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try literally, it would seem impossible that a rational being should bow down, not only to the sun, moon, and stars, but to his fellow creatures, to animals, to reptiles, to wood, and stone, to the work of his own hands. Yet what says all history ?— And not only were the heathens thus besotted, but the Jews also. Ephraim worshipped the calves. And if we advert to-the refinement of these abomi. nations, and pass from literal to spiritual idolatry, every man by nature is an idolater, What was the fall, but a defection from Ġod ? What is sin, but the transfer to the creature of the regard due to the Creator ?. And it matters not whether the rival and engrosser be a worm, or an angel. Whatever we fear or value more han God, is to us an idol. Thus we read of " lovers of pleasure more than lovers of God;" and of some “who make gold their hope, and fine gold their confidence ;” and of others who make flesh their arm." God alone can heal us; and yet we seek to the physician, and not to God. His blessing alone maketh rich; and yet we form our plans without him, and ascribe our successes to our own skill and care. He is the God of our salvation; and yet we depend on our own worthiness and strength, instead of saying, In the Lord I have righteousness and strength. “Little children,” says John,“ keep yourselves from idols." We may make idols of our relations, idols of our opinions, idols of our religious parties, idols of our ministers, idols of the means of grace- What is heaven? A state in which' God is all in all. What is the effect of growing sanctification ? Our waiting on God all the day. What is conversion? A turning away from the world to God, saying, "Whom have I in heaven but thee, and there is done on earth that I desire besides thec.'_"It is good for me to draw near to God”—“What have I any more to do with idols ?"
And observe the disposition of God towards the repenting Ephraim.
He observes the workings of his heart—"I have heard and observed him.” This is to be restrained to the nature of the case. It is an awful reflection, that God is in every place: he hears and observes all his creatures. But much more is here intended than mere observation; it is observation accompanied with approbation and de. light. Such a penitent is either disregarded or despised by the world. At best he is considered as the subject of a weak mind or a disordered imagination, But truth assures us that he is now coming to himself; that the angels rejoice over him; while God himselt says, “to that man will I look, even to him that is poor, and of a contrite spirit, and that trembleth at my word.” “I have surely heard Ephraim bemoaning himself thus: Thou hast chastised me, and I was chastised, as a bullock unaccustomed to the yoke: turn thou me, and I shall be turned; for thou art the Lord my God. Is Ephraim my dear son ? Is he a pleasant child ? For since I spake against him, I do earnestly remember him still: therefore my bowels are troubled for him; I will surely have mercy upon him, saith the Lord."
He presents himself as his sheller and refreshment-"I am like a green fir-tree.” Is not this image below God? So is every comparison. Figures taken from the sublimest objects in nature come infinitely short of his glory. Yet such allusions are useful and necessary. In the east too, a fir-tree is far more than we see it here; beautiful in its appearance, growing to a great height, yielding a fragrant scent, spreading very widely, and affording a desirable retreat to the traveller. But a metaphor must not be pressed. The import of it is often purely relative to some one thing rendered valuable by the present circumstances of the individual. Such is cold water to a thirsty soul. Such is a cloud in harvest. The simple idea here is shade and perpetual verdure: the fir-tree being an evergreen, the same in summer and winter-Thus God is the same to the soul that trusts in him at all times and in all conditions: and if we would be raised above the influence of fear and trouble, we must sit beneath the shadow of the Almighty, and realize his perfections, presence, promises, and providence, as unchangeably concerned for our welfare. Creatures may all fail us ; but He is the same. “My salvation shall be for ever, and my righteousness shall not be abol. ished."
He engages to furnish fertility—“From me is thy fruit found." This supplies a deficiency in the former image. A fir-tree, though always green and affording shade, yet yields no fruit; but the Lord affords repast as well as repose. These are united in the acknowl. edgment of the Church: "I sat down under his shadow with great delight, and his fruit was sweet to my taste.” This fruit is to be taken two ways. First, for the fruit they enjoy. What is this but all spiritual blessings, pardon, peace, the comforts of the Holy Ghost, the foretastes of heaven? This is the believer's fruit, because he is the possessor of it: but in me, says the Lord, it is found as the source and giver. Let us seek it alone in him. Paradise had nothing like it. Secondly, for the fruit they bear. This includes their graces, duties, and good works. To these our Saviour refers when he
"Herein is my Father glorified that ye bear much fruit.” This is ours because we are the subjects of it; but he is the author. We receive the influences, but he imparts them. We exercise the principles, but he produces them. We render the obedience, but he inclines and enables us. We repent and believe, but the repentance and the faith are his gifts. We work out our salvation, but he works in us to will and to do of his good pleasure. They are therefore called " the fruit of the Spirit:" and " the fruits of righteousness, which are of Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God”—“FROM ME IS THY FRUIT FOUND.
MARCH 2.-" All the promises of God in him are yea, and in him amen, unto the glory of God by us." --2 Cor. i. 20.
There is some difference between God's purposes and promises. Both of them so to speak are gold : but the one, gold in the mint; the other, gold in the mint impressed and prepared for currency and use. God could have blessed his people without previously announcing it, and bringing himself under an engagement; but in this case his design could not have been known, believed, expected, pleaded. But the promises give rise to a life of faith, and hope, and patience,
Let me contemplate these promises in their relation to Christ They “are in him.” All their contents are found in him : indeed he himself is the substance of the whole. In the Covenant of Grace he is the Covenantee; and the promises of it are made, not imme
diately with us but with him, as our head representative and surety. He performed the awful condition on which they were all founded; and has ratified them by his own blood. He is also the pledge of their existence and accomplishment. They might seem too great to be believed were it not for himself, who is greater than any thing God has promised. But he has been given; and " he that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things ?" If the promises are in him, the way to possess and enjoy them all is to receive him—"He that hath the Son hath life.”
Let me also view them in their certainty—“All the promises of God in him are yea, and in him amen.” All the promises of Satan are falsehood. Human promises are not always truth. David indeed erred when he said in his haste-all men are liars; yet too commonly "men of low degree are vanity, and men of high degree are a lie. But even Balaam could say, The Lord is not a man that he should lie; neither the son of man that he should repent: hath he said, and shall he not do it; or hath he spoken, and shall he not make it good ?” Men fail in their promises through forgetfulness, or changeableness of mind, or inability of performance. But can he forget whose understanding is infinite? Can he change his purpose who is in one mind, the same yesterday, to-day, and forever ? Can any thing be too hard for the Almighty, maker of heaven and earth ? Let us therefore honour God by our confidence. If we have a word from him, let it satisfy us, whatever difficulties oppose the accomplishment-these are for him to consider who has promised. Abraham, therefore, having received the divine assurance, though there were improbabilities, and even natural impossibilities in the way, “staggered not at the promise of God through unbelief, but was strong in faith, giving glory to God.” Hence
Let me observe them in their design—“ To the glory of God." God is glorified in them as they are all yea and amen : for nothing can be more honourable to God than the impossibility of impeaching his veracity. He is therefore called “the faithful God.” “ His faithfulness reacheth unto the clouds;" and far beyond then-his “faithfulness is established in the very heavens ;” and the fame of it there draws forth the acclamation, “Just and true are all thy ways, O thou King of saints !" But his wisdom and power also are glorified in the time and manner of their accomplishment. Above all, how does not only the fulfilment but the donation of these promises display the exceeding riches of his grace! For what but the most undeserved favour and boundless mercy could have led him to remember us in our low estate, and instead of threatening us with destruction, promise us eternal life and all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ !
Finally, let me remark the instrumentality of this design-" To the glory of God by us." By us as ntinisters—publishing, explaining, applying them. A promise is often like a box of ointment very precious; but the fragrance does not fill the room till the preacher breaks it. Or it is like the water that was near Hagar which she saw not, till the angel of the Lord opens our eyes and shows us the well. By us believers-realizing the excellency and efficacy of them in our character and conduct. It is when these promises are reduced Vol. I.
to experience; when they are seen cleansing us from all filthiness of flesh and spirit
, making us partakers of the divine nature, leading us to walk worthy of the vocation wherewith we are called, filling us with kindness and benevolence, supporting us cheerfully under all our trials; it is then they glorify God by us.
How responsibly should they feel, and how carefully should they walk, who are entrusted with the honour of God in his word which he magnifies above all his Name !
MARCH 3.—"Sire, what must I do to be saved !"--Acts xvi. 30. We may imagine the manner in which the jailor had addressed Paul and Silas before, from the manner in which he treated them ; for having received them in charge, he thrust them into the inner prison, and made their feet fast in the stocks, while their backs were bruised and bleeding from the scourge; for their wounds were not dressed till some hours after. Doubtless bad words and reproachful names were added to the cruelty. But however he had insulted them before, he now reveres them more than kings; and calling for a light, he springs in, and comes trembling, and falls down before them in the inner prison, and brings them out, and cries, “ What must I do to be saved ?"
This was obviously the language of apprehension. He saw he was in danger of being lost. But how lost? Some have supposed that he refers to his temporal danger. The Roman jailor was made answerable for his prisoner; and if the prisoner escaped, the jailor bore the punishment the prisoner was doomed to en dure. At first therefore the keeper was thus alarmed; for upon the earthquake, which shook the foundations of the prison, so that the doors were opened, and every man's bands were loosed, he awaked out of his sleep, and drew his sword, and would have killed himself, supposing that the prisoners had filed. But his alarm on this account must have been removed, as soon as ever Paul cried with a loud voice, “Do thyself no harm, for we are all here.” And the answer given to his inquiry, shows that he did not refer to temporal death; for though faith in Christ saved him from hell, it would not have saved him from the penalty of the Roman law had he incurred it.
His anxiety, therefore, regards his spiritual and eternal state. It is in vain to argue against this, and say, how could this be, as it sup poses a knowledge which this Pagan could not possess ? For the heathen generally had some sense of a future state; and were all their life-time, subject to bondage through fear of death. Often their uneasinesses were such, that to obtain something like peace of mind, they would endure the greatest privations and self-inflicted tortures and give the fruit of their body for the sin of their soul. God indeed has a witness in every bosom. Every man is a sinner; his conscience condemns him; he feels his need of pardon. Were he guiltless, he would be fearless. The innocent do not tremble when they hear the trumpet announcing the entrance of the Judge; but only those who are to be tried. The earthquake had roused the jailor's dread of the power and the anger of God. Perhaps he had heard Paul and Silas singing in the stocks. Perhaps they had dropped some thing while he was misusing them that had impressed his mind. Perhaps he had been informed of their preaching, and doubtless he bad been told of the language of the Pythoness, who for many days had cried, “These men are the servants of the Most High God, which show unto men the way of salvation." To which we may well add, how soon the Spirit of God can reach the heart, and enter the conscience like a conqueror at the head of an army: No wonder his apprehension made himn cry, "What must I do to be saved ?" It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God. If a man were any way exposed to it, we should think it impossible that he could enjoy a moment's ease; or be capable of feeling a lighter sorrow, in hazard of such a tremendous doom. When I was awakened, says Bunyan, nothing so astonished me as to see how my fellowcreatures were affected with their outward troubles—I had many of these; but I could only cry, How shall I escape the damnation of hell ?
His language contains a desire of information. In such a state as this, ignorance is dreadful, and perplexity intolerable. _And in vain you address the man concerning any other subject. Tell me, says he, how I can flee from the wrath to come. How I can obtain acceptance with God. How I can be renewed in the spirit of my mind. Is there balm in Gilead, and ą physician there ? And what is that balm ? Who is that physician? He also dreads imposition. Tell me the true state of my soul. If there be hope, announce it; but do not flatter me. Nothing will now satisfy the mind but certainty. And the man has it not in his power to be his own instructer or comforter. He distrusts himself, and suspects every thing like comfort that comes from his own heart, which has so often deceived him. Now therefore he prizes the means and the source of information. He reads the Scripture-and for the purpose for which it was written. He hears the word—and for the purpose for which it is preached. How beautiful now are the feet of him that bringeth good tidings! How endeared the throne of grace where the prayer is heard, " Thy Spirit is good ; lead me into the land of uprightness.”
Here was also a readiness to submit to the method prescribed for his deliverance. Some, when they are alarmed, think of building a shelter rather than of Aeeing for refuge. They indulge in a legal bias, and human reasonings;
and going about to establish their own righteousness, do not submit themselves to the righteousness of God.
The simplicity of the scheme of gospel grace, pays no homage to the idol self; and the spiritual Naaman is ready to turn away in a rage, because the mode of relief is not such as he " thought.” The scheme is additionally offensive, because it demands the destruction of every sin; and men love independence, and to walk according to the way of their own hearts. But bring a man into the state of the jailor, and he will be willing to yield-willing to be led. Tell him the way, and he will walk in it.' Tell him the remedy, and he will submit to it, however it may require him to stoop, or whatever it may require him to sacrifice. Dr. Cheyne was an eminent as well as a pious physician. But he was supposed to be severe in his regimen. When he had prescribed, and the patient began to object to the treatment, he would say, "I see you are not bad enough for me