Зображення сторінки


way there."

WHAT are they ? Few know. What and circles ; a serpent winds along a do they mean ? Fewer still can say. devious course ; a ship sails first on The significance of the words which this tack, then on that; so that you record them is woefully misunder- can never predict, from a partial stood. Even those who see this force survey, in what direction they will often fail to appreciate their con- ultimately turn. And, in like mannexion. Depend upon it, good ner, when a young man would gain reader, here is a negleeted plot of the affections of a maiden and secure ground. Seldom is it disturbed by her for his own, instead of at once the spade of inquiry. It is almost going straight to his object and aska stranger to the ploughshare of re- ing for her hand, he fetches a comflection. The more is the pity. Is pass; like an eagle, he flies in cirall scripture given for our profit ? cles; like a serpent, he takes a deThen this portion may become help- vious course ; like a ship, he goes ful to us.

Neglect is most unjusti- first on this tack, then on that; and fiable.

carries himself in general as if the As the Psalms are a collection of longest way round were the shortest ancient hymns by different authors, so, most likely, the book of Proverbs All experience bears out the fact are, as Earl Russell puts it," the wis- thus variously illustrated. Impresdom of many.” Solomon gathered sive exemplifications soon suggest up and put into a portable form the themselves. Christ's life is a case in wise saws that were on the lips and point. Not when He formally apin the writings of the Hebrew people. pealed to men did He win His chief That many were his own is not for a

power over them. His greatest inmoment denied, but that all were fluence was secured by His character is palpably contrary to evidence. and conduct. Take a few instances. Among others we hear “the words What made the dying thief penitent? of Agur the son of Jakeh," and in Had Christ spoken to him? Not a the course of his sayings he gives us word. It was, among other things, these : « There

“There be three things the sublime love displayed in praying which are too wonderful for me, yea, for His murderers that softened the four which I know not: the way of malefactor's hard heart. When did an eagle in the air ; the way of a the apostle's cry, “Lord, teach us to serpent upon a rock; the way of a pray ?” It was after Jesus had ship in the midst of the sea; and prayed. He had not been telling the way of a man with a maid.” them to ask His guidance in suppliOnly let us get the right clue to all cation. His own devotions led them this and we shall pronounce it ad- to seek it. How came it to pass mirable.

that the Seventy cast out devils ? No

command to that effect had been I. INDIRECT MEANS ARE OFTEN given. But just before they made SUCCESSFUL MEANS. Each of the the successful attempt they had witthings named in these verses is dif- nessed the Saviour do the same, and ferent. In some respects they are a

it stimulated their faith and courage. total contrast. In one particular, It is so still. The principle in however, they all agree. As it has question applies to the work of our been said: “Neither an eagle nor a sanctification. We often get good serpent, neither a ship nor the man in when we are not trying to do so, At question, go straight to their object. times when we neither pray nor sing, The eagle flies in unexpected curves when we neither read nor meditate

I tell you



on the Bible, (blessed as all these doing below. She had a sort of fiend privileges are), we grow in grace. for a husband—a rough, brutal shipToil for Christ makes us more like master. She was universally called Him. Usefulness strengthens. Be- “mother.” She literally, day and nevolence promotes piety. When night, went about doing good. I we stoop to the depths of man's sor- do not suppose all the ministers in row we rise to the height of divine the town where she lived carried conexcellence. Philanthropy fans the solation to so many hearts as she flames of spiritual life. To borrow did If a person was sick or dying, an image from nature : the banyan the people in the neighbourhood did tree sends out a large number of not think of sending for any one else immense branches. Some of them half so soon as for her. are known to reach for a quarter of there was not much chance for an a mile. At the end of each branch infidel to make headway there. a root grows which descends, fastens Where there is a whole church made in the earth, and becomes a support- up of such Christians as she was, ing stem. Nor is it otherwise with infidelity cannot thrive.” the tree of Christian experience. Each branch of usefulness secures II. God's WORKS new supports and helps.

MARVELLOUS AND MYSTERIOUS.— The subject bears another aspect. “There be three things that are too Not only in getting but in doing wonderful for me." Each is marvelgood, indirect means are frequently lous. “The way of an eagle in the the most effectual. Tracts are often air.” How heavy it is; sometimes laid aside unread. Sermons are an eagle weighs twenty pounds, yet ridiculed. Bibles get covered with it flies. Moreover, the air resists it, dust through neglect. But is a really but up it goes. Its speed, too, is noble, holy life, ever lost ? Surely almost incredible. Its wings move not. Genuine excellence always tells at the rate of a hundred and fifty in the long run.

We win to Christ strokes a minute. “The way of a when we live for Christ. The best serpent upon a rock.”

It has no evidences of religion are living epis- feet, like an animal ; no wings like tles. Henry Ward Beecher remarks : a bird; no fins like a fish; yet it “I would give more for one poor moves along. The


of à ship woman, whose poverty only makes in the midst of the sea." By a skilher laugh and sing; who is con- ful arrangement of sails and use of tented with her humble lot ; who the helm it is impelled sometimes bears her burdens with cheerfulness; by the very winds that are dead who is patient when troubles come against it. Yes, nature and human upon her; who loses every one, and nature are, as the son of Jakeh says, who, with a kind and genial spirit, full of wonders. We need not wangoes about doing good, than for all der far for the astounding and thrilthe dissertations on the doctrines of ling. They are close to us. Why Christianity that could be written, art thou digging here ?” says the as a means of preventing infidelity. Arab to the Eastern who has wanI have seen one such woman who dered far from Palestine, “the soil was worth more than the whole is hard and the wild beasts haunt church to which she belonged, and the rocks." “ Why ?” replies the its minister put together; and I was Eastern ; “ this is the treasurethe minister, and my church was the ground, a lost city is buried here: church ! She lived over a cooper- the Ethiopian merchants who come shop. The floor of her apartment this way told the secret.”

“ Haste was so rude and open that you could thee and flee,” cries the Arab, “the sit there and see what the men were gold lies in thine own field.” To be

[ocr errors]

sure," in thine own field.” Marvels are to be found in nature also. Difabound in “thine own field” of ob- ficulties meet us in creation not less servation and experience. Well than in revelation. The atheist is sings Keble

more consistent than the deist. “Thou who hast given me eyes to see, And love this sight so fair, Give me a heart to find out Thee,

III. NATURE ILLUSTRATES GRACE. And read Thee everywhere."

Eagle and serpent, ship and man But if the divine dealings are won- remind us of useful spiritual lessons. derful they are also mysterious. “The way of an eagle in the air.” Agur adds, " yea, four which I know It is almost impossible to think of not.” Here, in order to see the force this without recalling Isaiah's noble of the passage we must emphasize words, “ They that wait upon the the close of each clause ; the


Lord shall renew their strength; of the eagle in the air ; the way of a they shall mount up with wings as serpent upon a rock; the way of a eagles.” Observe the qualifying ship in the midst of the sea." "The expression, “Wait on the Lord. eagle soars in the air with so lofty That means prayer. Prayer is one and rapid a flight, that the eye can- of the chief supports of religious life. not follow her way. She leaves no As Montgomery has it, “The Chrisscent or footsteps by which we might

tian's vital breath.” We prosper so trace her, as the beast on the ground. far as we are devout. Neglect comThe serpent on the sand would leave munion with God, and all soon goes its mark. But the serpent on the wrong. Nothing can be plainer. rock leaves no slime like the worm, Dear reader, give this fact its due no feathers like the birds; who then weight. Be habitual in supplication. can mark its way? The ship, like Let nothing interfere with it. When the great monster of the deep, once we become careless about the maketh a path to shine after her." mercy-seat the knell of our peace But while she ploughs in the midst and progress is struck. The Rev. of the sea, her furrows are quickly W. Arnott tells us of a brickmaker closed up, and her way is untrace- whom he observed at work digging able. As to “the way of a man clay. He had to raise it from a with a maid,” who can altogether lower to a higher level by means of a explain human love ? How comes it spade. After throwing up each to pass that such as have been spadeful he dipped the spade in a strangers to each other meet and in pail of water. As much time was the course of a short time are bound occupied in dipping as in digging. together in the sacred bonds of affec- But it was quite necessary, for othertion? Verily, nature abounds with wise the spade would have been mysteries. We soon get to the end clogged with clay. We have to do of our tether in seeking to under- with humanity, which is the clay of stand her. The why and the where- which God is the potter. Our work fore, the when and the how of much is to lift it from depths of degradais hidden from us. Speaking of Sir tion to heights of excellence. To do William Thompson's inaugural ad- this successfully, however, we must dress at the British Association in keep our spirits clean and pure by a Edinburgh, one of the daily news- baptism of prayer. papers says, “ Such are the guesses

The way of a serpent upon a of science." An appropriate phrase.rock.”

rock." Can we read that phrase We know little, we guess at much. and not recollect the Master's comThe wisest is but a child. “Tbou mand,

wise as serpents.” art a God that hidest thyself.” How Alas, how often we disobey it. We unreasonable, then, is it to reject the make sad blunders sometimes. Our Bible because of its mysteries. They work for Christ is often marred by

Be ye

serious mistakes. Did men use no upon conformity to the desires and greater tact and skill in business the decrees of the Most High. than they frequently bring to church As to the way of a man with a affairs, there would be more bank- maid,” the lesson here is not far to rupts made and fewer fortunes seek. Human beings love each other. amassed than there are. Surely the Every“ man ” has“

a way ” of affecsame ingenuity should be manifested tion to his fellows; therefore we can, in the management of ecclesiastical if we will, love God. The fact that matters as is displayed in "worldly” we give our hearts to those around things.

us proves that we can give them to Comfortable and attractivechapels; Him who is above us. When we courtesy and attention to strangers refuse to do so, our conduct towards who find their way thither ; spirit our equals rebukes us. To quote and appropriateness in the psalmody the impressive utterances of a living of the various services; promptness divine-"Men's virtues, no less than and regularity in the conducting of their sins, nay more than their sins, finances-these are instances of a condemn their lack of piety toward wisdom worthy of cultivation. Well God. God asks love. He 18, would it be for us and others if our “Son, give me thine heart.” He course was more like “the way of teaches us that to love Him, and to a serpent upon a rock.”

love one another, comprises the whole But “the way of a ship in the duty of man. Does He, in asking midst of the sea. What about it? love, ask more than we can give ? Are we not nonplussed here ? Can Do we not love them that love us ? we moralise about it? Where is the Are we not grateful to those who spiritual instruction to be derived show pity and do us kindness ? Are from it? Well, if there are “ser- we not so made that we must ? Do mons in stones

we may not despair we not call him inhuman, i.e. no of finding sermons in ships. Let us more a man, who is thankless to see. A ship, that is a common thing, benefactors and unloving to those a very ordinary sight. But has it ever who love him? We have, then, the occurred to you to ask how the ship capacity of love ; we daily manifest came into existence ? What was its and prove it. Nor is God unworthy origin? In the answer to this in- of it. No benefactor has so helped quiry there is an illustration of a us; no friend has so loved us; no religious duty. Some tell us that father has so cared for us. He therethe ship was first suggested by the fore has the right to ask for gratibeautiful and curious nautilus; tude and love; in asking for them, hence we speak of nautical affairs He only asks what we continually and nautical men. Others


that prove ourselves able to give. If we it was suggested by the graceful refuse, what further proof will be swan; its breast the hull, its webbed needed that we have deserved confeet the oars, and its wings the sails. demnation, than the deeds of love For one of his most useful inventions, which have adorned our lives? The then, man had to go to nature. She very things that have been most adprovided the model. To speak more mirable and lovely in us, will bear plainly, he had to bring himself and swift witness against us.” his work into harmony with the God forbid that such should be laws of God. Therefore," the way the destiny of one who reads this of a ship in the midst of the sea, page. Let us resolve that it shall echoes the Saviour's words, “ Thy not. "Yield yourselves to God.” will be done." Both as regards soul Be love to Christ the motive-power and body, secular and spiritual affairs, of our lives. Seek

ye my face and our prosperity and progress depend 'live.”


I. THEY sounded the trumpets; all were glad. They opened the prison doors; men walked forth free. The old patrimony was received back, and the bondsman felt himself again an honourable citizen of the commonwealth. The year of Jubilee had come, and the whole land of Israel was triumphant in its joy. To its dawning many a heart had sped with the fleet pinions of ardent anticipation. In the joy of hope many a family saw itself again tilling the dear old vineyard, and only became the more restless as the year seemed so slowly drawing on. The darkest hour just precedes the dawn; and so by the heart wearied with longing, and well nigh consumed by hope, it is the feeblest in the immediate presence of the consummation of its joy. It is the first glimmering of the dawn that calls forth the welcome of the world; and so, by the human heart, it is the first manifestation of the fact that dissipates its gloom. Such gloom and such gladness would more or less pervade the national heart of Israel !

How will such a picture represent the hopes and fears of universalChristendom? How will such a picture foreshadow the jubilee of the Christian world? How long has the gospel been preached to men ! How long have the oblations of sincere and fervent prayer been offered unto God! How long have the “ stewards of His grace" toiled unceasingly in the hard soil and barren desert of the world's mortality? As the morning has dawned the dresser of the vineyard has looked and thought he saw a glorious sunset! In the evening gloom he has watched the sky, and assured himself that the morning would be bright!“ Hope on, hope ever,” has been the motto he has followedo its sentiment and principle combined have made up the atmosphere of his heart. The arrival of the object of his wishes would be the rejoicing of his heart.

The rejoicing of his heart would send forth the trumpet-blast of jubilee. As by one, so by all ? the course of one sincere, earnest, and hopeful heart would be the sample of the whole, the indication of what is passing silently and unseen in the heart of the Christian church.

What is the world's jubilee? It is the world's rejoicing at the world's freedom. This may be considered in the universal aspect. Is there anything to warrant a hope for such a consummation as a

universal rejoicing because of a universal freedom? Centuries ago, the monk toiled on and on at his copy of the Sacred Word. Despite the trappings of a mediaval Christendom, he had some knowledge of and some hopein the spread of the truth of Christ. It is quite true he thought his church the depository of all truth, and in some sort believed himself to be gifted by the Holy Ghost to help toward the subjugation of his land to his belief : and it was just that sincerity of heart which was, in the hands of God, the means of making the man a benefit to the after ages.

In many a monastery and in many an abbey the word of God was stowed away-and to one who could have come from some other world, there would have seemed no chance of a free worship and an open word of God. The freedom of to-day is but the development of the many purposes of the human mind, it is but the result of the secret and mysterious working of the power of God. The fact of such a change is our warrant for the hope of such a consummation.

But what is comprehended in the change which we so happily enjoy ? We must remember that the world, like our human life, has to pass through very many phases, and that each phase has its special share in her education. Though there is a glorious change, we have not yet come to the era when the world can truthfully pronounce herself - free.”

As yet the sounds which come from every side, tell the tale of the world's unrest. 'Tis like the sea “ driven by the winds and tossed”-each wave hissing against each, and no one riding conqueror. What is the character of the agitation of the present time? We have but two stand-points from which to get a glance. At home we have the one, abroad we have the other. And the two views present but the same picture. Everywhere there is a weariness of the old worn out “ologies” and “isms.” Men are fighting with stern will against the obstructors and obstructions to enlightenment and truth. And the universal arm seems determined to possess the universal boon. Here and there are great shoutings. But the agitation and shouting are only the foam and spray of the gently ruffled tide; the deep world of thought rolls on calm and steady in her true development. She is too busy to make a noise. She is too much in earnest to be disturbed by the howlings of fanatics, or the splutterings

« НазадПродовжити »