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on every side, they were not distressed: they were perplexed, but not in despair ; persecutéd, but not forsaken ; cast down, but not destroyed.
They knew that, if their earthly tabernacle were dissolved, they had a building of God, an house not made with hands, eternal in the hea
With such glorious, such well confirmed hopes as these, we can no longer wonder that they endured the cross, despising the shame: for, what were the sufferings of a transient life, compared with the object of such hopes as these? Of what consequence was it that they were brought before 'rulers and kings for his name's sake, who was gone
before them to
preo pare a place, a mansion of everlasting felicity, amongst the allotments of the blessed?
Should it be asked, why the Almighty Res! deemer suffered bis servants to encounter such difficulties, and to languish in such distress? why he did not make the subject world acdi knowledge his divinity, and embrace his
pre. cepts ? that may be easily accounted for.
It is well known, and rightly concluded, from the whole ceconomy of Providence, that the divine agency interferes not generally with the human will. . Thus, though, in some ciru?' cumstances, the immediate
power of God might bring over a convert to the Christian"
faith, which probably was the case with DioNYSIUS the Areopagite; yet the world in general was left at liberty to exert those acts of faith, which were numbered in the system of Christian virtues. }
Had these exercises been involuntary, they could no longer have had any merit; and to have compelled either the religious or the moral virtues of mankind, must have been inconsistent with the purpose of the supreñe government, which is to leave man a moral agent.
But why, it may be asked, did God appoint the low and illiterate part of mankind to bear the glad tidings of that redemption which his goodness provided us, and his wisdom planned? Why! but to leave to their own efficacy truths that were thus simply conveyed, and to render the faith of men more meritorious, more their own free and unforced assent, when their reason was appealed to by the truth of facts, while their passions were not solicited by the powers of eloquence. This, moreover, might serve as a check to the insolence of human wisdom, which at that time, as well as in our own, was ready to exalt itself above all that is called God.
: Should it be objected, that the vulgar are easily imposed on, that they might be induced
to believe the reality of false miracles, or be excited to bear the greatest extremities, through the confidence of enthusiasm. That objection will soon be refuted, because some of the apostles had the advantage of human learning.
The conversion of the persecuting Saul might alone be sufficient to silence every objection against the truth of Christianity. Whether we consider him as a Pharisee only, and consequently full of the impracticable prejudice of his sect, or particularly as an enemy to the Christian cause, and making a merit of dragging to death, or imprisonment, its poor despised professors, the conclusion must ever produce in us the utmost astonishment: to see this furious zealot join the sect he was determined to destroy! to see him relinquish the hopes of preferment, and of fame, to espouse the cause of a few despicable, dejected Nazarenes! Was not here manifestly the interposition of Providence ? Could any but a supernatural power have wrought iso strange an effect :
Obedient to the divine impulse, this haughty Pharisee submitted himself to the instruction of those apostles that were so lately the objects of his persecution and his scorn.
Perhaps he knew not then the distresses he must endure in the service of his Redeemer;
he knew not that he must be abandoned to the cruelty of persecution, the sport of insolence, and the rage of tyranny: yet, when he had experienced these, he reasonably concludes, that they were to be borne for the expectations of a glorious eternity.
If our hopes in Christ, says he, should perish with this life-if, when we had suffered every circumstance of distress, the invention of cruelty, or the consequence of want, our miseries and existence should have the same period, we, of all men, should be most miserable.
But thanks be to God who giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. His words, which cannot pass away, his eternal promises shall support us under all the conflicts which nature would behold with horror; or the fears of mortality would avoid.
Hence, continues he, in the language of triumph, I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come; nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
THE FOLLY AND MISERY OF WICKEDNESS.
Isa. lvii. 21. There is no peace, saith my God, to the wicked.
REASON is not the only guide that, exclusive of revelation, is appointed us for our conduct. The feelings of the heart are so many powerful monitors, that continually suggest to us what we ought to do. The disquiet that attends the pursuit of wickedness plainly points out the necessity of a different conduct, and the heart is, in this case, appealed to-by the most significant of all
arguments, the attainment of its own happiness.
But how weak are all the motives, and how inactive the principles, of natural religion ! The sense of right and wrong places, indeed, our duty before us, but by no means affords us the power of pursuing it; and even the miseries of a mind that is enslaved by vice are generally insufficient to reclaim it.