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be the trust and confidence of all such as have been unfaithful with God.
O Lord! who requirest“ truth in the inward parts, save me, I beseech Thee, from - all false ways“,"and the vain sophistries of a self-deceiving heart. Give me that true singleness of heart, and simplicity of purpose, which distinguished that faithful servant, of whom his Master said, “Behold an Israelite indeed, in whom is no guile!”
XXXIII.- THE NEGLECTED HOUSE.
“ By much slothfulness the building decayeth; and through idleness of the hands the house droppeth through." Eccles. x. 18.-See also Prov.
xxii. 13; xxiv. 30. SOME twelve months must have slipped away, since, in one of our summer walks, we visited
ancient mansion for the first time. We noticed then, that the rain had been suffered to find its way through several places of the roof; and that there were many signs of decay throughout the deserted chambers.
A few months afterwards, we were here again, and observed fresh proof of a ruinous neglect on the part of the absent owner of this mansion. And now that a winter has passed over the neglected building, we see that what it took long time to raise, is rapidly perishing; and that if no means are taken to repair the breaches, the house must soon become an utter ruin.
My child, while you grieve to see a noble mansion thus falling to decay, you may learn an useful lesson from such an instance of slothfulness, and neglect. Yonder house has not fallen to ruin on a sudden : but the damage began by neglecting to repair some trifling breach, a tile that was out of its place, or a gutter that required to be examined, and made good.
Thus it was that the rain found its way to the timbers, which soon rot, if not properly protected from it. It then penetrated the walls, and the cement was weakened, and the plaster began to fall off; and the building became unsafe, and its breaches so great that it is now hardly worth the labour, and expense, to stop them.
3 Ps. li. 6.
4 Ps. cxix. 104.
5 John i. 47.
Even so it is that vice insinuates itself by degrees into the soul, and grows upon us by almost insensible advances. Men do not fall at once into enormous sins, after leading pure and holy lives; but they begin by neglecting prayer, or allowing themselves in small deviations from the law of truth, or purity, or honesty; and thus, as the firmness of their resolutions is continually undermined, the signs of spiritual decay become more apparent, and they often end in some utter and fearful fall. 66 () how suddenly do they consume, perish, and come to a fearful end!”
The devil knows well that it would be useless to tempt a holy man with some flagrant and enormous sin, which would at once shock him by its grossness, and put him on his guard. He, therefore, tempts him to little declensions, and such shortcomings, in the exactness and strictness of his walk, as are scarcely perceptible at first, but lead, surely, to more palpable inconsistencies.
Remember, then, that a little care and vigilance in the beginning would, by God's gracious help, check this fatal progress of decay; and think how shameful it would be, if, through sloth in the beginning of temptation, we should suffer the breaches in the soul by degrees to become so great that it might seem a hopeless endeavour to repair them. Then, like a ruinous house, that is dangerous to all who shelter themselves under its roof, we shall be unprofitable to all around us, as well as lost to good ourselves.
o Ps. lxxiii. 19.
XXXIV.—THE RUSH, OR FLAG,
“Can the rush grow up without mire ? can the flag grow without
water ? Whilst it is yet in his greenness, and not cut down, it withereth before any other herb. So are the paths of all that forget God; and the hypocrite's hope shall perish.” Job viii. 11-13.
See also Job xx. 5. Matt. vi. 2. If you consider the rush, or flag, by yonder watercourse, you will see another emblem of that delusive hope which is likened to the spider's web?. It springs out of the mire; and its growth is as rapid as its greenness is bright
66 before the sun.” While the bed in which it grows is filled with the seasonable rains, it flaunts itself as if in scorn of the more valuable blade in the neighbouring furrow, and gains more notice from the uninstructed eye. Yet it is always a worthless plant; and as soon as the torrent is dried up by the heat of summer, it withers in a day. “Whilst it is yet in his greenness, and not cut down, it withereth before any other herb.
So,” says the inspired writer, recording the words of Bildad, “are the paths of all that forget God; and the hypocrite's hope shall perish.”
The hypocrite must have some rotten ground from which his hope may spring, as the flag out of the mire. This is either his false profession of religion, or a vain conceit of his own goodness, or a miserable trust in his present prosperity. It is a rotten ground, but it answers his purpose for a time. He is a green before the sun
may seem, even like a tree of the forest, to wrap his roots about the stones. But he is always worthless and unprofitable; and often, when he least expects it, is found out to be a hollow pretender, and a poor counterfeit
. He finds that forgetfulness of God is a fatal folly; and, in the season of shame and disgrace, repents bitterly that he did not root and ground himself in a surer soil, and bear such fruits as might have endured the searching trial which they were sure to undergo. 7 Similitude xxxii. Second Series. 8 Job viii. 16, 17. 9 Eph. iii. 17.
XXXV.—THE PITCHER BROKEN AT THE FOUNTAIN,
AND OTHER EMBLEMS OF OLD AGE.
“Remember now thy Creator in the days of thy youth, while the evil
days come not, nor the years draw nigh, when thou shalt say, I have no pleasure in them; while the sun, or the light, or the moon, or the stars, be not darkened, nor the clouds return after the rain: in the day when the keepers of the house shall tremble, and the strong men shall bow themselves, and the grinders cease because they are few, and those that look out of the windows be darkened, and the doors shall be shut in the streets, when the sound of the grinding is low, and he shall rise up at the voice of the bird, and all the daughters of musick shall be brought low; also when they shall be afraid of that which is high, and fears shall be in the way, and the almond-tree shall flourish, and the grasshopper shall be a burden, and desire shall fail : because man goeth to his long home, and the mourners go about the streets: or ever the silver cord he loosed, or the golden bowl be broken, or the pitcher be broken at the fountain, or the wheel broken at the cistern. Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was : and the spirit shall return unto God who gave it." Eccles. xii. 1–7.
Men put off the recollection of God, in the days of youth and strength, with an idea that they will not only have leisure but inclination to give themselves up to that serious duty, in the season of old age. To show the danger and vanity of this notion, Solomon reminds us of the calamities and infirmities of old age, by a great variety of figures or images which are not without some little obscurity to us, though their general meaning is plain, and they are full of touching and simple beauty
The infirmities of old age are often such that men have then no pleasure” in their days. “The sun, and the light,” and “the moon,” and “the stars,” are then “darkened. Men are then unable to enjoy the pleasantness of the light, and the beauties of nature, as formerly. Or rather, perhaps, the meaning is, the judgment, and memory, and imagination, those lights of the mind, are so impaired that they seem to be darkened, and extinguished. “The clouds also return after rain.” In youth, when the season of affliction was past, the soul was able again to feel the sunshine of joy; but now the rain is no sooner over, than the
clouds return, and no interval of comfort or enjoyment is experienced.
“ The keepers of the house tremble.” The hands and arms with which men defend themselves from assaults and accidents are now so feeble, that the house (the body) is exposed to continual danger. “The strong men bow themselves.” The shoulders, which were equal to almost any load, are now so bowed with continual weakness, that even “the grasshopper is a burden.” Or perhaps this means, that the legs which were once so active in their spring and tread, have now so lost their power, that instead of bearing the body unweariedly from place to place, they are themselves a burden; and can with difficulty be moved, one before the other.
“ The grinders cease, because they are few.” And 6 the doors are shut in the streets, when the sound of the grinding is low.” The teeth are now few, and incapable of fulfilling their office; and the voice also has in consequence become so indistinct that the door of the lips is not opened as formerly in the great assembly “ All the daughters of musick are brought low.” The ears, as well as the voice, have lost their capacity for the pleasure of music; and the mere 66 voice of a bird” is now sufficient to startle the ear that took delight in the swelling notes of those who play well on instruments. 66 Those also that look out of the windows are darkened.” The eyes by which the soul looked forth as from a window on the beauties of nature, are now so dim that they are to a great degree unserviceable. The aged person is afraid of " that which is high;" the least ascent in his path, or the many accidents that may befal him when he goes forth abroad. His head is become white and hoary, like an almond-tree.
And at length his declining powers fail altogether to perform their office; and the mourners going about the streets proclaim that “desire has indeed ceased;" and that the period of suffering and infirmity is closed.