« PoprzedniaDalej »
intending Providence of God; and particular application of the text to the alarmed for the consequences from a sons of Jacob, we are next to examine conviction of their own deserts, they | into itS GENERAL APPLICATION TO OURask, in apprehension and dismay, SELVES. We also have reason, as they “What is this that God hath done to had, to enquire, “What is this that
God hath done to us?” There is much that argues favour- Now, it is by no means necessary to ably for their state of mind in this im- the effectual and profitable proposing of pressive enquiry. It argues, First, a this enquiry, that we should be conconsciousness of iniquity, no longer scious of any specific offence which can palliated by the false sophistry that be compared to the mingled perfidy and had betrayed them into the commis- cruelty of meditating to take our bro. sion of the crime, since whatever ther's life, and actually selling him for erring partiality their Father had dis- a slave, like the sons of Jacob; por yet played, they had no authority to judge, that the interference of Divine justice still less to punish it. It indicates, should be as peculiarly manifested in our Secondly, a recognition of the all-con- case, the punishment as exactly suited trolling agency of Providence, as di- to the crime, as it was in theirs. It must recting every event to the overthrow suffice for the former, that we have reand confusion of the wicked. It im- peatedly, in various manners and proplies, Thirdly, an apprehension, that portions, deviated from the right path, the judgments they had deserved were and sinned in thought, word, and deed. about to be inflicted on them. And It will be enough for the latter, that all lastly, it seems to express acquiescence events of our lives, whether weighty or in the divine will, and resignation to trivial, momentous or minute, are alike the divine chastisement. Not only ordered by our God. He determines this, indeed, but the whole of their the bounds of our habitation, and with. subsequent conduct, seems to warrant out his permission not a hair of his the supposition, that their Father's servants falleth to the ground. It is advancement in grace
consequently our duty, and will there. nicated its beneficial influence to them
fore be our advantage (for duty and ad. —that they had followed in the way in advantage must ever go hand in hand), which he preceded, and that the effect to look for the workings of Divine Proof true religion was about to appear in vidence in our own actual and daily er. those persons who had been previously, perience;-and knowing that the goodin practice at least, if not in appear- ness of God is continually calling us to ance, most probably in both, insensible repentance, to ascertain whether we to the obligation of the commands of have yet heard and yet obeyed the call. God. Henceforth, accordingly, no- For it can continue unheard only thing is recorded either of Jacob through the most culpable negligence; or his sons, which forbids the hope, we cannot go on to disobey it without that the latter (for of Jacob there is hazarding that, which of all condemnapositive assurance that such was the tion is the most bitter ;-the consciouscase) were become, indeed, faithfulness, I mean, that we have been acand devoted and consistent servants of cessary to our own ruin, instrumental the Most High God, patterns of holiness to our own utter, and hopeless, and perand obedience, such as befitted the petual exclusion from the blessed preFathers of His chosen people, whose sence of God. names and whose seed were to be cöeval I will, however, attempt to delineate with the universe.
a few of the characters to whom these Having now bricly considered the words are more immediately applicable
-and may the Spirit of grace direct my so liberally opened to others, closed words to the hearts which they most against me? Why am not I, like many nearly and pointedly concern.
with whom I am conversant, a living • There is, I will suppose, an individual evidence of the truth of the wise man's here present who has been long engaged saying, “ that the hand of the diligent in active business ; who has been dili. maketh rich ?”—When these questions gently and assiduously exerting himself are proposed in an humble spirit, and in his allotted occupation, whose inte- with a sincere desire of improving and grity throughout life has been above profiting by the tenor of the divine suspicion; whose character is without a dispensations, the Holy Spirit himself, stain. He has omitted no means which through the medium of conscience and appeared calculated to conduce towards of Scripture, will condescend to answer the accomplishment of his object. them. “If you possessed riches, He may Pleasure has in vain displayed its at- not unfrequently reply, you would tractions to turn him aside-vanity has forget that they make to themselves never betrayed him into the besetting wings, and fly away, and you would put error of the present day—the ambition your trust in them rather than the living of appearing wealthier than he is—he God." There are many dormant lusts has for years risen early and laid down and passions in your nature which, did late, and eaten the bread of carefulness they revive and regain the ascendency, --and yet all his exertions have been, would be the ruin of the soul; and, thus far at least, in vain. One disap- with regard to these, riches would act pointment after another has cast a gloom as the unnatural and fictitious atmoover all his prospects, paralized all his sphere in which exotic plants are energeis, dashed the cup of happiness reared. These lusts are exotic or fo. from his lips when he was just pre- reign to the believer's heart, and acparing to taste of it, and he is, perhaps, cordingly they will not spring and at this very time, exposed to all the soli- flourish in the hardy soil of labour, citudes that must rankle in the parental and beneath the ungenial skies of po. heart, when the means of providing for verty; but to you, were you made sudhis offspring appear to decrease as the denly or immediately rich, money number of those depending on his ex- would be the root of all evil-evil the ertions is augmented. But even here, worst, the darkest, the most enduring, however painful, however trying the the most irremediable.
Be content, circumstances, he will, if he is pos- then, with such things, as ye have, sessed of real faith, though but as a for He hath said, “I will never grain of mustard seed, he will not only leave thee, nor forsake thee :” “count acknowledge, but endeavour visibly and all things but loss for the excellence clearly to recognise the hand of a gra- of the knowledge of Christ Jesus, cious Director, causing all things to your Lord.” There is nothing perwork together for his good. He will manent in riches ; myriads of kings, not admit the vain idea, that it is a and princes, and nobles, and merchance which happens to him; that he chants greater than princes, are now isencompassed and enchained by a the dust of the earth, as you too shall species of fatality--that there is, as be; and unlimited wealth, were you people absurdly, if not profanely ex-possessed of it, would soon be no more press it, a spell against his prosperity ;
-to you than it is now to them, One rather will he be stimulated to ask with thing alone is needful ; "seek the kingthe patriarch, “What is this that God dom of God and his righteousness, and hath done to me?” Why is his hand, all beside shall be added unto you"
all, that is, that you really need. All children. He may see his pains and are equal in the grave. Though the instructions wasted, his anxious admoimperial crown or the lordly coronet nitions disregarded, bis natural influence be laid on the coffin it matters not; the set at nought-he may behold his sons dust within is not less loathsome, nor pursuing the opposite path to that in is the departed spirit of higher estima- which he would fain guide their steps ; tion in the sight of Him who made it. or he may feel within himself the seeds There is to all one judgment—there of disease, the symptonis of mortality, will be to all one Saviour, one ac- the indications of premature death. quittal, and one condemnation.” He may find cause to doubt whether
But there are some towards whom he shall survive to reap the profit of Divine Providence operates in a different all his labour which he hath laboured manner. Their exertions have not under the sun. In all such cases it been thus unsuccessful—no such blight will be his wisdom to ask, “ What is has withered their budding hopes—no this that God hath done to me?" For such cloud has rested upon their dawn- we are assured by God himself, that ing prospects—their success, if not me- He does not willingly afflict or prove morable or excessive, has been all that the children of men; but that like a they could reasonably expect, and wise physician, He administers, where. quite proportionate to their own exer- ever needed, the efficacious, though bittions, and with the prosperity of those ter medicine that shall be for the heal. around them. They have not been ing of the soul. Any path, though it wholly free from disappointment, per. lead through thorns and briars, is good, haps, (who upon earth can be ?) but which conducts the soul to Him. the blow has fallen lightly upon their And to consider our disappointments heads. They are not free from so- and the drawbacks to our happiness licitudes as to worldly things ; but with a view to his mysterious yet these have been only sufficient to ruffle merciful design in their allotment, is the smoothness of their pillow, and the readiest and surest way to ultimate not to plant it with thorns. In the concurrence in the blessed experience case of these persons, however, though of the Psalmist—" Before I was af. all seems tranquil and smiling with Alicted I went astray; but now have I out, there may be storm and tempest kept thy word.”. within : though their worldly affairs Others there are, again, who come prosper, there may be those domestic under neither of the characters I have trials which fully counterbalance the described ; whose situation, since they pleasure of increasing wealth. The are dependant on the exertions of anhusband may experience in the wife of other, or, humanly speaking, exhis bosom, tempests, or propensities, empt from all dependance, frees them or desires, which mar their mutual from solicitude and secures them from happiness; the sharp arrows of the disappointment as to worldly things. wicked, even bitter words may be in. While there is nothing calculated to terchanged between those who are disquiet them in their domestic relamost solemnly bound to love one an- tions, they enjoy the esteem and reother ;-her extravagance may dissi- gard of those with whom they are pate his substance-her negligence im- connected and conversant; they are pair his comfort—her coolness and satisfied with the present and hopeestrangement may excite his jealousy. ful for the future, so far at least as So, the Father may have reason to look the present life is concerned. Yet with with sorrow and sad foreboding on his all outward appliances and means of comfort, they are not easy and tran- not suffer me to rest satisfied with quil—with all that is considered by ought on this side the grave.” those around them essential to happi- There is yet one more character to ness, they are not happy, they are whom we are bound to apply the quesnot even contented; a weariness, a las- tion of the text, and whom the Holy situde, a disgust, mingles with and Spirit must ere this have taught to impairs all their enjoyments. They feel apply it for himself. I allude to the that worldly pleasures are insufficient believer who is really deserving of the to confer solid gratification, partly be- name; who has in time past bowed cause they perish in the using, and beneath the weight of sin, and sought partly because they leave, at least in a pardon and relief at the foot of the majority of instances, a bitter memo- cross-who has been renewed unto rial behind them. In the still hour of salvation by the regenerating influence night, when stretched upon the rest- of the Holy Spirit-who has felt that less couch, conscience seems to unfold God is gracious, and tasted that Christ before the mental eye a register of is precious—and who fondly hoped follies, inconsistencies, and transgres- that the Sun of Righteousness, which sions, which excite, along with dissa- shone out at his entrance on the nartisfaction for the present, alarm and row path, would never again with apprehension for the future. There draw its radiant and cheering beamsare more persons to whom this descrip. would never again be intercepted by tion applies than the world are aware the clouds of error, or obscured by of; for it is realised by many who the mists of unbelief-to whom prayer have never betrayed their feelings, not was not only a privilege but a pleaeven in the ear of friendship and under sure, and who took so lively an inthe seal of secrecy, much less bla- terest in the means of grace, and the zoned them to the world around; but services of the sabbath, that he could wherever such is the case, we may say with the Psalmist,
“I was glad and should call on the individual, with when they said unto me we will go out making confession to us, or to any unto the house of the Lord-one day fellow sinner, to ask of his, or of her in thy courts is better than a thousand. own heart, “What is this that God hath O, how amiable are thy tabernacles, done to me? Why hath He excited in me thou Lord of Hosts !” But now all is this dissatisfaction with worldly enjoy- changed ; the light of life is eclipsed or ments, this lively concern and solici- withdrawn; hescarcely knows whether tude after a more enduring portion ? he is advancing in the path or not, and Why has He precluded me from fully if he be, his soul is sore discouraged enjoying the temporal benefits that his because of the way. The words of own bountiful hand has liberally be- prayer, once so copious, so fluent, so stowed ? Is there not in this a pur- spontaneous, are slow and reluctant in pose of mercy? Does He not design their utterance. The more he strives to show me the intrinsic vanity and to lift his heart to God, the heavier nothingness of all that man deems seems the weight that presses it down most desirable ? Would he deprive to earth. The services of public me of present gratification unless He worship, once so eagerly sought, so intended to confer on me a better and heartily enjoyed, are now, though not more enduring gift—to lead me in a wholly abandoned, tolerated rather more excellent way-to endow me than desired. His feet are drawn to with riches that are less perishable- the house of God by an impulse which to delight me with pleasures that are far he would, if he could, counteract and more permanent and satisfactory? Let overcome ; but his attendance there is me not refuse, therefore, to hear the little more than the service of the lips, voice that speaks in mercy, though it the hearing of the ear; his heart no speak through the medium of anxiety, longer ascends, his whole soul is now and apprehension, and disquietude; no longer, as it once was, filled, enand let me lay hold of eternal life unto grossed, and absorbed by the riches of which I am called, that so I may salvation. Such a person has pecufind everlasting reason to adore the liar reason to enquire, “What is this mercy of my God, who, being deter- that God hath done to me?” What mined to bring me to Himself, would error have I committed to draw down such an expression of his displeasure? | ing how much it will reveal to you of Have I been pure in my own eyes, or the goodness of God, of his care, yea, righteous in my own sight? Have I I may say, of his anxiety for your salfelt a secret satisfaction when I com. vation. You will feel the force of pared myself with others who were what is said in Scripture. “God less forward than I hoped to be in the calleth once, yea twice, but man reChristian course ? Have I been negli- gardeth it not;" you will apprehend and gent of that restraint which I ought to appreciate the full significance of that have imposed upon my desires and in- | expressive figure, when Christ says, clinations? Have I forgotten my sole “ Behold, I stand at the door and dependance on divine grace for all that i knock.” You will see how often God I need, whether of pardon for the has called and you have not regarded past, or strength and deliverance for -how often Christ has knocked and the future? Have I allowed fleshly you have not opened to him-how often lusts to revive within me, and thus the Spirit has spoken by his ministers been seduced into the pursuits or plea- and by conscience, and spoken in vain. sures that ought to have been utterly It is the revelation of this that will renounced? Have I conceded too much constitute one bitter ingredient in the in practice or in principle to the world cup of misery which must be drained around me? If the God whom I serve by the eternally lost; they will see is not changeable or capricious, He how often they have been invitedwill not causelessly obscure His loving how often admonished :-how near they kindness in displeasure-His very chas- have been to salvation-how they tisements are designed in mercy. Let have omitted to grasp it when ready me then pray earnestly and ceaselessly to their hands—and how fully will till I am apprized, what is this that He they then acquit their God-how hath done to me, and what I am to do bitterly and hopelessly condemn themthat I may again be as in months past, selves! But will not also the experience of when the candle of the Lord shone the happy souls that are redeemed and upon me, when the love of Christ was purified by the blood of Christ be some. shed abroad in my heart, and when thing similar to this? O, if anything can the Spirit of God daily led me by the enhance their transport and delight in hand, and made straight paths for my finding themselves in that blessed place, feet, and opened a passage through it will be to trace the means by which the things that are seen and temporal, God hath brought them thither—to see to those which not seen and how all things worked together for good eternal.”
to them that loved him-how he brought Be persuaded then, men and brethren, them, though blind, by a way that to observe the workings of God's Pro- they knew not, and led them in paths vidence, yea, rather of His Grace, in the they had not known-how he made common affairs of life ; recognize alike darkness light before them and crooked His vigilant, constant, unfailing super- things straight, until he led them out of intendend whether you are prosper- the labyrinth into a large place, out of ous or adverse in your circumstances; the desert into a land flowing with whether honoured or disregarded, happy milk and honey-out of the troubled or unhappy in your private and domestic waters of sin and misery to a haven of relations; ask yourselves at every turn eternal rest. It will be their first the question, “ What is this God hath theme of praise that He hath DONE done to us?” Regard every event as it at all—their second, that He hath one part of a complete system, one link done it Thus. of a mighty chain ; and it is astonish.
London: Published for the Proprietors, by T. GRIFFITHS, Wellington Street, Strand;
and Sold by all Booksellers in Town and Country.
Printed by Lowndes and White, Crane Court, Fleet Street.