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be conceived, than the exhortation of the apostle, "Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might. Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil ; for we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities and powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickednesses in high places. Wherefore, take to you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. Stand, therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breast-plate of righteousness, and your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace ; above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.” However múch he may suffer in the conAlict, he must enter into no terms with the enemies of his salvation. In his greatest distresses let his lan, guage be-“Rejoice not against me, O mine enemy! when I fall I shall arise, when I sit in darkness, the, Lord shall be a light to me." The battle may be ob-. stinate, but, if thus conducted, ultimate victory is se
The Christian shall be made “ more than a conqueror, through Him who loves him."
The endurance of affliction, is the third exercise which calls for the vigorous exertion of spiritual strength. Affliction is the general lot of mortals : “ Man who is born of a woman is of few days, and full of trouble: he cometh forth as a flower, and is cut down; he flieth also as a shadow, and continueth not." The saint has his full share of the evils of life : “ Whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and he scourgeth every son whom he receiveth." Spiritual vigour is not less necessary to enable us to suffer well
than to act well. Affliction, especially if it is long continued, has a tendency to subdue the spirits, and to weaken the mind. There is a species of strength of mind under affliction, which, so far from being a duty, is a great crime: a refusing to bend under the hand of the Almighty-a “despising the chastening of God.” Against this stubborn, untameable temper, the Christian must carefully guard. He must “hear the rod, and him who appoints it.” He must “humble himself under the mighty hand of God.” He must not “despise the chastening of the Lord ;" but neither ought he to “ faint when he is rebuked of him.” However severe, however long continued the affliction, he must patiently bear it. He must endeavour even to “rejoice in tribulation, knowing that tribulation worketh patience, and patience experience, and experience hope." In this respect, as in every other, the Apostle Paul is a fit model for the Christian to copy: “ There was given to me,” says he, “a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan, to buffet me. For this thing I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me; and he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee, and my strength shall be made perfect in weakness. Most gladly, therefore, will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest on me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ's sake ; for when I am weak, then am I strong." Afflicted Christian, go thou and do likewise.
II. Having thus illustrated the duty enjoined, the acquisition and exertion of spiritual vigour, I proceed to the consideration of the motive by which the injunction is enforced-"Be strong, and let not your hands be weak, FOR YOUR WARDED.”
There is such a tendency in the depraved human mind, to consider benefits received in the light of a debt due to us by heaven for services performed by us, that there is need of peculiar caution and accuracy in stating some of the principles of the Christian insti. tution, lest they should, by a perverted ingenuity, be construed as authorising this mistaken and most dangerous view of matters. Among those principles which are so liable to misconception, the doctrine of rewards for duty holds a conspicuous place. By incorrect exhibitions of this confessedly important doctrine, the whole system of truth respecting man's salvation has been obscured and misrepresented; and in opposition to the apostle, who declares, that “by grace are we saved," men have been led to expect everlast ing happiness, not as a boon from the self-moved bene, volence, but a merited recompense for their exertions from the justice of heaven.
The doctrine of merit is equally indefensible on the principles of reason and revelation; “Can man be profitable to God, as he who is wise is profitable to himself?” Can a rational creature, even in his best estate, do more than is his duty to do ? and if so, where is his merit? The highest angel, the purest seraph, has no merit. He owes his happiness, not to himself, but to the bounty of his Maker. And shall mana worm, a rebel, a condemned, and at best a pardoned traitor-shall he, for a moment, cherish the proud thought of making God his debtor, or of obtaining happiness from any source, but the undeserved, self. originating goodness of the Divinity? If there is a. truth revealed explicitly in scripture, it is this, that all. the good which man receives, either in the present ar in a future state, from a breath of air, or a drop of water, to the high endowments and rapturous enjoyments of the blessed in heaven, all, all proceeds from the pa.
tience or the grace of the Sovereign Jehovah. From the justice of heaven, man, viewed as a
fallen creature, in any stage of his existence, deserves nothing but punishment;-if he is spared and pardoned, accepted and saved, not to him, but to his merciful God, his compassionate Redeemer, must be ascribed all the glory.
Still, however, it cannot be denied, and it ought not to be concealed, that in the scriptures we frequently find the benefits bestowed on saints represented as rewards. Moses “ looked for the recompense of reward." God is said to "recompense" to his afflicted people. "rest with the apostles.”. And, in the passage before us, the command “be strong," is enforced by a promise, that dutiful exertion shall be abundantly rewarded. The idea intended to be conveyed by these, and similar expressions, cannot be, that the blessings are merited by the exertion to which they are promised as a reward. The connection established between the exertion and the blessing, is a connection originating in sovereign appointment. Previous to the promise, no man, even though he had done the duty, could have laid claim to the reward; and the strength necessary to the discharge of the duty is obviously the gift of God. Yet the language is far from being either unmeaning or obscure. It teaches us, that, without the discharge of the duty enjoined, the promised blessing will not be bestowed; and that the benefit will be conferred in a degree proportioned to the dutiful exertion made for its acquisition.
In the Christian doctrine of rewards, thus understood, while there is nothing incongruous with the strictly gratuitous nature of all the blessings of salvation, we have a striking proof, that, in the scheme of man's redemption, advantages apparently inconsistent are conjoined; for while every rising emotion of pride
and self-glorying is repressed by the consideration that all is of grace, all the energies of our nature, which depend on the principle of interest, are called forth into exercise in promoting our sanctification, by the prospect of the gracious recompence of reward. Having thus, in order to prevent mistakes, shortly explained the nature of those rewards which God bestows on his people, I proceed to shew how the active and vigorous discharge of Christian duty is usually rewarded. The work of God's people is rewarded both in the
present and in a future state. 1st, The work of God's people is rewarded in the present state.
On a cursory view, the present state of things appears a kind of moral chaos, where one event happens to all, where good and evil are dispensed with a careless hand, and happiness and misery alternately and indiscriminately are the lot of the righteous and the wicked. A closer inspection will however convince us, that there are design and order amid apparent chance and confusion, that there is a system of moral government administered even here, that
verily there is a reward for the righteous, that verily there is a God who judgeth in the earth.” The modes in which God rewards the work of his people are very diversified.
Sometimes he recompens-es their dutiful exertions, by worldly prosperity; sometimes by the success with which he crowns their labours ; uniformly by an increased degree of internal peace, and a more confirmed hope of eternal happiness.
God does not always reward his people's dutiful exertions by temporal prosperity, for temporal prosperity is not in every case a blessing. It is not every good man who can withstand its temptations, and where it seduces into sin, it is certainly not a blessing, but a
Yet still in many cases the work of the saints is rewarded by external blessings. Under that pecu