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ever we realize, however good it may be in itself, in answer to desires which have not been submitted to the divine will, is questionable if not injurious. Or, in other words, the influence and tendency of unsanctified blessings when securea is detrimental to a course of piety, and to the life of godliness in the soul. For when it is said in the text that God. sent leanness into the souls of the Israelites, it may mean that the very realization of their desires induced such a sad calamity. Here there is a law, the working of which we should observe and understand, that we may be delivered from the evil indicated in the text.
I. THE OPERATION OF THIS LAW. By it the life of religion in the soul is deteriorated and weakened, the spiritual desires and appetites are lessened, interest in everything pertaining to godliness is diverted, and the world, material things, and sometimes sin, engage the heart and the life, and alienate the soul's, best affections from God. These are the results, the operation may soon be discovered. First: The spirit which prompts a desire which we are unwilling to submit to God's wisdom and disposal, must be prejudicial to religion, whether it is entertained by an ungodly person, by one seeking to know the truth, or by one who has long known the way of righteousness, because the manifestation of such desire is expressed opposition to God, and must alienate the heart, more or less, from Him. When a child says to his parent “I will have that,” without submitting his desires to the parent's will and wisdom, then commences a rupture which may continue to increase and which may never be healed. The law of the text thus operates. Secondly: The efforts made hy us to realize what we desire, but ought not to receive at the time and in the way we wish, are generally unfavourable to religion, if they do not undermine and dissipate it.
A child desires some supposed good which the parent, in his wisdom, is not disposed to grant, that child resorts to artifice and cunning, or strenuously employs lawful or unlawful means to realize the object of desire. Now, the
determination and the process have injured that child's young nature beyond expression, and perhaps beyond reparation. Now, it is thus men act when they are not willing to submit their desires to God. They labour with determined assiduity to fulfil their own wishes, and this to the neglect of spiritual duties. A man desires the gratification of some appetite, or the realization of some hope, or the possession of some good, and for it toils night and day, neglects communion with God and with himself, slights religious duties and spiritual work. And if this be true you can easily see how leanness will soon come into the soul. Thirdly : That which is desired, when realized, being realized under such circumstances, must be injurious rather than helpful to a life of religion, because you have a wish fulfilled in opposition to God's will —a good received which is not good for you, and this which you desired, and now possess, comes between your soul and God, between your spiritual need and your greatest good. No wonder then that you lose interest in religion, tire of the ways of piety, and that your zeal and love and devotion decline, your joys diminish, and your hopes become darkened.
II. THE GENERAL APPLICATION OF THIS LAW. And here comes before us the appalling fact that the law is universal, unvarying and potent; and we can escape it only by submitting our desires and requests to God, and by acquiescing in all his arrangements. First: This law applies to individuals, whatever be the positions they occupy, or the circumstances by which they are surrounded. It needs no argument to show that this law applies to those who, like Israel, lustfully desire what they ought not to receive, who desire it for its own sake, and not for the uses it may supply; men who live simply to eat and drink, and to dress in the height of fashion, to gratify all their appetites and passions, and to enjoy themselves to the full, must come under the force of this law. And all good desires, devout feelings, and spiritual convictions produced when under gracious influences, must inevitably be dissipated, leanness must come into the
soul. This is true, also, in reference to the unreflecting, to those who, desiring a possible good-an increase of salary, or an improved worldly position—thoughtlessly endanger, if they do not forfeit, spiritual privileges, religious associations, and advantages. The law likewise applies to those who haste to be rich, or popular, or powerful, more to gratify their own unsanctified ambition than the better to serve their generation, and the more worthilý to glorify God. But this law operates not only in individuals, but in communities, in nations. Let a people thirst for glory, for distinction, for conquest, let them desire to be in advance of all other nations, and all this without consulting God's will or seeking his glory. Such a nation may realize their desires, but it is more than probable that the manners and lives of the people will be corrupted, and that religious life will sink to a low ebb or pass away altogether. And this law is true in respect to churches. Let a people desire a grand and an imposing structure for its own sake, to gratify their vanity and pride, and to place them in advance of the churches in the locality, their ambition may be gratified, but it is more than probable that their religious life will wane, and it will be a great mercy if they have not to say in reference to their religion, " The glory has departed." And thus will it be when wealth is desired rather than piety, men of position rather than men of God, and greatness and popularity rather than goodness, and earnest, quiet working.
III. THE TEACHING OF THIS LAW. There are many lessons we may learn from it. (1) There is much in this world good in itself that we can well do without. (2) Every supposed good does not, when realized, answer all our expectations. “All is not gold that glitters." Lot knew something of this by a prolonged sojourn in Sodom. (3) It is better to be without the seeming good and retain our piety and interest in religion than to realize that good and lose the freshness and vigour of spiritual things, and endanger our everlasting well-being. (4) We should learn to submit all
oár desires to God. (5) Let us remember that with an increase of material good we require a corresponding measure of divine grace. (6) In how many the text has been or will be even everlastingly fulfilled. May our desires be controlled and sanctified by our Father in heaven, and we be ever able
“Not my will, but thine be done." Amen. Bristol.
SUBJECT : The Old and New Garment, and the Old and
New Wine. “And he spake also a parable unto them: No man putteth a piece of a new garment upon an old : if otherwise, then both the new maketh a rent, and the piece that was taken out of the new agreeth not with the old. And no man putteth new wine into old bottles; else the new wine will burst the bottles, and be spilled, and the bottles shall perish. But new wine must be put into new bottles; and both are preserved. No man also, having drunk old wine, straightway desireth new; for he saith, The old is better.”—Luke v. 36—39.
Inalysis of Homily the Seven Hundred and Fifty-Fifth. MHIS text I have already looked at as furnishing a striking
illustration of the popular religious evil of the day.* Let us now regard the text in its general and practical application to our own individual character and experience.
Man, through sin, has lost a “garment," and, through grace, he has gained one of a better sort. He has lost the righteousness of innocence, and found the “righteousness of God.” This righteousness was symbolised by the “coats of skins” which “ the Lord God made" to cover man's nakedness -the character of the clothing, and the mode of its preparation, declaring, in figure, the superhuman nature of the righteousness which Divine love and wisdom have devised for a fallen world.
* Referring to the pamphlet just published by the author, entitled “Ritualism exposed by Old Clothes and Old Bottles.” London: F Pitman.
The attempt to provide a human righteousness is the repetition of Adam's foolishness in trusting to his clothing of “fig leaves." In spiritual questions, as well as questions of secularities, man's nature is snail-like-he will cling tenaciously to his shell: to disimprison, you must break the shell. Man will severely afflict himself-will weep, do penance, give alms, toil like a slave, to save self; but self must do the work, or have some credit in its accomplishment. Naaman was prepared to save no expense, or time, or trouble in order to find a remedy for his malady that accorded with his own ideas.
I. THE OLD AND NEW GARMENT. The absence of righteousness in man is, directly or indirectly, alluded to in Scripture in the figure of a “garment.” The “leprosy" in the garmentthe "filthy rags" with which the prophet Isaiah compares the righteousness of backsliding Israel—the vision of Joshua, in which he was seen “clothed in filthy garments”—all refer to it, as does also the ragged dress of the Prodigal. The apostle Jude exhorts us to “hate the garment spotted by the flesh;” and the apostle Paul admonishes us to "put off the old man," and to "put on the Lord Jesus Christ."
Human righteousness, then, is compared to a garment which has been torn and stained by sin—which cannot be repaired nor cleansed so as to satisfy the pure and perfect eye of God. "Can the Ethiopian change his skin, or the leopard his spots ? then may ye also do good that are accustomed to do evil.” (Jer. xiii. 23.) That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the spirit is spirit.” (John iii. 6.) The life of the “flesh" cannot, therefore, produce the life of the “spirit," nor the "carnal mind," which is “enmity against God," the "spiritual mind,” which is life and peace.” Nevertheless, God must have the spiritual to satisfy Him, “for they that are in the flesh cannot please God.” (Rom. viii.)
Hence the gracious provision made in Christ. He is the soul's "new creation"-the true “wedding garment"