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Psalm lxxvii.IO. I said this is my injimdty; hut I will remember the years of the right hand of the Most High. There are few cases which require more compassion, and more wisdom in the treatment of them, than that of religioys dejection. Religious melancholy is the disease of piety, and must be treated as such, if we would hope to remove •it. We must consider its symptoms, endeavour to trace out its causes, and then prescribe its cure. The inspired writer of the Psalm from which the text is taken, appears to have been under its influence. He is bowed down with the pressure of affliction, he can discover no indications of God's former favour, he is filled with fearful apprehensions of his anger, with the utmost grief of mind, and with an anxiety bordering on despair ; and he finds no relief for his infirmity, until he remembers the years of the right hand of the Most High ; until calling to
RELIGIOUS PEJECTION. 353 mind the mercy . and loving*kindness of God
which have been ever of old, he is again enabled to hope in him, and to rejoice in his salvation. Let us then consider the symptoms, the cause, and the cure of religious dejection. We notice I. The symptoms of religious depression. The despondency of irreligious persons, when cofi^cience has alarmed their fears, fuid keen disappointments have broken , their spirits and filled them with forebodings of eternal punishment, is not the case we have to consider. Nor are the distresses and solicitudes of an awakened penitent, when, first convinced of sin, he anxiously inquires after the way of salvation in Christ Jesus, the indications of it. These are rather favourable signs. They do not imply the existence of a disease, but they are salubrious and medicinal. Nor is the seriousness of mind which ever becomes a Christian in this world of temptation, where he is called to work out his salvation with fear and trembling, and to pass the time of his sojourning in fear , the index of religious melaticholy. Neither are the occasional fluctuations in the religious feelings to which all the sincere servants of God are more or less subject, the evidences of its existence. The proper symptoms of it are to be found in AA
354 RELIGIOUS DEJECTION. a settled depressicHi of mind, in a perplexing debility and agitation of spirit, an apprehension of God's indignation, a prevailing dx)ubt of our pardon and acceptance before him, a dark view of the events which occur in the course of God's providential dealings with us, a succession" of gloomy forebodings as to our future circumstances and destination, and a sinking of the heart, especially when we turn to subjects connected with our personal interest in 4lie blc^ssings of redemption. The ai^arances wiU vary in different eases, but they virill partake in all of the general character that has been described. Thus Jacob, when the loss of his beloved Joseph had long distressed his mind^ when he received the intelligence of the severe tjeatment which his other sons had met with in Egyfrt, and found that Benjamin must also be sepa* rated from him, exclaimed with a touching melancholy, Mt have ye ber^(wed of my f^hildren ; Joseph is not, and Simeon is not, aiidye will take Benjamin away : all these things are against me. This is not, indeed, a case of settled 4epression ; but it serves to convey an idea of it. Such feelings, if they had continued long, and had fixed themselves in the sonl, would have brought dou>n the Patri^r^h'9 gray hairs with jsorrom to thfi grave. Hannah, again, vexed by the repino?iiches of Penihnah, ^ast down at th^ diisappQinfement
RELIGIOUS DEJECTION. 356 of her hopes, and receiving no answer to her prayers, was under a dejection of spirit. She went up to the temple, a woman of a sorrmvful spirit, and otU of the abundance of her complaint and gri^ poured out her soul before the Lord. She was in bitterness of soul. Her adversary provoked her sore. She wept, and did eat no breads This ccmtinued year by year^ These were symptoms of the disease we are to treat. The same, under different circumstances, was the case of Naomi. She was left of her two sons and her husband \n?L foreign land* When she arose to return from the country of Moab, one of her daughters-in-law went back unto her people and to her gods. She arrived at Bethleliem, and all the city was moved, and said. Is this Naomi ? And she said. Call me not Naomi (pleasant,) but call me Mara (bitter,) for the Almighty hath dealt very bitterly with me. I went out full, and the Lord hath brought me home again empty , why then call yetne Naomi, seeing the Lord hath testified against me, and the Almighty hath afflicted mel The inrtance of Elijah may ako be mieiitioned, when he received the threatening message from Jezebel, and arose and went for his. life and came to Beersheba, and went a day's journey into the wilderness, and sat down under a Juniper r tree, and requested for himself (hat he might die. Dejection preyed upon his mind, and be con4
366 RELIGIOUS DEJECTION. eluded that he only was left in Israel, a prophet of the Lord. The dejection of Job assumed yet more distinctly and fully the appearance of religious depression. Hear his distressing language : Evefi to-day is my complaint bitter; my stroke is heavier than mjf groaning. The arrows of the Almighty are within me^ the poison whereof drinks eth up my spirit ; the terrors of God do set themselves in array against me. My sighing cometh before^! eat, and my roarings are poured out like water. My soul is weary of life. Thou writest bitter things against, me , thou holdest me for thine enemy. The case of the Church, however, in the Prophet, and of the royal Psalmist, will furnish us with the most complete view of the symptoms of this malady. Why sayest thou, O Jacob, and speakest, O Israel, My way is hid from the Lord ? My judgment is passed over from my God? But Zion said. The Lord hath forsaken me, and my Lord hath forgotten me. This is the language of an habitual gloom of mind. It resembles that pf the Psalm in which the text occurs. In the day of my trouble, exclaims the sacred author, I sought the Lord; my sore ran in the night
and ceased not — he prayed earnestly, but found no consolation. My soul refused to be contorted — a 'fixed melancholy seized him. / remembered God and was troubled — even meditation on
RELIGIOUS DEJECTION. 367 Qod, which is the usual source ofrelief, aggravates his malady. / complained, and my spirit was overwhelmed — billows of distress rose all around^ and deluged, as it were, his soul. TTiou boldest mine eyes waking, I am so troubled I cannot speak — neither sleep, nor prayer, nor praise could yield him any succour. / have considered the days of old, the years of ancient times. I call to remembrance my song in the night : I commune with mine own heart, and my spirit made diligent search. — He inquires after evidences of God*s former favour, but to no purpose. Will the Lord cast off for ever? Will he be favourable no more? Is his mercy clean gone for ever? Doth his promise fail for evermore? Hath God forgotten to be gracious? Hath he in anger shut up his tender mercies? — ^With mixed emotions of fear, agitation, and anxious solicitude, he asks in melancholy strains, if he is rejected of God ; if the divine mercy is exhausted; if hisiaithftilness and grace have failed; if his anger hath shut up the bowels of his compassion. And I said, This is my infir^ mity. This is my disease, my distress. I cannot explain the questions which I have put. I
cannot tell what to do. I am filled with the greatest consternation, and excruciated with unceasing anguish of mind . Though the relation of God to his people, and his attributes of grace and mercy, might seem in every other case to
368 RELIGIOUS DEJECTION. afford hope of deliverance, yet so singular and oppressive are my calamities, that the contemplation of them serves only to enhance my misery and to aggravate my forebodings of final rejection at the hands of God. Such then are some of the symptoms of a religious depression of mind. We proceed to consider, IL The causes of it. It is undoubtedly sometimes natural and occasioned by bodily distemper. Religious feelings may ebb and flow with the animal spirits. Infirm, debilitated constitutions greatly affect the operations of the mind. Persons in such circumstances, are ready to view things on the most gloomy side, and the least circumstance may occasion dejection. They are too apt to fix on the more awful and profound parts of truth, and to perplex themselves with embarrassing questions, which tend to increase the malady. Confinement also without exercise, or
chauge of scene, will often tend^ to produce depression. An excess of business likewise, and engagements wearing and exhausting the strength, or an occupation unfriendly to the health, may have the same consequences. I mention this class of causes first, because, if the spring of dejection be corporeal malady, the case is at once, in a great measure^ accounted
REL.IGIOUS D£J£CTION, ^9 for; aod as miraculous interpositions are no longer to be expected, the aid of the physician must be sought. Superstition is at times an occasion of m* ligious dejectioQ in those pious persoi^s, who are ia situations unfavourable for acquiring knowledge^ An over-scrupulous conscience administers food to such a disposition. There is nothing so trifling which a superstitious and scrupulous mind may not magnify into an affair of vital importance. The conscience has not a healthy sensibility, but is irritable. They can say or do nothing without exciting an unnatural alarm, an alarm for which no reasonable account can be given. Reliance on dreams,, sudden impressions, illusive voices, imaginary warnings of the death of distant friends, casting lots, the opening of the Bible and fixing on the first verse which presents itself, is altogether vain, superstitious, and unlawful; and the exercise of any
such unfounded reliance cannot fail to produce dangerous fancies and extraordinary gloom of mind. Vows rashly made, and apprehensions of having committed the sin against the Holy Ghost, have the same tendency. It is surprisr ingthat, in the present age and in a Protestant country, casejst of this kind should so frequently occur ; and that so many persons should be inapprehensivei or ignorant, of the folly and sin-
360 RELIGIOUS DEJECTION. fulness of what is so explicitly rebuked and condemned in the Holy Scriptures. A more common cause of this dejection is a MISAPPREHENSION OF THE DOCTRINE OF REMISSION OF SINS. The former causes are easily understood. ^ This may be less obvious and ac* cessible. The distress of the awakened and contrite heart is relieved by a persuasion of the grace of Christ in freely forgiving sin. When the penitent is led ^simply to credit this cheering truth and to act upon it, his extoeme alarm subsides; for peace of conscience is the natural fruit of faith in the blood of the Redeemer. Being justified by faithy he has peacp with God through our Lord Jesus Christ; and he begins to walk in the ways of holy obedience with consistency, and with increasing spirituality and delight. But if he errs as to this scriptural
course, if he mistakes the entire plan of the Gospel as a plan of salvation by grace, and continues to trust to himself, and to endeavour to establish his own righteousness, instead oi submitting himself to the righteousness of Christ, his distress of mind is likely to increase, and, if other things concur, to plunge him at last into a settled melancholy. , Though he is tidily penitent, yet he dares not believe that he is. Though he is invited freely to the cross of the Saviour, yet he ignorantly excludes himself from its bene-
RELIGIOUS D£J£CTION« 361 fits. Though all of every character who feel and acknowledge their sins are urged to believe the Gospel, yet he conceives he is too great a sinner to venture to apply. Though he is in* structed in the nature of the covenant of works and that of grace, yet he still clings, confusedly to the law which can only condemn him. la the mean time, he .labours and strives and watches and prays, but with little apparent success. Nay, he appears to himself- to become worse. He mistakes the important doctrine of the necessity of evidences of his being in a state of salvation, for the necessity of his attaining certain previous qualifications to entitle him to come to Christ — an error of great magnitude. Thus he gradually sinks into despondency. 'Like the stricken deer, he wanders here and there for relief, but in vain, unconscious that
he carries about with him the instrument of his malady. His mistake is, that he. thinks he must make himself better before he comes to Christ, instead of first approaching him with the humility of a helpless sinner, that he may obtain the pardon of his sins and be sanctified by his Saviour's grace. Instead of this, he hopes to merit pardon and acceptance by his works. Hence he is filled with terror. His attempts fail, his performances are defective, and condemn him. Every discovery of the evil of his own heart and of the purity of. God in-
364 RELIGIOUS DEJECTION. draws his influences. , The mind, in which religion has been thus sickly, loses its tone aod vigour ; and when trouble comes on, it sinks into utter despondency. Even an excessive hurry "and occupation from engageme^ts in matters connected with religion, may have a similar effect, if they induce remissness. in seeking God, and exclude secret and fervent comr munion with him. But the malady is not yet at its height. The unhappy Christian, now in a declining course, has, perhaps, many checks of conscience, many warnings and manifestations of divine mercy. Perhaps some event in the course of providence rouses him. Some awakening sermon startles him in his lethargy. Some open disgrace oc11
curring in the church to a fellow Christian not more culpable than himself, infuses terror into his soul. He repents. He seeks to return to God. He seems to walk with the Saviour for a time in deep contrition and watchfulness. After a while, however, his old sins, like a wound imperfectly healed, break open afresh. He relapses into some known iniquity. These declensions and revivings recur again and again, like the periodical intermission and return of a fever. But by each relapse his state of mind becomes worse ; till at length in some season of outward calamity perhaps, his soul is overcome by dejection. He knows too much of truereli-
RELIGIOUS DEJECTION. 365 gion to be happy without it; yet acts too inconsistendy to enjoy its pleasures. Conscience and inclination are at variance. He maintains fair appearances before his friends, and is as active perhaps as others in public concerns ; but a worm secretly gnaws, as it were, his vitals, and a fixed melancholy pervades his mind. In addition to these causes of dejection, LONG-CONTINUED AFFLiCTioNmustlikewise be mentioned. It is common to talk about afflictions, and it is easy to bear patiently the trials of others. We very readily recommend submission and resignation to a suffering friend. But to fall under the stroke of the Almighty our12
selves^ makes a different impression on the mind. If, however, the calamity be not overwhelming, or if it continue only for a short time, our faith may sustain it ; especially if we apply the instruction of Holy Scripture, and submit with prayer and penitence to the will of God. But if the trial touch us precisely in our vulnerable part, or if it lie continued long, and stroke succeeds stroke ; if prayer, appears not. to be answered; if our case be conceived to be peculiar ; if friends do not sympathise with us so tenderly as we expected; if God's mercies, which we thought were designed to comfort us, seem only granted to be withdrawn, and leave us tenfold more desolate thain before; if the blessings of providence appear to light
366 RELIGIOUS DEJECTION. upon others around ns without visiting us; if the health, and spirits, gradually worn and wasted with trouble, begin to fail, and the fia*tural stoutness and fortitude of the mind to subside—then despondency is very likely to come on. Perhaps the wife or the husband is taken away, and one child and a second may be re* moved. Perhaps our circumstances become embarrassed. Perhaps long-continued perse* cution, so far as the happy constitution of our Protestant country will allow, oppresses us. Perhaps an individual in our family or con* nexion who is most disposed and most qualified
to hritate our temper, remains to harass us. Whatever the affliction may be, if the heart be long vexed within us, and wave upon wave beat over us, it maybe expected that religious dejection will gradually follow^ and the soul be led to brood in dark gloom over its trouble. To these causes must be added the tempta* Tiows OF Satan. This fell adversary lets no* thing escape him. If he cannot destroy the soul, he will distress it and render it uncomfortable. His fiery darts are aimed at our weakest part. His suggestions to the imagination are like poisoned arrows. He dft9 us as wheat. When the powers of darkness combine with external affile** tions and a debilitated state of heaUh and spirits, religious melancholy is often the conse* quence. Let it be remembered, however, that
KELIGIOUS DEJECTIOK. 367 even Satan can have no power over us, exdept as he is aided by our own. culpable remissness^ or the treachery of our hearts. Imention, lastly, DESERTION, oRTH£ hiding OF God's countenance. When he hides his face, who then can behold him? This was the afiectiiig cause of Job's extreme depression. O that I knew where I might Jind him, that I might come even to his seat! Behold, I go forward, but he is not there ; and backward, but I cannot
perceive him : on the kft hand where he doth work, but I cannot behold him : he hideth himself on the right hand, that I cannot see him. David likewise frequently complains bitterly of the dirine dereliction. He was an exile from God s house and reproached by God's enemiefi ; till at last, 'trembling in his mind lest he should be cast away from the divine presence, he asks. How long wilt thm hide thy' face from me? The. Church also in the Prophet was dejected, when God in a little wrath hid his face from her for a moment. We must remember also that 0m* Lord, in the hour of bis sufferings, com-^ plained of no other part of the cup of sorrow ; but that when his heavenly Father withdrew the light of his favour, he exclaimed in unspeakable anguish. My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me ? Under circumstances then of spiritual desertion the Christian sinks often into a depression of heart which weighs heavily upon
368 RELIGIOUS DEJECTION. him, fills him with the most gloomy forebodings, and interrupts all sensible communion between him and his God. But enough has been said on the ciaiuses of this distemper. It varies so greatly in the detail of almost every case, that only a general description of some of the more common occasions of it has be to attempted.
I proceed therefore to consider, III. The cure of this disease. There are three very different methods adopted iii the cure of religious melancholy: the one by the worldly person ; the second by the inconsiderate but well-meaning Christian friend ; the third by the faithful minister of the word of God. The WORLDLY PERSON may have a sincere compassion for the dejected Christian, but, not understanding the case, cannot direct him to the proper cure. He considers religiousdepression as a vapour, a morbid state of the imagination. He is disposed to laugh at the terrors which are felt, and to propose diversion, pleasure, company, dissipation, and a round of business and engagements, as the appropriate remedy. When these injudicious methods are employed, the effect may be easily conjectured. They may remove lowness of spirits for a time, but it is by generating a still more dangerous
RELIGIOUS DEJECTION. 369 disease, by producing unconcern as to the state of the mind, a disregard of God, and an insensibility of conscience, which, if they continue, must issue in the absolute ruin of the soul.
Behold, all ye that kindle a^re, that compass your-^ selves about with sparks; walk in the light of your Jire and in the sparks that ye have kindled; this shall ye have of mine hand, ye shall lie down in sorrow. A second mode is adopted by the inconsiderate religious FRIEND. Without weighing different circumstances, he proposes the same remedy indiscriminately in every instance. He would comfort at all events, and through all impediments. He sooths and lulls the negligent Christian without an adequate knowledge of his disease. He exhorts him to joy in believing, and if there are insuperable obstacles to his immediately complying with this exhortation, he abandons him as desperate. At times he will overthrow many important doctrines of the Gospel, in order to establish the point in hand. Instead of examining the several causes of the depression, and applying the appropriate means, first for removing such causes, and then for administering comfort, he gives such an exhibition of the Gospel as indirectly encourages sin, separating its consolations from that diligence in renouncing evil habits, and in using the appointed means of grace, which always accompanies and BB
370 RELIGIOUS DEJECTION.
adorns a true faith in the promises of Christ. This is to administer an opiate, which composes by stupifying. This is to heal the hurt of the daughter of my people slightly, saying. Peace, peace, when there is no peace. The faithful minister of the word of God proceeds in another method. With all the compassion for the depressed Christian, and all the attachment to the doctrines of grace which any person can feel ; he is anxious on the one hand to preserve uninjured the spirituality of the sufferers mind; and on the other not to speak peace and comfort to him, except on solid and scriptural grounds. He endeavours to dis* cem things that differ, and to show himself ap* proved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. If the distressed Christian, then, seems to him to labour under bodily maladies or the effects of superstition, the minister will recommend in the first instance, a due attention TO THE health, AND A MORE CORRECT KNOWLEDGE OF THE WILL OF GoD. If a mau's spirits are broken by excessive labour or study, he will advise him to seek relaxation, before he can expect serenity of mind. If a debilitated frame disorder, as it will do, the religious affections, he will direct him to distinguish between the natural consequences of bodily disease, and the effects of the displeasure of God. If Super-
RELIGIOUS DEJECTION. 371 stitious fears harass him, he Mill disclose the error, and exhort him to study the Bible : J'o the law and to the testimony.; if they speak 7iot according to this rule, it is because they have no light in thtm. In cases of diistress which seem to spring from a misapprehension of the plan of the Gos^ pel, the minister will delight to expatiate ox THE LOVE OF GoD in Christ Jesus. This he will display to the fainting heart of the penitent. He will tell him that God delighteth in mercy ; that he has no pleasure in the death of a sinner; that he beseeches and entreats sinners to be reconpiled ; that the most stupendous ex-* hibition of his grace was in his so loving the world as to give his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth on him should not perish, but have everlasting l^fe; that the spring and source of redemption itself was the immeasurable love and kindness of God our Saviour towards man. He will point the dejected penitent to the parables of the lost sheep and of the prodigal son, and will ask him whether the Joy in heaven over one sinner that repenteth, and the compassion of the father of the prodigal when he saw him a great way off and ran and fell qn his neck and kissed him, do not show the unspeakable love of God. The SUFFICIENCY OF THE DEATH AND INTERCESSION OF THE Saviour is, also, a topic BB2
372 RELIGIOUS DEJECTION. calculated to relieve this particular case. What can exceed the merits of our incarnate Lord? What surpass the virtue of his sacrifice ? Who can condemn those whom he justifies ? Is he not God as well as man ? Is not his death a propitiation for the sins of the whole world 'i Did he not die the just for the unjust 'i Was not the law fulfilled by him, the moral government of God honoured, justice appeased, truth satisfied, and the demands of holiness answered ? Is not Christ now in heaven as our intercessor ; and can he not save to the uttermost all that come unto God by him ? Shall a man presume to say, that his sins in particular are too great to be expiated by the blood of the Redeemer? Does not this savour more of self-importance than of humility ? The free and unlimited invitation to sinners to approach this adorable Saviour, is likewise an appropriate means of relief here. Whosoever will, let him come, Jesus stood and cried. If ant/ man thirst, let him come unto me and drink. Come unto me, all ye that are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Him that Cometh unto me, I fvill in no wise cast out. Let the dejected inquirer listen to these accents of mercy. Let him acknowledge the misery and disappointment which attend his efforts to become really holy on his. present plan. Let him venture confidently on the grace of Christ. A
RELIGIOUS DEJECTION. 373 free and full salvation through the sacrifice of the cross is offered to him. He is a miserably weak and wretched being. For such a fallen creature to purchase heaven, or to change his own heart, or practise the duties of Christianity of himself, is impossible. He can do nothing that is free from sin, even although deliverance from eternal ruin were to be the consequence. Let him then, with his anxious and horror-struck mind, cast himself at the feet of his Saviour for free justification and effectual help, humbly imploring the divine Spirit to give him the peace and consolation arising from a sen^ of the pardon of his sins by the death of Christ,- and strength to serve and obey him in newness of life. But in the case of dejection of mind arising from some course of sin which has been secretly or openly committed, the minister of God's word must adopt another method. The grace and privileges of the Gospel are not the right topics to be employed, at least in the first instance. The conscience must, rather, be awakened to do its office. The whole state of the heart and conduct must be searched into; for the only effectual remedy that can be applied, under the divine blessing, in such a case, is to eradicate THE cause of the MISCHIEF. If prayer in secret has been neglected ; if habits unfavourable to growth in religion have been indulged ; if a
374 RELIGIOUS DEJECTION. lax and remiss walk with Grod has been ad* mitted ; if lust, or covetousness, or pride, or pleasure, or wrath, or intemperance, or selfish* ness, have gradually got possession of our hearts, the advice to be given is obvious. We must renounce our sins, or our religion. Any one habitual transgression wilfully committed must exclude us from the kingdom of heaven. Ltt no man deceive you with vain tcords^ far because of such things the wrath of God cometh on the children of disobedience. Know ye noi^ that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey, whether of sin unto death or of obedience unto righteousness? True, the passion or the practice which you indulge may be dear to you as a right hand or a right eye — but dear as it is, you must renounce it, or perish. To persist in it, to excuse it, to hide it^ will only aggravate your transgression. Your depression will increase, and so it ought. Your very conversion to God must become a question, and perhaps is even now questionable ; and it certainly can only be resolved by your humbly returning to a holy, consistent, watchful, circumspect obedience. Beg of God then to give you his Holy Spirit ; and begin at once this necessary duty. Be seriously attentive to all the means of grace. Set apart a portion of time, if possible, for fasting and prayer. It is
one degree of effort which will preserve a man
RELIGIOUS DEJECTION. 375 from falling into a pit ; but an effort much more powerful is necessary to raise him out of a pit when he is once fallen. Extraordinary care, and study, and diligence are. heedful for you. But if you employ them in humility and faith, with penitence and prayer, you need notdespair ; Ood will help you. Though you have so far departed from him, yet return noto unto him, and he will heal your backslidihgs. Repent and do yourjirst works. Thus will the privileges and mercies of the Gospel be once more yours, and God will restore to you the joys of his salvatiofh Should, however, long-continued afflictions be the principal cause of depression of mind, the Christian minister will, with the Psalmist, endeavour to take off the sufferer's view from his own particular calamities, and direct it to God'sGENERAL DEALINGS WITH HISSERVANTS. In the text, the inspired writer resolves to remember the years of the right hand of the Most High, apparently as the best method of healing the distemper of his mind. He accordingly first recounts God's ancient dealings with his church. He then breaks out into a celebration
of his holiness and glory — Thy way, O God, is in the sanctuary ; who is so gi^eat a God as our God? He next commemorates the works of God in the deliverance of his people from Egypt, when he redeemed ihem by his own arm.
376 RELIGIOUS DEJECTION. when the waters savx him and they ivere afraid, the depths also were troubled; when the descending storm with the fearful lightnings and earthquakes joined in discomfiting the enemy-^TAe cloiids poured out water, the skies ^ent out a sound ;^ thine arrows went abroad; the voice of thy thunder was in the heavens, the lightnings lightened the worid, the earth trembled and shook. He thence concludes that God's ways are unsearchable, and that he has purposes of mercy in view, even in the most trying and apparently discouraging dispensations with which his servants are visited — Thy way is in the sea, and thy path in the great waters, and thy footsteps are not known; and yet thou leddest thy people like a flock, by the hand of Moses and Aaron. Follow then, distressed sufferer, the Psalmist's example. The same afflictions are accomplished in thy brethren which are in the wo?id. The redemption by the Red Sea, and the greater redemption of the mount of Calvary, of which it was a figure, encourage thy hopes. The storm may rage ; but the Saviour is iQ the vessel. God's footsteps may not be knoion, but we know his promise and his love,
his faithfulness and his power. Then why art thou cast down, O my soul? and why art thou disquieted within me ? Hope thou in God, for thou shalt yet praise him. Lastly, in the case of desertion, and indeed in all the preceding cases, the important sug-
RELIGIOUS DEJECTION. 377 gestion is to be made, that resignation to God's holy will must be added to the humble use of all the means of grace. For, wherefore should a living man complain, . a man for the punishment of his sins ? God's ways are not our ways, nor his thoughts our thoughts. To reach heaven at last, though under whatever dejection, is infinitely better than a soothing and easy path to hell. Salvation is a blessing inestimably precious. The sorrows of the way to glory, if you be duly^ exercised by them, and patience has in you its perfect work, will heighten the joy of that ineffable happiness. You are thus preparing for the inheritance of the saints in light, God, by his inflictions, may perhaps be humbling you and fitting you for more important services on earth. . Only raise your heart to God, and fix your love and humble trust on your Saviour. All things shall work together for good to them that love God, to them that are called according to his purpose. It was the' lot even of the Apostles of our Lord, through much tribula25
tion to enter into the kingdom of heaven. Wherefore hold up the. hands that hang down^arul confirm the feeble knees. For what saith Jehovah to his people ? Fear thou not, for I am with thee : be not dismayed, for I am thy God, I will strengthen thee, yea, I will help thee, yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness.
378 ^ RELIGIOUS DEJECTION. In conclusion, allow me to observe to irreligious PERSONS, That, though they may amuse themselves and others with the dejection which sincere Christians may endure, yet they have little reason to boast. They are free from religious fears, because they are without religion. The fears of a pious man are frequently ungrounded ; but those of an ungodly one, though now they may be repressed, will overtake him at the last with tenfold force. A careless life must lead to a wretched death. To be without the occasional depression to which the true Christian is often liable, might be well. But to be without his repentance, his faith, his love, his hope of heaven, his union with God, indicates a state of extreme and urgent peril. If there is a reasonable fear in the \vorld, the unconverted man has cause to indulge it. His day of punishment is fast approaching ; his impenitence and unbelief must be infinitely more displeasing to God
than the infirmities and excessive apprehensions of his true servants. Let then the thoughtless person be awakened from his stupidity and seek after God> Let him fly for mercy to a Suviour. Then, and then only, will he be able to judge aright of the religious dej^ection of those, whom he now' perhaps despises and contemns.
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