« 上一页继续 »
her to excuse herself from kneeling when we went to prayer, replied, "My dear Sir, a poor creature like me cannot go too low." In summoning ourselves to God's praise, then, let us engage our bodily powers to wait upon our spirits, as attendant Levites upon the ministering priest.
But bodily exercise profiteth little at best, and is only a mocking mask, when it stands in place of the worship of the spirit. Let the command, then, be sounded through all the chambers of the soul" All that is within me bless His holy name." Let imagination lend her aid, and bring before the mind's eye the throne, high and lifted up, with the serene yet awful presence of Him who fills it—God manifest in the flesh-the crowned Lamb, with the insignia of government upon His shoulder, and the marks of His passion on His hands. Bid her bring to the ear an echo of the seraphs, "Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty," that at once humbled and soothed, the spirit may pay her homage with holy boldness and godly fear. Let memory be active, and recount His acts of goodness, and His tender mercies. Let reason stand forth and justify Him as faithful and true in all His ways. Then, when there is a deep and solemn stillness, let conscience speak either in the still small voice of gentle remonstrance, or in the severer tones of sharp rebuke. The gratitude of a humbled spirit, if less elate and joyous, is more full and strong. Last of all, let love, led by faith to the mercy-seat, pour out the offering of blessing and praise upon that altar which sanctifieth both the giver and the gift. Thus let all that is within us bless His holy
III. We are reminded that God, in all His works and ways, is worthy of blessing. We are to bless His holy name. Righteousness is a part of that name, as well as mercy; holiness, as much as compassion.
We are to bless Him for His righteous law, though it proclaims our condemnation; for His holiness, though in its light we discover the stains of sin and rents of unworthiness that mar our garments; for His chastisements, though our hearts smart and bleed from recent stripes; for His threatenings, though they raise our fears; and for His commands, though they prescribe a thorny path and a galling cross. It is here that faith may be found too weak to bring the tribute to the altar. In such a case, let faith recal such promises as these:" My grace is sufficient for thee."- 66 'All things work together for good to them that love
God, and are called according to His purpose." Above all, let faith look upon the face of Him who sitteth upon the throne, and assure herself that the Author of all these righteous dealings is the Lamb that was slain-the kingly priest, who is touched with the feeling of our infirmities. Thus faith, helped by the Spirit who helpeth our infirmities, shall be strengthened to praise God for His righteous judgments.
IV. "Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all His bene fits." This repeated summons, accompanied with such a tender remonstrance, is an admonition of the sluggishness and coldness of our hearts.
Conscious that you ought to be grateful to the Lord, you may be very sensible that you are not. Your love will not awake at the first call, or may give but a faint and drowsy response. Emotion waits on thought. Love follows in the train of faith. Recount anew the mercies of the Lord-His loving-kindnesses which have been even of old. Contrast with His dealings towards you, your conduct towards Him. Send memory in search of proofs of past faithfulness. Is the sacrifice of praise still unkindled? Then you must resort to supplication. Those who would draw near to praise, must often fall down first to pray, "Open thou my lips, and my mouth shall show forth thy praise."
We all need the remonstrance, "Forget not all His benefits." After all, it is but a gentle remonstrance. It is not, Remember all His benefits." That would be to live over again in thought every day of our lives. The psalmist has written in another place, "How precious also are thy thoughts to me, O God! How great is the sum of them! If I should count them, they are more in number than the sand;" and then, reminding himself that to-morrow will be as to-day, and as yesterday, he adds:-"When I awake, I am still with thee," to enjoy still thy guidance and thy care. Impossible, then, is it to remember all His benefits. But, O my soul, it is possible to remember some. Forget not all His benefits."
It is a good plan to set before our minds our great mercies, as they strike us, and then review them singly. When you look at the heavens at night, your first glance only shows you the stars of the first or second magnitude; but when you fix your eye upon some small portion of the heavens, stars, unperceived before, appear in countless numbers. It is so, when we review God's benefits. Your first thought may be, God gave me wise and tender parents; and then you think of early home comforts, fireside
Pleasures, watchful tendance in sickness, wholesome instruction, the Sunday lesson and the evening hymn, with many a pure and holy influence that blessed your childhood. Or your thought may glance far higher-to God's love in giving His Son to die for you, and His Spirit to teach you. This reminds you of early religious impressions, solemn warnings, tender appeals, escapes from great peril, an hour when, if never said of you before, it was said then, "Behold, he prayeth❞—your first taste of God's peace, and realization of Gospel hope-backslidings and recoveries, and so on, till you cry,
"Where will the growing numbers end,
Cold and insensible must be the heart in which exercises such as these awaken no gratitude. When Peter thought upon his sin, he wept bitterly; so, if we think on God's mercies, we shall praise Him gladly. But the eye to recognize them, and the disposition to think upon them, are what many lack altogether. Men see few kindnesses in those they do not love, and this is why they have no gratitude for God, because they do not love Him. Whatever pleases them, they take as their rights; whatever hurts them, they complain of as their wrongs. A humble and contrite heart is the only earthly soil in which the palm of praise will strike root and flourish. We must be convinced of our unworthiness before we can even learn the true language of praise. Our estimate of God's goodness will always be in direct proportion to our lowly estimate of ourselves. The lower we sink in penitence and self-humiliation, the higher range we make for the wings of gratitude and praise; and it is when our mouth is laid in the dust, that we have the greatest warrant for expecting that God will open our lips to show forth His praise. May He find us humble and contrite at His feet, and lift us up to hear and accept our songs of praise.
FREEDOM FROM CONDEMNATION.
"I will say unto God, Do not condemn me."-JOB X. 2.
THE friends of Job thought he was guilty of some secret wickedness, because he was so heavily afflicted; hence, he was anxious that God would interpose on his behalf and clear his character. God heard his
prayer, and bore an encouraging testimony to his sincere piety, (xlii. 7-10.) When our character is misrepresented, either through ignorance or malice, the Scriptures encourage us to leave our reputation
in the hand of God. He will defend the right. The direction of the guide is, "Commit thy way unto the Lord; trust also in Him; and He shall bring it to pass." And the promise is, "And He shall bring forth thy righteousness as the light, and thy judgment as the noon-day. Rest in the Lord, and wait patiently for him." The integrity of a good man may be under a cloud for a time, but God can disperse the cloud, and make his innocence as clear as the sun in the heavens at noon-day. There is a gracious, vigilant, just Providence watching over the welfare of the righteous, and it is their duty to trust in it. He will keep His saints as the apple of His eye. Job was troubled at the stain of his integrity in the eye of the world, who regarded him as a wicked man because he was a great sufferer. They thought that he was forsaken of God, utterly discarded, and cast out of His sight. Great afflictions have exposed men to the charge of great wickedness. Paul having escaped death in a wreck at sea, did not escape a hard censure on land, when a viper was seen upon his hand.-Acts xxviii. 4. The judgments which befel the Galileans, whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices, left them under a charge of great wickedness.-Luke xiii. 1-5. Men are apt to think that they have sinned most who have most sorrow. Even the innocent Jesus was esteemed a great sinner because a man of sorrows.-Isa. liii. 4, 5. The character of Job for a time was under a cloud, and he prayed to God to remove it, and to satisfy his friends and enemies that he was an
upright man. "I will say unto God, Do not condemn me." This is as if Job had said, "Lay not thy hand so heavily upon me, lest they who do not understand the reason of thy dealings with me, should adjudge me to be wicked." He desired to be free from human and Divine condemnation. And no doubt Job felt that the displeasure of God was more to be dreaded than any outward affliction. All good men are ready to say, "Lord, afflict me if thou wilt, but do not condemn me. The displeasure of God is worse than sickness, poverty, disappointment, or any other affliction. Afflictions may be borne, but who can bear up under the curse or frowns of God? The prayer of Job is a suitable prayer for us all, "Do not condemn me." Condemnation has three things in it which make it grievous. There is the penalty of the sentence, the displeasure of the Judge, and the stain of his integrity who is condemned.
"Do not condemn me." The prayer teaches us that all godly men are sensible that in themselves there are grounds of condemnation. They believe that the supreme Judge might justly condemn them, "for all have sinned." He might condemn us for the little impression His mercies have made upon us, for our little improvement of our talents, for the imperfection of our obedience, for the way in which we have treated His Son, for the little progress we have made in religion, for the spirit we have manifested in affliction, and for the poor preparation we have made for eternity. "Who can un
derstand his errors ?" When the penitent think of their numerous sins, when they hear the Gospel with self-application, when they read the Scriptures with a serious mind, when they earnestly examine into their spiritual condition before God, they see their sinfulness, and go to the throne of grace and cry, "Lord, do not condemn me." The prayer implies a deep sense of guilt before God, a sense of danger, and of the importance of an interest in the mercy of God.
The prayer of Job shows that, in the estimation of the godly, Divine condemnation is an evil greatly to be dreaded. Freedom from condemnation at a human tribunal is important-how much more so at the tribunal of God! The instances God has given us of His displeasure, show what a dreadful thing it is. Cain, Saul, Balaam, Pharaoh, Ahab, and many others felt it in this life, and how much more so in the life to come? The wrath of God is no trifle. The infinite majesty of the Judge, the torments of the lost, the solemn warnings of Scripture, the means employed to save us, and the work of the Saviour, all show the immense importance of escaping the punishment due to our sins. The penitent see this. They value the favour of God, they desire to live in friendship with Him, they feel the importance of an interest in the blessings of the Gospel; hence, they improve the day of salvation, they apply to the throne of grace for mercy, they gladly accept the invitations of Jesus.
"Do not condemn me." Is this your prayer? Then there are glad
tidings for you. The Gospel reveals a solid ground of hope on which you may rest for salvation. The ground of your condemnation is sin; the ground of your acquittal, the atonement of Christ. He was made a curse for us. The Lord hath laid upon Him the iniquities of us all. He has died, the just for the unjust. "Who is He that condemneth? It is Christ that died; yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us." The perfection of the Saviour's atonement for sin, its Divine appointment, its infinite worth, its permanent virtues, its glorious effects on millions of redeemed sinners, encourage us to hope in God, to trust in the Saviour, to pray for acceptance in the Beloved. The mercy of God has freed many from condemnation; it has covered many with the spotless robe; it has adopted many into the redeemed family; and it is as full and free and rich as ever. The God of heaven and earth is a merciful God; He is ready to forgive; He waits to be gracious to all who humble themselves before Him. His justice is fully satisfied by the sufferings, obedience, and death of His Son, and His mercy can now flow freely through Christ to penitent sinners. He invites them to come to Him, and to present their petitions. His Son introduces us into His presence, into the holy of holies, into the glories of Paradise. Having therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way, which He hath consecrated for us, through the veil, that is to say, His flesh; and having