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THE CHRISTIAN WARFARE, AS CONNECTED WITH -DESPONDENCY.
If there be, whose tender frames have drooped
Infer not hence a hope from those withheld
O, no, full oft the innocent sufferer sees
Too clearly; feels too vividly; and longs
And over-constant yearning;-there, there lies
THE diseases to which the body is liable are numerous; and each of them demands a treatment, in some degree, peculiar to itself. The remedy in one case, would be destruction in another. Even when the same means are required, it is frequently with modifications, regulated, sometimes by the weakness or strength of the sufferer, sometimes by the stages or symptoms of the malady. Not unfrequently several forms of disease meet together, and call for a careful selection and apportionment of remedies, that disorder may not be increased in one shape by an injudicious attempt to subdue it in another. There are seasons, also, when distempers become
epidemic,-appearing in multitudes at the same time, denoting the unusual prevalence of causes conducing to such effects. And often it happens that the most accurate and comprehensive knowledge, the most enlarged experience, and the soundest judgment, prove unavailing. Disease obtains the mastery; and its victims are levelled with the dust.
But it is not sufficiently remembered, that the diseases of the mind are as numerous, as varied by circumstances, and as complicated, as are those of the body. These also have their epidemic seasons— intervals in which folly or vice, under some particular form, is seen to break forth like the plague: and it needs scarcely be added, that the results of such outbreaks are beyond expression more awful than those attendant on the most distressing inroads of natural sickness. There is no fever so painful in its effects, as that which is frequently produced by a dominance of sensual and ungodly propensities; nor is there any grave so terrible as that to which the lost spirit is consigned!
The mind, then, needs a physician, as much as our inferior nature; and to be this physician is the province of the Christian minister. Sin, in its manifold appearances, is the malady he has to detect to this end he is to employ all his knowledge, his experience, and discernment. And when all is done, he is to exclaim, Who is sufficient for these things? The evils against which he has to provide are subject to the ever-changing feelings
and circumstances of those about him; and what man can hope to meet them with all the wisdom, the promptitude, and the energy which they demand? It is true we are now speaking of recoveries, which happily do not depend on the skill of man: still, the aid which is promised from above, has been promised only in connexion with the use of suitable and prescribed means. The success of the word of God is to be in the thing whereto he has sent it; to every man his portion in its season. Here, then, is the difficulty-to select the proper means in each particular case, to administer them properly; and to do this with a due feeling of dependance on supernatural aid. It is certain that the men who have thought most profoundly on these matters, and have been longest conversant with them, are ever the least satisfied with their own proficiency, and the most earnest in entreating that the divine forgiveness may be extended to their errors and defects.
We have been led into this train of remark, from considering the peculiar caution required in administering to that state of mind which will claim our attention in the present chapter. Our first object will be to describe the state intended by the term Despondency; we shall then notice some of its probable Causes; and, lastly, the means by which we should endeavour to rise above its influence.
I. We may discern something of what is included
in religious despondency, by considering THE
NATURE OF THE OBJECTS ON WHICH THE CHRISTIAN IS
REQUIRED TO FIX HIS HOPE, since it is in the absence of hope, or, at best, in the reduced power of it with regard to those objects, that the state of mind intended consists. It is affirmed in scripture, that God delighteth in mercy; that he pardoneth iniquity, transgression, and sin; and that he is willing to cancel the guilt of the most unrighteous, the most wicked, who cast themselves on the abundance of his compassion. Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as wool; though they be red like crimson, they shall be whiter than snow. As I live, saith Lord, I have no pleasure in the death of the sinner, but rather that he should turn from his evil ways and live. It is affirmed also, that the mercy which thus abundantly pardons, has made the same ample provision for the instruction, the renovation, and the peace of the soul; that it is the office of the Holy Spirit to exhibit the truth, in its beauty and importance, to the understanding, and to apply it to the heart, so as there to induce by it repentance, holiness, and everlasting consolation. Thus the Spirit is said to convince of sin, to shew to us the things of Christ, and is especially designated the Sanctifier and the Comforter. And if ye, being evil, said Jesus, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your heavenly Father give his Holy Spirit to them that ask it? The scriptures farther assure us, that the lot assigned to believers on earth is invariably
the best that could have been assigned to them, the arrangements of infinite wisdom being so adjusted as to cause all things pertaining to the present state of such persons to work together for their good. Hereafter they are to awake in the likeness of Him who created and redeemed them; their knowledge, their purity, their blessedness, all being complete, and secured for ever from the possibility of failure or injury. In the meanwhile, they may be led through ways of which they had not heard, and paths which they had not known; but their leader has said that his strength shall be perfected in their weakness; that in his time he will make darkness light before them, and crooked things straight; that these things he will do for them, and never leave them nor forsake them.
Such, in substance, are the objects, or the facts, to which our hopes, as the disciples of Jesus Christ, have an immediate reference. We seek We seek mercy to pardon, and grace to help-we would lay hold on eternal life; and we seek these things, through confidence in those scriptures which assure us that whosoever seeketh findeth. It is not thus, however, with the desponding Christian. He can go through the whole land of the promises, and though so fruitful to others, may find it all barrenness to himself. The guilt he has contracted, the sinfulness of his heart, the many troubles which encircle him, all appear as unmixed unrelieved evils. The darkness about him is a thick darkness, through which scarcely a ray of hope can penetrate.