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THE VALUE OF PRESENT MERCIES.
tude to Him who alone has made him to
differ, who hath graciously " sent out his II.
light and his truth” to guide his footsteps, We need not penetrate the wilds of countries and “hath called him out of darkness into hitherto unvisited by civilisation, to ascer
his marvellous light" (1 Pet. ii. 9.) tain the state of man without revelation. For The state of man is now, living as he may history has recorded the existence of empires even in countries where the light of the Goswhere refinement and luxury attained to a pel shines, one of darkness, until he be regedegree not to be surpassed, the seat of arts nerate and born again by the Holy Spirit ; and science, where are found the relics of and his condition is equally lamentable and elegance and taste, which we in vain emulate. miserable with those who lived before the But did these attainments teach men, the Christian dispensation, or who have never knowledge of the true God ? did they put a heard of the glad tidings of the Gospel, constraint
upon their actions, or teach them Even God himself, his ways, and his provito subdue the motions of the flesh ? No. dence, are dark and mysterious; and in this And so to the Christian, the contempla- condition, miserable indeed, he pursues his tion of the unmatched advancement in all voyage on this ocean of life ; but how still that the world calls beautiful and grand, more miserable his state, should a storm surmade by a people at so early a period, prise him, and add to the gloominess and and while all things around them were blackness of midnight? Shipwreck is dreadenveloped in barbarianism, affords him an ful at all times, but how extremely awful illustration of the insufficiency of earthly when it arrives “ when neither sun nor stars wisdom; for whatever progress may be made are to be seen !" What terror must at such by man in a state of nature, however his in- a season fill the minds of the most intrepid, tellect may expand and unfold before him when“ tossed with a tempest,” and “carried" the wonders of creation around and above at one time "up to the heaven, and then him, yet his reason only, and not his heart, down again to the deep," and in fear every is affected by the advance he makes. Know- moment" lest they should fall into the quickledge of the head can never purify that sands !" Such is but a faint sketch of man's fountain from whence "proceed evil thoughts, condition without the light of revelation ; to adulteries, fornication, murders, thefts, covet- describe the horrors of such a state, the fears ousness, wickedness, deceit, lasciviousness, and doubts which must occupy the mind, the an evil eye, blasphemies, pride, foolishness" troubles of life without the support of the (Mark vii. 21, 22.)
Gospel, would be indeed impossible: enough, But after contemplating the state of man however, has been said, in order that the even at the height of his intellectual attain- contrast we may draw between the condition ments, after seeing that “the dark places of of others and our own, may lead us to prize the earth are full of the habitations of cruelty,” more and more our mercies and privileges, surely the Christian must feel a lively grati- and so possess an increasing gratitude for the VOL. VII. —NO. CCI.
(London : Robson, Levey, and Franklyn, 46 St. Martin's Lane.)
" light and truth" which God has “sent out" | will raise his drooping desires and affections ; among us. Here we may trace a resemblance and they will generate, fructify, and mature in our own case to that of the children of all that is good and lovely, to the praise and Israel. For, as they were led by a pillar of glory of God. Clouds, however, are often a cloud, so also have we a guide which will visible on the clearest days ; and so the path conduct us safely through the perils of life ; of the Christian may often be shadowed by a guide which shall never fail us, for no endea- adversity; but then, mark the difference bevour of man, no scheme, however ingenious, tween the clouds seen when the sun is in the shall be able to extinguish this candle which firmament, and those which float at midnight. the Lord God himself hath lighted ; storms It has been remarked, that the heaviest and may arise, and many a tempestuous blast may blackest clouds are often gilded ; and so the assail it, but we have God's own word that dispensations of Providence, however they may heaven and earth shall pass away, but that darken the scene around, are sent to accomhis word shall not pass away (Matt. xxiv. 35). | plish a purpose of love ; and as in nature the It shall continue to guide, to cheer, and to *clouds drop fatness, and cause the dwellings bring "every believer to God's dwelling." of the wilderness and the hills to rejoice ;" so And as in the case of the Israelites, the afflictions are sent " for our profit," and will, pillar was by day a cloud, and by night a if sanctified, produce the end designed ; for
to give them light;" so in the passage tribulation worketh patience, and patience of the Christian, the Bible will be found experience, and experience hope (Rom. v. adapted to all his wants, qualified to meet 3, 4). The trial of faith worketh patience difficulties and emergencies, and calculated (James i. 3); and we find this accomplished for every situation and circumstance. This in the afflictions endured by the Hebrews pillar precedes us, and therefore, however and by the Thessalonians (Heb. x. 32-34, rough or circuitous the road, it must en- 2 Thess. i. 4). It is useless, however, to lighten the track behind, which we, as Chris- inform persons that are blind, of the glories tians, profess to follow. Should we, how- of the sun, and of the cheerful effects he proever, mark out a path for ourselves, and duces, for they are ignorant of " that thing deviate from the straight and narrow way, we called light;" and therefore, should we lead shall assuredly meet with difficulties, dangers, them, even at noon-day, over a road thickly and darkness. We have an instance of this strewed with precious stones, they could gain in Num. xiv., when the Israelites " presumed no advantage, for they would pass over and to go up unto the hill-top to fight against trample thein under their feet. This is our the Amalekites, when neither the ark of the situation in regard to the Bible ; by nature we covenant of the Lord nor Moses departed out are blind, and are little conscious of the rich of the camp :" the consequences of this act treasure, far more valuable “ than thousands of disobedience terminated even as Moses of gold and silver,” that lies within our reach. had predicted. That incident was doubtless Our constant prayer must therefore be, "Open recorded for our admonition, that we may thou mine eyes, that I may see the wondrous take warning from their conduct, not to un- things of thy law” (Ps. cxix. 18); and when dertake any scheme without being assured of this is effected by the Holy Spirit, and not possessing the sanction and presence of God; till then, shall we be able to see one truth, for should we "presume" to act, trusting to however dazzling, or to receive one promise, our own strength or good resolutions, the however consolatory. The Bible is to the event will make us sensible of the folly of carnal mind a sealed book, and Christ and our conduct by its sad and certain failure. the preaching of the cross foolishness.
The Bible is not only "a light" to guide, But this "light," although it is held out but it is also a source of consolation. Every to all, will be found to be a guide to those one knows the effect on creation which is pro- only who can dismiss every other instructor, duced by the first indication of approaching and place their implicit trust on this blessed day; every thing seems to awake into fresh book. And so we find that the testimony of life and vigour, and the whole scene wears the Lord giveth wisdom unto the simple an aspect of cheerfulness and joy. And so (Ps. xix. 7). And it is to persons of the it must be with all who read and believe the same character to whom God's word giveth Scriptures; the sad and dreary season of na- " light and understanding" (Ps. cxix, 130). ture's darkness rolls gradually away, and the The blessed assurances that God will “ set higher the altitude which the Sun of Righte- up," "help,” “guide in judgment and teach ousness gains in the mind of the Christian, the his way,” are given to “the meek," and to greater will be the effect of his beams on his
“such as are gentle” (Ps. cxlvii. 6, cxlix. 4, heart; they will enlighten and cheer his path ; xxv. 8). It is to the godly that there "ariseth they will disperse the mists of doubt and fear up light in darkness” (Ps. cxii. 4). From which have gathered about his soul; they such passages we may clearly perceive the state of mind we must possess, if we would darkness, therefore let us not sleep, but let benefit by God's promises here, or be par- us who are of the day be sober, putting on takers of his happiness hereafter : we must the breast-plate of faith and love, and for a “become as little children" (Matt. xviii. 3), helmet the hope of salvation” (1 Thess. v.). and follow the “light” which God has given We must " watch and pray,” that our reus, without doubts and misgivings. Satan, ligion may not merely consist in profession however, who is ever busy, may endeavour without practice, or in knowledge without to persuade us that such a light is unneces- power. And how careful should we be, that sary, and that we need nothing. "They that our deeds and conversation be not of the are well,” says our Saviour, "need not a phy- nature of darkness; for as the defects of any sician, but they that are sick.” And who can object, which probably would remain unseen read the history of man without at once dis- in the dark, are rendered visible by the introcovering that there is not one who is not sick, duction of light, so our imperfections are even unto death ? and therefore, their malady, more conspicuous to men, and more hateful however secretly it may work, must inevit-to God, in proportion to the profession we ably prove fatal. But, blessed truth, there make of walking in the light. We must test is a Physician who is willing to save, to the ut- not our actions only, but also our secret termost, all that come unto God by him; and thoughts by the standard of God's word. happy are they who feel their need and Then, by following this pillar, illumined by wretchedness, and who come and humbly the Holy Spirit, we shall at last be rendered implore assistance and recovery at the hands meet for the inheritance of the saints in of God, through Christ Jesus. Let those light, through the merits of our Saviour. who do not take the Bible as their rule of “ Blessed are they that do his commandfaith and conduct, who do not obey its com- ments, that they may have right to the tree mands, listen to its precepts, or take warning of life, and may enter in through the gates from its threatenings, consider seriously their into the city" (Rev. xxii. 14). S. S. condition,- let them embrace present opportunities, and at once accept the invitation, “ Come
ye, and walk in the light of the Lord" THOUGHTS ON HISTORICAL PASSAGES OF (Is. ii. 5); forsake the works of darkness, THE OLD AND NEW TESTAMENT. and abandon for ever the fire and “the sparks
No. XIII.--The Character and Conversion of Lydia.* which ye have kindled, and by which ye walk" (Is. l. 11); for the night will soon
BY THE Rev. Joun EMRA, M.A. come, and then the door of mercy * will be Perpetual Curate of St. Mary's, Redlynch, Somerset. for ever closed. "Now is the accepted time, In the 19th chapter of the first book of Kings we now is the day of salvation" (John ix. 4, Matt. have a very remarkable account of a manifestation xxv. 10, 2 Cor. 6, 2).
of the divine glory to the prophet Elijah : “ The word It is indeed an awful thing to neglect the
of the Lord came to him and said, Go forth, and stand
upon the mount before the Lord. And behold, the use of the means whereby we may become
Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind rent the wise unto salvation; but let us remember mountains, and brake in pieces the rocks before the that there is an equal responsibility attached
Lord; but the Lord was not in the wind : and after the to those who are acquainted with the truths
wind an earthquake; but the Lord was not in the earth
quake: and after the earthquake a fire; but the Lord contained in the Scriptures; for then they
was not in the fire: and after the fire a still small are conscious of what is required of them, voice." Thus did the Lord manifest himself to his and therefore they are without excuse, if they prophet, not addressing him during the roaring of the do not frame their actions by the
wind, the fury of the fire, and the awful sound of the
earthquake, but speaking to him in “a still small God's word. “To whom much is given, of voice," after these his terrific messengers, these him will much be required;" “ the true light " ministers of his which do his pleasure," had passed now shineth ;” and this consideration will lead away. Now, this narrative affords a striking illustraus to see the irresistible obligation which rests
tion of the Lord's various modes of dealing in the
conversion of sinners. “ God speaketh once, yea upon us to lead a holy life, and to amend
twice," but man " too often regardeth him not.” our ways and our doings. “The day,” says There are two striking accounts related in the 16th St. Paul, “is at hand, let us therefore cast chapter of the Acts of the Apostles, in which are very off the works of darkness” (Rom. xiii. 12).
forcibly delineated these various modes of the opera
tion of divine grace on the heart. “Old things are past away, all things must Behold the two scenes here described contrasted now become new" (2 Cor. v. 17).
together. Here we have an account of the conversion sometimes darkness, but now are ye light in
of two iminortal souls. But how different were the the Lord ; walk as children of light” (Eph. instrumental causes, and the accompanying events of
their conversion, although the same Holy Spirit was v. 8). "Put on the armour of light,” and
the agent in the conversion of both! In the case of "walk as in the day” (Rom. xiii. 12-13.) “ Ye the jailor, “the Lord was in the earthquake." The are children of the light, and the children of
• See Acts of the Apostles, xvi. 13-15; and compare the narrathe day: we are not of the night, nor of tive with that of the conversion of the jailor, ver. 23, &c.
“ Ye were
instrumental cause of that alarm which led to his con- that there was here erected an oratory, or house of version to the faith of Christ, was not the preaching prayer: thus when Jesus is said (Luke vi. 12) to bave of the word of salvation. The Holy Spirit made use "continued all night in prayer to God," the words of the jailor's natural feelings of terror in producing literally mean in the oratory of God.* conviction of sin. When there was suddenly a great It should seem that at Philippi the Jews had no earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were synagogue, as at many other places visited by the shaken; and when all the doors were opened, and apostles, but an oratory only, or perhaps several of every one's bands were loosed, the jailor awakening these small and secluded houses of prayer. To this out of his sleep, and seeing the prison-doors open, retired place of worship some women were wont to he drew out his sword, and would have killed himself, resort; and to these Paul and his companions preached supposing that the prisoners had been fled." Igno- the Gospel. These persons, amongst whom was Lydia, rant heathen as he was, he knew little about that glo- were neither Jews nor were they heathen idolaters. rious Being who can "destroy both the body and soul" They were worshippers of the one true God. Like of the suicide " in hell," and thus make him sensible Cornelius and the eunuch, they knew and adored the that human disgrace and the loss of his office might Jehovah of the Jewish people. Of Lydia it is said, well have been borne rather than the weight of eter- that she “worshipped God.” Thus, in the 17th nal vengeance
chapter of this book, we read that St. Paul disputed “ Paul cried aloud, Do thyself no harm ; for we are in the synagogue with the Jews, and with the devout all here. Then he called for a light, and sprang in, persons; where this expression “devout persons” means and came trembling, and fell down before Paul and the proselytes who had abandoned heathenism for the Silas, and said, What must I do to be saved ? And Jewish faith. We should consider well the character they said, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and of Lydia previously to her conversion to the Christian thou shalt be saved." Thus did “the Lord" mani. faith. She appears to have been as different in point fest himself to the jailor“ in the earthquake," turn- of character and disposition to the other convert mening him from darkness to light, and from the power tioned in this chapter, as any two converts to the of Satan to God.”
profession of the Gospel could possibly be. She worIn the case of Lydia the Lord came not in the terrors shipped the true God; she delighted in prayer; she of the earthquake, but in " a still small voice." All in kept the Jewish sabbath ; she met her religious comthis narrative is calm and peaceful. The Spirit works panions Sabbath after Sabbath, and probably daily powerfully but gently on Lydia's heart. * The dew too, in the retired house of prayer by the water-side ; of the divine blessing" is shed abroad in her soul as and living, as there seems every reason to conclude softly, yet with as fructifying an influence, as the she did, in the general tenour of her life, up to the ripple of the river, by the borders of which she was light she had received, " what lacked she yet ?” “One wont to pray, washed the herbs and flowers on its banks. thing was needful"-faith in a Saviour yet unknown.
“ On the Sabbath (says the writer of this book, Why was Cornelius, that “devout man who feared Paul's companion in his apostolical work), we went God with all bis house, and prayed to God alway," out of the city by a river-side, where prayer was wont commanded to send for Peter to tell him what he to be made; and we sal down, and spake unto the ought to do? Why was the eunuch (also a worshipwomen which resorted thither.” Now there is nothing per of the true God) to be instructed by Philip ? and so heart-stirring, so awakening in the passage of why was it needful that Lydia (who “worshipped God,” sacred history of which these words form the com- and worshipped him, as there is every reason to bemencement, as in the narrative of the jailor just re- lieve, “in spirit and in truth") should "attend unto ferred to; but let us examine it with prayeríul atten- the things that were spoken of Paul ?" Because Peter, tion, and inquire whether there may not be gathered and Philip, and Paul, were commissioned to proclaim from it many instructive reflections. " And a certain that glorious name of Jesus whereby alone men could woman, named Lydia, a seller of purple, of the city of be saved. Cornelius, and Lydia, and other pious Thyatira, which worshipped God, heard us ; whose persons,t “believed in God;" but they could not be heart the Lord opened, that she attended unto the saved without “believing also in Christ." They things which were spoken of Paul.” Here we read of were religious and upright persons; but they were no remarkable terror and alarm (as in the case of the to hear and to attend to the weighty truths, that "all jailor) preceding faith and trust in Jesus as the only have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;" Saviour. All must indeed be sensible of the number and that they could not be justified by the works of and magnitude of their sins, before they can come, the law, by their prayers or their almsgivings, but that weary and heavy-laden, to Christ for rest; but facts, they must be "justified freely by the grace of God, 1; no less than Scripture, prove, that to some the way through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom 1:4,,, to the kingdom of heaven is a way of far less spiritual God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faithi tribulation than to others. Lydia heard, and welcomed in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the re“ the still small voice of the Gospel,” and, with a mission of sins that are past, through the forbearance ! Luis humble hope that she rightly believed the tidings of of God.” It is not improbable that many others of salvation just conveyed to her, and a submissive de- these "worshippers of God," besides Lydia, were at ference to the opinion of her spiritual instructors, this time converted to Christ. Lydia only, it is true, whether she were a believer indeed, she said, “If ye is mentioned; but when we consider that very soon the have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come into little company of Philippian believers grew into a my house and abide there." These traits of character, flourishing Church, we may reasonably conclude that her humility and distrust of herself, ought not to escape there were those amongst Lydia's companions who cur notice, and will give rise to some further reflections in the sequel.
• εν τη προσευχή του θεού. “The Jews, wherever they dwelt, Let us now consider, in the first place, Lydia's usually had such places, which were open courts, commonly previous character, and then her conversion to the
with trees planted near them, and often situated near seas or
rivers."-PARKIIRST on T0030%". futh of Christ. Though we hear but little of Lydia, + I miglit here touch upon the deep and mysterious question, yet the few particulars of the narrative may lead the saivation of the heathen, and those who know not Christ. us to no fanciful, but probably true conjectures, con
Suilice it to say, that, of the thousands who
know not the Gospel, it is to be fcared that a vast majority are cerning her previous character. It was on the
living in sins which absolutely exclude the perpetrators of them Sabbath-day that Paul and his companions went be- from the kingdom of God; see I Cor. vi. 9-11. The context inyond the walls of the city of Philippi, and entered
disputably shews that "the unrigliteous," i. c, all the unrightea house of prayer on the river's side; for the words
ous heathen or professed Christians, "shall not inherit the king:
dom of God." How loud and powerful, then, is the call to preach “where prayer was wont to be made" probably intimate the Gospel to the heathen!
But I forbear.
“ attended to the things spoken of Paul." If any of ness." It is said of the disciples whom Jesus met on them rejected the word of salvation sent unto them, their way to Emmaus, that " he opened their underthey would do so through a spirit of self-righteousness; standings, that they might understand the Scriptures;" and if Lydia had not been influenced by the Holy and of Lydia, " thai the Lord opened her heart to attend Spirit, if she bad sought to “establish her own right- unto the things spoken of Paul.” She could not have eousness," she would not have welcomed a free and believed effectually the doctrine of salvation, but for unmerited salvation. She was humble, candid, and the agency of Divine grace; and her companions, teachable; and in her case the promise was fulfilled, who with her lieard the instructions of St. Paul, if " If any one shall do his will, lie sball know of the they “put away from them the word of life,” were doctrine whether it be of God."
inexcusable. Thus far, I conceive, and no farther, are She worshipped God as far as she knew him; and we to proceed in setting forth the doctrines of grace. (not because her previous good disposition merited It is not for us to attempt fully to reconcile man's more grace-far from us be the unscriptural notion ; responsibility, and the constraining power of Divine for what good qualities had she that she had not re- influence. We must state both truths, and leave them ceived from the Giver of every good and perfect as the Bible leaves them. Is Lydia, St. Paul's first gift?” none !) God was pleased to impart more know- convert at Philippi, safely landed on the shores of ledge and more holiness to her, who possessed some heaven? Surely she ascribes it then to God's distinmeasure of these his gifts before; and at the throne of guishing providence and grace, that the apostle ever grace she was met by a God of mercy, and thenceforth instructed her in her house of prayer, and that she taught by his apostlc to pray in that Saviour's name, was enabled by Divine grace to attend to the truths which before she knew not. And do we, who from uttered by his lips. And if Lydia's heart, touched our childhood have been taught to pray in the all-pre- before her Christian profession by Alinighty grace-or vailing name of Jesus, through whom alone our prayers she never could have loved prayer and communion can be answered, pray less frequently, less earnestly, with God-needed the further out-pouring of that sacred than Cornelius or Lydia, ere they knew that “whai- | influence to cause her to "lay hold of eternal life" by soever they should ask of the Father in the Son's name faith in Christ, 0, what an energy of Almighty power should be given them ?" and like Lydia and her com- must be put forth, when the love of sin and of the panions, who met together, apart from the noise and world's pollutions and vanities close the heart against distractions of the city, by the peaceful river's side, are the reception of “the truth as it is in Jesus!" any readers of these pages placed by Providence (for And now let us briefly note the fruits and effects of the He orders "the bounds of our habitation") in situa- conversion of Lydia. Among other fruits of the Spirit ations where He appears in an especial manner to be (for in all truly converted persons all the fruits of the inviting them, and alluring them to hold communion Spirit are beginning to abound), we will only note with him, and his glorious and lovely works of crea- two. First, remark her deep humility: when she was tion remind them of him more forcibly than in popu- baptised and her household, she said, "If ye have lous cities,—and though the "calm retreats, the silent judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come into my shades," in which you live, “ agree with prayer and house and abide there"-it ye, my appointed teachers, praise," do you yet know nothing of the delight of ye, the ambassadors of Christ, have judged me to be holding communion with God? If you have no enjoy- faithful to the Lord. Mark well her language: she ment in prayer; if you praise not your God and Sa- wishes them to decide whether she may be considered viour in the secret devotions of the closet; if the a true believer. Imitate her humility, and inquire heart-searching God cannot say of you, "Behold, he whether in our age there is as much of that looking prayeth," you cannot be fit for the kingdom of heaven up to the ministers of Christ, as there was in the early -you must be all unmeet for its eternal ballelujahs ages of the Church? Do the members of their flocks It is not“ nature" alone, and without the influence of consult their ministers, as they might do, as to their the Holy Spirit, that can lead us up to nature's God;" spiritual state? Do they apply to them for counsel, to love him and adore him, and devote ourselves to and inquire, with Lydia's humility, whether they his service as the God of our salvation. No; if it “judge ihem to be faithful to the Lord ?" Do they were so, how do we account for the soul-engrossing come to their ministers, and "open their grief,"• as thoughts of worldly pleasures which follow us into our the Church bids them do, when they are doubtful and retirement, and leave us little or no time for the solemn perplexed in mind as to attendance at the Lord's inquiry, Have we, by faith in Christ, and by earnest table? We mention one instance among many, in prayer, secured an interest in the “ pleasures that are which the members of their flocks might come to at God's right hand for evermore," when disease or their duly authorised minister for advice, and stay death shall wreet these much-loved pleasures from themselves upon his counsel. Is there not a medium us? It is not until thy Spirit, O God, influences our between the implicit reliance of the Romanist on his hearts, that quiet and retirement bring with them holy teacher's assertions, and the unqualified right of priand heavenly thoughts:
vate judgment contended for by many in our day? Is “ But if thy Spirit touch the soul,
there sufficient attention paid to such texts as this ? And grace her mean abode,
“The priest's lips should keep knowledge, and they O, with what joy and peace and love
should seek the law at his mouth." The humility and She communes with her God." -COWER,
deference to ministerial authority manifested in LyBut, having briefly reviewed Lydia's previous cha- dia's language have given occasion to these reflections, racter, we must now consider her conversion to the which might be pursued much further. But remark, Christian faith, “whose heart the Lord opened, that she secondly, another fruit of the Spirit,--love of the breattended to the things which were spoken of Paul." thren. It appears from her constraining, earnestly And here we are called upon to consider the doctrine entreating the apostle and his companions to abide at of preventing grace, i. e. the grace which first brings her house, that they had not wished to do so, on the the sinner to believe in Christ,-a doctrine expressly ground of putting her to so much trouble and ex. asserted in this narrative, and echoed back by our pense. But she was persuaded by “the mercies of Church's articles, prayers, and homilies. We need God," to present to him herself and all that she had not pause to inquire, how the Divine grace brings men as “a living sacrifice." She administered to the to believe and repent. Sometimes it should seem that wants of the apostles, loving them as the people of it is exerted on the understanding; at other times, Christ. By this shall all men know that ye are my perhaps more frequently, on the heart and affections, disciples, if ye have love one towards another." inclining men "to receive the truth in the love of it," and thus “ with the heart to believe unto righteous
• See first exhortation to the holy communion.