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to entertain pride of heart; their carriage is the very reverse of “the lofty and the lifted up;' the one possesses a meek and quiet spirit, and their deportment testifies it; the others are bloated with pride, insolence, and self-sufficiency, and their countenances and walk proclaim it. “ Not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called ; but God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise, and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty : and base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are."
They are pure in heart. I would not imply that they are in no ways sullied, that they are perfect, or that they think so; far from it ; for of all men they are the most conscious of imperfections and deformities, and are continually bewailing before God a heart of unbelief: “Oh, wretched man that I am !" But by purity of heart I mean, they are upright in their intentions ; they are so far pure that, though sin dwells in them, they do not entertain it; they do not suffer it to reign ; it is there, but it is opposed; it does not dwell quietly in them ; it has not got peaceable possession. By purity of heart is meant, they are what they seem to be: we frequently hear it said of certain persons, they are double; double-tongued, double in their intentions, which implies they are double-hearted. But the people of God do not carry two faces—one for the church, and one for the family -but what they appear to be in one place, that they are in another; there is no disguise, no hypocrisy : “God, who knoweth the hearts, bare them witness, giving them the Holy Ghost, purifying their hearts by faith.”
They are afflicted in circumstances. A persecuted, despised, and afflicted people have been the characteristics of the children of God in every age:
" In the world ye shall have tribulation ; but, be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.”
The heavenly rest is prepared for none but the people of God. There will be no heavenly rest for any
other description of persons than those whose credentials have been exhibited ; and although but a brief outline has been given, it may serve as a glass in which to read the heart. All other persons than those who have the Divine image stamped upon them, living and dying without that impress, have something remaining for them far different from the saints' rest.
Reader! do you regard the Saviour of sinners, or do you see no beauty in him so as to desire him? Are you willing to strive to obtain the heavenly rest, or are you like others who, rather than exert themselves to obtain it, consent to be damned, because that inheritance is to be obtained with ease, without putting themselves out of the way? I apprehend there is a period beyond which the heavenly rest is lost irrecoverably, on this side the grave! It has been said, “ it is never too late to mend;" this adage may be applicable to some things, but it is a dangerous one to be guided by in things that relate to the salvation of the soul ; it savours of procrastination. Why are we admonished in scripture to enter while there is room ? Wherefore is it that the Holy Ghost saith, “ To-day, if ye will hear his voice, harden not your hearts, as in the provocation, in the day of temptation in the wilderness ; when your fathers tempted me, proved me, and saw my works forty years : wherefore I was grieved with that generation, and said, they do always err in their hearts, and they have not known my ways. So I sware in my wrath they shall not enter into my rest." Mark that !
In passing from the consideration of this subject, let us propose this important question to our souls, Do I belong to the people of God? And in order to answer it satisfactorily, we should put the question with prayer to God for his gracious assistance, to enable us to solve the interrogation. It is a question of moment, a question of more importance than, “ What shall we eat, and what shall we drink, and wherewithal shall we be clothed ?" It is a question that must be solved first, because the immortal soul is of far more consequence than the perishing body. Let the body starve, rather than the soul perish! Is not this your sentiment, reader? at least it ought to be.
Put the question, not only with earnest prayer, but also with self-examination : “ Consider your ways ;” examine yourself by God's word ; examine yourself by the light of your conscience ; your conscience, if not stifled, will tell you the truth; it is a faithful monitor, let it therefore speak; “it will speak, ere long;" better speak now in the way of admonition, than hereafter in eternal upbraidings; examine yourself by the lives and practices of those whom you have reason to think are the people of God :
6 Go forth by the footsteps of the flock,” and imitate their ways, so far as they are conformed to the word and image of God, and prove to yourself, to your own satisfaction, that you are one of the happy few for whom is prepared the heavenly rest.
FALSE PRETENCES AND GROUNDLESS
The holy scriptures are replete with instruction; every part abounds with matter for edification. The historical part is exceedingly interesting, and contains so much of human nature that no one, I should think, could doubt the authenticity of the record ; no one but must be struck with the similarity of feelings, of fears, of passions, and of pleasures that pervaded the bosoms of those whose history is registered, and which is so exactly experienced by ourselves.
The history of Saul, king of Israel, is well worthy of our attention; and in order to understand that part of it upon which I am going to comment, it will be necessary to give a brief outline. Saul was chosen from among the smallest of the tribes of Israel, and his family was counted the least of all the families of the tribe of Benjamin ; and from this circumstance we may learn, that it is not what a man is in himself, or what the rank of his family and connexions, but the will and appointment of God, when an individual is raised to an exalted station in the community, whether in the church or in the world : “For promotion cometh neither from the east, nor from the west, nor from the south. But God is the judge; he putteth down one, and setteth up another.” Saul was a man of goodly stature ; his personal appearance was such as to command respect: he is described as a “ choice young man, and a goodly; and there was not among the children of Israel a goodlier person than he ; from his shoulders and upward, he was higher than any of the people.” When he was met by the prophet Samuel, he was seeking the asses of his father, Kish, which had gone astray; and after having spent some days in a fruitless search, he bethought himself of the Lord's prophet to inquire of him to direct him where to seek the asses.
This might appear to be a casual circumstance, his thinking to inquire of the prophet ; but we learn from the sequel that the God of providence had inspired him with the thought, had put it into his heart to go to the prophet. “ Now the Lord had told Samuel in his ear, a day before Saul came, saying, To-morrow, about this time, I will send thee a man out of the land of Benjamin, and thou shalt anoint him to be captain over my people Israel, that he may save my people out of the hand of the Philistines.” From this part of the history it appears that the loss of the asses formed part of the arrangements of God's providence, as the means through which Saul was to be conducted to the prophet; and it is an additional incident to the many that are on record, and goes to prove that there is a providence superintending and controlling every minute event of our lives ; and could we but bring our minds fully to believe and credit the fact, how much unnecessary anxiety and care might we as Christians save ourselves ; whereas, we usually act in the affairs of life as if everything depended wholly upon ourselves. Let us in future only be careful to do the will of our heavenly Father, to seek his blessing in prayer, and diligently to perform our respective duties; and