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had fainted unless I had believed to see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living,” Psalm xxvii. 13.
Cushi. The man that watches the dealings of God with him, both in providence and grace, he shall find the Lord's promise daily verified; “I will,” says God,“ make all my goodness pass before thee.” Such watchful souls shall see many an obstacle removed, many a precious promise turned up, many an intricate providence made straight, many a knotty experience unriddled, many an enemy entangled in his own counsel, many a hint dropped for faith to catch, many a glorious beam to direct his steps, and many a sweet drop of divine consolation will be poured as an oil on his soul, which will dissolve the stubborn heart, and divinely sweeten and soften every unruly faculty: Thus shall the man be blessed that feareth the Lord, and with favour will he compass him as with a shield, Psalm v. 12.
The penitential moan of Adam, as pathetic Milton paints it, is worth the notice of every tender-hearted Christian:
This most afflicts me, that departing hence,
So many grateful altars I would rear
Paradise Lost, Book II. line 315.
The answer is as sweet as the other is moving:
- Doubt not but in valley and in plain
Ahimaaz. Certainly a man cannot live in the fear of God, unless he doth consider himself daily in the immediate presence of him; and to feel his supporting hand, to enjoy the testimony of his Spirit, to find his approbation with one, and his power manifested in leading one on, and holding one up in the face of all opposition, enables a man to rejoice, and say with the Psalmist,“ the Lord is on my side, I will not fear: what can man do unto me?” And I have often thought that God has, and still doth, reveal himself by his Spirit to
many souls in the world who have not the word of God preached to them by men; or, in other words, who have not the means of grace as we have; and I have at times got comfort from these thoughts with respect to the poor heathens.
Cushi. As I observed before, God is a free agent; but I do not desire to be wise above what is written. I have read the prophecies of the ten Sibyls, and certainly there is a deal of truth in them, though it be sung with wild notes; and if they are allowed to be prophetesses of the Lord, they are witnesses in your favour. But our great Apostle doth not countenance you at all: It is written, saith he, that “whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved; how then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed; and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard; and how shall they hear without a preacher, and how shall they preach except they be sent?” Rom. x. 13–15; and Christ says, “ Preach the gospel to every creature. He that believeth shall be saved, but he that believeth not shall be damned,” Mark xvi. 16, 17; and again, “ This gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness, and then shall the end come,” Matt. xxiv. 14. I believe, if you and I were to travel throughout the heathen world, where they are destitute of the word of God, we should never be able to find a soul converted to Christ; nor do I read that Paul found one in all his travels.
Ahimaaz. I think, in some things, thou art rather too contracted, my brother; for my part, I would wish ever to possess an open and catholic spirit. I have observed many things in thy conversation that discover an unbecoming narrowness. Paul tells us that we should not be straitened in our bowels: and he speaks unto us, as to his children, that we should be enlarged, 2 Cor. vi. 12, 13. It was a sweet spirit that God gave Solomon; it is said that he gave him enlargement of heart as the sand that is upon the sea shore, 1 Kings iv. 29. And this is what that eminent saint of God, I mean Jabez, prayed for; it was, that God would bless him indeed, and enlarge his coast, i Chron. iv. 10; and I hope God will favour thee with the same, my brother, for indeed a narrow, contracted, bigoted spirit is a very bad one.
Cushi. I am much obliged to thee, but there are several expressions of yours which I object to. I have often thought that Moses himself, if he was upon earth in our day, would be accused of a narrow spirit; for he declares to an audience of six hundred thousand souls, “ Ye have seen all that the Lord did before your eyes in the land of Egypt unto Pharaoh, and unto all his servants, and unto all his land; the great temptations which thine eyes have seen, the signs and those great miracles; yet the Lord hath not given you an heart to perceive, and eyes to see, and ears to hear, unto this day. And I have led you forty years in
the wilderness,” Deut. xxix. 2–5. This part of Moses's doctrine would be censured in the present day as the effects of a contracted spirit; and certainly it differed much from the universal spirit of Corah, Abiram, and Dathan; for though Moses declared Israel to be blind, ignorant, and insensible, yet they declared them all sanctified, and in the presence of God, and warmly rebuked the bigotry of Moses and Aaron: “ And they gathered themselves together against Moses, and against Aaron, and said unto them, Ye take too much upon you, seeing all the congregation are holy every one of them, and the Lord is among them; wherefore then lift ye up yourselves above the congregation of the Lord?” Numb. xvi. 3. The contracted sermon of Moses, and the declaration of this catholic company, differ widely. Moses declares them blind and insensible, these declare them all holy, and God's presence among them; but it happened with them according to the wise man's saying, “ There is a just man [as they supposed themselves to be] that perisheth in his righteousness; and there is a wicked man [as they supposed Moses] that prolongeth his life in his wickedness," Eccl. vii. 15; and so it happened here, for Moses outlived Corah and all his company. They perished from the congregation with all their candour; they went into the pit alive with all that they had; while Moses, with all his contracted spirit, died at the mouth of the Almighty; or as it might be ren