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holy solicitude to avoid fin, which appears in the carriage and language of a child of God, as a mark of meanness or weakness of mind. In such an age, one who fears God is well described by the prophet Isaiah. “ But to " this man will I look, even to him that is poor and of a “ contrite fpirit, and trembleth at my word.”
The next part of the character is, “and obeyeth the " voice of his servant;" that is to say, is willing to heark. en to the message of God, by the mouth of his fervants. The words of the text, no doubt, may be considered as primarily referring to the inspired prophets, who bore an immediate commission, miraculously attested, from God. Many, even of these, were set at nought, their message derided, and their persons insulted, when they attempted to stem the tide of prevailing vice, or boldly denounced the divine vengeance against high-handed finners. But the sincerely pious obeyed their voice. I shall make no scruple to apply this to ourselves, and the present age. Our blesed Redeemer hath established in his church a standing ministry, and the regular administration of ordinances. And though we have this treasure in earthen vessels, yet in no other way doth he now communicate his will, and vouchsafe his presence to his people, but by the reading and hearing of his word, and attendance upon his instituted worship. It will, no doubt, therefore, be a part of the character of a good man, that he will love the ordinances, and obey the voice of the servants of God, that he will consider him who hath sent them, and receive instruction, not as the word of man, but as it is in deed and in truth, the word of God.
On the other land, when iniquity prevails, when irreligion and profaneness lift up their heads, one of the most ulual concomitants, and one of the furelt proofs of it, is a neglect of ordinances, and contempt of those who are concerned in their administration: how far this is at present the case, I leave to yourselves to judge. While I speak this, my brethren, I do by no means desire to see an ignorant people distracted by the gloomy terrors of fuperftition, or lecl blindfold by the enchanted cord of implicit faith, But sure I am, there is an extreme on either land, and those who truly fear the Lord, will honor the persons, and obey the voice of such as plead his cause and speak in his name. You may rest assured, that though they neither deserve nor claim any authority on their own account, yet so long as they stand in the divine counsels, and speak the divine word, their message will be attended with this awful fanction, “ He that despiseth you, despiseth me, and he " that despiseth me despiseth him that fent me.”
The last part of the character here drawn, which lays the foundation for the subsequent direction is, " that walketh “ in darkness and hath no light.” Darkness and light, besides their literal, have often a metaphorical sense in fcripture. They are, indeed, used with a good deal of latitude and variety. But I think their metaphorical signification may be reduced to these two general heads.
1. Sometimes light signifies knowledge, and darkness signifies ignorance-as in Eph. v. 8. “ Ye were fometimes “ darkness, but now are ye light in the Lord, walk as “ children of light.” Acts xxvi. 18. “ To turn them " from darkness unto light, and from the power of Satan " unto God.” Job xxxvii. 19. “ Teach us what we shall “ say unto him, for we cannot order our speech by reason " of darkness.”
2. Sometimes darkness fignifies distress or trouble, and the correspondent signification of light is deliverance and joy, as 2 Sam. xxii, 28, 29. “And the afflicted people * thou wilt save, but thine eyes are upon the haughty, that ss thou mayest bring them down, for thou art my lamp, “ O Lord, and the Lord will lighten my darkness.” Job xix. 8. “He hath fenced up my way that I cannot pass; “ he hath put darkness in my paths.” Psalm xcvii. 11. “ Light is fown for the righteous, and gladness for the “ upright in heart.” Esther viii. 16. “ And the Jews had light, and gladness, and joy and honor.'
None of these fenles is to be excluded in the passage before us. Believers may walk in darkness, when ignorant or uncertain as to what nearly concerns them, as well as under distress and trouble. They have also a mutual influence upon, produce, and are produced by, one another. For illufirating this a little more particularly, observe, that a good man may walk in darkness. 1. When he is in doubt or uncertainty as to his interest in the divine favor. 2. When he is under the pressure of outward calamity. 3. When the state of the church is such, that he cannot understand or explain, in a satisfying manner, the course of divine providence. These particulars I have it not in view to enlarge much upon, but only to explain them so far as is necessa y to lay a foundation for what shall be afterwards offered on the duty to trust in God.
1. Then, a good man may walk in darkness when he is in doubt or uncertainty as to his interest in the divine favor. I apprehend that some measure of hope in God's mercy is essential to true piety, and not only the right, but the poflefion of every child of God. Faith and despair are beyond all question inconfiftent. Faith and hope are inseparable. Yet certainly the excellent ones of the earth may be sometimes involved in great perplexity and doubt. This is plain from fcripture examples, from daily experience, and from the nature and reafon of the thing. How violent a struggle do we often find the Pfalmift David in, between hope and fear? “O my God, my soul is cast
down in me; therefore will I remember thee from the « land of Jordlan, and of the Hermonites, from the hill “ Mizár." How many do we fee every day under a spirit of bondage, who, though they still cleave to God as their portion, yet are often full of fears, and feldom dare confi. dently affirm their interest in, or relation to him. And indeed how can it be otherwile? While we are here, our fanctification is but imperfect; and alas! with regard to many, it is often hard to determine, whether we should not write upon it, mene tekel, as essentially defective.
Sin separates between God and his people, and causes him to hide his face from them. Nay, sometimes, though there be no particular or provoking crime, as the cause of bis controversy with them, he may withdraw from them the light of his countenance, to exercise their vigilance, or to try their patience. I know, my brethren, that the diftress of serious fouls, when mourning after an absent or an angry God, crying to him in secret, and following hard after him in his ordinances, is by many treated with the
highest degree of contempt. But surely, if peace of mind from a well-founded hope of the divine favor, is the greatest of all present blessings: and if this, from the variableness of our own conduct, is fometimes more, sometimes less strong, and sometimes wholly suspended : when this last is the case, it must occasion inexpressible concern, and there can be no greater evidence of irreligion and impiety, than to call it in question.
2. A good man may walk in darkness when under the pressure of outward calamity. This, in a real believer, is never wholly separated from the former. Even in it. self, indeed, no amiction for the present is joyous but grievous. The disorders of this feeble frame, poverty and straitness of provision, unjust slander and reproach, must be deeply and sensibly felt by every good man, even as he is a man. To this may be added, the loss of relations, and concerns for the sufferings of others of every kind, which is always most distressing to the best and tenderelt fpirits. But outward calamities by those that fear God, are felt most fenfibly when they are considered as the rod of his anger, and bring fin to remembrance.
When he visits his own children with any of his fore judgments; when he follows them with breach upon breach, they are ready to say, “Surely he is setting me “ up as a mark for his arrows, he is counting me his ene
my.”- They are often at a loss to understand the cause of his controversy with them; and they also find it often extremely difficult to bring their minds to a patient and fubniissive resignation to his holy will. To those who know their duty, and desire through divine grace to comply with it, it is no small difficulty to be obliged to struggle with a rising and rebellious heart within, as well as suffering from without, and to be alternately calling ir, question, the certainty either of the love of God to them, or of their love to him.
3. A good man may sometimes walk in darkness from the aspect of Providence, and the state of the Redeemer's kingdom. The works of God are fought out of thein who have pleasure in them. But when they are not able to penetrate the depths of the divine counsels, this becomes often a source both of distress and temptation. When wicked men are suffered to prosper at their will-when the good are oppressed by the power and tyranny, or perfecuted by the malice, of their enemies—when the most generous attempts for the revival of truth and righteoufness are rendered abortive—when the professing fervants of God are divided into parties, or marshalled under names, and their zeal madle to spend itself in unnecellary, sinful and hurtful contentions when offences come, and and those of the highest profeffion or attainments are fuffered to fall into gross crimes, by which the mouths of enemies are opened to blaspheme; then may, and must we adopt the words of the Psalmist-P1. lxxiii. 10-14.
Therefore, his people return hither; and waters of a “ full cup are wrung out unto them: And they say, how “ doth God know ? and is there knowledge in the Most “ High? Behold, these are the ungodly who prosper in the “ world; they increafe in riches. Verily, I have cleansed
my heart in vain, and washed my hands in innocency. • For all the day long have I been plagued, and chaltened
I proceed now to the second and chief thing proposed from this pallage, which was to explain the duty of truit in God, and to point out its foundation.
Trust, in the most general view we can take of it, may be thus explained. It is a reliance or confidence in God, that however discouraging appearances may be for the present time, yet, by his power and wisdom, our desires and expectations fhall take place, whether as to deliverance from trouble, or the obtaining of future blessings.--When we can attain this happy frame of spirit, it is an inconceivable relief and ease to the mind under suffering, and is excellently expressed by the Pfalmift-Pfal. lv. 22. “ Cali thy burden upon the Lord, and he shall sustain “thee, he shall ncver suffer the righteous to be moved.” Let us then endeavor to explain the grounds of ihis as diftinctly as possible. And God grant that it may be done, not only in a clear, but in a solid and satisfying manner, so as to afist you in the practice of real and vital religion.