Page images

he was awakened, and informs him of the ignorance of his poor neighbours, and says, "Come over and help us." He goes : and a number believe and turn unto the Lord. A single grain of corn will produce several ears; these ears will produce many ears more; and ihe increase in time will be sufficient for the semination of a field a province, a country-So says God of his people, “I will sow them in the earth.” Thus churches are raised. Thus kingdoms are evangelized.

Why are good men called "the chariots of Israel and the horsemen thereof?" “ The salt of the earth ?” “The light of the world ?" "A dew from the Lord ?” But to express the advantages others derive from them. And who can tell the extent of the benefits produced by their prayers, example, and influence? We are persuaded that none of them are useless: and he who has been the means of the salvation of one soul, has done more than the hero who has delivered a whole empire from civil bondage-for “there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner that repenteth"-—But what blessings have some individuals proved ! Think of Howard in his journeys of compassion-of Thornton and Reynolds in the diffusions of their bounty-of Luther in the work of the reformation-of Watts in his psalms and hymns--of Whitfield in his preaching-of a father and mother who bring up a family of children in the fear of the Lord of the two or three individuals that brought Christianity to this favoured country-of the few missionaries who landed in the South Sea Islands, and induced whole communities to turn from dumb idols to serve the true God, and to wait for his Son from heaven!!

But they are made a blessing not only as they bless others, but as they are blessed by them. With regard to Joseph's offspring, the dying patriarch "blessed them that day, saying, God make thee as Ephraim and as Manasseh." What did Balaam but bless them, though he was employed to curse, when he said, "How goodly are thy tents, O Jacob, and thy tabernacles, O Israel"_" The Lord his God is with them, and the shout of a King is among them”—“Let me die the death of the righteous, and let my last end be like his." And thus their very enemies are inwardly constrained to admire and extol those whom they pretend to despise, and in words even revile. But how cordially are they blessed by those to whom they have been useful! With what satisfaction does Job speak of this -“When the ear heard me it blessed me"-"The blessing of him that was ready to perish came upon me.” “Blessed be my mistress," says a servant: "I was ignorant as a heathen when I entered her family; but she has led me into the way everlasting.” “Blessed for ever be my precious mother,” says many a child, whose easy and gentle endeavours brought me up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.” Their fellow-Christians bless them as their brethren, companions, and helpers. Ministers say, "The blessing of the Lord be upon you: we bless you in the name of the Lord.” “ And their seed shall be known among the Gentiles, and their offspring among all people: all that see them shall acknowledge them that they are the seed which the Lord hath blessed"--For, “Come,” will the Judge say, "Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.” VOL. I.


MAY 4.--"And they worshipped him, and returned to Jerusalem with great joy: and were continually in the temple, praising and blessing God. Amen.". Luke xxiv. 52, 53.

This was the consequence of the affecting transaction recorded in the preceding verses. "He led them out as far as to Bethany, and he lifted up his hands, and blessed them. And it came to pass, while he blessed them, he was parted from them, and carried up into heaven”—Upon this four things are recorded of these blessed disciples.

First, their adoration of him—“They worshipped him.” Full of astonishment, and straining their eyes to follow him in his traceless flight, they were standing when he had ascended: and hence the angelic messengers said, “Why stand ye gazing up into heaven ?" They then kneeled, and prostrated themselves upon the ground—and "worshipped him.” And what was this worship? It was nothing less than Divine. It was addressed to a being now absent, and whose senses therefore could not advertize him of the homage: for they not only worshipped, but worshipped him. The enemies of the present truth are embarrassed with the case of Stephen. They cannot deny that he prayed to Christ, when he said, *Lord Jesus, receive my spirit;" and "Lord, lay not this sin to their charge." But they reply, that he saw Christ“standing on the right hand of God :" and therefore addressed him: conceding that to have addressed him in this manner, had he been absent and invisible, would have been no less than idolatry. Yet not to observe that the petitions themselves were very strange ones, to offer to a creature, even if present and in sight, we find prayer addressed to him when he was undeniably invisible and absent. Paul speaks of "all who called upon the name of the Lord Jesus.” In his own prayer for the Thessalonians le mentions him, even before the Father. “Now our Lord Jesus Christ himself, and God, even our Father, which hath loved us, and hath given us everlasting conso lation and good hope through grace, comfort your hearts, and stablish you in every good word and work.” And the disciples here worshipped him after “he was carried up into heaven."

Secondly. Their obedience--"And they returned to Jerusalem.” We call this obedience, because he had expressly enjoined it. “Tarry ye in the city of Jerusalem until ye be endued with power from on high.” “Being assembled together with them, he commanded them that they should not depart from Jerusalem, but wait for the promise of the Father.” It was all along foretold that the Christian dispensation was to commence from the metropolis of Judea. “The Lord shall send the rod of his strength out of Zion.” “Out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem."

There Jesus died and rose again. There the Apostles were to open their commission; and the Holy Spirit was to be poured down to qualify them to preach the Gospel to every creature. At this time Judea was the centre of the known world ; for America was not yet discovered, and probably not inhabited. It was the most surrounded and the most accessible situation; and therefore when the Lord made the feast unto all people, he spread it upon this mountain ; the table was in the middle of the room. It would be an evi

dence in favour of Christianity, that it was published immediately, on the spot where the facts were alleged to have occurred. And it would show the compassionate disposition of the Founder, that he would have repentance and remission of sin in his name to be published first at Jerusalem. Hence he required their return thither. And they, instead of fleeing or concealing themselves, repaired back to a place full of danger-a place where lately they had killed their master, and would be still more likely to hate and persecute themselves. This would be a great trial of their obedience. They were going like lambs into a lair of wolves. But they had nothing to do with events. They knew his order for their conduct; and the path of duty is the path of safety. Yea, we see,

Thirdly, their gladness; for they not only returned, but “with great joy." This seems surprising. He is a bad relation, we say, that is not missed. How we feel the removal of a friend or a minister who has been useful to us! and not to feel, would be a criminal insensibility. What a loss then did the disciples sustain when deprived of their Lord and Saviour, who had always guided, preserved, and comforted them! Accordingly, when the intimation was first given, sorrow filled their hearts. But we here see the advantage of knowledge. For he had opened their understandings, and explained to them the Scriptures: and they now saw—That though he was going to leave them as to his bodily presence, he would be with them spiritually—That his departure would result in his own exaltation and glory-That it was also expedient for themselves that he went away—That he would appear in the presence of God for them, and be their advocate with the Father-That he would be able to make all things work together for their good-That he would prepare a place for them, and come again and receive them unto himself, that where he was they might be also. And what could they want more, to induce them io rejoice? But,

Fourthly, they were as grateful as they were joyful—"And were continually in the temple praising and blessing God.” That is, they constantly repaired thíther at the seasons of devotion. For we read that “when" upon their return to Jerusalem “they were come in, they went up into an upper room, where abode both Peter, and James, and John, and Andrew, Philip, and Thomas, Bartholomew, and Matthew, James, the son of Alphæus, and Simon Zelotes, and Judas, the brother of James. These all continued with one accord in prayer and supplication, with the women, and Mary, the mother of Jesús, and with his brethren." But their private engagements did not keep them from the public services of the sanctuary, as often as they returned. We are not to forsake the house of our God: apd we are to “enter his gates with thanksgiving, and bis courts with praise.". It is easy to see what was the cause of their excitement, and which led them to magnify the Lord, and to exalt his name together. They blessed and praised him for all bis mercies, but above all, for his unspeakable Gift-That he was delivered for their offences, and raised again for their justification-That he ever lived to make intercession for them—that he had taken possession of heaven on their behalf—and that in him they were blessed with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places. Let us cherish the same disposition, and follow their example. And let our gratitude be real and practical. Let us show forth his praise, not only with our lips, but in our lives. “God is the Lord, which hath showed us light: bind the sacrifice with cords, even unto the horns of the altar."

MAY 5.--"Let us eat and drink; for to-morrow we die." - Cor. xv. 32.

When Isaiah had foretold the invasion of Judea by the Chaldeans; “And in that day did the Lord God of hosts call to weeping, and to mourning, and to baldness, and to girding with sackcloth : behold joy and gladness, slaying oxen, and killing sheep, eating flesh, and drinking wine-let us eat and drink; for to-morrow we shall die." If we quote the Wisdom of Solomon, it is not because we consider it inspired Scripture, but as evidence to support the common prevalence of this wretched sentiment at the period it was written : ? For our time is a very shadow that passeth away: and after our end there is no returning: for it is fast sealed, so that no man cometh again. Come on, therefore, let us enjoy the good things that are present: and let us speedily use the creatures like as in youth. Let us fill ourselves as with costly wine and ointments: and let no flower of the spring pass by us. "Let us crown ourselves with rose-buds before they be withered. Let none of us go without his part of our - voluptuousness: let us leave tokens of our joyfulness in every place:

for this is our portion, and our lot is this." This indeed in all ages and countries has been the manual of devotion for those worshippers whose god is their belly, who glory in their shame, and mind eartbly things.

It admits a fact too clear to be questioned. The living know that they shall die. The very men before us confess it; yea, they acknowledge that the event is not only certain, but near—"To-morrow we die.” And this was true; for death is always near in possibility; and is never far off in reality. Yet, instead of saying, as we must die shortly, and may die soon, therefore we ought to be prepared for the event, they make it a motive to encourage licentiousness—"Let us eat and drink, for to-morrow we die." What a proof have we here of the truth of the fall: “The heart of the sons of men is full of evil, and madness is in their heart while they live." We could as soon believe that God made fiends, as that he made the human race what they now are. “God made man upright, but they sought out many inventions." · But how stands the truth of the charge with regard to us? Let none imagine that they are innocent because they have never uttered the sentiment in so many words. Your temper and actions speak louder than words—And what is their language? Does it not say unto God, “Depart from us, for we desire not the knowledge of thy ways ?" Does it not seem to avow that nothing shall disturb your carnality and carelessness? and that if life be short, you are resolved it shall not be sad ?

But is the reasoning or excitement such a monstrous perversion of every thing right as it appears ? Let us place it on two grounds. Are you believers in Revelation ? Do you admit that there is really an eternal world, and that you are always on the brink of it? You are then worse than infidels, not as to your creed--this is truth, but as to your practice, which is inconsistent, and senseless, beyond all

the power of language to express. But if you are unbelievers, if you deny a future state, and think that we are mere masses of matter, that we perish like the beasts, and nothing survives death; you are but acting consistently with your belief, and you may then well say, “Let us eat and drink, for to-morrow we die.” The present is all the happiness you know, and you would be fools not to make the most of it-Therefore we would say to you, Go on-only remarking two things. First, be sure, perfectly sure, of your premises. But you cannot demonstrate that there is no world to come, no judgment after death. The utmost you can reach is probability. If a doubt remaios in a case of such tremendous import

, it must be enough to break all your repose whenever it recurs, and to stamp your conduct with insanity. Probability would be sufficient to justify a man on the other side, the safe side, the side on which if we are mistaken as to our main expectation, we must be gainers upon the whole, and present gainers; but nothing less than absolute certainty can justify you. When Thistlewood, the traitor, was ascending the drop, he said to his companions, referring to the doubtfulness of an existence after death, “ We shall soon know the great secret." And so they would. Yet what madness and wretchedness to leave it undetermined till the discovery could be of no advantage, and the truth of the condemnation was proved by the execution of the sentence, and hell was seen and suffered at once!“Rejoice, O young man, in thy youth; and let thy heart cheer thee in the days of thy youth, and walk in the ways of thine heart, and in the sight of thine eyes: but know thou, that for all these things God will bring thee inio judgment."

Secondly, even admitting the truth of your premises, your conduct is not rational unless intemperance and luxury were the truest and highest enjoyment of life. But it would be easy to prove that they are not. It is worthy of observation, that Epicurus himself

, though he contemned religion in every form, and excluded a future state, and contended that pleasure was the great end of life, yet recommended the practice of universal virtue, and thought the virtues were to be cherished, not on their own account, but for the sake of pleasure. He was himself the most plain and temperate of men, lived sparingly, and on the plainest food, always attesting that this was best not only for health, but pleasure ; and employed it as a maxim, “That' he lived most pleasurably who lived most temperately.” We have better authority than this; and we are sure that good men have not only a thousand enjoyments of a nature which others know nothing of; but as to those kinds of pleasure which the men of the world value, (unless the pleasures of sin,) the pleasures of time and sense, they have by far the pre-eminence. Godliness is profitable unto all things: it has the promise of the life that now is, as well as of that which is to come. Others may possess more, but we know who hath said, “ the meek shall inherit the earth.” ""Go thy way, eat thy bread with joy, and drink thy wine with a merry heart'; for Go: now accepteth thy works. Let thy garments be always white; and let thy head lack no ointment."


« PreviousContinue »