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polis was destroyed, their palaces were demolished, strangers pos. sessed their fields and vineyards : but though their calamities were
great and numberless, nothing distressed them in comparison with She destruction of the temple, and the loss of their sacred institutions. They were “sorrowful because of the solemn assembly." This was now broken up and dispersed. Ah! said their aching hearts, “thine enemies roar in the midst of thy congregations. We see not our signs: there is no more any prophet: neither is there among us any that knoweth how long." "Our holy and beautiful house, where our fathers worshipped, is burned with fire, and all our pleasant things are laid waste."
Blessed be God, we cannot be thus sorrowful for the solemn assembly. Our temples are standing, our Sabbaths are continued, our eyes see our teachers, our ears hear the joyful sound; we sit under our own vine and fig-tree, and none makes us afraid. Yet we ought, and if we are spiritually minded, we shall on many accounts be sorrowful for the solemn assembly. Sorrowful when deprived of opportunities of being found in it. This may be the case owing to the calls of urgent business, or accident, or sickness, or relative affliction. When indeed we are thus providentially detained, the Lord will not leave us comfortless: yet when we remember these things, we shall pour out our souls in us; for we had gone with the multitude, we went with them to the house of God, with the voice of joy and praise, with a multitude that kept holy day. Sorrowful that it is so little attended. Many so under. value the privilege as to suffer the most trifling expense or impe. diment to keep them from the ccurts of the Lord. Sorrowful that it is so little improved. How many attend frequently and regu. larly who receive the grace of God in vain, and are no wiser and better for all their advantages. Sorrowful that it is so impoverished and declining- That there is less spirituality and fervour; that we do not see the children instead of the fathers; that while the old are removed so few in early life are coming forward to fill their places; that so few are led to inquire what must I do to be saved; that so few increase with all the increase of God. Sorrowful that it is dishonoured and degraded-By apostacies, backslidings, incon. sistencies, and falls in the members of it; so that the enemies of the Lord blaspheme, and the way of truth is evil spoken of, and the Redeemer wounded in the house of his friends. Hence it is here added, “to whom the reproach of it is a burden." All this “is a lamentation, and shall be for a lamentation."
Yet if we feel the distress, it is a token for good. It is godly sorrow. And blessed are they that thus sorrow-For, says God, “I will gather them that are sorrowful for the solemn assembly." This means, with regard to these Israelites, that they should be united again from their dispersion, and led back to enjoy their former privileges, and again see his power and glory in the sanotuary. With regard to other sorrowers the Lord will gather them in two ways; gather them for safety, and gather them for glory. Moses said to Pharaoh, upon his announcing the plague of hail, “Send now, and gather thy cattle, and all that is in the field;" that is, house them from the storm. Thus the hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and affords them a safe and comfort.
able retreat from the weather and the birds of prey. Our Lord uses this image; and David had also said, “He that dwelleth in the secret place of the Most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty. He shall cover thee with his feathers, and under his wings shalt thou trust; his truth shall be thy shield and buckler.". What an encouragement is this in times of public and general calamity! Indeed without it we should not be able to live a day in quiet from the fear of evil. The husbandman, when the grain is ripe, gathers the wheat into the barn. The bridegroom is said to go “ down into the garden to gather lilies.” It is thus the Lord, when they are made meet, removes his saints from the Church below to the Church above, and from earth to heaven, by the hand of death. Thus they are continually gathering one by one to their own people. At length he will send forth his angels, and will gather together his elect from the four winds; and the aggregate will be perfect. To this the Apostle refers, when he says, “Now we beseech you, brethren, by the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and by our gathering together unto him.”
Two things resnlt from hence. First-That sensibility attends genuine religion. The Lord takes away the heart of stone out of our Hesh, and gives us a heart of flesh. Secondly-Nothing is more pleasing to God than a feeling, lively, public spirit, that will not allow of our looking on our own things, but also on the things of others, and especially the things that are Jesus Christ's. If we have no concern for the welfare of Zion, we are not living members of the mystical body. If one member suffers, all the members suffer with it. “Pray for the peace of Jerusalem. They shall prosper that love thee."
JULY 9.-"Are the consolations of God small with thee ?" -- Job xv. 11.
They are not so in themselves, nor have they been so in the experience of many. Many have found them sufficient to wean their affections from the vanities and dissipations of the world, to set their hearts at rest, and to sustain them under every loss : when they have walked in the midst of trouble these have been able to revive them; and in the multitude of their thoughts within them his comforts have delighted their souls. Nor can they be small in the estimation of any who have tasted that the Lord is gracious. But some know their fuller value from the want, rather than from the possession. They have had indeed relishes of them; but as to habitual enjoyment, the consolations of God are small with them. *
But is there not a cause? And should not serious inquiry be made after it? The cause cannot be found in the God of all comfort. We are not straitened in him. All the fulness of God is before us. “Have I been a wilderness to Israel? a land of darkness?” Sometimes the reason is the indulgence of something incompatible with the will of God. This injures our peace and joy, as the worm affected Jonah's gourd : the cause was not so visible, but it was real, and while the refreshful shade was withering over his head, a worm was working at the ront. The boughs and leaves were some way off from the mischief, but they felt the influence in every pore, and for want of vital communication could no longer resist the scorching syn. If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord
will not hear me. There was an Achan in the camp that troubled Israel; therefore they could not stand before their enemies. Our obedience will be imperfect as long as we remain here, but it must be impartial. We shall rue for any reserve we make: and can only be preserved from shame if we have respect unto all his commandments. When Joab was assaulting Abel, he said to the wise woman, I do not wish to destroy this mother city in Israel; but a man, Sheba by name, hath lifted up his hand against the king-Throw his head over the wall, and the siege shall be instantly raised : and so it was. Let us therefore search, and try our ways, and resolve to act faithfully by the discovery.
"The dearest idol I have known,
Whate'er that idol be;
And worship only thee.
Calm and serene my frame;
That leads me to the Lamb." And be it remembered that the evil we are speaking of may regard not only some sin committed, but some duty neglected. One complainer perhaps holds back that which restitution requires, Another perhaps forgives not his brother his trespasses. A third does not reprove his neighbour, though he sees sin upon him.
Neglect in attending divine ordinances will furnish a reason. When by the Providence of God we are deprived of these, or of the ability to repair to them, we shall find that there is not an essential connection between grace and what we call the means of grace He will be with us in this trouble, and we shall see his power and glory, so as we have seen him in the sanctuary. But it is otherwise when having the opportunity in our hands we are found absent We then transgress the command which forbids us to forsake the assembling of ourselves together; we put a slight upon the Lord's own appointment; and show a disregard to his presence and bles. sing. The hand of the diligent maketh rich: and they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength. How much did Thomas lose in being absent from the Apostles when the risen Saviour appeared in the midst of them! How often have we heard persons remark, that when they have been absent from their places, the text or the sermon has touched the very subject they wished to hear; and it is not improbable that somethimg was then lost which might have confirmed or comforted them through life.
Ignorance of their privileges has also its influence. Many la. bour under great difficulties for want of evangelical instruction ; and some who have many advantages are yet very obscure and perplexed in their views of the grounds of their acceptance before God, and of the certainty of their persevering in the divine life ; and also
of the nature and design of afflictive dispensations. Persons may may be safe, and feel little of the glorious liberty of the sons of God; for
this depends on knowledge : * ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” “Blessed are the people who know the joy. ful sound; they shall walk, O Lord, in the light of thy countenance, in thy name shall they rejoice all the day, and in thy righteousness they shall be exalted.”
To this we may add, separation from godly intercourse. Ointment and perfume rejoice the heart, so doth a man his friend by hearty counsel. Paul was sad; but when he saw the brethren, he thanked God and took courage.“ Jonathan Saul's son arose, and went to David into the wood, and strengthened his hand in God.” Thus two are better than one. A Christian will often be tempted. to imagine something singular in his views and feelings, especially those of a sorrowful kind; but a fellow believer will be able, by opening his experience, to turn the stumblingblock into a way-mark, and convince him that all the subjects of divine grace have passed through the same exercises. Having seen the treachery of his own heart, a Christian is afraid of any encouragement offered from that quarter, till he has consulted with a wiser than himself in the things of God. His own prayers seem not to deserve the name of grace or ) of supplication, but he is cheered by learning that he has an interest in the petitions of those whɔ have power with God, and can prevail. 1
But finally, what says James? “Ye have not, because ye ask not; ye ask and have not, because ye ask amiss." And what said
the Saviour to his disciples? “Hitherto ye have asked nothing in is my name: ask, and ye shall receive; that your joy may be full.”.
Therefore open your mouth wide. Therefore pray not according to (the sense you have of your unworthiness—this would strike you ! dumb; but according to the exceeding riches of his grace, in his kindness towards you by Christ Jesus. Think of the unspeakabler gift; and having boldness and access with confidence by the faith of him, say, “He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him .. up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all" things ?"
July 10.-"And so, after he had patiently endured, he obtained the promise.”
Heb. vi. 15 The person spoken of is Abraham. The promise is contained in the preceding verses, and was delivered in the form of an oath. "For when God made promise to Abraham, because he could swear by no greater, he sware by himself, saying, Surely, blessing I will bless thee, and multiplying I will multiply thee. And so, after he had patiently endured, he obtained the promise.” He had obtained the promise itself long before; but the meaning is, that he at length obtained also the fulfilment.
Now they that are of faith are blessed with faithful Abraham. He was called the friend of God; and they are all precious in his sight, and honourable, and he has loved them: and of each of the sons it will be said in due time as it was of the father of the faithtul; “ And so, after he had patiently endured, he obtained the promise."
The believer's dependence and expectation are placed upon the promise of God. He would have nothing to sustain his hope, but for some divine intimation and assurance. God therefore from the beginning spoke in a way of promise; and in a way of promise he always deals with his people. He could have done for them all that he purposed to do without announcing it previously, but then they could have derived no advantage from it beforehand; and as they
could not have known it, they could not have trusted in it, and acted upon it, and pleaded it in prayer, saying, “Do as thou hast said." A promise is more than a simple declaration : it is an express engagement by which a man lays himself under an obligation, and does not leave himself at liberty to act indifferently. And this, , with reverence, applies to the conduct of the Supreme Being. But
it is obvious that God's promising must have originated in his own undeserved goodness: for not only are his promises exceeding great and precious, but we were not worthy of the least of all his mercies and of all the truth which he has showed unto his servants. Yea, while we had no claims upon him, he had claims against us; and could righteously have punished us as transgressors. Let us only imagine that God had not as yet spoken concerning us at all, but was about to do it; conscious of our guilt, we could have expected nothing but a certain fearful looking-for of judgment; and, like Adam and Eve, hearing the voice of God, we should have endeavoured to hide ourselves for fear. But be astonished, 0 heaven, at this, and wonder, O earth; he is good and ready to forgive! and comes forward and assures us that the thoughts he thinks towards us are thoughts of peace, and not of evil! and that all things are provided and ready for our relief!
As soon as we are born of God we are his children, and if chil. dren, then heirs; and as such we have a title which no enemy can invalidate to all the promises. Cut the promises are not always immediately accomplished, and hence a period of "patient enduring" is necessary. God indeed is not slack concerning his promise: he is never a moment beyond the appointed season. Yet, according to our wishes and apprehensions, he seems to delay: for ignorant of his time, we often fix one ourselves, and thereby not only show our folly and presumption, but expose ourselves to disappointment. When God promised Abraham a son, for many years he went childless. And how long did things grow more dark and discouraging before Joseph could see any probability of the fulfilment of his dream. It is often the same now in the history and experience of believers. Their prayers may seem disregarded. Their iniquities may prevail against them in the sense of their guilt, and in the stirring of their power. The battle may wax hotter and fiercer, and victory apparently decline. The land that is to be given them, measured by their feelings and fears, seems very far off: and they are frequently ready to say, “Haih God forgotten to be gracious? Doth his promise fail for evermore ?".
This season of waiting is very trying, especially when the blessing is earnestly desired, and we are pressed down by outward trials. When it cometh, it is a tree of life; but hope deferred maketh the heart sick. During the suspense the enemy is busy to produce distrust and despair, and to lead us to say, Why should I wait for the 6 Lord any longer? But, in opposition to this, faith will whisper, “Wait on the Lord,” and, “Be of good courage." It is good for a man not only to hope, but “quietly wait for the salvation of the Lord.” It will keep him from entertaining those hard thoughts of God which always furnish bitter reflections after he has appeared to our joy, and also prevents our using unhallowed means to help out our eagerness-like Rebecca, who though she knew the elder was