« PreviousContinue »
to enthrone in our hearts him whom his Father hath enthroned in the heaven of heavens. Preëminence ! Shall we give it to the world that hated him, to the devil that tempted him, to the sins that crucified him? Gracious God, forbid ! Let Jesus have the preëminence! Help us, Lord, to love thee best, to serve thee first, to follow thee, leaving all to follow thee. If, in one sense, we cannot say, Whom have I in heaven but thee, because there we may have father and mother, brother and sister, and sweet children whom we loved, and love still, and will rejoice again to embrace, we would say, Thou art the chiefest among ten thousand, thou art altogether lovely. If, in one sense, we cannot say, There is none upon earth that I desire beside thee, we would say, there is none on all the earth that I desire before thee, nor deem equal to thee. Blessed Lord, thy love to me was wonderful, passing the love of women. To thee, as the sun of my firmament, may the moon and stars make obeisance; to thee, as the needle to its pole, may my trembling heart be ever turning ; to thee, as the waters seek the ocean, may my desires be ever flowing. Bend every sheaf to Joseph's! Jesus, the best be thine, the honor thine, the glory thine, the kingdom thine. The feast to thee, the fragments to others. This ever be my question, not What can I spare from myself for Christ, but What can I spare from Christ for myself? Be thou preferred above my chief joy. In all things have thou the preëminence !
It pleased the Father, that in Him should all fullness dwell.-
COLOSSIANS i. 19.
OUR happiness depends in a very small degree upon what is external to us. Its springs lie deep within ; like those waters that, warm in winter and cold in summer, have their fountains bordered with evergreen grass. Yet, how common it is to think otherwise ! Hence the keen pursuit of pleasure, lovers’ sighs, war's fierce ambition, the student's patient labor as he feeds his midnight lamp with the oil of life, the panting race for riches, the desperate struggles some make to keep themselves from sinking into poverty, and the toil and trouble others endure, to say nothing of the sins which these may alike commit, to rise in the world, as it is called—to keep a better table, to wear a better dress, to live in a better house than satisfied their humble, but happier parents. These paths, crowded and beaten down though they be by the feet of thousands who are treading on each other's heels, never yet conducted any man to happiness. Never. It lies in another direction. Whatever be his condition, be he poor or rich, pining on a sick bed or with health glowing on his cheek, to be married or to be hanged to morrow
Blessed,” or, as we should say, Happy, “is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. Blessed
is the man unto whom the Lord imputeth not iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no guile.”
The way to happiness does not lie in attempting to bring our circumstances up to our minds, but our minds down to our circumstances. Many birds wear a finer coat than the lark, nor is there any that dwells in a lowlier home ; yet which of the feathered songsters soars so high, or sings so merrily, or teaches man so well how to leave the day's cares and labors for the bosom of his family, as when, neither envying the peacock his splendid plumage, nor the proud eagle her lofty realm, it drops singing into its grassy nest, to caress its young, and with its wings to shield them from the cold dews of night? To indulge an unsanctified and insatiable ambition, to attempt to bring our circumstances up to our minds, is to fill a sieve with water, or the grave with dead, or the sea with rivers. The passions that in such a case seek gratification, are like that wretched drunkard's thirst; they burn the fiercer for indulgence, and crave for more the more they get. It is often difficult, I grant, to bring our minds down to our circumstances, but he attempts not a difficult, but an impossible thing, who attempts to bring his circumstances up to the height of his ambition. Nature, says the old adage, is contented with little, grace with less, lust with nothing. And ours be the happiness of him who, content with less than little, pleased with whatever pleases the Father, careful for nothing, thankful for anything, prayerful in everything, can say with Paul, I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content.
Before directing your attention to the fullness that is in Christ, let me embrace the opportunity which the expression offers of exhorting you.
I. To be pleased with whatever pleases God.
I have read of an Italian who had learned that difficult lesson so well, that all who witnessed his magnanimity, under the most adverse fortunes, stood astonished. He recalled to men's minds the grand saying of an old heathen, that a good man struggling with adversity was a sight for the gods to look at. It was not that his natural temper was too sweet to be soured or too phlegmatic to be moved ; nor was it that, like a coldblooded animal, he did not feel the iron when it entered his soul. No. He felt it keenly, and bore it bravely ; and the secret of his tranquil, heroic patience lay in these four things. First, he said, I look within me, then without me, afterwards beneath me, and last of all, I look above me.
First, he looked within him; and what saw he there? Corruption, guilt, so much unworthiness, as led him to conclude that he deserved no good thing at the hand of God; and that, therefore, whatever blessings his calamities had left to him, were more than he had any right to expect. We write our blessings on the water, but our afflictions on the rock. Those are forgot, these are remembered ; and yet, if we turn away our eyes from our trials, and look back on our lives and in upon our hearts, how would that check each rising rebellious murmur ? Gratitude would temper our grief ; and though we might continue to mourn, we should say with David, I will sing of mercy and judgment ?
Next, he looked without him, and there he saw, what you all may see, many more severely tried than himself; thousands in point of merit not more unworthy, yet in point of circumstances much more unhappy.
Would it not help to clear away the vapours, and rebuke the discontent, and improve the temper of some grumblers among us, were they now and then to visit the sad abodes of wretchedness and poverty ?
It would certainly teach them how thankful they ought to be that they are not as many are, and how thankful many would be to be as they are. Have I not seen many a poor wretch in this world who would gladly change places with those of you that are most weary of your burdens, and almost weary of your life. How has it reconciled us to the discomforts of a cold, blustering storm on land, to think of the poor seamen who were tossing on the deep in dread of shipwreck, or hanging on by the shrouds, or whelmed in the ocean, their last prayer washed from their lips, their cries for help drowned in the roar of breakers. When we lay stretched on a bed of sickness, with kind faces around us, angels, as it were, ministering to our wants, it has helped to reconcile us to the weary pillow to think of them who, far from home, lay bleeding on the battlefield, none near to raise their drooping head, or to answer their dying cry of “water, water!" And when death, unwelcome visitor, entered our home, ah! the one coffin felt less heavy, when, looking on sweet ones left, we thought of dwellings that the spoiler had, or had all but desolated. Such a thought has calmed the troubled breast, and said to murmuring passions, Peace, be still. . It is with its potent spell that in this humble cottage a pious peasant approaches a mother who, wringing her hands, hangs in wild, frantic, terrible grief, over the body of her dead babe; by the wildness of her passion, as a vehement wind beats down the sea, calming the grief of others. Laying her hand kindly on her shoulder, she says, with eyes full of tears,