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this distinguished people,--this only happy part of the human race? It may be ascertained: the nature of the forming influence is made known in Scripture, affording a criterion by which to examine ourselves. In the Old Testament it is described as the removal of a stony heart, the bestowal of an heart of flesh, the putting of his Spirit within, and writing his law upon the mind. In the New it is called the partaking of a divine nature: old things have passed away from its subjects, behold all things are become new; it is a renewing of the man in knowledge, righteousness, and true holiness, after the image of him that created him,-a revelation of Christ in the heart,-a being born of the Spirit. We do not inquire whether this work has been experienced by our hearers to the full extent of the påssages quoted, and others of a similar bearing; such an attainment awaits the dissolution of the body; but have you tasted that the Lord is gracious ? Are you convinced of the vanity of those earthly things which men in general idolize, and do you ardently seek that heaven of purity and bliss présented in the pages of revelation ? Have you that faith which comes to the Saviour as poor, and wretched, and miserable, and blind, and naked, for riches such as he only can bestow, and sight which he only can give, and a justifying covering to the soul, and cleansing grace ? Then are ye under his forming operations, and he will perfect that which concerneth you, and will not forsake the works of his own hands.
O the inestimable favour! My brethren, highly prize it, be docile under his tuition, willing subjects to his sway, and patient under his care; grieve him not by petulance; you may not comprehend all his workings; he may sometimes appear to move in mysterious ways in effecting in you the good pleasure of his will, but measure them not by your own reason; he is guided by infallible wisdom, therefore wait the issue and at all times trust him.
“ Blind unbelief is sure to err,
And scan his work in vain;
And he will make it plaiu.”
To afflict and perplex some of you ;—to withhold prosperity in temporal affairs, and to leave you oft in circumstances wherein it is difficult to provide things necessary and honest, whilst, into the laps of the wicked, with lavish profusion, he throws riches and ease, so that they are intoxicated with the increase of their corn, and wine, and possessions, may seem a strange way of forming you for himself; but remember, it is not solitary or peculiar in your case: he ever dealt thus with the chosen seed.
Consider once more the primary allusion of the text to the Jewish nation: “ This people have I formed for myself." Yet, how singular were the steps of his proceedings ! First, he bids Abram leave his kindred and father's house, and wander in a
foreign land;-again, the heads of the twelve tribes go down into Egypt, and endure the severest bondage four hundred years ;-afterwards the tribes are ordered into a waste, howling wilderness ;-and, to omit similar measures, he pronounces the text with reference to that .community as they were about to go captive into Babylon, to have their nobles slain, their temple and city destroyed, and to be, in all appearance, blotted out as a nation. These Jews, however, returned, and were reinstated in their country and the glory of their worship: consequently there was no abandonment of the professions in the text. The ways of God in that case were justified to men, and will be equally so in all dispensations affecting us.
Ye have seen gold as it comes from the mine, how incorporated with baser substances,-ye have seen metal that has lain by without proper care, how covered with incrustations, -ye have seen stone as it comes from the quarry, how rough and shapeless! Such were ye! What length of labour then is requisite, and what processes must we undergo, to become pure and bright, and stones polished and built up a heavenly temple! All things must work together for good, to answer the requirements of such a work; all that transpires must therefore be beneficial in the whole; all the events of life, and among the rest, afflictions of every kind, are instruments by which the Divine Artificer forms you for himself; his grace renders all effectual, and the saints shall show forth his praise.
Would you, my hearers, understand how the body of Christ, the spiritual seed, the invisible Church, exhibit the glory of God and promote his praise? Would you have the fullest conviction and clearest apprehension of that which Scripture here affirms? Then take the pinions of faith, which easily outstrip the velocitude of moments, winds, and lightnings, and place yourselves at the goal where human ages shall have finished their destined rounds ;-behold the opening visions ;- see graves laid open, and sepulchres and tomb-stones rent away ;-see myriads of seraph forms rising thence into the air, hailing thc advent of the descending Judge, shouting as they mount, “Hallelujah! for the Lord is come, and time shall be no more !" see them ranged on golden seats at his right hand, and rising with acclaim to second his decisions, which fix the destinies of worlds ;-mark their triumphant entry into the regions of the real Canaan ;-behold the Saviour presenting them to the Father, as his spoils of holy conquest, and the Father's smiles, shedding new bliss through all their shining ranks ;-behold them drinking for ever at living fountains, feeding for ever on heaven's ambrosial plains ;- see them serving God day and night in his temple, with Jesus in their midst, the heaven of heavens in jubilee at the accumulation of its worshippers, and angels joyfully transported at the unusual sound in those happy realms of ten thousand times ten thousand human tongues singing in sweetest, fullest, loudest concert, the song of Moses and the Lamb.
Now then, to perceive in this consummation the exhibition of Jehovah's praise, retrace their origin, and mark their primeval character. Some of them the most depraved of their species, and apparently less than human in the filthiness of their habits and the ignorance of their minds, and say who can define the height, and depth, and length, and breadth of that grace, or speak the value of that blood, which could blot out their sins, numerous as the stars, or the sands upon all the margins of all the seas, and rising in mountains to the clouds.
Think you see them:-sabbath breakers, swearers, liars, enemies to God by wicked works, sensual and unclean, and what language, think you, or conception, can reach the power which recovered from such courses, destroyed the love of them, wrote upon their hearts and lives holiness to the Lord, rendered them proof against innumerable temptations, rendered them more than a match for Satan's force and subtilty, and at length fit to be partakers of the sanctity and joys that reign in God's imme
Look again at their former iniquities, and imagining them confirmed in the glories of the New Jerusalem, estimate, if it be possible, the wisdom that brought them to their present felicity in a way that advanced the honour of the broken law, and rendered more striking and illustrious the holiness and justice of the Deity; yet says the Apostle, “ You hath he quickened who were before dead in