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set with thorns, yet leads to glory. You may look forward with pleasure: every passing moment decreases the sum of your trials. The vehicle of time is carrying you rapidly away from all the storms and tempests of life. Think how soon you will be home, and at home never to return. What, then, are a few trials by the way, when compared to the happiness of the end? Think how much the crown of glory will outweigh the crown of thorns. O, how pleasant to reflect on the bright scenes of eternal felicity! “When the earthly house of this tabernacle be dissolved, we shall have a building of God; an house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.” “When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall we also appear with him in glory."
“There shall we bathe our weary souls
In seas of heavenly rest,
Across our peaceful breast."
WHILE some Christians are travelling in the dark valley, filled with fear, and ready to despond under a sense of their unworthiness, there are others who are on the mount, whose hopes are bright, and whose prospects are delightful and unbounded. They can take a retrospective view of the divine conduct, and with a joyful confidence declare, that he hath done all things well. They can look round them, and with faith discern a wise hand directing every event, and overruling all for their good. They can look before them, and with joy anticipate the inheritance which is incorruptible, undefiled, and that fadeth not away. Such is the happy experience of many Christians. Let it not be understood, however, that by happy experience, I always mean remarkable high emotions, ecstatic pleasures, or ravishing transports. These are scattered with a sparing hand, and are chiefly reserved for a better world. Prosperity of soul may exist without them, as the health of the body may be sound without the animal spirits being always lively. Where, indeed, religion flourishes, cheerfulness will not be absent; and, from the nature of soul prosperity, we may conclude that it will produce that pleasure which contrary principles prescribe. Yet let him that is sighing for spiritual health remember that he may attain to it without always experiencing the highest sensible joys. It is, perhaps, necessary to make this remark, as many have mistaken the nature of soul prosperity, and placed it more in strong and unspeakable sensations, than in a contrite and humble spirit. That may be termed a happy experience in general, in which love to God is the prevailing principle, notwithstanding there may be many discouragements in the way; for where this becomes, as it were, the ruling passion, everything else will be brought into subserviency to it. The heart will be affected, the thoughts generally conversant about divine things, and the deportment such as becometh the Gospel of Christ.
But may we not stop here and ask, Is this the object sought for by the generality of the human race? Is this the utmost wish of their hearts? Is it for this they groan, they toil, they exert themselves? Ah! sin, what hast thou done? How hast thou inverted everything; and into what a deluded and dangerous path hast thou directed the footsteps of man! Any kind of prosperity is desired in preference to that of the soul. The honor of the world, the accumulation of riches, the decoration of the person, the seat of power, the plaudits of the multitude;
these are objects infinitely more important in the view of most men. These are the idols at whose shrine any sacrifice is made, any inconvenience suffered; so that these gods may be propitious. For what is all that bustle we see in life, that vigorous activity, that deep concern, that painful anxiety? For what that the day is spent in labor, and the night refusing sleep? For what that ingenuity plans her schemes; that patience waits; that perseverance crowns her labors ? Ah! for what that talents are displayed, opportunities embraced, and zeal, busy zeal, pushing into action? I ask, for what are all these? For the glory of our Maker; for the prosperity of the soul; for the promotion of truth, and the enlargement of her empire ? Ah! no. This activity is all confined to time: the end that stimulates the exertion extends no farther than this world. The concern is for the body. All this mighty bustle, this laborious service, is for a trifle, a bubble, a nothing; while the improvement of the mind, the care of the soul, the favor of God, are treated with contempt, or absolutely forgotten !!!
Thanks be to thy name, however, O Father of Mercies, that while with sorrow we view the degeneracy
of man, yet we can rejoice that there are some whom thou hast formed for thyself, and who shall show forth thy praise; who, while many are going about, and saying, Who will show us any good? are imploring thy favor, choosing the one thing needful, and with willing feet are running the way of
thy commandments. These are the characters who value the health of the mind, who place not their happiness in sensual gratifications, who are truly wise, and shall finally receive that crown of glory which awaits the righteous. Yes, “These shall walk, O Lord, in the light of thy countenance. In thy name shall they rejoice all the day, and in thy righteousness shall they be exalted. These shall flourish like the palm-tree; they shall grow like a cedar in Lebanon. They shall bring forth fruit in old age. They shall come to the grave in a full age, like as a shock of corn cometh in his season.
Yes, these shall shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father. These shall be for ever with the Lord.” Ps. Ixxxix. 16, Ps. xcii. 10, 11, Job. v. 26, Matt. xiii. 43, 1 Thess. iy. 17.
Let us now proceed to consider more particularly the happy experience of a Christian, or what may be considered as evidencing prosperity of soul.
And first, we may observe, that it is attended with increasing knowledge. It is the divine command, "Grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.” It is the divine promise, that the righteous shall go forth, and grow up as calves of the stall;" and it is a portrait drawn by the divine hand, that the path of the just is as the shining light, that shineth more and more unto the perfect day.” 2 Pet. iii. 18, Mal. iy. 2, Prov. iv. 18. From all these passages it is evident that the knowledge of a Christian is not stationary—it is progress