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trifle.” We have also a great many proofs, that, in the opinion of the old poets, fate and fortune were precisely the same; one instance whereof we meet with in the following passage ; " Fortune and fate, Pericles, are the givers of all that man enjoys.”
And, instead of the terms fate and fortune, they sometimes used the word necessity. But all these were but other names, though ill chosen, for providence. Euripides, having said a great deal concerning fate or necessity, at last resolves the whole into this ; “ Jupiter executes with thee all he had decreed before." And Homer's words are very remarkable. Jupiter,” says he, “increases or diminishes the valour of men, as he thinks proper; for he is the most powerful of all.” And in another place; “ Jove from Olympus distributes happiness to good and bad men in general and every one in particular, as he himself thinks proper.”
Let us therefore look upon God as our Father, and venture to trust him with our all. Let us ask and beg of him what we want, and look for supplies from no other quarter. This the indulgent father in Terence desired; and much more our heavenly Father. And surely every thing is better conducted by a dutiful love and confidence, than by an ignoble and servile fear; and we are very injurious both to him and ourselves, when we think not, that all things on his part are managed with the greatest goodness and bounty. It is a true test of religion and obedience, when with honourable thoughts and a firm confidence in our Father, we absolutely depend upon him and serve bim from a principle of love.
Be not,” says Augustine, “a froward boy in the house of the best of fathers, loving him when he is fond of thee, and bating him when he gives thee chastisement; as if in both cases, he did not intend to provide an inheritance for thee.” If we suppose this Providence to be the wisest and the best, it is necessary that in every instance our wills should be perfectly submissive to its designs; otherwise we prefer our own pleasure to the will of heaven, which appears very unnatural. St. Augustine on the expression, upright in heart, which we frequently meet with in the psalms, makes an excellent observation. “ If you cheerfully embrace,” says he, “the divine will in some things, but in
others would rather prefer your own, you are crooked in heart, and would not have your crooked inclinations conformed to his upright intentions ; but, on the contrary, would bend bis upright will to yours."
of Christ the Saviour. It is acknowledged, that the publication of the gospel is exceeding agreeable, and perfectly answers its original name, which signifies good tidings. How much sweeter is this joyful news, than the most ravishing and delightful concerts of music! Nay, these are the best tidings that were ever heard in any age of the world. O happy shepherds, to whom this news was sent down from heaven! Ye, to be sure, though watching in the fields, exposed to the severe cold of the night, were, in this, more happy than kings that slept at their ease in gilded beds; that the wonderful nativity of the supreme King, begotten from eternity, that nativity which brought salvation to the whole world, was first communicated to you, and just at the time it happened. Behold, says the angel, I bring you glad tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people ; for unto you is born this day a Sariour. And immedidiately a great company of the heavenly host joined the angel, and in your hearing sung Glory to God in the highest. And indeed then, in the strictest truth, “A most extraordinary child was sent down from the lofty heavens,” Whence also his name was sent down along with him; His name shall be called Jesus, for he shall save his people from their sins. ““ O sweet name of Jesus,” says St. Bernard, “ honey in the mouth, melody in the ears, and healing to the heart." This is the Saviour, who, though we were so miserable and so justly miserable, yet would not suffer us to perish. Nor did he only put on our nature, but also our sins, that is, in a legal sense, our guilt being transferred to him. Whence we not only read, that the Word was made flesh, but also, that he was made sin for us, who knew no sin ; and even that he was made a curse, that from him an eternal blessing and felicity might be derived to us. The spotless Lamb of God bore our sius,
that were devolved upon him : by thus bearing them, he destroyed them; and by dying for them, gained a complete victory over death. And how wonderful is the gradation of the blessings be procured for us! He not only delivered us from a prison and death, but presents us with a kingdom; according to that declaration of the psalmist, Who redeemeth thee from destruction; who crowneth thee with lovingkindness and tender mercies.
I believe there are none so stupid or insensible, as to refuse that these tidings are very agreeable and pleasing to the ear; but we may, yot without some reason, suspect of the greatest part of nominal Christians, who commonly receive these truths with great applause, that it may be said to them, without any injustice, what is all this to you? These privileges are truly great and manifold, and directed alike to all to whom they are preached, unless they reject them and shut the door against happiness offering to come in.. And this is not only the case of a great part of mankind, but they also impose upon thenselves by false hopes, as if it were enough to hear of these great blessings, and dream themselves happy because these sounds have reached their ears. But, o unhappy men, what will all these immense riches signify to you, I must indeed say, if you are not allowed to use them, or rather, if you know not how to avail yourselves of them? I therefore earnestly wish that these words of the gospel were well fixed in your minds; He was in the world, and the world was made by him, and the world knew him not. He came unto his own, and his own received him not ; but as many as received him, to them
to become the sons of God. John, i. 10.12. In him are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge; and without him there is nothing but emptiness, because in him all fulness dwells. But what advantage can it be to us to hear these riches of our Jesus spoken of at great length and to excellent purpose, or even to speak of them ourselves, if, all the while, we talk of them as a good foreign to us, and in which we have no concern, because our hearts are not yet open to receive him? What, pray, would the most accurate description of the Fortunate Islands, as they are called, or all the wealth of the Indies and the New World with its golden mines, signify to a
poor man, half naked, struggling with all the rigours of cold and hunger ? Should one in these circumstances, I say, hear or read of these immense treasures, or should any one describe them to bim in the most striking manner, either by word of mouth or with the advantage of an accurate pen, can it be doubted, but that this empty display of riches, this phantom of wealth and affluence, would make his sense of want and misery the more intolerable; unless it be supposed, that despair had already reduced him to a state of insensibility? What further - enhances the misery of those who hear of this treasure and think it of no purpose, is this, that there is no one of them who is not miserable by choice, and a beggar in the midst of the greatest wealth ; and not only miserable by choice, but obstinately so, from an invincible and distracted fondness for the immediate causes of his misery; for “who but a downright madman would reject such golden offers ?"
To give a brief and plain state of the case-to those who sincerely and with all their hearts receive him, Christ is all things; to those who receive him not, nothing; for how can any good, however suitable or extensive, be actually enjoyed, or indeed any such enjoyment conceived, without some kind of union between that good and the person supposed to stand in need of it? Behold, says the psalmist, all those that are far from thee, shall perish. To be united to God is the great and the only good of mankind; and the only means of this union is Jesus. In whatever sense you take it, he ought truly to be called the union of unions ; who, that he might with the greater consistency and the more closely unite our souls to God, did not disdain to unite himself to a human body.
The great business of our life, therefore, is this acceptance of Christ, and this inseparable union with him which we are now recommending. Thrice happy, and more than thrice happy, are they who are joined with bim in this undivided uniou, which no coinplaints, nor even the day of death can dissolve! Nay, the last day is happy above all other days for this very reason, that it fully and finally completes this union, and is so far from dissolving it, that it renders it absolutely perfect and everlasting.
But that it may be coeval with eternity and last for ever, it is absolutely necessary that this union should have
its beginning in this short and fleeting life. And pray, what hinders those of us that have not entered into this union before, to enter into it without delay; seeing the bountiful Jesus not only rejects none that come unto him, but also offers himself to all that do not wilfully reject him, and, standing at the door, earnestly begs to be admitted? O why do not these everlasting doors open, that the King of glory may enter and reign within us? Nay, though he were to be sought in a far country and with great labour, why should we delay, and what unhappy chains detain us? Why do we not, after shaking them all off and even ourselves, go as it were out of ourselves, and seek him incessantly till we find him? Then, rejoicing over him, say with the heavenly spouse, I held him, and would not let him go; and further add, with the same spouse, that blessed expression, My beloved is mine, and I am his. And indeed this interest is always reciprocal. No man truly receives Jesus, who does not at the same time deliver up himself wholly to him. Among all the advantages we pursue, there is nothing comparable to this exchange. Our gain is immense from both; not only from the acceptance of him, but also from surrendering ourselves to him. So long as this is delayed, we are the most abject slaves. When one has delivered himself up to Christ, then, and then only, he is truly free and becomes master of himself. Why should we wander about to no purpose? To him let us turn our eyes, on him fix our thoughts, that he who is ours by the donation of the Father and his own free gift, may be ours by a cheerful and joyous acceptance. As St. Bernard says on these words of the prophet, Unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given, • Let us therefore make use of what is ours, for our own advantage.” So then let him be ours by possession and use, and let us be his for ever, never forgetting how dearly he has bought us.