« PreviousContinue »
For he has felt the same."
upon a rock; but what can be done on shifting and sliding sand ? If a man be one thing to-day and another to-morrow; if he yields to every fresh impression like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed ; and is governed by circumstances instead of principles; he can never display character, for character is the effect and fame of habit.
Nothing recommends a man more than stedfastness in friendship, especially when the adherence has to struggle with difficulties. This is what our Lord bere commends in his disciples—They had "continued with him in his temptations."
If the enemy ever left Christ, it was only for “a season ;" he soon returned again to the assault; and urged him even to infidelity, presumption, suicide, and idolatry-How well is it said
“He knows what sore temptations mean, But our Lord does not here refer to such temptations, and especially those he endured in the wilderness. In these his disciples were not present-he was alone-of the people there was none with him. In the Scripture temptations do not always, nor most commonly, signify enticements to sin; but any events that morally try us in the way of duty. In such trial his disciples continued 'with him; they found him poor and despised ; bearing the contradiction of sinners against himself; slandered; menaced; and in danger of death. And they were willing to share in the same treatment. They denied themselves, and took up their cross and followed him. They deemed it enough for the servant to be as the master, and the disciple as his Lord.
There are trials pow to which they who are with him are exposed. They are called," the sufferings of Christ;" “ his reproach ;" and here his “temptations ;” as they accompany his cause, and are endured for his sake. They are not all of a painful nature, or consisting in various degrees of persecution. His followers are often tried in other ways. There are the dangers of prosperity as well as of adversity. The world has its allurements as well as frowns, and is more perilous in its friendship than its enmity. There must be heresies, that they who are of a contrary part may be made manifest. There will always be many who will turn again to folly from the holy commandment delivered them, and will endeavour to draw away others. Happy they, who while the Saviour says, “Will ye also go away ?" can answer, “Lord, to whom shall we go? Thou hast the words of eternal life.” For, “ blessed is the man that endureth temptation ; for when he is tried, he shall receive a crown of life which the Lord hath promised to them that love him.”
Observe, O my soul, how he insures and amplifies the privilege: “I appoint unto you a kingdom, as my Father hath appointed unto me." The grant is not an estate, a province, a principality, but a kingdom! And observe two things with regard to it. First. See the Saviour's authority and dominion: “ I appoint unto you a kingdom.” The Father judgeth no man, but hath committed all judg. ment unto the Son: and he has given him power over all flesh, that he should give eternal life to as many as the Father had given him. The fulness from which he should dispense to the myriads of the saved all the blessings of grace and glory, was the joy set before him,
for which he endured the cross. It is the fruit of the travail of his soul, and it satisfies him ; it yields infinite delight to his benevolent heart. And how must the gift be endeared to the receiver when it is conferred by his own dear hand
“ The righteous Judge, at that great day,
Shall place it on my head." Secondly,he is not only the appointer, but the model of the apment-“my Father hath appointed me." The ground of the Father's appointment him was indeed peculiar-He deserved it and could claim it. He fulfilled the high and awful condition on which it was suspended, his suffering and death. The cause of the Saviour's appointment of us is nothing meritorious; it is mercy and grace, though founded in his own claims. But the one is aś real as the other; and as certain in the accomplishment; and terminates in the same state: and as far as our nature will allow, we shall partake of the same blessedness and honour with himself, though conscious that we have not reached the elevation in the same way. The Scripture cannot be more decisive than it is—"we are quickened together with Christ, and raised up and made to sit with him in the heavenly places.” “ When he who is our life shall appear, we shall also appear with him in glory." "To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me upon my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father upon his throne.” And herein again we rejoice-as all our happiness and dignity will be received from him, so it will be enjoyed with him—"Where I am there shall also my servants be"-"We shall live together with him."
MARCH 8.-" And when Rachel saw that she bare Jacob no children, Rachel envied her sister; and said unto Jacob, Give me children, or else I die.”—Gen. xxx. 1.
HERE we see a little of the evils of polygamy. How hard is it to maintain an equality of satisfaction where there are different claimants feeling alike in their pretensions! Yet if there be a partiality of regard, either real or supposed, what can be expected but discord and wretchedness? How much more agreeably did Isaac and Re becca live together, according to God's original appointment, than poor Jacob with his two wives! What could ever justify a practice at war with morality and the happiness of domestic life, the fountain head of society }
Observe Rachel's ill-humour. Bodily charms with the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit would be irresistible; but a pretty face and a gentle temper are seldom found together. Rachel was beautiful; but because she bore Jacob no children, like her sister, "she envied her.” There is nothing against which we should more guard ourselves than envy. It is a quality the most unlovely and diabolical. Envy is grief, not at another's wo but another's welfare. It is the rottenness of the bones; it is the bane of self-enjoyment; it is quarreling with God for making another to differ from us. It is awful 10 think how naturally prone we are to this vice—“The spirit that is in us lusteth to envy.'
See her intemperate desire. “And she said unto Jacob, Give me children, or else I die." There was no harm in the wish for offspring. They are the natural privilege of marriage. And many have supposed that the Jewish wives wished so much to be mothers, as the promise of God entailed the richest blessings on the posterity of Abraham, and because from his seed according to the flesh, the desire of all nations was to descend. This probably had some influenre; but the principal thing was the respect attached to fruitfulness. In a more refined and improved state of society, intellectual and moral qualities are sufficient to obtain distinction; but in the earlier and ruder ages outward and corporeal attributes are chiefly regarded. In their modes of living too, children were an advantage and a defence. Hence the language of Scripture: “Lo, children are an heritage of the Lord : and the fruit of the womb is his reward. As arrows are in the hand of a mighty man ; so are children of the youth. Happy is the man that hath his quiver full of them; they shall not be ashamed, but they shall speak with the enemies in the gate.” Hence the conception after barrenness in the cases of Sarah and Manoah's wife, and Hannah and Elisabeth, drew forth such joy and praise-But what could be so censurable as the inordinate language of Rachel—“If my wish be not gralified, I shall offer violence to my life, or fret myself into the grave. In some way or other it will prove my death."
But ah! what ignorance of the future, and of her real welfare, does she here betray! “ Who knoweth what is good for a man in this life, all the days of his vain life which he spendeth as a shadow ?" 'How little was Lot aware of the fearful consequences arising from the indulgence of his wish in the choice of the vale of Sodom, well-watered, and looking like the garden of the Lord ! The Jews obtained quails in answer to their pettish request; but he gave them their heart's desire, and sent leanness into their souls: while the flesh was between their teeth, the wrath of God came upon them, and they died of their intemperance. They would have a king; and he showed his resentment not in denying but gratifying them. "He gave them a king in his anger, and took him away in his wrath.” So here ; Rachel says, “ Give me children or else I die”-and she died not in the failure of her desire but in the accomplishment of it, falling a victim to her second pregnancy: “And they journeyed from Bethel ; and there was but a little way to come to Ephrath : and Rachel travailed, and she had hard labour. And it came to pass, when she was in hard labour, that the midwife said unto her, Fear not; thou shalt have this son also. And it came to pass, as her soul was in departing, (for she died) that she called his name Ben-oni: but his father called him Benjamin. And Rachel died, and was buried in the way to Ephrath, which is Bethlehem. And Jacob set a pillar upon her grave: that is the pillar of Rachel's grave unto this day.” And among other things engraven upon it is this-Let you desires be under the government of reason and religion. Extort nothing from God. As to spiritual blessings indeed we cannot be too importunate ; but with regard to temporal we cannot be too resigned. "We are allowed to ask for any comfort pertaining to this life, but we must ask submissively and conditionally. We must implore it only if it be good for us ; and we must leave the determination of this to him that knoweth all things. This too is the surest way to succeed. God sees that while we are in a high fever of desire he cannot safely indulge us ; but he is never unwilling to gratify us when he can do it without injury-For he
hath pleasure in the prosperity of his people.”
MARCH 9.-" And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes." Rev. xxi. 4.
UNLESS we knew something of the world of glory, we could not desire it or prepare for it. Yet what we know is comparatively little: and it is rather negative than positive.' In our present state, our liveliest feeling of good is the absence of evil; and of pleasure is the cessation of pain. And therefore, conformably to an experience well understood by every child of Adam, the happiness of heaven is held forth to our hopes as an exemption from every kind and degree of sorrow-and “God shall wipe away all tears from
Tears and sorrows do not always go together. Some people have a plenitude of tears, whose emotions are by no means deep and durable. Others can seldom weep; yet they feel, and feel the more, because their grief wants utterance. Persons in great anguish are commonly beyond weeping. This is seen in criminals preceding their execution.
When it is said, "God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes," it is taken for granted, that the eyes of his people are no strangers to them now. Grace does not exclude the sensibilities of our nature, but increases as well as refines them. We read of “them that mourn in Zion.” And it is said, " they shall come with weeping." Religion costs a Christian a thousand tears in addition to those which he inherits as a man-for "man is born to trouble, as the sparks fly upwards."
Of the tears they so frequently shed, we may remark in particular, five sources. Those which arise from secular afflictions, such as difficulties, perplexities, and failures in business; and changes, reductions, and privations in outward circumstances. Those which arise from social trials-whether sympathy in sorrow, defections in friendship, or relative bereavements. Those which arise from bodily pains, indispositions, and decays. Those which flow from moral imperfections, and which are the most distressing to a pious mind. And those which spring from the sins of others; for rivers of tears run down their eyes, because men keep not God's law.
But of whatever kind their tears may be, the promise insures the removal of them. The removal has three characters. It is divine
“God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes.” He alone can do it. But he is all-sufficient, and the God of all comfort. Even here,
“when he giveth quietness, then who can make trouble ?" It is complete-"God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes” Who can tell what will be the last drop of the briny flood. But it will be shed. “And there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away."
It is future "God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes." He wipes away many even now: but the days of their mourning
are not yet ended. Whatever be their indulgences, earth will always be distinguished from heaven. They are now in the warfare; the triumph is to come. This is their seed-time, and they sow in tears; but they shall
reap Let us learn our obligation to the Redeemer of sinners. Our iears would never have been wiped away, but a miserable life would have been followed by a more miserable eternity, had not be interposed on our behalf, and bore our sins in his own body on the tree. * These are they that came out of great tribulation, and have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb; therefore are they before the Throne"
Christians ! in the multitude of your thoughts within you, let this comfort delight your souls. Life is the date of all your griefs. If the one be short, the other cannot be long. Not a single tear beyond the grave! Bear up faith, hope, and patience a little longer, and the * eye shall see evil no more."
What folly and madness to resign this prospect, and when the blessedness is within our reach, to sacrifice it for a thing of nought! Yet are we in the number of those whose tears will be thus wiped away? It is certain that many are not heirs of this promise ; and therefore whatever be their present distresses, they only feel the beginning of sorrows. Poor as their pleasures now are, they are the best—they are all the happiness-they will know. And the vanity and vexation of spirit here will issue in outer darkness hereafter,' where there will be weeping and wailing ‘and gnashing of teeth
" But as yet there is a hope,
You may his mercy know;
He still forbears the blow".
MARCH 10.-"When the people of the land shall come before the Lord in the solemn feasts, he that entereth in by the way of the north gate to worship shall go out by the way of the south gate; and he that entereth by the way of the south gate shall go forth by the way of the north gale: he shall not return by the way of the gate whereby he came in, but shall go forth over against it.” -Ezekiel xlvi. 9.
To preserve the remembrance of his mighty works; to attach the people to the true religion by the frequent use of public and instructive services and ceremonies; to allow them seasons of rest and pleasure ; to promote their acquaintance with their brethren; and 10 prefigure good things to come under the dispensation of the Gospel; God appointed various "sulemn feasts” among the Jews. There were more especially three; the feast of the Passover or of unlearened bread, the feast of Pentecost or of weeks, and the feast of Tabernacles.
Each of these was annual, and all the males were required to attend upon them in Jerusalem, where alone they could be celebrated.
In doing this, they " came before the Lord.” For his dwellingplace was in Zion. There he sat between the cherubirn, and cominuned with the worshippers from off the mercy-seat. Of his presence there, he gave not only real but miraculous proof, in the cloud of glory, and in the answers from the holy oracle. Though his