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bring a cloud over the earth, the bow shall be seen in the cloud." This passage is very suggestive of higher and spiritual truths which it is adapted to teach. We are reminded by it of other clouds, and of other tokens of a better covenant, which tokens ought to assure us that these spiritual clouds-clouds of trouble and sorrow-shall not overwhelm us, but shall prove only the means and the medium of richer blessing to our souls. Let us notice some of the spiritual clouds which often arise and spread themselves over our path. Such are afflictions—personal and relative; and at such a time, how often are our souls cast down, and our spirits disquieted within us! What gloomy thoughts pervade and possess us, and what fears and forebodings will sometimes appal us! Under such circumstances, Hezekiah not only turned his face to the wall, but he cried mightily unto God for the lengthening of his life; and when the answer of peace was returned-when the bright bow of hope was seen scattering the gloom-he was heard to confess, "Behold, for peace I had great bitterness." It was as if in his affliction the pains of hell gat hold upon him, and he was not able to look up; but when the threatened destruction was past, the song of praise and thanksgiving burst forth from his lips: "Thou, Lord, hast in love to my soul delivered it from the pit of corruption, for thou hast cast all my sins behind thy back." Thus did he welcome the bow in the cloud, and was seen to go on his way rejoicing. Other of these clouds consist in temptations from our great adversary. How many of these-and how many times during our life-have filled us with fear, and robbed us of peace? Job could speak feelingly of clouds of this nature. To him in his prosperity that enemy came in as a flood. Truly, Satan not only desired, but was permitted to have him and to sift him as wheat, and we know from his own lips something of the thick dark clouds which then rested and settled on his path. This is shown us, not only in the words which poured forth curses on the day of his birth, but also in his longing desires, and earnest search after God, his Saviour-" I go forward, but He is not there; backward, but I cannot perceive Him; on the left hand, where He doth work, but I see Him not."
These were clouds deep and dark, but yet (as we learn from his experience) there, in the midst of them, the bow of heaven was seen. And how blessed was the issue! Even in earthly things the Lord prospered the latter end of Job more than the beginning; and in spiritual things how much richer he had become by his
But again, another dark cloud requiring this bow may be (as it often is) inward corruption. How many of these overshadow us! Yea, what worse than earthly damps, and what mists more dense than any that are without us, arise from the inward lustings of the flesh-from the warring of our members-from the sin which dwelleth in us, and from an evil heart of unbelief in departing from the living God. Nevertheless, though the Christian be sometimes found in darkness, he will not rest or walk in it.
losses is shown us when he says—comparing the present with the past-"I have heard of thee by the hearing of the ear, but now mine eye seeth thee, wherefore I abhor myself, and repent as in dust and ashes." And we all know the result of this
The wicked may do this, because he feareth not God; but to be of born of God is to follow God—is to be like God, and to live unto God.
"The more thy glories strike mine eyes,
Such an one, like Joseph, may be bound in affliction and iron, but the soul is not bound. Through all opposition it will transcend this lower scene, and will seek its rest in God; and while others lie grovelling in the dust-while they that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh-the soul which is created anew in Christ
Thus while I sink, my joys shall rise
"Upward tends to His abode,
And it is this experience, these desires and hopes of the believer, which discover for him the bow in the cloud. "We are troubled," said Paul," on every side; we are perplexed but not in despair, persecuted but not forsaken, cast down but not destroyed." And why this safety in danger, this joy in sorrow, and this peaceful calm, amidst the raging storm? Why, it is because of the bow in the cloud" I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded He is able to keep that which I have committed to Him against that day."
We may consider further what this bright bow in these clouds betokens. The rainbow testified to Noah that there should be no more destruction of the earth by water. Many clouds would indeed come, and often would they gather blackness, and wear a threatening aspect, but in doing this these clouds would only
help the earth-would only tend to refresh and to renew it, by pouring upon it the early and latter rains. And so it is with spiritual clouds. Though often threatening our destruction, yet to the real Christian
"They're big with mercy, and shall break
Pitiless and raging as is the storm, the bow shall soon be seen, for though weeping endure for a night, joy cometh in the morning." Have not clouds of affliction proved so in the experience of all God's people? Has not temptation also (when met with in the path of duty, and when overcome by the sword of the Spirit) been attended with a like result? Yea, blessed are such tempted ones, for besides the crown of life hereafter, in this present time it is found that angels come and minister unto them. Neither are clouds of spiritual darkness felt in vain. They teach us our weakness-and when we are weak, then are we strong. And more than this; they make the promise sweet, Christ precious, heaven welcome, and life diligent. They say to us, Arise and depart, for this is not your rest;" and it is at such times our sins are felt, and that in the name of the Lord we destroy them.
Let me address a few words to the unconverted reader. You, also, have many clouds overhanging your path, for the way of transgressors is hard; but where and what is the bow which can give you comfort and peace?
In the natural world, you have the same covenanted blessing with the righteous to look upon. The same loving Father, who causes His sun to shine on the evil and the good, also sets His bow-the same bow-in the cloud for you.
But how is it in spiritual things-in the time when your fear cometh as desolation, and when distress and anguish come upon you? Where is your bow of promise and of comfort then? The believer, in his calamities, which assail him to try him, can see this cheering bow in his cloud—“As thy day is, so shall thy strength be;" or, another which is like to it—"My grace is sufficient for thee, for my strength is made perfect in weakness." But on what bow of peace can you look with hope?
Yes, there is one-but only one-and that is the promised mercy of God in Christ. Come and look on this radiant bow-it is set there for you. It is as a bridge of love, and it spans the dark gulf which yet separates your soul from God.
Let your thoughts fix on this bow in the cloud, and it shall give you peace. It is written, "Him that cometh unto me I will in no wise cast out." But soon even this will be withdrawn. It beams with richest mercy on earth, but is lost amid the blackness of darkness in hell!
OBEDIENCE TO GOD.
"O that thou hadst hearkened to my commandments: then had thy peace been as a river, and thy righteousness as the waves of the sea."-ISAIAH xlviii. 18.
THESE very important words clearly show that the ever-blessed God is deeply interested in the happiness of men. They do not suffer because God delights in their sufferings, but because they are sinners, and deserve what they suffer. "Wherefore should a living man complain? a man for the punishment of his sins?" The Jews were not sent into captivity in Babylon because God delighted to afflict them, but because they were disobedient to His just commands. He made known His will to them by inspired men, and encouraged them to be obedient, and warned them of the consequences of rebellion, but they refused to listen to His voice, and were justly punished for their sins. And so it is now. The eternal God makes known His laws to men, and encourages them to obey by great promises of good; but many refuse to yield to His authority, and therefore must suffer the consequences of their own wickedness. They sin voluntarily, therefore are guilty. They sin against good instruction, solemn warning, and the faithful admonitions of their conscience. They prefer their own will to the will of God. Now, would it be right for God not to punish disobedience? Would it be right for
an earthly king never to punish crime? God is the supreme Ruler, and must have respect to His laws. "Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?" But God is a merciful Benefactor as well as a just Judge, and He seeks to bless His subjects. The text shows His great compassion towards us, His tender interest in our welfare, His sincere desire for our real happiness.
The eternal God has given commandments to men for the regulation of their hearts and lives. He has a perfect right to give laws to men and to angels, for He made them, therefore must have a right to rule them. He taught Adam in Paradise his duty to obey His will. And He taught the Jews at Horeb that He was their King, and that it was their duty to be obedient to His will. And He taught the same truth by the Great Teacher, and commands men to hear Him. The Holy Scriptures contain His laws, they publish His will to the world, they call upon men to be obedient. He has commanded men to receive His Son as their Teacher, Saviour, and King, to love one another, to remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy, to improve their talents, to pray for the blessings He is disposed to
give, &c. These commandments are published in the written Word, proclaimed by the living voice, and they are all reasonable, just, and good. Love to God will prompt us cheerfully to obey them. These commands are binding upon all classes of men, and in all places where they are made known, and will be so until the end of time. And they are written by the Holy Spirit upon the renewed heart of the godly.
Obedience to the commands of God would secure true happiness. Hearken to the words of the Almighty on this subject: "O that thou hadst hearkened to my commandments: then had thy peace been as a river." Here we are taught that obedience to God is productive of peace. This is seen in the moral effects of obedience. He who obeys God is holy, and holiness saves from many evils, and secures many blessings. This gives us a calm conscience, inspires hope, and fits us for communion with God. Peace with this glorious Being is the precious fruit of justification. There can be no true peace for us as sinners, until we are reconciled to God, until sin is forgiven, and we are acquitted at the bar of God. The condemned criminal cannot be happy. He dreads the execution of the sentence out against him. Hence the awakened sinner is full of alarm when he sees and feels his danger, and can find no effectual relief but in that salvation provided in the Saviour of the world. There is hope in Him. He has made peace for us by the blood of His cross. Col i. 20. The Gospel requires faith in Him. The Christian obeys,
and believes the Gospel report concerning Christ; the result is peace. This flows from a sense of pardon and acceptance with God, and from the hope of eternal life.-Rom. v. 1. But peace of mind also flows from sanctification. There can be no true peace in the soul while sin reigns within. This awakens fear of the wrath of God, and fear hath torment. God requires men to apply to Jesus for salvation; the Christian obeys, the result is internal renovation.-Matt. i. 21. Now he has tranquillity of mind, arising from faith in God, love to His moral character, and meek submission to His will. "The effect of righteousness is quietness and assurance for ever." And there is a sweet peace of mind which flows from confidence in the care of Divine Providence. Hence it is said, "Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed upon thee." His care can supply our wants, save us from the evils we dread, guide us in the right way to a city of habitation. How happy may he be who is interested in the care of so wise, so kind, and so powerful a Being. Religion inspires hope, and hope maketh not ashamed. Rom. v. 5. Hope gives us peace in affliction, in temptation, and in death. The obedient walk with God, and walking with God promotes knowledge, holiness, confidence, and thus must promote the happiness of the soul. The way to be happy is to be obedient. God can make His friends happy. He is the true source of happiness. This was the belief of David; hence his prayer, "Lord, lift thou up the light of thy countenance upon us.