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faith toward Gaza, for the Lord had not then told him what was the ultimate design. As he had implicitly obeyed the first direction, now the Lord further instructs him, and shews him that he was on that road that he might be a helper to the truth in the heart of this grandee of Ethiopia.
What we know not now of the mind of God concerning us, and our duties and privileges, we shall know in due time. "The secret of the Lord is with them that fear him; and he will shew them his covenant." The Lord does not pass by the rich man because he is rich, nor the poor because he is poor; for he maketh poor and maketh rich. "Not many rich, not many mighty, not many noble, are called;" because they are so apt to become lovers of pleasure more than lovers of God; and to trust in uncertain riches rather than in the living and true God. Our Saviour said on one occasion, "How hardly shall they that have riches enter into the kingdom of God!" but he adds, "What is impossible with men, is possible with God; for with God all things are possible."
The object of the evangelist's mission now began to develope itself (ver. 29): "The Spirit said unto Philip, Go near, and join thyself to this chariot ;" that is, walk by the side of it; and prepare your mind for such service as the occasion may suggest. Doubtless this good man offered up a prayer, that the Holy Spirit would teach him how to speak, and what to say; and that some good might be accomplished by the occurrence. The momentary offering of prayer to God, for direction on special and sudden occasions, has prepared many to meet vexatious occurrences without perturbation of mind, and to refuse things that might have been very harmful if engaged in. This is casting our care upon the Lord; and then we, by faith, honour the promise that "he will care for us" (1 Pet. v. 7).
Observe (in the 30th verse) the readiness of this evangelist to obey the will of heaven. "Philip ran thither to him." How good to be zealous in a good cause! Here was a soul to be taught, and sanctified, and saved, by Christ; and Philip hoped that he was appointed of the chief Shepherd to be instrumental in beginning this good work. He might recollect, with holy hope, the prophecy of David (Ps. lxviii. 31), that "Ethiopia should soon stretch out her hands in prayer to the Lord." He was taught, not to account any creature among mankind as excluded from the covenant of redemption through the blood of Christ; but that men of every nation, who fear God and work righteousness, are accepted of him. Philip, himself a converted Jew, did no more hesitate to put himself in the way to preach the Gospel to this Ethiopian gentile, than Peter the Jew, but an apostle of Christ, soon after did, when he saw a vision, and was directed to go to the house of Cornelius the Roman centurion. Both Philip and Peter well knew the merciful commission given by their divine Lord, "Go into all the world, and preach the Gospel to every creature." This preacher of salvation, in obedience to the general and specific command, ran to the side of the chariot, and for a little while kept pace with it. By this he had the opportunity of knowing, that the Ethiopian was employing himself in reading a portion of the word of God.
We are not to form our ideas of ancient travelling by our own modes of doing so. Probably the road was not of hard gravel, as our frequented roads are, but a mere track over grassy or mossy downs, without such noise and rapidity as are connected with modern travelling. It was suited for this great man's contemplations by himself, and for a profitable conversation with Philip.
Although Philip's introduction of himself might, according to our modern notions of propriety, seem indecorous, or even rude, yet was it neither meant
so by the evangelist, nor taken so by the Ethiopian. There is a kind, and gracious, and winning manner, in which even a rebuke may be uttered so as to be well taken; and only those are calculated to rebuke with good effect, who are endowed with a courteous and endearing mode of communication. Even in sharply rebuking sin, we may by a harsh method rather increase than prevent it; and, on the other hand, by a conciliating management, we may at least convince the evil-doer, that the object of our reproof is his reformation and benefit.
In the case before us, the chariot of the rich man passing on faster than Philip's strength would allow him long to keep pace with it, no time was to be lost in seeking a conference. On an occasion of the happiness or misery of a human soul, the variety of men's worldly stations sinks into nothing. Here was, indeed, a transient opportunity to be used and improved for the glory of God and the good of man; and the— perhaps almost breathless-pedestrian seizes it, and embraces it, by the apparently abrupt exclamation, "Understandest thou what thou readest?" This is a suitable question to put to ourselves; and the more important and profitable, according as the subjects of our reading are so; and most of all so in reading the holy Scripture, and attending to the ministration of it. It is only by thinking upon, and retracing in the mind what we read, that it is retained by the memory; and the more the memory is in this way exercised, the more retentive it will be found. We complain that we do not remember serious subjects so much as subjects of a secular kind; and the cause is, that we do not ruminate and think upon the religious things that we hear and read, and therefore let them slip,while worldly and frivolous things are repeated again and again, and therefore the memory fastens upon them, and often to the great trouble of a tender conscience. Those sermons seem most adapted to edification that assist the understanding and the principle of self-application of the hearer, and in which the subject, when it can be, is thrown into a catechetical form, that is, broken down into questions addressed to the consciences of the hearers. Our Saviour proposed a question of this kind to his hearers, "Understand ye all those things that I have spoken? and they said, Yea, Lord" (Matt. xiii. 51). It is for want of marking and inwardly digesting what we hear, that very much good and profitable instruction passes away from us, and leaves us as it found us.
We may observe the mild and gentle answer given by this lord high-treasurer to Philip's inquiry, "Understandest thou what thou readest?" To this he calmly replies, "How can I, except some man should guide me?" except some good person, more knowing than myself, in such deep matters, is willing to teach me. His mind was inclined by the Holy Spirit to look upon this stranger, who had so unexpectedly accosted him, as a person well qualified to be his teacher; and therefore, putting aside all high notions of his rank and office," he desired Philip that he would come unto him into the chariot, and sit with him."
Thus was he entertaining, in the person of a stranger, an angel unawares a ministering servant to the heirs of salvation. What humility, and courtesy, and fidelity, is found towards each other in hearts under the teaching of the Spirit of God! Philip thinks only about the salvation of this great man's soul, and therefore runs to the chariot to put himself in the way of being useful: and, on the other hand, this grandee of Ethiopia lays aside all considerations of earthly rank for a season, so he may gain instruction in the things that belong to the kingdom of God; and is willing to sit by the side of this poor stranger, to hear words whereby he may be saved. Finding him to be a man of God, he bids him to come up into the
carriage, and instruct him. Pomp and show may be necessary in some departments of a world of sense, and vanity, and sin; but they will always be seen in their true light, when the soul desires to win Christ and be found in him. The apostle of the Gentiles experienced this, and thus expresses his own feelings: "Those things that were gain to me, I counted loss for Christ Jesus; yea, I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things; yea, and I count them but as refuse, that I may win Christ, and be found in him" (Philip. iii. 8). Human distinctions, which are very proper in their times and places, lose very much of their importance in the estimation of real Christians, when the diffusing or acquiring the knowledge of Christ and salvation are in question.
FROM the earliest ages of society to the present period of refinement and cultivation, fable and allegory have supplied a favourite medium for the communication of moral and religious truth. Equally delightful to the simple and to the cultivated mind, and easily retained in the memory, scarcely any mode of instruction has been found at once so acceptable and so effective. It was in very general use among the eastern nations, and familiar to the Jewish rabbins, in whose Talmud many parables resembling those of our Lord are to be met with. In the Old Testament we are furnished with some beautiful examples both of allegory and parable. They are, perhaps, the most ancient in the world, and singularly striking and impressive. What can be finer than the allegory which occurs in the 80th Psalm, where the people of Israel are represented under the figure of a vine?" Thou hast brought a vine out of Egypt; thou hast cast out the heathen, and planted it. Thou preparedst room before it, and didst cause it to take deep root, and it filled the land. The hills were covered with the shadow of it, and the boughs thereof were like the goodly cedars. She sent out her boughs unto the sea, and her branches unto the river. Why hast thou then broken down her hedges, so that all they which pass by the way do pluck her? The boar out of the wood doth waste it, and the wild beast of the field doth devour it. Return, we beseech thee, O God of hosts: look down from heaven, and behold, and visit this vine."
considered as common to all nations at certain periods, than as confined to any. The origin of figurative language has been ingeniously accounted for by the learned, and traced to the first rude ages of society. It has been attributed partly to the imperfect state of languages at that early period, and partly to the activity and vivacity of uncontrolled imagination. Language being then extremely deficient in copiousness and variety, men had recourse to signs, and endeayoured to express their ideas by allusions to material objects. But if figurative language originated in necessity, it was afterwards cultivated from choice, as contributing equally to enrich and elucidate, to embellish and to illustrate a subject. Accordingly we find fables, apologues, and fictitious narratives much employed by the ancients; and the pages of profane history furnish us with many instances of their powerful effects upon the popular mind. Thus the fable of Menenius restored tranquillity to Rome when threatened with civil war; and by the same means did Demosthenes and his fellow-orators escape the fury of Alexander.
The excellence of the parable addressed by the prophet Nathan to David, is sufficiently evinced by the strong and immediate effect it produced. Undisguised reproof might have excited the indignation and kindled the resentment of the king; but this admirable parable roused his sleeping conscience, awakened him to a sense of the enormity of his offences, and conducted him, full of remorse and contrition, a humble penitent, to the throne of that God whom he had so deeply offended.
The style of the Old Testament in general, and especially that of the prophetic writers, is full of metaphor and of allusion to external objects; and, indeed, language abounding with imagery has been frequently termed the oriental style, from an idea that it was peculiar to eastern countries; but it may rather be
• From "Lectures on Parables." By Mary Jane M'Kenzie.
But though the fables of the Greeks and Romans are spirited, clever, and instructive, and may be read with considerable profit and pleasure at the present day, yet in beauty of style and dignity of subject, they are greatly inferior to the parables of the Gospel for the purposes of general instruction, those of our blessed Lord being infinitely superior to any other. Not only are they remarkable for beauty, variety, and tenderness, but the doctrines they unfold, and the duties they enforce, are all of unspeakable importance. Encumbered by no tedious detail, by no trivial or superfluous circumstances, but clear, simple, and touching, they seem peculiarly adapted to accomplish one striking purpose of Scripture-" to enlighten the eyes of the blind," and "to make wise the simple." By addressing the imagination and awakening the affections, they insensibly engage both in the service of truth, rendering it more clear and impressive. While they display the judgment and condescension of our beloved Lord in adapting his instructions to the peculiar habits and genius of the people among whom he taught, they are so admirably constructed as to be equally useful and interesting to every class of society at the present day. They afford a strong proof of the discretion and gentleness so conspicuous in the character of the divine Redeemer; for, under the veil of parable, keen reproof and unwelcome truths were not only conveyed with more effect, but received with less repugnance. Appealing forcibly to the understanding and conscience of the hearers, the invidious task of drawing the paral lel, and making the application, devolved upon themselves, and the most prejudiced were frequently brought to bear unwilling testimony against their own errors: thus, in those prophetic parables which foretell the destruction of Jerusalem, the rejection of the Jews, and the calling of the Gentiles, these offensive truths are imparted by our Lord in a form least likely to irritate the passions, or exasperate the minds of those around him, yet calculated to rouse their fears, and awaken them to repentance. But while truths of this nature were judiciously veiled or cautiously disclosed, all that is important in moral and Christian duty was taught with the greatest possible clearness.
When dwelling upon those deeply interesting subjects, the necessity of repentance, the inestimable value of the soul, and the certainty of a future state of rewards and punishments, what a variety of beautiful illustration is employed by our Lord! Well aware that these truths supply the most powerful motives to spiritual diligence and moral obedience, he presents them under various forms and different aspects, that, being thus forcibly impressed, they may be permanently retained.
It has been well remarked, that parables were a sort of touchstone, by which the humble and earnest inquirer after truth might be distinguished from the obstinate and perverse hearers of the Gospel; to the one they were a cloud of darkness, to the other a pillar of light. The justice of this observation is confirmed by our blessed Lord himself, who, in allusion to the inseeing veterate obstinacy of the Jews, declares that "
they see not, and hearing they hear not." And should not the melancholy truth, that these beautiful lessons were taught in vain to thousands by that divine Teacher whose "lips were full of grace and truth," speak to the hearts of those who are privileged to listen to them in the present day? should it not act as a stimulus and a warning? The oracles of God are placed in our hands; but upon the spirit and temper in which they are studied how much depends! A day may come, in which the precepts, the threatenings, the invitations of these sacred oracles, may witness against us, in which they may serve only to aggravate our guilt and quicken our remorse, when they may be, indeed, as a dark cloud augmenting our distress and desolation;— but let us rather cherish the delightful hope, that to us and to countless myriads of our fellow-pilgrims they will prove a pillar of light, guiding us through many difficulties and perils to our Father's kingdom; and in opening the sacred volume let a mingled feeling of awe and gratitude be kindled in our hearts as we recall the solemn and reiterated assurance of our beloved Lord, "Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away."
THE ABIDING CITY OF GOD'S PEOPLE:
BY THE REV. CHARLES HEBERT, M.A.
"Here have we no continuing city; but we seek one to come."
THE influence which religious poetry exercises upon mankind, is a subject well worthy of the consideration of Christian parents and teachers; for unquestionably the truths that are embodied in good Christian hymns exert great power over us, and sink into the inmost recesses of the mind. How few have not felt the touching and ennobling influence of that hymn which is founded on this text, and teaches us to turn the thought to joy and singing, that we have no abiding city below! Sacred poetry of itself alone, or wedded to harmonies of a sacred character, seems to
strike the very chords of the heart, and often wins a reception for doctrines, which without such friendly aid would have been rejected at the very entrance with aversion or contempt.
Receive the important truth, ye guardians of youth, that wish for the conversion of their souls to God; and receive it, ye youths, who would become children of the Father in heaven, that if a taste for learning hymns is once acquired, one of God's chosen engines has begun to batter at the high walls of the rebellious heart; yea, one of the outworks, formerly in the possession of vice, or paganism, or philosophy at best, is now in the way of being Christianised! Happy are the sons and daughters whose youth is cheered by the melody of sacred sounds!—the melody shall not diminish, but the sacred instruction shall increase as they advance in years. This text especially appeals to minds of a poetical bias; but, methinks, there is that in it which appeals to every soul among us; for who is there that is not arrested with this Divine warning," Here we have no continuing city; but we seek one to come?"
Brethren, may the blessing of the Lord be upon us while I endeavour to extract the true spirit of these words, by dwelling successively upon four points to which they seem to lead our thoughts.
I. The object yearned after by every soul, a condition of security and settlement-" a continuing city."
II. A picture of this world, which seems to be drawn at one stroke, as a place where no such blessing is to be found" here we have no continuing city."
III. A declaration that there is such a thing elsewhere, revealed in the emphatic words, one to come;" and
IV. The characteristic description of every Christian, that he is a seeker of that future state of security-" we seek one to come.'
O may something of fire from on high enkindle our meditations, that the Christian may rejoice in the lot which he hath chosen, and the man who has never wept over sin be brought to long for a better inheritance than the things and pleasures of sense and time!
I. I shall trace in these words the object yearned after by every man's heart, viz. a settled and secure condition.
Brethren, do I err in saying that there is a special charm to every heart in the words "a continuing city?" What is it that stirs men up to undertake so many toils in the various walks of society; which sends the mariner to buffet with unknown seas; and urges men to rise early and late take rest; and supports them in undergoing the severest mental and bodily fatigues day by day, and year by year?
It is not simply the thirst of distinction, the feverish passion for fame; there is also a desire of providing a fixed and settled retirement under the coming infirmities of declining years. This is one chief spring of the young man's endeavours; and as time and accident thicken, the desire increases, till that which was in youth an elemental seed, almost absorbs the mind in advancing age. Every disappointed hope renews its strength; every calamity that happens, and every infirmity that grows upon us, augments the yearning of the heart after a place of permanent security, feelingly depicted here under the terms, continuing city."
Fully to enter into the beauty and force of this expression, it is necessary to imagine ourselves transported to a country exposed to the frequent devastation of war. The good hand of God over England, which has so long kept our soil from the tread of armed foes, or the blacker horrors of civil bloodshed, makes us scarce able to feel the significancy of the term, "a continuing city." But imagine yourselves in a land where the broken framework of the law cannot restrain each castle and town from pouring forth its band of marauding ruffians; or, suppose an enemy's host landed and spreading fire and ruin far and wide, you will then partly estimate the desirableness of dwelling in "a continuing city." The solitary house is plundered and in flames; the father is slain, and his unprotected wife and household carried into sad captivity: but to dwell in a city that hath bolts and bars, that is planted on a lofty rock, and fenced all around with battlements, and furnished with provision to sustain, and weapons of defence to repel the enemy,-this is the figure under which the text represents that settled security which is the latent object of every man's heart. To be able to say to want, I fear thee not; to be able either to sit at ease under the shadow of our own roof, or actively to follow the bent of our own minds by living like bees in winter, without a care for the morrow, upon the produce which industry has secured, this is the condition after which every man yearns ; and most men think that if they could obtain and enjoy it without fear of disturbance, they should have reached true happiness.
II. Therefore, secondly, God condescends to give man a warning respecting it, drawing at one stroke a picture of this world, by saying that no such permanent security is to be found here" here we have no continuing city."
But how is it? are not all men pursuing after a phantom of this sort? Look into your own minds, and mark the features of the flitting vision that allures you onward. Is it not, "Could I but secure this object, and add
to my state that other comfort, and extricate myself from the entanglement and pressure of these incumbrances and difficulties; could I once plant myself and family in that envied position, I should be at ease, I should have attained to the object of my yearning heart, and henceforth the stream of life would drift my little bark tranquilly onwards?" I stay not to remind you how objects of worldly desire lose half their value when attained, and how hope's brilliant light flies forward to settle on some other object more in advance; so that a successful man generally never is blest, but always thinks himself on the point of being so nor must I dwell long on the acknowledged truth, that where so many are running in the race of advancement, many will be thrust aside, or so overthrown as to be trodden under foot and wounded in spirit, to rise no more. All will not gain the prize. But since each man is allured by hope to think that he shall be the successful one, or at least one of the successful, let us suppose you some years hence, or it may be now, so felicitous in your efforts, and so measured in your wishes, as to be in possession of every object of desire; suppose that divine Providence heaps upon you with a liberal hand all manner of blessings-riches, and houses, and lands, more than sufficient for your desires, or, as you term them, your wants-a contented temper, without which all would be vain-a circle of friends of sufficient taste, and intellect, and affection, to make intercourse lively and congenial,-suppose that the vine on the walls of thine house beareth her goodly clusters, and that health glisteneth in the myrtle-plants, and shineth on the polished corners of an abounding family; nay, more (though some omit it in their pictures of future happiness, I must add one feature necessary, not as a finish to the whole, but as its life and soul), imagine that your once vague hopes of some day turning to God are realised, and that you serve, and honour, and love him in your daily walk-and that Divine grace daily sought makes your children and servants trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that he may be glorified;-suppose all this, and who will not say, how lovely a picture! what a place of rest! a sheltered garden! a haven of peace! Yes; if God be not forgotten in his gifts, it is a little Eden on earth-as it were one glade of paradise restored.
But hearken, O ye that possess these blessings, and ye too that nourish your hearts by looking forward to such scenes, God's warning is, that you cannot so find a continuing city." Satan, that stole into Paradise and brought in sin, often and often casts the seeds of misery unperceived into the heart of one of the members of such a household, and all
is disturbed and marred, as when Cain hated Abel and slew him. You look in vain here for a city whose bolts and bars can shut out temptation, and sin, and trouble.
Are riches secure? Your city has no bolts and bars to confine them. How often is it verified that they take to themselves wings and fly away! Friends, the nearest and dearest, what risk of their becoming estranged and chilled by misunderstanding, arising, perhaps, from pride unsubdued on the part of both! O beware of giving or taking offences; how soon is the bloom of voluntary friendship brushed away! But, suppose we all these averted, and yet as to the continuance of this fabric of happiness which long years have reared, how frail and glassy are the first stones of its very foundation, the lives of its members! Who has not heard the piteous tale of the withering of many a lovely flower before it reached its prime? how art and tenderness in vain united their efforts!-a worm was at the root! Earthquake, and hurricane, and plague, and war, are not necessary to brand instability on our comforts of this life. In the form of a slight cold, death lays its imperceptible touch upon the frame, and ere long comes to claim his own, and to testify by the chasm that is made, and the shadow on the countenances of them that are left behind, that here we have no bliss that endureth, "no continuing city!" How much more, if the fair and lovely vine herself, or the master-tree which bears her up, is stricken with a secret blow! Yet men will seek for these things, as if they were to endure, and will confide in their continuance to the last hour. It is necessary, then, that ye be warned by no less than the voice of God himself, that "here ye have no continuing city." The saints and patriarchs of old time believed God in this; and we doubt not they enjoyed this life's blessings more in the enjoyment, and were comforted when the loss of them came, because they had learned to hold them in uncertain tenure, as daily pensioners of God's free grace. For instance; Abraham felt comforted by this when he stood before his dead, in the presence of the children of Heth, saying, "I am a stranger and a sojourner" (Gen. xxiii. 4); Jacob meekly bare the full prosperity of declining years, while he thought, as he spake to Pharaoh, of life as "a pilgrimage ;" and when David was gathering his nobles to the magnificent task of building a temple to the God of Israel (1 Chron. xxix. 15), he repeats to them all this salutary truth, "We are all strangers before God, and sojourners, as were all our forefathers: our days are as a shadow, and there is none abiding." "Thus did they confess, as St. Paul declares how slow are we to confess the same of ourselves!-that they were "strangers and
pilgrims on the earth;" for by continual changes God had taught them what he hath here expressed in plain and touching terms, "Here we have no continuing city."
III. But, thirdly, God assures us that there is such a state to be attained unto elsewhere
there is "one to come." The original is more explicit, for the existence of such a state is expressly affirmed. It is spoken of not as a hope, an imagination, like those which man sets before his own eyes, but as a reality. The true force of the expressions, "the one to come," is, "the city that is to come." Yes, revelation sets before us a place of security beyond the utmost dream of human hope"a continuing city," more complete than it hath entered into the heart of man to conceive, hath God prepared for them that love him.
It is figured forth as a city (Heb. xi. 16): "God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he hath prepared for them a city." It hath walls and gates: "Thou shalt call thy walls Salvation, and thy gates Praise." As it is written, again, in Revelations: "It had a wall great and high;" and again, Isaiah saith, "We have a strong city: salvation shall God appoint for walls and bulwarks." It is set forth specially under the figure of the "holy city," the New Jerusalem: "the city had no need of the sun, nor of the moon." No enemy can burst open its pearly gates, nor leap over its jasper walls, nor pollute its golden streets: "There shall in no wise enter into it any thing that defileth." Sin, temptation, sorrow, sickness, tears, death, shall not be known there. Our breaches shall be repaired, never to be broken down again; our wounds shall be healed, and infirmity removed altogether. The majesty of God is security for the peace and safety of that place. The Lord shall keep that city, and his watchmen shall not wake in vain ; and there the universal yearning after a state of safety, and freedom from mischance and the shock of accident, shall be fully gratified. Believe it, brethren, that it is to this that the general desire in the breast of all men is pointing; and you direct your aim too low, if you bend it chiefly at things below the skies.
But mark, that if the city be such as I have described, it is eminently "a continuing city." Methinks I now understand why this gorgeous imagery is used. Walls of precious stone denote not only security, but continuance. As the name of each tribe in Israel was not written in parchment on the fringe or phylacteries of the high priest's dress; nor graven on a tablet of stone, as the ten commandments, which were to endure as long as the world; but wrought in precious stones, as a seal, on his heart and arm, with the work of an engraver in stone, as the engraving of a signet,