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SERMON X.

THE CONDUCT OF THE FIRST CHRISTIANS IN THE SÚP

FERINGS OF THIS WORLD.

O LORD, if it please thee to lay upon us crosses and sufferings in thy service, lend us also the strength to bear them with patience, to the glory of thy name, and help us that we may always pray, with childlike resignation to thy counsels, “ Thy will be done;" do thou direct our looks, as we bear our cross, to the glories of the world to come, and let the comfort which thy holy word gives us be strong within us, when it proclaims to us that “ they that sow in tears shall reap in joy. He that goeth forth and weepeth, bearing precious seed, shall doubtless come again with rejoicing, bringing his sheaves with him.” And if there be any among us bowed down with sorrow, do thou, O Lord Jesus, raise up their broken spirits; for thou hast said, “ Come unto me all ye that travail and are heavy laden and I will refresh you." Amen.

Our life upon earth, my brethren, does not pass without crosses and sorrows. Although it be but a span of time which lies between the cradle and the grave, yet no one in this short life is free from trouble and labour, care and conflict, need and tribulation. Even the pureest piety is no protection against it; and it were a foolish madness for any one to suppose, that, in following Jesus Christ, he will be spared from all sorrow. Has not the Lord himself made this declaration, “ If any man will be my disciple, let him deny himself, and take up his cross and follow me.” And St Paul expressly declares, that “ through much tribulation we must enter into the kingdom of God.” And St Peter reminds Christians, “ Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you. Ín like manner, St James writes, “ My brethren count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience.” And in one of our church hymns we sing,

• Upon the cross were we redeemed,

The cross the Christian's mark shall be." Neither would it be good if all were sunshine. Tempests, storm, and rain, are frequently both necessary and beneficent; and who knows whether more true Christians are not formed in the school of the cross, than in the school of good fortune and happiness, and whether we shall not, throughout eternity, thank God more for the sorrows by which he has drawn us to himself, than for the pleasures which we have here enjoyed, and which so easily draw aside weak and sinful men from the one thing needful, and entangle them in the toils of worldliness.

Moreover, sorrows are a precious touchstone to prove our faith, our love, our hope. How many a one flatters himself that he is a true Christian, and that he stands firm in the faith. He cleaves externally to the Lord and his church. He honours and loves his word, hears it willingly and industriously, and walks in all honesty before the world. But things go well with him, he has no necessities, no sorrows; no sacrifice is required from him, and with joyful heart he sings with the church,

“ All that God does is just and good." With such consolation he comforts others who are compelled to suffer many things. But suddenly the star of his fortune sinks; now the cross is laid upon him, and now it is plainly shewn that his faith was nothing but the work of the lips. In the time of temptation he falleth

away. He begins to doubt, he is discontented with God, murmurs against his holy guidance, and no word of comfort will enter into his heart. Yes, my brethren, it is easier to be a Christian in good days than in evil

days; but it is in the fiery furnace of tribulation that it is shewn whether we are upright and in earnest with our Christianity. When the Lord was bound and in captivity his disciples forsook him and fled, and Peter denied him. They were yet too weak, too little grounded in the faith, to follow him on the path of the cross. And yet then only are we his true disciples when we share the cross with him, and refuse not to sacrifice and endure all things for his sake.

This our own strength cannot indeed accomplish, my brethren. Grace alone can work such a mind in us, and this is a certain proof that we are actually filled and worked upon by grace when we forsake not the Lord, in crosses and sorrow, but can exclaim joyfully with St Paul, “ In all these things we are more than conquerors, through him that loved us.O would that this were our mind, and would that our conduct in time of trouble proved that the grace of God was not given us in vain!

What a cheering example on this head also have we in the Christians of the first centuries of the church! What a high and heavenly mind is expressed in their conduct, whether in their own or in others' sorrows! Let us again to-day turn our eyes towards them, and again learn from them; and let us in silent prayer ask of the Lord to bless to this end our meditation which we are now about to enter upon.

TEXT. And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also, knowing that tribulation worketh patience ; and patience experience; and experience hope : and hope maketh not ashamed, because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts, by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us. -Romans v. 3–5.

See, my brethren, thus does a Christian mind express itself in tribulations, crosses, and sorrows of this time, and thus do all true Christians at all times, and in all places, bear witness with St Paul, that the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost,' which they have received. The Christians also of the

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first centuries were not deficient in this mind, and it is their example which we would this day hold forward

your imitation. Let us then see, 1. How they bore themselves in sorrow and tribulation; and,

2. Wherein their conduct had its foundation.

Holy Father, sanctify us with thy truth; thy word is truth. Amen,

I. Flesh and blood can never become reconciled with crosses and sufferings, my brethren.

The natural man always struggles against them, and that may be said of him which the gospel history says of Simon of Cyrene, “ they compelled him to bear the cross.” And if we look to the impression which it makes upon his heart, we shall always find, that it either depresses him with fearful doubts or entire loss of courage, or else he contends against it with haughty defiance and unfeeling apathy, while he seeks to harden himself against its pangs by plunging headlong into the vortex of worldly pleasures, and sensual enjoyments. Not so true Christians bear themselves, Christians hallowed and enlightened by the spirit of God. This a Paul teaches us, whom we hear bearing witness with pious enthusiasm, we glory in tribulations also.”

O how glorious is the grace in him! He feels indeed the pain ; he feels indeed the sorrows which oppress him; he feels indeed shaken, when the storms of life break in upon him from every side, but he doubts not,—they cannot break his courage. He has received the power to overcome them; his is the grace, when overwhelmed by tribulations, to raise an exulting hallelujah, to pour forth laud and praise in prison, and in bonds, and to thank God for that cross, under the weight of which countless numbers murmur and complain. Such thoughts were in those beaten and scourged disciples of whom we read, that “ they departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for the name of Jesus." And how the Christians

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of the first centuries in this regard trod in the footsteps of the apostles, is sufficiently exemplified, among others, by that pious old man, of whose martyrdom we spoke to you in our last discourse, Bishop Polycarp of Smyrna, who, even when dying, praised God that he had thought him worthy to drink of the cup of his anointed.

But where the natural feelings of men are so enlightened and sanctified by the power

of
grace,

that they can even glory in tribulations, those tribulations themselves must appear to him to be things wholesome and benevolent. That man must have perceived that the cross is to him no punishment, no expression of divine wrath, but a necessary means of examination and proof, whose holy and blessed purpose is none other than to build him up to greater perfectness in his communion with his Redeemer, to lead him nearer to God, and to prepare him for glory. If calamity appeared to him to be the mysterious working of the avenging justice of God, as is always the case with the natural man, the sinner, it would press him to the earth, and his anguish at the wrath of God would terrify him ; but as he knows that “ he has peace with God through faith in Jesus Christ,” who has expiated and taken away his sins, and because he has boldness to say, cross which the Lord lays upon me is needful, and must not be absent, if I am ever to be saved; it is a wholesome means which my wise and merciful heavenly Father makes use of in order to train me for his heaven, then, indeed, will tribulation work in him patience, and he will pray silently and resignedly, with his divine Redeemer, « Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me, yet not my will but thine be done?” With a steadfast and pious resignation to His counsels he bears his

cross, with the eye of faith fixed on Him who bore the cross so willingly for him, and by this firmness and patience proves himself a disciple of Him who “ became obedient even unto death;” for “ patience worketh experience,” says our text, that is, the Christian is proved by patience, and preserved in his faith and love to

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