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simple and inartificial as it seems, with its tubu- | night.' What then is the loving-kindness of
But in reality the whole framework of nature,
It is good to show forth thy loving-kindness in the morning, and thy faithfulness every night,
Psal. xcii. 2.
and seen in the promise, incarnation, working, suf-
Might we not then expect to hear every pro-
my people doth not consider.'
But whatever calls to consideration we may have hitherto slighted, whatever opportunities we have hitherto neglected, once again the mornTHANKFULNESS and praise are, at all times, due ing invites us, by its peculiar arguments, to show to God; yet are there some periods that give a forth the loving-kindness of the Lord. He has peculiar call to this holy exercise. The Psalmist watched over us while we slept; he has spared here specifies two-the morning and the even- us to another day; he has caused his sun again ing, and assigns to each its most suitable sub- to arise-the emblem of the Sun of righteous-ject. It is good to show forth thy loving-kindness, with healing in his wings,'-he sets duty beness in the morning, and thy faithfulness every fore us, both for ourselves and for others; and
shall the Giver of all good be forgotten, his love man who is likest him, must be most blessed ; unfelt, his name unpraised?
O! thou my soul, bless God the Lord,
Be stirred up, his holy name
To magnify and bless.
Bless, O my soul, the Lord thy God,
Of all his gracious benefits
He hath bestowed on thee.
Doth heal, and thee relieve.
Who doth redeem thy life that thou
But while the morning thus calls to the showing forth of love, the evening calls for our testimony to God's faithfulness. The evening first suggests God's faithfulness to his promise of mercy, after the endurance of the deepest provocation, and after the infliction of the most terrible judgment. To Noah he promised, while the earth remaineth, seed-time and harvest, and cold and heat, and summer and winter, and day and night, shall not cease. The return of the night is therefore a new attestation to the truth of him who hath said, 'my covenant I will not break, nor alter the thing that is gone out of my lips. Once have I sworn by my holiness, that I will not lie unto David'—that is, the true David, the beloved, as the name David signifies his seed shall endure for ever, and his throne as the sun before me; it shall be established for ever as the moon, and
as a faithful witness in heaven.'
This 'faithfulness' of God, this 'immutability of his counsel, confirmed by an oath,' is indeed the 'strong consolation' of sinners who have fled for refuge, to lay hold upon the hope set before them.' But, as it is impossible for God to lie,' so to believers there is no just cause of doubt, nor to the chief of sinners' any ground for despair. Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts, and return unto the Lord, and he will have mercy upon him, and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.'
How then may we best exhibit the goodness of this holy exercise?
1. It is good for our own souls, as the most cheering and comforting of all subjects. The mind must more or less partake of the character of the objects upon which it most constantly dwells. Beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, we are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord.' C Now if God himself be blessed,' the
and he is likest God who knows most of his love in sending his Son, and his faithfulness in keeping covenant.
2. It is good for others that, by our morning and evening sacrifice, we bear witness to their consciences of their obligations to God, and if God will thereby convince their judgments, move their affections, decide their waverings, and confirm their purposes, that seeing our good works, they may glorify our Father who is in heaven.' There is not merely a chain of moral dependency between God and man, but also a similar chain between man and man; and did we reflect how much the eternal salvation of our neighbours may be connected with our example, we would see a new form of goodness in every holy duty, and feel a new obligation to its private and pub
'The lot is cast into the lap, but the whole disposing thereof is of the Lord,' Prov. xvi. 33. WHEN events proceed with great regularity, we are disposed to refer them to some law, or to some known or unknown agent, by whose influence they are produced. Thus the regular succession of day and night, the exactly measured changes of the moon, the varying yet certain positions of the planets, and even the departures and the returns of the comets, are all attributed to the operation of one common law of gravity, pervading both earth and heaven. But when events occur without any apparent order, and without any assignable agent, men are disposed to attribute them to fortune, to chance-words that mean nothing but the exclusion of a law, and even of God, from any part or management in the plan or production of these events.
Now, with the first of these views the word of God most exactly agrees. And when the believer, taught by his word and Spirit,' considers the heavens,' the scripture tells him they are the works of God's fingers;' and when he views the moon and the stars,' he is told that 'God has ordained them.' But the word of God goes farther; and when it conducts the believer to consider those events in which all appears disorderly and fortuitous; where he sees no direct agent, and can discover no abiding law; even there he is assured the same God rules, a similar law pervades, a similar plan is arranged; and that with equal regularity-though the principle be un
discovered—and that with equal certainty-though | have been planned, the remainder is fortuitous; the event be not anticipated-will all things but we glorify him for a world where the great and the little are alike objects of his care; where he who counts the stars,' likewise numbers the hairs of our heads;' where he who 'raises up' Pharaoh, or hews down' Nebuchadnezzar, suffers. not even a sparrow to fall to the ground' without his knowledge and consent.
work together for good to them that love God.' Nay, the scriptures cast their light even beyond this region of obscurity, and discover that even those events that arise from the sins of mensins which God hates, which his law denounces, and which his justice will punish-sins of which God is not, and cannot be the author-are yet But the glory of the divine plan can never be under the control of his government, advance fully understood or appreciated, so long as it is his designs, fulfil his purposes, and illustrate his confined to the mere formation and government perfections, as much as those events that arose of the world. Its true character is not discovfrom obedience to his commands and devotedness ered till we view it as providing for the salvation to his glory. Thus Joseph informs his brethren of sinners. It is when we see how God hath who had sold him unto Egypt, Be not grieved, abounded toward us in all wisdom and prudence; nor angry with yourselves, that ye sold me having made known to us the mystery of his will, hither; for God did send me before you to pre- according to his good pleasure, which he hath serve life.' In which words, Joseph does not purposed in himself, that in the dispensation of mean to say, 'Be not grieved nor angry with the fullness of times he might gather in one all yourselves for the sins of envy and covetousness, things in Christ, both which are in heaven and which induced you to sell me hither; but be not which are on earth, even in him; in whom we grieved nor angry for the mere act of selling me, have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated which event God has overruled to our common according to the purpose of him who worketh all preservation.' Indeed, in an evil world, such as things after the counsel of his own will,'-it is this world confessedly is, if God were deprived then, and not till then, that we discover the glory of the means of over-ruling and directing those of a plan which originating in the depths of eterevents that originate from the sins of men; if nity, is developed in the fullness of time, and while 'the wrath of man worketh not the right- which runs through eternity, displaying at once eousness of God,' the wrath of man did not ac- the glory of God, and dispensing salvation and complish the plans of God; and if the wrath happiness to redeemed sinners. of man did not praise him;' and if the remainder of the wrath he did not restrain,' little would remain of this world as the field of God's management; and he would be virtually excluded as its moral and efficient governor.
But God is not, and cannot be excluded from governing any department of his works, or from directing any class of events. His wisdom plans, his power accomplishes all things.
This view of the divine plan, purposes, and government, is calculated to suggest many praccal considerations.
1. From how many unnecessary, useless, and tormenting personal fears, anxieties, and cares— should it set the believer free! 'Give no thought for your life,' said our Lord, 'what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life (which God still continues,) more than meat, and the body (which he still upholds) more than raiment ? Behold the fowls of the air; for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your
How blind is man when he will not see this! how perverse when he will not acknowledge it! We praise an architect for the beauty, grandeur, stability, and convenience of a dwelling. We praise a mechanist for the ingenuity of his inven-heavenly Father feedeth them. Are ye not much tion, and its perfect adaptation to effect his purposes; and if in the dwelling we perceive some apartments of which we cannot discover the intention, or in the machine some wheels or springs of which we cannot discover the use-surely we do not conclude the apartment formed no part of the original plan, or that the wheel and the spring arose without and beyond the intention of the mechanist. And so, comparing carthly with heavenly things—so is it with God. We glorify him, not for a world totally without a design; not for a world in which, though some few parts
better than they? And why take ye thought for raiment? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin: and yet I say unto you, that even Solomon, in all his glory, was not arrayed like one of these. Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass of the field, which to-day is, and to-morrow is cast into the oven, shall he not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith? Therefore take no thought, saying, what shall we eat? or what shall we drink? or, wherewithal shall we be clothed? For your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of
all these things.
But seek ye first the kingdom | very pitiful. of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.'
2. What a strong excitement does this doctrine afford to the religious education of children, and what encouraging hope does it inspire for their future progress and welfare! The believer knows he is worse than an infidel, and one who has denied the faith, who provides not for his own family.' But he sees in this provision for children, as in provision for himself, not merely meat and drink and clothing, but the grace of God that bringeth salvation,' and the righteousness of God that insures acceptance,' in the Beloved.' While therefore he trains up his child in the way he should go,' relying upon the promise that when he is old he will not depart from it,' he is free from all undue care about things temporal, and his heart and his prayers are mainly directed to the salvation of their immortal souls. Their future progress to riches or poverty, to honour or obscurity, he knows to be in the purposes of heaven; and while he neglects no means that may contribute to their success, he confides in no agency, and calculates upon no results, beyond the wisdom, the mercy, the grace, and the providence of God.
3. What a remedy does this doctrine afford to the believer in sickness and pain, what consolation under bereavement of friends, or children, and what support under worldly loss, disappointments, and troubles! No affliction for the present seemeth joyous, but grievous.' Yet in every affliction God speaketh to us as unto children, saying, My son, despise not thou the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when thou art rebuked of him for whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth.' When sickness, weakness, and pains distress, and death threatens, the believer finds his most reviving cordial in looking to Jesus; and feeling that his affliction ariseth not from the dust, nor his sorrows from the ground,' and in knowing that it is sent, either to correct some error of heart or life, or to sow some good seed of truth, or ripen some fruit of experience, or afford some example to others of the peace and composure with which a Christian can die.' When bereaved of dearest relatives that were as the apple of the eye, or stripped naked, as was Job, by the losses of worldly possessions, the believer is able to say, 'It is the Lord; let him do what seemeth him good.' The Lord giveth, and the Lord taketh away, blessed be the name of the Lord!' Ye have heard of the patience of Job, and seen the end of the Lord, that he is
Yet that patience is as nought, when compared to the patience of the Lord Jesus, when he bore the cross and despised the shame:' and which patience and endurance he has left us as an example that we should follow his steps ' And that pity which Job experienced is no less now than of old. For as a father pitieth his children, so the Lord pitieth them that fear him,' for he knoweth our frame, he remembereth that we are dust. Paul could say that for Jesus he had suffered the loss of all things;' he could say believers took joyfully the spoiling of their goods;' yet these trials came visibly from the hands of wicked men How much more then should believers submit with patience; yea, count their trials joy, when they can ascribe them directly to the purpose and the hand of God!
'There are many devices in a man's heart; nevertheless the counsel of the Lord, that shall stand,' Prov. xix. 21.
YOUR ways are not my ways, nor your thoughts my thoughts, saith the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.' And this word God addresses to every unconverted sinner for discovery and reproof of his thoughts, while to every renewed and selfexamining heart, they come as a word of warning to watchfulness and prayer. But not only are God's thoughts higher than men's thoughts-that is, higher in their holy origin, their holy nature, and their glorious object-but they are higher still in the sufficiency of their means, and the certainty of their accomplishment. For as the rain cometh down, and the snow from heaven, and returneth not thither'—that is, without effecting the end for which they were sent—but watereth the earth, and maketh it bring forth and bud, that there may be seed to the sower, and bread for the eater; so shall my word be that proceeded out of my mouth; it shall not return to me void; but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it.'
Let us then, in the light of God's revealing word, proceed to examine man's heart, and contrast its manifold and abortive devices with the abiding counsel of the Lord.
1. When we examine the heart of man, we find it teeming with thoughts and devices. One chief thought and device generally ruling over
all the rest, but surrounded by multitudes of inferior thoughts, plans, and designs, of which there seems no end. Multitudinous as the waves of the sea, man's thoughts are rolling on; and as wave succeeds wave with voice and motion unexhausted, so thought succeeds thought not only undiminished but increasing still.
2. But the thoughts of man's heart are characterized by Solomon as 'devices,' when contrasted with the counsel' of the Lord. Now a device is either some plan by which inventive ingenuity supplies a deficiency, overcomes an obstruction, or accomplishes an unexpected end; or it implies some subterfuge in which cunning, hypocrisy, or dishonesty, secretly meditate or attempt what openly they dare not avow. And, in this last sense it is, that the heart of man-of man unrenewed in the spirit of his mind-is charged with many devices.' How many are the devices by which profession labours to pass for principle! How many the 'devices' by which hypocrisy labours to deceive others, and often succeeds, for a time, in deceiving itself! How many the 'devices' by which infidelity seeks to evade the evidence of God's word and the warn
dwell. 'Ye know not what manner of spirit ye are of,' was addressed, by our Lord, to believers in the days of his flesh, and are certainly as truly applicable in the days of his absence in glory.
4. The 'devices' of man's natural heart are, when thoroughly examined, deliberate plans against God. "Why do the heathen rage, and the people imagine a vain thing? The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the Lord, and against his Anointed, saying, Let us break their bands asunder, and cast their cords from us.' Yea, though they be the 'cords of love,' tender and attractive, though they be the bands of a man,' rational in evidence, and binding in conscience, yet hand joins in hand,' with combined and borrowed might, to break them violently asunder, and cast them contemptuously away.
In these 'devices' against God, however, not God, but man, generally appears the object of antipathy. Of this fact, Balak and Balaam are two of the most notable examples. So far from professing to devise any thing against him, Balak sought his object, professedly, by worshipping God. Balaam was God's professed prophet and priest; and both Balak and Balaam acknowledged God's power and, in their own perverted senses, both sought his favour and blessing. But while the ostensible object of their devices' was the ruin of Israel, the real object of each was the frustration or reversal of an acknowledged 'counsel' of God.
In their 'devices' against God, it is farther to be observed, that while God himself, so far from being the declared object of opposition, may be the object of professed respect, still the opposition is really against himself, because it is against his law, or ordinances. Thus a human legislature repeals, in part at least, the law of the sabbath-a partial repeal that includes, in principle, the repeal of the whole; and not a few professed followers of the Lamb do all in their power to repeal, by their neglect, the ordinance of the Lord's supper, though enforced by the highest of all authorities, and the most touching of all appeals, the dying request and injunction of the Redeemer.
ings of conscience! How many the 'devices' by which worldliness excuses its love of forbidden pleasure, and covetousness its love of unhallowed gain! How many the 'devices' of lukewarm hearts which have forgotten their first love,' to account for, or excuse, or rest satisfied with, their spiritual declensions! How many the 'devices' of the prayerless, whether in the closet, the family, or the congregation, to evade that 'fellowship' with God, and that acquaintance with their own hearts, which prayer absolutely requires! And how many the devices' of dying and accountable beings, to banish the thoughts of that death which is at the door, and of that 'wrath to come' in the judgment that follows! And yet, these are but a few of the most coinmon and superficial of the 'devices' of man's heart. Beyond all these, there is an endless, a nameless, and undistinguishable multitude of 'vexing thoughts,' or vain imaginations, or forms of deep deceitfulness,' or 'errors,' which the heart they inhabit cannot fully understand, and of 'secret faults' from which even the believer requires daily to be 5. The last characteristic we shall notice in 'cleansed.' 'Our Father who art in heaven, give the 'devices' of man is, their invariable disapus this day our daily bread, and forgive us our pointment. Man's devices,' like his righteoustrespasses,' is alike the language of self-know-ness, are as the morning cloud and the early ledge, experience, humility, and faith. dew. Like Jonah's gourd they expand in a night, bloom in the morning, and promise a permanent shade through the day; but the worm of sin is knawing at the root unseen, and when he most needs a hiding place from the wind,' and
3. The 'devices' of man's heart are generally, for a time at least, secret from the world; and, as we have discovered by the word of God, are sometimes hidden from the heart where they