— the time of the gospel,—and the time of the Sabbath.
The time of youth must he redeemed. The great God stands much upon priority, to have the first and best, — the first ripe fruits, — the first that openeth the womb. My young reader, offer then the Isaac of thy youth, the spring and flower, of thy age, to God, and stay not until the evil day. Begin first wityi Him from whom thou hadst thy being ; — go about the grand affair and work of thy never-dying soul, before thou dost ingulph thyself in the cares of this world. If the celestial seeds of grace are sown in the morning, the pleasant and sweet flowers springing out of tho5ei seeds, will invite the Lord Jesus to come and walk iq his garden. The infinitely gracioUs God holds out the golden sceptre, and invites you to come to him. The ruddy pavid, the child Samuel, the young Timothy, God calls. Say then this instant, 'Behold, we come: thine we are, thine we will be: pome now and take thine own!' God will accept you: his arms and hosom are open to receive you. * I remember thee the kindness of thy youth, the love of thine espousals, when the first fruits were holiness unto the Lord. If you would enjoy a happy life" of communion with God, offer unto him the firstlings pf thy flock, — thy youthful days. If you receive the seed of grace in the morning of your age, it will take the deeper root in your heart; and cause you to bring forth fruit even in your old age. That cloth will keep hs colour best that is dyed in the wool; and the vessel will longest retain the scent of that liquor with which it is first seasoned. * 0!'; remember thsn thy Creator in the' days of thy youth !* ^' u:
'Ike time of lualth and strength rhust he improved. Those that are now strbng and lively, must not expect to. be so always; they, as well as others, must count upon disease, sickness, and weakness, which will confine them to their houses, chambers, and beds. O! that while their strength and health of body, and natural vigour are continued* they were mindful of their work rnd time! If a man had business of great concern, pr matter of life and death, that required time, strength, and diligence, and should omit it until he were stricken, in years, or till sickness or weakness had invaded him, every one would be ready to charge him with folly;'and shall we lay the stress of our everlasting state upon a few days' pf sickness and weakness before our death i God forbid!
8 REDEEMING THE TIME.
The time ofaJHiciion nu%t be redeemed. Christians, in the time of adversity weniust consider^ 'It was the time of Jacob'? trouble when the apostle exhorted believers to redeem the time. God speaks to us by his rod as well as by his word; for every affliction addresses us in the language of Ehud to Eglon, 'I have a rnessage unto thee from God;' and God will reckon with us for the rods he lays upon us.
The time df' the gyspel must be redeemed. Gospel - time is our spiritual harvest; and it is a notorious folly to sleep in harvest. It is a time of light, — a time of love, — a time of life, -nr* a time of liberty !' It is now an accepted time, — a day of salvation!' Sinners! the dear Lord Jesus, the great Peace-Maker, is now an importunate suitor to your perishing souls! The treasures of grace are open, and offered to you upon easy terms, 'without money and without price!' O! make hasje and' buy the pearl of price, which is better than rubies! If you lose this, you may never have another opportunity! * The Spirit and the Bride say, Come!'
The time of the Sabbathinud be redeemed. We must sanctify the whole of that day: it is the Sabbath of the Lord our God. It must be spent, from morning till evening, in the service and worship of God, either in public, social, or secret duties; and no part of it must be spent in frothy, vam> and unprofitable discourse or recreations; in riding, buying, selling, or working. This dreadful sin. of Sabbath-brealcing is a sin in fashion. Hundreds in this nation serve the Devil more upon the Lord's Day than upon any other day. The Lord of the Sabbath hath commanded, that thou and all thy house keep that day holy. The Sabbath was once called Regina Dierum, 'The Queen of Da>'s-' In the New Testament, it is called 'The Lord's Day.' 'In the primitive times, a serious and strict observation of the Lord's Day was a test of Christianity. When the question, was asked?' Servasti Dominicum? (Hast thou kept the Lord's Day?) the answer returned was, Christianus sum, intermit'tere non possurn- (I am a Christian, and cannot intermit it).—It was the saying of an eminent divine, That he judged, of a man's religion according as he reverenced the Sabbath. Theodosia.
THE INTELLECTUAL CHARACTER
IMPROVED W THE KNOWLEDGE. OF THE GOSPEL.
The entrance of thy words giveth light: it ghwth understandings '" ,: •' Unto'the 'simple.—Psalm cxix. 130.
When the Lord Jesus Christ selected the fjrst. and most honouiable ministers of his religion, he did not call to the apostleship men eminent for learning, but persons the greater number of whom appear to have been illiterate, and, in the estimation of the world, ignorant. Yet many of these plain, unlettered men, after enjoying the tuition of Him who c spake as never man spake,' after yielding/ themselves to the influence of' that word,' the entrance of which giveth understanding to the simple,' discovered, in their discourses and in their writings, a vigour and maturity of intellect, an accuracy and perfection of knowledge, which will ever continue to command respect and admiration. This improvement of the intellectual character) in consequence of divine illumination, was not altogether peculiar to the first disciples of Christ. An eflect similar in its nature, although inferior in degree, may still he discovered, especially in the case of persons who, destitute of the advantages of early education, have at length received, with understanding and with love, the truth of the gospel. In consequence of the entrance of that' word which giveth light,' their minds have been greatlv improved, their intellectual powers have been, in no inconsiderable degree, expanded and invigorated. In order to ascertain the nature of the improvement which may justly be attributed to the cause specified, let us suppose a case, such as may correspond with" the actual observations of many intelligent Christians.
Two children, in the family of a poor labourer, are brought up without any of the means of mental culture. As soon as their bodily powers have acquired sufficient strength, they are sent out to earn their daily bread; but their minds are entirely neglected, and remain as barren as the heath on which they live. In this manner they drag on a merely animal life, concerned only about the means of subsistence, and experiencing few changes or varieties except those occasioned by the vicissitude of the seasons. At length, however, one of them is led to hear the preaching of the gospel, and brought to a clear and impressive acquaintance with divine truth. Now mark the intellectual superiority which he soon acquires Over his brother, and the rest of his family! Visit him after a few years have elapsed, and converse with him on the subject of religion. He has learned to read, and he diligently studies his Bible. Hear his remarks on some portion of Scripture, which has been the subject of his meditation. You are struck with pleasing surprize at the judgment and information the young man discovers. His ideas seem more clear, his observations more deep, his judgment more correct, his reasoning more conclusive, than you could have expected from one whose 'mind never received the culture of early education. Could you listen to him when in the social meeting for prayer, or in the retirement of the cottage, he pours forth his heart before the throne of grace, you would be still more surprized to find by what - fluency, copiousness, and fervour, his supplications are characterized!
Now converse with the companion of his childhood and youth, with bis brother, brought up tinder the same circunl* t# THE INTELLECTUAL CHARACTER.
stances with himself, and with whom, a few years ago, he was perfectly on a level. What a disparity you now observe 1 This njan seems in understanding a mere child, when compared with the enlightened Christian with whom you have been conversing. To what can we trace the striking superiority of the one over the o^faer t '. The entrance of the divine word has given light: it has given,understanding to the simple/ 'The Spirit of God has opened his eyes, and turned him frorn darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God/ While this must unquestionably be regarded as the efficient cause, it may not perhaps be impossible to describe, in so'me measure, the nature of that process of mental improvement which appears to have taken place.
It is then particularly worthy of remark, That the powers of the mind hart been more} fully culled forth into exercise. It is by suitable exercise chiefly, that the mental faculties are im^ proved; and on this well-known principle proceed the various modes of education. Now the man who, iu early life, never enjoyed any of the advantages of education,! but whose time, and thoughts, and labour, have been exclusively directed to the supply of his bodily wants, has had nothing to call forth into vigorous exercise the powers of his mind. They may be naturally strong, but no demand is made for their service. The mind seems feeble, inert, and vacant, for want of some more powerful stimulus to excite its activity. Now, when a man's mind becomes enlightened by ' the entrance of the divine word'/ its attention is roused, its dormant poweFS are awakened; exercise is given for the faculties of apprehension, of discrimination, of reasoning, of memory; the affections are interested and moved, and they excite the mind to frequent reflection and meditation on the truths of Scripture, This remark introduces a second observation, which may have a tendency to account for the interesting fac'ti- it -is, that
Tht uttentwu is directed to subjects which, of all that can oteupif the human mind, are most calculated to expand and strengthen its pmetrs. Mental improvement may be supposed to hear some proportion to the. importance and grandeur of the subjects which occupy the mincl: The man whose chief atr lention is directed to trivial subjects, may be expected to betray indications of a weak and feeble mind. On the other hand, the frequent and due consideration of subjects sublime and elevated* will tend to enlarge the capacity of the mind, and to. invigorate its powers of exertion. But what subjects can be compared, in, point of grandeur and importance, with those which occupy the most prominent place in the system of revealed truth? The disciple of Jesus, is accustomed to think much, and with unspeak-. able interest and delight, on the perfections of the great Jehovah, — on'the mystery of godliness, — on the immortality of the soul,— on the momentous decisions of the day of judgment, and the final state* of the righteous and the wicked. Surely,' the