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brother in the field, and slew him. But the voice of that brother's blood rose up to heaven from the ground; and was from that moment consecrated by the grace of God, to the exercise of an influence and dominion in the world, which like the slow working of water, has undermined the thrones of tyrants, and sapped the foundations of mighty empires. Abel was the first martyr; and all the kingdoms of the earth have been revolutionized, or shaken by the power of the martyr's blood.
frequently produced by gentle means and silent | fierce and sullen Cain, for he rose up against his operations. Physical force, associated in our minds with ideas of violence and hurry, has a very different significancy in the kingdom of nature, where light, air, heat, water, and similar substances, all soft and gentle in themselves, are continually effecting revolutions by their softest modes of action. It is remarkable too that when the hard and the soft, or the violent and gentle of the natural world, meet in conflict, whatever may be the immediate result of the first collision, the victory in the end always rests with the gentle and soft. Thus is it the flesh of It is the sin of mankind, at war, in the ignothe human frame that gives shape to the bones-rant impatience of passion with time, space, and the brain that fashions the skull. So does water circumstances, to employ physical force in its polish rocks, and woman—man. violent sense, where moral power alone is equal to the vastness of the results in view; and hence, if we would call down the power of God at all, it is in the form of tempest, and earthquake, and lightning, that the most of us invoke it. When pining over our unheard prayers, our recourse is to an arm of flesh;' our trust in the horse and his rider.'
We find this law very beautifully represented in the manner of the divine manifestation vouchsafed to Elijah, as he waited and watched on the mountain for the passing by of the Lord. And behold,' says the record of this significant interview, the Lord passed by, and a great strong wind rent the mountains, and brake in pieces the rocks before the Lord; but the Lord was not in the wind: and after the wind an earthquake; but the Lord was not in the earthquake: and after the earthquake a fire; but the Lord was not in the fire: and after the fire a still small voice.' It was in this still small voice therefore that the Lord passed by, or in other words, favoured the prophet with a passing manifestation of his pre
We are thus assisted in our transition from the kingdom of nature to that of grace; for in the vision of the prophet are blended together the worlds of matter and of mind. And we have now to observe, that the same law which in physics assigns the ultimate superiority to powers soft and gentle in their operations, has likewise awarded, in the moral and spiritual departments of the world, the final victory to the meek, the humble, and the patient. It is the will and the promise of God, that in the end the meek-spirited shall inherit the earth; and to the achievements of this conquest hath he appointed, as the efficient instruments, the power of meekness and of the soft answer that turneth away wrath.'
This power of meekness in the moral world, most conspicuously exhibited in the character and the conquest of Christ, is equally observable to an attentive eye in all the subordinate instruments of his grace. The conflict between the hard and the soft, or the violent and the meek, in the spiritual world, was brought to its first issue in the murder of Abel. The victory was no doubt to all appearance on the side of the
Such means the Lord no doubt occasionally employs, for with a high hand and an outstretched arm were the Israelites brought out of Egypt. But in turning the affections of man, as he turneth the rivers of water, or fashioning his heart, as the potter fashioneth his clay; and in the great process of spiritualizing the world, the means that he employs are like the end, imbued with the spirit of meekness and peace.
All these remarks are abundantly confirmed by the scripture at present before us. The holy men who were engaged in rebuilding the temple, and being stricken with dismay by the multitude of powers and principalities opposed to the enterprise, and despairing of their own resources, are here comforted with the divine assurance, that not by might nor by power' should the work be accomplished; but by the Spirit of the Lord of hosts. The human instruments, employed in the undertaking, were not to be invested with extraordinary authority, supported by armies and royal edicts; but imbued with the enlightening and persuasive influences of the Holy Spirit. Before the strong, the gentle Spirit of faith, and love, and holiness, and wisdom, and zeal, were they assured, that the 'great mountain' of their difficulties would be levelled with the plain, and the work proceed, calm, but irresistible in its progress, to a sure completion. But all the while was the spirit of the prophet's vision undoubtedly pointing to Christ, and the sanctification of the human race. Christ was then, and is now making to himself a temple of the whole
earth; and will go on building amidst the united | in reality a continual conflict between the princiopposition of hell and the world, till incense and ples of decay and renovation; which, in process of a pure offering be offered unto God, from the time, always ends in the breaking of the wheel at rising of the sun to the going down of the same;' the cistern, and the long repose of the grave. We and the instruments he employs are, not the are thus directed, by the experience of our own hard and the violent, not might and power, as wants and weakness to the fulness of that Founwe understand them—not armies, with their tain from which all life and vigour flows. And confused noise, and garments rolled in blood;' hardly can we turn our eyes towards the throne but the meek, the soft, and the gentle, the of the Omnipotent, and contemplate the great regenerating and sanctifying influences of his Inhabitant of eternity, without feeling that he Holy Spirit; and so shall he bring the day to must be Lord over both life and death; able to pass, when the wolf shall dwell with the lamb, supply us with such a sufficiency of the living the leopard lie down with the kid, and the meek-principle as may for ever arrest the progress of spirited inherit the earth. decay; and make us partakers of his own eternity.
Let us remember all the while, however, that we are as individuals a part of this great undertaking a small part we may think, but, nevertheless, just as great as the whole, in our own esteem, if we remember that every one carries his own eternity within him. Let us rejoice then in the promise of the text; and by keeping ever near to the means of its fulfilment, by walking much with the meek and lowly Jesus, and seeking much unto God in prayer, let us labour diligently in the great work of spiritualizing our own hearts, and becoming living temples of the Holy Ghost.
'But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint,' Isa. xl. 31. THERE is manifestly an arm at work in the universe that never tires, and a power incessantly giving itself out without ever growing less. The scoffers of the later ages, described by St Peter, as inferring that the world will never come to an end, because 'since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning,' do homage to the unwearying might of the Eternal with the very words that deny his faithfulness. For just in this sameness of procedure pervading every department of creation, and directing all its modes of action in the same course, and towards the same end, do we see the vigilance of an eye that never sleeps nor slumbers, and the working of an energy that needs no intervals of repose.
In our own nature do we find embodied, on the contrary, the principles of weakness, decay, and dependence on a Fountain of strength, or 'of living waters.' foreign to ourselves. Our natural life is
Now this is just what his word teaches us to hope; and, in the passage before us, moreover, teaches in such a spirit-stirring manner, as almost in the instant to realize itself, by raising us far above this valley of sin and death, and bathing our soul in the light of heaven. But 0! it is our besetting sin, to mistake the soarings of an excited imagination, for the mounting up of the heart; and momentary sallies of enthusiasm for a turning of the soul to God; and though we mount and soar upon wings as eagles, even to the very windows of heaven, it is alas! too frequently only to be dashed with a farther fall, and a greater force on the rocks from which we rose.
We are directed in the text 'to wait upon the Lord.' O! but this is a hard saying, thinks the fainting soul within itself; and who can hear it! God, we are apt to think, is far away-seated upon the stars, and beyond the reach of human prayers. a glorious, but distant and lonely throne beyond Or, if it be true that he fills heaven and earth with his presence; that he encompasses all our steps, and besets us behind and before, yet he is an invisible Spirit; everywhere eluding the most diligent search of our senses, just as effectually as if he were no where present on our side of the starry firmament. For 'behold,' says the ancient patriarch of Uz, 'I go forward, but he is not there; and backwards, but I cannot perceive him; on the left hand, where he doth work, but I cannot behold him; he hideth himself on the right hand that I cannot see him.' Soon after, however, do we find the same patriarch declaring of the same invisible Spirit; 'I have heard of the by the hearing of the ear, but now mine bath seen thee, wherefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes.' It is remarkable that we thus find the man who has most movingly be wailed the invisibility of God, just most emphatically, also, declaring his experience of the divine manifestation; and the more we feel inclined to complain of the apparent distance, or absence of
the Lord, whom we profess to seek, the more rea- | the bloom and strength of immortal youth, to son have we to be thankful for all the means with mount on wings as eagles to the mansions of which he has favoured us, of waiting upon him, unfading glory. and bringing our hearts within the influences of his manifested presence. These means are extremely simple in their own nature; and so continually, moreover, within the reach of our capacities, that
we have it in our power to realize literally the pri-And they continued stedfastly in the apostles'
doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers,' Acts ii. 42.
vilege of Enoch, and walk with God. For they are the reading of his word, which the most of us have always at hand; the holy ordinances of his gospel, which are at once easy, and of fre- IT is a saying worthy of all acceptation, as rich quent recurrence; and the privilege of close com- in comforts for every desponding pilgrim of Zion, munion with his Spirit in the exercise of medita- that with the Father of lights, from whom tion and prayer. It is this last privilege that cometh down every good and every perfect gift, we may regard as specially pointed at in the there is no variableness, neither shadow of turnexpression, 'waiting upon the Lord;' because it is ing.' His goodness flows from a fountain that not only the most literal application of the words, can never run itself out; but, on the contrary, but the most effectual means of realizing the full though continually filling the cisterns of innumeraimport of the promise contained in them. Let ble human hearts, continues itself, for ever full. us remember, then, that we are directed to wait Just as little can the divine power wear itself upon the Lord in the public prayers of the sanc-away by exertion, for 'hast thou not known, tuary, the devotion of the family altar, and the hast thou not heard, that the everlasting God, private communion of the closet, where alone the the Lord, the Creator of the ends of the earth, Spirit helpeth our infirmities, making interces- fainteth not, neither is weary.' Though incessantly sion for us with groanings that cannot be uttered.' 'giving power to the faint, and increasing strength But O! are any of us strangers to the wander- to them that have no might,' he remains, amid ing of our thoughts in prayer; and the devotion his own inexhaustible resources, from everlasting of the bowing head, and the bending knee, in to everlasting the same.' which there is no waiting upon the Lord? Have we never seen the congregations of the sanctuary, not only turning away from God in the inner, but even in the outward man; sinking down upon their seats before the prayer is ended; and thus, in reality, though knocking at the door of heaven, turning their back in the very moment when they should expect it to open at the name of Christ. Thus even in the act of prayer do the youths faint and grow weary, and the young men utterly fail —but all this, because they are not 'waiting upon the Lord.'
Let the preface, therefore, to all our prayers be, 'Lord, teach us how to pray.' And so addressing ourselves to the Fountain of living waters, the Source of life and strength, with the prayer of faith that wavereth not, shall we, in all our prayers realize the promise of our text; and 'renew our strength, and mount up on wings as eagles;' and having our affections, our treasures, and our conversation in heaven;-waiting constantly upon the Lord, and walking in all his ordinances blameless; we shall run, and not be weary; we shall walk and not faint. Thus in the end shall death have no power over our souls; and shall be unto our bodies a long renovating sleep in Jesus, from which we shall rise clothed with
We see in the text the simple, but majestic power of the gospel in full operation; and the theory of religion reduced to practice. Those early Christians, it tells us, continued stedfastly in the apostles' doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayer. In these words we have, indeed, a most beautiful picture of the primitive church, when Christianity was still almost in its infancy,—and verily an infancy, moreover, which, like our own, when compared with our riper years, that makes us look back upon it with a sigh of regret, and wish we could live it over again. The interesting members of that early church had not only been hearers but doers of the word; receiving the new doctrines from the apostles of Christ, not merely as an interesting discovery in the kingdom of thought and the soul, but as a living substantial rule of life and manners; and pointing out the way to honour, glory, and immortality. Their conversion had been recent and sudden; but it was stedfast and durable; for they adhered with unwavering constancy to the doctrines of their new religion, notwithstanding all the efforts of a world lying in wickedness around them, to reason, to laugh, or to frighten them out of their faith. They also kept up a
close companionship with each other, and with solar system, is urging forward to its last perthe apostles, in spiritual conferences, prayer- fection the great scheme of spiritualizing the meetings, and frequent commemorations of the world, through the blood of the everlasting Redeemer's death. Such, moreover, was the covenant; and who, by the infinity of his own intimacy of their fellowship, that they seemed but strength equalizing all means and instruments, as one in heart, in counsel, and in interests; held maketh the reading, but especially the preaching together by a common and unfailing subject of of the word, an effectual means of convincing and conversation in the wonders of redeeming love. converting sinners, and building them up in holiAnd such, in fine, was the power of this fellow-ness and comfort through faith unto salvation. ship, this melting of all hearts into one, under For Paul may plant, and Apollos may water, the influence of the Sun of Righteousness; that the but the Spirit of God alone giveth the increase laughter of the ungodly was soon changed into thereof. fear; and the infant church for a season experienced the peace proper to the religion of the cross; while numbers were daily flowing from all sides to the goodness of the Lord.
What now were the means by which these marvellous and beautiful effects were wrought? Shall we ascribe them to the eloquence of Peter, and the other apostles? They would, all of them, even in their day of flesh and vain-glory, have repudiated the idolatrous homage of such a supposition, as at once an offence to themselves, and an insult to the majesty of the cross. What would Peter have said to the praise of converting more souls, by a single discourse, than Christ, perhaps, in the whole course of his ministry; though of that same Christ it was said that he spake 'as never man spake? O! it is just from Peter that we have the explanation of the whole mystery: for 'hearken,' he says in the context; 'ye men of Judea, and all ye that dwell at Jerusalem, hearken to my words. This is that that was spoken by the prophet Joel, And it shall come to pass in the last days, (saith God) that I will pour out of my spirit upon all flesh. And it shall come to pass, that whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.' This prophecy had just been brought to pass in the marvellous downpourings of the Holy Ghost, at the feast of Pentecost, and while Peter is calling upon the men of Judea to hearken unto his words, he is telling them, at the same time, that he is only speaking as the Spirit gives him utterance. We are thus directed to a fountain of life and strength, altogether different in its properties from the well that was opened up for the washing away of guilt in the broken body and shed blood of the Messiah; and to a power which must be brought into full action before the system of the gospel can be so much as put in motion, or a single drop of redeeming blood applied to the conscience of a single believer. That power is the third person of the blessed Trinity, who, by an influence as mysterious, but just as palpable in its effects, as the agency which regulates the movements of the
What advantages then had the primitive church which lie not equally within the reach of our prayers? Let us remember that in God there is no variableness, neither shadow of turning; and that his Spirit, whom no working can weary, is the all-pervading promise of the gospel, freely offered unto every one that calleth upon his name. The Old Testament is not more thickly bespangled with promises of the Messiah's coming, than is the New with those of the Holy Spirit; and if, in the early days of Christianity, the meetings of the saints were blessed by such a down-pouring of his influences, as changed the wilderness, around and within them, into a blooming field, why shall not our souls be quickened and revived, and righteousness flow among us as a river, if we seek unto the fountain of strength and life, in humble acknowledgment of our own insufficiency, and sincere reliance on the faithfulness of God? And if, in our prayers themselves, we know not what we should pray for as we ought,' O! even then are we told that 'likewise the Spirit helpeth our infirmities-making intercession for us with groanings that cannot be uttered.'
For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth,' Rom. i. 16. THE apostle, speaking from observation, and, perhaps, alas! from experience likewise, is here manifestly charging human nature with an inherent tendency to despise its crucified Redeemer, and to be ashamed of the gospel. He knew that to the Greeks it was foolishness,' and to the Jews a stumbling-block.' In commencing his epistle to the Romans too, he might take it for granted, that many among them would be ashamed of a king, who had been hanged like a thief on a tree, under the jurisdiction of a Roman
governor; and despise a salvation, the author and finisher of which had been unable to save himself from the pain and the shame of the cross.
And have we never been ashamed of the gospel? O! how often do we hear the honourable youths of our own day and generation, when their word is doubted, or their faithfulness called in question, appealing to their rank, their profession, or their country; one, with his hand upon his heart, saying, I am a nobleman, another I am a soldier, and a third, I am a Briton; but who ever thinks of gaining credit for his averments by saying, 'I am a Christian? How soon, moreover, are our young men, when they enter the gay or the busy scenes of life, ashamed to meet their many tempters with a text from the New Testament; or to plead the lessons of their mothers, their ministers, and the gospel of the meek and lowly Jesus, against the elegant sophisms of the voluptuary, the sparkling wit of the infidel, the laughter of the fool, or the calculating wisdom of the worldling.
The real reason of all this shame will make itself manifest in a single glance at the reason Paul gives for not being ashamed of the gospel, and that is, because it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth.' We all respect power. When it is exhibited on a large and conspicuous scale, it strikes us with a pleasing awe, in whatever field of observation we see it displayed, whether in the world of matter or of mind; and is in reality the source of that mental emotion called the sublime. The great fountain of all such emotions is God; and who has not felt the sublimity of that remarkable scripture which describes the creation of light? 'And God,' says the word of his own inspiration, said, Let there be light; and there was light.'
Great, however, beyond all possibility of description, as is the power of God displayed in the creation, incomparably greater is the power put forth in saving a single sinner. The subject is so vast that it requires to be broken down into parts. Let us first look at the power apart from the view of its effects. In the work of creation there is presented to our mind the simple and single idea of God. But from the moment we turn to the work of redemption we have to deal with the awful mystery of the Trinity. The great and simple idea of Deity is thus divided; and each of our new conceptions remains as great, as infinite as the first. Now it is an awful thought that to effect the salvation of a single soul, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, are all acting in distinct offices, and exer
cising divine power in ways all differing from each other, yet all equally essential to the intended effects.
The work of creation, moreover, is associated with ideas of ease, and of pure unmingled joy. It is the very ease represented in the word, ' And God said, Let there be light; and there was light,' that constitutes its sublimity. But far different are the ideas associated with the power of God unto salvation. There is an effort—a conflict of contending emotions, grief, pain, enormous suffering, in this power. It is the Father giving his only-begotten Son to the death; it is the Son descending from the throne of eternity, clothing himself in all the suffering sensibilities of human nature, submitting to the pain and the ignominy of the scourge in a criminal court, and in the agonies of the cross complaining that his Father had forsaken him. It is, moreover, the incessant striving of the Holy Spirit with the grievingrexing soul of man in the work of applying the blood of Christ, to the end for which it was freely poured out, and giving efficacy to the love of God manifested in the gift of his Son. Let us now glance at the greatness of the work. The very sight of such a power brought into action argues the greatness of the work in view. It is the salvation, as we have just supposed, of a single sinner. And verily it may seem at first sight that there is here an expenditure of power far beyond the need. Alas! we shall soon be in as much danger of thinking it all too little; and this is in reality the besetting sin that casts perpetually its cold and benighting shadow between the soul and its Sun of righteousness. For no sooner has the power of truth forced its way to the conscience, and the pangs of hell have taken hold upon us,' and we set in solemn earnest to the labour of repentance, than we begin to doubt the power of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, to deliver us from the torment of our guilt, and wash the blackness of our sins away. O! in our days of carelessness, and ease, and folly, and mocking at sin, it may seem an easy thing for the Almighty to pardon us, and blot out all our transgressions like a thick cloud, with the light of one forgiving smile. It seems but the speaking of a word, as easy, as saying in the magnificent days of creation, 'Let there be light.' But, O! how different a thing it seems, when brought to the test of trial and experience, to pour over the troubled waters of the soul the assurance that its sins are in reality forgiven, and that it has no more to fear from the righteous judgments of God. Pardon may still seem an easy word, but not the peace, which is its only proof. O!