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Let us make his acknowledgment our own." Thou hast been my help.” In what have we not required his succour, and in what have we not experienced it? Has he not helped us in our temporal exigences, and yet more in our spiritual concerns? Has he not seasonably and constantly helped us in our duties? We have had much to do; our work has been the most serious, important, and difficult; and we have had no sufficiency of ourselves. But the Lord we serve is not an Egyptian task-master, enjoining us to make brick without straw. His grace has been sufficient for us. His Spirit has helped our infirmities; and he has worked in us to will and to do of his good pleasure. Has he not helped us in our suffer. ings? We have not only had much to do, but also to bear. Our personal and relative trials have been many and various; and the bitterness of some of them, the heart only has known. But how true are the words of the sweet Psalmist of Israel ! ,
"Our sorrows and our griefs we pour
Into the bosom of our God:
And helps us bear the heavy load." We have found him a very present help in trouble. He has afforded us support, so that we have not sunk in the day of adversity, and been swallowed up of overmuch sorrow. He has commanded for us deliverances, and sometimes in cases in which we were troubled on every side, and eould see no way of escape. He has also saved us from the sins of the condition; enabled us to glorify the Lord in the fires; taught us to learn obedience by the things we suffer, and to gather from our chastenings the peaceable fruits of righteousness.
Let us make his resolution our own—“ Under the shadow of thy wings will I rejoice," God has no wings: but he has perfections. He has wisdom, power, goodness, and truth. He has made with us an everlasting covenant. He has given us exceeding great and precious promises. His providence performeth all things for us. The allusion is to a bird. The hen has wings, and gathers her chickens under them from harm when the hawk hovers near, and the storm approaches, and the night comes on. The image seems low when applied; but every figure falls infinitely short of his glory. Yet they have their use, and aid the understanding, the impression, and remembrance of divine truth. And the wings afford not only concealment and defence, but a warm, soft, pleasing, and delightful retreat; and the feathered mother loves to cover her infant brood, and feel them at her side. So God saves his people, and rejoices over them with joy, and rests in his love; so they rejoice under the shadow of his wings. A situation is nothing unless we make use of it. The security results from our application of the advantage; and David was aware of this, and therefore cries, “I flee unto thee to hide me.”' Hence says Solomon, " the name of the Lord is a strong tower; the righteous runneth into it and is safe.” And by rejoicing under the shadow of God's wings, he can intend nothing less than his having recourse to it; but he includes much more-That he would repair to it from choice, and realize it with thankfulness, and enjoy it with complacency and exultation. It is what he enjoins upon others when he says, “Let the children of Zion be joyful in their King.” It is what the Church resolves to do when she exclaims, “I will greatly rejoice in the Lord, my soul shall be joyful in my God; for he hath clothed me with the garments of salvation, he hath covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridgeroom decketh himself with ornaments, and as a bride adorneth herself with her jewels.”
Let us make his reasoning our own; and derive, as he did, confidence from experience" Because thou hrist been my help, therefore under the shadow of thy wings will I rejoice.” It is needless to observe how frequently this mode of arguing and acting is exemplified in the Scriptures. And what can more naturally tend to encourage us in the Lord our God than the proofs we have had of his power, faithfulness, mercy, and grace? The fisherman is the more inclined to repair to the place where he has been successful. The beggar feels no excitement to revisit the door where he was insulted or repulsed; but he hastens to the house where he has always met with kindness and relief. He may indeed feel some hesitation arising from the thought that he has frequently been there before. But the oftener we come, the more welcome we are. The beggar too, when after an absence he applies again, may find a change in the benefactor as to his disposition, or even his ability. But the Lord changeth not. What he has been, he is, apd will be for ever. His hand is not shortened that it cannot save, nor his ear heavy that it cannot hear. And one of the designs of God in his kindness towards us is, not only by his benefits to relieve our present wants, but to excite our future applications and embolden our future hope.
If we have never addressed God, we are authorized to do it; but our encouragement in our first approach must be derived only from faith. But some have believed, and have now the witness in themselves. They have made the trial. They go to a known GodAnd they that know his Name will put their trust in him. Nothing is more becoming a Christian than a lively cheerful confidence, And in order to maintain and increase it, we shall do well to consider not only God's word, but his works; and to remember the years of the right hand of the Most High. "For thou hast delivered my soul from death : wilt not thou deliver my feet from falling, that I may walk before God in the light of the living ?"
FEBRUARY 27.—“Behold, we count them happy which endure.”—James v. 11.
This seems a strange judgment; and we may ask, Who are they that draw such a conclusion ?
There is a sense in which men in general make this estimate. They commonly admire those that suffer well; and are struck with instances of prudence in difficulties, and magnanimity in dangers ; calmness in a storm, and firmness under an operation. There is a tameness in the character of one who has always sat in the lap of ease and indulgence. The most striking and interesting materials for biography are derived from those sudden changes and painful occurrences which tried, discovered, and improved the sufferers who had to encounter them.
Yea, men, even natural men, have often admired those who have endured for the sake of religion. For it has been the strange lot of many of God's people to be hated and persecuted while living, and to be praised and extolled when dead. Thus the Scribes and Pharisees painted and garnished the tombs of the prophets their forefathers had slain, at the very time they wished to crucify the only begotten Son of God. And thus many now talk highly of the noble army of martyrs, who revile some of their fellow-creatures for displaying a little of the same spirit by which they were actuated. Deceased saints are beyond our envy. They are no longer seen or heard. They no longer reproach us by their conversation and temper; no longer incommode us by disturbing us when we wish to sleep, or by flashing upon us truths of which we are willingly ignorant.
We should therefore inquire, not what we think of dead saints, but how we feel towards living ones. These are scoffed at by many: are they with us more excellent than their neighbours? Is all our delight in them? Are they our brethren and companions? “Every one that loveth him that begat, loveth him also that is begotten of him."
The Apostle however attests here, not the judgment of men, but of believers. These differ widely from each other in their sentiments with regard to a thousand subjects-especially misery and happiness. Men call the proud happy ; but God resisteth the proud. Men bless the covetous, whom the Lord abhorreth. Men are afraid when one is made rich, when the glory of his house is increased; but God tells us a man's life consisteth not in the abundance of the things that be possesseth. And faith confers not with flesh and blood : it does not estimate things by time but eternity; it does not view them through the reports of sense, but through the decisions of unerring wisdom; and echoes back the testimony of God: “Blessed are the poor in spirit-Blessed are they that hunger and thirst after righteousness-Blessed are they that mourn-If ye suffer for the sake of Christ, happy are ye."
When we believe the principle from which their afflictions are sent; the designs they are to accomplish; the evils they prevent; the peaceable fruits of righteousness they yield; the far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory they work out; and even the supports and consolations enjoyed under them: we shall feel little difficulty in the decision—"Happy is the man," not who escapes the rod, but “whom the Lord correcteth.” Therefore despise not thou the chastening of the Lord. Nor faint when thou art rebuked of him.
FEBRUARY 28.-"Ye have heard of the patience of Job.”—James v. 11.
THERE was therefore really such a man to be heard of; and the book that bears his name is therefore not a parabolical representation, but a true history. Ezekiel mentions him more than once, with Noah and Daniel. They were real characters; and would Job have been specified with them had he been a fictitious one ? Noah and Daniel, and a metaphor ! James also associates him as an example with the prophets, who were not imaginary, but real beings.
But how came we to hear of this man at all, seeing he lived more than two thousand miles off, and more than four ousand years ago?
"He was the greatest man in the east.” But his estate would never have been noticed, had he possessed nothing else: a man is nothing the more to God for the number of his sheep, oxen, and asses." The Lord takes pleasure in them that fear him, in them that hope in his mercy.” But he was as good as he was great; and his accuser was told that he was “a perfect and an upright man." Yet we should have known nothing of his moral and spiritual worth but for his afflictions. His calamities were his trial, and his triumph: these bave filled the earth with his renown. Many names in the book of martyrs would have perished in oblivion but for the sufferings that raised and immortalized them. The servants of God are never so remarked, so impressive, so useful, as when they are called forth by trouble to be his witnesses, and to glorify him in the fires : and little do they frequently imagine what personal and relative, what public and remote consequences may result frum their enduring. What would Joseph have been, what would he have done, but for the persecutions and hardships through which he rose to eminence, influence, and fame? And thus you have heard of the patience of Job
-Not his insinsibility. Patience is not stoicism. There is no patience in a stone: there is no virtue in bearing what we do not feel. Job is never senseless under his woes. When he said, “My friends scorn me," he adds "but mine eye poureth out tears unto God." With what earnestness does he call for commiseration ! “Pity me, pity me, O ye my friends; for the hand of God hath touched me. And when he heard of all the evil that had come upon him, “be rent his mantle, and shaved his head, and fell upon the ground, and worshipped.” You have heard of the patience of Job
-Not his impatience. And yet he cursed the day of his birth, and prayed for death, and said, I loatbe it, I would not live always. O that Thou wouldst hide me in the grave! There the wicked cease from troubling; and there the weary are at rest. But not a word of this is here mentioned. No. He had repented of it, and it had been forgiven him: and the sins and iniquities of his people God remembers no more. No. It was not the display of his habitual disposi- tion, but a partial and temporary emotion, issuing not from his principles, but against thern. And does not this omission of his fault by an Apostle teach us—That a man is to be judged of by his general character and conduct ?—That we should be peculiarly lenient towards a person in great sufferings; when by the violence of the storm, reason and religion for a moment may be upset; and in the anarchy, nature involuntarily utters things which grace will afterwards be sure to condeinn ?-Yea, that we should always speak of our brethren with candour and kindness. The wicked watch only for their halting; they would make them offenders for a word ; they overlook a thousand good things, and greedily seize upon a single failing, and magnify this into a crime-But charity covereth a multitude of sins. It will allow and require us indeed to be severe towards ourselves; but it will induce us to make the best of things in others, not only because from our infirmities we may need the same tenderness, but that we may be followers of the God of all grace. Yes,
You have heard of his patience; and you have been accustomed from your infancy to consider him as the most patient of all men. And this is just if his patience is to be estimated as it ought to be by his sufferings. Miseries of every kind fell upon him and they fell upon all his comforts. They fell upon his estate-and deprived him of all his substance; upon his family—and his servants were slain; and all his children were crushed to death; and his wife urged him to curse God and die; and his friends mistook his case and reproached him with hypocrisy and wickedness; upon his body-and he had no ease from pain; was covered with sore boils from head to foot, so that he said, “I am made to possess months of vanity, and wearisome nights are appointed to me. When I lie down, I say, When shall I arise, and the night be gone? and I am full of tossings to and fro unto the dawnings of the day. My flesh is clothed with worms and clods of dust; my skin is broken and become loathsome." All this came upon him at once-and it was all enhanced by his previous condition: for he had seen better days: he had been indulged by every kind and degree of prosperity; and he presumed he should "die in his nest”-vain hope! How well could he say, “My complaint is bitter: my stroke is heavier than my groaning." "I was not in safety-neither had I rest-neither was I quiet-yet trouble came." And
Yet "in all this Job sinned not, nor charged God foolishly." Yet he said, “the Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away: blessed be the name of the Lord." Yet he said, “what! shall we receive good at the Lord's hand, and shall we not receive evil ?”' Yet he said, “though he slay me, yet will I trust in him.”
But by nature he could not have thus endured. And we here see what the grace of God can effect. Let us remember that he is called " the God of patience"-and not only because he requires it-but because he produces it, sustains it, perfects it. With him is the residue of the Spirit. Look to him; repair to him, ye sufferers. Honour him not only by your application, but by your confidence. Despair! YOU HAVE HEARD OF THE PATIENCE OF Joe.
MARCH MARCH 1.-"Ephraim shall say, what have I to do any more with idols? I have heard him, and observed him: I am like a green fir-tree. From me is thy fruit found."--Hosea xiv. 8.
The announcement represents Ephraim in his return to God: and God in his reception of Ephraim.
In his return to God, Ephraim should say, “ What have I any more to do with idols ?" The language owns his former attachment, while it expresses his present aversion and rejection—“I have had too much to do with them. O how degrading and painful to look back on years of folly and of guilt! Behold, I am vile, what shall I answer thee? I ahhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes. O Lord, other lords beside thee have had dominion over me: henceforth by thee only will I make mention of thy name.”
This was very proper for him; but what is that to us? Are persons here chargeable with idolatry even before conversion ? Not indeed as to the grossness of the offence. When we consider idola