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Encouragement from the promises. Examples. Evi
dences of grace. Prospects. Eternal life. Concluding address to the unconverted.
As the sacred scriptures contain sublime doctrines and suitable precepts for the establishment and conduct of true believers, so they abound also with great encouragement and consolation under all the various and trying scenes of life ; and what deserves our attention is, that the promises are not made only to the strong, but to the weak ; so that we are not prohibited from appropriating them to ourselves, because we have not the same degree of faith, knowledge, or comfort, as others. The Bible is designed for the children and young men in God's school, as well as the more experienced fathers in Christ. If you complain of your darkness, here is light; of your weakness, here is strength; of your crosses, here is comfort; of your poverty, here are riches; of your disappointments in this world, here is certainty and security. In the midst of every discouragement, therefore, look here. The promises are suitable, copious, explicit, free, and sure to be accomplished. Is it a sense of your depravity that fills you with grief; that breaks your heart, and humbles you continually ? behold the promise : this man will I look, even to him that is poor, and of a contrite spirit, and trembleth at my word."*
* Is. Ixvi. 2.
Is it affliction that is permitted to come upon you, threatening to swallow up all your comfort ? behold a promise : “ Call upon me in the day of . trouble, I will deliver thee, and thou shalt glorify me."* Is it reproach and opposition to which you are exposed ? behold a promise : “ Thou sluilt be hid from the scourge of the tongue, and no weapon formed against thee shall prosper.”+ Is it temptation that harasses and torments you ? behold a promise : “ God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able, but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.”† İs it . poverty and indigence that you dread ? behold a promise : “ The young lions do lack and suffer hunger, but they that seek the Lord shall not want any good thing." Is it depression of spirits, a darkness of inind that has fallen upon you? behold a promise : “ For a small moment have I forsaken thee, but with great mercies will I gather thee. In a little wrath I'hid my face from thee for a moment, but with everlasting kindness will I have mercy on thee, saith the Lord thy Redeemer."|| Do you fear you shall not be able to persevere to the end ? behold a promise : Who shall also confirm you unto the end, that ye may be blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.”'T Is it the thought of death that strikes you with terror? behold a promise : “ I will ransom them from the power of the grave; I will redeem them from death. O death, I will be thy plagues; O
* Ps. 1. 15.
+ Jeb v. 21. Isa. liv. 17. į Ps. xxxiv. 10. 1. Isa liv. 6, 7.
# 1st Cor. x. 13.
1 1st Cor. i. 8,
grave, I will be thy destruction."* Come, then, and read these delightful declarations, and ask, How can I despond with such incentives to hope, such grounds of encouragement, such antidotes to fear, such motives to patience, and such calls for confidence in God? Say not, they are for others, and not for you.
“ We do not fear to break open a letter when we find our name in the superscription, directing it to us.
Thus we should read the promises as ours;" they are the kind epistles sent from heaven to animate us to bear up under every difficulty, and to go forward in the good way. Pray for faith, therefore, that you may be able to decipher them, and extract the sweetness contained in them. It is the business of faith to unfold and examine their contents, to appreciate their excellency, to taste their sweetness, and apply them to use. Let it be no objection that these promises are not fulfilled immediately. They were not designed to be accomplished as soon as given, or as soon as faith receives them. They are like bonds, which would be of no utility if the money were paid; but the security given is as valid, and the blessing pro: mised as certain to be bestowed in God's time as if you already were in possession of it. Jesus Christ himself now waits in heaven for the final accomplishment of the promise for the ingather-' ing of his people. His prayers offered up seventeen hundred years ago for his church, are still unanswered. Learn, then, to live upon the promises; plead them in prayer, wait patiently for
* Hos, xiii. 14.
their fulfilment, and you shall find that “ God is not a man that he should lie, nor the son of man that he should repent; that all the promises in Christ are yea, and in him amen, unto the glory of God; and that his covenant he will not break, nor alter the thing that is gone out of his
Consider, farther, for your encouragement, the many pleasing examples of the triumph of grace in those who were either subject to the greatest depression, or surrounded with the most powerful opposition; and then ask, “ Who ever perished being innocent, or where were the righteous cut off ?:The providence scems'sometimes, however, to go before the promise, especially when it leaves a man to poverty, sickness, distress, unbelief, and opposition; but if we only wait a little, we shall see the promise come up to his assistance, and while one says, troubled on every side,” the other answers, “ Yet not distressed. Though perplexed, yet not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed.”¥ Job said, indeed, that his eye should no more see good ; yet the Lord turned his captivity, and he died in peace.. Jacob exclaimed that all things were against him; yet he lived to see the goodness of God in the land of the living. Joseph was tempted, and tried, and tossed up and down on the waves of trouble; yet God was with him, and he rose superior to all. David said, he should one day fall by
6. We are
Num. xxiii. 19. 2d Cor.i. 20. Ps. Ixxxix. 34. † Job iv. 7.
| 2d Cor. iv. 8,9.
the hand of Saul; yet he could bear a noble testimony at last, and died affirming that God had made an everlasting covenant with him, ordered in all things, and sure. · Hezekiah said, “ I reckoned till morning, that as a lion so will he break all my bones; from day even to night wilt thou make an end of me." Yet how was his tone changed! “ Thou hast in love to my soul delivered it from the pit of corruption ; for thou hast cast all my sins behind thy back.” How much better was God to all these men than their fears ! He turned their darkness into light; their sorrow into joy. You are in the same hands, and may indulge the pleasing expectation, that however great the present discouragements, he will hear your prayers, support you in trouble, and deliver you from all those dangers which now threaten the destruction of your hope and comfort.
But you are still ready to object, and say, You want greater evidences of a gracious change than what you can find in yourself. Perhaps you are looking for some great degree of joy, some transport of pleasure, some state of mind in which
you will not find the least wandering thought or corruption stirring. And because you cannot find these, you are ready to imagine that you are not a christian. But here you are increasing your own distress without cause. What christian is there that can boast of ecstatic joys; that can assure us he is subject to no changes; that has no cold, indifferent, vain, and wandering thoughts; that never has to lament over the sad remains of depravity in his nature ? Some christians, it is true, are far superior to others as to the extent of their knowledge, the fervour of their love, the spiritu