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EVERY MAN’S LIFE A PLAN OF GOD.
So beautiful is the character and history of Cyrus, the person here addressed, that many have doubted whether the sketch given by Xenophon was not intended as an idealizing, or merely romantic picture. And yet, there have been examples of as great beauty unfolded, here and there, in all the darkest recesses of the heathen world, and it accords entirely with the hypothesis of historic verity in the account given us of this remarkable man, that he is designated and named by our prophet, even before he is born, as a chosen foster-son of God. “I have surnamed thee,” he declares, “I have girded thee, though thou hast not known me.” And what should he be but a model of all princely beauty, of bravery, of justice, of impartial honor to the lowly, of greatness and true magnanimity in every form, when God has girded him, unseen, to be the minister of his own great and sovereign purposes to the nations of his time.
Something of the same kind will also be detected in the history and personal consciousness of almost every great and remarkable character. Christ himself testifies to the girding of the Almighty, when he says,—“To this end was I born, and for this purpose came I into the world.” Abraham was girded for a particular work and mission, in 10 what is otherwise denominated his call. Joseph, in Egypt, distinguishes the girding of God’s hand, when he comforts his guilty brothers in the assurance,—“So, it was not you that sent me hither, but God.” Moses and Samuel were even called by name, and set to their great life-work, in the same manner. And what is Paul endeavoring, in all the stress and pressure of his mighty apostleship, but to perform the work for which God’s Spirit girded him at his call, and to apprehend that for which he was apprehended of Christ Jesus. And yet these great master-spirits of the world are not so much distinguished, after all, by the acts they do, as by the sense itself of some mysterious girding of the Almighty upon them, whose behests they are set on to fulfill. And all men may have this; for the humblest and commonest have a place and a work assigned them, in the same manner, and have it for their privilege to be always ennobled in the same lofty consciousness. God is girding every man for a place and a calling, in which, taking it from him, even though it be internally humble, he may be as consciously exalted as if he held the rule of a kingdom. The truth I propose then for your consideration is this,—
That God has a definite life-plan for every human person, girding him, visibly or invisibly, for some exact thing, which it will be the true significance and glory of his life to have accomplished.
Many persons, I am well aware, never even think of any such thing. They suppose that, for most men, life is a necessarily stale and common affair. What it means for them they do not know, and they scarcely conceive that it means any thing. They even complain, venting heavy 11 sighs, that, while some few are set forward by God to do great works and fill important places, they are not allowed to believe that there is any particular object in their existence. It is remarkable, considering how generally this kind of impression prevails, that the Holy Scriptures never give way to it, but seem, as it were, in all possible ways, to be holding up the dignity of common life, and giving a meaning to its appointments, which the natural dullness and lowness of mere human opinion can not apprehend.
They not only show us explicitly, as we have seen, that God has a definite purpose in the lives of men already great, but they show us, how frequently, in the conditions of obscurity and depression, preparations of counsel going on, by which the commonest offices are to become the necessary first chapter of a great and powerful history. David among the sheep; Elisha following after the plough; Nehemiah bearing the cup; Hannah, who can say nothing less common than that she is the wife of Elkanah and a woman of a sorrowful spirit,—who, that looks on these humble people, at their humble post of service, and discovers, at last, how dear a purpose God was cherishing in them, can be justified in thinking that God has no particular plan for him, because he is not signalized by any kind of distinction?
Besides, what do the scriptures show us, but that God has a particular care for every man, a personal interest in him and a sympathy with him and his trials, watching for the uses of his one talent as attentively and kindly and approving him as heartily, in the right employment of it, as if he had given him ten; and, what is the giving out of the talents itself. but an exhibition of the fact that God 12 has a definite purpose, charge and work, be it this or that for every man?
They also make it the privilege of every man to live in the secret guidance of God; which is plainly nugatory, unless there is some chosen work, or sphere, into which he may be guided; for how shall God guide him, having nothing appointed or marked out for him to be guided into? no field opened for him, no course set down which is to be his wisdom?
God also professes in his Word to have purposes pre-arranged for all events; to govern by a plan which is from eternity even, and which, in some proper sense, comprehends every thing. And what is this but another way of conceiving that God has a definite place and plan adjusted for every human being? And, without such a plan, he could not even govern the world intelligently, or make a proper universe of the created system; for it becomes a universe only in the grand unity of reason, which includes it. Otherwise, it were only a jumble of fortuities, without counsel, end or law.
Turning, now, from the scriptures to the works of God, how constantly are we met here by the fact, everywhere, visible, that ends and uses are the regulative reasons of all existing things. This we discover often, when we are least able to understand the speculative mystery of objects; for it is precisely the uses of things that are most palpable. These uses are to God, no doubt, as to us, the significance of his works. And they compose, taken together, a grand reciprocal system, in which part answers actively to part, constructing thus an all-comprehensive and glorious whole. And the system is, in fact, so perfect, that the loss or displacement of any member would fatally derange the general 13 order. If there were any smallest star in heaven that had no place to fill, that oversight would beget a disturbance which no Leverrier could compute; because it would be a real and eternal, and not merely casual or apparent disorder. One grain, more or less, of sand would disturb, or even fatally disorder the whole scheme of the heavenly motions. So nicely balanced, and so carefully hung, are the worlds, that even the grains of their dust are counted, and their places adjusted to a correspondent nicety. There is nothing included in the gross, or total sum, that could be dispensed with. The same is true in regard to forces that are apparently irregular. Every particle of air is moved by laws of as great precision as the laws of the heavenly bodies, or, indeed, by the same laws; keeping its appointed place, and serving its appointed use. Every odor exhales in the nicest conformity with its appointed place and law. Even the viewless and mysterious heat, stealing through the dark centers and impenetrable depths of the worlds, obeys its uses with- unfaltering exactness, dissolving never so much as an atom that was not to be dissolved. What now shall we say of man, appearing, as it were, in the center of this great circle of uses. They are all adjusted for him: has he, then, no ends appointed for himself? Noblest of all creatures, and closest to God, as he certainly is, are we to say that his Creator has no definite thoughts concerning him, no place prepared for him to fill, no use for him to serve, which is the reason of his existence?
There is, then, I conclude, a definite and proper end, or issue, for every man’s existence; an end, which, to the heart of God, is the good intended for him, or for which he was intended; that which he is privileged to become, 14 called to become, ought to become; that which God will assist him to become and which he can not miss, save by his own fault. Every human soul has a complete and perfect plan, cherished for it in the heart of God—a divine biography marked out, which it enters into life, to live. This life, rightly unfolded, will be a complete and beautiful whole, an experience led on by God and unfolded by his secret nurture, as the trees and the flowers, by the secret nurture of the world; a drama cast in the mould of a perfect art, with no part wanting; a divine study for the man himself, and for others; a study that shall forever unfold, in wondrous beauty, the love and faithfulness of God; great in its conception, great in the Divine skill by which it is shaped; above all, great in the momentous and glorious issues it prepares. What a thought is this for every human soul to cherish! What dignity does it add to life! What support does it bring to the trials of life! What instigations does it add to send us onward in every thing that constitutes our excellence! We live in the Divine thought. We fill a place in the great everlasting plan of God’s intelligence. We never sink below his care, never drop out of his counsel.
But there is, I must add, a single, but very important and even fearful qualification. Things all serve their uses, and never break out of their place. They have no power to do it. Not so with us. We are able, as free beings, to refuse the place and the duties God appoints; which, if we do then we sink into something lower and less worthy of us. That highest and best condition for which God designed us is no more possible. We are fallen out of it, and it can not be wholly recovered. And yet, as that was the best thing possible for us in the reach of God’s original 15 counsel, so there is a place designed for us now, which is the next best possible. God calls us now to the best thing left, and will do so till all good possibility is narrowed down and spent. And then, when he can not use us any more for our own good, he will use us for the good of others, an example of the misery and horrible desperation to which any soul must come, when all the good ends, and all the holy callings of God’s friendly and fatherly purpose are exhausted. Or it may be now that, remitting all other plans and purposes in our behalf, he will hence. forth use us, wholly against our will, to be the demonstration of his justice and avenging power before the eyes of mankind; saying over us, as he did over Pharaoh in the day of his judgments, “Even for this same purpose have I raised thee up, that I might show my power in thee, and that my name might be declared throughout all the earth.” Doubtless, He had other and more genial plans to serve in this bad man, if only he could have accepted such; but, knowing his certain rejection of these, God turned his mighty counsel in him wholly on the use to be made of him as a reprobate. How many Pharaohs in common life refuse every other use God will make of them, choosing only to figure, in their small way, as reprobates; and descending, in that manner, to a fate that painfully mimics his.
God has, then, I conclude, a definite life-plan set for every man; one that, being accepted and followed, will conduct him to the best and noblest end possible. No qualification of this doctrine is needed, save the fearful one just named; that we, by our perversity, so often refuse to take the place and do the work he gives us.
It follows, in the same way, that, as God, in fixing on our end or use, will choose the best end or use possible, so 16 he will appoint for us the best manner possible of attaining it; for, as it is a part of God’s perfection to choose the best things, and not things partially good, so it will be in all the methods he prescribes for their attainment. And so, as you pass on, stage by stage, in your courses of experience, it is made clear to you that, whatever you have laid upon you to do or to suffer, whatever to want, whatever to surrender or to conquer, is exactly best for you. Your life is a school, exactly adapted to your lesson, and that to the best, last end of your existence.
No room for a discouraged or depressed feeling, therefore, is left you. Enough that you exist for a purpose high enough to give meaning to life, and to support a genuine inspiration. If your sphere is outwardly humble, if it even appears to be quite insignificant, God understands it better than you do, and it is a part of his wisdom to bring out great sentiments in humble conditions, great principles in works that are outwardly trivial, great characters under great adversities and heavy loads of incumbrance. The tallest saints of God will often be those who walk in the deepest obscurity, and are even despised or quite overlooked by man. Let it be enough that God is in your history and that the plan of your biography is his, the issue he has set for it is the highest and the best. Away, then, O man, with thy feeble complaints and feverish despondencies. There is no place left for this kind of nonsense. Let it fill thee with cheerfulness and exalted feeling, however deep in obscurity your lot may be, that God is leading you on, girding you for a work, preparing you to a good that is worthy of his Divine magnificence. If God is really preparing us all to become that which is the very highest and best thing possible 17 there ought never to be a discouraged or uncheerful being in the world.
Nor is it any detraction from such a kind of life that the helm of its guidance is, by the supposition, to be in God, and not in our own will and wisdom. This, in fact, is its dignity: it is a kind of divine order, a creation molded by the loving thoughts of God; in that view, to the man himself a continual discovery, as it is unfolded, both of himself and God. A discovery of some kind it must be to all; for, however resolutely or defiantly we undertake to accomplish our own objects, and cut our own way through to a definite self-appointed future, it will never be true, for one moment, that we are certain of this future, and will almost always be true that we are met by changes and conditions unexpected. This, in fact, is one of the common mitigations even of a selfish and self-directed life, that its events come up out of the unknown and overtake the subject, as discoveries he could not shun, or anticipate. Evil itself is far less evil, even to the worldly man, that it comes by surprises. Were the scenes of necessary bitterness, wrong, trial, disappointment, self-accusation, every such man has to pass through in his life, distinctly set before him at the beginning, how forbidding generally, and how dismal the prospect. We say, therefore, how frequently, “I could not have endured these distasteful, painful years, these emptinesses, these trials and torments that have rent me, one after another, if I had definitely known beforehand what kind of lot was before me.” And yet, how poor a comfort is it to such pains and disasters that they overtook the sufferer as surprises and sorrows not set down beforehand in the self-appointed programme of life. How different, how inspiring and 18 magnificent, instead, to live, by holy consent, a life all discovery; to see it unfolding, moment by moment, a plan of God, our own life-plan conceived in his paternal love; each event, incident, experience, whether bright or dark, having its mission from him, and revealing, either now or in its future issues, the magnificence of his favoring counsel; to be sure, in the dark day, of a light that will. follow, that loss will terminate in gain, that trial will issue in rest, doubt in satisfaction, suffering in patience, patience in purity, and all in a consummation of greatness and dignity that even God will look on with a smile. How magnificent, how strong in its repose, how full of rest is such a kind of life! Call it human still, decry it, let it down by whatever diminutives can be invented, still it is great; a charge which ought even to inspire a dull minded man with energy and holy enthusiasm.
But, the inquiry will be made, supposing all this to be true, in the manner stated, how can we ever get hold of this life-plan God has made for us, or find our way into it? Here, to many if not all, will be the main stress of doubt and practical suspense.
Observe, then, first of all, some negatives that are important and must be avoided. They are these:—
You will never come into God’s plan, if you study singularity; for, if God has a design or plan for every man’s life, then it is exactly appropriate to his nature; and, as every man’s nature is singular and peculiar to himself,—as peculiar as his face or look,—then it follows that God will lead every man into a singular, original and peculiar life, without any study of singularity on his part. Let him seek to be just what God will have him, and the talents, 19 the duties and circumstances of his life will require him to be, and then he will be just peculiar enough. He will have a life of his own; a life that is naturally and, therefore, healthily peculiar; a simple, unaffected, unambitious life, whose plan is not in himself, but in God.
As little will he seek to copy the life of another. No man is ever called to be another. God has as many plans for men as he has men; and, therefore, he never requires them to measure their life exactly by any other life. We are not to require it of ourselves to have the precise feelings, or exercises, or do the works, or pass through the trials of other men; for God will handle us according to what we are, and not according to what other men are. And whoever undertakes to be exercised by any given fashion, or to be any given character, such as he knows or has read of, will find it impossible, even as it is to make himself another nature. God’s plan must hold and we must seek no other. To strain after something new and peculiar is fantastic and weak, and is also as nearly wicked as that kind of weakness can be. To be a copyist, working at the reproduction of a human model, is to have no faith in one’s significance, to judge that God means nothing in his particular life, but only in the life of some other man. Submitting himself, in this manner, to the fixed opinion that his life means nothing, and that nothing is left for him but to borrow or beg a life-plan from some other man, what can the copyist become but an affectation or a dull imposture.
In this view also, you are never to complain of your birth, your training, your employments, your hardships; never to fancy that you could be something if only you had a different lot and sphere assigned you. God understands 20 his own plan, and he knows what you want a great deal better than you do. The very things that you most deprecate, as fatal limitations or obstructions, are probably what you most want. What you call hindrances, obstacles, discouragements, are probably God’s opportunities; and it is nothing new that the patient should dislike his medicines, or any certain proof that they are poisons. No! a truce to all such impatience! Choke that devilish envy which gnaws at your heart, because you are not in the same lot with others; bring down your soul, or, rather, bring it up to receive God’s will and do his work, in your lot, in your sphere, under your cloud of obscurity, against your temptations; and then you shall find that your condition is never opposed to your good, but really consistent with it. Hence it was that an apostle required his converts to abide each one in that calling wherein he was called; to fill his place till he opens a way, by filling it, to some other; the bondman to fill his house of bondage with love and duty, the laborer to labor, the woman to be a woman, the men to show themselves men,—all to acknowledge God’s hand in their lot, and seek to cooperate with that good design which he most assuredly cherishes for them.
Another frequent mistake to be carefully avoided is that, while you surrender and renounce all thought of making up a plan, or choosing out a plan, for yourself, as one that you set by your own will, you also give up the hope or expectation that God will set you in any scheme of life, where the whole course of it will be known, or set down beforehand. If you go to him to be guided, he will guide you; but he will not comfort your distrust, or half trust of him, by showing you the chart of all his purposes concerning you. He will only show you into a way where, 21 if you go cheerfully and trustfully forward, he will show you on still further. No contract will be made with you, save that he engages, if you trust him, to lead you into the best things, all the way through. And, if they are better than you can either ask or think beforehand, they will be none the worse for that.
But we must not stop in negatives. How, then, or by what more positive directions can a man, who really desires to do it, come into the plan God lays for him, so as to live it and rationally believe that he does? You are on the point of choosing, it may be, this or that calling, wanting to know where duty lies and what the course God himself would have you take. Beginning at a point most remote, and where the generality of truth is widest,
Consider (1,) the character of God, and you will draw a large deduction from that; for, all that God designs for you will be in harmony with his character. He is a being infinitely good, just, true. Therefore, you are to know that he can not really seek any thing contrary to this in you. You may make yourselves contrary, in every attribute of character, to God; but he never made you to become any thing different from, or unworthy of, himself. A good being could not make another to be a bad being, as the proper issue and desired end of his existence; least of all could one infinitely good. A great many employments or callings are, by these first principles, forever cut off. No thought is permitted you, even for a moment, of any work or calling that does not represent the industry, justice, truth, beneficence, mercy of God.
(2.) Consider your relation to him as a creature. All created wills have their natural center and rest in God’s will. In him they all come into a play of harmony, and 22 the proper harmony of being is possible only in this way. Thus, you know that you are called to have a will perfectly harmonized with God’s and rested in his, and that gives you a large insight into what you are to be, or what is the real end of your being. In fact, nine-tenths of your particular duties may be settled, at once, by a simple reference in this manner to what God wills.
(3.) You have a conscience, which is given to be an interpreter of his will and thus of your duty, and, in both, of what you are to become.
(4.) God’s law and his written Word are guides to present duty, which, if faithfully accepted, will help to set you in accordance with the mind of God and the plan he has laid for you. “I am a stranger in the earth,” said one, “hide not thy commandments from me;” knowing that God’s commandments would give him a clue to the true meaning and business of his life.
(5.) Be an observer of Providence; for God is showing you ever, by the way in which he leads you, whither he means to lead. Study your trials, your talents, the world’s wants, and stand ready to serve God now, in whatever he brings to your hand.
Again (6,) consult your friends, and especially those who are most in the teaching of God. They know your talents and personal qualifications better, in some respects, than you do yourself. Ask their judgment of you and of the spheres and works to which you are best adapted.
Once more (7,) go to God himself, and ask for the calling of God; for, as certainly as he has a plan or calling for you, he will somehow guide you into it. And this is the proper office and work of his Spirit. By this private teaching he can show us, and will, into the very plan that 23 is set for us. And this is the significance of what is prescribed as our duty, viz., living and walking in the Spirit; for the Spirit of God is a kind of universal presence, or inspiration, in the world’s bosom; an unfailing inner light, which if we accept and live in, we are guided thereby into a consenting choice, so that what God wills for us we also will for ourselves,—settling into it as the needle to the pole. By this hidden union with God, or intercourse with him, we get a wisdom or insight deeper than we know ourselves; a sympathy, a oneness with the Divine will and love. We go into the very plan of God for us, and are led along in it by him, consenting, cooperating, answering to him, we know not how, and working out, with nicest exactness, that good end for which his unseen counsel girded us and sent us into the world. In this manner, not neglecting the other methods just named, but gathering in all their separate lights, to be interpreted in the higher light of the Spirit, we can never be greatly at a loss to find our way into God’s counsel and plan. The duties of the present moment we shall meet as they rise, and these will open a gate into the next, and we shall thus pass on, trustfully and securely, almost never in doubt as to what God calls us to do.
It is not to be supposed that you have followed me, in such a subject as this, without encountering questions from within that are piercing. It has put you on reflection; it has set you to the inquiry, what you have been doing and becoming thus far in your course, and what you are hereafter to be? Ten, twenty, fifty, seventy years ago, you came into this living world, an l began to breathe this mortal air. The guardian angel that came to take charge 24 of you said, “To this end is he born, for this cause is he come into the world.” Or, if this be a Jewish fancy, God said the same himself. He had a definite plan for you, a good end settled and cherished for you in his heart. This it was that gave a meaning and a glory to your life. Apart from this, it was not, in his view, life for you to live; it was accident, frustration, death. What now, O soul, hast thou done? what progress hast thou made? how much of the blessed life-plan of thy Father hast thou executed? How far on thy way art thou to the good, best end thy God has designed for thee?
Do I hear thy soul confessing, with a suppressed sob within thee, that, up to this time, thou hast never sought God’s chosen plan at all. Hast thou, even to this hour, and during so many years, been following a way and a plan of thine own, regardless, hitherto, of all God’s purposes in thee? Well, if it be so, what hast thou gotten? How does thy plan work? Does it bring thee peace, content, dignity of aim and feeling, purity, rest; or, does it plunge thee into mires of disturbance, scorch thee in flames of passion, worry thee with cares, burden thee with bitter reflections, cross thee, disappoint, sadden, sour thee? And what are thy prospects? what is the issue to come? After thou hast worked out this hard plan of thine own, will it come to a good end? Hast thou courage now to go on and work it through?
Perhaps you may be entertaining yourself, for the time, with a notion of your prosperity, counting yourself happy in past successes, and counting on greater successes to come, Do you call it, then, success, that you are getting on in a plan of your own? There can not be a greater delusion. 25 You set up a plan that is not God’s, and rejoice that it seems to prosper; not observing that you are just as much farther off from God’s plan for you and from all true wisdom, as you seem to prosper more. And the day is coming when just this truth will be revealed to you, as the bitterest pang of your defeat and shame.
No matter which it be, prosperity or acknowledged defeat, the case is much the same in one as in the other, if you stand apart from God and his counsel. There is nothing good preparing for any man who will not live in God’s plan. If he goes a prospecting for himself, and will not apprehend that for which he is apprehended, it can not be to any good purpose.
And really, I know not any thing, my hearers, more sad and painful to think of, to a soul properly enlightened by reason and God’s truth, than so many years of Divine good squandered and lost; whole years, possibly many years, of that great and blessed biography which God designed for you, occupied by a frivolous and foolish invention of your own, substituted for the good counsel of God’s infinite wisdom and love. O, let the past suffice!
Young man, or woman, this is the day of hope to you, All your best opportunities are still before you. Now, too, you are laying your plans for the future. Why not lay them in God? Who has planned for you as wisely and faithfully as he? Let your life begin with him. Believe that you are girded by your God for a holy and great calling. Go to him and consecrate your life to him, knowing assuredly that he will lead you into just that life which is your highest honor and blessing.
And what shall I say to the older man, who is further 26 on in his course and is still without God in the world? The beginning of wisdom, my friend, you have yet to learn. You have really done nothing, as yet, that you was sent into the world to do. All your best opportunities, too, are gone or going by. The best end, the next best, and the next are gone, and nothing but the dregs of opportunity is left. And still Christ calls even you. There is a place still left for you; not the best and bright est, but an humble and good one. To this you are called for this you are apprehended of Christ Jesus still. O, come, repent of your dusty and dull and weary way, and take the call that is offered.
All men, living without God, are adventurers out upon God’s world, in neglect of him, to choose their own course. Hence the sorrowful, sad looking host they make. O, that I could show them whence their bitterness, their dryness, their unutterable sorrows, come. O, that I could silence, for one hour, the noisy tumult of their works, and get them to look in upon that better, higher life of fruitfulness and blessing to which their God has appointed them. Will they ever see it? Alas! I fear!
Friends of God, disciples of the Son of God, how inspiring and magnificent the promise, or privilege that is offered here to you. Does it still encounter only unbelief in your heart? does it seem to you impossible that you can ever find your way into a path prepared for you by God, and be led along in it by his mighty counsel. Let me tell you a secret. It requires a very close, well-kept life to do this; a life in which the soul can have confidence always toward God; a life which allows the Spirit always to abide and reign, driven away by no affront of selfishness. 27 There must be a complete renunciation of self-will. God and religion must be practically first; and the testimony that we please God must be the element of our peace, And such a disciple I have never known who did not have it for his joy that God was leading him on, shaping his life for him, bringing him along out of one moment into the next, year by year. To such a disciple, there is nothing strained or difficult in saying that God’s plan can be found, or that this is the true mode and privilege of life. Nothing to him is easier or more natural. He knows God ever present, feels that God determines all things for him, rejoices in the confidence that the everlasting counsel of his Friend is shaping every turn of his experience. He does not go hunting after this confidence; it comes to him, abides in him, fortifies his breast, and makes his existence itself an element of peace. And this, my brethren, is your privilege, if only you can live close enough to have the secret of the Lord with you.
How sacred, how strong in its repose, how majestic, how nearly divine is a life thus ordered! The simple thought of a life which is to be the unfolding, in this manner, of a Divine plan, is too beautiful, too captivating, to suffer one indifferent or heedless moment. Living in this manner, every turn of your experience will be a discovery to you of God, every change a token of his Fatherly counsel. Whatever obscurity, darkness, trial, suffering falls upon you; your defeats, losses, injuries; your outward state, employment, relations; what seems hard, unaccountable, severe, or, as nature might say, vexatious,—all these you will see are parts or constitutive elements in God’s beautiful and good plan for you, and, as such, are to be accepted with a 28 smile. Trust God! have an implicit trust in God! and these very things will impart the highest zest to life. If you were in your own will, you could not bear them; and, if you fall, at any time, into your own will, they will break you down. But, the glory of your condition, as a Christian, is that you are in the mighty and good will of God. Hence it was that Bunyan called his hero Great Heart; for, no heart can be weak that is in the confidence of God. See how it was with Paul: counting all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge; enduring, with godlike patience, unspeakable sufferings; casting every thing behind him, and following on to apprehend that for which he was apprehended. He had a great and mighty will, but no self-will: therefore, he was strong, a true lion of the faith. Away, then, with all feeble complaints, all meagre and mean anxieties. Take your duty, and be strong in it, as God will make you strong. The harder it is, the stronger, in fact, you will be. Understand, also, that the great question here is, not what you will get, but what you will become. The greatest wealth you can ever get will be in yourself. Take your burdens, and troubles, and losses, and wrongs, if come they must and will, as your opportunities, knowing that God has girded you for greater things than these. O, to live out such a life as God appoints, how great a thing it is!—to do the duties, make the sacrifices, bear the adversities. finish the plan, and then to say, with Christ, (who of us ill be able? )—“It is finished!”29
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