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AUG. 4.-" Then went this saying abroad among the brethren, that that disciple should not die: yet Jesus said not unto him, He shall not die; but, if I will that he tarry till I come, what is that to thee?" John xxi. 23.
WHAT did he mean by his coming to John? It may be understood three ways.
- Of his coming by a natural death; and he was the only apostle who did not suffer a violent end.
Of his coming to destroy Jerusalem; and he survived that event.
Of his coming at the last day; in which case he answers Peter, by the supposition of a miracle"What if I choose that he should continue on earth till I come to judge the world?" In this sense it was taken.
But observe how it was mis-reported. Jesus only supposed a case; and it was turned into an assertion. He only said, What if I will that he tarry till I come; and it was circulated that he should so tarry-and the saying went abroad among the brethren that he should not die. Who has not heard the absurd story of the wandering Jew? Whether any now believe such a delusion, we know not: but we see what influence the notion had in the early ages. Beza mentions an impostor in his time, at Paris, who gave out that he was the deathless John, and was burnt at Toulouse.
But see how ready people are to credit things strange and wonderful-O that they were equally ready to receive the witness of God!
How many mistakes have arisen from deviating by little and little from the language of Revelation.Many errors might be prevented, and many ratified, if we could bring the parties to the very words the Holy Ghost useth.-Let us distinguish between Divine truth, and men's explanations of it. Let us
not take up with the statements of Calvin, or Arminius, or any other reporter, while we can go to the Scripture itself. "To the Law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them."
But let us make a moral use of this misrepresentation, and learn the importance of accuracy in our statements. It is owing to the neglect of this that there is so much circumstantial falsehood: we refer to the relations of facts, true in substance, but false in circumstances. Some seldom ever apprehend things distinctly; and how can they report them accurately? Some have memories that rarely retain perfectly what they hear. Some are careless; and mind not morally what they say. Some are full of eagerness and feeling: and love to excite-and for this purpose they love to enlarge and enhance. From one cause or another, many, who would skrink back from a direct lie, occasion deception by those omissions or additions which can give an erroneous turn or effect to the case spoken of. By this means, what aid is given to slander, and what injury is often done to character, where there is no risk on the one side, and no redress on the other!
Look at the text, and see what consequences may result from the substitution of a shall, for an if: and always make conscience of your speech. Distinguish things that differ. What you know as probable, state as probable; and state as certain, only what you know to be certain. As a good remedy for this, and every other evil of the tongue-Let us be swift to hear, but slow to speak-Let us remember, that in the multitude of words, there wanteth not sin-Let us believe, that by our words we are to be justified or condemned-Let us keep our hearts with all diligence; for out of them are the issues of life-and let us pray-Set a watch, O Lord, before my mouth, keep the door of my lips.
AUG. 5.-" Put ye in the sickle; for the harvest is ripe." Joel iii. 13.
THE season renders the language interesting; and we may consider the words, literally, as an address to husbandmen.
The husbandman waiteth for the precious fruits of the earth, and hath long patience for it, until he receive the early and the latter rain. He casts the seed into the ground, where it seems lost. For a while, he sees nothing to reward his labour and expense: for that which he soweth is not quickened except it die. But it soon rises from the dead: and he perceives the blade, gently rising through the earth. Then comes winter. The wind howls over it; the frost bends and binds it; the snow covers and oppresses it-But it weathers all. The spring arrives. The stalk shoots up; and the ear appears, and the full corn in the ear. The crop ripens; and the golden harvest waves its treasures; and calls for the reaper to fill his hand, and he that bindeth sheaves, his bosom. The husbandman may think little or nothing of God-unless he wants fine weather; but it is He that worketh all in all: and whatever interventions there may be, He is the first cause: "And it shall come to pass in that day, I will hear, saith the Lord, I will hear the heavens, and they shall hear the earth; and the earth shall hear the corn, and the wine, and the oil; and they shall hear Jezreel."
And herein we see the power of God. The spectators wondered when five loaves were multiplied into a sufficiency for more than five thousand consumers. Why are not we struck, when we see the grain in the earth annually increasing thirty, sixty, an hundred fold? It is the commonness of the effect that prevents our astonishment. The only difference in the cases is, that in one instance the operation is sudden;
in the other, it is slow: but this magnifies the agency, instead of detracting from it.
And here we see the truth of God. When Noah and his family left the Ark, and saw the new world, every appearance of cloud awakened their fears; and God, to tranquillize them, said, "I will not again smite any more every thing living, as I have done. While the earth remaineth, seed time and harvest, and cold and heat, and summer and winter, and day and night, shall not cease. And every time the sickle is put in, he tells us that he is a faithful God, and that we may always rely upon his word. Here we behold his goodness. For whom does he thus constantly and plenteously provide; but an unworthy, guilty, ungrateful world; who will overlook his kindness, and abuse his benefits, and turn his gifts into weapons of rebellion against him! Were he to deal with them after their desert, or reward them according to their iniquities, the heavens over us would be brass, and the earth iron; the grain would perish in wetness, or be burnt up with drought; and we should have cleanness of teeth in all our dwellings; and while the children cried for bread, the mother would have none to give them.
Here we also trace the wisdom of God. For though all things are of God, he does not encourage sloth. Our activity is as necessary as our dependence. Though there is a part we cannot do, there is a part we can do and if this be neglected, God will do nothing. We cannot furnish the soil; but we must manure it. We cannot produce the seed; but we must sow it. We cannot ripen the field; but we must reap it. "What thou givest them, that they gather."
Let us be thankful that another of these pleasing and instructive periods has arrived. And while we see the valleys standing thick with corn, and hear the little hills rejoicing on every side; let us pray for the appointed weeks of harvest.
- And, remembering another, and an infinitely more important opportunity, may we give all dili gence, while it continues, to secure its blessings; lest, in the anguish of disappointment, and the remorse of despair, we are forced to exclaim; "The harvest is past, the summer is ended, and we are not saved.' "Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation"-Put ye in the sickle; for the harvest is ripe.
AUG. 6.-" Put ye in the sickle; for the harvest is ripe." Joel iii. 13.
We have taken these words literally; let us now view them metaphorically. We have heard them addressed to the husbandman; let us now consider them as addressed-To spiritual instructors-To public judgments-To the messengers of death— To the angels of God at the last day-Put ye in the sickle; for the harvest is ripe.
First, as addressed by God to the ministers of his Word. That we are allowed such an application, is obvious. Our Lord said, "The harvest truly is plenteous, but the labourers are few: pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he would send forth labourers into his harvest." By harvest, he intends means of usefulness and opportunities: and by labourers, those whose office it is to endeavour to make use of them. So again: "Say not ye, There are yet four months, and then cometh harvest? behold, I say unto you, Lift up your eyes, and look on the fields; for they are white already to harvest." Here he refers to the season of doing good to the Samaritans, which he was now improving; for, in consequence of the testimony of the woman, many of them were eager to hear, and were coming over the plain. The case is, when the grain is ripe, if it be not gathered in, it is liable to perish. The