Sidebilder
PDF
ePub

kingdom of grace, are thrown open to our assistance. We need nothing more to perform what is enjoined, and are capable of bring. ing all these to aid in the work. We may wander over the animal, the vegetable and mineral kingdoms of nature, through the active and passive powers of intellect, amidst the acts of rolition, decieions of conscience and relations of God and men and into the secret chambers of the heart, amidst the affections and more delicate susceptibilities of the sonl, with the word of God in our hands and the Holy Spirit in our bosoins, and grow in knowledge and grace through all our course. Nor is there aught unwelcome or difficult in this--we have all the requisite powers to perform it with delight. And in doing this, we expand the soul, advance in happiness, and secure the promised blessings of life eternal.

Happy result of a wise adaptation of means to the end! What a correspondence of wants and abilities to requisitions and blessings! It is worthy of infinite wisdom; and will afford delight to blessed intelligences through interminable ages. Angels may well desire to look into the manifold wisdom of God, and with admiring wonder chaunt his praises. While redeemed spirits, still growing in knowledge and grace, and rising higher towards perfection infinite, shall add a symphony to the song of heaven, before unknown; and as the echo is heard through the mansions of that blessed abode, in the sweet accents of love and loud hallelujals to the Lamb; all heaven shall join in the full chorus of “Blessing, honor and glory.” to God, who adapted the means to their salvation and crowned them with a blessed immortality.

4. The perfect holiness of heaven will be a source of delight ineffable. There the affections, inoral powers, intellect and every body will be holy. Mortality will have put on immortality, and nothing unholy will enter there.

There every obstacle to progressive improvement will be removed, and our attainments in knowledge and holiness be more rapid. With associates from every part, and each period of this world, its history will soon be known. With those from other worlds, (if inhabitants they have), we become acquainted with their peculiarities, and the mode of their being saved and raised to heaven; till the history of all worlds be understood, and we become as citizens of the universe. And associated with the different orders of angels, we learn the character of each, till the office and employment of the whole are familiar; and then witnessing the unfolding events of God's moral government, over this vast and numberdess throng of rational intelligence, and the new displays of his character continually transpiring, yet incomprehensible, our souls, ever expanding, lapt in wonder and admiration, will swell with delight ineffable.

[blocks in formation]

DELIVERED IN BROOKLYN N. Y. SEPT. 9tu, 1845. BEFORE THE A. B. C. P. M.

BY REV. MARK HOPKINS, D. D.

PRESIDENT OF WILLIAMS COLLEGE.

BURDENS TO BE CAST UPON THE LORD. "Cast thy burden upon the Lord, and he shall sustain thee: he shall never suffer the righteous to be moved.”—Psalu lv. 22.

SCARCELY do we find in the Bible, stronger expressions of anxiety and distress, than in the Psalm from which the text is taken. “My heart," says the Psalmist, “is sore pained within me, and the terrors of death are fallen upon me. Fearfulness and trembling are come upon me, and horror hath overwhelmed me. This distress was caused by the hypocrisy and treachery of others; especially of those who were professors of religion, and who had a high standing in the church. "For it was not," says he, “ an enemy that reproached me; then I could have borne it ; neither was it he that hated me that did magnify himself against me; then I would have hid myself from him ; but it was thou, a man mine equal, my guide, and mine acquaintance. We took sweet counsel together, and walked unto the house of God in company.” Sometimes he speaks of the cause of his trouble as if there were several, as when he says, “ They cast iniquity upon me, and in wrath they hate me," and sometimes as if there were but one ; but he was evidently surrounded by ariful, malignant, and hypocritical

persons, who, while they professed great regard for his welfare, would not suffer him to pursue his duties quietly, or to be at peace. "He hath," says he, "put forth his hands against such as be at peace with him : he hath broken his covenant. The words of his mouth were smoother than butter, but war was in his heart ; his words were softer than oil, yet were they drawn swords." These persons were doubtless types of a class who have been in the church in every age. Sometimes they have remained concealed, then again they have been drawn out, and become conspicuous ; but they have always been among the severest trials of the people of God, and the greatest hindrances to his cause.

Thus troubled, two sources of relief occurred to the Psalmist. His first impulse was to free himself from the annoyances occasioned by the wickedness of others and the responsibilities that were laid upon him, by fleeing away and remaining in solitude. “Oh,” said he, “that I had wings like a dove ; for then would I fly away and be at rest. Lo, then would I wander far off, and remain in the wilderness." We here see in him those germs of the monastic system which belong to our nature, and which, in after ages, were so fully and so disastrously developed. But better counsels prevailed. Instead of casting off his responsibilities and fleeing from his troubles, he was led to see that there was a God on high who was able to sustain him under the one, and to deliver him from the other, and to go to him in earnest and confiding prayer. “As for me," says he, “I will call upon God : and the Lord shall save me." Having thus found the true source of relief and strength, he invites others to share it with him in the words of the text-“Cast thy burden upon the Lord, and he shall sustain thee: he shall never suffer the righteous to be moved.”

It will be observed that the former part of this passage is lim. ited by the latter. The doctrine, therefore, which it contains, and which I propose to illustrate in its application, first to individuals, and then to this society, is, that the righteous, who cast their burden upon the Lord, shall be sustained.

These words, as far as they imply the existence of a burden of some kind, are applicable to the whole human race. There are none who do not fiud that in their condition, or character, or prospects, or duties, which gives them anxiety, and which may garded as a burden.

But the burdens which are borne by men are of two kinds. There are some, such as physical suffering, and oftentimes poverty, which are laid upon us by the providence of God, which we do not at all voluntarily assume, and to free ourselves from which it is right that we should make the most strenuous efforts. These come upon us as passive subjects of that course of events which is ordered by God, and when we cannot free ourselves from them, our duty is, not mere submission, but cheerful acquiescence, and a full exercise of those passive virtues which are among the most efficient means of moral discipline. We are bound to believe, we do believe, however unequally these burdens may be distributed however mysterious it may seem that they should exist at all, that they are all apportioned and laid upon us by the hand of a father and though we may say at the time, with Jacob, that all these things are against us, yet, if we have a filial spirit, we shall find in the end that God meant them for good. The basis of our submission is our confidence in him that his government is perfect, and while we know that "he does not afflict willingly nor grie ve

the children of men,” it is ours to feel and to say, “Though he s slay me, yet will I trust in him."

But there is another class of burdens which belong to us as ac

be re

tive and responsible beings, which are not so much laid upon us as before us, and which it is optional with us to assume or not. These are those great duties of piety towards God, and of reciprocity and benevolence towards men, the burden of which has been fully taken up, and perfectly sustained, but once in the history of our world. God is carrying forward his purposes, in the accomplishment of which we believe he is working out the highest good of his universe. In doing this he makes use of the voluntary agency of his intelligent and accountable creatures. He has made them capable of recognizing and appreciating those ends which he proposes, and of becoming intelligently co-workers with him. Here it is that we find the true dignity of man, and the highest point of union between him and God; for as man is great in intellect only as he comprehends the thoughts of God, and great in suffering only as he submits to the will of God, so is he great in action only as he labors to accomplish the purposes of God. But the present constitution of things is such, that in doing that part which God has assigned to us, which is truly ours, in the accomplishment of these purposes, self-denial and suffering are often involved.

So far as we can judge, if sin had never entered, no duty would have been regarded as a self-denial or a burden. Obedience to a perfect law would have been perfect liberty, and the result of this union of liberty and law would have been a happiness limited only by the capacity of its subject. But sin entering, necessarily became the cause of burden bearing, both to those who were under its power, and to those who were not. In itself, and to those who are under it, it is the greatest possible burden. There is no slavery like that of sin, and that too, whether its subjects do or do not struggle against it. So far as holy beings have intercourse with those that are sinful, as when the arch angel contended with the devil, it must be a grief and a burden; and then, if any are to be recovered from the power of sin, as it has in itself no recuperative energy, whatever is done for them must originate in an influence from without; and the great law of the universe for their recovery, seems to be that of vicarious suffering. Of this, we have the great example in our Lord Jesus Christ. He, and he only, "made his soul an offering for sin.” He alone “bore our sins in his own body on the tree.” His sufferings only constitute an atonement, and lie at the foundation of human hope. Still, it was necessary that the Apostles, and those who came afterwards, should be partakers of Christ's sufferings," and "should fill up that which was behind of the afflictions of Christ." He laid the foundation, but the superstructure is to be carried up, and this can be done only by the same spirit of self-renunciation and of burden bearing Which actuated him.

Enlightened benevolence is essentially and uncompromisingly opposed to all wickedness, and the more intense the benevolence, the stronger is this feeling. Let then a benevolence, so enlightened that it is opposed to nothing but sin, so free that it is willing to do all things but to commit sin, move forward to the accom: plishment of its purposes in a world like this, and a point will be reached, even though every thing be done with the meakness and gentleness of Christ, where there will be conflict, where all the possible power and art of selfishness and malignity will be arrayed against it, and where, if it goes forward at all, it must be into the fires which the rage and malice of its enemies have kindled. Let it be now, that the cause of God requires it, and it will go into those fires. So was it with Christ. He excited no unnecessary opposition. There was nothing in his manner that justly gave offence, but by simply taking up the burden which his mission required, he came under a pressure of agony which rendered neces. sary every drop of the bloody sweat, he came to a point where he must wear the purple robe and the crown of thorns, and where he might not hide bis face from shame and spitting. He came to a point where the cross was laid upon him so long as he could bear it, where the nails were driven, and where the accursed tree as it was raised up and fell with a shuck to its position, caused every fibre in his frame to vibrate in agony. There, suspended between heaven and earth, listed up that he might draw all men unto him, he hung for six long hours, enduring those agonies of expiring nature that could not have been greater, and that might not be less. The burden that was upon him bore him down to death; and at no point could he have withdrawn from it, so as to spare himself a single pang. So was it with the Apostles. They were willing to become all things to all men, so far as they might. But not so could the crest of the serpent be smoothed down, and his envenomed bite be prevented. It was necessary that they sbould hunger and thirst, and be naked and buffeted, and have no certain dwelling place, and be reviled, and persecuted, and defamed, and made as the filth of the world and the off-scouring of all things; and finally that they should lay down their lives as the highest example they could furnish of the grandeur of faith, and as their strongest possible attestation to the value of those purposes of God which they were laboring to carry out. So was it with those ancient veterans in virtue mentioned by the Apostle in the 11th chapter of Hebrews; and so has it been with the martyrs and faithful servants and missionaries of Christ down to the present time. These have all recognized the great principle that burdens were to be assumed and borne if good was to be done, and in bear. ing them they have all been actuated by one spirit.

This principle we must recognize, this spirit we should consider well. It was not, properly speaking, an anti-spirit. It was a positive principle striving after a great and glorious object, and going forward to the attaininent of that in a spirit of love, quietly but

« ForrigeFortsett »