Imágenes de página
PDF
ePub

to serve the younger, in her impatience had recourse to injustice and lies to accelerate the event. He that believeth maketh not haste.. He remembers how long he kept God waiting for him. He knows that the Lord's time is the best time; that every thing is beautiful in its season; that fruit is most wholesome and rich when it is fully ripe. He is also sure that he cannot wait in vain--for they shall not be ashamed that wait for him. For

No uncertainty attends the final accomplishment of his word. This Abraham found: “And so, after he had patiently endured, he ottained the promise.” This the Jews found. At the end of four hundred and thirty years they were to leave the house of bondage : “ And it came to pass at the end of the four hundred and thirty years, even the self-same day it came to pass, that all the hosts of ihe Lord went out from the land of Egypt.” He also engaged to give them Canaan for an inheritance. And therefore whatever difficulties opposed their passage and their entrance, it was at last acknowledged, “Thou in thy mercy hast led forth the people which thou hast redeemed: thou hast guided them in thy strength unto thy holy habitation.” “Behold," says Joshua, “this day I am going the way of all the earth : and ye know in all your hearts and in all your souls, that not one thing hath failed of all the good things which the Lord your God spake concerning you; all are come to pass unto you, and not one thing hath failed thereof." + Solomon also at the dedication of the temple bore the same testimony to the veracity of God: “Thou spakest with thy mouth, and hast fulfilled it with thine hand, as it is this day."

Let us then be strong in faith, giving glory to God, Let us remember that all his promises are yea and amen in Christ Jesus; and that every thing in his nature and in his character is a pledge for the execution. "The vision is yet for an appointed time, but at the end it shall speak, and not lie: though it tarry, wait for it; & because it will surely come, it will not tarry”—And bring with it the triumph and the song; “Great and marvellous are thy works, Lord God Almighty; just and true are thy ways, thou King of saints.”

July 11.-“When THOU WAST UNDER THE FIG TREE, I saw thee."-John i. 48.

BEBOLD here THE RETIRED ISRAELITE--" Thou wast under the fig tree.”

It is spoken of Nathanael. Some have contended that he was the same with Bartholomew. Others, with less plausibility, have supposed that he was the bridegroom of the marriage at Cana in Galilee. He is once mentioned, along with some of the disciples, at the sea of Tyberias, in the close of this Gospel. With this exception, all we know of him is from the chapter before us. Philip had the honour of introducing him to the Son of God: “Philip findeth Nathanael, and saith unto him, We have found him of whom Moses in the law and the prophets did write, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.” Nathanael in reply said unto him, “ Can there any good thing come out of Nazareth ? Philip saith unto him, Come and see." His objection shows that his knowledge was small, and his prejudices vulgar. But his compliance proved that be was open

to conviction, and willing to examine. And this accords with the character given of him by our Lord. “Jesus saw Nathanael coming to him, and saith of him, Behold an Israelite indeed, in whom is no guile !" By calling him an Israelite he distinguished him from other nations, and by calling him an Israelite indeed he distinguished him from his own nation : for all were not Israel who were of Israel. He was a Jew inwardly, whose circumcision was that of the heart in the spirit. He was not free from infirmity, but devoid of hypocrisy, and upright before God and man. Conscious that he had never been with Jesus, he asks with surprise, “Whence knowest thou me?” And Jesus answered, “Before that Philip called thee, when thou wast under the fig tree.”

The fig tree was the place of his retreat. It was probably in a garden, forming by its foliage a kind of natural alcove. It was chosen by Nathanael, not only because its large leaves would screen him from the rays of the sun, but conceal him from human inspection. For he wished to be alone. We may be alone in company. Who has not endured the solitariness of being with persons of no congeniality with their own views and feelings, who have checked and chilled every favourite sentiment, and rendered every attempt to introduce pious discourse like putting a tender exotic plant out into the frost and snow? But through desire, a man having separated himself seeketh and intermeduleth with all wisdom. The place is not always optional. The poor are to be pitied who have no conveniency for retirement; and they are still more to be pitied who, by reductions in life, have been deprived of the accommoda. tions they once enjoyed --If they are Christians, there is nothing they will so much feel themselves. But where it is optional, the place is indifferent, any farther than it may usefully or injuriously affect us as to the object of our withdrawment. Many therefore prefer the apartment of a room. But others, instead of being dis. tracted and diverted when abroad, are aided and impressed ; their thoughts are quickened, their fancy is enlivened by the displays of wisdom, power, and goodness all around them; and they can easily rise from things seen and temporal to those which are unseen and eternal_They love the fig tree; and the wood, the corn-field, the meadow, and the garden will bear witness to their devotion. Isaac was in the field at evening tide to meditate; and Peter was praying on the house-top.

But what was Nathanael doing under the fig tree? It was something significant, and which was instantly recalled. There are facts in the lives of all which are easily susceptible of remembrance. Some of them may be awful; and only a hint given, or a circum. stance mentioned, will call up the colour in the cheek, or excite a pang in the conscience. Such to the seduced must be any reference to the place of allurement and ruin; and to the murderer the place stained with blood. But to pious minds there are spots delighifully and sacredly interesting, because they have been no other than the house of God and the gate of heaven. Such was Beth-el to Jacob, and the hill Mizar to David, and the river of Chebar to Ezekiel, and Patmos to John, and the fig tree to Nathanael. Though we know not in particular what was Nathanael's engagement, it was obviously something of a religious nature. He was probably reading

the law and the prophets; or reflecting on some divine subject; or praying to the God of heaven: or more probably he was indulging in all these successively, or intermingling them together; for this is the business of retirement.

Nathanael we may be assured would not turn his back on the temple of God, or forsake the assembling of himself together, with those who keep holy day, as the manner of some is; and public worship has its own undeniable claims. But he found in secluded devotion four advantages and recommendations. The first regarded frequency. Public services are comparatively few, and they should be few; and they require much time; and the seasons must be fixed, and invariable, and known, for general accommodation. But opportunities for private devotion continually occur, and ask only the momentary convenience of the individual himself. The second regarded freedom. All company is a degree of restraint upon inti. mate associates. Friendship longs always to resign up itself more fully to its own object. It therefore deals much in secrecy : and this is peculiarly the case with the friendship between God and the soul. There are confessions proper only for his presence; petitions to be only poured into his ear; griefs to be lodged only in his bosom. “ The heart knoweth his own bitterness; and a stranger intermeddleth not with his joy." The third was self-acquaintance. Self-knowledge is the most important and difficult. Persons may live to be old, and yet be ignorant of themselves; and they may be much alone, and never meet with their own hearts, or morally converse with them. Yet surely retirement affords the best opportunity to try our state, to examine our character, to detect our mistakes, to learn our dangers, and to provide against them. The fourth was the greater evidence of religious principle. Motives of less purity may induce us to repair to places where there is much besides God to attract and to entertain, especially in the goodness of the singing or the eloquence of the preacher. It is no unusual thing in our day for the service of the sanctuary to be turned into an amusement. But it does look like conviction, like a regard for the duty itself, like real love to God, when we can readily go where God only is to be found, and we have only to transact business with him. If we were in company with a disliked individual, his presence would be tolerable if they were to continue ; but if they were all to depart, and leave us alone with him, nothing would be so desirable as the door. O my soul, in similar circumstances would this be my case with regard to God and thee!

July 12.—" When thou wast under the fig tree, I SAW THEE.”—John i. 48. BEHOLD here thE OBSERVING SAVIOUR-" I saw thee." Here was a Divine observer. For how did he see Nathanael in this concealment? Not by an eye of sense; or from the testimony of others; but by the attribute of omniscience. Accordingly it produced this belief in the mind of Nathanael, who was forced to exclaim, “Thou art the Son of God; thou art the king of Israel." This perfection Peter ascribed to him when he said, “Lord, thou knowest all things." Nearness and distance, darkness and light, publicity and secrecy are the same to him. How many proofs did he give in the days of his flesh that he “needed not that any should testify of man: for he knew what was in man.” He assured John, “All the churches shall know that I am he which searcheth the reins and hearts.” And he evinced his entire acquaintance with all their state, and the recesses of their experience. And in his times he will show that he has been about our path and our lying down, and acquainted with all our ways, words, and thoughts; for he will bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good or whether it be evil.

Here was an approving observer. His eyes run to and fro throughout the whole earth : but much of what he sees he abhors. He sees many alone, but Gud is not in all their thoughts. They abstract themselves from the world, but are still in it; and employ their leisure in trifling or mischief, or, as Isaiah expresses it, in “weay. ing spider's webs, or in hatching cockatrice' eggs.” But his heart was with Nathanael. Had his fellow-creatures peeped through the leaves of the fig tree, and seen him now reading, now musing, now kneeling, and praying with strong cryings and tears, they would have pitied or despised him. But the Lord looked on with approbation: for “the Lord taketh pleasure in them that fear him, in them that hope in his mercy.” Nathanael himseif thought meanly enough of his performances, and perhaps feared they would be rejected. But “the Lord is nigh unto all them that are of a broken heart; and saveth such as be of a contrite spirit.” “I have surely heard Ephraim bemoaning himself thus; Thou hast chastised me, and I was chastised, as a bullock unaccustomed to the yoke: turn thou me, and I shall be turned; for thou art the Lord my God. Is Ephraim my dear son ? is he a pleasant child? for since I spake against him, I do earnestly remember him still: therefore my bowels are troubled for him; I will surely have mercy upon him, saith the Lord.” “I have seen his ways, and I will heal him; I will restore comforts unto him and to his mourners.”

Here was an acknowledging observer. He not only saw and approved, but avowed his regard. He avowed it to Nathanael him. self. How must he have been affected when he heard the sentence, “ Í saw thee.” Surely a blush spread over his face-But how would he be cheered and encouraged by such an assurance! “Ah !" you say," he could hear his voice-But does he speak now ?" Not with audible sounds in the air, or in visions and dreams—There only enthusiasm is hearkening after him. But he has access to the mind, and bears witness with our spirits. Many now living, like Enoch, have the testimony that they please God-He has said to their soul, “I am thy salvation"_“I have loved thee."

And he not only avowed his regard to Nathanael, but he avowed it before others. He might have taken him aside, or have whispered it to himself: but no; he owns and commends him in the presence of the whole party. It was a testimony to a private transaction, but it was publicly expressed; and the attention of the company was turned towards him previously for this very purpose, “Behold an Israelite indeed, in whom is no guile.” “Before that Philip called thee, when thou wast under the fig tree, I saw thee"-What an illustration was here of the truth of his own words. “When thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy

door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly." Nathanael thus privately sought; and was thus publicly acknowledged

And by whom? Not he who commendeth himself is approved, but whom the Lord commendeth. Seek the honour that cometh from him; and remember the way in which it is to be obtained : “ Them that honour me, I will honour." He can make others take knowledge of them. He can make the Spirit of glory and of God to rest upon them. He can distinguish them by the care of his providence in common calamities. He can own them in their dying & moments. And he will, he must confess them before his Father and the holy angels. The concealments of Christians are only partial and temporary. Their day is coming; it is the manifestation of the sons of God. Yet a little while and every cloud will be dispersed, and they shall shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Then the tears they have shed over their sins and infirmities, while they were deemed licentious in their principles; the prayers they offered for those who hated and persecuted them; the alms in which they suffered not the left hand to know what the right hand did; and all the sublime and the beautiful of religion that passed under ine fig tree, shall be not meritoriously, but graciously proclaimed before an assembled world. “Therefore judge nothing before the time, until the Lord come, who both will bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and will make manifest the councils of the hearts: and then shall every man have praise of God.”

JULY 13.-"And round about the throne were four and twenty seats : and upon the seats I saw four and twenty elders sitting, clothed in white raiment; and they had on their heads crowns of gold."-Rev, iv, 4.

A THRONE is for royalty, and reminds us of a king. The King here is the King of kings, and the Lord of lords. He hath established his throre in the heavens, and his kingdom ruleth over all.” He has indeed two thrones. The first we approach on earth. It is the throne of grace. This is the place of our sanctuary, and the source of all our relief. The way to it we know; and “ we have boldness and access with confidence by the faith of him.” The second we approach in heaven. It is the throne of glory. This is too bright and dazzling for us to behold in this weak state of flesh and blood-for “ flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God.” But there is a relation between these two thrones : and if we visit and value the one, and can now say, “ It is good for me to draw near to God;" we shall soon be introduced to the other, and “be for ever with the Lord.”

These four and twenty elders were representatives, not of the ministers, but of the whole Church: the number being made up of the twelve Patriarchs and the twelve Apostles; the former the emblems of the Jewish, and the latter of the Christian part of it.

We may observe the position of these favoured beings— Their seats “ were round about the throne.” God is the supreme good. With him is the fountain of life. He is therefore the centre of their attraction; and their happiness arises from their nearness to him.

We see their posture- They were “sitting." John also saw them

« AnteriorContinuar »