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matter of experience that there is peace in believing.
Another occasion of difficulty in this matter, arises from THE POWER OF OUR REMAINING SINFULNESS, after all the gospel may have done within us. There are moments in which we feel deeply that our character is far below that which the scriptures pourtray as becoming the gospel; and when a comparison of our present state, with a state of meetness for the inheritance of the saints in light, produces the most painful discouragement. We have probably formed many good purposes; and have had seasons of devout aspiration, which have been to us like the beginnings of a celestial life. But this goodness has passed like the morning cloud and early dew. Sometimes we seem to read in vain, to hear in vain, and even to pray in vain. The seen and the temporal, threaten a total exclusion of the unseen and eternal; and the mind has no trivial work to perform, in confiding at all in those promises, which speak of a growth in grace, and of our awaking in the divine likeness. Under its brooding fears, and griefs, it is heard to exclaim-Will this, can this ever be?
In some minds, THE HISTORY OF THE NOMINAL CHURCH, does much to increase this spirit of distrust. That history, as generally presented to us, is little else than a gross libel upon Christianity. How severe is the trial of faith, sometimes produced by the story of nominally Christian nations,
and by the lives of the greater number of men who have called themselves Christians! And even where a few seem to be in earnest, as the professed disciples of the gospel, how much of pride, wrath, evil-speaking, and unchristian practice do we witness! Surely it is not wonderful, if in such a state of things, Satan should sometimes insinuate that the supposed work of grace upon the human heart is altogether a delusion.
But to all such suggestions, the Christian has to oppose the distinct statements, and faithful promises, of holy scripture. It is his happiness to remember, that however depraved Christian nations may be, nearly all that is good in them is the effect of their Christianity; and that however faulty the more serious professors of the gospel may be, it is still unquestionable that the righteous is more excellent than his neighbour. His graver reflection tells him, that even a nominal Christianity is better than paganism; and that the church, with all her blemishes, is almost a Paradise compared with the world. He calls to mind, also, what the gospel has done upon human nature in different ages; and learns to hope, and believe, that these achievements will prove to have been only a kind of first-fruits, preceding its harvest of glory. It is true the state of his own heart is discouraging. Still, on comparing the past with the present, he can hardly fail to see that he is a different, and certainly a much better man, since brought under the influence of the gospel. He is reminded that
the struggle between the evil and the good in his nature has been common to all believers; that even in the first churches, the imperfections of professors were often but too notorious; and that the Saviour, who compared the religion of his people to a bruised reed and smoking flax, has said, that he will not despise its day of small things. By the memory of such facts, the drooping are often cheered; the trembling invigorated; while a rising hope disposes to the exercise of prayer and praise.
It should be observed also, that AFFLICTION, not unfrequently, impedes the exercise of faith. Even good men often fail to perceive the necessity or the reason of their sufferings, especially if they happen to be weighty and continuous; and are generally taken by surprise with regard to much in the nature and the circumstances of the evils that befall them. From these causes they are sometimes tempted to entertain hard thoughts of God, and to write bitter things against themselves. There are moments in which they can become distrustful, or apprehensive, as to the benevolence of the power from which they are receiving so much of what is painful. Or if possessing too deep a sense of their unworthiness to consider themselves severely dealt with, they are then in danger of judging their afflictions to be penal, and of looking to the displeasure of the Almighty as threatening to consume them. In either case, faith is impaired, or wholly supplanted by the disturbed
state both of the feelings and of the understanding. The truth with respect to the divine nature, and the compassion breathed in the promises, are made ineffectual, through the excitement and misgiving of which the sufferer has become the subject. It was such a state of mind that led Job to pray, Shew me wherefore thou contendest with me; which taught Jacob to exclaim, Joseph is not, and Simeon is not, and ye will take Benjamin away; all these things are against me. It was under a similar impulse that Asaph uttered his lamentation-My soul refuseth to be comforted. I remembered God and was troubled. I complained, and my spirit was overwhelmed. Thou holdest mine eyes waking: I am so troubled that I cannot speak. Will the Lord cast off for ever? and will he be favourable no more? Is his mercy clean gone for ever? does his promise fail for evermore? Hath God forgotten to be gracious? Hath he in anger shut up his tender mercies?
In opposing this unhappy state of feeling, the Christian has to remember that there is nothing peculiar in what has befallen him; nothing which the scriptures themselves, properly considered, would not have led him to anticipate; nothing which it does not behove him to regard as of divine appointment, or permission. Nor is he allowed to forget, that if the cup assigned to him has many bitter ingredients, it might have had more; while the season marked by the greatest privation, has left not a few of his mercies untouched. To
the general assurance, that all things pertaining to the present, are parts of an arrangement, made by infinite wisdom and benevolence with reference to the future, he has to add a careful recollection of the fact, that much of what belongs to this arrangement must necessarily be strange to him, from the circumstance of his manifold ignorance with regard to the present, and of his still greater ignorance as to the state which is to follow. What is done with a view to provide against the evils which beset us on earth, and to prepare us for the good reserved in heaven, must be very imperfectly understood by us, so long as our acquaintance with these evils, and with that heaven, shall be so defective. But however novel, and unanticipated, the divine dispensations may be, the believer is called upon to remember, that he shall not be tempted above what he is able to bear;-the aids of divine grace being all-sufficient. Reflections of this nature constitute the force with which the Christian meets the spirit of hesitation, murmuring, and despondency. Thus aided, he stands in the evil day; and can perhaps say, with a veteran of ancient time,—Though he slay me, yet will I trust him.
The inference which must be deduced from the subject of this chapter, as to the present state of human nature, is an unwelcome one. Men find it hard, sometimes even the best of men,-to avoid rejecting the testimony of their Maker. With perfect natures, the act of confiding in God is the