Images de page
PDF
ePub

Afflictions, which are the effects of sin, are made "the fruit to take away sin." Creature comforts are often to the soul what suckers are to the tree; and the heavenly Husbandman prunes us to secure the sap for the bearing. We are tried, that we may come forth from the furnace as gold, losers indeed, but gainers by the loss, deprived only of what injured our excellence; and rendered more valuable and useful.

But in what manner is the work accomplished? The Lord could at once execute the blessed deliverance, but as the Canaanites were driven out by little and little, so he gradually subdues our iniquities. Hence we read of "the inward man being renewed day by day :" and of our being "changed into the same image, from glory to glory, as by the Spirit of the Lord." We must therefore distinguish between the commencement and the finishing of this glorious renovation. It will not be completed till death, but it is now be gun; and the very complaints of the believer are proofs that he is not what he once was, but approves things that are excellent, and delights in the law of God, and feels his remaining corruptions to be his burden and grief. Simon Brown, formerly minister of the Gospel in London, was so enervated and depressed as to believe that his soul was annihilated, and that he and no more soul than a horse. Yet he continued praying, and preaching, and publishing, as if he had two souls instead of having none; his reasonings abun dantly disproving all their conclusions. Thus we have met with Christians who imagined they had no grace, while they lived so conscientiously and consistently, mourned for sin so deeply, prized the Scripture so highly, and loved the Lord Jesus so fervently, that they seemed to every one but themselves to have a double portion of the Spirit. When a man is nailed to the cross he may linger on for awhile, but his doom is fixed: and" our old man is crucified." A tree, after it is plucked up by the roots, has some sap left in it, and will even throw out shoots; but we know that in such a case it cannot revive: the radical, essential support is cut off-It must wither and die. Let us thank God and take courage. The conflict may be protracted, and we may sometimes be ready to faint, but there is nothing doubtful in the issue: and the result is not more glorious than sure.

OCTOBER 19.-" David carried it aside into the house of Obed-edom the Gitute."-2 Samuel vi. 10.

Ir was a solemn and awful appeal David made, when "he sware unto the Lord, and vowed unto the mighty God of Jacob; surely I will not come into the tabernacle of my house, nor go up into my bed; I will not give sleep to mine eyes, or slumber to mine eyelids, until I find out a place for the Lord, an habitation for the mighty God of Jacob." Accordingly as soon as he was fully enthroned over all Israel, he resolved to bring up the ark from Gibeah, where it had long been, and place it in Jerusalem, where it would be public and accessible. But at first the enterprise more than failed. The appointed and prescribed mode of conveying the ark was on the shoulders of the Levites. On the present occasion this was strangely and very culpably overlooked. It was carried in a new

cart; and it was driven by Uzzah and Ahio, the sons of Abinidab. "And David and all the house of Israel played before the Lord on all manner of instruments made of firwood, even on harps, and on psalteries, and on timbrels, and on cornets, and on cymbals. And when they came to Nachan's threshing-floor, Uzzah put forth his hand to the ark of God, and took hold of it; for the oxen shook it. And the anger of the Lord was kindled against Uzzah; and God smote him there for his error; and there he died by the ark of God." The event seems mysterious. His judgments are a great deep. But will not the Judge of all the earth do right? We are sure there is no unrighteousness with God. We know also that he alone is the adequate judge of moral conduct. By him actions are weighed. He sees them in their principles and motives; and unerringly estimates the circumstances of extenuation or aggravation attached to them. Let us give him time, and we shall be constrained to acknowledge, "Thou art justified when thou speakest, and clear when thou judgest."

David was both displeased and terrified. His displeasure was very censurable. Did it become him to resent what God had done, and be angry because the breach had defeated his plan, and disappointed his expectation-especially too, when all this would have been prevented, had he consulted the law, and conformed to it? But so true is it, "a man's foolishness perverteth his way, and his heart fretteth against the Lord." His terror was more excusable, and might have been salutary. "God will be known by the judgments which he executeth." When he strikes some he intends that others should hear and fear, and turn unto the Lord. And it is well for us to feel our unworthiness and desert; and to inquire whether we who are spared are not equally guilty with those who are cut offand also whether, though spared now, we shall escape always? Let him that thinketh he standeth, take heed lest he fall.

But David's alarm was servile and excessive. He therefore broke up the assembly, and began his return home, saying, "How shall the ark of the Lord come to me?" "So David would not remove the ark of the Lord unto him into the city of David: but David carried it aside into the house of Obed-edom the Gittite." The event

to Obed-edom was wholly unexpected. Little did he imagine, when he rose in the morning and joined the holy procession, that before he retired to rest his house would be the tabernacle of the Lord, towards which the eyes and thoughts of all the pious would be turned, and his name be had in everlasting remembrance. So Saul went out to search for his father's asses, and before he returned was anointed king over Israel. When David was carrying provender to his brethren in the camp, how little did he dream that in the course of a few hours he should be the conqueror of Goliath, and the deliverer of his country, and hear it shouted, "Saul hath slain his thousands, but David his ten thousands." As to evil or as to good, we never know what a day may bring forth; and therefore we should never presume or despair. We talk of novels and romances; but we need not have recourse to fiction. What marvellous coincidences diversify actual life! "Time and chance happen to all." Nothing is indeed casual with regard to God. He sees the end from the beginning; and works all things after the counsel of his

own will; and his providence is so universal and minute, that a sparrow falleth not to the ground without our heavenly Father, and the very hairs of our head are all numbered. But what is appoint-) ment with him is contingency with us. The most important and interesting occurrences in our individual histories are often pecu- } liarly accidental: in review they appear surprising; and in prospect, had they been announced, would have seemed improbable, if not impossible--"I will bring the blind by a way that they knew not; I will lead them in paths that they have not known: I will make darkness light before them, and crooked things straight.These things will I do unto them, and not forsake them."

Obed-edom's compliance was very praiseworthy. How many, had they been placed in his circumstances, would have declined the reception of the ark! Some would have pleaded danger—They could not live under the same roof with this mysterious and dreadful symbol, which had killed Uzzah, who only touched it, and smote so many of the Beth-shemites who only looked into it. Some would have felt the expense it might entail. Some would have excused themselves on the ground of trouble-" multitudes will be constantly repairing hither, either from devotion or curiosity. The house will be a thoroughfare. We shall find it necessary to engage doorkeepers"-But if any of these thoughts occurred they had not a moment's weight with Obed-edom. Providence, says he, has laid this service in my way-It is the call of God-and I seize with gladness an opportunity afforded me to show my love to his service, and to exercise self-denial for his sake.

And what was the consequence? Had he reason to repent of the forwardness of his zeal? The ark, says our Henry, is a guest that always pays well for its entertainment. And what says the sacred historian? "And the ark of the Lord continued in the house of Obed-edom the Gittite three months: and the Lord blessed Obed-edom, and all his household."

OCTOBER 20." He doth devise means, that his banished be not expelled from him."-2 Samuel xiv. 14.

SOME emblems of this appeared under the law. Many persons ceremonially unclean were banished for a time from the camp, the city, and the sanctuary; but means were ordained and prescribed for their cleansing, their release, and their restoration. But let us look at the conduct of God towards his people in the means he devises for their redemption, their conversion, their recall from backsliding, and their removal home.

Man was made after the image of God. God delighted in him and held communion with him. He was perfectly holy, and perfectly happy the heir of immortality, and the lord of all in this lower world. These views of man only serve to enhance his fall, and make his loss so much the more deplorable. He is not now what he originally was. Adam was banished from paradise; and Cherubim, with a flaming sword, were placed to prevent his return to the tree of life. And we were banished in him-In Adam all died. We were deprived of the favour and presence of God; and separated from the supreme good; and resembled traitors, who,

having forfeited their right to their former abode and possessions, wander exiled from place to place, not daring to appear where once they lived, lest they should be apprehended and executed. What a state was this to be in! But it was not of God that his banished should be expelled from him. He desired not the death of sinners; and therefore he devised means to deliver them from the sentence of condemnation, and to bring them back to his favour and presence. And what were these means? They were such as evinced not only his clemency, but showed that he was rich in mercy--We could never have found out, and all the principalities and powers above could never have found out, a way for our return to God, consistently with all the perfections of his nature. But his understanding is infinite. O the depth both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! He forms a plan in which he abounds towards us in all wisdom and prudence; a plan which angels desire to look into; a plan, the development of which will draw forth the praise and wonder of eternity; a plan in which goodness and justice shine forth with equal beams; in which mercy and truth meet together, righteousness and peace kiss each other; in which, while he redeems Jacob, he glorifies himself in Israel; in which, while the guilty are pardoned, the law is fulfilled, and magnified, and made honourable; in which, while there is peace on earth and good will towards men, there is glory to God in the highest. "All things are of God, who hath reconciled us unto himself by Jesus Christ."

Redemption however is one thing; salvation is another. We have seen what God has done to bring us out of our guilty state: but we must also be brought out of our depraved state. We are darkness: how are we made light in the Lord? We are the servants of sin; how are we turned from the power of Satan unto God? The grand agency is the influence of the Holy Spirit; and hence we read of our being born of the Spirit, and being led by the Spirit and we are assured that where the Spirit of the Lord is there is liberty. But among the means devised for our conversion is the dispensation of the word by preaching: "He gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ." There is not only a great and obvious adaptation and suitableness in this instrumentality to the purpose designed, but it is the ordinance of God's own appointment; and is therefore entitled to his blessing. Accordingly faith cometh by hearing. In the beginning of the Gospel, and in every revival of it since, the work has been principally accomplished by preaching. Were any given number of converted individuals now living to tell what God had done for their souls, how many of them would ratify this truth! One would say, I nad not a serious thought of God, or of my soul, before such a sermon, like a clap of thunder, awakened my sleeping conscience. A second would say, I was a Pharisee, trusting in myself that I was righteous, and despising others, till such a discourse, like a scythe, mowed down all my legal hopes, and made me cry for mercy. A third would say, I was walking according to the course of this world, spending my money for that which is not bread, and my labour for that which satisfieth not, till such an address urged

me to forsake the foolish, and live, and go in the way of understanding-But we do not limit the Holy One of Israel. There is hardly any thing but the Lord has dignified by making use of it in the calling of sinners to himself. Afflictions, as we see in the case of Manasseh; parental example; the admonition of a friend; the reading of a good book, of a mere tract-Where shall we end? "Lo! all these things worketh God oftentimes with man, to bring back his soul from the pit, to be enlightened with the light of the living."

After they are brought to God by converting grace his people are not suffered to apostatize from him. But they may backslide. Their faith may fail in the exercise, though not in the principle. Their love may wax cold. They may grow indifferent to the service of God, and rarely and lifelessly attend the means of his appointment. Yea they may yield to temptation, and fall into sin, and cause the way of truth to be evil spoken of. And what is the consequence? The Lord hides his face, and they are troubled"O that it was with me as in months past, when the candle of the Lord shone upon my head, and when by his light I walked through darkness; while as yet the Almighty was with me." The loss and the remembrance of their former peace and joy; galling reflections; from their own minds; brotherly rebukes; outward trials and disappointments-these are the means he employs to bring them back to himself from whom they have revolted, and who is yet saying, Return, ye backsliding children-I will heal your backslidings.

But as long as they remain here they are from home. This is not their rest. But there remaineth a rest for the people of God. And he has devised means to remove them from the kind of exile in which they now are, to their own country, from whence they were borne, and whither they long to return. He has appointed an hour in which they are to depart out of the world unto the Father. Death is the way, and however trying, the right way to the city of habitation. By death their banishment is entirely ended, and their restoration perfected for ever. "Therefore are they before the throne of God, and serve him day and night in his temple: and he that sitteth on the throne shall dwell among them. They shall hunger no more, neither thirst any more; neither shall the sun light on them, nor any heat. For the Lamb which is in the midst of the throne shall feed them, and shall lead them unto living fountains of waters: and God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes."

OCTOBER 21.-"Whose I am, and whom I serve."-Acts xxvii. 23.

THIS was the language of Paul, when he informed his fellow-sufferers of the angelical vision with which he had been favoured in the night. But others may adopt the same avowal.

He calls God his owner when he says, Whose I am, and asserts nothing that is peculiar to himself. We also are his. He has numberless claims to us; and these claims we should feel and acknowledge. They are founded in creation in providence in redemption: in self-dedication. The Corinthian converts "gave

« PrécédentContinuer »