But the Lord had watched and ! word and of the mysterious ways in guided, led and saved that sinful which He seeks and saves the lost, man, and he stood forth a monument and an additional encouragement to of the guiding providence and sav every child of God to accept each ing grace of God.

dispensation of His providence with Is not this true narrative an illus that spirit of meekness and trust tration of the protecting care of the which shall make us fitted to be almighty God? Is it not a proof of used of the Lord, as the vessels of the safety of trusting in Him, an His mercy, and the messengers of example of the power of His living | His grace to the world ?



“And let all the people say, Amen.”—Ps. cvi. 48. A NATION is like a tree. Its deeds are fruits, and its words are leaves. Leaves are few or many, according to the vigour and health of the tree. So are words; barbarous and ignorant peoples have small vocabularies, civilized and educated ones the reverse. Leaves are useful to the tree; it cannot exist without them. So are words; we cannot dispense with them. They are the grand media of communication, not only between man and man, but man and God. Horne Tooke main tained that words are almost essential to thought; certainly they are very helpful to it. He without whom "ye can do nothing is called “The Word.” His words are “words of eternal life.” Leaves past through many changes. Size, shape, colour all alter in the various seasons. So do words. The word, “let," for instance, now signifie permission, or power; but formerly it meant the very opposite, 1 hindrance. Leaves die. So do words. The law of mortality affect man's speech as well as himself. Hence we often allude to “ deat languages.”

The word Amen is an illustration of our meaning. It has a history full of instruction and interest. A few indications of its birth an growth may not be out of place. To understand it, we must go, for moment, to its root, or primitive significance. The root, or origina meaning, of almost every Hebrew word has reference to some merel physical fact from which it has gradually risen to a higher position Thus, the word signifying, “ to bless," means literally to kneel. Bu inasmuch as when men blessed or praised God, or sought to draw dow a curse from heaven on their fellow-men, they kneeled, it came to mea both to bless and to curse. By reason of this double signification of th word, a curious controversy has arisen in reference to the words Job's wife, some affirming that it should be read, “Bless God and die, and others, as in the authorized version, “ Curse God and die.” Th original meaning of the word Amen had reference to the material.] signified firm, durable, lasting. “I will build him . a sure house

“His waters shall be sure.” In course of time, like other words, Amen came to have a higher, even a social meaning. As what is firm and secure is able to bear and carry other things, it at length described carrying. “A nursing father:" "Naomi took the child and became nurse.Next it was promoted to the honour of an intellectual office, and signified trustiness or skill. “He removeth away the speech of the trusty.” Then it was raised to the dignity of an ethical use. As what is truthful and upright is firm, it came to mean trust and faith. “Who hath said Amen to our report?” Finally it acquired an ecclesiastical import, and is now commonly employed in the well-known sense of, “ Truly; so be it; so let it be!”

The term as expressive of a sublime submission to the will of God, is applicable to three things. In reference to the Divine commands, providence, and gospel, with heart as well as voice, “ let all the people say, Amen." I. To God's COMMANDS “ let all the people say, Amen.”

The argument for this is palpable. “The law of the Lord is perfect.” How? By being wholly right and wholly beneficial.

1. The Divine commands are wholly right.

There is such a thing as absolute right, essential right, eternal right. Nothing can alter it. It asserts its supremacy everywhere. Coeval with the Supreme One Himself, it is immutable. To wit; under no circumstances, at no period, in no place, can it be right to utter a falsebood. Truth is evermore an imperative duty. It is not possible for immorality to be rendered innocent. Prevarication carries with it a visible self-condemnation. The world is uncreated in which it is other than debasing and infamous to forge and fabricate lies. Now “the statutes of the Lord are right;" in utter harmony with absolute right. Things are not so much right because they are commanded, as commanded because they are right. Were we able to see absolute recti. tude, looking at it as upon an elaborate architectural plan, we should find, on comparing it with the edifice of God's laws, that the latter is a wonderful and minute reflex on the former. What a grand, what an inspiring thought! How ennobling to think, when we perform any duty, that weare bringing ourselves into accordance with that unalterable and unalloyed righteousness which is the Divinely sanctioned rule and law of created beings, everywhere and everywhen. On this ground well may “all the people say Amen” to God's laws.

2. The Divine commands are wholly beneficial. . In keeping of them is great reward.” The decalogue, for instance, is invaluable. We cannot, without prejudice to our well-being, dispense with one of the ten commandments. None of them are effete. Whatever some may say about their adaptation to the Hebrews in their infantine state, and their unfitness for us in our mature civili. zation, experience goes dead against such finespun theories. The individual or the nation that despises them comes, sooner or later, to grief. It is imposible to violate the moral code with impunity. When Id France quiver and quail beneath the iron rod of capricious cruelty

and lawless lust? Every one knows. It was when religion was denounced as a superstitious blunder, and piety rendered illegal. Then the notorious guillotine committed its wholesale atrocities, and neither age nor sex afforded a shield to the victims of republican iniquity. Think, too, of nations in our own day. Turkey, for example. It is nothing in the scale of influence. Its power is a mere empty shadow. The name by which it is often described indicates its condition ;~"The sick man of Europe.” Yes, sick, indeed, “ sick unto death;” sick in spite of all props and pillows, proferred by surrounding peoples; sick, although sundry political cordials have been administered, and divers diplomatic doctors have volunteered their aid. None can marvel at it. How should it not be sick when sensuality is the prevailing practice and idleness the curse of its people ? Turn to America. A solemn instance does she afford of the fact that “it is an evil and a bitter thing to depart from the Lord.” The children of this generation cannot forget that slavery has well-nigh been the ruin of her. She permitted the accursed Achan of man-stealing, and fearful indeed was the penalty which she paid for it. The United States were riven. Blood flowed like water. Long years of fierce fighting were the chastisement of the enormous sin. On the other hand, obedience to the Divine commands insures national greatness and prosperity. Christianity has been the life, not more of individuals than of peoples. As an illustration of this, Dean Stanley refers us to the significant occurrences which followed the so-called conversion of Constantine. Within a short time after that event public reforms were achieved, “such as not even the Antonines had ventured to attempt." The year after the avowal of the emperor's conversion, the Edict of Toleration was passed. Then came, in rapid succession, the decree for the observance of Sunday, the abolition of the punishment of crucifixion, the encouragement of slave emancipation, the prohibition of cruel and licentious rites, and the veto against the infamous gladiatorial games, Remembering thus the voice of history, wisdom as well as piety stimulates us to cry “ Amen” to God's laws.

II. To God's PROVIDENCE “let all the people say, Amen.”

This is hard, very hard. The difficulty lies in the word “all." When we are prosperous, we find it easy to say, Amen ; but when we are in adversity, we are slow sincerely to do so. Yet “all." poor as well as rich, the sorrowful not less than the joyful, are to do it. Nor need we marvel that this is required. If we come to look into it, there is nothing to stagger our reason here. It is alike good policy and good principle to say, Amen to God's providence. Why?

To do otherwise is thoughtless. Sometimes we have heard much about “the balance of power" in Europe. Many deny that we need trouble ourselves with any such idea ; others as vehemently take an opposite course. However that may be, the phrase serves to remind us of a fact both humiliating and consolatory. In the Divine government there is a “ balance of power.” A law of compensation is at work Weal and woe are more evenly distributed than is commonly imagined

No person, class, or condition has a monopoly of either the blissful or the baleful. One thing is set over against another. Thus ; in spite of all that poets, philosophers, and preachers have said to the contrary, most of us persist in looking with envious eye upon the wealthy, highborn, and influential. Yet a very little reflection will serve to show that if we were to assume their position, we should entail on ourselves not only some advantages but many evils. Bitter and sweet must go together. As a number of soldiers were passing through a defile, General Cherin sought to cheer and stimulate them. One cried out peevishly, “It is all very well for you who have a horse to ride on; but w " Cherin dismounted and made the murmurer take his place. No sooner had he done so than he was shot by the foe. “You see," said the general to the survivors," the most elevated position is not the least dangerous.” A significantly symbolic occurrence, truly, Appropriate to human experience were the words of Ovid:

. The tallest pines most feel the power
Of wintry blasts; the loftiest tower

Comes heaviest to the ground;
The bolts that spare the mountain's side,
His cloud-capped eminence deride,

And spread the ruin round.” A good man in a sea of troubles is in a condition infinitely preferable to that of a bad man nursed in the lap of luxury, housed magnificently, and “faring sumptuously every day." He has an inward calm, he can boast a well-spring of bliss, his is a majesty of demeanour, which the world has no power to destroy. A memorable example of this is supplied in the career of Bernard Palissy. When in the dungeon of the Bastile, Henry III. offered him his liberty on condition of his recanting Protestantism. “My worthy friend," said the monarch, "you have now been forty-five years in the service of my mother and myself. We have suffered you to retain your religion amid fire and slaughter. I am now so pressed by the Guises and my people, that I find myself compelled to deliver you into the hands of your enemies, and to-morrow you will be burnt, except you recant.” “Sire," said the old man, “I am ready to give up the remainder of my life for God's honour. You have told me several times that you pity me, and now in turn I pity you, pity you for using the words, 'I am compelled.' It was not spoken like a king. They are words which neither you nor the Guises nor the people shall ever make me utter.” Let every servant of God behold here, as in a mirror, the native dignity and bliss of all true piety ; let it help him to say, Amen to Providence,

To do otherwise is useless. Where is the profit of rebelling against God's sovereign dealing? It effects no change. How can fretting and murmuring benefit us? They leave things as they found them. It is vain to oppose the inevitable. Nay, it is worse than uşeless : it is injurious. It increases, instead of alleviating, our misery. Yonder are two captives. Both are imprisoned, manacled, and guarded. But look! what a difference between them. While one sits quietly and

calmly on his rude seat, the other, breathless and palpitating, lies exhausted on the ground. Nor is that all. His hands and feet are bruised; there are ugly and cruel scars on his head. How comes this to pass ? The former has borne his unavoidable bondage patiently; the latter has dashed himself upon the floor in a frenzy of excitement, and beaten himself against the iron bars of his cell in fruitless rage. How foolish! After all his insane gesticulations and eccentric move. ments, he is still in jail; his restlessness has done nothing for him, but much against him. Neither does our lack of submission. “Our strength is to sit still,” bearing it as well as we can. An oak that had been rooted up by the winds was borne down the stream of a river, on the banks of which many reeds were growing. The oak wondered to see that things so slight and frail had stood the storm, when so great and strong a tree as itself had been rooted up. “ Cease to wonder," said the reed, “you were overthrown by fighting against the storm, while we are saved by yielding and bending to the slightest breath that blows." Yes; it is eminently advantageous to say, Apaen to the darkest dispensations of Providence.

To do otherwise is forgetful. It ignores the oft-repeated doctrine that out of our trials God perfects our good. When we murmur al sorrow, we cease to remember that it is through “much tribulation' that all kingdoms worth occupying are entered. The bondage of the Jews worked out their deliverance from Egypt and their possessioi of happy Canaan. Joseph's imprisonment was an indispensable threa in the cord by which his future prosperity was secured. David, pur sued by Saul and harassed by Absalom, was thus made a beneficen monarch and a sympathetic poet. Nay, do we not all see from ou individual experience how curses are converted into blessings ? Th hand of suffering has again and again crowned our heads with joy filled our cup of peace to the overflowing, and arrayed us in “the garmen of praise." Be this borne in mind during our trials, and surely it wil enable us to look heavenward and cry, Amen.

III, To God's GOSPEL“ let all the people say, Amen."

The good news of free and full pardon through the sacrifice of Chris and in answer to prayer-be that kept intact. We must take it just as i is. Nothing must be added, nothing removed. It is neither too larg nor too small, and woe to us if we attempt to alter it. Yet, withou breach of charity, it may be said, some do. The two extremes doctrine, Ritualism and Rationalism, refuse to cry Amen to the simple pure “ truth in Jesus." The first is dissatisfied with the cross, on th ground of its simplicity. It is too plain. Adornments must be used Therefore the ritualist begins to carve it into a more elegant shape; h gilds portions of it, polishes and paints other parts. He goes to th sepulchre of Christ and meddles even with it. The stone must I chiselled, forsooth; the door ornamented with a pair of brazen gate and an elaborate portico is built over them. Priests, provided wit incense, are set to watch near, arrayed in all the gaudy spiritu millinery and vulgar ecclesiastical drapery so much in vogue. As

« 上一页继续 »