Images de page

called his name "Zaphnath-paaneah," the revealer of sec:ets. We read also that Moses had two sons; "the name of the one was Gershom," that is, a stranger there; "for he sa d, I have been an alien in a strange land: and the name of the other was Eliezer," that is, my God is a help; "for the God of my father, said he, was mine help, and delivered me from the sword of Pharaoh."

But what others do from custom, a good man does from principle. In a common observance, he has a motive peculiar to himself. And therefore we see Joseph not only thus naming his children, but doing it "after a godly sort."

We learn from his conduct, first, that it is desirable to secure the remembrance of interesting events. "God requireth that which is past; and our improvement requires it. We can only be affected y and influenced by things as they are present in the mind--they are absent from it in forgetfulness. Forgetfulness is temporary ignorance or unbelief. "By which," says the Apostle, "ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you." He therefore admonishes his hearers to give the more earnest heed to the things which they had heard, lest at any time they should let them slip. God calls upon His people "to remember what Balak consulted" against them and to "remember all the way the Lord had led them in the wilderness." Let us therefore say, with Asaph, "I will remember the years of the right hand of the Most High; surely, I will remember His wonders of old." Was He once powerful, and is He now weak? once wise, and is He now ignorant? once true, and now faithless? once gracious, and now unkind? He is the same yesterday, to-day, and for ever. How many of our failures, especially in thankfulness and confidence, are to be traced back to a bad memory!

Secondly, what a marvellous change is sometimes produced in the condition of God's pecple! What does Manasseh signify? "Forgetting." Why did Joseph give him this name? "For God," said he, 'hath made me forget all my toil, and all my father's house." That is, the hardships by which he had been exercised, the sufferings he had met with from his own brethren, and the anguish he had felt when torn so young from a home so endeared. Did he then banish all this from his memory? This would be perfectly inconsistent with his design in imposing the name. The meaning is, that his circumstances were so changed, that no trace of his former difficulties and distresses remained. We often say, in heaven we shall forget all our sorrows. Shall we then have no remembrance of the Hand that sustained us under them, and delivered us from them? Yes: but all sorrow and sighing will cease; and all tears will be wiped from our eyes. Few had ever been so tried as Joseph; and. for a number of years the clouds returned after the rain, and fell heavier than before. At length he was not only delivered, but advanced. "And Pharaoh said unto Joseph, see, I have set thee over all the land of Egypt. And Pharaoh took off his ring from his hand, and put it upon Joseph's hand, and arrayed him in vestures of fine linen, and put a gold chain about his neck; and he made him to ride in the second chariot which he had; and they cried before him, bow the knee: and he made him ruler over all the land of Egypt. And Pharaoh said unto Joseph, I am Pharaoh, and without thee

shall no man lift up his hand or foot in all the land of Egypt." Thus every thing of his former degradation and misery was effaced as if it had never been-the change proclaiming that nothing is too hard for the Lord.

Thirdly, the afflictions of the saints do not hinder their fruitfulness. What means Manasseh? "Fruitful." Why does Joseph impose this name upon him? "For God has caused me to be fruitful in the land of my affliction." His dying father remarks this under a beautiful image: "Joseph is a fruitful bough, even a fruitful bough by a well; whose branches run over the wall." This includes, no doubt, a reference to his outward condition. Egypt had been the land, how truly! the land of his affliction: but he had succeeded in life beyond all example and expectation, and was made to flourish in all his estate. Here is surely an allusion to godliness, as well as to wealth, and honour, and offspring. What indeed in the eye of a good man is growing in every thing else, without growing in grace? What is it to abound in business, unless our soul prospers? What is it to be blessed with "the blessings of heaven above, the blessings of the deep that lieth under, the blessings of the breasts, and of the womb," if we are not blessed "with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ ?" Paul prays for the Philippians that they may "be filled with all the fruits of righteousness which are by Jesus Christ to the glory and praise of God." Christian, what is this world to you but "the land of your affliction ?" You have found it a vale of tears: but has it been a fruitful vale? Your trials need not prevent your fruitfulness; yea, they are designed to secure and promote it and though they are not joyous but grievous, they yield the peaceable fruits of righteousness to them that are exercised thereby. What have they done for us? It is sad that we should need them; but sadder still that we should lose the benefit of them. Can we say, "It is good for me that I have been afflicted?"

Lastly, The hand of God is to be acknowledged in all our concerns, especially our mercies. Whether they are temporal or spiritual, they have the same source-every good gift, and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights. Joseph therefore says, He has done all things for me. If my condition has been changed, He changed it-"God hath made me to forget all my toil and my father's house." If I have been fruitful, in Him was my fruit found-" God hath caused me to be fruitful in the land of my affliction." It is the office of faith to lead us to God, and to show us his agency where others only see instruments and second causes. It is the business of humility to teach and enable us to say, "Not unto us, O God, not unto us, but to Thy name be glory for the mercy and for the truth's sake."-Both furnis evidence that we are in a course of preparation for that world where "God is all in all."

JANUARY 14.-"This thou knowest, that all they which are in Asia be turned away from me; of whom are Phygellus and Hermogenes. The Lord give mercy unto the house of Onesiphorus; for he oft refreshed me, and was not ashamed of my chain: but, when he was in Rome, he sought me out very diligently, and found me. The Lord grant unto him that he may find mercy of the

[ocr errors]

Lord in that day: and in how many things he ministered unto me at Ephesus, thou knowest very well."-2 Tim. ì. 15-18.

ONE of the most painful trials to which we are exposed in this vale of tears, is the failure of those friends, on whose professions of attachment we had placed dependence. But it is not a rare exercise. Witness the complaints of Job, and David, and especially Paul. Paul was additionally distressed to think that those who had left him, had not only forsaken a man and a friend, but a minister, and an apostle of Christ. Hence their desertion was nothing less than an abandonment of the faith of the Gospel. Defections in religion were foretold from the beginning. They early took place in the first churches. They frequently occur still. Many promise fair, and run well for a time; but are hindered. The blossoms are pleasing, but they are not certain pledges of fruit. Ministers can only rejoice in the day of the Lord Jesus that they have not laboured in vainunless they rejoice with trembling. The end proves and crowns all.

The defection here was awfully general! it included "all they which were in Asia." Two of them, Phygellus and Hermogenes, the Apostle mentions by name; doubtless because they were leaders, and had been very instrumental in the revolt. This is all we know of these men: it would have been better for them, had we known less. "The name of the wicked shall rot." Only some of these sinners rot, like malefactors in irons and gibbets: they rot abɔve ground, while others rot under it; known only by infamy; and sus pended for warning and terror.

But "the memory of the just is blessed." How honourably is Onesiphorus brought forward! What an exception to the general apostacy! He is one against two-against many-against all in Asia. We are not to follow a multitude to do evil. Numbers can never turn evil into good, or truth into error. Community in sin is no excuse, and will be no preservation: though hand join in hand, the wicked shall not go unpunished. Fellowship in suffering is no alleviation it may be a bitter enhancement. There will not only be weeping, but gnashing of teeth, among those who accuse and execrate each other. This will be the case at the meeting of the seducer and the seduced; Voltaine and his pupils; the faithless minister and his deluded hearers. But to advance without support, in the face of opposition; to brave the torrent of example, and the influence of the crowd, concerned only to approve ourselves unto God, shows a divine nobleness and purity of principle and motive: and "them that honour me," says God, "I will honour; but they that despise me shall be lightly esteemed."

He therefore is not unrighteous to forget the work and labour of love which Onesiphorus had showed to his name, in the relief and assistance he had afforded his servant. Paul records here in the book of life, the tenderness of his liberality; his courage in owning him though a prisoner; his zealousness in searching him out in Rome; and the many things wherein he had, before this, ministered to him at Ephesus.-Was he then a man of leisure and wealth? It is probable he was not. The servants of Christ have seldom been much indebted to the rich. In a general way, the disposition for beneficence diminishes as the capacity increases; and the greater

part of what is done for the Gospel and the poor, is done by people in common life. But he had a public spirit: his heart was in his work: he did what he could—and whoever does what he can, will do, not only comparatively, but really, much. And was he a loser? Was Obed-edom injured by accommodating the ark? The ark, says Henry, is a guest that always pays well for its entertainment. None ever repented that they had done too inuch for the cause of the Redeemer. And none ever will, while the promise remains, "The liberal deviseth liberal things, and by liberal things shall he stand." "There is no man that hath left house, or parents, or brethren, or wife, or childen, for the kingdom of God's sake, who shall not receive manifold more in this present time, and in the world to come, life everlasting."

Thus Onesiphorus obtained a name and a place among the worthies in the Scripture. Wheresoever the Gospel is preached, that which he did, will be told as a memorial of him. Thousands bless him at this hour, for the part he acted. He lived in the affections of Paul; and constantly shared in his prayers. And was this a light thing, to be remembered by a man who had such power with God? "The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much."

In this way the Apostle expressed his thankfulness. He had a very humble, and, therefore, a very grateful disposition: and the favours shown him in his straits and distresses always made a deep impression upon him. Hence he prays for "the house" of his benefactor; that is, for his wife, children, relatives, servants, and outward estate. He prays also for his benefactor himself "The Lord grant that he may find mercy of the Lord in that day." What! would such a man as he, with all his good works, need mercy? This would have seemed strange to some; b it would not be surrsing to Onesiphorus himself. He knew that when he had done all, he was an unprofitable servant; and that if God entered into judgment with him, on the ground of his worthiness, he could not stand. It is the conviction of every man who is perfectly acquainted with the law, or the Gospel, or himself. He feels his need of mercy; mercy to the last; and, above all, mercy at the last. When he examines himself, he sees enough, not only in his sins, but even in his duties, to make him tremble and despair. But he looks for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life.

And he will find it. He will be spared; absolved; acknowledged; applauded; and glorified. What mercy! How free! How rich! And how will it be prized-in that day! If we find mercy then, we are made for ever. But wo to those who will be left to the justice of God, without a Mediator! If we have not fled for refuge, to lay hold on the hope set before us; and have not a friend in the Judge, we are undone for ever. If we find not mercy then, it can never be found afterwards.

JANUARY 15.—“The gentleness of Christ.-2 Cor. x. 1.

Does the Apostle mean, by the gentleness of Christ, the gentleness He requires, or the gentleness He displayed? In fact, they are the same; not indeed in degree, but in quality. As "the precious

ointment," poured upon the head of Aaron, ran down to the skirts of his garments, so Christians have an unction from the Holy One. The same mind which was in him, is in them; and so essential is this oneness, that "if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of His." But let us attend to this gentleness as it was personally exemplified in Himself.

According to the prophecies going before, there was nothing by which He was to be more distinguished than by this attribute or character. To mention a few instances. It was said of Him"Behold, thy king cometh unto thee-having salvation; lowly and riding upon an ass, and upon a colt the foal of an ass-and he shall speak peace unto the heathen." "He shall not cry nor lift up, nor cause His voice to be heard in the street. A bruised reed shall He not break, and the smoking flax shall He not quench: He shall bring forth judgment unto truth." "He shall feed His flock like a shepherd; He shall gather the lambs with His arm, and carry them in His bosom, and shall gently lead those that are with young." "He shall come down like rain upon the mown grass: as showers that water the earth. He shall spare the poor and needy, and shall save the souls of the needy." And if we go forward from prophecy to history, and see Him as He goes about doing good, what so cunstantly and strikingly shows itself as this lovely distinction? What was His emblem? A Lamb. How did the Holy Ghost descend upon Him? In the form of a dove. What was the angelical report of His religion? "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good-will towards men." How does He employ the supernatural energies with which He was invested? It is true, He once cursed a fig tree, and immediately it withered away. But it was a tree, and not a person; and a tree unowned; and growing by the way-side; and a barren one; and the malediction was intended to be an instructive emblem and warning. It is true also that He destroyed the herd of swine belonging to the Gadarenes. But this was only an animal sacrifice; and it was in love to their souls; and it was to bring their sin to remembrance; and to rebuke them for an unlawful traffic: and what was the loss of their swine, to the benefit He conferred upon them in the restoration of two of their neighbours and relations from the most wretched estate, to the pos session of reason and the enjoyment and usefulness of life? All the other miracles He performed were entirely and directly acts of kindness and tenderness. Thus He made the hungry multitude to sit down on the grass, and fed them-opened the eyes of a blind beggar--raised to life the only son of his mother, and she was a widow. Where shall we end? ea, He turned the water into wine at the marriage of Cana in Galilee, to perpetuate the innocent festivity of the scene, to save the new-married pair from mortification, and to crown them with honour.

It is true, He repeated again and again the exclamation, "Wo unto you Scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites!" But they were hypocrites of the vilest complexion. Under a reputation for the strictest godliness they were full of extortion and iniquity. They sinned against knowledge and conviction. They really belived His miracles, yet ascribed them to the devil: made their devotion pander to their depravity; and with their public and long prayers devoured

« PrécédentContinuer »