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for a season ; esteeming even the REPROACH of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt. He therefore, freely, leaves the life of a courtier; avows himself the friend of the poor despised captives ; and dares to retire into Midian, to live the life of an obscure shepherd. I say, he dared to retire ; for it required a greater degree of fortitude thus to deny himself, than to stand in the forefront of a battle, or to face the mouth of a cannon! But by faith he forsook Egypt, and went and lived a stranger in a strange land, for he endured as seeing him who is invisible ; yes, he had respect unto the recompence of reward.
In short, through this, the holy tribes of martyrs, in all ages, loved not their lives unto the death. By faith in invisible realities, as the apostle to the Hebrews largely proves, they bore all manner of cruelties, not accepting deliverance itself upon dishonourable conditions; suffered all kinds of deaths with unremitting fortitude, and, in some sort, like their glorious Leader, triumphed over principalities and powers, when they fell.
Indeed, every man in the world may be said to walk either by faith or by sight. There is not only a giving up sensible for invisible enjoyments, by actually parting with them, but by not setting our hearts upon them, as our chief good. This may be done where there is no call actually to give them up, and is done by all real Christians in the world. Men whose chief good consists in the profits, pleasures, or honours of this life, live by sight; they derive their life from objects before their eyes, having neither patience nor inclination to wait for a portion in the world to come. But good men, as well the rich as the poor, derive their life from above, and so live by faith : their life is hid with Christ in God.
Perhaps here, as much as any where, is required the peculiar exercise of faith. For one actually divested of earthly good to look upward, and set his heart on things above, is faith ; but for one still possessed of this, one on whom providence smiles, prospering him in all he sets his hand to, blessing bim with wife and children, houses and lands, in abundance ; for him to exercise such a degree of indifference to all these, as to derive his chief happiness from invisible realities, this is faith indeed! This seems to bave been exemplified in Abraham, and other patriarchs. Of him it is said, By faith he sojourned in the land of promise, as in a strange country. How is this? We do not wonder, when he and Sarah went into Egypt, on account of a famine, that he should consider himself a sojourner there ; but how is it that he should do so in Canaan, the land of promise, his own estate, as it were? The next verse informs us : for he looked for a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God. So Jacob, when before Pharaoh, called his whole life a pilgrimage, though the far greater part of it was spent in the land of promise ; and they that say such things, adds the Apostle, declare plainly, that they seek a country. Though God had given them the good land, they would not make it their chief good. They could not be contented with this Cadaan, but longed for another. Noble souls ! bid them lift
their eyes eastward, and westward, and northward, and southward, and tell them, all they can see is their own; still they will not live by sight, but by faith : they will desire a better country, that is an heavenly.
4. There are many low and distressing seasons to which the church of God is subject, in which there is little or no visible ground of encouragement, scarcely any but what arises from the promise of God. The whole church of God, as individuals, bas, in all ages, had its day of adversity set over against the day of prosperity. Israel, after their deliverence from Egypt and settle. ment in Canaan, enjoyed pretty much prosperity, especially in the days of David and Solomon. But afterwards, by a series of provocations, they procured to themselves the Babylopish captivity. At that melancholy period, those amongst them that feared the Lord must be supposed to be all in darkness. Jerusalem laid waste; the temple burnt with fire ; Judah carried captive ; ah, what becomes of God's inserest in the world! The foundations of bis visible kingdom seemed to be laid in the holy mountains round about Jerusalem ; if these are destroyed, what can the righteous do? They had long sighed and cried for the idolatrous abominations of their countrymen, and prayed, and hoped that raercy might be lengthened out ; but now all seems over. For their idolatry, they must go, and have enough of idolaters : they that feared the Lord must also go with them. By the rivers of Babylon they must go and sit down. Those that had been used to sound the high praises of God in Zion, must now hang their harps upon the willows, as having no use for them! Nor is this the worst; they must be taunted and their God derided, by their insulting lords. Come, said they, sing us one of the songs of Zion as if they had said, "Now see what your religion has availed you! This was your favourite employ, and these the songs wherewith you addressed your Deity, in whom you confided to deliver you out of our hands : what think you now ? Poor Zion? She spreadeth forth her hands, but there is none to comfort her. The Lord hath commanded, that her adversaries should be round about her: her captive sons can only remember Jerusalem, and weep! Alas, how can they sing the Lord's song in a strange land!
But is there no belp from above ? Is there no physician there? Yes, the God whom Babel derides, but Judah adores, looks down, and sees their affliction. To his disheartened friends, in this situation, he addresses himself, saying, Who is among you that fearcth the Lord, that obeyeth the voice of his servant, that walketh in darkness, and hath no light ? let him trust in the name of the Lord, and stay upon his God.
As if he should say, ' For a season you must walk by faith, and not by sight; but, trust me, that season shall soon be over. Seventy years, and Babylon shall fall, and Judah return! By these declarations, the church was encouraged in her captivity, and furnished with an answer to her insulting foes : yea, and what is wonderful, breaks forth into one of the Lord's songs in a strange land ! (Hearken, O Babel, to one of the songs of Zion!) Rejoice not against me, O mine enemy: when I fall, I shall arise ; when I sit in darkness, the Lord shall be a light unto
I will bear the indignation of the Lord, because I have sinned against him, until he plead my cause, and eaecute judgment for me : he will bring me forth to the light, and I shall behold his righteous
Then she that is mine enemy shall see it, and shame shall cover her which said unto me, Where is the Lord thy God?
This is encouraging to us as churches, and as ministers. We have, in inany cases, to walk in darkness, and have no light, and to go on in our ministrations, in a great degree, like the prophet Isaiah, famenting that so few bave believed our report, so few to whom
the arm of the Lord has been revealed. When death removes worthy characters, we must sometimes live, and lament to see their places unoccupied by others of the like character: and, what is worse, instead of increase by Christ's conquests, we must sometimes live to see a decrease by the conquests of the evil one! Many a faithful minister bas bad to preach, year after year, till, either by public scandals, or private disgusts, many of his people bave gone off, and walked no more with him. But let him then remember the testimony of God: Him that honoureth me I will honour. Let him go on, and faithfully discharge his duty, whether they will hear, or whether they will forbear : let him, and those that are with him, walk by faith, and not by sight. It often proves, that, after such a night of weeping, comes a morning of rejoicing. Let us not be discouraged ; better breath than ours has been spent apparently in vain. Our Lord himself seemed to labour in vain, and to spend his strength for nought; but he comforted himself in this, (herein learing us an example,) Through Israel be not gathered, yet shall I be glorious in the eyes of the Lord, and my God shall be my strength.
This may encourage and direct us in larger concerns; concerns which respect the whole interest of Christ in the world. If we compare the present state of things, or even the past, with the glorious prophecies of the word of God, we cannot think, surely, that all is yet accomplished. By these prophecies, the Christian church is encouraged to look for great things, at some period or other of her existence. She is taught to look for a time when the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea ; when a nation shall be born at once ; when the kingdoms of this world shall become the kingdoms of our Lord and of his Christ ; and he shall reign from sea to sea, and from the river unto the ends of the earth. But surely, for the present, though great things, upon the whole, bave been done in the world, yet nothing like this has ever come to pass. Instead of the world being conquered, what a great part yet continues to stand out against him. Hea thenism, Mahometanism, Popery, and Infidelity, how extensive still their influence! In all probability, not a single country, city, town, village, or congregation, has ever yet been brought wholly to submit to Christ! Nay, is it not very rare to find, in any one
of these, so many real friends as to make even a majority in bis favour ? May not the Christian church then, for the present, adopt that language, We have been with child, we have as it were brought forth wind, we have not wrought any deliverance in the earth, neither have the inhabitants of the world fallen? What then ? shall we despair! God forbid! The vision is yet for an appointed time but at the end it shall speak, and not lie : though it tarry, wait for it, because it will surely come, it will not tarry; and, meanwhile, the just shall live by faith.
Let us take encouragement, in the present day of small things, by looking forward, and hoping for better days. Let this be attended with earnest and united prayer to him by whom Jacob must arise. A life of faith will ever be a life of prayer, O brethren, let us pray much for an outpouring of God's Spirit upon our ministers and churches, and not upon those only of our own connexion and denomination, but upon all that in every place call upon the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, both theirs and ours !
Our hupe of a better state, when this is over, is built on faith in God's testimony. We have no sort of evidence, but this, that any such state exists. We cannot see any thing of the kind, or aught from which we can infer it. We cannot learn it from any of
Reason itself could never have found it out. Reason might have taught us the idea of a future state, but not of a future state of bliss. Though much might be argued from the fitness of things, to prove that man is not made barely for the present life, yet nothing could be drawn from thence to prove, that rebels against the Supreme Being should live in a state of eternal felicity!; no, for this we are wholly indebted to the word of promise. Hence faith is said to be the sUBSTANCE, GROUND, or FOUNDATION of things hoped for. Supported by that, we sustain our beaviest losses ; and attracted by these, we come up out of great tribulations, following the Lamb whithersoever be goeth, till we shall overcome, and sit down with him in his throne, as he also hath overcome, and is set down with his father in his throne.
II. We will now add a few words on the IMPORTANCE of such a life. If, all things considered, it would have been best for us to have always seen our way before us, to have been guided, so to VOL. VII.