« AnteriorContinuar »
under many disadvantages. His men had not seen war. They were raw, undisciplined, and ill armed. They had been living in bondage. Slavery renders its subjects mean and pusillanimous. Having been treated as brutes, it requires time to make them feel
that they are men. It is freedom that nourishes magnanimity and (courage--Yet “ Joshua discomfited Amalek and his people with
the edge of the sword"--for the Lord fought for Israel. So shall all thine enemies perish, O God; while they that love thee shall be as the sun when he goeth forth in his strength.
JULY 4.-"A bruised reed shall he not break, and smoking flax shall be not quench.”—Matt. xii. 20.
The terms of the imagery require some little explanation. What means a bruised reed? Some take it for a musical pipe made of reed, and formerly used by shepherds. Such an instrument could never be very enchanting; hut when “bruised," would sound inhar. moniously and harshly, and would probably be broken to pieces and thrown aside. Others take it for a reed sialk, commonly found in marshy soils. This, in its best estate is slender and frail, but when bruised is unable to bear any weight, is unavailing for any useful purpose, and seems fit for nothing but the fire.—And what is “smoking flax ?" Here, says Campbell, by a figure of speech, the cause is put for the effect: the smoking flax means the wick of the torch, or candle, made of this material: he therefore renders it “the smoking taper.” In this case the flame is extinct; but the tow retaining some particles of fire, sends forth no useful light, but only offensive effluvia. All this is obviously metaphor. But it will not be necessary to endeavour to trace the analogy in various and distinct articles of resemblance. It is enough to seize the spirit and design of the figures. This bruised reed, and this smoking tlax, mean certain characters to be found, not in the world—there is no real religion there, but in the Church. They are persons of very ! weak and defective attainments in the divine life. They may be described as defective in knowledge, and obscurely acquainted with the things of the Spirit. Or as weak in faith, and full of doubts and fears. Or as afflicted with outward troubles and inward conflicts, while the consolations of God are small with them. Or as the subjects of moral infirmities appearing in their resolutions, temper, and conduct, and concurring to disqualify them for glorifying God, and serving their generation.
Yet low as they are in the eyes of others—and they are lower in their own, the Saviour does not overlook or despise them: “A bruised reed shall he not break, the smoking flax shall he not quench." His regard is only held forth negatively. But will he do nothing more than not destroy, or not injure them? Much more is implied than is expressed. The assurance is that he will sustain, strengthen, and confirm the bruised reed; and rekindle the smoking flax, and cause it to burn clear and bright. And that this is the design is obvious from the delightful addition in which we are told that the work, though opposed, shall be rendered triumphant, “ till he send forth judgment unto victory." So truly was it said of him in prophecy, “ He shall gather the lambs with his arm, and carry them in
his bosom, and gently lead those that are with young.” So well did he say of himself, “ He hath sent me to heal the broken-hearted, and to comfort all that mourn."
We may view the fact in four periods. First, The period before his incarnation. His “ goings forth were of old from everlasting.” it was he who appeared to the patriarchs ; but hear the testimony of a dying Jacob, whose failings had been many: “God before whom my fathers Abraham and Isaac did walk, the God which fed me all my life long unto this day—The Angel which redeemed me from all Israel, bless the lads." He was with the Church in the wilderness. And how is his conduct towards them characterized ? " 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.” “In all their affliction he was afflicted, and the angel of his presence saved them : in his love and in his pity he redeemed them; and he bare them, and carried them all the days of old."
The second period takes in the days of his flesh. For three-andthirty years he dwelt among men, and they beheld his glory, and saw him “full of grace and truth.” He had compassion on the multitude, because they were as sheep having no shepherd, and he taught them many things. What was his language? “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” He saw some faith in the nobleman who applied to him on the behalf of his son ; but it was so weak, that he thought our Saviour could not raise him when dead, and that he could not even recover him while living, without his bodily presence, ignorant of the almightiness of his word. But he yields to his desire; “ Sir, come down, ere my child die.” What dull scholars were his disciples! But he endured their waywardness, and taught them as they were able to bear it. He tenderly apologized for the three disciples in the garden, when, though he had enjoined them, and was exceeding sorrowful, even unto death, they could not watch with him one hour—“The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” When he was apprehended they all forsook him and fled-Yet he loved them unto the end-and beyond it too
Observe the third period, the season that elapsed between his resurrection and his ascension. He rose with the same heart with which he died. He instantly appeared to Mary Magdalene who was weeping, and comforted her. He sent a message to his cowardly and wavering followers, announcing that he was risen. He mentioned Peter who was inconsolable by name. He joined Cleopas and his companion as they were going to Emmaus, and revived their dying faith and hope. He entered the room where the cleven were assembled, and said to their drooping fearful hearts, “ Peace be unto you.” He accommodated himself with the most surprising condescension to the wish of Thomas, and set his scruples at rest. He took leave of them all, and was parted from them in the very act of blessing them.
The fourth period followed his return to heaven. Out of sight, is often out of mind, with us. The chief butler on his advancement forgot Joseph. Years elapsed after he was enthroned before David
inquired after the family of his friend Jonathan. But Jesus remembered his followers as soon as he came into his kingdom. He im. mediately sent them another Comforter. He was touched with the feeling of their infirmities; and appeared in the presence of God for them. He was seen of the dying Stephen in glory; and stood by and strengthened Paul when before Nero. And when he addressed the Seven Churches in Asia, and justly reproved their faults, with what readiness and kindness did he notice and commend the least degree of excellence! Let us take what he said to the church of Philadelphia, and remember that he is the same yesterday, today, and for ever. “I know thy works: behold, I have set before thee an open door, and no man can shut it: for thou hast a little strength, and hast kept my word, and hast not denied my name."
JULY 5.—" Exceeding great and precious promises."—2 Peter i. 4. Not only “great,” but “ exceeding great, and precious"-Exceed. ing all example-exceeding all expression-exceeding all concep. tion.
They are exceeding great in their contents. For what do these promises contain ? or rather, what do they not contain? They are adapted, and they are adequate to all our woes, wants, and weak. I nesses. They include all things pertaining to life and godliness ; time and eternity; grace and glory. Let me make a selection, and judge of the whole by a part. Let me look at three of these promises—The first peculiarly the promise of the Old Testament. The second of the New--The third of both. The promised SEED. The promised Spirit. And the promised LAND. O my soul, let me dwell on each of these till I am filled with wonder; and constrained to exclaim, “ O how great is the goodness which thou hast laid up for them that fear thee, which thou hast wrought for them that trust in thee, before the sons of men !"
They are exceeding precious in their estimation. This does not regard all to whom these promises are addressed ; for many make light of them, and neglect so great salvation. But there are others in whom it is fully exemplified. The promises are exceeding pre
cious in the esteem of awakened and convinced sinners. A sense ( of our wants is necessary to render all our supplies desirable and
gratifying. The full soul loathes the honeycomb : but to the hun. gry every bitter thing is sweet. It is owing to this that many read and hear the word of God without impression ; and that the invitations of the Gospel, instead of being attractive, are rather offensive, being by implication a kind of reflection, like the offer of par. don to the innocent, or of alms to the wealthy, or of liberty to those who say, we were never in bondage. But when we see and feel that we are in the condition the dispensation is designed to reliere, the tidings will be glad tidings; they will be like cold water to 1 thirsty soul; they will be the break of day to one that watches for the morning. When weary and heavy laden, how precious is the voice that cries, “ I will give you rest." I am lost, but here is a Sa. viour. I am sick and dying, but here is a Physician. I am guilty and weak, but here is One in whom I have righteousness and strength.
They are also exceeding precious in the esteem of real and confirmed believers. Let us go through the Scriptures, and we shall find how the saints always delighted in them. The patriarchs "embraced them"-kissed them, as the word is; "and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth.” Job said, “I have esteemed the words of his mouth more than my necessary food.” David said, “I have taken thy testimonies as my heritage for ever: for they are the rejoiciag of my heart." “More to be desired are they than gold, yea, than much fine gold : sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb." Jeremiah said, “I found thy words and I did eat them; and thy word was unto me the joy and rejoicing of mine heart." The noble army of Martyrs overcame by the blood of the Lamb and the word of his testimony, and loved not their lives unto the death. And now, in the soul of every Christian, “this is the victory that overcomes the world," "even" their “faith."
And no wonder they are in such estimation with them. They do not judge of them by report, but from experience. To a sense of want they have added the relish of enjoyment: and therefore as new-born babes, they desire the sincere milk of the word, that they may grow thereby, having tasted that the Lord is gracious. They have tried these promises, and can trust them. They repair to them as to wells of salvation from which they have derived refreshment in many a fainting hour. They have had proofs, blessed
proofs of their influence and efficacy-First, in preserving them) ( from despair, in bringing peace into their troubled consciences, and
enabling them to joy in God under a sense of their guilt, unworthiness, and imperfections. Secondly, in supporting them amidst all the trials of life. For where is the Christian who cannot say, with David, “This is my comfort in mine affliction; thy word hath quickened me.” Thirdly, in animating them in all the duties of religion. How often have they found “the joy of the Lord” which they have derived from their “strength ;" freeing them from fear, depression, and formality; and enlarging their heart to run in the way of his commandments! Fourthly, in promoting their mortification and sanctification. This is their ultimate design: “That by them we may be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the pollutions of the world through lust.” For they are not only intended to afford us consolation, but to draw us from earth to heaven, from the creature to God, from the life of sense to the life of faith, and from the life of sin to the life of holiness. And Christians feel this effect from them far more than from the dread of wrath, or the authority of command, according to the language of the Apostle: “Having therefore these promises, dearly beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.”
Are you an heir of promise ? “O that I was ! I know that these promises are exceeding great and precious; but they often make (me shudder, lest I should come short of them. Oh that I knew whether I might claim them as my own !" Wait on the Lord, and keep his wayPray for the testimony of his Spirit as he imparts l it by his work in the heart and by his rule in the word. Observe the characters he has given of the subjects of his grace. “To this
man will I look, even to him that is poor and of a contrite spirit, and trembleth at my word.” “Blessed are the poor in spirit; for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted. Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth. Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled. Blessed are the mer. ciful: for they shall obtain mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God. Blessed are the peace-makers : for they shall be called the children of God.”—
But if I am an heir, what is my duty with regard to these "exceed, ing great and precious promises ?" It is to believe them. They are nonentities without faith. It is only by faith they can live and [ operate in the soul. It is to remember them. You should not
have your resources to seek when you want them to use; but be of ( a ready mind to apply those divine encouragements as your various
exigences may require. It is to plead them before God. They are good bills, payable at sight. Present them, and say, Fulfil thy word unto thy servant, upon which thou hast caused me to hope. It is to publish and recommend them. It is a good day with you; and if you hold your peace, some evil will befall you. Go therefore and tell the king's household. Say to your relations, friends, and neighbours; O taste and see that the Lord is good ; blessed is the man that trusteth in him. Yea, to all you find, say, with Moses to Hobab; “We are journeying unto the place of which the Lord said, I will give it you: come thou with us, and we will do the good: for the Lord hath spoken good concerning Israel.”
July 6.-"Now Moses kept the flock of Jethro his father-in-law, the priest of Midian : and he led the fock to the backside of the desert, and came to the mountain of God, even to Horeb. And the Angel of the Lord appeared unto him."-Exodus iii. 1, 2.
In the history of Moses we find three distinct periods. Each of them consisted of forty years. The first he passed at the court of Pharaoh. The second as a shepherd in Midian. The third as the leader and ruler of Israel in the wilderness-So changeable often is human life-So little do we know at the commencement of our course what direction it will take, or what design the Lord has to accomplish, either for us or by us. He giveth none account of any of his matters: but he says, “I will bring the blind by a way that they knew not; I will lead them in paths that they have not known: I will make darkness light before them, and crooked things straight. These things will I do unto them, and not forsake them."
Who can conjecture, when a child is born, however disadvan. tageous the circumstances in which he is placed, what are the destinations of Providence that await him? What a character was here! What wonders did he perform! What a space does he fill in the records of antiquity, as a deliverer, a commander, a lawgiver, an historian, and a prophet of the Lord! What a tax of admiration and gratitude has he levied upon all ages! Yet all this importance was once hid for three months in successive concealments, launched in an ark of bulrushes on the Nile, and by a concurrence of circum: stances, apparently the most casual, discovered, saved and advanced to glory, honour, and immortality!