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JUDGES iv. 36-40.

And Gideon said unto God, If thou wilt save Israel by mine hand, as thou hast said, behold, I will put a fleece of wool in the floor; and if the dew be on the fleece only, and it be dry upon all the earth beside, then shall I know that thou wilt save Israel by mine hand, as thou hast said. And it was so: for he rose up early on the morrow, and thrust the fleece together, and wringed the dew out of the fleece, a bowl full of water. And Gideon said unto

God, Let not thine anger be hot against me, and I will speak but this once: let me prove, I pray thee, but this once with the fleece; let it now be dry only upon the fleece, and upon all the ground let there be dew. And God did so that night: for it was dry upon the fleece only, and there was dew on all the ground.

THE state of Gideon's mind, if we may judge from these words, seems to have been that of the man who cried, "Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief." He had already experienced the power of God to be on his side, by the touching of the rock, and the consuming of the sacrifice. He had been already assured of the favour of God towards him, by the declaration of the angel, "The Lord is with thee." Yet he seeks further assurance. We must not, however, too hastily condemn Gideon in this matter. The assurances which he had before received had given him strength equal to his day. In that strength he had already thrown

down the altar of Baal, and cut down the grove that was by it; and this at the risk of his life. But here he is called to new duties; we cannot, therefore, wonder at his seeking new assurances. If you look at the preceding verses, you will find how arduous those duties were : "Then all the Midianites, and the Amalekites, and the children of the east, were gathered together against Gideon." In this state, he blows a trumpet, to gather the tribes to battle. But before he ventures upon the great contest, the struggle which is to decide the national fate of Israel as to liberty or bondage, he retires once more for a renewal of the assurance which God had before given him of his presence and blessing, by which alone Gideon could fight with real courage, or hope to obtain a victory.

So fights the soldier of the cross "the good fight of faith," against the world, the flesh, and the devil, under the banner of the Captain of his salvation. The world wonder to see him so continually going to his

God in prayer, for fresh tokens of his favour; but they do not know, as he does, the necessity for such renewed applications. One duty after another is to be entered upon, and he wants strength for that duty; one danger after another presents itself, and he wants faith to meet it; one enemy after another comes upon him, and he wants courage and weapons to contend with it. Knowing his own weakness, he asks, "Is God indeed with me? Is the Lord on my side?" It would be well, dear brethren, if we more frequently asked ourselves, "Am I doing this in my own strength, or in God's? in my own spirit, or in God's? in my own way, or in God's ?" Many a shameful defeat would be spared Israel, if they were more careful to assure themselves of God's presence and blessing in what they undertake, even if they sought again and again for the tokens. It would prevent many mistakes, for instance, with regard to what are termed providences. How apt are we to interpret them in such

a manner as to suit the secret inclinations of our own minds! The Christian finds, frequently, that "a deceived heart hath turned him aside" in this matter. "Such a circumstance," he says, " is certainly an opening in providence;" when, if the truth were known, it is an opening which he has himself made to gratify his wishes, and not an opening made by God in the course of his providence. He has interpreted the circumstance favourably, and has looked upon it as a token for good, because his heart was bent upon some gratification which had reference to it. But he finds, perhaps, afterwards, that the hand of God was not so manifest in the event as he had at first supposed; and that the bias of his own mind had made him think the way to be clear, when any disinterested person would have thought otherwise. Now, it would have argued no distrust of God, no want of real faith, had he sought at the throne of grace for still further assurance that he was in the right path; if he had asked

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