Imágenes de página
PDF
ePub

tutes and judgments to do them. He can give me a sense of his ! | pardoning love under the deepest sense of my unworthiness and desert, and purge my conscience from dead works to serve the living God.' He is also adequate to the continuance and carrying on of the (good work after he has begun it. Through all my dangers he can preserve me to the end of my course, and make me more than a con

queror. Under every burden he can sustain me. In every duty his ( grace is sufhcient for me-Nothing is too hard for him.

This should animate us to do good in hopeless cases. I call these cases hopeless in reference to ordinary means and mere human agency : but there is hope in Israel concerning this thing. He has a mighty arm, strong is his hand, and high is his right hand. Who brought Manasseh to himself after he had sin'ned away all the effects of a pious education, and had sunk to the lowest depths of vice? By whom were the Corinthian converts washed, justified, sanctified? Let ministers who look down upon hearers who have grown into impenitence under their labours; let fathers and mothers whose hearts

are bleeding over children of disobedience; let all who are striving ! in their stations to save a soul from death, encourage themselves in

the Lord their God, and remember that he is able even of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham.

Let the reflection also sustain and comfort us when useful and valuable instruments are called away. There is much idolatry in our hearts, of which we are not aware till the idols are laid hold of and removed— Then we groan and exclaim, “My wound is incurable ;" “ Mine eye shall no more see good." Yet when the stream

is dried up, is the fountain exhausted ? When the husband and the 1 father are withdrawn does he not still live who is the Father of the

fatherless and the Husband of the widow ? Many a dying saint, in the midst of weeping dependants, has felt, as a cordial to his heart, the Divine assurance, “Leave thy fatherless children, I will pre serve them alive, and let thy widow trust in me.” We may apply this still more to the cause of God. Here he uses means, and we ought to esteein them, but we must not depend upon them, or suppose that any of them are essential to his work. The government of the Church is not suspended upon men, however wise and qualified, but upon the shoulder of Him who is the same yesterday, to-tay, and for ever. With him is the residue of the Spirit. When Elijah was taken, Elisha was left, and endued with a double portion of his spirit. What should we have said had we lived when Paul, when Luther died? Had we seen the prisons filled, and the stake fed with pious victims, what would have been our fears for the reformation ? Bu these prisons, these fires only extolled, and increased and recommended it. The professors, the preachers suffered as evildoers, even unto bonds, but the word of God was not bound. Yea, the things that happened unto them turned out rather to the furtherance of the Gospel.

Finally, If nothing is too hard for the Lord, let it establish our confidence in his word of prophecy and promise, whatever seems to oppose the accomplishment of it. We cannot absolutely depend upon the word of men, for they are changeable ! and if they continue in the same mind they may be unable to fulfil their engage ments. But with God there is no variableness nor shadow of turning, neither can he be ever incapacitated to perform with his

hand what he has spoken with his mouth. The largeness of God's promise in the wilderness was at first too much for the faith of even Moses himself. “And Moses said, The people, among whom I am, are six hundred thousand footmen, and thou hast said, I will give them flesh, that they may eat a whole month. Shall the flocks and the herds be slain for them, to suffice thein ? or shall all the fish of the sea be gathered together for them, to suffice them ?But what said the answer of God ? “Is the Lord's hand waxed short ? thou shalt see now whether my word shall come to pass unto thee or not." It was otherwise with Abraham the father of the fai:hful. When God had made promise to Abraham, notwithstanding the improba. bility, and, naturally considered, impossibility of the fulfilment, “he staggered not at the promise of God through unbelief; but was strong in faith, giving glory to God; and being fully persuaded that what he had promised, he was able also to perform." So let it be with us, first as to all God has engaged to do for us personally-even to the resurrection of our bodies, according to the working whereby he is able even to subdue all things unto himself: and secondly, as to all those declarations of a public nature, and which regard the conversion of the Jews, and the call of the Gentiles, and the filling of the earth with the knowledge of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea. These are not visionary representations-" The mcuth of the Lord hath spoken it”—and " in the Lord Jehovah is everlasting strength”-“NOTHING IS TOO HARD FOR THE LORD.”

DECEMBER 17._"And after that many days were fulfilled, the Jews took counsel to kill him: but their laying await was known of Saul. And they watched the gates day and night to kill him. Then the disciples took him by night, and let him down by the wall in a basket.”—Acts ix. 23—25.

Though this is related immediately after Paul's conversion, it did not happen till a very considerable time afterwards. The aim of Luke, the sacred historian, was not to give a full and continued series of events, but to record particular facts and circumstances as he was moved by the Holy Ghos:. He therelore often passes over large intervals between without notice.

It was near Damascus the Saviour met with him, and into which he had been led after he arose from the earth : “ And he was three days without sight, and neither did eat nor drink. And there was a certain disciple at Damascus, named Ananias; and to him said the Lord in a vision, Ananias. And he said, Behold, I am here, Lord. And the Lord said unto him, Arise, and go into the street which is called Straight, and inquire in the house of Judas for one called Saul, of Tarsus : for, behold, he prayeth.” Here by Ananias he was restored to sight, and here he received meat, and was strengthened. " Then was Saul certain days with the disciples, which were at Damascus. And straightway he preached Christ in the synagogues, tha, he is the Son of God. “But all that heard him were amazed, and said ; Is not this he that destroyed them which called on this name in Jerusalem, and came hither for that intent, that he might bring them bound unto the chiet priests? But Saul increased the more in strength, and confounded the Jews which dwelt at Damascus, proving that this is very Christ.” Yet we know from Paul's own declaration, in his Epistle to the Galatians, that instantly upon this

[ocr errors]

he did not go up to Jerusalem, but went into Arabia, where, during three years, he was taught, not of man, nor by man, but by the revelation of Jesus Christ. It is probable that, during this period, he more than once visited Damascus. However this may be, here we find him at the end of it; and encompassed with danger, for be was in deaths oft, and could truly say, I die daily. His peril arose from "the Jews, who took counsel to kill him.” Instead of being convinced by such a supernatural and notorious event, and which would be attested by so many witnesses, they were only enraged the more : for they viewed him as an apostate from them; and they knew from his talents and zeal how likely he was to promote the cause of Jesus of Nazareth.

Yet such things as they were now doing against him he had himself formerly done to others. How often would he be reminded of his sin in his sufferings! This would tend to keep him humble and patient. “Ah! so I persecuted the Church of God, and wasted it."

So malignant and determined were they, that "they watched the gates day and night to kill him.” At first this looks not like an exertion of authority, but an assassination affair, in which a number of wretches waylaid him of their own accord. Yet the governor was apprized of their design, and was drawn over to their interest, and more than allowed them to keep the egresses : for the city was large, and the avenues many, requiring no few to keep them. The Apostle, in relating the transacuon himself says, “The governor, under Aretas the king, kept the city of the Damascenes with a garrison desirous to apprehend me."

We have seen his danger, let us observe his deliverance. He seemed a certain prey; but “their lying in wait was known of Saul; and the disciples took him by night, and let him down by the wall in a basket." Here we remark two things. First, the escape was not miraculous. In this way the Lord has often delivered his servants, and in this way he is continually able to deliver them. But he never needlessly multiplied miracles. We cannot see how Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, could have been saved out of the midst of the fiery furnace, or Daniel from the lions' den, without a miracle. A miracle also was called for to release Peter from prison, secured as he was, the night before his intended execution. But here the deliverance could be effected by human means; they were therefore properly employed, and Providence only rendered them successful. Secondly, we are not to sacrifice our lives if we can preserve them consistently with a good conscience. Our Lord told his disciples to beware of men; to be wise as serpents, as well as harmless as doves; and if they were persecuted in one city to flee to another. He himself eluded apprehension till he knew his hour was come. In the first age of Christianity we see zeal, but not without knowledge. There was nothing like enthusiasm, fanaticism, or will-worship. It was enough for Christians to take up their cross when they found it in their way; they never went out of their way to find it, any more than to escape it. They only suffered according to the will of God. It was after the Gospel began to be misunderstood and debased that voluntary penalties were deemed meritorious;

that a rage for martyrdom prevailed; and that men gave their bodies to be burnt.

[ocr errors]

DECEMBER 18.-" And when Saul was come to Jerusalem, he assayed to join himself to the disciples : but they were all afraid of him, and believed not that he was a disciple. But Barnabas took him, and brought him to the Apostles, and declared unto them how he had seen the Lord in the way, and that he had spoken to him, and how he had preached boldly at Damascus in the name of Jesus. And he was with them coming in and going out at Jerusalem.''-Acts ix. 26-28.

We have just seen Paul at Damascus. We now see him entering Jerusalem. And observe to whom he wished to introduce himself when he arrived. Not to the high priest: he had done business enough with him before. Not to the Pharisees, though he had lived among the straitest of them. Not to the learned, though a man of letters himself, and though he had been brought up at the feet of Gamaliel, who probably was still living in the city-But "he assayed to join himself to the disciples.” They were despised and persecuied. He had himself once hated them, and endeavoured to exterminate them from the earth. But now the world is not worthy of them. He ranks them above princes and philosophers; in them is all his delight; and he deems it his highest honour to have fellowship with them. Have we the same mind in us? In the course of duty, unless we go out of the world, we must often mingle with others; but are these in our voluntary associations, our companions? Do we take hold of the skirt of him that is a Jew, saying, We will go with you, for we have heard that God is with you? Do we give ourselves, not only to the Lord, but to them, to walk in holy communion, and to co-operate in holy exertion ? When we pass through a place as we travel, do we feel a sentiment that leads us to think, with a peculiar concern, “Are there any here who love and serve my Lord and Saviour ?"

“ But the disciples were all afraid of him ;" and the reason is assigned; “they believed not that he was a disciple.” They supposed that he only pretended to be so, but was really come among them as a spy or informer. They well knew what a bitter adversary he had been, and had not heard of him since the wolf had been turned into a lamb. If there seems something strange in this, let it be observed that Damascus was one hundred and fifty miles from Jerusalem ; that the modes of modern communication were not then known; and that the war raging between Herod, Antipas, and Aretas, must have interrupted the intercourse between the two capitals. Neither is it unlikely that the unbelieving Jews maliciously and artfully represented him as acting the part of a deceiver.

However this was, they seem to have known nothing of his conversion till “ Barnabas took him, and brought him to the Apostles, and declared unto them how he had seen the Lord in the way, and that he had, spoken to him, and how he had preached boldly at Damascus in the name of Jesus." How Barnabas was acquainted with all this while they were ignorant we are not informed. Had he seen Ananias, or some other credible and personal witness of these facts? One man, from various supposable circumstances, may know things, of which others, even of the same place, are uninformed. But from this time a most tender friendship was established between these two good men. And what Barnabas testified of Paul was so satisfactory to the Church, that he was fully 'admitted to their fellowship, “and was with them coming in and going out at Jerusalem."

We may here see, First-That these disciples were careful whom they admitted among them. They were only such as they beliered to be disciples. They did not desire, for the sake of largeness, a church filled with indiscriminate members; and they could not bear them that were evil. Secondly, It is possible to err on the side of caution. We may be too strict as well as too lax. It is easy to carry our suspicions too far, especially with regard to those against whom we have entertained any prejudice, or from whom we have received any injury or offence. The instances of deception we have met with may weaken our confidence, and cause the innocent to suffer for the guilty. Let us guard against this, and while we do not shut our eyes let us invite into our bosoms the charity that thinketh no evil. Thirdly, we may depend on testimony concerning character in the absence of personal knowledge. This indeed is not always infallible ; but there are cases in which it ought to be admitted, and should be deemed sufficient not only for individuals, but churches to act upon, in receiving others to thei countenance, and their communion. Fourthly, the introducing of a young convert to the fellowship of the saints is a good work, and should be encouraged. Some are backward, not from a want of inclination, for they often sigh, “How goodly are thy tents, O Jacob, and thy tabernacles, O Israel ;" but they want confidence and help. How many are there in all our congregations of this character, who are kept back when they ought to come forward. Is there no Barnabas to take them by the hand, and to bring them forward? While the Church rises up and says, “Come in, thou blessed of the Lord ?"

DECEMBER 19.--" But will God in very deed dwell with men on the earth ? 2 Chron. vi. 18.

In looking over the annals of the Jews, we find much that ought to humble us-I say, to humble us, for they were fair specimens of our human nature, and

“There in a glass our hearts may see,

How fickle and how false they be.” But we sometimes meet with scenes which cannot fail of being delightful to pious minds: for while, in reviewing history, the merchant is led to notice the revivals of commerce, and the scholar those of learning and science, they are attracted to the times of refreshing from the presence of the Lord; they, like Barnabas, are • glad when they see the grace of God.

Such a scene is here before us at the dedication of the temple. Perhaps nothing equals it in the Old Testament; and nothing surpasses it in the New, but the day of Pentecost. The author was doubtless the Holy Ghost, the source of all good in the children of men: and it would be well for hearers and ministers to remember the Divine decision, “not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit,

« AnteriorContinuar »