« 上一頁繼續 »
eternal weight of glory. These promises seem easy to be believed, when things go smooth and pleasing; and it is very natural for us, in a day of prosperity, to talk of these things, and try and comfort those with them who are labouring in adversity. But the greatest trial is when it comes home to ourselves. Then it is well, if we fall not under the reproof of Eliphaz, Thy words have upholden him that was falling, and thou hast strengthened the feeble knees : but now it is come upon thee, and thou fainiest ; it toucheth thee, and thou art troubled. Then, if ever, is the time for us to walk by faith, and not by sight.
We create to ourselves darlings, and place much of our happiness in their enjoyment. God not unfrequently takes these first away, as being most his rivals. If one child is more beloved than all the rest ; if he must be clothed with a coat of many colours, the coat must quickly be returned without the owner; yes, the period must soon arrive, when it shall be said, Joseph is not ! These, with a few more strokes of the kind, will try Jacob's faith to the uttermost; and he will find it hard work to reconcile promises with providences. • Thou saidst I will surely do thee good : but all these things are against me.' Ah, he fails ! He fails, like Asaph in a similar condition, who could not see how God could be good to Israel, when waters of a full cup were wrung out to them. The Shunamitish woman will set us a better example than either the Patriarch or the prophet. Is it well ? said Elisha's servant when her child lay dead in her house. She replied, It is well. This was, in effect, saying, · Whether I can see, it or not, I know he doeth all things well. This is believing when we cannot see, taking God at his word, against all the rebellion of sense and feel. ing. This is what Jacob should have done ; but O that Jacob had failed alone! If to resemble him, in this instance, would consti. tute us Israelites, we should most of us be Israelites indeed !
We are often very thrifty in devising plans for futurity, and apt to promise ourselves great degrees of happiness, when they are accomplished. Here it is common for God-to throw confusion upon our schemes, and cause things to run in a different channel from what we expected. Job, while in prosperity, sat like a bird in
her well-feathered nest, and thought within himself, • I shall live to enjoy numerous years of uninterrupted prosperity, to see children's children, and then go down to the grave in peace ; or, as he bimself afterwards, in the bitter hour of reflection, expressed it, I said, I shall die in my nest, I shall multiply my days as the sand ! Well, so he did at last ; but there was a melancholy chasm in his life, which he never expected. Such there are, more or less, in all our lives; and, in such situations, it is well if we do not think hard of our best friend. Some bave been ready to ask, Is this love? Is this his doing, who has said, I will surely do thee good ?? Yes, and you shall see it in the end, as Asaph did; who, after he had been to God's sanctuary, and saw things as they were, went home, it seems and penned the seventy third psalm, heginning it all in ecstacy, saying, Truly GOD IS GOOD TO ISRAEL! Christians, how criminal, how cruel, that he that never failed us at any time, should be so mistrusted as he is ! It should seem to suggest, as if he were such a God that we cannot trust him out of sight!
How amiable is that spirit, how happy is that heart, that, in every situation, places unbounded confidence in Jehovah's word. Such may be bedged up on every side, and encompassed, like Israel at the Red sea, with seemingly insurmountable difficulties ; yet, even here, they will follow Israel's example, they will cry unto God, and rely upon his mercy. If means can be used, they will · use them; if not, they will stand still und see the salvation of the Lord. Speak unto the children of Israel, said the Lord, that they go forward. "Go forward !' they might have replied, “what, leap
• ' at once into the jaws of destruction ? But nothing of this. At first, indeed, their faith seemed to fail them, but they soon recovered themselves. Speak unto the children of Israel, said the Lord, that they go forward ; they went ; a way was made in the sea, and a path in the mighty waters. Well may it be said, By Faith Israel passed through the Red sea. Minds thus disposed might defy the united sources of worldly sorrow to render them unbappy. Let poverty stare them in the face, let pinching want stretch over them her miserable sceptre, they have been known, even bere, by faith, to break forth into songs of praise. Thus sang good Habakkuk : Vol. VII.
(and this evidently appears to be his situation, and not a state of spiritual declension :) Although the fig-tree shall not blossoms neither shall fruit be in the vines, the labour of the olive shall fail and the fields shall yield no meat, the flock shall be cut off from the fold, and no herd in the stalls ; yet will I rejoice in the Lord, I will joy in the God of my salvation. Thus also sang the church, even in her captivity, when her country was laid waste, Jerusalem razed to the ground, and the temple burnt to ashes: The LORD is my portion, saith my soul, therefore will I hope in Him!
2. In all our approaches to, and fellowship with Christ, it is by faith in the account that God has given of him in his word. Christ's excellence, undertaking, and benefits, are the joy, and even the life of our souls, if we are true Christians. But what evidence have we of all or any if these ? Yea, what evidence have we that there is, or ever was, such a person as Jesus Christ? or, if there was, that he was the Messiah, the Son of God? We neither saw him alive, nor die, rise again, nor ascend to heaven. We never saw the miracles he wrought, nor heard the voice from the excellent glory, saying, This is my beloved Son, hear ye him. We speak of bis personal excellencies, divine and human ; of his love, zeal, righteousness, meekness, patience, &c. but what know we of them ? We rejoice in his being constituted our surety, to obey the law, and endure the curse in our stead ; but how know we that so indeed it is. We glory in the imputation of bis righteousness, and exult in the hope of being found in bim, and being for ever with him, faultless before his throne, to serve him day and night in his temple ; but on what do we rely for all this? If uur expectations are but just, truly they are noble ; but if groundless, extravagant. Are they, then, well founded? Yes, the testimony of God is the rock whereon they rest. He has told us, by the mouth of his servants, the inspired writers, all that is necessary for us to know, of the character, conduct, and errand of his Son; of every office he sustained, and every end for which he came into the world. To all this he has added, that whosoever believeth on him shall not perish, but have everlasting life. So they have preached, and so we have believed. We have, through grace, ventured our everlasting ALL in his hands ; nor is it in the hands of we know not who : we know whom we have trusted, and that he is able to keep that which we have committed to him against that day. For, though none of these things are visible to our mortal 'eyes, yet, having evidence that God has said ther, we are satisfied. We would as soon trust God's word, as our own eyes. Thus we walk, like Moses, as seeing him who is invisible; and thus answer to that description, Whom having not seen ye love, in whom, though now ye see him not, yet BELIEVING, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable, and full of glory.
In all our applications to Christ, we bave to rely merely upon the testimony of God. Here is a poor, self-condemned sinner comes pressing through the crowd of discouraging apprehensions that he may, so to speak, touch the hem of the Redeemer's garment, and be made whole. As he approaches, one set of thoughts suggests, How can such a monster hope for mercy ? Is it not doubtful, whether there be efficacy enough in the blood of Christ itself to pardon such heinous crimes ? " I know my crimes are heinous beyond expression,' replies the burdened soul, and I should, doubtless, give up my case as desperate, but that I have heard, of him, that he is able to save to the ultermost all that come unto God
I will go, therefore ; who can tell ? As he goes, other objections assail bim, questioning, whether Christ can find in his heart to accept of such an one ? • I should think not, indeed,' rejoins the poor man, but he has said, Him that cometh to me I will
6 in noroise cast out. I know, were I to consult nothing but my feelings, and only to fix my eyes on the enormity of my sin, I should utterly despair ; but, encouraged by his word, I will go forward,
; I will walk by faith, not by sight : 0, I hear him say, Come unto me all ye that labour, and are heavy laden—and ye shall find rest unto your souls ! This, this is what I want! Depart from me, all ye that vex my soul; I will go in the strength of the Lord God !!
3. We have to give up many present enjoyments, for Christ's sake, wherein we have no visible prospect of recompence, none of any kind, but what arises from the promise of God. Self-denial is one of the initial laws of Christ's kingdom. Far from enticing peo. ple into his service, by promises of wealth, ease, and honour, he set out with this public declaration, Whosoever will be my disciple must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me. But who
would enter, upon these terms ? Who would give up bouses, lands, friends, and reputation, and expose himself o hardships persecution, and death, for nothing ? Yet many followed him, and that to the day of their death; yea, and upon these very terms too; they left all and followed him. What, then, induced them? Did not they act irrationally? Prophets, apostles, and martyrs ! what mean ye? Have ye no regard for yourselves? What ! are you destitute of the feelings of men ?' • No such thing : we have respect unto the recompence of reward.' • Reward! what can that be ? pothing surely below the sun, unless it were every thing the reverse of wbat is agreeable to human nature !'. • True ; but our Lord has declared, Whosoever shall forsake houses, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my name's sake, shall receive an hundred-fold, and inherit everlasting life. We rely upon this, and this supports us.'
God's friend's in all ages, have forsaken sepsible, for invisible enjoyments. Encouraged by considerations like these, Ruth for
. sook her fatber and her mother, and the land of her nativity, and came to a people whom she knew not. It was this that determined her to go forward, when, as Naomi told her, there were no earthly prospects before her. It was this that made her resolve not to go back with Orpba, but to cast in her lot witb the friends of the God of Israel. The Lord recompense thy work, said Boaz to her, afterwards, and a full reward be given thee of the Lord God of Israel, under whose wings thou art come to trust!'
The same things influenced Moses, it seems, to refuse a crown. It has been thought, that, in virtue of his adoption, he might have been king of Egypt; but that throne, not only like other thrones, exposed him that sat thereon to numberless spares, but probably was inaccessible to any but those who would continue the system of idolatry and oppression. In that case, for Moses to have been king of Egypt, must have been to have sacrificed a good conscience, despised a crown of glory that fadeth not away, and upited in persecuting his own, and the Lord's people. Moses seems fully to have weighed this matter. The result was, he refused to be called the son of Pharaoh's daughter, choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God than to enjoy the pleasures of sin