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He will deliver them both from men and devils
[From the beginning of the world have God's chosen people been opposed and persecuted, even from the time of Abel to the present hour. It was the superior piety of Abel that called forth the resentment of the envious Cain, and stimulated him to imbrue his hands in his brother's blood h. And our Lord puts the question to his malignant enemies, “ Which of the prophets have not your fathers persecuted ?” It might be thought, indeed, that it would be impossible for any one to hate and persecute the holy Jesus, in whose whole life not a single flaw could be found, and who, by his benevolent and unnumbered miracles, must have endeared himself to every one. But the brighter his light was, the more were the children of darkness incensed against him; so that they never ceased, till they had prevailed against him, and "crucified the Lord of Glory." All his Apostles, too, were objects of the world's hatred: and our Lord has told us, that all his followers will have their cross to bear, after the example which he has set us. And do we not find it so? Is there a faithful servant of the Lord, especially if he fill any important station, and be active in honouring his Divine Master-is there one, I say, that is not reviled and persecuted for righteousness' sake? True, fires are not now kindled, as once they were, to consume them, because the laws of the land forbid it: but it is as true at this day as ever it was in the apostolic age, that "all who will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.”
And has the hostility of Satan at all abated ? Does not “ that roaring lion go about at this day as much as ever, seeking whom he may devour?” What can the Apostle mean, when he says,
“We wrestle not with flesh and blood, (not with flesh and blood only,) but with principalities and powers, and spiritual wickednesses in high placesi ?” Or for what end are we still enjoined to “put on the whole armour of Godk,” if we have not still many enemies to contend with?
But God will preserve us from them all, and "turn their curses into blessings.” Whatsoever will ultimately advance our welfare, he will permit: but whatsoever would have an injurious effect, he will avert; as it is said, “ The wrath of man shall praise thee; and the remainder of it shalt thou restrain!.” We may not see the precise way in which good shall be brought out of evil : Joseph could form no idea of the benefit
which was ultimately to accrue from all his trials; nor could Job from his : but they were constrained to acknowledge, that, however designed for evil, the events, every one of them, issued in good : and thus has God engaged, that “all
h 1 John iii. 12.
i Eph. vi. 12.
Eph. vi. 13.
1 Ps. lxxvi. 10.
things shall work together for his people's good m;" and that their “light and momentary afflictions shall work for them a far more exceeding and eternal weight of gloryn."]
To this Almighty God is pledged, by the love that he bears towards us
[God has loved his people with an everlasting love ; and therefore with loving-kindness he both draws us to him, and secures our welfare. Now, the record in my text is especially intended by God himself to illustrate and confirm this truth. Hear what God says by the Prophet Micah : “O my people, remember now what Balak king of Moab consulted, and what Balaam the son of Beor answered him from Shittim unto Gilgal, that ye may know the righteousness of the Lordp." God is a righteous and faithful God; and he has engaged, that “no weapon that is formed against his people shall prosper," and that " none shall prevail against them to pluck them out of his hands :" we may be perfectly assured, therefore, that he will keep them to the end; and that “not one jot or tittle of his word will ever fail.". “Having loved his own, he will love them to the end."] I close with a word or two of ADVICE
1. Be not hasty in your anticipations of evil as the result of your trials
[Jacob, on the loss of his favourite son Joseph, exclaimed, “ All these things are against me!” But that was the very event which God had ordained for the preservation of himself and his whole family ; yea, and for the completion of all his promises respecting the Messiah, and the salvation of the whole world by him. And perhaps that very trial, of which we are ready to complain, is, according to his eternal purpose, to be the destined means of preserving us from destruction, and of preparing us for glory. Wait, and “ see the end of the Lord";" and you will find as much reason to bless God for your severest troubles, as for the most acceptable of all his blessings.]
2. Learn in every dispensation to acknowledge a Father's love
[There is not, in fact, any single trial that does not proceed from God. “Not a hair of your head can fall” but by his gracious permission. Men, devils, yea the very elements, are only instruments in his hands to fulfil his wills. The Jews, in crucifying the Messiah, executed only “what God's will and counsel had determined before to be donet." and, though “they neither meant nor thought so," they were his agents, to accomplish what was necessary for the redemption of the world. Men and devils may have prepared a furnace for you: but it is God who puts you into it, to purify you from your dross, and to “ bring you forth as vessels meet for the Master's use." True, he will punish those agents; as he did Balaam, who was slain amongst the enemies of God: but you " he will make perfect through sufferings,” and recompense in proportion to all that you have endured for him.]
m Rom. viii. 28.
n 2 Cor. iv. 17.
o Jer. xxxi. 3. P Mic. vi. 5.
t Acts iv. 28.
GLEANING, A DIVINE ORDINANCE.
Deut. xxiv. 19–22. When thou cuttest down thine harvest in
thy field, and hast forgot a sheaf in the field, thou shalt not go again to fetch it: it shall be for the stranger, for the fatherless, and for the widow: that the Lord thy God may bless thee in all the work of thine hands. When thou beatest thine olive-tree, thou shalt not go over the boughs again: it shall be for the stranger, for the fatherless, and for the widow. When thou gatherest the grapes of thy vineyard, thou shalt not glean it afterward: it shall be for the stranger, for the fatherless, and for the widow. And thou shalt remember, that thou wast a bondman in the land of Egypt: therefore I command thee to do this thing a
IT is surprising to see to what minute things Jehovah condescends in his legislation to the Jews. In no other community under heaven were such things accounted worthy of distinct and authoritative enactments. People must not yoke together in a plough an ox and an ass. They must not seethe a kid in its mother's milk. In taking a bird's nest, they must not take the dam with her young. But “God, their great Lawgiver, is love :” and all his laws breathed love, not to men only, but to the whole creation : and by them he has shewn, that he desired all his people to live under the influence of this divine principle; and, in the smallest matters no less than in
a If this be a Charity Sermon, the triple repetition of " the Stranger, the Fatherless, and the Widow,” must, of course, be more largely insisted on.
the greatest, to bring it into exercise. Hence he appointed, that, when they gathered in the fruits of the earth, they should guard against selfishness, and manifest a spirit of love towards their more indigent and afflicted brethren. In the very words which I have just read, the threefold repetition of them shews what tenderness there is in the bosom of Almighty God towards the poor and afflicted, and how desirous he is that all his people should resemble him: and for this end he commands, that, in the season of their own prosperity, they should be especially mindful of “the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow.” The manner in which he enforces this command respecting gleaning, will lead me to consider, I. The privilege of gleaning, as accorded to the Jews
The Jews had been brought out from Egypt from the sorest bondage
[By mighty signs and wonders had God brought them out : and had throughout all their generations caused them to enjoy blessings for which they had not laboured, and to reap an harvest which they had never sown. For the space of forty years in the wilderness they had no occasion for agricultural labours; but from day to day did they glean around their tents the food which the Great Proprietor of all caused to be scattered for their use. And when they came into the promised land,“ they found there great and goodly cities which they had never built, and houses filled with all manner of good things which they had never filled, and wells which they had never digged b.” 'Like gleaners, they had only to enter on the field, and to appropriate every thing which they found to their
--] From this consideration they were enjoined to give somewhat of a like advantage to their poorer brethren,
[“ Freely they had received; and freely they were to give." They were to bear in mind the misery from which their forefathers had been delivered; and from a sense gratitude to their Heavenly Benefactor, they were to shew love to their brethren, and liberality to the poor. They were not to be exact even in the reaping of their crops, but to leave the corners of their fields standing for the benefit of “the stranger,
b Deut. vi. 10, 11.
c Lev. xix. 9.
the fatherless, and the widow:" and, after having gathered in their corn, or their grapes, or olives, they were not to be going over their ground or their trees again, but to leave the remaining produce for those whose necessities called for such aid; yea, and to rejoice in seeing the wants of others supplied, though at their expense. And surely this was reasonable in the highest degree, since the whole land itself had been originally the gift of God, as was also the produce of it in every successive year. What could their own labours effect without the fruitful showers and the genial warmth of the sun ? On God they depended, notwithstanding their own efforts : and God gave them an assurance, that on a cheerful and liberal discharge of their duty towards their brethren, they should receive his blessing on their own labours.]
But let me proceed to mark, II. The far higher grounds of this privilege as exist
ing amongst usTrue, the Jewish law does not extend to us: nor does the law of this land accord in this respect with the Jewish law. The matter has been tried, and authoritatively decided. But, so general is the sense of propriety which exists in this kingdom, that the privilege of gleaning is conceded to the poor, as much as if it were a right established by law: and I suppose that for every thousand pounds that are paid in rent to the proprietor of the soil, not less than one hundred pounds, and perhaps two hundred, are gratuitously left to be gathered by the poor in the way of gleaning. And this is as it should be. For
Let it be recollected from what misery we have been redeemed
[Not an Egyptian bondage merely was ours, but a bondage to sin and Satan, death and hell. And what has the Great Proprietor of heaven and earth done for us? He has, by the blood of his only dear Son, brought us out from this bondage; and in the field of his Gospel has strewed a rich profusion of food, of which all of us may eat, and live for ever. Take the inspired volume: there is the field, into which all may enter, and gather for themselves. The promises there scattered, and standing, as it were, in every cornerd of the Bible, are sufficient for the whole world. All that is required is, that we go in, and glean for ourselves. The manna in the wilderness
d Lev. xix. 9.