Page images

544 Though God is unchangeable in his nature, and not subject to human passions, yet, in condescenfion to our infirmities, he is pleased to speak to us after the manner of men. He assures us, that his children, with all their imperfections, are dear to him. They are lovely and comely in his right, through the comeliness of Christ which is put upon them. Their humiliations move him; their speech is pleasant to him; their prayers and cries are his delight; just as parents take pleasure in their children, who are images of themselves, particularly when they begin to talk, to lisp out their fathers' names, and, in broken language, to express their wants and their desires. . The little actions of children, though full of fimplicity and weakness, are pleasing to their parents; so are the imperfe&t motions of gracious affections to our heavenly Father. His bowels are troubled for them, and yearn towards them, when they are pouring out the tears of penitence before him, and mourning over their own follies. Fob was rea garded with peculiar approbation and favour, at the very time when he cried out, “ Behold, I am vile;" when he abhorred himself in the sight of his Maker, and repented in dust and ashes before him. The Lord said to Eliphaz the Temanite, “ My wrath is kindled against thee, and against

thy thy two friends ;-my servant Job shall pray for you, for him will I accept."

Shame, confusion of face, and self-loathing are both fruits and evidences of God's favour. “ That thou mayest remember and be confounded, and never open thy mouth any more, when I am pacified toward thee for all that thou hast done, faith the Lord God. I will accept you with your sweet savour, when I bring you out from the people; and ye shall remember your ways and all your doings wherein ye have been defiled; and ye shall loathe yourselves in your own fight.” May not the defponding reader take encouragement from such passages as these? Is it not evident that God's kindness is then most peculiarly excited towards a poor sinner, when he is most out of love with him. self, and most vile in his own eyes? Have not the best of men in God's account, often thought themselves the worst? This to some may seem very mysterious. It is a paradox which divine revelation alone can explain.

But perhaps some one may be ready to ask farther, “How can I be interested in the divine favour who have not the comfort of it, but have been, for a long time, beclouded with darkness, and overwhelmed with trouble and sorrow ? Even to-day is my complaint bitter ; my stroke is heavier



than my groaning. Behold, I go forward, but he is not there; and backward, but I cannot perceive him; on the left hand, where he doth work, but I cannot behold him: he hideth himself on the right hand, that I cannot see him. Oh that I knew where I might find him!'

You ought, my dear friend, to keep in mind the necessary distinction we have before made, between the favour of God, as it is in itself, and that sen. sible enjoyment of it which you now seem to want. We sometimes find the man after God's own heart expressing himself in such language as this, “ How long wilt thou forget me, O Lord ? For ever? How long wilt thou hide thy face from me? How long shall I take counsel in my soul, having sorrow in my heart daily ? Consider and hear me, O Lord my God; lighten mine eyes, lest I sleep the sleep of death.” Salvation may be experienced in its reality where the joy of it is wanting. And hence the same person thus prays, “ Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation, that the bones which thou hast broken may rejoice.” An earthly father may sometimes frown upon the child whom he dearly loves. Joseph's affection for his brethren was fin. cere, at the very time that he spake so roughly to them. The God of love and grace doth sometimes, for wise ends, suspend the manifestations of

his favour from the heirs of salvation. A skilful physician prescribes to his patients, in fome cases, such medicines as occasion pain and sickness, in order to remove those humours which might endanger the constitution. His intention is not to kill, but to cure. The circumstances of God's children are often such as call for fatherly chastisements. He therefore suspends his smiles, or with draws the comfortable sense of his love and favour,' leaving them, for a time, in darkness and disquietude. When David thought his mountain stood so strong, that, in a fort of blameable security, he concluded he should never be moved, he had presently reason to complain, “ Thou hideft thy face, and I am troubled.” Of ancient Ifrael the Lord faid, “ For the iniquity of his covetousness' was I wroth and smote him : I hid me, and was wroth, and he went on frowardly in the way of his own heart."

The Almighty may deal thus with the objects of his love, to rouse them from a state of security ; to • subdue pride, and make them humble; to wean

them from the world, and excite in them more earnest longings after their heavenly rest; to teach them to put a higher value on his favour, and to quicken their diligence in seeking him; and, in a word, he deals thus with them, that they may


--> learn to fympathize with others who may be tried in the same way.

Give not up, therefore, all hope of interest in the divine favour, on account of your present dis. consolate state. If you walk in darkness, and have no light, still trust in the name of the Lord, and stay yourself upon his powerful arm, and unchanging love. Remember, you are yet exposed on the tempestuous sea of life, and have not reached the port of uninterrupted reft. Your sun may be under a cloud, and not shine upon you, but he is still in the heavens. Careless finners have no so. licitude about God's favour; it is fincere love alone that is attended with jealoufy. Fits of fickness are incident to those who are alive, not to the dead. They who are dead in trespasses and fins. never mourn under a sense of God's absence. Be of good courage, and he shall strengthen your heart, O you that hope in the Lord.

But perhaps some disquieted soul may say, How can I conclude that God looks upon me with an eye of favour, when I cannot bring my heart to love him, and delight in him, as his word requires me to do? Does not his love to sinners kindle in their hearts a return of affection to him? Do not I hear the heirs of salvation saying, “ We love him be. cause he first loved us?”


« EelmineJätka »