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it is the charm and the solace of human life, and ecstatic are some of those moments when all the emotions of the bosom are described with affection and confidence to a friend; and if there be such an individual, such a selfish and solitary creatnre, who is a stranger to these emotions, he ought to be excluded from society and shut up by himself; and, indeed, we find that men of this order generally exclude themselves from society, and from the enjoyment of social intercourse! It is reported of one of the most distinguished poets of our own age, that when a faithful and favorite dog expired, he placed this epitaph upon its tomb:“ I had but one friend, and here he lies.”—Ah! pitiable being ! then indeed he must have been wretched! And who does not willingly turn aside from such a picture, and think with sympathy and pleasure on that affectionate union which is recorded in the Old Testament of David and Jonathan," Very pleasant hast thou been to me,” he exclaimed, when his friend was dead, “ very pleasant hast thou been to me; thy love to me was wonderful, passing the love of women !” And yet closely united as these friends are, are they not often dashed in pieces! David himself mourns very pathetically on this very thing in the Psalm from which the text is taken, and the verses seem to be composed in especial allusion to it, for he says, “ it was not an enemy that reproached me, then I could have borne it; neither was it he that hated me who did magnify himself against me; but it was thou, a man, mine acquaintance, my equal, my guide, my own familiar friend! We took sweet counsel together, and walked to the house of God in company!” And do you not recollect that our blessed Lord underwent an affliction of the same order ;-if David had to weep over the treachery of his friend, Christ endured a pang more acute, and a pungency of grief more intense and severe, when Judas betrayed Him with a kiss! It was the hand of a faithless friend which inflicted the wound upon his heart, and placed the crown of thorns upon his head, and which finally saw Him, mangled and torn, nailed to the cross ! How true it is, that “ cursed is the man that trusteth in man, and that maketh flesh his arm," and whose heart departeth from his God. When the painfulness of such treachery is felt, who would not cry out, “ Oh, that I had wings like a dove, for then would I flee away and be at rest!”
But even admitting that friends continued faithful, they must retire from us at death, which dissolves all ties, even those of the most pure, sincere, and unalterable love and friendship! Who hath not lost a friend! Have you never stood at the brink of that grave in which was deposited all that remained of one tenderly dear to you, and in the moment when a father or a mother -a sister or a brother-have been conveyed to the silent tomb, have you not thought within yourself, “ Oh, that I had wings like a dove, that I might filee away and be at rest!” I would soon be where they are! How my soul yearns to rejoin them !-this world, this vain empty world, what hath it now for me!
This is the second cause ; let me now notice a third, and that is the pains of bodily affliction. Do any of you know what it is in the morning to say, “Oh, that it were night!” and in the evening to say, “Oh, that it were morning!“ Do you know what it is for the body to be racked with pain and tortured by disease ;-to have the countenance overspread with sorrow—the languid eye and the parched lip. Who can wonder that at such a period we should say, “ Oh, that I had wings like a dove, for then would I flee away, and be at rest !” And this may result, not only from the pains and agony that may be rendered, but also from the consciousness of being totally useless in this world, or of being troublesome to those by whom they are surrounded; and notwithstanding the tenderness and affection of relatives, who feel a mournful pleasure in attending to their necessities, yet it is but a small alleviation to the sufferings of the individual, and he cries out with bitterness, “Oh, that I had wings like a dove, for then would I flee away and be at rest." I do not mean to sanction such a temper as this far be it from me. The principles of the Gospel will enable us to triumph in the midst of all these tribulations, convinced that they work patience, and patience experience, and experience hope ; and hope maketh not ashamed, because the love of God is shed abroad in the heart; and I do not know a more pleasant part of a minister's duty than that of visiting sick beds, when he sees these powerful influences produced by the doctrines of the gospel. When he can perceive that the power of religion is more eminently felt, when the love of God is more abundantly enjoyed, when the consolations of the Spirit, in their largest measures and in their richest extent, are poured into the soul:-moments such as these there have been, when the exclamation of David has returned again, “ Oh, that I had wings like a dove, for then would I flee away and be at rest !”
I shall mention but one thing more, and that is the conflict which is sustained between the flesh and the Spirit. --This alludes to that darkness and sorrow which is purely and exclusively spiritual: and perhaps there may be some present, who make a mock of these things, but many, nay most of God's children have experienced them; however, if they have safely passed through the storm, and are now securely riding at their anchors, they will have learnt to sympathize with those who are still buffetted about by it and to pity them from their very hearts :—for I believe that there is no trouble like that of the soul in anguish; like that of the wounded,—the troubled,—the broken, -the bleeding-spirit! Let me explain myself still more fully :-have you ever been in this state—anxious to pray—and you could not-when your heart has been hard and insensible; when you “would do good, but evil is present with you”—when the flesh was vigorously lusting against the spirit, and the spirit against the flesh. This was Paul's feeling when he exclaimed Oh, wretched man that I am, who shall deliver me from the body of this death.” I say then, that in the darkness which I am describing, in that bitterness and anguish of feeling, of which the pious mind is often susceptible,—and when it contemplates the uninterrupted joys, and the unspeakably blessed expectations of the heavenly world-wonder not that the exclamation should be heard, that the soul should breathe forth its earnest desire in the words of our text “Oh, that I had wings like a dove, for then would I flee away and be at rest.”
This brings me to the second division of our subject. The desire which under these circumstances is expressed—I imagine in the first place, that this refers to solitude and retirement; for it is immediately added “ Lo, then would I wonder far off and remain in the Wilderness. I would hasten my escape from the windy storm and tempest.” People in the active scene of life are apt to think, if the embarrassments and turmoil of business could be given up, and they could retire to comparative independence, then that all would be at rest, and the spirit must be contented and easy! Ah, gross deception! I have known persons, in this situation, who have uttered the exclamations of my text, and who when they had entered upon the retirement and seclusion they sighed for, have found themselves more sorrowful aud miserable than before. I have known cases in the present age (not to refer to generations that are past) in which men have retired to convents and women to nunneries ; thinking when thus secluded from the world-away from all the harassing cares of life, they must be happy; but they have found out their mistake,—they have soon found out that they have committed an egregious error, and I will tell you why; they had placed their enjoyments in a wrong object —they were seeking it from a source that would never supply it. You will never be at rest, you will never realize that tranquillity and joyfulness after which the psalmist sighs in my text, until you are experimentally acquainted with Christ--the efficacy of his blood, to atone'for sin, the perfections of his righteousness for your acceptance before God-and till you are holding daily private and personal communion with Him :therefore no person whatever can realize this happiness until they are led to seek it from its proper source !
Secondly, perhaps there is an allusion in these words to the harvest, and blessedness of his expectations, in heaven, and perhaps when real Christians employ this language they usually refer to the exaltation and glory of the celestial state! how happy and delightful in the midst of all the trials of life,-or the treachery of friends,—or the painfulness of affliction, or the sorrows of the conflict-to look forward to that place where we shall see our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ as He is, clothed with white garments, having golden harps in our hands, and be led to the fountains of living waters by the Lamb himself, God wiping away all tears from our eyes. And you will recollect how often in the scriptures heaven is spoken of under this image. “ There (says Job) the wicked cease from troubling, and there the weary are at rest;" and the Apostle Paul, in his Epistle to the Hebrews, after a long argument, comes to this conclusion, “ There remaineth therefore a rest (that is a heavenly one) to the people of God." And Christians know and feel this, and amidst the trials and perplexities of life, lift up their eyes towards heaven, and say, “Oh, that I had wings like a dove, for then would I flee away and be at rest.” But, my hearers, although when this exclamation results simply from the trials of this present state, and from peevishness of temper, it becomes totally unjustifiable; yet, on the other hand, we also some times employ it in our waking seasons. I do believe there are moments, and especially in our secret devotions, when we are ready to be gone. A man in these seasons, in which peculiar light shines upon his soul, in which he is favored with peculiarly distinct views of the glory of the Saviour, and that uninterrupted felicity which must be enjoyed in his more immediate presence it is possible in such cases, with the best hopes and the most exalted views, to say, “ Oh, that I had wings like a dove, for then would I flee away, and be at rest !” But you observe that the Psalmist refers to it as a hopeless case when he uses the words of the text; it evidently implies he had no such hopes.
I notice, however, thirdly,—The reasons why neither of these wishes should be realized; and, in the first place, God has a work for you to do-none of us were sent into the world that we might be unemployed :"Work (Christ says) whilst it is to-day, before the night cometh when no man can work.” The scriptures uniformly speak of the present state as that of labour, toil, and conflict ! and what have we to do to secure the salvation of our own souls? To become instructed in the doctrines of the gospel. This we have to do in ourselves; this is a part of the work which regards our own persons. But we have a work to do for others - we have all of us connections in life-persons who are looking up to us, in reference to whom we have to discharge very important duties; and for their sakes, if not for our own, are we to be continued in the world; and the wish of the text, therefore, is not to be gratified. And then there is a work in reference to the church-we are to “ shine as lights in the world,” to hold forth the truths—to do all we can in our respective stations for the advancement of the cause of Christ: and there is not one of us but may, and can (and if we are indeed Christians, shall) fulfil the work of our generation, by the meekness and gentleness of our temper-in our honesty and sobriety-in our conscientious regard for the family in which we are employed :—and, in the same way, one might go through all the ranks and orders of society, till we reach the king upon his throne, and shew that we have a work to accomplish, and till this is done, we ought not to wish to be, neither should we be removed.
Secondly:-There are graces we are to exercise, such as patience, fortitude, faith, love, and hope. Hence the numerous admonitions of scripture on this subject :-“ Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life, and put on the whole armour of God; the shield of faith, the sword of the spirit, and the helmet of salvation” We are to“ stand, and having done all to stand, and fight manfully the battles of the Lord.” And when we have done all this, we are not to be taken from the world ;—but 'tis thus we are to imprøve our gifts and follow his precepts, till it shall please our God to take us to our reward.
Thirdly :-We are to stay until we are prepared to go. There is a work of humiliation to be carried on and perfected in us; we are to be taught, and be taught again, the helplessness of our nature, and the corruption of our hearts; we are to be placed very low in the dust, and made to feel again and again the bitterness of sin, in order that we may value and set a higher estimate upon the salvation we are to enjoy hereafter. God does not translate us to life eternal from our unrenewed state; He makes us feel our ruin, and mourn over our deformity; and this is the secret and the reason why there are so many conflicts in the Christian's life, and that we are so often walking in darkness ;-'tis this, likewise, that will make heaven more sweet and rapturous, and until this purpose is sufficiently accomplished in us and by us, we shall not be removed; and so, instead of pathetically or peevishly exclaiming, 6. Oh, that I had wings like a dove, that I might flee away and be at rest !” the duty of a Christian is rather to say, “ All the days of my appointed time will I wait until my change come:"_and happy will it be for us if, when we arrive at the close of our pilgrimage, we can say with Paul, “ I have fought the good fight, I have kept the faith; henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of glory, which the Lord, the righteous Judge. shall give me at that day, and not to me only, but unto all who love his appearance.”
Finally :-From this subject let us learn a lesson of gratitude, let us be thankful that we have a sure and certain prospect of an everlasting rest, after the trials and conflicts of the present state are over. I may be speaking to some individual who does not understand this subject, who is totally unacquainted with the pleasure enjoyed by a renewed and enlightened mind! You know not the powers of his salvation, nor the energy of his doctrine; you have never yet said, “Oh, that I had wings like a dove, that I might flee away and be at rest!"-You have no concern about it: Oh, that I could awaken such a concern! that I could open the eyes of your mind, and shew you the importance of having a personal interest in this great salvation, and prove to you the joy, the pleasure, and the intense satisfaction connected with it, here as well as hereafter!
May God, the Holy Spirit, bless these remarks, and grant that they may be profitable to us all! AMEN.
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