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292 MOTIVES FOR PIOUS EXERTIONS. time will soon end with those you wish to benefit, and end with you. The parent must shortly cease to instruct his child, and the child to pray for his parent. The sabbath-school teacher must finish his last lesson, and the minister his last sermon, and every follower of Jesus end his last conflict, offer his last prayer, and finish his last attempt to lead poor wandering men to heaven. The night cometh when no man can work. Endeavour then to crowd into the little span of life all the benevolent actions, all the useful services, possible. Have you an opportunity for relieving the afflicted, for instructing the ignorant, for comforting the mourner? Say not, I will improve the next opportunity. You cannot improve the next for this; the next will be a fresh one, that will require its own improvement. To do good twice, is better than to do so once. Be active! be zealous! for the time is short. Think how short is the day of labour! how long, how near, the eternity of rest! Behold the blood-bought crown, which glitters through the skies. Hear the voice which says, “ Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might.” “They that be wise shall shine as the brightness of the firmament; and they that turn many to righteousness as the stars for ever and ever.” And 0, what is the for ever of heaven! Look to him who became for man's welfare a man of sorrows and of toil. Think of admission to his presence, and there of meeting some snatched by your instrumentality from everlasting night; and there of joining with them, in the new eternal song of glory to the Lamb.
Think of all this, and can you be the cold, formal, negligent, worthless creature, that some professors of the gospel are?
Treatment of enemies.
$ 20. Few are so happy as to pass through this world, without encountering hostility and enmity. Even the blessed Jesus had enemies, and all the gentle graces of his character, all the harmlessness of his benevolent life, all the good effect. ed by his unwearied labours, did not prevent his being the object of scorn and malignity, hatred and persecution. Perhaps by enemies your character may be defamed, and injury and loss heaped upon you. Should this ever be the case, then remember the instructions of the Bible. The natural feelings of your heart may prompt you to indulge resentment: to revile those who revile you, to take pleasure in their dis
ON TREATMENT OF ENEMIES.
293 tresses who take pleasure in yours, or in hearing them defamed who have defamed you. But these feelings are as opposite to those the Christian must cherish, as hell is to heaven. - You are solemnly commanded to do no ill to those who may do ill to you. “Say not, I will do so to him as he hath done to me: I will render to the man according to his work." “ Recompense to no man evil for evil. Avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath."
You are not only forbidden to injure enemies, but forbidden to take pleasure in their afflictions. “Rejoice not when thine enemy falleth ; lest the Lord see it, and it displease him." · Inculcating upon you a disposition like his own, the God of mercy solemnly and imperiously requires from you the forgiveness of injuries and of enemies. The Saviour teaches you when praying for forgiveness, to declare to God that you forgive. “ Forgive us our sins; FOR we also forgive EVERY ONE that is indebted to us."d He adds, “ For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you: but if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your heavenly Father forgive your trespasses." The divine Saviour calls on his disciples, not merely to forgive an injurer, or an enemy; but to requite injuries by benefits, evil by good. “I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; that ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven.” “ Bless them which persecute you: bless, and curse not. Therefore, if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink. Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good."f
$ 21. Exemplifying his divine instruction, the holy Jesus while his enemies were nailing him to the cross prayed for mercy on those murderers : “ Father, forgive them ; for they know not what they do."8 His first martyr expired with a similar prayer upon his lips. The duties here inculcated, are at times among the most difficult possible; yet they must be practised, if you would enjoy the Saviour's favour. The proud heart must be made to bend, the resentful heart must be brought to forgive, or your religion will prove an empty
(c) Prov. xxiv. 17, 18. (d) Luke xi, 4. (e) Matt. vi. 14, 15. Rom. xii. 14, 20, 21.
(g) Luke xxiii. 34.
(a) Prov. xx. 22; xxiv. 29.
(6) Rom. xii, 1
ON LOVE TO ENEMIES. name. You may say, I have been so injured that I cannot for. give; but if you cannot, you will never be forgiven. Be. sides, it is absurd and wicked, if you are a disciple of Jesus, to say, I cannot discharge this duty, I cannot comply with this precept. What mere nature cannot do, grace can effect, and will effect, in the case of every heir of heaven. “My grace," said Jesus, “ is sufficient for thee.” “I can do all things," his servant added, “ through Christ, that strengtheneth me;" and that grace is still sufficient. If you indulge an unforgiving spirit, be candid, be honest, deceive not yourself, you cannot deceive your Judge. Say not, I cannot forgive; but say, I will not; for be assured, while the grace of Christ is sufficient for all who seek his aid, if you have enemies whom you do not forgive, the reason is not that you cannot, but that you will not. Yet remember, unless you do so mortify corruption, as to forgive every enemy, the decree is gone forth, that will shut you out of heaven. Eternal truth has said, “ If ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.”
Cherish humility, and then it will not be a difficult duty to forgive and bless even the bitterest foes. It is pride that renders man so prone to resentment, so unwilling to forgive. Think what have been your crimes against the Majesty of heaven! How vast his goodness! how dire your ingratitude! how many your offences ! yet how rich, how free his forgiving love! Had all the inhabitants of the earth been persecuting you with ceaseless cruelty and hatred; had every moment witnessed fresh injuries inflicted by them, and fresh miseries suffered by you; if considered merely in reference to you, the guilt of all the ceaseless, causeless enmity of all those millions, would not have been so great as the guilt of your least sin against your gracious, but much injured God. And does he forgive ten thousand talents ? Has he for you blotted out sins vast as the mountains of the earth, and countless as the stars of heaven ? Can you believe this, and indulge resentment against a poor fellow-worm that has injured you? Can you think, “ I was a traitor doomed to fire, yet my injured Creator has snatched me from the flame, by the costly sacrifice of his dear Son ; can you believe this, and cherish resentment against a poor brother mortal, whose utmost offences against you bear no more proportion to those your God has forgiven,
ON FORGIVING INJURIES.
295 than a spark to the noon-day sun, or a speck of dust to the vast world?
$ 22. Is the person who has injured you a Christian brother? Do you believe, that, notwithstanding the conduct you condemn, he is indeed an heir of heaven ? Surely then you should cheerfully forgive. Do you believe that God forgives him? that the blood of Jesus has washed away his stains ? Do you hope to meet him as a friend, where no dissensions arise ? where an eternal day will be one day of harmony and love ? Are these your hopes? Ah, what is there by the way that should render those at discord here, who hope to be friends to all eternity ? Or view the subject of dispute as you will, view it from the edge of the grave, or from eternity: “I never,” says one of the best of uninspired writers, “ heard of any that stole his winding sheet, or fought for his coffin, or went to law for his grave." And when you are thus near eternity, and going to wear that last suit—a shroud, in that last earthly abode—a grave, how insignificant will those things appear, that now, perhaps, divide your affections from those you should love as fellow-travellers to the world of peace.
But, perhaps, some have wronged you greatly, who are utter strangers to the grace of God. Surely you should rather view them with pity, than with anger. Oh, think of their deplorable estate! They have souls immortal as your own; but these are perishing in sin. The blood of Jesus has washed none of their stains away. No hope for eternity is theirs. Your hope blooms with immortality; but darkness and despair are their probable future portion. They are the enemies of God; and all before them, in the endless world, is weeping, and lamentation, and woe. How pitiable a condition ! Should you not rather pray for them, than indulge resentment against poor fellow-creatures, in so miserable a state ! surely they have long enough to mourn. If they will seek nothing higher, let them enjoy their short-lived triumph. It is all they ever can enjoy. Repine not at their prosperity, when it is all confined to a few moments, and they have to mourn and weep for ever.
ON THE SPIRITUAL CONFLICTS AND SORROWS OF THE
DISCIPLES OF CHRIST.
$1. THE Christian's path to heaven is a chequered path.
1 Many are the sacred pleasures of the followers of the Lamb; but they have also pains and trials peculiar to themselves.
“Much in sorrow, much in woe,
“ Join the war, and face the foe." Every disciple of Jesus will find that the Christian life is truly 371 a warfare. "Would you behold those who have no foes without, no foe within ; whom no fears distract, no dangers threaten; you may, but it must be when you join them in the upper world ; and if you ever join them there, assisted from above, you must persevere in the warfare, which they have triumphantly ended.
Perhaps you reply, Is it not said, that The ways of wisdom are ways of pleasantness; and that all her paths are peace? It is so: yet the Christian's happiness in this world is not perfect happiness. There is true pleasure in the ways of re. ligion; more pleasure in the Christian's tears of penitential sorrow, than in the loud laughter of the world ; yet,
“ Life is the scene of conflict, not of rest;
“ His joys are joys of conquest, not of peace.”
Many of the Christian's trials proceed from within. He feels the correctness of the statement made in the word of truth. “ The flesh lusteth against the spirit, and the spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary the one to the other; so that ye do not the things which ye would.” By the ese