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TRUE GRATITUDE EXEMPLIFIED.
103 are above him, he will be more concerned to exert it in behalf of others than for himself. Notwithstanding all this prophet's faithful reproots of Jelioram, - from his interposition in behalf of himself and his army, we may conclude that he would stand high in the esteem of that prince and the captain of his host. The good man therefore inquires if he can do any thing rin either of these for the family? But when he is informed wat peace and contentment were their lot, and that their earthly happiness could only be increased by an heir to their estate and to their amiable qualities, the prophet pleads that this family might increase as a flock: and immediately he hands her from his God a proinise of a son. How effectual is the prayer of a righteous man! Though he be ever so poor, his petitions may bring down showers of blessings upon our heads, our beats, and our houses. The greatest kindness we can discover towards our friends and benefactors, is to pray for them.
Finally, What an invaluable blessing is a contented mind! One who exhorts us to“ be content with such things as we have," assures us, from his own experience, that he“ hrad learnedd, in whatsoever state he was, therewith to be content;" and this woman seems to have drank deep into that spirit.
“I dwell," said she, “ among mine own people.” It was evident, she was not high-minded, nor sought great things for herself, or her lusband. She dwelt in a state of the inost friendly intercourse with all around her; many of whom had been the companions. of her youth. She was “ sober” in her desires,- " loved her husband, was discreet, chaste, and one that kept at home *." Not like that person described by Solomon :-* As a bird that wandereth from her nest, so is a inan that wandereth trom his place t.” He pursues happiness; but seeks it in a wrong situation. On the contrary, this woman was happy at home, and had“ many friends, for she shewed herselt friendly:" or, by" her own people,” she might intend the godly. She was a companion for those that feared God (and probably such were to be found even in Shunam). With her, “ godliness, with contentment, was great gain;" and good people, she esteemed as her people ; accounting such “the excellent of the earth. with whom she had hier delight." From the whole, we learn, – that neither poverty and piety, nor greatness and godliness are incompatible with each other; and that as contentnicht in that divine art which we all need learn, so God alone can etlectually teach it.
AGNU. * Titus ii. 5, 6.
† Prov. xxvii. 8.
Am I justified in absenting myself from the table of the Lord, when I see those attend whom I conceive (froin their conduct) to be iinproper communicants ?
MINISTERS AND PARENTS,
RELIGIOUS INSTRUCTION OF YOUTH.
1. Are not children and youth important branches of families, congregations, and society?
2. Will not the rising generation be the chief actors in all hunan affairs, whether religious or civil, when we are removed to another world?
3. Ought we not to use all our influence then, to prevent their being evil workers ? and prepare them to act their parts with comfort to their families, credit to themselves, usefulness to the church, and advantage to society ?
4. Is it not probable that a proper attention to their religious instruction, morals, and habits, may, under a divine blessing, check the growth of depraved passions, - prevent errors in doctrines, --- lead 10 stated attendances on religious worship, and, in the end, prove the humble means of the conversion of many ?
5. Have there not been innumerable instances of religious instruction being blessed to the conversion of youth ? and, if so, does it not justify us in expecting that God will bless siinilar means with the same success, in a smaller or greater degree?
6. Are not children and youth part of your charge? and are you not bound to do something to promote their spiritual in- . terest? 7. Have not the wisest and best of men, in all
recommended the religious instruction of youth? and particularly the catechizing of them in doctrines to be believed, and duties to be discharged?
8. Have you adopted this, or any other method you conceive better calculated to promote their moral and spiritual improvement ?
9. Have the children under your charge had that share of your attention and labour which they ought to have had ?
10. If they have not, are you not unfaithful to your trust? and will not their blood be required at your hands?
11. Is it too late to begin this long-neglected duty ? if not, are you not bound, by your relation to your family, to your flock, and your solemn engagements to God, as well as the account you inust render of your stewardship, to enter upon it without delay?
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It is good for a man that he bear the yoke in his youth.
Lain. iii. 21. The lot of Jeremiah was cast in troublesome times. He was called of God to foretell the calamities the Jews were to be subjected to when conquered, and led into captivity by the king, of Babylon. He lived to see the judgments executed which he had denounced; and was inspired by the Holy Ghost to bewail them. The Book of Lamentations exhibits Jeremiah sitting amidst the ruins of Zion; and, while his eyes ran down with water, deploring her desolations in the most melancholy strains, the spirit of cheerfulness and hope seems to have fled from his bosoin. The verses of this poem are evidently the wailings of an oppressed, nay, of a broken. heart. The gloomy scenes described in this book, have, perhaps, prevented it from being so frequently read as it ought to have been. As a piece of composition, it will bear to be compared with the most finished productions of elegiac poetry. It is calculated to invigorate our zeal for the civil and religious interests of our country, and to impress us with a sense of the malignant nature and ruinous tendency of sin ; - it abounds too with inany excellent sentiments, both of a devotional and moral cast. The sentiment on which we are now to make soine remarks, is certainly an important one, and well deserves to be seriously considered.
In other places of Scripture we find the benefits of affiction, to men in general, strongly stated; but this verse calls us to consider its peculiar advantages to the young. Young people have, in general, very opposite impressions of afHictions; and it may be of use to those who are in the early periods of life to demonstrate the truth of the assertion,“ That it is good for a man that he bear the yoke in his youth.”
1. Affliction humbles the pride of the young. To this sin they are in a peculiar manner liable. They are not thoroughly acquainted with the deficiencies of their own characters, and are ready to over-rate any excellence which they may possess. How ready are they to plume themselves on the graces of their bodies, - or the talents of their minds, or their connexions with the great, — or on the prospects of wealth or influence which are opened before them! The encomiums which are bestowed on ihem, when their first appearances in the world are respectable, tend greatly to cherish the spirit of pride. This disposition is hateful to God. If not checked, it will mark their conduct in life with ingratitude to Him, and with insolence and oppression to men. To check this spirit, God often visits the young with afflictions. By these they have been convinced of their entire dependence on God; and that to Him they owe all they have, and must look for all that they expect. When Nebuchadnezzar's heart was lifted up, and his mind hardened in pride, he was deposed from his kingly throne, and his glory was taken from him. He was driven from the sons of men, and his heart was made like the beasts', and his dwelling was with the wild asses. They fed him with grass, like oxen; and his body was wet with the dew of Heaven, — till he knew that the Most High ruleth in the kingdoms of men, and appointeth over thein whomsoever he will. Instances might be mentioned of young men, whose , conduct was marked with disgusting haughtiness and affectation, who, on the bed of sickness, and at the grave of departed friends, have learned to be meek and lowly in heart; and vho can now appeal to God, and say, “O Lord, my heart is not haughty, nor mine eyes lofty ; neither do I exercise myself in great matters, or in things too high for mé!" Affliction is one of the great means which God makes use of to hide pride from man.
2. Affliction corrects the extravagant expectations of the young. Their minds are prone to form high expectations of prosperity and success in life. The faney, at this period, is active and glowing ; nor is it restrained, in its operations, by the suggestions of judyinent, or by the dictates of experience. How often do they say, in their hearts, “ The work of our hands shall be established !”-“our exertions in our callings shall be patronized by the noble; - our characters shall meet with praise from men ; - health and peace shall perpetually reside with us in our dwellings!" In forining ideas of their path thro' life, they imagine it will be through flowery meadows, or over mountains of spices. They are unwilling to suppose that they shall be called to pass through the marsh or the desert. Such expectations are sinful and pernicious. They are sinful, because they are inconsistent with the arrangeinents of that Providence which has ordered it, that man is born to trouble ; and they are pernicious to ourselves, because, when distress comes, they give double weight to its stroke. To check such extravaa gant expectations in the bud, God often visits the young with trials. He says to thein, by the messengers of affliction, “Seek not great things for thyself - Remember the days of darkness, for they shall be many." The disappointments and trials with which God visits the young, tend to cherish that moderation in their wishes and pursuits, which bids fair to be productive of happiness: they awaken that caution which restrains the ardour of the fancy, and bring forward the suggestions of fear to check the flatteries of hope. The young are ready to iinagine, that God deals harshly with them when he afficts them; but, in thus crushing their extravagant hopes, he is saving them the enduring of much future misery. The pange thou feelest at present, may keep thee from after-pangs far more
ADVANTAGES OF AFFLICTION TO THE YOUNG. 107 severe, to which the indulgence of the delusive hopes of youth would have subjected thee.
3. Affliction restrains the young from sensual indulgences. To these they are often strongly solicited.
Even to pious Timothy, the apostle judged it necessary to address the exhortation, Flee from youthful lusts." Before the young, Pleasure displays all her attractions. She exhibits herself to them, decked in the gayest attire, with a countenance wearing the most enchanting smiles; and accosts them in language soft and fascinating, “ Rejoice, O young man, in thy youth ; and let thine heart cheer thee in the days of thy youth!” “I have decked my bed with covering of tapestry ;-I have perfumed it with myrrh, aloes, and cinnamon.” So powerful is the influence of the allurements of Pleasure over the hearts of the young,
that numbers of them have followed her to their ruin. Many of them have been led by her to the commission of crimes, against which Modesty, Reason, and Conscience lifted their voices in vain. Nothing more effectually counteracts the influence of Pleasure, than the rod of sanctified afflictions : by these the young have been formed to sobriety of mind; — by these they have been led to despise the pleasures of sin, as grovelling, transitory, and destructive. What attractions will the chair of the scorner, the bed of the harlot, or the song of the drunkard, have in the eye of him who is chastened with pain, and the multitude of his bones with strong pain! Does the young man, whom God places in the house of mourning, whom he calls to minister to a dying parent, to receive his last breath, and to commit his body to the grave, does he sigh after the house of feasting, or the assemblies of gaiety and dissipation? Were but a wish to mingle in such scenes, to start upon the bosom of an affectionate youth at a solemn period like this, he would reject it with utter abhorrence. The young who meet with trials, have reason to bless that hand which, by severe sickness, drives then from the paths of sensuality; for adorned though they are with lilies and roses, they are, in truth, the way to Hell, going down to the chambers of death. Whether think you, ye sons of youth, is it better to labour under the disease of a day? or to have the constitution broken by intemperance? Whether is it better to be stopped in the ways of sensuality ? or to be allowed to run on in them till a dart strikes through your liver, and your course terminates in the lake that burns with fire and brinestone ?
4. Affliction has sometimes been the means of conversion in youth. There have been many instances of young men who, like the prodigal, when reduced to want, have resolved that they would arise and go to their Father. In the season of atfliction, sin is brought to remembrance ; that levity of the mind is repressed, which is so unfriendly to moral seriousness, and death and the tribunal of God are brought into view. This has