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No. VI.

FAITH, BELIEVING UNTO ETERNAL LIFE.

WELL might the believing of the primitive Christians be called, "precious faith," and "most holy faith;" for its influence upon their spirits was equally soothing and cheering; and upon their character, equally ennobling and sanctifying. No man can think lightly of their joy or peace in believing. Their joy was "unspeakable and full of glory;" and their peace surpassed "all understanding." Every one whose heart has ever ached, whose conscience has ever smarted, whose spirits have ever been low, can and must envy such joy and peace. Even our modern Balaams, who are absorbed in the love of the world, must acknowledge that this is a joy which the world cannot give, and a peace which they do

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not find; for even they have intervals of depression and pain which quite qualify them, at the time, to comprehend how the first Christians were happier in poverty, than they are with wealth. And, if worldlings can judge thus, from mere vexation of spirit," no wonder if we who have had, in addition to our share of that vexation, spiritual discoveries of our guilt and danger, should envy the spiritual happiness of the primitive believers. We can appreciate their joy as saints, because we have experienced something of their sorrows and fears as sinners. Our souls have been in their souls' place, when "the iron entered" into them; and, therefore, we naturally wish our souls to be also in their place, when all their wounds were healed, and all their fears dispelled. We have joined them in the solemn question, "What shall I do to be saved?" and, therefore, we wish to join them in the triumphant song, "Unto him who loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood." We have had fellowship of spirit with them in the piercing cry, "Lord, save, I perish;" and we desire communion

with them in the grateful acknowledgment, "He hath saved us, and called us with an holy calling." We have been partakers of their fears of the wrath to come; and, therefore, we long to be partakers of their good and lively hope of the glory to be revealed.

Not that we are utter strangers to all peace or joy in believing. It is because we have tasted something of both, that we are so intent on “drinking abundantly" of the cup of salvation. The difference between our spiritual happiness, and that of the first believers, is not one of kind, but of degree. They seem to have had an abiding Spirit of adoption; an abiding sense of pardon and acceptance; an abiding witness of the Holy Spirit; an abiding confidence in the wisdom of Providence and the sufficiency of grace. I mean, abiding, as compared with the extreme changeableness of modern joy and peace. Their happiness was not absolutely unchangeable, nor uniform; but their alternations of hope and fear-of light and darkness-of assurance and doubt, were neither so great nor any thing like so frequent as our changes. This is so true and

striking, that we have often questioned the reality of our own faith, on the single ground of its failing to produce such joy and peace as they experienced. Indeed, we are sometimes tempted to suspect, that much of their comfort must have sprung from the miraculous gifts of the Spirit, as well as from his gracious influences; and that, thus, it is impossible to acquire, now, so much enjoyment. This, however, even if true to a far greater extent than can be proved or suspected, was counterbalanced by the peculiar and manifold trials of the primitive Christians. Any miraculous gifts which the generality had, were not more than a counterpoise to their fiery trials, from which we are exempt. Our dispensation of Providence is a better boon, and more adapted to promote spiritual enjoyment, than their dispensation of the Spirit—so far it was miraculous. Accordingly, neither their joy nor peace is ever explained by a reference to their gifts, but always ascribed to the abundance of grace. As the Saviour taught the apostles and evangelists to rejoice, "because their names were written in heaven," so they

taught their converts to find their comfort in the everlasting gospel itself, and not in evanescent endowments. We must not look at circumstances, therefore, for the secret of that

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strong consolation" which was so common in the apostolic churches. Nothing that was supernatural in their lot, exceeded what was trying to flesh and blood in it. As, on the globe, the greatest seas are hung opposite the greatest mountains, to balance them, so floods of affliction were not more than counterpoised by miracles.

What, then, was the real secret of that copious, calm, and holy enjoyment, which the first believers so habitually possessed? They had no foundation of hope, that we have not: no warrant or welcome to build on the Rock of Ages, that we have not: no promises nor prospects that we have not. Jesus Christ is the same in our 66 day," as He was in their "yesterday." The Tree of Life bends its loaded and luxuriant branches as fully down to our hands as it did to their hands. Why is it, then, that whilst we see those who came first around that tree, healed by its leaves, and

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