Vital Godliness: A Treatise on
Experimental and Practical Piety

By William S. Plumer


"But the fruit of the Spirit is . . . patience." (Galatians 5:22)

"With all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love." (Ephesians 4:2)

"Put on then, as God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience." (Colossians 3:12)

In the Greek Testament are two words which we translate PATIENCE. One of these is rendered by Robinson—forbearance, long-suffering, patient endurance. In Scripture it is used to express the forbearance or patience of God towards sinners in delaying their just punishment. Rom. 2:4; 9:22; 2 Pet. 3 15. It also expresses human forbearance, or the patience of one man towards another. Matt. 18:26, 29; Eph. 4:2. The verb from which it is derived is used to express the delay of God to deliver his persecuted people. Luke 18:7. And another signification is, that of man's quietly and confidently awaiting blessings from God, as Gal. 5:22. In general this patience is opposed to all hastiness of spirit towards God or man.

The other word in the Greek Testament rendered patience is perhaps of still more frequent use, and signifies endurance, perseverance or constancy. It often occurs in the epistles of the New Testament. In many cases it clearly conveys the idea of perseverance in duty at all risks and hazards—with hope towards God.

Buck defines patience to be "that calm and unruffled temper, with which a godly man bears the evils of life."

Barrow says, "Patience is that virtue which qualifies us to bear all conditions and all events, by God's disposal incident to us, with such persuasions of mind, such dispositions and affections of heart, such external deportments and practices of life, as God requires and good reason directs."

Evans says, "Christian patience is a disposition that keeps us calm and composed in our frame, and steady in the practice of our duty under the sense of our afflictions, or in the delay of our hopes."

Charnock says, "In regard of God, patience is a submission to his sovereignty." "To endure a trial, simply because we cannot avoid or resist it, is not Christian patience. But to humbly submit because it is the will of God to inflict the trial, to be silent because the sovereignty of God orders it—is true godly patience."

Mason says, "Christian patience is not a careless indolence, a stupid insensibility, mechanical bravery, constitutional fortitude, a daring stoutness of spirit, resulting from fatalism, human reasoning, or pride. Christian patience is gift and grace of the Holy Spirit, nourished by heavenly truth, and guided by scriptural rules."

Bates says, "Insensibility of God's hand inflicting trials, is as different from Christian patience; as a deathly lethargy is different from the quiet, soft sleep of health. Nothing kindles God's anger more than neglecting his direct agency in sending the trial. It is equally provoking, as the despising of his love; it is a symptom of a wretched state of soul. If there proceed no sighs and groans, no signs of grief from the sense of God's displeasure, it is a sad evidence there is no spiritual life. Indolence under the effects of God's anger is like the stillness of the Dead sea, whose calm is a curse."

From what has been said it appears that patience has various OBJECTS. Towards God it is resigned, and says, "I will bear the indignation of the Lord." Towards Christian people, who justly reprove us, it is meek, and says, "Let the righteous smite me." Towards wicked and unreasonable people, who love to see others afflicted, it says, "Rejoice not against me, O my enemy." Towards the trials under which we are called to suffer, it is not uneasy and rebellious, but rather gives them a kind reception. Under provocation it is gentle and not resentful. It blesses and curses not. It bears insults and injuries without malice. It is "patient toward all men." Under affliction it is quiet and submissive. It will use no wicked measures to relieve even great distresses. It is "patient in tribulation"—even the most extreme sufferings. Under delays it is still and uncomplaining. It loves to leave everything in the hands of the Father.

To this Paul refers when he says, "You have need of patience, that, after you have done the will of God, you might receive the promise. For yet a little while, and he that shall come will come, and will not tarry." Heb. 10:36, 37.

The duty of patience is ILLUSTRATED in the Scriptures by several different similes. The first is that of the FARMER. "Be patient, therefore, brothers, until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, being patient about it, until it receives the early and the late rains." James 5:7. The precious seed is often sown in spring. For moisture it is dependent on dews and rains, over which the farmer has no control. Nor can he either send or withhold the snow for its protection against the rigors of winter. Nor can he defend it against blight and mildew and the caterpillar and the worm. Nor can he reap his harvest for months after the seed-time. So that "patience" is required. At last the precious fruits come, and all his toils are rewarded and all his hopes realized.

Another mode of representing patience is by the life and habits of a city WATCHMAN. Thus the psalmist says, "I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in his word I hope; my soul waits for the Lord more than watchmen for the morning, more than watchmen for the morning." Psalm 130:5, 6. The night may be dark and long and stormy, but the longest night has its morning, the darkest night has the day-spring coming after it, and the most stormy weather is followed by calm and sunshine. The weather-beaten watchman knows that he will be allowed to cease his rounds and at last rest in his bed. He rejoices in hope of sure release. He longs for the time to come. Yet he frets not because it seems to tarry. He knows he cannot hasten it. If he could do away with night altogether, it would but spoil his business. If he could materially abbreviate it, he would but diminish his gains. So he enters upon his beat and its duties with firmness and constancy.

A third mode of representing this patience is by the duties and habits of a SERVANT. "Behold, as the eyes of servants look unto the hand of their masters, and as the eyes of a maiden unto the hand of her mistress; so our eyes wait upon the Lord our God, until he has mercy upon us." Psalm 123:2. The context shows that the state of mind here described had special reference to the state of the righteous as called to endure the contempt and scorning of the proud.

A quiet patient spirit is also set forth in God's word by the behavior of a WEANED CHILD. David says, "Surely I have behaved and quieted myself as a child that is weaned of his mother: my soul is even as a weaned child." Psalm 131:2. This process, when first commenced, produces wakefulness, restlessness, fretfulness; but when completed, it produces quietness and submission. An illustration so familiar to all parents needs no further explanation.

Job uses another simile to set forth the same thing, that of a hired man, who watched the lengthening shadows of the evening, and longed for his reward. He had too much principle to desert his work or to attempt to defraud his employer. But at the going down of the sun he looked for pay. This seems to be a favorite mode of expressing the views of life entertained by Job in the time of his great and sore afflictions. Job 7:1, 2; 14:6.

When EXAMPLES of patience are demanded, we can be at no loss. James says, "Take, my brethren, the prophets, who have spoken in the name of the Lord, for an example of suffering affliction, and of patience. Behold, we count them happy who endure. You have heard of the patience of Job, and have seen the end of the Lord; that the Lord is very pitiful, and of tender mercy."

Time would fail us to tell of Isaiah royally descended, who for his fidelity is said to have been nailed up in a box and sawn asunder; of Jeremiah and all his suffering in the slimy pit and elsewhere; of Daniel in the lions' den; of the faithful Hebrews in the fiery furnace; and of all those great sufferers for the truth and honor of God in ancient times. Look also at our forefathers in Scotland, England, Ireland, France, Holland, and Germany.

But the apostle James selects Job as a special example. And indeed he was the most patient of all merely human sufferers. What did he not lose without one sinful word? Seven thousand sheep, three thousand camels, five hundred yoke of oxen, five hundred donkeys, a great retinue of servants, seven sons and three daughters, and bodily health—were all taken, yet in all this his patience seems not once to have failed. His grief was heavier than the sand of the sea. The arrows of the Almighty were within him, and their poison was drinking up his spirits. Yes, the terrors of God set themselves against him. Yet more than fifteen hundred years afterwards James points to him as the brightest example of patience among the ancient servants of God.

The most illustrious sufferer and the best pattern of patience was Jesus Christ. None suffered so greatly—and none suffered so patiently. He endured mockery, contradiction, scourging, and death at the hand of man. He also bore the wrath of God. The violence of men and the wrath of God, treachery and desertion by his disciples, and the hiding of his Father's face—all came on him at once. Yet he bore it all in a blameless manner. "When reviled, he reviled not again; when he suffered, he threatened not, but committed himself to him who judges righteously." "For this cause," says he, "came I to this hour." "Not my will, but your will be done." None can be at a loss for a safe guide, if he will but turn his eyes to Christ. There all is perseverance, forbearance, quiet, unmurmuring endurance, unflinching obedience—human nature indeed lifting up both hands in terror and amazement, but principle and piety triumphing over all temptations. Blessed be God, our Guide and Pattern has left us a perfect example.

This patience is the fruit of God's Spirit. Paul prayed that his Colossian converts "might walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing, being fruitful in every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of God; strengthened with all might, according to his glorious power, unto all patience and long-suffering, with joyfulness." Col. 1:10, 11. Every good gift comes from heaven. Human nature is impatient, self-willed, restless, turbulent. Men must be taught of God, or they never will know anything to purpose. Accustomed as men are, to some kinds or degrees of inconvenience, conscious as they ought to be that they deserve far worse than ever befalls them—yet all this is to no purpose until God by his Spirit gives them affections and principles which are quite above the measure and strength of nature.

That this grace enters into the essentials of Christian character, is certain from the fact that it is twice so catalogued. In 1 Tim. 6:11, Paul exhorts Timothy to "follow after righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, meekness." And in Galatians 5:22, 23, he says the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance." He who dares erase from either catalogue a single word, takes great liberties with sacred things, and brings his soul into jeopardy. It is also obvious from the very nature of holiness, and from the nature of heavenly things. Would not a fiery, impatient spirit, be every way as unlovely and as unfit for the society above, as the spirit of revenge, of pride, or of covetousness?

If we have an impatient temper, occasions and temptations will not be lacking to elicit it. The world is full of evil-doers and evil-doings, of evil-speakers and evil-speeches, of evil-surmisers and evil-surmisings. "Do not be agitated by evildoers; do not envy those who do wrong. For they wither quickly like grass and wilt like tender green plants. Refrain from anger and give up your rage; do not be agitated—it can only bring harm." Psalm 37:1, 2, 8. Sometimes the power of wicked men is fearful, and wielded in the most causeless and oppressive manner. The beast which rose out of the sea, having seven heads and ten horns, and upon his horns ten crowns, and upon his heads the name of blasphemy—has always had a mouth speaking great things and blasphemies; and has often had power to make war with the saints, and to overcome them; and all whose names are not written in the book of life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world, do at times worship him. And he carries God's people into captivity, and he slays them with the sword. In such a state of things as this, we see "the patience and the faith of the saints." Rev. 13:10. As a roaring lion, Satan goes about seeking whom he may devour.

Doubtless there is a just anger—a righteous indignation against wrongs and wrong-doers. It is based on a sense of justice. But anger which results from our evil tempers, which is violent or perpetuated, does no good. It torments him who exercises it. It grieves his best friends; it terrifies his dependents. It makes fellowship with him a source of misery. It is commonly followed by dreadful reproaches of conscience. It drives away many who would otherwise delight to do one a service. It mends no mistakes, relieves no pains, repairs no losses. And it is infectious, and in turn communicated to those around us.

A time of sickness generally tries one's patience. There is always much sickness in the world. No man can entirely escape it but by a sudden death, which in a moment calls him into eternity. Some sicknesses waste the frame without beclouding the mind. Others beget stupor, which destroys sensibility to pain. But generally sickness renders men less capable of reasoning soundly and feeling kindly, than before. To him who is of a patient spirit, sickness may, without a miracle, be a means of great enjoyment. It enables a good man to test his principles. The severer the sickness in such cases, the richer the blessings following. Probably the happiest person in many a large city in Christian lands is some child of God, whose bodily health makes him a stranger to sound sleep, and a stranger also to the house of God. There is still living a man who says he has seen four very happy days. One was the day of his conversion; another was the day of his marriage; the other two were days spent in a sick-bed far from home.

The church has had few brighter ornaments than the celebrated Andrew Rivet. As a student, a writer, a preacher, a professor, he was full of life and energy; yet he said he "had learned more divinity in ten days' sickness than in fifty years' study." The pious Halyburton, in a state of great weakness and pain, said, "Verily there is a reality in religion. The close acquaintance I have had with God within these two days, has been better than ten thousand times the pains I have all my life been at about religion. These fourteen or fifteen years I have been studying the promises; but I have seen more of the book of God this night than in all that time. If I had my students about me now, I would give them a lesson of divinity."

In 1826, one of my class-mates was taken sick. His illness became extreme. His life was in great peril. At times his pains were excruciating. He was not at ease one moment. Yet all who visited him were witnesses of his patience and joy. Their report led others to his sick-bed. Many a fellow-student dropped his books every day, and said, "I will now turn aside and see this great sight." This good man died not then, but lived to proclaim for several years the unsearchable riches of Christ. He bore with patience many trials, and carried with him through life, a sweet savor of Christ, and has now fallen asleep in Jesus. This happy sufferer was Jacob Beecher.

Every pastor sees cases of this kind. Every evangelical church furnishes them. If God so blesses us in sickness, we need not dread its sharpest pangs. They prepare us for sweet mercies. Even if we have no transports, we may yet have quietness. Though we may not exult, we may endure. God may appoint to us wearisome nights and days of vanity, scaring us in visions, or holding our eyes waking. Our bed may not comfort us, nor our couch ease our complaints. For a time God may hide his face from us, or our consolations may be small. Yet it is a very great attainment to lie passive in God's hands, and know no will but his.

Some are impatient respecting the future. Their faith is perhaps weak, their nerves are not strong, their circumstances not easy, and they have great anxiety. Indeed most men have alternate hopes and fears concerning coming days. It would greatly tend to check such thoughts if we would remember that the future, which we so much dread, may never come to us. There is nothing more certain than death, and nothing more uncertain than the time when death may overtake us. The human mind easily grows weary when prying into the future. A wise man can do nothing better than look up to God, and say, 'My times are with you.' I cannot see far; I am very blind. But God sees the end from the beginning. He is wise and mighty. Outcomes are with him; duty is mine. If I can do what God requires, I need not fear results. Times may change; revolution may swiftly follow revolution; friends and scenes and seasons may change; I myself may undergo many changes; but God, his word and plans and counsels, never change. They are all holy and perfect.

To do one's duty and leave results with God is scriptural. "Trust in the Lord—and do good." "Offer the sacrifices of righteousness—and put your trust in the Lord." What better can a man do? What else can he do—unless he frets and sins? A great means of curing impatience is a close attention to present duties, some of which are always instant and urgent. One of these is the maintenance of a devout spirit. He who has no heart to pray and praise, to read God's word, to meditate on divine things, and to try his own ways—has not begun to do his duty, and lays himself open to the assaults of impatience.

Whatever is unfriendly to a spirit of devotion is dangerous. We all need fire, fire from heaven, to consume our sacrifices. The love of Christ must be shed abroad within us. If prayer were always "the key of the day; and the lock of the evening," we would have far fewer impatient speeches. The man who finds God's words and eats them, who meditates on divine things in the night-watches, who searches his heart as with candles, who is in the fear of the Lord all the day long, who praises the Lord seven times a day—cannot be under the sway of impatience.

Let a man also set himself to the imitation of Christ, whose example is perfect and lovely; let him follow the Lamb wherever he leads; let him walk in the footsteps of his great Forerunner; let him be careful to do this with exactness and alertness, and impatience shall not be his master. Let him delight in the law of God after the inward man, let him esteem God's precepts concerning all things to be right, let him love the Scripture which reproves his sins, let him take it as a rule for all his thoughts, words, and deeds, and he will have so much to do that he will find impatience yielding before a hearty performance of duty.

Let him watch his own heart, let him see to it that he is not merely "converted from the sins of men—to the sins of devils," as from drunkenness, gluttony, and lewdness—to envy, malice, and spiritual pride. But let him see to it that he is turned from sin to holiness, from Satan unto God, and he will by degrees gain a sure victory over impatience.

Let him die unto the world, let him die daily; let it be his rule, "I will not commit myself to worldly matters." Let him leave the world before the world leaves him. Let him learn that the world is a cheat and a liar, not by always seeking to it, but by obeying the lessons of past experience and the teachings of God's word—and his impatience concerning the future will give way.

Let him learn to avoid the habit of complaining, let him labor to take cheerful views of things, so far as this can in truth be done. Or if the sorrow of the mind be great, let him go chiefly to God with it. A man may complain to God, but let him never complain of God. Let him never tire in his Master's service, always making Christ's righteousness his righteousness, God's will his will, God's Son his bright and morning star. Let him consent to be nothing, that God may be all and in all. Let him live by faith, and walk by faith. Let him diligently run the race that is set before him, and he will find sinful impatience leaving him more and more, until at last it shall be a vanquished foe, and he shall rise to dwell with God. Above all things, look to God himself.

Perhaps old age has begun to come upon you, and you find there comes with it a certain spirit of impatience. It is sometimes said that the old are liable to peevishness. Great changes have taken place in the world since their habits were formed. Such conduct is often exhibited before them as makes them feel that others wish their place or their property. They see but little reverence for grey hairs. They have many infirmities. They are often kept from the house of God. Disappointment sometimes sorely tries their temper. They often see mean advantages taken of their age or weakness. Sometimes they have no means of occupying their time. They cannot see to read, or they did not form the habit of reading when young, and so cannot now enjoy it. Early in life Hall wrote, "There is nothing more odious than fruitless old age. And as no tree bears fruit in autumn, unless it blossoms in the spring, so that my old age may be profitable, and laden with fruit, I will endeavor that my youth may be studious, and flowered with the blossoms of learning and observation."

It is a great thing for old people to love reading. If the Bible alone is their companion and joy, they will surely find "solitude sweetened." It is a great matter for any, and especially for the aged, to learn to control their tongue and temper; to be economical without stinginess, liberal without prodigality, cheerful without levity, humble without baseness, strict without bigotry, devout without fanaticism, and obliging without laxity of principle.The angry passions by all men, especially by the aged, should be kept under strict control. Earnestly cry to God for guidance, support, and comfort in old age. No wit, no learning, no renown in early life, can of themselves preserve one from contempt in old age.

Dean Swift was a great student, scholar, and wit; in old age he became stupid, helpless, senseless. He was fed like a child, and was actually exhibited by his servants for reward, as a show to visitors. No man ever made a deeper impression on England than the Duke of Marlborough. At court his sway was above that of all but the queen. In France his name was a solemn caution to men to live peaceably. All Europe resounded with the fame of his deeds. Yet his last days were full of misery, as he lost his mind.

God alone and God only can protect the aged from all harm. Look to him. "Trust in the Lord and do what is good; dwell in the land and live securely. Take delight in the Lord, and He will give you your heart's desires. Commit your way to the Lord; trust in Him, and He will act, making your righteousness shine like the dawn, your justice like the noonday. Be silent before the Lord and wait expectantly for Him." (Psalms 37:3-7). He will ensure that the hoary head of the righteous, shall be a crowned with glory. If you are old, remember that as long as you live, one of your most solemn duties is to set an example of cheerfulness and patience; that as memory fails, it needs to be often refreshed by the perusal of God's word; that as your time on earth is short, you should be careful that none of it run to waste; that your sufferings on earth will not last long; and that God's promises to pious old age are very full and gracious.

Listen to his words: "Your life will be brighter than noonday; its darkness will be like the morning." Job 11:17. "They shall still bring forth fruit in old age; they shall be fat and flourishing; to show that the Lord is upright: he is my rock, and there is no unrighteousness in him." Psalm 92:14. Again he says, "Even when you're old, I'll take care of you. Even when your hair turns gray, I'll support you. I made you and will continue to care for you. I'll support you and save you." Isa. 46:4. Surely with such promises we may safely trust an unseen God even in the midst of the trials and weaknesses of age. How memorable that saying of an eminent servant of God, "I have had six children, and I bless God that they are either with Christ or in Christ, and my mind is at rest concerning them. My desire was that they should have served Christ on earth; but if God will rather choose to have them serve him in heaven, I have nothing to object to it."

Are you a teacher of the young? Are you endeavoring to form the minds of others to virtue and knowledge? Be patient. Rule your own spirit; teach the same lesson over and over again; do not upbraid others for their dullness. Persevere. Be pleasant. Are you laboring for the conversion of others, and do they seem very dull and obstinate? Be patient with them. As long as God spares them, there is hope. Who can tell but the Lord will be gracious in the last extremity? Hope and plead with them. Hope and pray to God. Never cease your endeavors until life is extinct.

Are you slandered? Do not be revengeful. Jesus Christ was more reviled and misrepresented than you have ever been. Make him your pattern. It is better to be slandered than to be a slanderer. It will do you more harm to lose your temper and fall into sin, than to have all manner of evil spoken against you falsely.

Are you poor? Jesus Christ was more so. Be patient under trials. Christ passed through many worse trials. If men despise you for your poverty, it may drive you to the mercy-seat; and will not that be good for you?

Have you bodily pain? Learn to distinguish between those effects which show sinful impatience and those which are purely physical. A man may indulge very sinful impatience towards God, and yet not utter a sigh or a groan. Another may be in a state of mind highly pleasing to God, and yet every breath may be a groan or a sigh. It is not sinful for men to give natural expression to their sense of pain.

The MOTIVES which may properly be urged upon us to exercise patience are many and strong.

1. The impatient man is unhappy, and nothing can hinder his being so, but a change of temper. He doubles all his sorrows. Those around him are apt to imitate him, and their impatience reacts on him. In both prosperity and adversity, he is destitute of solid peace of mind.

2. The impatient man brings on himself every sort of evil, and especially great guilt in the sight of God. "He who has no rule over his own spirit is like a city that is broken down and without walls." Proverbs 25:28. That is, he lies open to the invasion of all evils; he is protected against none of them. In a thousand respects, "the patient in spirit is better than the proud in spirit." Ecc. 7:8.

3. However sharp our pains and great our sufferings may be, they will not last always. The apostle says, "Be patient; establish your hearts: for the coming of the Lord draws near."

4. Patience is one link in the golden chain which holds us safe on earth in the midst of enemies and perils. Nor is there a brighter link in that chain. Paul says, "We also rejoice in our afflictions, because we know that affliction produces endurance, endurance produces proven character, and proven character produces hope. This hope does not disappoint, because God's love has been poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us." Rom. 5:3-5. James also says, "Consider it a great joy, my brothers, whenever you experience various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. But endurance must do its complete work, so that you may be mature and complete, lacking nothing." (James 1:2-4). It was a noble exclamation in Fenelon when his library was on fire, "God be praised that it is not the dwelling of some poor man."

5. God has mercifully condescended to instruct us on this whole subject by divine example. To his enemies how amazingly patient is God. How he bears with sinners, and forbears to punish them. Indeed, ungodly men in all ages have hardened themselves in sin because God was so good. They have long and blasphemously cried, "Where is the promise of his coming? for since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were." How long did the patience of God wait in the days of Noah. How many thousands of offences, even open and daring sins, do multitudes commit, and yet God spares them, giving them time for repentance. Even the worst criminals are commonly permitted to live long enough to repent, if they have a heart to do so. Shall God show patience under such fearful provocations, and shall we be impatient under any wrongs committed against us? Oh let us "be imitators of God, as dear children."

6. Especially has our Lord Jesus Christ left us an illustrious example of forbearance, meekness, and patience. "He was brought as a lamb to the slaughter; and as a sheep before her shearers is silent, so he opened not his mouth." His forbearance towards his enemies when on earth, was amazing. Legions of angels would have fought his battles with men, if he had bid them do so. But his hands and his heart were both full of blessings, not curses. He bore all, he endured all, he murmured not, he fretted not, he said no harsh things, he felt no unkindness, he was all gentleness and love. In all this he left us an example, that we should follow his steps. "If we suffer with him, we shall also reign with him."

7. "Now finally, all of you should be like-minded and sympathetic, should love believers, and be compassionate and humble, not paying back evil for evil or insult for insult but, on the contrary, giving a blessing, since you were called for this, so that you can inherit a blessing. For the one who wants to love life and to see good days must keep his tongue from evil and his lips from speaking deceit, and he must turn away from evil and do good. He must seek peace and pursue it, because the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and His ears are open to their request. But the face of the Lord is against those who do evil. And who will harm you if you are passionate for what is good? But even if you should suffer for righteousness, you are blessed." (1 Peter 3:8-14). "If when you do well, and suffer for it, you take it patiently, this is acceptable with God." 1 Pet. 2:20. "For it is better, if the will of God be so, that you suffer for well-doing than for evil-doing." 1 Pet. 3:17.

Every wise man has found affliction good for him. Lord Campbell, Chief-justice of England, says, "Little do we know what is for our permanent good. Had Bunyan been discharged from prison, and allowed to enjoy his liberty, he no doubt would have returned, filling up his intervals of leisure with field preaching; his name would not have survived his own generation, and he would have done little for the pious improvement of mankind. But the prison doors were shut upon him for twelve years. Being cut off from the external world, he communed with his own soul, and inspired by Him who touched Isaiah's hallowed lips with fire, he composed the noblest allegory, the merit of which was first discovered by the lowly, but which is now lauded by the most refined critics; and which has done more to awaken piety and to enforce the precepts of Christian morality, than all the sermons that have been published by all the prelates of the Anglican church."

In God's plan, to descend is first; to ascend comes afterwards. We must sink that we may rise. Good old Berridge says, "Afflictions, desertions, and temptations are as needful as consolations. Jonah's whale will teach as good a lesson as as Pisgah's top. A man may sometimes learn as much from being a night or a day in the deep, as from being forty days in the mount. I see Jonah come out of a whale cured of rebellion. I see Moses go up into the mount with meekness, and come down in a huff and break the tablets of stone. Further, I see three special disciples attending their Master into the mount, and falling asleep there. It is well for you to be clothed in sackcloth while you tarry in the wilderness. Look upward, and press forward. Heaven's eternal hills are before you, and Jesus stands with arms wide open to receive you. One hour's sight and enjoyment of the Bridegroom in his palace above, will make you forget all your troubles on the way."

Three remarks are offered in CONCLUSION.

1. We see the unspeakable value of Christian truth. It is a stay and a joy when all comforts and resources of earth fail. Even wicked men have often confessed its power. Before his own mind was influenced by pious hopes or principles, Richard Cecil made the following observations: "I see two unquestionable facts. 1. My mother is greatly afflicted in circumstances, body, and mind, and yet she cheerfully bears up under all by the support she derives from constantly retiring to her closet and to her Bible. 2. My mother has a secret spring of comfort of which I know nothing; while I, who give an unbounded sway to my appetites, and seek pleasure by every means, seldom or never find it. If, however, there is any such secret in religion, why may I not attain to it as well as my mother? I will immediately seek it from God." Indeed, so cold, so barren is infidelity, so destitute of consolatory power, that many have borne a testimony like that of Cecil, and these not merely the weak, but also the strong.

The prince among German historians was Niebuhr. He was not merely a great sceptic, he was an infidel. He was a rationalist, and received nothing as true in revelation except what he chose. This man had a son, whose happiness lay near his heart. Did he wish him to be educated an infidel? Had he found his own system full of consolation? No. He says that he intends his boy "shall believe in the letter of the Old and New Testaments, and I shall nurture in him from his infancy a firm faith in all that I have lost or feel uncertain about."

2. Of course it is very important to study God's word. Would that we had once more a race of great Bible readers. There have been such, and they have been fat and flourishing. Jerome seems to have had the whole Scripture stored in his memory. Erasmus says of him, "Who has ever learned by heart the whole Scriptures, or imbibed or meditated on them—as he did?" After his conversion, Tertullian was occupied day and night in reading God's word. He committed much of it to memory. That great divine Witsius was able without a concordance to recite almost any passage of Scripture in the original words, and tell the book, chapter, and verse. A few years ago, I had an acquaintance on the bench of the Supreme court of his own state, who quoted Scripture with readiness and accuracy, which showed that the word of God dwelt in him richly. In fact, eminent Christians the world over are characterized by constant and profound meditation on God's word.

Oh that men would be persuaded to make God's testimonies their constant delight! Locke says, "If any man will obtain a true knowledge of the Christian religion, let him study the holy Scriptures, especially in the New Testament. Therein are contained the words of eternal life. It has God for its author, salvation for its end, and truth, without any mixture of error, for its matter."

3. Let us follow Christ. Let us be content to live and suffer with him. Robertson says, "We hear in these days a great deal respecting rights—the rights of private judgment, the rights of labor, the rights of property, and the rights of man. Rights are grand things, divine things in this world; but the way in which we expound those rights, alas, seems to me to be the very incarnation of selfishness. I can see nothing noble in a man who is forever going about calling for his own rights. Alas, alas for the man who feels nothing more grand in this wondrous, divine world—than his own rights. Two thousand years ago, there was One here on this earth who lived the grandest life that ever has been lived yet—a life that every thinking man, with deeper or shallower meaning, has agreed to call divine. I read little respecting his rights, or of his claims of rights; but I have read a great deal respecting his duties. Every act he did, he called a duty. I read a very little in that life respecting his rights; but I hear a vast deal respecting his wrongs—infinite wrongs—wrongs borne with a majestic, godlike silence. His reward? His reward was the reward that God gives to all his true and noble ones—to be cast out in his day and generation, and a life bringing crucifixion at last—those were his rights!"