Images de page

but are now returned unto the Shepherd and Bishop of souls"— You are returned unto One who loved you from eternity, and always bore you in his heart-You are returned to one who saved you from a thousand dangers, and preserved you by his Providence till he called you by his grace-You are returned to one whose power is Almighty, whose heart is made of tenderness, who never leaves you, never slumbers nor sleeps-You are returned to one who, lest any hurt you, keeps you night and day, and has said, My sheep shall never perish, neither shall any pluck them out of my hand-You are returned to one who will feed his flock like a shepherd; who will gather the lambs with his arm, and carry them in his bosom, and gently lead those that are with young-who will make you to lie down in green pastures, and feed you beside the still waters, and restore your souls, and lead you in the paths of righteousness for his Name's sake. Yea, though you walk through the valley of the shadow of death, you need fear no evil, for he will be with you, his rod and his staff will comfort you. And not only so, but he will bring you into Immanuel's land, and the heavenly places, where the Lamb that is in the midst of the throne shall feed you, and lead you to living fountains of waters, and God shall wipe away all tears from your eyes.

JUNE 16.-"I was wounded in the house of my friends."-Zech. xiii. 6. THIS seems literally the complaint of a false prophet, who had been punished and removed from his office. We cannot easily perceive the relation between the treatment of such a man and the suffering of the Saviour. And yet the words both immediately preceding and following, can scarcely leave a doubt of a reference to him. And of him the complaint is true in every respect. True with regard to the treatment he met with from the Jews. He came to his own, and his own received him not; but vilified and scourged him; crowned him with thorns, and nailed him to the tree. True with regard to his treatment from his own Apostles. One of them betrayed him with a kiss; another denied him with oaths and cursing; and all forsook him and fled-He looked for some to take pity, and there was none, and for comforter, but he found none. True with regard to the professors of his religion in all ages. The world is the house of his enemies. There his day is profaned, his laws transgressed, his name blasphemed, his truth denied, and his followers contemned-There we look for nothing else; and though we censure and condemn, we feel no surprise. But the Church is the house of his friends: so he calls them; and it is their honour and privilege to be such-yet here, even here, where he only reckons upon becoming the relation, he is often dishonoured and

injured his is a lamentation, and shall be for a lamentation."

But what is the conduct by which he is aggrieved? It is negligent conduct-when they disregard the means of grace, and the institutions of religion. These he has established. He has commanded us not to forsake the assembling of ourselves ogether. He has promised to come unto us and bless us in all places where his name is recorded. What then can be more trying than to show how little we regard his authority, or value his presence? and to


suffer trifles to keep us from our engagements with him, that would not detain us from an appointment with any of our fellow-creatures? It is selfish conduct-when we cannot deny ourselves, or make any sacrifices for the relief of his members, and the support and spread of his cause; though we are often praying that his kingdom may come; and that his word may have free course and be glorified. It is distrustful conduct-nothing hurts us more than a want of confidence, especially after long intimacy and tried fidelity. He is truth? itself, and loves to see us taking him at his word, and depending upon his promises, as firmer than heaven and earth. Nothing in a friend atones for distance and concealment, and our learning things, not by communication, but by event. The Lord loves to be consulted: and when we venture to act without taking counsel of him, and bring ourselves into difficulties and embarrassments, he may well chide us-"You should have committed your way unto me." Hast thou not procured this unto thyself? It is timid conduct-when, instead of going forth to him without the camp, we are ashamed of him and of his words; when, instead of being bold as a lion, we shrink back or turn aside in the path of duty, at every intimation of danger. The fear of man bringeth a snare. But perfect love casteth out fear. It is gloomy conduct-when we walk mournfully before the Lord, and hang down our heads like a bulrush, and sink in the day of adversity. We then depreciate and misrepresent his religion, and lead people to think it is a course of cheerlessness and melancholy. Whereas, by learning in whatsoever state we are, therewith to be content; and in every thing giving thanks; and rejoicing evermore; we speak well of his name, we recommend his service, we invite others to seek him with us. It is unholy conduct -when instead of putting to silence the ignorance of foolish men, and adorning the doctrine of God our Saviour, and constraining others to glorify God by our good works, which they behold: we cause, by our miscarriages and falls, the way of truth to be evil spoken of, and the adversaries of the Lord to blaspheme. Wo to the world because of offences. They harden the wicked; scandalize the weak; distress the strong; weaken the hands of his servants; and vex and grieve his Holy Spirit. And though he will not cast away his people whom he foreknew, their backslidings shall reprove them, and he will make them know that it is not only an evil but a bitter thing to forsake him. This is the law of the house: "If his children forsake my law, and walk not in my judgments; if they break my statutes, and keep not my commandments; then will I visit their transgression with the rod, and their iniquity with stripes. Nevertheless my loving-kindness will I not utterly take from him, nor suffer my faithfulness to fail. My covenant will I not break, nor alter the thing that is gone out of my lips." Thus, because Moses and Aaron did not sanctify him at the rock, he would not suffer them to go over Jordan. And though he put away David's sin in the guilt of it, yet the effects of it attended him through life. And if we turn from his history to his experience, in the fifty-first Psalm, we shall see, that in addition to distressing events without, he had anguish enough within to induce him ever after to pray, Hold thou me up, and I shall be safe.

But while fear makes us prayerful, let ingenuousness make us

penitent. Let us bewail the ingratitude and vileness of our conduct towards such a benefactor. Let us hear him say-Did not I suffer enough while on earth? Must I now not only be crucified afresh and put to an open shame among others; but be wounded in the house of my friends? Who when rich for thy sake became poor? By whose blood wast thou redeemed? In whose righteousness art thou accepted? What have I not done for thee? And what have I not engaged to do? Have I not promised to guide thee in all thy ways? To keep thee in all thy dangers? To supply all thy wants? To make all things work together for thy good? And to receive thee at death to myself, that where I am thou mayest be also?IS THIS THY KINDNESS TO THY FRIEND?"

"Forgive my guilt, O Prince of peace,

I'll wound my God no more;

Hence from my heart, my sins, begone,
For Jesus I adore."

JUNE 17.-" And Jacob went out from Beer-sheba, and went toward Haran." Gen. xxviii. 10.

ESAU's anger was fierce against Jacob for having deprived him of his father's blessing. His mother therefore advised him to flee to her brother Laban, and tarry with him a few days; "until," said she, "thy brother's fury turn away, and he forget that which thou hast done to him;" clearly intimating that his concern would be of short duration, and that levity would soon extinguish resentment. Whence we may learn that carnal men, for such this profane person strikingly represents, can easily resign what a believer would not part with for a thousand worlds-The blessing of his heavenly Father.

Dismissed by Isaac with admonition and prayer," Jacob went out from Beer-sheba, and went toward Haran." Though the simplicity and manners of the age rendered travelling less formidable than it appears to persons unaccustomed to it now, yet the journey must have been very trying to Jacob-The distance-was great-he was parting with his parents-he was young-he had been tenderly brought up, having been the favourite of Rebecca-he had no beast to carry him he had no servant to attend him-no guide to direct him-no guard to protect him-uo companion to cheer him by communion. Thus he goes forward, solitary and pensive, ruminating upon his sad condition, and conflicting with those apprehensions which always attend untried and uncertain events. And "he lighted upon a certain place, and tarried there all night, because the sun was set." The road he travelled, if it might be called a road, was in many places savage and dreary; uninhabited of men, and infested with wild beasts, which would now be roving abroad: "Thou makest darkness, and it is night: wherein all the beasts of the forest do creep forth. The young lions roar after their prey, and seek their meat from God. The sun ariseth, they gather themselves together, and lay them down in their dens." Jacob's safety therefore prevents his going onward till the morning. Here, therefore, he must repose. But what will he do for lodgings? There is no habitation near him. And for want of materials he cannot pitch a tent. He is therefore obliged to expose his body to the inoist air of the night: the sky is his tester; the darkness his curtains; the earth

his bed: "and he took the stones of that place, and put them for his pillow, and lay down in that place to sleep." And could he sleep in such a condition? The sleep of a labouring man is sweet; and he does not require delicate accommodations-But this was not all. He hereby showed his inward serenity and confidence. The wicked flee when no man pursueth; but the righteous is bold as a lion. The Lord keeps in perfect peace the mind that is stayed upon him. David, when the rebellion of his son raged around him, said, "I will both lay me down in peace, and sleep: for thou, Lord, only makest me dwell in safety." And Peter, the night before his intended execution, was sleeping so soundly between the soldiers, that the angel, to awake him, was compelled to strike him. How happy in trouble, and how safe in jeopardy, are those who have an all-sufficient Jehovah to watch over them, and keep them by day and by night!

There cannot be a better evidence of our belonging to God than the resignation of ourselves to him in a way of providence. "How ! may I know I do so?" We answer, by acquiescing in his dispen- I sations, and accommodating yourselves to events. We find no murmuring in Jacob, notwithstanding the trying circumstances he was in. The hope of an agreeable scene for the future reconciled him to his hard condition for the present. So should it be with us while we are travelling, not to Haran, but to heaven; not to the house of a cruel Laban, but to the dwelling of a gracious Saviour. He will give us every thing necessary for our journey, and a welcome and blessed reception at the end of it. It becomes us, therefore, in patience to possess our souls, and to go on our way rejoicing.

Jacob sleeps, but his heart waketh. It would be unwarrantable to conclude that Jacob had held no intercourse with God during his journey. We have every reason to suppose that what he had been reflecting upon during the day continued to occupy and impress his thoughts at night; and therefore that God took advantage of it in dealing with him. And though there was something extraordinary in the affair before us, yet we are persuaded that if we were more with God when we are awake, we should be more with God when we are asleep-for "a dream cometh through the multitude of business."

Jacob dreamed. The generality of dreams are frivolous and vain ; and it is strange that many good people should lay such stress upon them as they often do. But the circumstances of Jacob's dream are worthy our attention; because they have the signature of God upon them. Observe what was

Seen. "Behold a ladder set upon the earth, and the top of it reached to heaven." Was this designed to intimate the providence of God as observing all things, and keeping up a perpetual correspondence between heaven and earth? Rather read the language of our Saviour to Nathanael: "Verily, verily, I say unto you, Hereafter ye shall see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of man." Here is the true meaning of the ladder. And why should this be deemed unlikely? Was not he always the consolation of Israel? Here were his divinity and humanity; his humiliation, and his exaltation; the one extending to earth, the other to heaven. He was a figure of the medium of communications between the upper and the lower world. He is the me

diator between God and man. Every blessing comes to us through his interposition; and therefore the ministry of angels. Hence, "Behold the angels of God ascending and descending on it." For through him these celestial beings "are all ministering spirits, sent forth to minister unto them who shall be heirs of salvation." They rejoice when they are converted; they encamp round about them in their dangers, and deliver them; they attend their worshipping assemblies; and at last convoy their departing spirits into Abraham's bosom. These angels did not go up and down the ladder after the manner of persons amusing themselves: they ascended to receive their orders, and descended to execute them. Though they excel in strength, they do his commandments, hearkening unto the voice of his word. He says to one, Go, and he goeth; to another, Come, and he cometh and it is his pleasure they regard, and not the nature of the employment; and if two of them were summoned into his presence, and ordered, the one to govern an empire, and the other to show some Hagar a well, they would repair to their posts with equal readiness and delight-May his will be done on earth as it is done in heaven! What do we read further?" And, behold, the Lord stood above it." Standing was a posture of attention-He was looking down to observe his weary-worn pilgrim sleeping at the foot of the ladder, and every way ready to appear for him. Observe therefore what was

Heard. God repeats the covenant made with his father, and ratifies it to himself, assuring him that the country in which he was now reposing should be given to him and his posterity for a possession; that his offspring should be numerous and illustrious; and that one of his descendants should prove a benefactor to all mankind: "I am the Lord God of Abraham thy father, and the God of Isaac: the land whereon thou liest, to thee will I give it, and to thy seed; and thy seed shall be as the dust of the earth, and thou shalt spread abroad to the west, and to the east, and to the north, and to the south and in thee and in thy seed shall all the families of the earth be blessed." But God is a very present help in trouble; he therefore accommodates his promise to his present situation and circumstances: "And, behold, I am with thee, and will keep thee in all places whither thou goest, and will bring thee again into this land; for I will not leave thee, until I have done that which I have spoken to thee of." He was alone, and God engages to be with him -He was exposed, and God engages to keep him-He was an exile, and God engages to bring him home again-And all this issuing from faithfulness itself, and more to be relied on than the continuance of heaven and earth! What could Jacob desire more ?

And what was the impression the whole made upon him? ,' Then Jacob awoke"-Perhaps it was a short sleep, but it was long enough. By the sweet dream attending it he learned what he was ignorant of before he slumbered; namely, that God was there -And he said, “Surely the Lord is in this place, and I knew it not." How strikingly does this ignorance represent, first, the ignorance of mankind in general. God is everywhere. He is about their path and their lying down-But they do not know, they do not consider, they do not realize it. If they did, how differently would they speak, and act, and live! Secondly, the ignorance of the peo

« PrécédentContinuer »