« AnteriorContinuar »
dwells safely, and may be in quiet from the fear of evil-"Surely in the floods of great waters they shall not come nigh unto him.: Floods of great waters mean numerous and pressing calamities, from which few are exempted in this vale of tears—But how is it said, they do not come nigh unto the godly? Are not the afflictions of the righteous many ? Did they not come nigh Joseph when he was cast into the pit, and when in prison he was fettered with irons ? “Not come nigh me,” says many a living Christian; "they have washed away half my comforts already, and I fear my heart will be overwhelmed within me" -The language of the Scripture is bold, and often requires to be qualified; but it is always founded on truth. It is undeniable that God in public and general sufferings has frequently secured his servants; as we see in the case of Noah, and Lot, and the Jews in Egypt. And God is always able to do this for his people. And nothing shall befall them without his permission and appointment. Nothing shall injure them. Yea, every loss and trial shall conduce to their welfare. But hear David's own explanation subjoined: “Thou art my hiding-place; thou shalt preserve me from trouble; thou shalt compass me about with songs of deliverance.” Thus the believer is like a man in a strong hold built upon a rock. In the flood, the water may surround him, but does not touch him. It will also roll off, and he will walk abroad again. Thus it is said, “ We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed.” And in the final disaster that will carry away every thing, it shall not come nigh unto him, but only with his eyes shall he see the reward of the wicked
"When desolation, like a flood,
On the proud sinner rolls;
February 11.—"The people which were left of the sword found grace in the wilderness.”—Jer. xxxi. 2.
The expression, “the people which were left of the sword,” refers to the perils the Israelites escaped before their journey began. In Egypt they were in danger of being cut off by excess of toil, and the bloody decree which doomed all their male children to destruction. They were also likely to be cut off at once, when Pharaoh pursued them to the Red Sea. From all these jeopardies the Lord's hand saved them. “But," you say, "he brought them into a wilderness." He did—Yet they had no reason to complain of their condition: they “ found grace in the wilderness.” And such, Christians, has been your experience.
What the Jews did not derive from their condition, they yet received in it-They “ found grace in the wilderness." This was essentially the presence of God with them, according to the prayer of Moses : “If thy presence go not with me, carry us not up hence. For wherein shall it be known here that I and thy people have found grace in thy sight? is it not in that thou goest with us ? so shall we be separated, I and thy people, from all the people that are upon the face of the earth.” Hence no nation was so great, because they had God so nigh unto them in all that they called upon him for.
They found in the wilderness, providing grace. And have not you? The cup of some of you has been running over. You have had all things richly to enjoy. Others have been inore sensibly dependant. Yet he has not suffered you to want. In his feeding ! and clothing you, there has been less of miracle, but not less of. reality, than in feeding and clothing the Jews. You have not had, the widow's cruise of oil and barrel of meal ; but your supplies have i not failed you. Ravens have not sustained you; but you have had relief from the most unlikely characters. You have also had com- A fort in your temporal blessings; you have tasted the love of God in ther. He has blessed your bread and your water; and hence the little you have had, has been better than the riches of many wicked. ;
They found in the wilderness, pardoning grace. And have not you? It was said of them, “How oft did they provoke bim in the wilderness, and grieve him in the desert! But he, being full of compassion, forgave their iniquity, and destroyed them not: yea, many a time turned he his anger away, and did not stir up all his wrath. For he remembered that they were but flesh; a wind that passeth away, and cometh not again. And has not this been your case? In many things you have offended, and in every thing come short of the glory of God. How ungrateful, forgetful, distrustful, incorrigihle, have you been! Reflect for a moment on the sins opf your holy things'; review your sabbaths, your communions, 'Your**". omissions of duty, and the imperfections of your motives when your actions have been materially right-Has he dealt with you according to your desert? Has he not spared you according to the greatness of his mercy ?
They found in the wilderness, conducting grace. And have not you?' They had a fiery cloudy pillar to go before them, to determine all their journeyings, and which left them not, till it had guided them to the rest which the Lord their God gave them. And you know the way of man is not in himself. How ignorant, how short sighted, how easily imposed upon, have you been! How mis- ** taken have you been, when most confident! How deceived have you been in your hopes and fears! How often have you wished to
escape things which have proved a blessing; and to obtain things i which would have proved your bane! Into what embarrassments would you have fallen, had you been left to lean to your own understanding! But he has fulfilled the promise, “I am the Lord thy God, that teacheth thee to profit, and that leadeth thee in the way that thou shouldest choose." And he will be your guide even unto death.
They found in the wilderness, preserving grace. As he led them about and instructed them, so he kept them as the apple of his eye. And have you not found the same grace? Why have not your enemies, so superior in every respect to yourselves, triumphed over you? The Lord has been on your side. You have been kept by the power of God.
They found in the wilderness, assisting grace. What was said of Asher applied to them all; “ as thy days, so shall thy strength be." He made them equal to their travels and their trials. He gave them his Sabbaths. He sent Moses, Aaron, and Miriam before them. They had the services of the Priests, the messages of the
Prophets; the communings of the mercy-seat. And has he not sent you help from the sanctuary, and strengthened you out of Zion ? You have had his ordinances. You have heard his word. You have known him in his palaces for a refuge. His Spirit has helped your infirmities. When you have said, “I am cast out of his sight," you have been enabled to look again towards his holy temple. You dreaded the day of trouble ; but when it arrived, there arrived with it the grace to help in time of need—Where shall I end ?
But remember—First, that all you have possessed and enjoyed, deserving the name of good, has been grace. Secondly, you would have seen much more of this grace in the wilderness, had you been more observant: for “whoso is wise, and will observe these things, even he shall understand the loving kindness of the Lord." Thirdly, how much more of this grace which you have found in the wilderness will you see hereafter, than you are aware of now! Then the divine dispensations concerning you will be finished ; your capacity for reviewing them will be complete; and you will fully see the bearing of them all upon your welfare-then for the song_“O give thanks unto the Lord ; for he is good, for his mercy endureth for ever-To HIM THAT LED HIS PEOPLE THROUGH THE WIL
DERNESS; for his MERCY ENDURETH FOR EVER!".. 50. Min e most powet. and congintaining medelatiin
FEBRUARY 12.-" And Samuel lay until the morning, and opened the doors of the house of the Lord. And Samuel feared to show Eli the vision," -1 Sam. iii. 15.
Every thing in the history and character of Samuel is attractive and interesting. His birth was in answer to prayer. He was sanctified from the womb; and was dedicated to the service of the sanctuary as soon as he was weaned. Among the Jews there were three weanings. The first was at the end of three years; this was the weaning from the mother's breast. The second was at the end of seven years; this was the weaning from the dry nurse. The third was at the end of twelve years; this was the weaning from childish manners. At the latter period the Jewish children began to attend the public solemnities; and at this age therefore we find our Saviour in the midst of the doctors in the temple. This we presume was the season when Hannah left Samuel at Shilo, under the care of old Eli: for we see that he immediately " worshipped the Lord there ;” and was capable of rendering himself useful in the services of the tabernacle.
Some length of time after this, the Lord addressed him in the night, and delivered to him an awful message concerning Eli. 66 And Samuel lay until the morning.” He seems to have had none of those apprehensions which other children suffer from the dread of darkness, and apparitions, and sounds, deemed ominous. But did he sleep during the watches of the night ? We presume not. The wonderfulness of the occurrence, the divinity of the Speaker, and the import of the message, would be likely to hold his eyes waking, and fully employ his thoughts and meditations.
But he " opened the doors of the house of the Lord.” Though distinguished and dignified by such a vision, he does not feel him
self raised above his humble office, but repairs to his usual employment with alacrity. He that is not faithful in little, will not be faithful in much: but principle, diligence, and cheerfulness, in a private and inferior condition, are the best preparatives for, and the surest pledges of, good behaviour in higher and more public situations. And why should any kind of labour be considered as low, or degrading? What were our hands made for but to be used ? Every kind and degree of usefulness is respectable, is honourable. The most despised character in the community should be the man who does nothing, and has nothing to do.
We here see that the call of God does not draw us away from our stations, and make us indifferent to the ordinary functions of life; but should dispose us to act more wisely and piously in the discharge of them. “Let every man,” says the Scripture, “abide in the calling in which he is called of God.” The sun is as regular as he is beneficent: he daily rises and descends, and pursues his course always in the same way. The comet is eccentric; breaks forth for a while, and then disappears; yet it excites more notice for the time than the orb of day. Some we fear are tempted to step aside from their own proper sphere by the attention they attract; and they will endeavour to justify themselves by appeals to their usefulness. And they may do good; but God has not required this at their hands : and every man is not only most respectable, but most useful, when he keeps within his own circle, and fills it to advantage. Religion is the most orderly principle in the world. It teaches us to give every thing its place, time, and importance. The most zealous of its advocates was as wise as he was warm; and could say, “Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, whether prophecy, let us prophesy according to the proportion of faith; or ministry, let us wait on our ministering: or he that teacheth, on teaching; or he that exhorteth, on exhortation : he that giveth, let him do it with simplicity; he that ruleth, with diligence; he that showeth mercy, with cheerfulness." We always suspect those who, looking after something new and extraordinary, are carried away from the plain path of revelation, reason, and common sense. “The wisdom of the prudent is to understand his way." Let wives remember this, who gad about after favourite preachers, and forget their domestic arrangements, and unbelieving husbands. Let servants think of this, who by religious gossipings render themselves unpunctual in the claims of their places. Let those who are too devout to be moral; too fervent in spirit to be diligent in business : let the proud, the unruly, the roving, the idle, weigh well the language of the Apostle to the Thessalonians: "For even when we were with you, this we commanded you, that if any would not work, neither should he eat. For we hear that there are some which walk among you disorderly, working not at all, but are busy bodies. Now them that are such we command and exhort by our Lord Jesus Christ, that with quietness they work, and eat their own bread. But ye, brethren, be not weary in well doing.”
Some entrusted with such a secret could not have contained it without swelling and bursting. They would have risen, and rushed forth, and have proclaimed to their connexions the privilege by which they had been honoured. There was nothing of this la
Samuel. He was not elated or vain. He rises only at the usual hour, and performs his accustomed work; and is not eager to announce the transaction even to Eli. Empty vessels sound loudest; and shallow brooks babble most. A man of learning will not, like a smatterer, be always referring to the original, or quoting scraps of Latin and Greek. Modesty and diffidence always attend true greatness, in nature and in grace. Though Paul had a vision that rapt him into the third heaven, and he knew not whether he was in the body or out of the body, he concealed it for fourteen years, and then divulged it by compulsion. Luther said, “ Though I am an old man, and have preached so long, I never think of preaching with out trembling." How unlike the carelessness, the forwardness, the boldness of many a novice in the ministry! What a contrast between the reserve, the retiringness, the humility of the lovely Samuel; and the self-conceit, and assurance, and arrogance, and talkativeness of many of the young in our day! “Exhort young men to be soberminded.” “And let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak."
But why was he “afraid to show Eli the vision ?" Had Eli treated him with distance and harshness, so that he dreaded to offend him by the communication ? Far from it. Eli always erred on the side of softness and indulgence, not severity. And we may be assured that he loved Samuel, and treated the little Levite as a son that served with a father. His fear, therefore, arose from the tenderness of his disposition, from his regard to the High Priest, and his veneration for his age and office. Hence he was pained, and shrunk back from the annunciation of the judgment threatened. It is said, bad news never wants wings. But the reason is to be found in the tempers of men: it affords them gratification; and therefore out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh. Evil would spread slowly if people were like-minded with Samuel. What some call faithfulness is the indulgence of their harsh feelings. They are at home, and in their element, when they censure and condemn. They often say, “ I am very sorry to mention it;" when they are conscious of pleasure, and their very manner betrays it to others. Never reprove without cause; and then do it in the spirit of meekness, as a surgeon probes the wound of his child. When Paul tells the Philippians of some who were the enemies of the cross of Christ, and whose end was destruction, he does it " with weeping.” And Jesus “ wept" when he foretold the doom of Jerusalem, where he was going to be crucified. If ministers deal in the menaces of Scripture, let them show that they speak with concern-having compassion and knowing the terror of the Lord, persuade men.
FEBRUARY 13.—" Fear ye not, therefore, ye are of more value than many sparrows."--Matt. x. 31.
HERE is obviously an implication of something going before. Our Saviour is speaking of the doctrine of Providence, and he would establish not only the truth but the extent of it. Some conceive of God as presiding over whole systems, but regardless of individuals, and the minute concerns of his creatures. This philosophical or half infidel notion, if designed, so to speak, to relieve the Supreme Being, only dishonours him; as if an infinite understanding was