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heart: try me, and know my thoughts: and see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.”
Of their privileges : “they shall feed and lie down, and none shall make them afraid.” Thus their blessedness is expressed pastorally, and includes three things. First, pasture; they shall“ feed.” As his sheep are men, their food must be something intellectual and spiritual; and as they are new creatures it must be something congenial with their new appetites. And we read of the provision of God's house, and of his people being satisfied with his goodness. The ordinances of religion are the places in which they are fed, but they are not the food itself. What says the Saviour? “I am the bread of life.” “He that eateth me even he shall live by me.” Secondly, repose; and shall “lie down." In an eastern climate, and in a warm day, how desirable would the refreshment of rest be ? and therefore the Church says, Tell me, not only where thou feedest, but “where thou makest thy flock to rest at noon ?" And this David enjoyed and acknowledged; he not only feedeth me heside the still waters, but he “maketh me to lie down in green pastures." I cannot explain this to you if your own experience does not. I cannot enable you to comprehend what that peace with God is which they feel who are justified by faith; what that contentment is that springs from communion with an infinite good; what that dwelling at ease is which the soul realizes that casts its burden upon the Lord, and is careful for nothing. Thirdly, security : and "none shall make them afraid.” Sheep are the most timid of all animals; every appearance and movement alarms them. And this is too much the case with those they represent. But things are spoken of in the Scripture according to their proper tendency and effect. The righteous are bold as a lion—that is, they ought to be so; their duty requires it: their principles justify it. Nothing should make them afraid ; because nothing shall, nothing can injure them. God has amply provided for their confidence; and when they can apprehend it by faith, they can be in quiet from the fear of evil • they can“ dwell safely in the wilderness, and sleep in the woods." Happy art thou, O Israel! whu is like unto thee, 0 people saved of the Lord ! Visit me, O Lord, with thy salvation; and let me glory with thine inheritance.
JULY 16.-" Which hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steau fast."—Heb. vi. 19.
AMONG the advantages by which a Christian is distinguished he is peculiarly characterized by the possession of hope. This hope is called “a good lope through grace:" and the goodness of it is to be seen in its utility and certainty.
The usefulness of it is here expressed by a metaphor. We have this hope as “an anchor of the soul.” It will be easy to show the simple force of the comparison. The ship is anchored even in the harhour or port to keep it from being driven while lading or unlading: and to this we liken the use of hope in the common concerns and engagements of the Christian life: without it we could not be fixed trusting in the Lord, but should be all fluctuation and unsteadiness; and instability is incompatible with excellency—“Unstable
as water, thou shalt not excel.” But the main use of the anchor is to hold the vessel in rough and tempestuous weather, when the mariner is unable to steer without danger of running on rocks or quicksands. This world which we have to cross is a sea; and we shall be piteously mistaken if we reckon upon nothing but calms or breezes. Does the word of God encourage such an expectation? Does it not forbid us to consider storms as strange things? In all ages have not the afflictions of the righteous been many? And what is to secure them in persecutions, losses, troubles personal and rela. tive, conflicts without and fears within ?
"Amidst teinptations sharp and long,
My soul to this dear refuge flies;
When tempests roar and billows rise." | He that walketh in darkness and hath no light is to “ trust in the
Lord, and to stay upon his God.” This David recommended to others: “Let Israel hope in the Lord.” This he enjoined upon his own soul: “Hope thou in God.” This he approved from his own experience, for he had found it available: “I had fainted unless I had believed to see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living."
We also read of the “ patience of hope,” because hope is neces. sary to cheer and sustain it. In nature there are wintry months between the sowing and the reaping. And in the Christian there is the prayer of faith, the work of faith, the fight of faith, the life of faith, the walk of faith, before he receives "the end of bis faith, the salvation of his soul.” Though all the promises of God are faithful, many of them are not immediately fulfilled. Here (then patience is necessary, and sometimes “long patience." But we are naturally full of impatience; and therefore we should be in danger of giving up the case as lost, and saying, with the unbelieving nobleman, “ What should I wait for the Lord any longer?" Did not this hope whisper, “Wait on the Lord, be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thine heart?” Wait I say on the Lord. Though he delays, he cannot refuse. The delay also is founded in kindness and in wisdom. The Lord is a God of judgment; and blessed are all they that wait on hinn. All will be well-all is well .-“All the ways of the Lord are mercy and truth." But, says Cowper
" Dangers of every shape and name
Attend the followers of the Lamb,
And leave it to return no more." Many of them therefore do not regard suffering only_There are the perils of indulgence, of case, of agreeable connexions, of success in business, of wealth, of fame: and we know who hath said, “the prosperity of fools shall destroy them.” Here again "we are saved by hope." What is the smile of a man to the honour that cometh from God only? What is earth to a better country, "even a heavenly ?” How came Moses to refuse to be called the son of Pharaoh's daughter? “He had respect unto the recompense of the reward." How came Abraham to “sojourn in the land of promise as in a strange country, dwelling in tabernacles with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise ? “He looked for a
city which had foundations, whose builder aná maker is God." Thus the Hebrews took joyfully the spoiling of their goods, know. ing in themselves that they had a better and an enduring substance. Thus it is that we are preserved from the power of worldly temptations. Narrow and barren commons may urge the sheep to wander; but it is otherwise with the green pastures and still waters. Fill a Christian with all joy and peace in believing, and he has no room to “ covet after evil things”-His exposure is when “the consolations of God are small with him.”
But this hope, as an anchor of the soul, is “sure and steadfast:” and as to certainty, the truth far exceeds the figure. In other cases the anchor does not always save the ship, but the ship is driven from its holdings and dashed to pieces. But this hope always secures the Christian ; there never was an instance in which it was known to fail. This is an incomparable recommendation. Nothing is so wretched as the disappointment of hope. And yet what is more common than the wreck of human expectation, with regard to all earthly things? But nothing can equal the disappointment of that hope which regards the soul and eternity! How dreadful for a man to live in expectation of all that God has promised, and come shirt at last: to go with confidence to the very door, and knock, Lord, Lord, open to us; and then hear from within, I never knew youDepart! Yet such will be the issue of every religious hope but this. It is this, and this alone, that “maketh not ashamed;" and is as “ sure and steadfast" as God himself can make it.
And therefore the thing is, whether we can say “which hope we have." It is not only desirable, but possible to know this. Only, in deciding, there is nothing concerning which we should be more careful. What reason can we show for having this hope in us? Have we any better evidence than " a form of knowledge,” or “a form of godliness," while we “ deny the power thereof.” How is this hope founded? Is the Lord our righteousness and strength its only basis? How does it operate? For a dead hope is no better than a dead faith. The hope of Christians' is a living and a lively hope: it will induce us to value; to seek after; and long to enjoy and resemble the glorious object of it. “He that hath this hope in, him purifieth himself even as he is pure."
JULY 17.-"And when they had gone through the isle unto Paphos, they found a certain sorcerer, a false prophet, a Jew, whose name was Bar-Jesus; which was with the deputy of the country, Sergius Paulus, a prudent man; who called for Barnabas and Saul, and desired to hear the word of God. But Elymas the sorcerer (for so is his name by interpretation) withstood them, seeking to turn away the deputy from the faith. Then Saul, (who also is called Paul,) filled with the Holy Ghost, set his eyes on him, and said, O full of all subtilty and all mischief, thou child of the devil, thou enemy of all righteousness, wilt thou not cease to pervert the right ways of the Lord ? And now, beho
d. the hand of the Lord is upon thee, and thou shalt be blind, not seeing the sun for a season. And immediately there fell on him a mist and a darkness ; and he went about seeking some to lead him by the hand. Then the deputy, when he saw what was done, believed, being astonished at the doctrine of the Lord."- Acis xii. 6-12.
When in their ministerial tour from Antioch Paul and Barnabas reached Paphos, they not only found there the celebrated temple of
Venus, with all the sensualities attached to it; but had to encounter another and a peculiar adversary. There is no going on in the cause of God without opposition--for
"Satan rages at his loss,
And hates the doctrines of the cross.” And he never succeeds better than when he throws himself into worldly professors and false teachers; and employs fraud rather than force, and address rather than open persecution. When therefore Sergius Paulus, a prudent man, called for the Apostles, being desirous of hearing the word of God; Elymas the sorcerer withstood them, and sought to turn away the deputy from the faith, that is, from the hearing of it. A willingness to hear is often a token for good, even if for the time it does not arise from the best motive. It brings people to the pool where they are in readiness for the troubling of the water. They are in the way of the means; and faith cometh by hearing. We should therefore endeavour to bring people under the sound of the Gospel. We may learn our duty from the enemy of our souls. He does all in his power to keep people from hearing, especially the great. And with them he is often successful. They think it is proper for others, but excuse themselves, not considering that none need it so much because of their dangers, and because of the influence of their example.
--But what did Paul ? Observe, First, his reproof. “Full of the Holy Ghost, he set his eyes on him, and said, O full of all subtilty and all mischief, thou child of the devil, thou enemy of all righteousness, wilt thou not cease to pervert the right ways of the Lord?" We are not fond of hard names and harsh language; and there is nothing we should more guard against than mingling our passions in the cause of truth : " for the wrath of man worketh not the righte ousness of God.” The same actions require not only the same cii cumstances, but the same warrant. When therefore the Samaritans would not receive our Saviour when he was going up to Jerusalem, and James and John seeing this said, “ Lord, wilt thou that we command fire to come down from heaven, and consume them, even as Elias did ?” he turned, and rebuked them, and said, “ Ye know not what manner of spirit ye are of. For the Son of man is not come to destroy men's lives, but to save them.” Paul not unly knew the depravity of this wretch, how he misrepresented their doctrine, and calumniated their designs; but he was “ filled" with the Spirit as 'a spirit of judgment and of burning ;" he spoke in the name of the Lord, and as a prophet, whose appeal was sanctioned by the event. Observe, secondly, his denunciation. “And now, behold, the hand of the Lord is upon thee, and thou shalt be blind, not sceing the sun for a season. And immediately there fell on him a mist and a darkness; and he went about seeking some to lead him by the hand.” The doom had five characters. It corresponded with the crime-Here was blindness for blindness; judicial blindness for criminal blindness. It was suddenly inflicted—“ Immediately there fell on him a mist and a darkness. It was comparatively mildIt was only the loss of sight: but Ananias and Sapphira were struck dead. It was temporary-He was not to “ see the sun for a season." It was useful-Like other judgments at the beginning of the Gos
pel, it was to guard Christianity from abuse, and to awaken atten. tion, that others might hear and fear, and turn unto the Lord. And as this was the design, so this was the effect of it
-And we see that the word of the Lord is not bound. Men may show their malignity to it, but they cannot hinder its spread or its efficacy. Yea, their oppositions will be more than harmless, and turn out rather unto the furtherance of the Gospel. Thus we here find the wrath of man praising God, by giving rise to a miracle which produced a growing effect on the mind of Sergius Paulus. What was this effect ? " Then the deputy, when he saw what was done, believed, being astonished at the doctrine of the Lord.”
First, "he believed.” We know that there is a faith which is not saving and influential. It is the effect not of principle, but impression; evidence for the time overpowering doubt, but leaving the heart unchanged. James speaks much of this belief. And our Sa. viour often met with it. Thus “ when he was in Jerusalem at the Passover, in the feast day, many believed in his name, when they saw the miracles which he did. But Jesus did not commit himself unto them, because he knew all men, and needed not that any should testify of man: for he knew what was in man." How many are there now living who admit every truth their ministers teach into their judgments; but there they lie like bodies in coffins, dead being alone. We hope, however, this was not the case here; but that the deputy believed to the saving of the soul; not only assenting, but acquiescing, trusting in the Lord Jesus, and becoming his follower.
Secondly, he was also “ astonished at the doctrine of the Lord.” Every thing was adapted to produce this feeling in him. The doctrine was perfectly novel. We who are familiar with it from our youth up, cannot well imagine how it must strike the mind of those to whom it is introduced for the first time! They may well be said to be called out of darkness into marvellous light. Yet there is a degree of this in every converted soul. Experience is very different from theory: and when we are taught of God we have other views of those very things of which we have read and heard before. The nature of it surprised him. It contained the deep things of God. Great is the mystery of godliness—God manifest in the flesh-One dying for all-He who knew no sin, made sin for us, that we might be made the righteousness of God in him-Christ dwelling in our hearts by faith! How mysterious the scheme! And yet as pure as it is deep, requiring us to cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of flesh and spirit, and to avoid the very appearance of evil. The efficiency also would strike him. He now viewed the Apostles as the oracles of God, and considered what they said as his word-and so it was--and he saw it was. For no sooner had Paul spoken than it was supernaturally accomplished. And this could be justly extended to every thing else : for “ the word of God is quick and powerful.” How much more of this can we see than he saw. Since then how mightily has it grown an prevailed. How has it banished idolatry-lamed the savageness of the multitude-comforted the desponding-changed the disposition of the ungodly-and enabled those who have every thing to enslave them to earth, to live with their conversation in heaven. What other doctrine has ever been so “glorified ?"