Page images
[ocr errors]

times answered immediately, and sometimes it is delayed. It is sometimes answered in the very thing desired, and sometimes in a way of exchange-while sometimes by strange, and even terrible things, in righteousness the Lord answers his people. Wisdom therefore is here necessary in discerning, and caution in judging. We should not indeed subtilize too much; nor be distressed if we cannot ascertain what is in answer to prayer. We have always enough to encourage us to continue in the exercise, and should impress our minds with the conviction that our seeking cannot be in vain in the Lord. Yet as prayer is answered, it is proper and important to attend to it; and whoso is wise and will observe these things, even he shall understand the loving-kindness of the Lord. It is inore than trifling with the Supreme Being, it is even insulting him to awaken his attention when we never mean to regard his benefits. Yet thousands never think more of their prayers when they have once offered them. They knock, but never stay to see whether the door of mercy is opened. They send an address, but never wait for the reply, or read it when it comes. And will God remember prayers which we ourselves forget, or regard prayers, which we ourselves despise ? On the other hand, how desirable is it to know that he has not forgotten to be gracious, or turned away our prayer from him! How confirming is it to our confidence to be able to say, with Moses, “ The Lord heard me at that time also." What excitement to praise and prayer does David derive from this persuasion ; "I love the Lord, because he hath heard my voice and my supplications."

Hannah not only observes the regard of God to her case, but acknowledges it. So should we. We should not hide his righteousness within our heart; but declare his faithfulness and his salvation. Many stand in need of encouragement, and under a sense of their unworthiness and guilt are ready to conclude that the Lord will not hear them. Be his witnesses.' Testify to them from your own experience. I have tried the freeness and fulness of his grace. I never trusted in him and was confounded, never sought him and was disappointed. Tell it to his own people. It will not excite their envy; the humble shall hear thereof and be glad. They have prayed for you: call upon them to aid your praise : O magnify the Lord with me, and let us exalt his name together. I sought the Lord, and he heard me, and delivered me from all my fears. Come and hear, all ye that fear God, and I will declare what he hath done for my soul. "Yea, like Hannah, tell it to Eli-Ministers personally need such communications; and they can also improve them for the good of others both in their private intercourse and in their public services.

What a place will heaven be when we ascend to that Shiloh ! What developments shall we have to make from our history and experience! What answers of prayer, what deliverances

, what blessings to acknowledge! What mutual congratulations shall we have to receive! What praises shall we have to offer !

MAY 16.-" Therefore I have lent him to the Lord; as long as he liveth he shall be lent to the Lord.”-1 Sam. i. 28.

This must have been an exercise of great self-denial in Hannah, to resign so dear a child for ever. But it was only an act of fidelity to religious engagement: it was the condition of her prayer: “ She vowed a vow, and said, O Lord of Hosts, if thou wilt indeed look on the affliction of thine handmaid, and remember me, and not forget thine handmaid, but wilt give unto thine handmaid a man child, then I will give him unto the Lord all the days of his life, and there shall no razor come upon his head.” Distress will often gender purposes and resolutions, because we then feel our weakness and dependence; but when the danger is removed, or the blessing obtained, and the hour of performance is arrived, we resemble the lepers who, when healed, returned not to give glory to God. How many have howled upon their beds, and poured out a prayer when God's chastening hand was upon them! But the vows of sickness have been violated by renewed health, and their iniquities, like the wind, have taken them away. Even Hezekiah, affected as he was by the divine goodness, so that he composed a writing to fix and perpetuate the sentiment, and said, " The living, the living, he shall praise thee, as I do this day : the father to the children shall make known thy truth: The Lord was ready to save me: therefore we will sing my songs to the stringed instruments, all the days of our life, in the house of the Lord :" yet after all this he rendered not according to the benefit done him. So it was with Jacob. When, going from home a forlorn youth, he was indulged with the vision at Beth-el, and alluding to the divine intimation so suited to his circumstances of distress, he “vowed a vow, saying, If God will be with me, and will keep me in this way that I go, and will give me bread to eat, and raiment to put on, so that I come again to my father's house in peace; then shall the Lord be my God: and this stone which I have set for a pillar, shall be God's house: and of all that thou shalt give me I will surely give the tenth unto thee." Yet when he returned, multiplied and enriched, he passed year after year, comparatively in the neighbourhood, forgetful of his engagements, till God said to him, “Arise, go up to Beth-el, and dwell there: and make there an altar unto God, that appeared unto thee when thou fleddest from the face of Esau, thy brother.” Then, and not till then, “ Jacoh said unto his household, and to all that were with him, Put away the strange gods that are among you, and be clean, and change your garments : and let us arise, and go up to Beth-el; and I will make there an altar unto God, who answered me in the day of my distress, and was with me in the way which I went.”

We do not much recommend vowing; we would rather urge praying: but if vows are to be made, let them be made in the strength of divine grace; and let them not be tripled with, but fulfilled. “When thou vowest a vow unto God, defer not to pay it; for he hath no pleasure in fools : pay that which thou hast vowed. Better is it that thou shouldest not vow, than that thou shouldest vow and not pay.” How noble was the conduct of David upon his deliverance ! "I will go into thy house with burnt-offerings; I will pay thee my vows, which my lips have uttered, and my mouth hath spoken, when I was in trouble.” In the same manner Hannah acts when she brings her little Samuel to Shiloh, and dedicates him to the Lord—“As long as he liveth he shall be lent to the Lord" —

And was she a loser by this surrender ? Did he cease to be her's because he was the Lord's? She would feel a new and a peculiar interest in him, in consequence of his relation to the sanctuary. There she knew the little Levite would be safe, and happy, and dig. nified. There he would grow up to be the light of Israel, the prophet, the ruler, the judge of his country. And she would make him a little coat, and bring it to him year by year, when she came up with her husband, to offer the yearly sacrifice. And while her fingers were employed in the needle-work her spirit would hold communion with him; and she would look forward to a state in which she would possess him for ever

Was she a loser by this resignation ? Immediately her tongue was loosed, and became as the pen of a ready writer: "My heart rejoiceth in the Lord; mine horn is exalted in the Lord; my mouth is enlarged over mine enemies; because I rejoice in thy salvation." There is nothing meritorious in our performances; but with such sacrifices God is well pleased. Them that honour me, says God, I will honour. When we follow our convictions, and show that we hold nothing too dear to part with at bis call, he gives us the testimony of his approbation, and fills the mind with peace and joy. When the Eunuch was baptized, he went on his way rejoicing. What is the reason that some are strangers to the liberty and comfort of the Gospel ? Is it not, some known duty neglected ? or some idol adored ? Are the consolations of God small with thee? Is there no secret thing with thee? Throw the head of the traitor to the Lord our King over the wall; and Joab retires, and peace is restored-O that thou hadst hearkened to my commandments! then had thy peace been as a river, and thy righteousness as the waves of the sea.

Was she a loser by this sacrifice ? “And the Lord visited Hannah, so that she conceived, and bare three sons and two daughters.” For one child given, behold five added ! “And Amaziah said to the man of God, But what shall we do for the hundred talents which I have given to the army of Israel? And the man of God answered, The Lord is able to give thee much more than this." “ Then Peter said, Lo, we have left all, and followed thee. And he said unto them, Verily I say unto you, There is no man that hath left house, or parents, or brethren, or wife, or children, for the kingdom of God's sake, who shall not receive manifold more in this present time, and in the world to come life everlasting."

May 17.--"The son of consolation.”-Acts iv. 36. This is spoken of a man who was a Levite. His ancestors had retired from Judea to the country of Cyprus. We know not for what purpose ; but there he was born. His first name was Joses. But after his conversion to Christianity he was surnamed by the Apostles, Barnabas, which is, being interpreted, the son of consolation. Two reasons have been assigned for this denomination; both very consistent with each other; and both very probable in themselves. First, because by his property-for he had substance, he succoured and solaced the poor and miserable. And, Secondly, because by his preaching he counforted the people of God, and encouraged sinners to come to the Saviour for deliverance. Ministers may differ considerably from each other. Some may be called Boanerges, or sons of thunder, not only as they are bold in their manner, but as the severe seems to be their element, and they deal much' in the alarming. Others are Barnabases; and have given them, the tongue of the learned, that they may know how to speak a word in season to him that is weary. Let us not oppose the servants of Christ to each other, thereby inflating one, and running down another, because of their diversities. Let us view them all in their commission, and their suitableness to their appointments. Their stations, their natural dispositions, their gifts, their graces, are not the same: but we need them all; and they are all useful. Let one plant, and another water ; let one lay the foundation, and another build thereon ; let one be set for the defence of the Gospel, and another abound in the application of it: each is alike respectable; and each shall receive his own reward according to his own labour. Beware, says the Apostle, in his address to the Corinthians, that you fall not into spiritual baby ism; or walk as men. “While one saith, I am of Paul; and another, I am of Apollos; are ye not carnal? Who then is Paul, and who is Apollos, but ministers by whom ye believed, even as the Lord gave to every man ?" To him let us look, and say, not formally, but sincerely, “Lord, send by whom thou wilt send.' If we attempt to make the favourite a substitute "in God's stead," we shall provoke the Most High to remove him, or to withhold his blessing from him; thereby to reprove our idolatry; and to convince us that he will not give his glory to another. Happy they whose strength is in Him! They are most likely to succeed, both in hearing and in preaching, who are most imbued with the conviction ; “ Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, saith the Lord.”

MAY 18.-"Who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption."- 1 Cor. i. 30.

Here are four articles. The first is wisdom-He is made of God unto us wisdom. He is the true excellency of the understanding. In knowing him, we know all that is necessary to be known. Especially we know God-No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son who was in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him. He is the author of our spiritual illumination : he is the prophet of his church, and leads us into all truth by his word and Spirit. As the sun can only be seen by his own rays, so he is only known by his own revealing. He therefore says, “I will manifest myself unto him.” The second is righteousness-He is made of God unto us righteousness. That is, he delivers us from guilt and condemnation, and makes us just before God. The Apostle tells us how it is accomplished: he hath made him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might be made the righteousness of God in him. This righteousness, derived entirely from himself, regardless of our worthiness or works, is called the righteousness which is of faith, because it is only apprehended, and made ours, and pleaded, by faith. The third is sanctification-He is made of God unto us sanctification. This is as much from him as righteousness, only not in the same way. He is the one to us by imputation, he is the other by communication. By the one he changes our state, by the other our nature. By the one he entitles us to life, by the other he makes us meet for it. But though the blessings are distinguishable, they are not separable. He came by water, and by blood. Whom he justifies he renews. And this sanctification is more than a reformation of manners, or mere morality. A man may be moral without being sanctified, but he cannot be sanctified without being moral. When he sanctifies us he puts a new spirit within us, delivers us from the dominion and the love of every sin, and enables us not only to obey God, but to delight to do his will, and to dedicate all we have to his service and glory. The fourth is redemption-He is made of God unto us redemption. To ascertain the meaning of which, we must observe that it is distinguished from the foregoing benefits. But if it were taken for redemption from the curse of the law, it would coincide with his being our righteousness, and if for emancipation from the servitude of sin, it would be comprised in his being our sanctification. It is also mentioned after wisdom, righteousness, and sanctification. To which we may add an appeal to other passages of Scripture where th, same term is used. Thus Paul says to the Ephesians, Grieve not the Holy Spirit of God whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption. And to the Romans, We groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of the body. Here the import of the term 'must mean the resurrection to eternal life. And there is a peculiar propriety in applying the word to this conclusion of the Christian's recovery from the effects of the fall, not only because any great deliverance, regardless of price, is called redemption in the Scripture, but also because it is the effect of the purchase of the cross. Christ has ransomed the bodies as well as the souls of his people, and therefore God's covenant also is with their dust. Their bodies will not only be raised, but infinitely improved, and will bear not the image of the earthly but of the heavenly Adam. The sacred writers, therefore, in speaking of the happiness of believers, go forward at once to the glory of the last daynot to the denying or undervaluing of an intermediate state, but because their salvation will then, and not till then, be perfectly achieved. This consummation is all his own work and honour “ To them that look for him will he appear a second time without sin unto salvation." “ We look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ; who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body.”

And is he made of God unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption ?- Then we learn what is our condition by nature: we are destitute of all these, and can never derive them from ourselves.—Then we see the importance and value of the Lord Jesus. He is not something only, but every thing to them that are lost. In him we are blessed with all spiritual blessings.Then we need not wonder that he is the substance of revelation, and that the Scriptures every where should testify of him.-Then he Vol. I.


[ocr errors]
« PreviousContinue »