« EelmineJätka »
believing church should be imperfect in its members; conse
uently they err exceedingly, who expect perfection from the church below.
It appears not to me, that those who expect to escape trouble by being admitted into church communion, have a right view of the subject. Our leading view ought to be, to receive and impart more liberally, and this will lead to a taking up the cross, even in church communion; and I am either greatly mistaken, or it is there where the cross is principally to be expected, in these days of external peace and legal protection. Nor ought we to think it at all strange, that many things should turn up
disagreeable from the spirit of Christianity. For were it not so, to what purpose should we be admonished to bear with and to forbear one another. If the conduct of a church, in all its members, were indeed uniformly consistent with the spirit and commands of the adorable Jesus, there would be nothing to bear, no exercise for a forbearing disposition; no exercise for a God-like forgiveness.
6. Nor is peace of our own procuring productive of a more salutary shadow to those who sit under it.' This, as Ephraim's goodness, is like the morning cloud and early dew which passeth away. Our obedience is praiseworthy, when springing from gospel motives; but if in any sense the ground of our dependance, it becomes an antichrist, and all the peace derived from it is doomed to destruction.
Young converts in particular, are very apt to place too much dependance on their duties, frames, and dispositions ; as these are good, their peace and comfort are strong; as bad, they wither and decline. The best endeavours to please; the most sacred institution, if trusted in, prove no better than a temporary gourd, soon grown and soon withered.
God will by no means have creatures dignified with any dig. nity besides that with which he bimself is pleased to invest them. He hath purposed to stain the pride of all fesh, and to lay creature glory low in the dust. He will teach his people, how stubborn soever, to obey; and however much attached to creature delights, to live upon himself. He is determined to have all the glory of his people's dependance and support, and has therefore prepared a worm at the root of every gourd, in which they are apt to place their trust, and from whence they derive a temporary delight: $0 that by blasting their gourds, he may bring them to delight in himself, and take up their rest under the shadow of his Almighty wings. Hence all the afflictions, losses, temptations, and crosses of the Lord's people; for these come not by chance; they spring not of themselves out of the dry ground; they are kindly ordained, to promote the divine life in your souls, and to foster them up for heaven, the inheritance to which they are predestinated.
There being then a worm prepared at the root of every gourd, and, as a late author* observes, a crook in every lot, it may now be expedient to point out to my reader, a certain antidote against the poison of this canker worm, which is the
II. Thing to be attended to. In general one would suppose, were we not acquainted with the plague of man's depraved heart, that the following things would be antidote sufficient, if properly attended to.
1. The vanity, emptiness, and uncertainty of worldly riches. They seldom serve for any other purpose to the proprietor, besides puffing him up with a fond opinion of his own importance, and indulging him in gratifying his vain ambition, of lording it over those whom Providence has put off with a more scanty measure, of what the world calls good. The very owner finds them empty, even in the enjoyment. All that he has, still leaves room for more; and every new gratification leaves the soul empty. Nor are they more certain than satisfactory; for they make to themselves wings and flee away ; flee away never to return; flee away so as to leave nothing behind them, but the sad remembrance that they were once enjoyed. How much better to be interested in heavenly riches, than to enjoy those that are only temporary
2. All temporal honours vanish in the grave, where distinctions are no longer known. There the mitred prelate is reduced to a level with the country curate of 20l. per annum. The imperial monarch lays down his head on a level with the starved beggar ; and the finest lady is no higher than the village damsel, unless indeed she obtain this sorry pre-eminence, “ to rot in state.”+ All are dust; all shall return to dust, through the way of nauseous putrefaction. No art nor care can possibly evade that dire, tremendous sentence, “ Dust thou art, and to dust shalt thou return."
3. God unites natural relations, not in an indissoluble, but in a dissolveable relation; all gourds of this kind grow up intentionally to wither. Therefore those that are married ought to be as though they were not married. And those that have children, as though they had none. Children in particular are certain cares, and but very uncertain comforts; given to be taken away, and very often better taken away than spared. So that God has written vanity on every creature delight; and he that tries the whole circle of creature enjoyments most, shall find them to be but vexation of spirit. A truth, to which my judgment readily subscribes, but to which my affections can hardly be won to submit Though bruised in a mortar with a pestal amongst wheat, like Solomon's fool, yet does not my foolishness depart from me.
* Boston on Divinc Sovereigoty.
But something more effectual than these considerations, pero tinent as they may be, may yet be proposed. Not, indeed, under the notion of a gourd, but of a stable oak, which can withstand the most violent tempest. Not a shrub of a dwarfish stature, but a tall cedar, which overtops every hazy cloud, and lifts itself above the convulsions of the atmosphere. Not an empty shadow like that of Jonah's gourd, but a substantial and ever-during shadow, under which you may with pleasure and safety take your everlasting repose. My God, may this shadow be my only refuge for ever and ever! May my soul desire no sanctuary but this! From this alone may I derive all my enjoyments! In this alone have perpetual delight.
1. The love of God, the free spontaneous and sovereign love, in which he himself externally rests, with ineffable complacency, may well be understood as a suitable, a safe, and permanent rest for his people. This is very far from being like Jonah's gourd, the leaves of which could break the intense rays of the sun, and the streaming east wind, but very partially from his temporary booth. This is as walls of salvation on every quarter, a shield encompassing round about, leaving no avenue open, no place unguarded. · Hence he that dwelleth in this secret place shall • abide continually under the shadow of the Almighty,' Psal. xci. J. and there be safe for ever and ever.
Jonah's gourd was vulnerable even to the stroke of a worm ; but all the power of the old dragon, all the venom of complicated guiltiness could not make the least impression on the love of Jehovah. This effectually secures its dependants from all that, with any propriety, may be called evil ; this engages, in behalf of its refugees, every person, every perfection of deity.
Jonah's gourd was of short duration; it sprang up in one night, and withered in another. A fit and striking emblem of the Arminian representation of the love of God to mankind as suspended on certain conditions, to be by them performed ; and which springs up in a night when they obey, and withers in a night when they fail in their performances. But the love of God is from everlasting to everlasting, immutably the same, without beginning or end, incapable of decay. So he says himself, Jer, xxxi. 3. I have loved thee with an everlasting love;' i. e. with a love that had no beginning, according to the primary sense of the word; with a love that shall never end; for that which shall have, or may have end, can with no propriety be called everlasting
2. The obedience, death, and resurrection of Jesus, the sinner's substitute, is the shadow of a great rock, and not of a feeble gourd. Broad and extensive to furnish room for every comer; hence himself declares, “That of all that come to him he will no ( wise cast out.' Upon no consideration whatever. If even as vile ex polluted Magdalene, and as guilty as bloody Manasseh.
Why should he, seeing that yet there is room under his salutary shadow; roum for all, that shall seek life and salvation through his name? To turn away a poor perishing singer, calling on him for salvation, would argue à want of room imder bis shadow to hide from danger; of power in his arm to save from destruction; of virtue in his blood to atone and cleanse ; and of merit in his righteousness to justify; which never can be the case with him whose works are all perfection.
It was under this reviving shadow the longing spouse sat down with such great delight,’ Cant. ii. 3. She sat down there, to take up her final abode. She found him to be a tabernacle for a shadow in the day time from the heat, a place of refuge, a covert from the storm and from rain,' Isa. iv. 6. With equal pleasure and delight does the believer sit under the covert of the Redeemer's blood and righteousness, when he can see his sins blotted out as a cloud, and as a thick cloud his iniquities. His person justified freely from all things, delivered from condemnation to all eternity, entitled to the felicity of heaven and glory. No heart but his own, can conceive the reviving delights experienced in these halcyon days of nearness to Jesus, whose delightsome shadow spreads vigour through the whole soul, and gives life and health to the countenance.
Far from being like our own obedience and goodness of frame, which is like the passing cloud; the virtue of this is everlastingly effectual, from the beginning to the end. Under this lifegiving shadow, the patriarchs and prophets rested with as much security as the modern believer does. What it was to believers in the apostolic days, it is to us now; and what it is to us, it will be to all comers, even to the end of time.
Cease then, O believer; cease from temporary gourds. Call back thy wandering affections from transitory objects, and sit down with the spouse under the shadow of thy only Lord and Saviour. Here is rest, peace, and pleasure ; here is everlasting and ever-growing delight: but in the world all is uncertainty, all is disappointment. No happiness, no lasting satisfaction is to be expected, but in a living entirely upon Jesus, as our delightful portion, as well as all-sufficient Saviour from sin, and its tremendous consequences. Whoever, therefore, desires refined delight and happiness without a sting, let him turn in hither, turn in under this adorable shadow, for yet there is room. Room eren for you, how vile, how wicked soever you have been ; how loathsome, how desperately wicked soever you may find the present frame of your hearts to be.
To you, o men, I call; and my voice is to those whose hearts are carried away by the things that are seen; who conceive of no higher felicity than that arising from sensual gratification. Your trust alas ! is placed in fruitless gourds; your pleasantest morsel is but the food of swine. Shall I prevail with you, as
rational being, a little to reflect on your situation! Get the whole world in all its imaginary excellencies, what will it profit you without an interest in the love of God. Hell was not the less hot and dreadful to departed Dives, on account of his having died a rich man, and because his carcase was rotting in state.
If the world has your hearts, you are of it, and being of it, what can you expect but to perish with it ; for it, and all its lovers, are doomed to destruction, from which none can rescue. Dreadful beyond conception must be the death of the worldling, robbed of all, upon which his heart was set, of all which he deemed valuable and worth his attention. Death robs, withont remorse or pity, the rich man of his wealth, the ambitious of his honours, and the voluptuary of his every pleasure, lodges them all where darkness and despair for ever triumph. On the other hand, what felicity must death be to the saint, the sinner, whose only dependance is Jesus! It takes off every yoke, and unbinds every fetter. It frees him from every thing that may properly be called evil; and puts him in possession of all that is good and desirable,
One thing, and only one seems indispensably requisite to true happiness; and that one thing whatever it be, must be of a durable nature, must be such as will bear the dependance of the needy, of the weary spirit. The apostles could be happy without possessing silver and gold : the worthies, celebrated by the au thor to the Hebrews, could be happy, though clothed in sheep's skins and in goats' skins, though their best apartments were the dens and caves of the unworthy earth, and though all mankind were their enemies. Happy because God was their TRUST, and Christ was their saLVATION. An interest in the blessed Immanuel, possession of the divine life, knowledge of the loving kindness of our God and Maker, are necessary to our living comfortably and dying with triumph; necessary to our well being in this and in the future world. Without these we had better been strangled in the birth, or dropped into the grave from our mothers' breasts; better that we had never been brought into existence ; for who amongst us, alas ! can dwell with devouring flames? Who can endure everlasting burnings; as all must do wno die strangers to Christ and his salvation ? But to be born of the Spirit, to be converted by grace, implies a right and title to every immunity of the children, every blessing of a well ordered covenant; secures to the soul the possession of durable riches and righteousness; secures the administration of an entrance into the joys of paradise, and a mansion in heaven, where there are pleasures for evermore,