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What is it for your difficulties or duty to be increased, if there be an increase of the supply of the Spirit of Jesus Christ?

DECEMBER 3.-"Though he were a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered."-Heb. v. 8.

THE title here given to the Lord Jesus is applied to him peculiarly, and in a way of dignity. This is obvious from the very reasoning of the Apostle for there is nothing wonderful in the supposition that a son should learn obedience by suffering-for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not? But the marvellousness is that such a Son should learn obedience by the things which he suffered. Here let us keep close to the Scripture, and not pry into things which we have not seen. All mankind are the offspring of God, as he is the real author of their being, the framer of their bodies, and the former of their spirits within them. Adam is called "the son of God," as he was immediately produced by his power, and made after his image, not only in dominion, but knowledge, righteousness, and holiness, in distinction from all the inferior orders of his creatures. This likeness was soon lost by the Fall, and hence the term soon became in the Scriptures a religious appellation, serving to discriminate the godly from the wicked. When all flesh had corrupted their way upon the earth, the descendants of Seth are called "the sons of God," because they worshipped, served and resembled him. Christians therefore obtain this honour in the New Testament: "Behold what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God." They are so by adoption and regeneration. The angels, those pure intelligences unincumbered with our flesh and blood, are also thus characterized: "The morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy." But unto which of the angels said he at any time, Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee? And again, Í will be to him a father, and he shall be to me a son? And again, when he bringeth in the first begotten into the world, he saith, And let all the angels of God worship him. And of the angels he saith, Who maketh his angels spirits, and his ministers a flame of fire. But unto the Son he saith, Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever: a sceptre of righteousness is the sceptre of thy kingdom." We leave the conclusion to yourselves-It must lead you to consider him "above all principalities and powers, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come." And what does the Apostle affirm concerning him? He suffered; he obeyed; he learned. Though he were a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered."


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He suffered. He was a man of sorrows," as if he derived his very character from them, "and acquainted with grief." Grief is always our neighbour, and sometimes our visitor; but it was his companion, and never separated from him till he gave up the ghost.. Who can describe or imagine the greatness and the number of " the things he suffered"-in his outward estate? in his reputation? in his connexions? in his body? in his soul? Behold, and see if ever there was sorrow like unto his sorrow!

He obeyed. His obedience was very superior to ours. It was

complete and universal. He did no sin. He omitted no duty. He always did the things that pleased the Father; and therefore at the close of the whole he could confidently make the appeal, "I have glorified thee on the earth, I have finished the work that thou gavest me to do." His obedience also appeared in his submission. We are required to obey God as our governor, as well as our lawgiver, and to acquiesce in his appointments as well as fulfil his orders. And here, alas! how often do we fail. It is no easy thing to bear sickness, to resign a pleasant situation, to part with a beloved child-to obey a correcting God! How often we rebel or repine! But without a murmuring word or feeling, he submitted to all the pleasure of his heavenly Father, saying, Not my will, but thine be done. Even his death and all that led to it was an act of obedience-He" was obedient unto death, even the death of the cross." He said, "Lo! I come to do thy will, O God;" and that will required the sacrifice of himself as an offering for sins. Hence, as he was going forth to agonize in the garden, and suffer on the cross, he said, "But that the world may know that I love the Father, and as the Father gave me commandment, even so I do; arise, let us go hence."

He learned-" He learned obedience by the things which he suf fered." Many do not. Experience, says Franklin, is a dear school, but fools will learn in no other. The truth is, they will not learn even in this. Only wise men, says Burke, ever derive wisdom from experience. Experience itself is thrown away upon others, like seed sown upon a rock or the sand of the sea. Under what an expensive course of tuition have some passed? Yet what have they learned? May we not say of them, in the language of Jeremiah, "O Lord, are not thine eyes upon the truth? thou hast stricken them, but they have not grieved; thou hast consumed them, but they have refused to receive correction: they have made their faces harder than a rock; they have refused to return." When this is the case, the incorrigibleness is punished in one of these two ways; God either abandons the culprit, saying, He is joined to idols, let him alone; or, if he does not remove the rod, he turns it into a scorpion. He increases the severity and the grievousness of the strokes till the threatening is awfully accomplished; "He, that being often reproved hardeneth his neck, shall suddenly be destroyed, and that without remedy." At the most distant danger of which, the Israelite indeed falls upon his knees and cries, " O Lord, correct me, but with judgment; not in thine anger, lest thou bring me to nothing." And says David, "Blessed is the man whom thou chasteneth and teachest out of thy law." This is the design of affliction, and the effect of it when sanctified. Some of our lessons have cost us much, but they have not cost us too much if we have learned obedience by the things we have suffered.

But this does not apply to the Son of God precisely in the same way it does to us. The distinction is this. He learned obedience by the things he suffered, but he did not learn to obey. David's afflictions humbled his pride, banished his sloth, roused his attention, and excited him to study the will of God; and therefore he said, "Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now have I kept thy word." "It is good for me that I have been afflicted, that I might learn thy statutes"-Thus he learned by his sufferings to obey. But

Jesus stood in need of no such stimulations and auxiliaries as these. He knew what was required of him, and was always perfectly ready to do it. His sufferings therefore were not the cause of his obedience, but only the occasion: they did not produce the disposition, but only afforded opportunities for the exercise and the display of it. The gold was sterling before, but the fire proved it: the field did not make the hero, but proclaimed him. Yet he could not have learned what obedience was, how trying, it is, especially in affliction, and what grace it requires, without experience. But thus he knew it not in theory only, but in reality, as a man learns the taste of medicine by tasting it, or as a man knows what it is to travel by travelling.

DECEMBER 4.-"When he hath tried me, I shall come forth as gold."-Job xxiii. 10.

JOB was indeed tried, and perhaps next to his Saviour could say, Behold, and see if ever there was sorrow like unto my sorrow!But he remarks three things with regard to it.

First, the author: "He hath tried me." In none of his sufferings did he ever lose sight of the hand of God. When the Chaldeans and the elements had spoiled him of all his substance, he said, "The Lord hath taken away." And when, in addition to this, he was deprived of his children, and health, and friends, and he seemed to have no comfort left, he said, "Thou hast taken me by the neck, and shaken me to pieces." And "is there an evil in the city, and the Lord hath not done it? How much is that man to be pitied who does not connect with all the events of life the providence of that God without whom a sparrow falleth not to the ground, and by whom the very hairs of our head are all numbered! How consolatory to reflect, "I am not in a fatherless world; I am not the child of neglect; I am not the sport of chance; I am not at the mercy of my foes-they could have no power against me, except it was given them from above; they are chained, and he holds the chain-The wrath of man shall praise him, and the remainder of wrath will he restrain-The cup which my Father giveth me, shall I not drink it? Secondly, the termination: "when he hath tried me, I shall come forth." I am now in "the midst of trouble," but I shall not remain there. He doth not afflict willingly. Though he cause grief, yet will he have compassion. He hath said, "I will not contend for ever, neither will I be always wroth: for the spirit should fail before me, and the souls which I have made." The time may seem long, but I shall not be detained a moment longer than the case requires. He hath appointed the hour of deliverance, and his time is the best time; for he is a God of knowledge, and blessed are all they that wait for him. "We went," says the Church, "through fire and through water, but thou broughtest us out into a wealthy place." Thirdly, the benefit: "when thou hast tried me I shall come forth as gold." And how is this? Gold comes forth proved. Thus we read of "gold tried in the fire," and David says, "Thou, O God, hast proved us: thou hast tried us, as silver is tried." The design of affliction is not to increase God's knowledge of us-this is perfect already; but to make us better known to others and to ourselves; to discover and display the reality and the degree of our

grace; to prove whether we are humble enough to stoop, and patient enough to wait: whether we can love God when he corrects, and trust in him when he hideth himself. )

Gold comes forth purified. A stranger to the process of refining, when he saw it melting in the intenseness of the fire, might suppose that it was likely to be destroyed, or at least that it must be injured. And it is reduced in size, and something is taken away from it but it is only the dross, and this is better removed than retained. And who hath said, "I will also purge away thy dross, and take away all thy tin." "By this therefore shall the iniquity of Jacob be purged; and this is all the fruit to take away his sin; when he maketh all the stones of the altar as chalkstones that are beaten in sunder, the groves and images shall not stand up." What did the three Hebrews lose in the flames? Only their bonds. When they were thrown in they were bound; "and they fell down bound into the midst of the burning fiery furnace." In this state they could not have moved. But without the smell of fire passing upon their bodies; their bonds were burnt, and they were seen walking with the Son of God! Much like this Young sings.

"Our hearts are fasten'd to the world,

With strong and various ties;
But every trouble cuts a string,
And urges us to rise."

Gold comes forth prepared. It is then fitted to be coined for circulation, or framed into vessels of ornament and use; and now rendered capable of a lustre which it had not before. So Christians are improved and advanced by their trials, and can say, "It is good for me that I have been afflicted." "Our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory." "For a season, if needs be," says Peter, “ye are in heaviness." "That the trial of your faith being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ." Job speaks with confidence of the blessed result, before he had realized it. So may every believer. For "all the ways of the Lord are mercy and truth." And ". we know that all things work together for good to them that love God"

DECEMBER 5.-"And in the dungeon there was no water, but mire: sa Jeremiah sunk in the mire."-Jeremiah xxxviii. 6.

HERE he was not as an evil-doer," but "for righteousness sake," and a faithful discharge of his duty. "And this is thankworthy, if a man for conscience toward God endure grief, suffering wrongfully. What glory is it, if, when ye be buffeted for your faults, ye shall take it patiently? but if, when ye do well, and suffer for it, ye take it patiently, this is acceptable with God." The condition was dreadful, owing to the depth, and dreariness, and unwholesomeness, and foulness of the place; and the heart revolts at the thought of the sufferer, sinking lower and lower in the mire by every effort to raise himself up, parched with thirst, fainting with hunger, gasping for free air, and a stone being laid upon the mouth of the pit, excluding not only ventilation, but light! And the design of the princes


was, that he should not only suffer there, but die of privation and disease; longing to rid themselves of their reprover, but fearing that a public execution would excite popular pity-Thus Herod sent and beheaded John in prison-And how many fearful secrets of this kind will be divulged when He maketh inquisition for blood!

Who could think that a number of persons in higher and more refined life, and commonly called "the better sort of people," would be able to leave a fellow-creature, a prophet of the Lord, to perish by so lingering and frightful a death! Lord, what is man! But all things come alike to all. No man knoweth either love or hatred by all that is before them. These wicked princes are in their palaces, and Jeremiah is in the miry dungeon. But where is the God of judgment? We shall presently see- -"Let them that suffer according to the will of God commit the keeping of their souls to him, in well-doing, as unto a faithful Creator."


We are not told here, what Jeremiah did: but he himself has informed us in one of his lamentations. They have cut off my life in the dungeon, and cast a stone upon me. I called upon thy name, O Lord, out of the low dungeon. Thou hast heard my voice: hide not thine ear at my breathing, at my cry. Thou drewest near in the day that I called upon thee: thou saidst, Fear not." what was the consequence? The wrath of man praises God: the evil is overruled for good; and the prophet learns by experience that the Master he served, commanded the issues from death, and was a very present help in trouble.


What a scene here opens! "Now when Ebed-melech the Ethiopian, one of the eunuchs which was in the king's house, heard that they had put Jeremiah in the dungeon; the king then sitting in the gate of Benjamin; Ebed-melech went forth out of the king's house, and spake to the king, saying, My lord the king, these men have done evil in all that they have done to Jeremiah the prophet, whom they have cast into the dungeon; and he is like to die for hunger in the place where he is, for there is no more bread in the city. Then the king commanded Ebed-melech the Ethiopian, saying, Take from hence thirty men with thee, and take up Jeremiah the prophet out of the dungeon, before he die." Here we find how the Lord can raise up helpers for his people from quarters the most unlikely. He "knoweth how to deliver the godly ;" and often renders his interposition as marvellous as it is relieving. Here we also see that the Lord has his hidden ones, and that they are frequently found where we should little think of looking after them-"Surely the fear of God," said Abraham, " is not in this place;" but it was there, and prevented the sin which would otherwise have been committed. Abijah had some good thing in him towards the Lord God of Israel in the house of Jeroboam. Daniel was the prime minister of Darius, and yet worshipped God three times a day. Yea, we read of saints even in Cæsar's household! Zedekiah's court was a very wicked one, yet here was a man of principle, and of religious principle, found in it. But who was he? A foreigner, an "Ethiopian," and probably a negro. Call nothing common or unclean. The first may be last, and the last may be first. While all the princes and the men of Judah were destitute of humanity and piety, this Ethiopian abounded in both.

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