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which have found a place where they may lay their young near the sanctuary of God, so, in the figure of a bird that wandereth from her nest, we may chiefly see the similitude of some unhappy wanderer from the
ways and worship of God, who must utterly perish, unless he be enabled to return to the happy home from which he has erred and strayed. When I see such a wanderer along this world's broad highway, let me earnestly and affectionately endeavour to lead him back to the “ place” of peace and safety; and may the sight of any bird flying eagerly to its home remind me of the blessedness of living near to God! Still may my feet be found in the way to His earthly courts at every due season of divine worship; still may I find strength and refreshment under the burden and heat of the day in the thought of that blessed communion which is there chiefly enjoyed; and may I at length dwell all the days of my life in the house of the Lord, to behold the beauty of the Lord, and to inquire in His temple !
XI.-THE BULLOCK UNACCUSTOMED TO
“I have surely heard Ephraim bemoaning himself thus; Thou hast
chastised me, and I was chastised, as a bullock unaccustomed to the yoke: turn thou me, and I shall be turned; for thou art the Lord my God.” Jer. xxxi. 18.- See also Lam. iii. 27. Hos. x. 11. Matt. xi. 29, 30. An untamed heifer, that has never yet been put to the yoke, rebels against its master's will.
It will not submit its neck to the restraint which he wishes to lay upon it, nor put forth its strength in drawing the burden which its companions at once undertake. Though fed and kindly treated by its owner, it struggles for a long time against his endeavours to bend its stubborn will; and if it be chastised, it becomes only the more furious in kicking against the pricks. We know, indeed, that it will at length be tamed, and forced to
submit itself as willingly and patiently as the other heifers that have been “taught;" and therefore we smile at its vain resistance, and think how much it would escape, if it would at first receive willingly what it will soon be afraid to struggle against. For the time, it often gains its way, and perhaps seems to triumph in being turned loose into the pasture, while its companions toil at their accustomed task.
It is a picture to us and a type of every sinner who strives against God. The commandments of God are a yoke upon our corrupt will, and lawless passions. This yoke is “not grievous,” to those who bear it early, and who are accustomed to bow their necks to it. But it seems intolerable to such as have never been 66
taught” that true happiness and liberty are to be found in self-restraint, not in self-indulgence. The rule of Scripture for finding real enjoyment in life, is this?:-“ He that will love life and see good days, let him refrain his tongue from evil, and his lips that they speak no guile:” that is, let him “ bridle his tongue;' let him seek the enjoyment of life in restraining (and not in giving way to) his natural inclinations.
Now this seems an intolerable bondage to the carnal heart, which, while it dreams of liberty from all restraint, is riveting, day by day, the chains by which it is enslaved to its tyrannous passions. It therefore struggles long and obstinately against that blessed yoke which Christ calls us all to take upon us; inviting us in those gracious words, “ Come unto Me, all
ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn of Me; for I am meek and lowly in heart; and ye shall find rest unto your souls, for My yoke is easy, and My burden is light."
How long do we resist His holy will, although we owe to Him the unnumbered mercies which are daily vouchsafed to us! If He chastens and corrects us for our good, we are too often but the more rebellious ;
2 1 Pet. iii. 10.
and our proud hearts rise as stoutly against the humbling doctrines of His grace, as our stubborn necks refuse to submit themselves to the yoke of His commandments. The struggle is unspeakably vain and foolish; for He can at any moment bring us to nothing ; and we must at last be the monuments of His terrible power, if we be not first the willing subjects of His grace. They are the wisest and the happiest of the
men, who accustom themselves from the first to this yoke of self-restraint. To a great extent, religion must always be a yoke and a restraint upon our corrupt will; but those who are most accustomed to it, find it most easy, and the burden which Christ lays upon them becomes daily more light. They are even able to say, “ I will run the way of Thy commandments, when Thou hast set my heart at libertys.” And they find how truly it is said, “ It is good for a man that he bear the yoke in his youth ;” that he be early trained to give up his will to the will of others, and to find true freedom in submitting himself to the truth.
XII.-THE ANCHOR OF THE SOUL.
“ Which hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and stedfast."
Heb. vi. 19.–See also Ps. cvii. 30. Eph. iv. 19. James i. 6. This world is likened in the prophetic Scriptures to the sea. Being full of changes and chances, uneasy cares and restless desires, it is fitly compared to the sea, which is ever restless; treacherous in its smiles; swept by frequent tempests; full of hidden rocks and quicksands, which are the ruin of many a “ gallant ship .". The Apostle speaks of some “ who make shipwreck concerning faith °;" and thus we see that the Church of God has to cross these
3 Ps. cxix. 32.
4 Dan. vii. 3.
wild and stormy waves before it can reach the haven where it would be.” We may remind ourselves, too, that the ark of Noah, borne up in safety above the waters of the flood, was a type of the Church of Christ; and thus, when a child is admitted into the Church by baptism, a prayer is offered, that it may be received into that true ark; and, “ being stedfast in faith, joyful through hope, and rooted in charity, may so pass the waves of this troublesome world, that it may finally come to the land of everlasting life.”
As then the Christian has to cross a sea which is so full of hidden rocks, and so much exposed to tempestuous winds, he is provided with an anchor which may help to save him from making shipwreck, and from being the sport of many a storm that would otherwise drive him up and down, without any sure knowledge of the course which he ought to take. This anchor is the hope which is set before sinners in Jesus Christ. The Apostle speaks of himself as having fled for refuge to lay hold of “the hope set before us;" and of possessing this hope as an anchor of the soul, both sure and stedfast.
The hopes which this world sets before us are altogether vain and uncertain. They cannot make us stedfast in our course, for they have themselves no better resting-place than the ever-fluctuating waves. But the hope which true religion sets before us is made fast to the throne of God. This anchor is cast where nothing can unsettle it, even “ above the water-flood, where the Lord remaineth a King for ever.”
A man who hath this anchor, which is thus sure and stedfast, is not unduly elated or excited by worldly prosperity, though it should pour in like a full tide; for heavenly hope still shows him the brightness of that promised inheritance, in comparison of which all other things are poor and mean. He is able also to look calmly forth upon the threatening waves around him; since, amidst all the changes and chances of this mortal life, his heart is there surely fixed, where true joys are to be found.
7 Office of Holy Baptism.
8 Acts xxvii. 27.
Those who “make shipwreck concerning faith,” are such as lose their hold upon this anchor of the soul. They fix their dependence on other hopes, which snap asunder with the first storm, and leave them to contend helplessly with the winds and waves. How many a “gallant ship” is thus driven upon hidden rocks, or engulphed in the fatal whirlpool ! In the morning it ploughed the sea in the pride of a vain and presumptuous confidence; in the evening it is only a wreck upon the waters. Be warned by such examples of the vanity of any worldly hope or dependence; and learn to prize more highly, and to depend more singly upon, that only anchor of the soul which is sure and stedfast.
XIII. —THE STARS OF LIGHT.
“And he brought him forth abroad, and said, Look now toward heaven,
and tell the stars, if thou be able to number them: and he said unto him, So shall thy seed be." Gen. xv. 5.-See also Ps. cxlviii. 3. Dan. xii. 3. Heb. xi. 12.
As the Sun is the Scriptural emblem of Christ the Sun of Righteousness', so all the other heavenly bodies, and the beavens also themselves, are spoken of in Holy Scripture in illustration of spiritual facts. In the vast space and the boundless height of heaven, the Psalmist saw an image of that infinite love which compasseth all things living, but especially such as fear God, and of that unwearied mercy which is ever ready to listen to the prayers of the penitent. “As
9 See Similitude xxviii. First Series.