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light of the sun, which is more steady, permanent, and useful, ought to be preferred to those lights which are only conspicuous because they are surrounded with darkness. Revelation must be your guide, and not the novel opinions and strange sentiments of those who love to be singular, and who shew more pride.than grace by differing from all others. Above all, implore the Spirit of Grace, that you may still go forward, increasing in knowledge and grace even unto the end.
You are not without encouragement; yea, it is somewhat remarkable that a great number of promises are made to the weak and young of Christ's fold. He gave a special commission that his lambs should be fed. It was prophesied of him, that he would not break the bruised reed, nor quench the smoking flax, but that he should take the lambs in his arms, and carry them in his bosom. Ministers are commanded to speak comfortably to them, and to treat them with the utmost tenderness. Is. xlii. 3. xl. 11. XXXV. 3, 4. John xxi. 15.
Perhaps you may complain ; you may be ready to say, "* Ah! I have but little if any light. My mind is very contracted, my corruptions I find to be very powerful. The enemy I fear will be too much for me. I am ready to sink under a sense of my unworthiness. And what if I should prove an apostate at last? what if I should sin against light and knowledge, and, like Judas, betray him whom I profess to love, and thus plunge myself into misery !” Should this be your language, consider that the Great Shepherd of his sheep has engaged to keep and guide safe through. “None,” he hath said, “ shall pluck them out of his hand.” i Pet. i. 4. Your feeling thus is an evidence of life, and life shall not be destroyed by a kind parent, though it may be scarcely discernible. Go forward, therefore; you shall have the prayers of the saints, the attendance of angels, and the compassion of God.
Let us all learn to bear with the infirmities, sympathise with the state and direct the steps of the weak and feeble. They have too many discouragements of their own to have others thrown upon them by those who are engaged in the same cause, and have the same object in view. The voice of nature says, Treat the young with tenderness and care. The voice of reason joins, and says, The strong ought to he'p the weak: and the voice of scripture loudly proclaims, “ Him that is weak in the faith, receive ye; he shall be holden up, for God is able to make him stand.” Rom. . xiv. 1, 4.
The Experience of the Christian in middle Age. IT
T was observed by the great apostle Paul, that, when he was a child, he spake as a child, he understood as a child, he thought as a child; but when he became a man, he put away childish things. 1 Cor. xiii. 11. This is not less true in a spiritual than in a literal sense. There are childish things belonging to the young christian, which, though they claim our indulgence, yet are not pliising, and which a christian of riper years is taught to renounce. The frivolities of children are not practised by the middle aged, nor are their imaginations deceived, nor their judgment so easily imposed on, as those who have seen and known but little of human life and of christian experience. As the christian advances, the dignity of his character appears; and when he has passed the first stage of life, we may consider him as possessing wisdom and experience. He has now felt the consequence of listening to the dictates of ignorance or of vanity, and of following the many rash guides who have pretended to be his friends. He is now enabled to unite prudence with his zeal, and deliberation with his knowledge. Humility, stedfastness, order, wisdom, and vigilance, distinguish and adorn his character. He is no more a child, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine : his heart is established with grace.
What Hosea predicted of Israel may be verified in his experience: “he grows as the lily, and casts forth his roots as Lebanon."
Hos. xiv. 5, 6. There is not merely a beauty as in the lily, but strength as in the cedar. Storms cannot easily shake him, being rooted and built up in Christ. Things called new, alluring, and wonderful, strike not his senses with the same force as formerly. He does not run backward and forward, agitated at every strange event, nor is he carried away with the stream of popular opinion. In fact, we now see the christian in this state no longer as the babe, the novice, the curious, or the volatile. It is the man of nerve, of judgment, of discretion and depencence; one who has renounced his own will to follow the will of God, who makes the word of God his rule, and the glory of God his end; who has seen enough of the world to wean him from it, and so much of the divine favour, as to convince him there can be no happiness without it.
There are some particulars, however, which more especially belong to the christian at this
period of life, which we shall now consider.
And, first, we may observe, that it is a time of serious reflection as to what is past, and of solemn thoughtfulness as to what is to come. Young christians, like children, seldom think much. Alas, what carelessness and want of consideration are evident! These things, however, in some measure, are done away in middle age. Things of importance engage the attention; the powers · are enlarged, experience is ripened, the judgment is informed, and wise reflections cannot but enter into the mind. The christian, at this time, stands upon an eminence, and looks, as it were, both ways. He looks back, and beholds the way through which he has travelled. He contemplates the difficulties he has encountered, the tempests he has been exposed to, and the dangers which have attended him. He calls to mind the various changes he has witnessed in human affairs. Friends he has seen turned into enemies, comforts into crosses, and the most promising appearances into disappointment and woe. The unexpected vicissitudes he has seen in nations, churches, families, and individuals, fill him with astonishment, while at the same time they teach him wisdom. His reflections, however, are not all of the gloomy cast. He has seen the humble exalted, the vigilant protected, the industrious crowned with success. He has observed, with pleasure, the kind hand of the Father of mercies supplying the poor, blessing the afflicted, defending the weak, holding up the tempted, and directing the ignorant. With the psalmist he can say, that he has never “ seen the righteous forsaken, nor his seed begging bread; but that divine wisdom has led them forth by a right way, that they might go to a city of habitation.” Ps. xxxvii. 24. Ps. cvii. 7. Reader, what a noble sight is this, to behold the christian, notwithstanding all the troubles of life, pronouncing this delightful sentence, “I have seen the end of the Lord, that he is very pitiful, and of tender mercy!” Jas. v. 11.
But the christian in middle age is thoughtful as to the future. He dreams not now of new and extraordinary scenes, of places where all care and trouble are to be excluded, of connexions where no false friends or open enemies are to be found, of business where no exertion is necessary, or of power where no insubordination will manifest itself. . Alas! how have we all been de. ceived in one or other of these respects in our first setting out, till more experience has undeceived
The christian of middle age, however, has seen the fallacy of all these things. From what he has experienced, he is led to believe that the future will, in many respects, resemble the past. He prepares for disappointment. run not high relative to this world's felicity. While there are the same corrupt dispositions in men, the same opposition from the god of this world, the same uncertainty as to all human affairs, he naturally expects to feel the shock which the convulsions of surrounding bodies may occasion. As a prudent man, however, he foreseeth the evil, and hideth himself. He does not willingly rush into danger, yet, if he be called to