« AnteriorContinuar »
" Nature, to make his beauties known,
Must mingle colours not her oun," And—They join several of these images together: thus he is not only the way, but the leader in it; not only the physician, but the remedy itself: not only the master of the feast, but the provision too -not only the foundation, but the builder alsó
But how is he the builder ? He is the only one—“Neither is there salvation in any other." Yet are not Christians required to build ? Does not Jude say, “Build up yourselves in your most holy faith ?" But this is to remind us that we are not only subjects but instruments in this work. He does not believe and repent-We are the believers and the penitents. But he makes us such: he works in us to will and to do; and though we are the boughs that bear " the fruits of righteousness," " in me,” says the Lord, “is thy fruit found;" and therefore it is called “the fruit of the Spirit.” Are not Christians required to build up others? Yes, says the Apostle, “edify one another;" and "seek to excel to the edifying of the Church. And of himself he says, “As a wise master-builder, I have laid the foundation, and another buildeth thereon." But even ministers only build instrumentally. He employs them, and all their success is from him. Paul and Apollos are only ministers by whom we believe, even as the Lord gives to every man. They often begin too insensible of this, and are like Melancthon, who supposed, in his fervour, he should convert all who heard him: but they must learnand cannot learn too soon, that it is not by might, nor by power, but by the Spirit of the Lord. He builds this temple three ways.
First, He purchases all the materials. These consist of believers. Other temples are built of lifeless substances, but this of living stones : and he procures them, and with no less a price than his own blood : “He gave his life a ransom for many."
Secondly, He prepares them. The materials for building a common temple are not found fit, but made so: and Solomon, probably in allusion to his own great undertaking, says, “ prepare thy work without, and make it fit for thyself in the field; and afterwards build thine house." The wood must be felled, and come under the operation of the axe, the saw, and the plane. The stones must be dug out of the quarry, and hewn and polished : and we are commanded to " look to the rock whence we were hewn, and to the hole of the pit whence we were digged"- that is, to remember our condition by nature. But he does not leave us wbere he finds us or what he finds us. He renews us in the spirit of our minds, and forms us a people for himself, to show forth his praise.
Thirdly, He unites them. He assigns them their proper places; gives them one heart and one way; and by “faith and love, which are in Christ Jesus," they are bound more firmly together than any human ties could attach them— The union is for ever-And the Saviour addressing his Father, says, “They are one, even as we are
The parts of a temple are different, but they are all necessary. The door cannot say to the window, or the wall to the roof, I have no need of thee. Some parts are inore near, and some more remote, some more conspicuous, and some more concealed; but they all subserve their appointment; they have all a relation to each other; and
by their junction form one whole—“We are all one in Christ Jesus”
—“in whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord.”
Árt thou found, O my soul, among those to whom the application can be made?"In whom ye also are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit.”
MAY 10._"Even he shall build the temple of the Lord; and he shall bear the glory.”—Zech. vi. 13.
It is supposed that a GLORY will result from the building; and to whom can this glory belong but to the builder ? A man's works praise him in the gates. Some have immortalized themselves by military achievements; some by voyages of discovery ; some by scientific improvements; some by the composition of a book; and some by the structure of an edifice-But what building ever redounded so much to the glory of the builder as this temple of the Lord ? It would be easy to prove, or rather to exemplify this.
Observe the badness of the materials. The worse and the more unsuitable these are, the more praise is due to the workman that bends them completely to his purpose. But there never were such materials as this builder had to work upon : so that it was necessary to change, not their form only, but their very nature; un from earthly, sensual, and devilish, to make them heavenly and divine.
Then see the excellency of the workmanship—"His work is perfect.” The more we examine an instance of human agency, the less admiration we feel. We can generally, by examination, soon perceive some superfluity or deficiency; some possibility of alteration for the better; or at least we find the whole is within our grasp, and the extent of the art can be comprehended. But when we turn to the Lord's doing, this is marvellous in our eyes, in proportion as we explore it. By every research we seem to detect fresh indications of design; we feel ourselves always on the verge of infinite; we exclaim, " This is the finger of God.” So it is with all his worksHe doth all things well: but he hath magnified his word above all his name; and in the salvation of his people he excelleth in glory.
Look at the magnitude of the work. A work is sometimes estimated by the length of time employed in the execution of it. Forty and six years, said the Jews, was this temple in building: but here the structure has been going on for gear six thousand years, and is far from being accomplished yet. A work is estimated by the number of workmen engaged, and ty, abundance of scaffolding required. Here millions of hands have been cordially employed, and countless multitudes also, who will derive no advantage from it. Scholars, merchants, kings, heroes, tyrants, have laboured for this cause, without knowing it: and the world itself, as soon as the work is finished, will be removed and burnt up. The estimate is also taken from the duration. Man's work, like himself, is perishing. Solomon's temple was burnt by the Chaldeans, and Zerubbabel's temple by the Romans; and not a fragment remained a few ages only after their erection. But, says the Saviour, “Upon this rock will I build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” The defections of heretics and the apostacies of professors do not affect it.
ki the foundation of God standeth sure.” The most remarkable structures for permanence are the pyramids of Egypt; but though it is probable they may reach the last day, they must then fall in the wreck of all things. But from the ruins of sin he has made his people an eternal excellency, the joy of many generations.
And how glorious to himself is the manner in which he carries it forward to its completion ! "Difficulties insuperable to man attend every part of the work. It is opposed by all the powers of darkness. But their attempts only serve to display the Saviour's wisdom and power. Nothing is too hard for him. He is not driven from his post, he is not compelled to pause. He will accomplish the plan precisely according to the design, and to a moment of the time appointed. The angels will not pass by the partially erected edifice and say, He began to build, but was not able to finish-“The hands of Zerubbabel have laid the foundation of the house; his hands shall also finish it. Who art thou, O great mountain ? before Zerubbabel thou shalt become a plain : and he shall bring forth the head stone thereof with shouting-Grace, grace unto it!"
Such is the determination of God—“even he shall build the temple of the Lord, and-he shall bear the glory." Every thing in the economy of salvation therefore is so arranged, that he who glories must glory in the Lord. Therefore every sentiment incompatible with this, is an erroneous sentiment; and every disposition adverse to this, is an unrighteous disposition. And in the minds of his people, the proud looks are humbled, and the losty looks laid low; and the Lord alone is exalted. They now readily exclaim, “ Not unto us, O Lord, not unto us, but to thy Name give glory, for thy mercy and thy truth's sake.” How much more will this be the case, when he will come to be glorified in his saints, and admired in all them that believe !-when they will cast their crowns before the Throne; and it will be their business and their delight to exclaim, “To him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood, and hath made us kings and priests unto God and his Father; to him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen.”
"O may I bear some humble part
In that imunortal song ;
And love command my tongue."
MAY 11.--"I have learned by experience." -Gen. xxx. 27. There is no spiritual meaning in these words. They are only the language of Laban acknowledging the benefit he had derived under God-for even he could talk piously, from his son-in-law Jacob; “ The Lord hath blessed me for thy sake." But the way in which he says he had learned this—“I have learned by experience," will apply to a Christian in speaking of his acquaintance with divine things; and afford us an occasion to notice a very interesting subject. Experiments are processes of trial to determine some thing not sufficiently known or admitted. Experience is the knowledge derived from the trial; and this knowledye is very distinguishable from mere report or opinion. A medicine is announced as a specific for some malady; but when I have taken it, and have been cured by
it, I have learned the excellency and efficacy of it by experience. Much of the philosophy of former times was little better than learned affectation. The vouchers of it were not willing to own their ignorance, and place themselves upon a level with the vulgar, and so they conjectured and theorized; but their hypotheses could not abide the test. Of late years, a wiser course, recommended by Bacon, has been pursued, and people have been taught to found science on fact, to reason from inductions, and to take nothing for truth without trial.
Now this is what we wish with regard to the noblest of all subjects. Why cannot religion be tried ? Why cannot prophecy be compared with events? Why cannot miracles be examined by any given standard of evidence? Why cannot we take what the Scripture says of the state of human nature, and go into the world and see whether it is borne out by history and observation? Yes, says the Christian, the wickedness and deceitfulness of the heart is not a ! notion with me, I have learned it by experience in my unthankfulness under mercies, incorrigibleness under corrections, unprofitableness under ordinances, and failures and treachery under vows and professions. I know that there is such a Saviour as the gospel proclaims, for I have made application to him, and I have proof of his ability, suitableness, and willingness to save, in my own salvation
" He that believeth hath the witness in himself." The Word says, “ He that walketh uprightly walketh surely," and I have learned this by experience. I have always suffered when I have turned aside to crooked and selfish policy; but I never had reason to repent when I have acted in simplicity and godly sincerity, and been willing to deny myself for the Lord's sake. In the same way. I can attest the influence and usefulness of prayer-It has calmed my fears--it has revived me in the midst of trouble, I have learned by experience that it is good for me to draw near to God.
And verily this is the best way in which we can become acquainted with divine truth. Our knowledge of it without this will be mere speculation. We read of “a form of knowledge as well as “a form of godliness," and what is the value of the one more than of the other, without “the power thereof ?" The knowledge of some things is injurious rather than useful without it. When persons take up the sovereignty of God from a mere doctrinal system, we commonly find them heady, and contentious, and censorious: but when they learn it from experience, and are constrained to own that by his grace they are what they are, he having begun with them, instead of their beginning with hin; it makes them humble, and grateful, and candid, and tender.
It is a good thing for the heart to be established with grace ;" and this mode of learning confirmas the judgment, and renders a man safe against error. He is not to be ridiculed or reasoned out of his conviction. In vain would any one tell you, if you have tasted them, that gall is not bitter, or honey sweet.
The heart also, as Solomon remarks, teacheth the lips, and we derive a great advantage from experience in dealing with others. We shall be able to speak with more confidence, and more earnesiness, and more feeling ; because we do not deal in untried advantages, but declare that which we have seen, and heard, and handled
of the Word of life. "Lo this, we have searched it, so it is; hear it, and know thou it for thy good.” It is thus we gain the tongue of the learned, and know how to speak a word in season to him that is weary: it is thus we can comfort others with those comforts wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God.
Christians therefore should study their experience. It is one of their best books; and as to some of them it has become now no inconsiderable volume. They should remember how differently things have frequently appeared in prospect, and in review. They are should observe how differently they have felt and acted in various i periods and conditions of life; especially they should examine what .. were the workings of their hearts under those afflictive dispensations which are called trials, because intended to be moral probations.
It is natural that Christians should communicate of their experience; for out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh. But here wisdom is profitable to direct. We are not to give that which is holy to the dogs ; neither should we cast our pearls before swine. In a general way it will be proper to follow the example of David, who said; “Come unto me, all ye that fear God, and I will declare what he hath done for my soul”—They alone can understand and relish the communication. And with regard to them, we are not to speak without distinction. We are not to bring forward the deep things of God to those who cannot bear them now. Neither should we dismay the timid and doubting, by displaying before them our confidence and ecstasies. We may talk with some out of the eighth of the Romans, but with others we must quote out of the seventh. It will often be better to talk of divine things at large without referring to our own experience. And we must always remember that we had better never speak of our experience at all, unless it be accompanied with suitable practice: for it is always of the nature of personal evidence, and therefore will only affect the hearers in proportion as they confide in us.
May 12.-" Hold up my goings in thy paths, that my footsteps slip not.”_
RELIGION is principally an intercourse maintained between God and us. And in the thought of it there is something very wonderful and striking. When we consider his greatness and glory, and our vanity and vileness, we are led to exclaim,“ Lord, what is man that thou art mindful of him, or the son of man that thou visitest him?" But so it is—And as he visits us, so he allows us to visit him-and while he addresses us we address him. He addresses us in his Word, and we address him in prayer.
How much they lose who are strangers to this duty, this privilege. It is our light in darkness; our solace in affliction; our sanctification in prosperity. We cannot be wise, or happy, or even safe without. Let me observe David's course, and his concern respecting it; and learn to pray as he prayed, “Hold up my goings in thy paths, that my footsteps slip not."
First, his course. He speaks of his “goings." Religion does not allow a man to sit still. Under the influence of it he believes. knows, feels, speaks: but all these are vain unless they result in