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It is impossible that you can trifle with sin, it is impossible that you can go on unlawful ground, without grieving the Holy Spirit. You may fall, and you may rise again : but, if you go out of the way, you take consequences on yourself; and, if you meet an enemy there, you are on unconsecrated ground. And we are not ignorant of his devices: we know how he presents before you the innocence of this, and the harmlessness of that : there is no danger at all in making such and such experiment! there is no contagion in the breath of wicked men! there is no harm at all in trying how far some new-fangled doctrine may lead ! Be cautious of making atteinpts, where there is so much danger. The path of duty is the path of safety. Be cautious, therefore, of grieving the Holy Spirit of promise, by going out of the way, when it is evident who is the counsellor, when it is evident that Satan is endeavouring to surprise you off God's ground.
Nor should you give way to a repining spirit: “How sad a way! How painful the impression God is making, in his providence! so that I seem rather like an offender punished, than a child brought into his family!" Do you know what effort it requires to stamp a medal? The very building will shake with the blow! You are led, perhaps, by a way that is not to your wish: it is not the way of ambition, but an humbling, sanctifying way, not approved of flesh and blood; but does it lead to God? does it stamp a character? If affliction put you upon praying; if it lead you to say, with Israel, ‘I will return unto my first husband, for then was it better with me than now;' if it does this, remember, that, though the stroke of a sanctified affliction may be very heavy, though the stamping of the character may make flesh and blood rebel, yet you will bless God through eternity that he would even thus stamp his image on you—that he would even thus make you meet for the inheritance, of which he had already given you an earnest.
2. Let me SUGGEST A CAUTION RESPECT TO THIS EARNEST.
A seal is not to be disputed, because it is not perfect. Take a case, which occurs almost daily. You receive a letter, or a bond : the seal has been affixed to it—the true seal : but the impression is not perfect. Do you doubt the reality of the seal, because the impression was not complete? No; you say, “ It might have been sealed better, but it is a true seal." In a counterfeit seal, the impression may be strong and well defined; yet the seal is good for nothing-a counterfeit-it wants authenticity!
But, in the case before us, the Judge can neither deceive, nor be deceived. If you are led to God, and stamped with the character which God describes as belonging to his children; though it may be imperfect, though but little of the impression may appear, yet let us rejoice that it is a genuine impression. A man of integrity, whose heart is really affected, may well lament that he does not come nearer the true character; yet let him take heed how he “despises the day of small things.'
3. It appears from the text, that HE, THAT HATH THIS SEAL MAY REST SECURE OF THAT INHERITANCE OF WHICH IT IS AN EARNEST. Which,' says the Apostle, 'is the earnest of your inheritance.'
"Of his own will, God has made the impression. I cannot make it. Of all the means of speaking that I can devise, with all the consciousness that I have of the importance of the thing, I cannot make an impres
I sion on your hearts, and you are witnesses that I cannot. You know how long-how many years—some of you have heard these truths in this place, without any impression at all! You have lived like the rest of the world! Who then makes the impression where it is made? God: "that Holy Spirit of promise, who is to convince the world of sin, of righteousness, and of judgment. Of his own will begat he us :' he has VOL. ll.
impressed our hearts. Christ has purchased the possession, and the Holy Spirit applies it, and gives the earnest of it. If we are sealed, it is by his will.
God, therefore, by his prophet, seems to say, “Lift up your eyes : look around : behold the starry heavens: they shall · vanish like smoke: they shall wax old as doth a garment:' they shall be folded together, and thrown aside, as a worn-out vesture. But 'my righteousness shall remain for ever: my salvation shall never be abolished. Every thing which you see shall pass away: but my sealing shall never be destroyed."
A theatre may charm the eye with the variety of its scenes; and, for the moment, a man may imagine. himself on enchanted ground: but, if he feels that he has in his possession the earnest of some inheritance, on which he builds his hope and expectation for future life; if he has a pledge about him, however small, that such and such an estate is purchased for him and conveyed to him; by that earnest he recollects himself, and says, “ These are pretty things-pleasing to the eye: but-but they are not like my pledge! They are things that have a glare, and seem to suit the senses for a moment or two; but they are not the solid property of which I am possessed. When gone by, therefore, I care not about them: the pledge, the earnest, is all my felicity!"
! That you and I may feel thus toward our heavenly inheritance, and enjoy it in prospect in time, and in possession through eternity, may God grant for Jesus Christ's sake!
HEBREWS, XII, 5, 6.
Ye have forgotten the Exhortation which speaketh unto you as unto
children, My son, despise not thou the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when thou art rebuked of him : for whom the Lord loveth, he chasteneth; and scourgeth every son, whom he receiveth.
Among the variety of subjects, on which a Minister is called to treat, many may suit particular cases; but, when he speaks of Affliction, he speaks of that which is sure to interest every one, at one period or other of their lives. When affliction comes, they will, perhaps, remember what has been said with reference to their case; for man is born to trouble, as the sparks fly upward.
But it appears from the passage before us, that persons are perplexed in their afflictions, chiefly because they forget the exhortation which speaketh unto them as unto children.' To Christians, more particularly, these words are addressed: God, treating them as his children, calls on them not to “despise the chastening of the Lord, nor to faint when they are rebuked ;' and that, because it is his common method of proceeding—the dispensation of the Christian--that, whom the Lord loveth, he chasteneth ; and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth."
From the words of the text, without having any respect to the particular case of the Hebrew converts to whom they were addressed, we shall consider,
1. That it is THE HIGH PRIVILEGE OF A CHRISTIAN, THAT HIS AFFLICTIONS, WHATEVER THEY MAY BE, ARE BUT THE DISCIPLINE OF A FATHER.
2. The two DANGEROUS EXTREMES CONCERNING WHICH WE ARE ADMONISHED IN THE TEXT, and into which men are apt to fall under this parental chastisement: My son, DESPISE THOU Not: and, My son, FAINT NOT under it.
I. We are to consider the high PRIVILEGE of a Christian : that his afflictions are but the discipline of a father.
The Apostle here states the common case of Christians. Every one of them is brought into the privilege of the sons of God, and treated as such. are Christ's,' says the Apostle, “then are ye Abraham's seed. To as many as received him, to them gave he the privilege to become the sons of God. They are spoken of as having been chosen of old, received into the family of heaven, and treated as children sent to school, under education preparing for glory. They may be, for a time, under great trials. They may be tried as the widow was by the unjust judge, when she came to be avenged of her adversary: Hear,' said our Lord, “what the unjust judge saith: Lest this woman trouble me by her continual coming, I will avenge her: and shall not God avenge his own elect, that cry day and night unto him ?'
Fatherly chastisement, therefore, is inseparably connected with the adoption of children, and the love that God bears to them. If then a Christian should say, Why am I thus ? and why do such afflictions thus surround me?"-the answer is evident: Because you have a father, and because it is his method : Whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth: If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not? But, if ye
be without chastisement, whereof all are partakers, then are ye bastards, and not sons.' You have then no