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'gain the whole world,' if we, by any negligence, of acting. 3. The heartfelt, habitual, and invari'lose our own souls?' able use of such forms of speech as should both remind ourselves of these things, and bear witness of them to others.
1. If then to-morrow be so uncertain, how precious is to-day! We know not when we draw one breath, if ever we shall draw another. We know not, when we awake, whether ever we shall sleep, but in the grave; and we know not, when we sleep, whether ever we shall awake again till our doom is sealed for eternity. Let us see then that we 'walk circumspectly; not as fools, but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil.'
2. Time, eternity-death, judgment-heaven and hell-are awful realities. Yet by men whom the world calls wise, they are often dealt with as the toys of thoughtless children. Time is wasted, eternity forgot; death is unthought of, judgment disregarded; heaven not longed for; hell not shunned. Yes, hell not shunned! For where Satan's lies are received, and God's truth rejected; where his devices are followed, and God's love despised; where his service is rendered, and God's law rejected; there Satan's companionship being chosen, participation in his doom cannot be avoided.
3. Let no man vainly try to join whom Christ has dissevered. 'We cannot serve God and Mammon!' Nor is it necessary, even for worldly purposes, to make the vain attempt. True godliness never yet stood in the way of success; and in case of disappointment, which may come to any, godliness can ensure what riches alone can never obtain—that rest to the soul which Jesus promises, and that abiding contentment which is great gain.'
1. The will-in man the power of weighing, choosing, and determining upon his actions ; but still in the whole process liable, because of sin, to be influenced by ignorance, error, prejudice, or evil inclination. The will-in God, his most wise perception in himself of what is good, and his most holy disposition and purpose to carry it into effect for his own glory as the end, and the well-being of his creatures as the means. And thus accordingly sings the church on earth, as the Spirit giveth her utterance, 'Our God is in heaven; he hath done whatsoever he hath pleased;' and thus sings the church in heaven, Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory, and honour, and power; for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are, and they were created.'
2. If for the pleasure of the Lord all things were created, it is evident that only at the pleasure of the Lord can any thing continue. Yet is it one thing to admit the truth of this statement, and another and very different thing to feel and to act under its power. Indeed there is such a tendency in the human heart to forget God himself—his presence, his watchfulness, his power, his holiness, and his judgment—that it can never surprise us, if those who can thus forget their God, should also, and at the same time, forget themselves. To this forgetfulness three causes mainly contribute. First, We possess, in a high degree, the useful, but much abused power, of banishing from the mind disagreeable objects and thoughts, and of calling up others more congenial and agreeable. Now of all subjects, God, and holiness, and sin, and death, and judgment, must to the unrenewed heart be far the most disagreeable; they are
Ye ought to say, If the Lord will, we shall live, accordingly dismissed, and in their room a host and do this or that,' James iv. 15.
'OUT of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaketh. Therefore, if without any implied or expressed reference to the will of God, we habitually say, We will go to such a place, and do this or that, it is evident the abundance of the heart' is ‘self’—self in counsel, self in determination, self in agency, and self in honour. This mode of speech the apostle utterly condemns, not because he would give a lesson on the mere proprieties of expression, but because, by correcting the expression, he would correct the heart.
The words of the apostle present to us three things: 1. The will of God. 2. Our dependence upon it for continuance of life, and every power
of unhallowed thoughts are conjured up, that leave, in their revelling, neither time nor inclination to think seriously, either of ourselves or of God. Secondly, We become so immersed in business and care, that when compelled, by some pressing necessity, to think seriously, for a little, of God and our souls, we are speedily re-absorbed by the whirlpool of worldly engagements, which all assuming the forms of important and imperative duties, not only carry us away altogether to temporal shadows, but furnish us with an excuse for neglecting eternal realities. Thirdly, Life and success are seen to depend upon so many worldly supports, that the invisible Supporter of all is overlooked in the light of his own
gifts. Thus life is seen to depend so much on stant reference of godly men to the gracious and original strength of constitution, so much on sovereign will of God, by which he gives or food, raiment, climate, medicine, and care; while takes away' as seemeth to him good, and which success is seen to depend so much upon industry, will infallibly be done on earth as it is in heaven.' frugality, acuteness, and honesty; that to these we learn to look as idolatrously and stupidly as Israel to the golden calf when they sung before the works of their own hands, and said, 'These be
thy gods, O Israel, that have brought thee out
of the land of Egypt.'
Now that we are entirely dependent for the power of either attempting or doing any thing, is evident from the fact, that upon God's will alone we depend for life, and breath, and all things.' 'He made us, and not we ourselves; we are his flock, and the sheep of his pasture.'
3. Such being our condition of humble dependence, how just that our lips should speak the language of our condition! Instead of proudly saying, we will go, and we will do,' how necessary to premise, if the Lord will.' The propriety and necessity of this mode of speech is evident upon two accounts. First, For our own sake, that we may be kept 'mindful of our latter end,' and so busy 'counting our days, that we may apply our hearts to wisdom.' Philip, king of Macedon, is said to have had a servant whose duty it was to awake him to business, each morning, with these words, 'Remember, Philip, that you are a man!' And such a memento is constantly furnished to our ears and our hearts, when we habitually refer both life and success entirely to the will of our heavenly Father. Secondly, A continued and habitual reference to the 'will' of the Lord, is equally necessary for the sake of others. We see a world around us hurrying on, not only to death, but to ruin; and as coffin after coffin goes by, we merely hear men inquire, Who is dead? And then so instantly and so earnestly resuming their employment, or their pleasures, that it is evident they do not think how soon they may, or must,
Now, as 'none of us liveth to himself.' we are bound to watch over and warn one another; to have our speech always with grace, seasoned with salt,' that is, with such preservative truth, as may resist, to the utmost of our opportunity and power, the corrupting conversation of a 'world that lieth in wickedness.' We are bound, as we shall answer for 'every idle word,' to 'let no corrupt communication proceed out of our mouth, but that which is good, to the edification of the hearers,' and there is not a truth in the bible, which the world more needs to hear, or by which, under grace, it is more likely to profit, than by the con
Every good gift, and every perfect gift is from
above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning,' Jam. i. 17.
'WHO maketh thee to differ from another? and what hast thou that thou didst not receive?' are questions which nature and grace unite in addressing to every man. The body is God's gift, the life is his gift, the spirit is his gift-every thing that distinguishes the body, its health, and its vigour every thing that distinguishes the life, its sustenance and endurance-every thing that distinguishes the spirit, the understanding, and the affections—all are the gifts of God. So nature testifies, not of man's right and possessions, but of God's liberal endowments. To the same effect is the testimony of grace, ‘God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son,' thereby teaching the redeemed to sing thanks be unto God for his unspeakable gift.' The Holy Spirit is his gift. I will pray the Father,' says our Lord, and he will give you another Comforter.' The everlasting righteousness which Christ brought in, and which, amongst the things of Christ,' the Spirit shows to us, is a gift. For if by one man's disobedience death reigned by one; much more they who receive abundance of grace, and of the gift of righteousness, shall reign in life by one, Jesus Christ.' And even that promised life itself, is not our natural inheritance, but the gift of God is eternal life, through Jesus Christ our Lord.' Nay, the whole work of salvation, and the faith whereby it is apprehended, are God's gifts; for so it is written, by grace are ye saved, through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God.'
Now of the gifts that come by nature, this is remarkable, that though they are many, though they are great, though they are highly prized, yet not one of them is really good, not one of them is perfect. They are not good; for though all combined, they can neither certainly relieve pain, nor communicate happiness; and they are so far from perfect, that most bodily gifts, after a few years of use, become daily worse, until they are utterly extinguished; and the endowments of the spirit, weak at the best,
either gradually decay with the bodily powers, light that shineth more and more until the peror speedily sink into second and hopeless child
Still this is not the fault of original nature; coming from God's hand, all was very good; and very good only because every gift was perfect. But now since sin has entered into the world, there is evil and imperfection in all nature's choicest gifts, and to remedy this evil, and supply the imperfection, is the great end and glory of 'the gospel of the grace of God.'
Now the gifts of grace are all good, because every one supplies our wants, or relieves our pains. Blessed are they that do hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be filled.' Bless the Lord, O my soul, who healeth all thy diseases.' The gifts of grace are good, because every one of them communicates joy. Being justified by faith, we have peace with God, through our Lord Jesus Christ; by whom we have access, through faith, into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God.' The gifts of grace are likewise all perfect. The whole gifts of grace are indeed summed up, and included, as jewels in a casket, in the person of our Redeemer, the Lord Jesus Christ. He is our ‘all, and our in all,' and having him, we have the Father; and having the Father, and the Son, we can want nothing. For thus prays our Lord for all that should believe in him through the disciples' word:'That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee; that they may be one in us; I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one.'
But besides this gift whereby the church of believers is made perfect in one,' and found 'complete in him' all the personal gifts wherewith believers are endowed, are in detail, perfect gifts. The gift of the Spirit is perfect, for he abides' with the church for ever.' The gift of regeneration is perfect, for the believer is born not of corruptible, but of incorruptible seed, by the word of God that liveth and abideth for ever. The gift of righteousness is perfect, for it is the righteousness of God.' Nay even those 'gifts' in which there is growth and increase, are perfect,-faith, hope, charity, and every form of grace and fruit of the Spirit, all are perfect. They are perfect as gifts, being secured by the cath of God. They are perfect in kind, being brought from above, from the Father of lights; and they are perfect in working-for he that hath begun a good work,' in his people's heart, will perfect it until the day of Jesus Christ.' For the path of the just,'-the man justified by faith, the path of the just is as the shining
But this perfection of the 'gifts' depends altogether on the perfection of the Giver. They all come from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.' But this can be said of no other light. The fairest orbs of heaven vary. Some by change of position, as they run in their courses; some by increase or decrease of splendour; the very sun himself is overshadowed, and the moon is darkened by the eclipse; and an hour is coming when the heavens shall wax old as a garment, and as a vesture the Lord shall change them, and they shall be changed; but he is the same, and his years shall have no end.' Jesus the Son of God is that true light by which the nature and glory of God are made manifest. A portion of his light he communicates to prophets and apostles, and in degrees, varying according to his will, to every believer. Thus our Lord says of John, 'He was a burning and a shining light; and ye were willing, for a season, to rejoice in his light.' And thus says the apostle of believers, 'ye were sometimes darkness, but now are ye light in the Lord.' Do all things without murmuring or disputing, that ye may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world.'
Let us remember then whence all our light is derived. It is only in God's light we can see light. Let us never trust to the light of our own understandings; but in all our inquiries and resolutions, ever pray to the Father of light, 'Open thou mine eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of thy law.'
Let us always live under the salutary remembrance of the unsteadiness as well as insufficiency of our own light. How variable is the light we enjoy in our own heart, how beclouded the light we exhibit to others. He who at first caused the light to shine into our dark hearts, can alone preserve it in steadiness and brightness. O that we had grace so to shine before men, that, seeing our good works, they might glorify our Father who is in heaven!
Let us always live endeavouring to recount the gifts of God to ourselves and others. The task is endless, but sanctifying and delightful. Many, O Lord my God, are thy wonderful works, and thy thoughts of mercy to usward; they cannot be reckoned up in order unto thee; if I would declare and speak of them, they are more than can be numbered.'
Let us, for all his gifts, endeavour to give God
the glory. Bodily, mental, and spiritual gifts- | bountiful provision, whereby he 'supplies the let all be employed to set forth his praise. With wants of every thing that lives,' in a manner the imperfect gifts of nature, let us glorify him; suited to its own nature, our heavenly Father for he perfects his strength in our weakness; and feedeth them. with the perfect gifts of grace, let us praise him, for we can do all things through Christ strengthening us.
And if at any time we feel the want of either temporal or spiritual gifts-let this be the light of our darkness, and the foundation of our hope and trust If God spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not, with him, also freely give us all things?'
'Behold the fowls of the air, for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are ye not much better than they?' Matt. vi. 26. FROM every object in nature around him, from every employment in which men were engaged, and from every circumstance in which he was placed, our Lord was accustomed to draw his instruction. As man he gives evidence of the most attentive observation, and trains his disciples to similar habits. Behold,' says he, the lilies how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin; yet I say unto you that 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, how much more will he clothe you, O ye of little faith?' And turning from the flowers with which he has beautified the earth, Behold,' he adds, 'the fowls' with which he has peopled the air! How innumerable where they congregate in the forest, or scatter on the heath; where they surround the cultivated field, or penetrate the crowded city; where they give life to the solitary sea rock, or find their home upon the deep waters; as they migrate from climate to climate, and become citizens of every land! By what toil of sowing, or reaping, or by what foresight of gathering into barns, can all their hosts be fed? The bee, under a regular government of power and affection, selects her delicious deposit from every flower of summer, and lives through the winter on her reserved capital The ant, having no guide, overseer, or ruler, gathereth her food in the harvest,' and exhibits, as in a school of instructive industry, the fittest lesson for the sluggard; but the bird neither sows nor reaps with any toil, nor gathers into barns by any industry or foresight,-yet by a
Yes, our heavenly Father supplies the wants of every thing that lives,' but each in a way suited to its own nature; each in a manner suited to display the endless and lovely variety of instincts and propensities with which he has endowed his creatures, and the inexhaustible stores by which he can supply their wants.
And if every creature is supplied in a manner suited to its own nature-that is, in a way suited to its own capacities and free and unbiassed inclinations-then, as the bee and the ant are supported by the incessant labours of an industry for which they are fitted, while the bird is equally supplied without either toil or foresight then is man to derive his support from that foresight with which, beyond all other creatures, he is endowed, by an industry which, above all other creatures, he is competent to vary and pursue, and from which, when rationally followed, he derives both his pleasure and his health. Were man not capable of being taught more than the beasts of the field;' were he not by nature and acquirement wiser than the fowls of heaven;' then should he live by their law, and be provided for after their manner.
But being differently constituted both by capacity and inclination—an inclination to industry, universal and invariable, and only prevented by evil education or sinful indulgence-man is bound, by the law of his nature and his God, ' to provide things honest in the sight of all men ;' to avoid being slothful in business;' and to remember that it is the hand of the diligent that maketh rich.' From the argument of our Saviour drawn from the providential feeding of the fowls of the air, no man can derive any argument against the employment of means for his support. For whether the means within his power be mental acquirement or bodily strength, they are those divine endowments which, by the very fact of their possession, he is bound to exert. The bee and the ant put forth the utmost power with which God has endowed them; the very improvident bird labours incessantly for its and. young; when food is exhausted, or climate annoys, it fearlessly and laboriously wings its way over oceans and continents in search of a new home and a new store. Man can therefore plead neither the example of nature, nor the authority of for any wilful idleness, any improvident neglect. any prodigal squandering of any means that God bestows.
But while the appeal of our Saviour is not directed against means, it is directed against all unbelieving fears for the present or the future; against all doubt and distrust of power, or mercy, er goodness; and against all those engrossing anxieties and cares about worldly provision, which so often haunt and torment the minds of men both in their waking and sleeping hours. And especially are they intended and calculated, both by example of providence and precept of our Lord, to sustain the minds of men under the pressure of difficulties, disappointments, sickness, pains, and sorrows. For as it is not merely in the plenty and warmth of summer, but in the dearth and storms of winter, that the bird is fed; so it is not merely in the bright sunshine of prosperity, but under the darkest clouds of misfortane, that we are warranted to put our trust in Him who is faithful to the letter in every promise and engagement.
Observe a speciality in our Saviour's argument, Your heavenly Father feedeth them: are ye not much better than they? Are we not much better, being in God's own image? Are we not much better, being bought with so great a price? Are we not much better, being endowed with such precious promises? Shall we not therefore follow faith farther than they pursue their instincts? and depend as implicitly on the grace of God, as they on the bounties of nature?
Observe how the birds, while they are bountifully fed, are yet required to seek their food; so let us learn to seek, and to seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and then all other things shall be added unto us. What contempt of God not to seek that righteousness and king.. Zom which he sent his own Son to bring in and to establish; or to neglect that great salvation which he hath purchased with his own blood! How blessed, when cares intrude and annoy, to recall that description of the afflicted believer, casting all his care upon God, because he careth ' him!' How consoling and strengthening the exhortation, Cast thou thy burden upon the Lord, and he shall sustain thee; he shall never fer the righteous to be moved!'
How freely and confidently may we ask all that we need for our souls! God feeds the avens of the desert when they cry unto him: be will not then neglect the cry of his dear chilren. As a father pitieth his children, so the Lord pitieth them that fear him.' And if men, ing evil, know how to give good gifts to their hiren, how much more will our heavenly Father ve the Holy Spirit to them that ask him!'
'God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness,' Gen. i. 26.
THE inspired history of creation presents a beautiful example of progressive excellence. First, the material world, but without form and void;' then light; then the firmament of heaven; then dry land, and plants of every form; then lights in heaven to rule the day and night; then the fish of the sea, and fowls of the air; then all the beasts of the field-and, all being thus prepared, God said, Let us make man,' last and noblest of his works, in our own image, after our own likeness.' At the formation of every other thing, God said, 'let it be,' and it was so. But, at the formation of man, there is a divine council, and an image impressed representing, as far as a creature may, the infinite attributes of the Creator. All this imports that man was a creature superior to all that had hitherto been made. Let us examine the import of the record.
In all ages of the Christian church, this divine consultation has been understood of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
Barnabas, the fellow labourer of Paul, observes, For the Lord was contented to suffer for our souls, though he be the Lord of the world; to whom God said, the day before the completion of the world, "Let us make man after our image, and similitude."
Hermas, the cotemporary of Paul, adds, 'He was present in council with the Father in forming the creatures.'
Augustine, born in 354, more extensively commenting on the words, and combating the perverse interpretations of them, has these words,
Had God said no more than "Let us make man," it might, with some colour, be understood as spoken to the angels, whom the Jews pretend he employed in framing the body of man and other creatures; but seeing it is immediately added, "after our image," it is highly profane to believe that man was made after the similitude of angels, and that the similitude of God and angels is one and the same thing.'