« PoprzedniaDalej »
fit to enjoin, with whatever advantages, or disadvantages, He might be pleased to assign.
And as He had so sovereign a right to mould and fashion us at the first, according to the counsel of His own will, and again at the fall of man to renew our hope of honour and immortality on such conditions as seemed good to Him, so has He still the most absolute right to appoint whatever relates to our condition in life, and the most complete power to lengthen or to shorten our days, to bring us to honour, or dishonour. As in one turn of the wheel the potter may change the form of the vessel that is wrought upon it, so by one providential dispensation He can in a moment raise us from the lowest condition, or can humble us and bring us to nothing even from the highest.
These solemn truths are brought before us in order that we may meekly adore His sovereignty, and fear His almighty power, and humble ourselves before Him, with the deepest sense of our own insignificance and dependence, and trust implicitly in His majesty and mercy. We are not only as clay in His hands, but as vessels that have been marred,” and (by our own folly) have become unworthy of the honour and happiness for which we were originally intended. Yet, by His unspeakable mercy, He has put us into a condition in which (if it be not our own fault) we may regain the high estate from which we have fallen. “ If a man therefore purge himself from these (these sinful lusts and habits), he shall be a vessel unto honour, sanctified, and meet for the master's use, and prepared for every good work?.” How thankful should we be that, of His infinite grace,
He has restored to us the capacity and the means of thus recovering from our sin and misery! and how continually should we bear in mind our natural nothingness and helplessness! What are we but “potsherds of the earth,” frail and broken vessels, which may at any moment be crushed to powder? Shall we presume to strive against our Maker', and murmur at His appointments or resist His will? It is foolish and wicked enough to strive with our fellow “potsherds of the earth ;” but how utterly unequal, as well as wicked, is such a strife against our Almighty Maker and Supreme Disposer of all events! He has said that every knee shall bow to Him; and we know also that it is said ', that His Son shall hereafter rule with a rod of iron those who will not now submit themselves to His sway, and shall dash them in pieces like a potter's vessel. How suitable then is the Psalmist's instruction, “ Be wise now, therefore, O ye kings; be learned, ye that are judges of the earth. Serve the Lord with fear, and rejoice with trembling. Kiss the Son, lest He be angry, and so ye perish from the way, when His wrath is kindled but a little. Blessed are all they that put their trust in Him!”
7 2 Tim. ii. 21.
“ Awake thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall
give thee light.” Eph. v. 14. “ And he kneeled down, and cried with a loud voice, Lord, lay not
this sin to their charge. And when he had said this, he fell asleep." Acts vii. 60.-See also Ps. xiii. 3. Rom. xiii. 11. 1 Cor. xv. 51. 1 Thess. v. 10.
An impenitent sinner is said both to be “asleep” and also to be " dead.” He is “ dead,” because his soul is destitute of spiritual life; but inasmuch as it has a capacity for receiving that spiritual life, he is likened also to one who is "
“ asleep.” A man who is buried in sleep is unconscious of all that is going on around him. His mind is entertained indeed with dreams, which for the time he takes for realities; while the real and important business of life
8 Matt. xxi. 44.
9 Isa. xlv. 9.
1 Ps. ii. 9.
is totally unheeded and neglected by him. Matters which affect his interest, or even his life, may be transacted around him, while he is dreaming on; and when he awakes, he will find how material it would have been to him to have resisted the drowsiness in which his faculties for the time were lost. is on the point of being, engulphed in the raging waves, but Jonah is fast asleep? The building may be in flames, or the thief may have broken through the house, but the owner sleeps on in total ignorance of his danger, or his loss, until it is too late to escape the one, or to prevent the other.
Thus is it with the man who lives only for the things of time, and sense. The judgments of God are far above out of his sights; and all the realities of the unseen world have no hold whatever on his mind; no evidence, or substance", in his judgment. The business, or pleasures, of life, in which he is wholly occupied, and which he takes for realities, are as the merest dreams and shadows, compared with all those mighty truths of which he is wholly unconscious, although as deeply concerned in them as any others. Great things are going on around him; but his eyes are shut, and he cannot see them. Angels are rejoicing over penitents ; souls are being quickened from the death of sin; the Spirit of God is changing many a desert into a garden of the Lord; the Church is coming up out of the wilderness, while the poor foolish sinner is buried in a deep sleep, following with eager desire the merest vanities, and shadows, and knowing nothing of the danger which is ever hanging over him, or of the bright inheritance which he is forfeiting, for want of taking the necessary pains to gain it. Such is the state of every soul by nature ; and it is of God's great mercy that we are roused from this stupid sleep, and spiritual insensibility. He sends His ministers to say to each - How long
2 Jonah i, 5.
3 Ps. x. 5.
4 Heb. xi. 1.
of us, as the mariners said to Jonah, “ What meanest thou, O sleeper? arise, and call upon thy God;" or, “ Awake, thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light.” How loath are we for the most part to be disturbed and to rouse ourselves ! how fond are we of our vain dreams ! how slow to believe in their vanity, and to open our eyes to what is true and real ! When the word comes to us, wilt thou sleep, O sluggard ? when wilt thou arise out of thy sleep 5?” How often do we plead, “ Yet a little more sleep, a little more slumber, a little more folding of the hands to sleep!” And thus it is that poverty (the poverty of a soul destitute of true riches) comes upon us as one that travelleth, and want as an armed man.
It is not only spiritual death, however, (or sin,) which is compared to sleep.” The common natural death of the body is likened to it likewise. The dead are said to "sleep in the dust o ;" and more especially all those who have departed this life in the faith and fear of God, are said to "sleep in Jesus ?." The state of an impenitent sinner is compared to sleep, to show his supineness, indolence, and darkness; but the state of departed saints is compared to sleep, because they rest from their labours,” and because, also, they will have a glorious and blessed awakening from their sleep in the morning of the resurrection. How blessed is the thought, which is thus suggested to us, of the perfect rest which remaineth for the people of God, after all the troubles and temptations of life; and also of that bright morrow, when they shall awake
in the likeness of God, and be for ever satisfied with it !
When I lie down to take rest in sleep , let me think both of that sleep of the soul which is sin, that I may pray to be awakened from it, and also of that last sleep of which our sleep every night is an image and similitude, that I may pray to be prepared for it. As I know not any night that I may ever again open my eyes on this world, let me so close them, as I should wish to close them, if I were sure that I had taken leave of the world for ever, with a humble hope that the sins of which I repent may be pardoned through Jesus Christ, and in perfect charity with all
6 Dan. xii. 2.
5 Prov. vi. 9.
8 P. xvii. 15.
7 1 Thess. iv. 14. 9 John xi. 13.
X.-THE BIRDS BUILDING NEAR THE
“ How amiable are thy tabernacles, O Lord of hosts! My soul longeth,
yea, even fainteth for the courts of the Lord: my heart and my flesh crieth out for the living God. Yea, the sparrow hath found an house, and the swallow a nest for herself, where she may lay her young, even thine altars, O Lord of hosts, my King, and my God.” Ps. lxxxiv. 1-3.—See also Ps. xxvii. 4.
The Psalmist is generally supposed, says Bishop Horne, in this passage, to lament his unhappiness in being deprived of all access to the tabernacle or temple; a privilege enjoyed even by the birds, who were allowed to build their nests in the neighbourhood of the sanctuary. It is evidently the design of this passage to intimate to us, that in the house and at the altar of God, a faithful soul finds freedom from care and sorrow, quiet of mind and gladness of spirit, like a bird that has secured a little mansion for the reception and education of its young.
We read, that " as a bird that wandereth from her nest, so is a man that wandereth from his place 1." And the proverb may be applied to those who restlessly leave the place which Providence has assigned them, and thereby so greatly lessen their opportunities of usefulness. But as the Psalmist considers “ the swallow,” or “the sparrow,” especially favoured,
1 Prov. xxvii. 8.