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which Christianity first gave us a clear and distinct view, affords a prospect to us that cannot well fail to cheer and enliven our hearts, and even bear us up under the heaviest pressures of affliction. Without this support, there are, it must be owned, calamities sufficient to break the highest spirits, and to subdue the firmest minds. When the good and virtuous man is unjustly accused and inhumanly traduced; when enemies oppress and friends desert him ; when poverty and distress come upon him like an armed man; when his favourite child, or his beloved companion, is snatched from him by death ; when he is racked with incessant pain, or pining away with incurable disease; when he knows, moreover, that he can have no rest but in the grave, and supposes that this rest is the absolute extinction of his being ; no wonder that he sinks into melancholy and despair. But let the divine light of immortality break in upon him, and the gloom that surrounds him clears up. Let this day-star arise before him, and it will shed a brightness over the whole scene of his existence, which will make every thing
look gay and cheerful around him. He is no longer the same being he was before. A new set of ideas and sentiments, of hopes and expectations, spring up in his mind, and représent every thing in a point of view totally different from that in which they before appeared to him. What he had been accustomed to consider as insupportable misfortunes, he now sees to be most salutary chastisements. This world is no longer his home. It is a scene of discipline, a school of virtúe, a place of education, intended to fit him for appearing well in a far more illustrious station. Under this conviction he goes on with alacrity and steadiness in the paths of duty, neither discouraged by difficulties, nor depressed by misfortunes. He is a citizen of a heavenly country, towards which he is travelling; his accommodations on the road are sometimes, it must be owned, wretched enough ; but they are only temporary inconveniences; they are trivial disquietudes, which are below his notice; for at home he knows every thing will be to his mind. The blessings which there await him, and on which his heart is fixed, inspire him
with an ardour and alacrity that carry him through every obstacle. Even under the most calamitous circumstances, he supports himself with this reflection, more pregnant with good sense and solid comfort, than all the vast volumes of ancient Philosophy or modern Infidelity, that “these light afflic6 tions, which are but for a moment, shall “ work for him” (if he bears them with Chiristian patience) “ a far more exceeding “ and eternal weight of glory."*
V. There remains still another ground of joy peculiar to the Gospel; and that is, the consolation and assistance of the Holy Ghost. It is a circumstance of wonderful beauty and utility in the Christian dispensation, that one of those three Divine persons, who each bore their share in the great work of our redemption, condescends to contribute also to our present tranquillity ; to abide with us here constantly upon earth; to assume the endearing name, and perform the truly benevolent office, of a COMFORTER. Under this character and title, the Holy Spirit was promised to the apostles by our Saviour, in his
* 2 Cor. iv. 17.
last affecting address to them, in order to alleviate their grief for his approaching departure. This promise was most punctually and amply fulfilled on the day of Pentecost; and from that time we see the influence of this heavenly Paraclete most eminently displayed in that astonishing and almost instantaneous turn which it gave to the sentiments, the language, and the conduct of the apostles. From being timorous, dejected, and perplexed, shocked at the ignominious end of their Lord, afraid to appear in public, dubious, hesitating, and indecisive; on a sudden they become courageous, undaunted, cheerful. They openly avow, and boldly preach, that once offensive doctrine of a crucified Saviour. They profess themselves his disciples : they call upon all men to believe in him; and set before them, with all the powers of the most masculine eloquence; the evidences and the doctrines of the Christian faith. No complaints from that time; no dejection of spirits ; no, discontent. Though they were persecuted, afflicted, tormented, yet it was all joy, and triumph, and exultation of heart. “We are troubled,”
says St. Paul, “ on every side, yet not dis“ tressed; we are perplexed, but not in des“ pair ; as dying, and behold we live; as 6, chastened, but not killed ; as sorrowful, yet " alway rejoicing; as poor, yet making many “ rich; as having nothing, and yet possess“ ing all things; and though our outward “ man perish, yet our inward man is renewed “ day by day."* Even St. Peter himself, he who had the weakness to deny his blessed Master in the extremity of his distress ; even he, after the descent of the Holy Ghost, was the very first to rise up in his defence, and in a long and spirited speech to vindicate his pretensions, and assert the truth of his doctrines. The same alacrity and joyfulness spread itself to all the converts. “For they " that believed were together, and had all “ things common, and sold their possessions " and goods, and parted them to all men, “ as every man had need ; and continuing “ daily with one accord in the temple, did “ eat their meat with gladness and single« ness of heart, praising God, and having of favour with all the people.”+ * 2 Cor. iv. 16.
+ Acts ii. 46, 47.