Изображения страниц
PDF
EPUB

was the object of the Saviour's mission, to make the Gentiles; and in every place incense shall be fully and distinctly known to all the nations of offered unto my name, and a pure offering; for the world. And the whole of what intervenes my name shall be great among the heathen, saith between these two points,-between the promise the Lord of hosts,' Mal. i. 11. made in regard to the seed of the woman, while There was hardly anything which the Jews, the guilty progenitors of mankind were still linger- and even the apostles themselves, were more slow ing in the garden of Eden, and the fulfilment of to understand, than the great truth which these that promise in the fulness of time, was but the prophetic scriptures had foretold. It was in conprogressive unfolding of the great mystery of sequence with all the force of a discovery,—a disgodliness,—of that glorious plan of redemption covery made by a special revelation to his relucby which unto the Gentiles was at length to be tant mind,—that by the conversion of Cornelius, granted repentance unto life.

in all the remarkable circumstances detailed in When God said that by the seed of the woman the preceding context, the fact was at length the serpent's head should be bruised, he was mani- suddenly made to flash upon Peter, that “to the festly bestowing a blessing that was not to be Gentiles also God had granted repentance unto confined to one tribe or nation of Adam's pos- life.' Up to this time there had been a wall of terity. Accordingly, in the ages subsequent to separation between the Gentiles and the Jews.the flood, when men had for the second time but now it was done away in Christ. It had increased, and multiplied, and replenished the been set up to keep the idolatry of the heathen, earth; and when it pleased the Almighty to from coming in to corrupt Judea; it was taken choose out an individual, with whose personal down to give free course to the gospel, that from posterity the bringing of the promise to its final | Judea salvation might flow out to purify and accomplishment was to be immediately con- bless all the nations of the earth. And while the nected, there is the clearest intimation given, that former state of exclusiveness may teach the the blessing to be thus gradually revealed was Christian that, as one of God's chosen people, he not to be limited to one corner of the world; for is called to be separated from every unclean thing; to Abraham it was said, both in the plains of the latter state of free intercourse and communion Mamre and at Jehovah-jireh, “in thy seed shall may equally teach him that the privileges he has all the nations of the earth be blessed. And received, it is his bounden duty to do what in him further, when the descendants of Abraham had lies to extend to all his fellow-men. indeed, according to the prophecy, become as the But above all, while the text declares that sand of the sea-shore for multitude, and when there is now no covenant of peculiarity,—that in amid the peculiar privileges they enjoyed as the Christ there is neither Jew nor Greek, barbarian, immediate depositories of the revelation of God, Scythian, bond nor free, that salvation is equally they began to wax wanton, perverting the pro-accessible to all,—it proclaims this momentous mise for which they had been appointed to pre- fact, that the way to life lies through a vale of pare the way, and arrogating to themselves, as ex- tears,—that without repentance there is no salclusively their own, what was designed for the seed vation for the sinner. This repentance, like every of the woman without any such limitation, pro- other grace connected with the redemption of phets were from time to time raised up to expose the soul, is the free gift of God. From him it an error originating in national pride, and to pro- must be sought with earnest desire,—for till we claim the original and more universal object which see and sorrow over our sins, the offer of a Saviour the promise had in view. 'It is a light thing,' will be made to us in vain. And what is repentsaid the Lord, by the mouth of the prophet ance unto life? It is that “saving grace, whereby Isaiah, speaking of Messiah 700 years before his a sinner out of a true sense of his sin and apprecoming,—'it is a light thing that thou shouldst hension of the mercy of God, in Christ, doth with be my servant, to raise up the tribes of Jacob, and grief and hatred of his sin, turn from it unto to restore the preserved of Israel; I will also give God, with full purpose of and endeavour after thee for a light of the Gentiles, and that thou new obedience.' If we confess our sin in this mayest be my salvation to the ends of the earth,' lowly and contrite spirit, the Lord is faithful and Isa. xlix. 6. Indeed, this calling of the Gentiles is just to forgive us our sin, and cleanse us from all a prevailing theme throughout all the prophetic unrighteousness. books of Old Testament scripture,-and in the very latest of their number it is thus expressly foretold: • From the rising of the sun, even unto the going down of the same, my name shall be great among

row.

FOURTH DAY.-EVENING.

tended by his Maker to live in society, so his na*For godly sorrow worketh repentance to salva- ture has been endowed with all those sympathies

and affections which serve to bind the human tion not to be repented of: but the sorrow of the

family together. The endearments of social and world worketh death, 2 Cor. vii. 10.

domestic life which contribute so largely to our In our fallen estate the days of the life of man are earthly comfort and happiness could have had both few and evil, and sorrow accordingly is but no existence, had not social and domestic affecthe common lot of mortality. No doubt the cup tions been wisely and graciously implanted in the of suffering is very variously administered; the heart. But while these affections find from their measure may be less or more, and the ingredients very nature a lively enjoyment in the objects on may differ in the degree of bitterness, but still it whom they rest, an enjoyment which cheers and is a cup of which none are exempted from drink- animates the parent in every effort or sacrifice ing. The man, it is true, who is entirely absorbed which is necessary for his children's good, which in his own peculiar grief--and grief, when unsanc- makes him forgiving of their faults and patient of tified, is ever a most selfish passion—is ready to their waywardness, it at the same time belongs to conclude that no sorrow can be equal to his sor- these affections to be deeply wounded and grieved

Instead of reviewing the history of his by every affliction with which the objects of affecpast life and dwelling on the many mercies which tion are visited, and more especially by that mournhave been made to pass before him, contrasting ful event which ever and anon is taking them away. the extent of God's goodness with the measure of And is there anything sinful in this natural sorrow? his own ill desert,--instead of looking abroad to Assuredly no. Not to grieve in such circumcontemplate the condition of others, and allowing stances were to manifest an insensibility which himself to perceive how little his trial appears the apostle Paul in his Epistle to the Romans, when laid side by side with the misfortunes of and in his second Epistle to Timothy, expressly many others, at least as worthy as he can pretend specifies as one of the most decided indications of to be, of his fellow creatures; or instead of turn- moral depravity. To be without natural affecing to his bible, and learning from its instructive tion,' is in both these passages distinctly recorded page that affliction is the just inheritance of a as the most indisputable mark of a reprobate race by nature out of covenant with God while mind. But though there be nothing sinful in every blessing is an unmerited gift, instead of this natural sorrow, so neither is there necessarily allowing his meditations to take such salutary anything gracious. It may be but the quiet and directions as these, he centres his thoughts upon passive yielding to a power they cannot control, himself; and brooding in unsanctified bitterness of but not the meek resignation of a heart confiding soul over the loss he has sustained, or the suffer immovably in the wisdom, and rectitude, and ing he has been called to endure, the secret mur- faithfulness of God; a tame submission to the event, mur of his heart is, 'what have I done that this but not a cheerful acquiescence in the will of its should have been sent?' The purpose of God is great Disposer; a disposition to bear the stroke, either unthought of altogether, or is remembered but not to kiss the rod. only that its wisdom may be questioned and its But though sorrow of this kind is not therejustice denied. His conviction virtually amounts fore invariably followed by gracious effects,—its to this, that the selfish desire which providence tendency is of a salutary kind. “Sorrow is better has crossed, ought to have been gratified and than laughter, for by the sadness of the countentherefore that he has been wronged. His grief ance the heart is made better.' Man seldom rests accordingly is the complaining of a rebellious in the present, but is ever reaching forward into the spirit—a spirit that sees merit in himself on whom future; and accordingly the sorrows which assail the suffering has been inflicted, and wrong in that him here, lead him often to bethink himself in time order of things under which it has been permitted of the darker and more enduring sorrows of a state to befall him; a spirit, in a word, which justifies of eternal condemnation. It is thus the sorrow himself and accuses God. Such a sorrow can which may have begun in a temporal calamity, only harden the heart into a more obstinate im- is often blessed to terminate in sorrow for sin, penitence; it is that 'sorrow of the world which that common source of all the ills to which fesh worketh death.'

is heir. It is in this way that though no afflicThere is another kind of sorrow which though tion seemeth for the present to be joyous but quite distinct and different from that now des- grievous, yet afterwards it yieldeth the peaceable cribed, is not nevertheless the necessary precursor fruits of righteousness in them that are exercised of repentance to salvation. As man was in- | thereby. "The sorrows of death compassed me, and the pains of hell took hold on me; I found | tion we are taught to trace up every sorrow which grief and trouble.' Such was the experience of the has clouded this world to man's original apostacy psalmist under the fear of divine wrath. Then from God; that sin has been the fruitful cause called he upon the name of the Lord, saying, I of all our woe. And from the same source let us beseech thee, deliver my soul! And straight- rejoice that we are taught to know how those way he finds that 'godly sorrow worketh repent- very afflictions which proclaim that it is an evil ance to salvation;' a salvation in the conscious and a bitter thing to depart from the living God, possession of which he can now say, 'return unto are yet designed and fitted under the administrathy rest, O my soul, for the Lord hath dealt tion of his grace, to work out for us 'a far more bountifully with thee. Thou hast delivered my exceeding, even an eternal weight of glory. For soul from death, mine eyes from tears, and my even as in the natural world, the noxious vapours feet from falling. Being justified freely through exhaled from the surface of the earth are dispelled the redemption that is in Jesus, he can now say, by the storms they engender; so in the moral to that reconciled God of whose anger he was world, corrupted as it is by sin, the polluted atonce so terribly afraid : “Thou hast turned for mosphere that surrounds the believer's soul is me my mourning into dancing, thou hast put off purified by the same tempest of sorrow which my sackcloth and girded me with gladness.' prostrates, it may be, even the fondest of his

earthly hopes in the dust.

If indeed our hearts were right with God,-if

by nature we were living in that state of felt and FIFTH DAY - MORNING.

acknowledged dependence on his goodness and of

entire acquiescence in his holy will, which is the 'I shall go softly all my years in the bitterness of

only true position of the creature in reference to my soul, Isa. xxxviji. 15.

his Creator, then indeed prosperity, however great There is nothing which the wisdom of this its amount, would serve only to draw us nearer world is more completely at a loss to explain than to our divine Benefactor. Each new gift would the presence or the use of affliction. Nor ought be recognized as presenting a fresh claim on our this by any means to excite our surprise, for cer- gratitude, each new blessing as furnishing another tain it is that according to any other view of incentive to love and praise the Giver of all good. our condition and history than that which is Such is now and ever has been the fruit of prosunfolded in the word of God, affliction can be perity among the glorious hosts of heaven; and regarded only in the light of a most perplexing such throughout all eternity shall be its effects and unaccountable anomaly. And therefore until among the redeemed—whose rejoicing it will ever men consent to receive as infallible truth that be to give all the praise unto him that sitteth on mournful and humbling representation of their the throne, and to the Lamb, for ever and ever. own state and character which the holy scriptures But seeing that fallen man likes not to ‘retain exhibit, it will remain a mystery to mere human God in his knowledge,' temporal prosperity minphilosophy, why it is that man is of few days isters to the very pride and selfishness, in the and full of trouble.' But nevertheless as the fact indulgence of which his separation from God itself stands out clear and indubitable that we began. The spontaneous utterance of the unreare born to trouble, it surely is our wisdom to generate mind in regard to all outward prosperity learn, if it be possible at all, whence it arises and is, ' by the strength of my hand I have done it, what is the end it is designed to serve. Affic and by my wisdom, for I am prudent. Theretion cometh not forth of the dust, neither doth fore is this word written, “I spake unto thee in thy trouble spring out of the ground. Its existence prosperity, but thou saidst, I will not hear.' is not an accident,-its presence must be consist- Men are not naturally alive to the evils of their ent with the righteousness of the great moral spiritual condition, and do not naturally desire or Governor of the universe, and its application in care for spiritual blessings. What they shall every individual case must be regulated by a wis- eat and what they shall drink, and wherewithal dom that cannot err.

they shall be clothed,' these are the things which Turn we then away from the vain philosophy the nations of the earth seek after; and so long of man to that divine word which is “sure, making as the lusts of the flesh and the lusts of the eye wise the simple,' and all these “rough places' in and the pride of life are gratified; so long as they the path of providence shall be made plain,—all can say, “Soul, take thine ease, thou hast much these seemingly crooked things' shall at once goods laid up for many years;' so long are they become straight. By that blessed light of revela- | prone to answer any man who may reason with

them of righteousness and judgment to come in the which caused the young man to turn away sorlanguage of Felix : “When I have a convenient rowfully from Christ, was doubtless a hindrance season, I will call for thee.' It is not meant to his embracing the Saviour's cause, but that indeed, to affirm-far otherwise—that no man has riches did not render Christ less able nor less willever been converted unto God in a state of out- ing to save him. The poverty, on the other ward prosperity, or that the rod of affliction is the hand, of the fishermen of Galilee, who were his only instrument which the Spirit can employ to first disciples, left them free from many worldly break down his indifference or enmity to Christ. entanglements and seductions, which otherwise It is merely in reference to the native tendency might have interfered with that readiness they of such a condition these observations are made, discovered to obey the command to forsake all and all experience too well vindicates their truth. and follow Jesus; but that poverty did not make When was it Manasseh repented him that he had them heirs of his heavenly kingdom. Alas! a man made Judah to err, and to do worse than the may be poor as Lazarus, and yet proud as Lucifer. heathen? It was when he had been removed Destitute of almost every earthly comfort, and yet from his throne, taken away among the thorns, unconscious of any spiritual want: wretched in bound with fetters, and carried away unto Baby- his temporal estate, and more wretched still in the lon. When was it David was made to see how condition of his soul, and in his eternal prospects. grievously he had offended God? It was in the II. Again, “poorness of spirit' does not consist time of his deep distress, it was then the con- in that meanness, or moral cowardice, that shrinks fession was made : “Surely it was good for me to before every difficulty or danger, and falls in with have been afflicted, for before I was afflicted I whatever practices or principles may be prevailwent astray, but now have I kept thy law,' Psal. ing around. To have ‘no mind of our own' on cxix. And so deeply sensible was Hezekiah of religion and its duties, or to be ashamed to avow the salutary nature of that trial to which he had it, as remote from the disposition to which the been subjected in the form of a painful and dan- text refers, as is the dastard and craven spirit of gerous bodily disease, that he expressed his deter- the coward from the quiet and modest but dauntmination to bear the remembrance of it constantly less courage of the hero. To be spiritual with upon his mind. "I shall go softly,' said he, all the pious, and worldly with the carnal; to be fair my years in the bitterness of my soul.' The and candid with the upright and honourable, and recollection of his sufferings, while on the one

a backbiter with the malevolent; to be generous hand it would be a constant stimulus to grati- with the benevolent, and niggardly with the selfish; tude for the deliverance by which God had gra- to be all things to all men, in this perverted sense ciously removed them, so on the other hand it of the expression, is basely to accommodate reliwould be a continual warning not to return again gion to the varying sins and follies of the world; to folly. It would teach him to maintain a instead of seeking to bring the world in all its chastened and sober spirit; weeping as though ways to the pure and unvarying standard of he wept not, rejoicing as though he rejoiced not, religion. because the end of all things was at hand.

III. But having said something of what “poorness of spirit' is not, it is now time to observe, that it is a disposition which is ever prompting

the Christian to contrast what he is, with what he Fifth Day.-EVENING.

ought to be; which induces him not to think of himBlessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the self more highly than he ought to think, but rather

to esteem others better than himself. It is a diskingdom of heaven, Matt. v. 3.

position which undoubtedly will repress every Ir this be a disposition essential to every one who tendency to vaunt of bis own gifts and graces; is to inherit the kingdom of God, it is surely a but which will not diminish his zeal to maintain matter of unspeakable moment to understand its the honour of his Lord, whether it be through true nature, that so we may be in a condition to good report or through evil report. For exactly determine whether it have a place in ourselves. in proportion as it calls him to abase himself,

I. It is not to be 'poor in spirit,' merely to be under the realizing conviction of his being so vile poor in point of temporal possessions. The bles- and worthless, will it animate him to exalt that sings of Christ's kingdom are not confined to any Redeemer who is so high and so holy. particular class or condition of men.

The influence which this disposition exerts on the be differently straitened in themselves, but none Christian's own mind and character is both great and are, or can be, straitened in Christ. The riches valuable. Originating, as it does, in a deep-felt sense

Men may

of the alarming contrast between God's glorious

Sixti DAY.—MORNING. holiness, and his own guilt and moral perversity; "I tell you, Nay: but, except ye repent, ye shall between the large demands of his duty, and the scanty measure of his performance; it impels

all likewise perish, Luke xiii. 5. him by the very self-dissatisfaction it creates, to Who these Galileans were to whose death the forget the things which are behind, and to reach text refers, and what were the circumstances that forward to those things which are before, and to led to the tragical event related concerning them, press towards the mark for the prize of the high are points as to which scripture supplies no exact calling of God, in Christ Jesus our Lord. His information. It would seem they had been suiscourse is like that of the traveller climbing some pected of some treasonable design against the giant mountain, where every step he makes serves Roman power; and that to punish their supposed only to show him more clearly the extent and crime, and to strike terror into the minds of difficulty of the task he has begun. Looking others, Pilate, the governor, had sent his soldiers down, it seems after all his efforts as if he were into the court of the temple, at the very instant scarce elevated above the plain; but looking up, when the unhappy Galileans were slaying the the towering summit on which his eye is fixed, victims they had brought up to offer at the feast, seems as if it had lifted itself higher into the cutting them down without trial and without heavens. His condition is similar to his who has warning, presenting the appalling spectacle to the been brought from the full blaze of the noon-day bystanders, of the worshippers' own blood mingling sun into a dimly lighted chamber, where his in one ruddy stream with the blood of the slain unaccustomed eye at first can discern nothing beasts they were presenting in sacrifice. clearly: for dark, indeed, is the inner chamber of But while such a sight may have been fitted the heart, and ill qualified is the carnal eye to to awe the people into submission to the Roman penetrate the gloom which shrouds, in its secret yoke, it was also fitted to make a strong impres recesses, the sinful passions, the impure desires, sion on those superstitious feelings, which in all the grovelling thoughts that make it their unholy countries, and in all ages, are found to have so habitation. But if that eye has once been touched deep a seat in the popular mind. When the ship with the eye-salve of the Spirit, and turned to of Tarshish, in which Jonah was vainly attemptlook within; the longer and the more stedfast its ing to flee from the presence of the Lord, was gaze, the more fully will the soul's depraved and overtaken by the tempest, these feelings led the polluted condition be seen. Sins at first totally sailors at once to adopt the conclusion, that some overlooked, will come one after another into light; one on board had incurred the divine displeasure, and the poor in spirit becomes poorer still, in pro- and that it was on this account they were placed portion as he becomes better acquainted with God in such imminent peril. In like manner, when on the one hand, and with himself on the other. the viper was seen fastening on Paul's hand, in To slacken, therefore, in the onward course to the island of Melita, the same feelings prompted which this disposition impels him, is impossible, the natives to say, "No doubt this man is a murso long as the disposition itself remains. It urges derer, whom, though he hath escaped the sea, him with increasing force to supply the emptiness yet vengeance suffereth not to live. And when every day is rendering more obvious in himself, the Jews, in the case to which the text alludes, by drinking more deeply of the fulness that is in 'told our Saviour of the Galileans, whose blood Christ. Teaching him all his own weakness, it Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices, it is excites him to cherish a more humble and habitual plain from his reply, that they had been disposed dependence on the arm of his Almighty King. to regard the event in the same point of view; as Revealing to him his own nakedness, it stirs him up if it were a proof, that their death was to be to covet the more earnestly the white raiment of regarded in the light of a special judgment upca the finished righteousness of Christ. In a word, their sins. When individuals are seen to be visited it is a disposition, which the more holy he by some very marked and severe affliction or becomes, moves him the more humbly to exclaim adversity, the instinctive suggestion of natural with the apostle, 0 wretched man that I am, conscience is, that there must be a reason for the who shall deliver me from the body of this trial, and that the reason must be sought in the death?

character and life of the immediate sufferers. Blessed, then, are the poor in spirit, for theirs And if there were no hereafter,—if the whole is the kingdom of God. It is theirs in its pre- course of God's moral administration were comsent grace; it is theirs in the hope, and the earnest pleted in the present world, there would be good *** future and everlasting glory.

ground for adopting the suggestion of conscience,

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »