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ness by the very splendour of the light ? We own that there are difficulties in Christianity, but what right has a Deist to be scandalized with these mysteries ? As Christians, we admit nothing so mysterious as what he admits along with us
'A God allowed, all other wonders cease.” And who can reflect on a Being who is self-existent, who never had a beginning, with whom nothing is past and nothing is future, wbo is no wiser now than at the creation, who knows all things actual and all things possible, who is everywhere at the same time, governing all worlds, and organizing the minutest insects—and never be urged to exclaim, “Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief ?"
This is the case sometimes with regard to the truth of revelation. Here again some may be ready to wonder. “The truth o revelation! Can a good man ever question this? Is it not the charter of his privileges ? the very basis of all his hopes? And if the foundations be destroyed, what can the righteous do ?” This they feel; and therefore every apprehension, however partial, however far from settling into a conviction, so alarms them. Bunyan says, that all through life a thought would occasionally rush into his mind, “perhaps the Scripture is a falsehood :" and nothing, he says, can describe the shock, the momentary impression gave to his feelings Many now living have felt the same. The most powerful objections to the Gospel are not always those that are circulated in coffeehouses, and handed about in sceptical pamphlets. Many insult rather than argue; and contemn while they oppose. They do not enter far enough, nor grapple earnestly enough, to feel those difficulties which serious minds meet with who must study the subject, and are all alive to the importance of it. There is not one of these but has often exclaimed, “ Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief."
This is the case too with regard to Providence. Here the doctrine is admitted and resisted : received in theory, and denied in practice. I believe that in the management of my concerns, God does all things, and that he does all things well. I can easily reason myself into this satisfactory conclusion, for it is only to allow that he is wise, and righteous, and good ; and therefore that he must always do right. Yet I seem to be often arraigning him, or wishing to direct him. Hence I am so unwilling to submit. Hence I am so prone to repine and murmur. Hence I am so full of anxiousnesses and foreboding. Hence I am so little able to cast all my care upon hiin, knowing that he careth for me-"Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief."
This is the case, too, with regard to the promises. Here again "what unbelieving believers are we !” I see these promises in the Scriptures, like the stars in the heavens. They are exceeding great and precious. They suit all my wants, and are fully sufficient to relieve them. I love them exceedingly. I long to claim and appropriate them as my heritage for ever, and to feel them the rejoicing of my heart. Yet when I read, though the God of truth says it, and he cannot deny himself—“Him that cometh unto me I will in no wise cast out. I will be with thee in trouble. Thy shoes shall be iron and brass, and as thy days, so shall thy strength be"-I am often as if he had said nothing ! "Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelier”
And well may the Christian thus pray, when he considers the evil of unbelief, and knows how dishonourable it is to God, and how injurious it is to himself. “If ye will not believe," says the Prophet, “surely ye shall not be established.” The word preached cannot profit unless it be mixed with faith. In prayer we must ask believing, or we shall not receive. We read of the obedience, and of the joy of faith. We walk, we live by faith. And no wonder the Christian feels the remains of his unbelief; and weeps over them—And he will, with this father of the child, “ cry out, and sayo with tears, Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief.''
But this is a token for good. And while you bewail the weakness of your faith, and you ought to deplore it, we must encourage and comfort you concerning it. What we are going to advance may be abused, but it will be first usurped by those to whom it does not belong; and it is not easy to hinder all stealing. We say then, First, that these lamented remains of unbelief shall not be suffered to condemn you. Secondly, there is nothing in them peculiar to your experience: all your brethren are familiar with the same complaints.
Thirdly, the power of the evil is already broken, and shall never hare dominion over you again. Fourthly, the very existence of it will soon cease for ever. Lastly, it is possible even now to subdue much more of the very being of it: so that it may much less oppose and distress you-He that hath begun the good work in you giveth more grace, and is the God of all grace. He can cause your faith to grow exceedingly; and fill you with all joy and peace in believing. .
OCTOBER 25.---“ Feed thy people with thy rod, the flock of thine heritage, which dwell solitarily in the wood, in the midst of Carmel: let them feed in Bashan and Gilead, as in the days of old.”-- Micah vii. 14.
Here is obviously an improper punctuation. It affects the meaning, and injures the force of the passage; in consequence of which the reader may be led to suppose that Carmel was the place in which the captives were now disadvantageously dwelling; whereas it was the place in which it was desirable for them to feed. The colon pause therefore should be set after the word “wood : and then the reading will be according to the Hebrew structure, “Feed thy people with thy rod, the flock of thine heritage, which dwell solitarily in the wood: in the midst of Carmel let them feed, in Bashan and Gilead, as in the days of old.” For “ Carmel” was not a barren, dreary, wilderness country, but consisting of fine open pasture land. It is never mentioned without commendation; and is therefore here named with Bashan and Gilead. Indeed in the Scripture it is often used, as well as “ Sharon,” proverbially, for any scene of richness and fertility.
The prophet refers immediately to the Jews, who were exiled in Babylon, and implores their restoration to their own country, where God would deal with them according to the most favoured and fourishing periods of their history. But when we consider the symbolical language of the sacred writers, and the typical nature of the Jewish dispensations, we are authorized to pass from the natural to the spiritual Israel. We may observe therefore the persons to be favoured. They are
called “his people.” He has always had a people for his name: and to know who they are we need not ascend up into heaven, to examine the divine purposes : we have the book of life in our hands, where they are recorded, though not by name yet by character; and he may run that readeth. They are described as "the flock of his heritage.” While this expresses them to be sheep, it holds them forth collectively as all one in Christ Jesus; and shows the interest Jehovah has in them. A man may have a flock in his temporary possession, • and under his superintendence; but though it be the flock of his care,
it is not the flock of his heritage. In the East a person's whole sub stance often consisted in his flocks and herds; of course he would feel a peculiar concernin them as his own. And the Lord takes pleasure in them that fear him. His portion is his people. And he derives the revenue of his glory from them. They are also said to “ dwell solitarily in the wood." There are few around them with whom they can feel congeniality; for we may be alone, though surrounded with company. Yet here is not only solitariness, but unlikeliness of supplies, and exposure to danger. Are not the afflictions of the righteous many? Are they not sometimes perplexed and comfortless? Are they not often timid and alarmed, like sheep and lambs in a wood, when they hear beasts of prey howling about them?
See therefore the blessing implored on their behalf: “Feed thy people with thy rod.” The “ rod" is the symbol and the instrument of the shepherd; and the word “feed," by a common figure of speech that puts a part for the whole, is significant of the discharge of all his office. The meaning therefore is, that the Lord would lead them by his word and Spirit in the way that they should go. That he would heal them when wounded or diseased. That he would restore them when they run astray. That he would guard them from all their perils. And especially that he would provide thern repast and repose. We mention these together, because his sheep not only hunger and thirst, but are frequently weary.worn and faini. Hence the inquiry for both : “ Tell me where thou feedest, where thou makest thy flock to rest at noon.” And when the believer realizes the blessings of his salvation, and appropriates the promises, and enjoys the comforts of the Holy Ghost, and feels the refreshment of divine ordinances, and can leave all his cares with the providence of his heavenly Father, he knows what David means, when he says, “ The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters."
But how was the privilege to be dispensed ? “In the midst of Carmel let them feed, in Bashan and Gilead, as in the days of old.” Thus nothing less is implored than the richest measure and degree of provisions and indulgences. But are suppliants to be choosers and prescribers? And shall they who are not worthy of the least of all his mercies, not only ask for relief, but the noblest entertainments? Yes; such is the condescension and kindness of Him who giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not. He has said, “ Open thy mouth wide, and I will fill it.” Our Saviour reproves his disciples for the contractedness of their asking; "hitherto ye have asked nothing in my name; ask, and ye shall receive, that your joy may be full." Let us pray therefore as Paul did, pot
according to our meanness and unworthiness, but "according to the riches of his glory"—When Alexander bestowed a valuable boon,
the favoured partaker said, “It is too much for me to receive.”. Bui • the conqueror of the world replied, “ It is not too much for me to give."
The prayer we have reviewed was very great-But was it answered ? ' Read the very next verse. “According to the days of thy coming out of the land of Egypt will I shew unto him marvellous things." So sure is it that he is a God, hearing prayer. So ) often does he fulfil the promise, “ While they call I will answer, and before they speak I will hear.”
October 26.—" When he had by himself purged our sins.”-Heb. i. 3.
There is a cleansing from sin by the washing of regeneration and the renewing of the Holy Ghost: and we read of the Saviour's cleansing his Church with the washing of water by the word. But here the purification has another import. It was well understood by the Hebrews from their uwn services-It is to clear from guilt by atonement, or to remove iniquity by expiation, so that it will not be imputed or punished. Without shedding of blood there is no remission; and in him we have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins. This is the meaning. And therefore it is spoken of as a thing done already, and accomplished when he died upon the cross. For it is said he accomplished this purging of our sins
“By himself.” This has a two-fold reference. It distinguishes him from the high priest under the law. He put away sin typically, but it was not by the sacrifice of himself, but of the victims whose blood he shed and carried into the holy place. But Christ washed !, us from our sins in his own blood; and through the eternal Spirit he offered himself, without spot, to God; and thus purges the conscience from dead works. It also shows us that he was alone in the work, without a partner, without a helper, without a comforter. He trod the winepress alone, and of the people there was none with him. This was even signified by his stipulation in the garden ; “If ye seek me, let these go their way :" and also by the conduct of his disciples, " when all forsook him and fled.”
Here we see the vastness of his love-That he would interpose on the behalf of those who were guilty and deserved to suffer. “ Scarcely for a righteous man will one die: yet peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die. But God commendeth his love towards us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” “When we were enemies we were reconciled unto God by the death of his Son." And he was under no constraint or mistake. He well knew what his engagement would cost him-yet he was more than willing—yet, dreadful as the scene was, when it drew near, he turned not away his back, he repented not of his undertaking--Yea, he said, I have a baptism to be baptized with; and how am I straitened till it be accomplished ! Surely such love. passeth knowledge!
But we see his greatness as well as his goodness—that he could purge our sins by himself. Think of the millions of sinners saved;
think of the myriads of sins with which each of them was charged; and the evil there was in every sin-Yet “the Lord laid on him the iniquity of us all! And he taketh away the sin of the world! And his blood cleanseth from all sin !" This would seem incredible; but it is called “the blood of God," that is, of One who was Divine as well as human. No wonder he not only finished transgression, and made an end of sin, but brought in everlasting righteousness; not only satisfied the law, but magnified it, and made it honourable.
Hence let us never think of adding any thing to the efficacy of his sacrifice by our doings or sufferings. This was the great point so urged by the Reformers. They differed in many things, but here they were perfectly agreed, and resolved rather to die than to yieldthat nothing should blend with the death of Christ as the foundation of our hope, and the ground of our plea, for acceptance and justification with God. In one thing they have been mistaken. Much of what they said against good works applied only to Popish good works, that' is, to abstinences and performances enjoined only by will-worship and the traditions and commandments of men. They honoured what the Scripture means by good works, works done by the grace of God, and according to the rule of his own wori-Yet these, even these, much as they valued them for other necessary, uses, they excluded in whole, and in part, from that work of which the Saviour said, “It is finished.”
Let us also beware of diminishing its virtue. We really take from its all-sufficiency when we feel and talk as if it was not by itself fully adequate to all the purposes of a sinner's relief. O thou of little faith! wherefore dost ihou doubt? This sacrifice has salise fied Divine justice; why should it not satisfy thy conscience? why art thou afraid to rely upon a complete, an infinite propitiation for sin ? So far as the East is from the West, so far hath he removed our transgressions from us. Think of this, and joy in God, through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom we have now received the atonement. That atonement, when we trust in it and plead it, renders us dearer to God than even a state of innocency could have done-It is an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet smelling savour. Think of this and let it give you boldness and access with confidence in your approaches to God. Think of this and let it support you under all your trials. All may be rough under foot, but all is calm and clear over head. Men may frown, but God smiles. He may chas.. tise, but he cannot condemn; and the correction is in love to your souls, and designed for your profit. Here is the tree for the healing of the waters of Marah.
And you, poor convinced sinner, you diminish its value unless you find in it enough to encourage even you, and even in sight of all your desert! We blame you, not for believing that sin is exceeding sinful, or feeling that the load of it is a burden too heavy for you to bear. You ought to ask, “How shall I come before the Lord, and bow before the high God ?" And it is well to be convinced that you have no sacrifice of your own to offer. But there is hope in Israel concerning this thing. Surely he hath borne our grief, and carried our sorrow. We are made nigh by the blood of Christ. Be not faithless, but believing.