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mg disease, he would be reckoned a fool not to mquire after a remedy and a physician.— Avoid this folly. Betake yourselves to the Friend of sinners. Fall at his feet and say, "Heal me, and I shall be healed; save me, and I shall be saved; for thou art my praise." In him seek the justification of your persons, the sanctification of your natures; a title to heaven, and a meetness for it, with all the diligence the importance of these blessings demands; and "so much the more, as ye see the day approaching." Dedicate yourselves unreservedly to him who loved us and gave himself for us.
And then, should the news, "This year thou shalt die," be addressed to you, as it was to one of old, you may hear it without consternation; it will only announce your deliverance, your triumph, your eternal gain. And if your life should be continued through the year we have begun, and through many following years, his grace shall be sufficient for you, rendering your trials supportable, and your duties practicable and pleasant "Whether you live, you will live unto the Lord; or whether you die, you will die unto the Lord: so that, living or dying, you will be the Lord's." Amen.
SAUL OF TARSUS PRAYING.
And there was a certain disciple at Damascus, named Ananias; and to him said the Lord in a virion, Ananias. And he said. Behold, I am here, Lord. And the Lord said unto him, Arise, and go into the street -which is called Straight, and inquire in the house of Judas for one called Saul, of Tarsus: for,
behold, he prayeth. Acts ix. 10, 11.
We live in a world of changes. Seed time and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night, succeed each other. Human affairs are as variable as the seasons. We have seen the rich impoverished and the poor enriched. We have seen the noble debased and the vulgar exalted. We have seen thrones demolished and empires formed. But no changes are so important in their nature, and interesting in their consequences, as those of a moral nature—because these relate to the soul and eternity. It is painful to see a fellow-creature, under the infatuation of error and vice, proceeding from evil to evil; and waxing worse and worse, till he has proved that "the way of transgressors is hard," and that "the end of these things is death." But, oh! how pleasing is it to see a sinner plucked as a brand from the burning! How pleasing to trace in him the operation of an agency that opens his eyes, and turns him "from darkness unto light, and from the power of Satan unto God; that he may receive forgiveness of sins, and an
inheritance among them that are sanctified." Then is fulfilled the language of the prophet: "Instead of the thorn shall come up the fir tree, and instead of the brier shall come up the myrtle tree: and it shall be to the Lord for a name, for an everlasting sign that shall not be cut ofl."
To one of these remarkable changes we are referred by the words we have read. It took place in Saul of Tarsus. He was a young man who had been brought up at the feet of Gamaliel, and was now employing his time and talents in the infamous work of persecution. He was in a journey of iniquity, and near the end of it, when God, who is rich in mercy, called him by his grace, and revealed his Son in him. "Suddenly there shined round about him a light from heaven: And he fell to the earth, and heard a voice saying unto him, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me? And he said, Who art thou, Lord i And the Lord said, I am Jesus whom thou persecutest: it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks." By this he reminds him that his conduct was as ruinous as it was unreasonable, and only inflicted wounds and death upon himself.—Behold the tiger reduced to a lamb, so that a little child limy lead him. "And he trembling and astonished said, Lord, what wilt thou have me to do? And the Lord said unto him, Arise, and go into the city, and it shall be told thee what thou must do. And the men which journeyed with him stood speechless, hearing a voice, but seeing no man. And Saul arose from the earth; and when hit eyes were opened, he saw no man: but they led him by the hand, and brought him into Damascus. And he was three days without sight, and neither did eat nor drink."
Then follows the passage we have selected for our present meditation: "And there was a certain disciple at Damascus, named Ananias; and to him said the Lord in i vision, Ananias. And he said, Behold, I am here, Lord. And the Lord said unto him, Arise, and go into the street which is called Straight, and inquire in the house of Judas for one called Saul, of Tarsus: for, behold, he prayeth." From these words we are led to remark,
I. That The Lord Kngws Where We
ARE, AND HOW WE ARE ENGAGED. What
was this house of Judas! Was it an inn to which Saul repaired for lodging? If so, it was a sad situation for a man in spiritual distress; and never did an inn before or since accommodate such a passenger. Perhaps it was a private dwelling, and belonged to one of Iris friends or acquaintances. If so, what would be the emotions of the family as be entered! One would think him mad; another would eagerly listen to the report of his companions; all would wonder; and some we should hope would be seriously impressed. But however this may be, we find that the Lord knew where Saul was —the street— the very house in which he was; and he also knew what he was doing there.
It would be easy to multiply similar instances and proofs of his perfect acquaintance with the children of men. He knew how to guide Cornelius in sending to Joppa for Peter —" he lodgeth in the house of one Simon, a tanner, whose house is by the sea side." Nathanael had retired to a place where no human eye was likely to observe him: "but when thou wast under the fig tree," says our Lord, "I saw thee." Zaccheus ran before and climbed up into a sycamore tree, little imagining that the wonderful stranger who was to pass under would know or notice him —but he looked up and said, "Zaccheus, make haste, and come down; for to-day I must abide at thy house." When Paul was afar off upon the sea, tossed with waves, the night dark, and not a star appearing, the
to another, every one to his brother, saying, Come, I pray you, and hear what is the word that cometh forth from the Lord. And they come unto thee as the people cometh, and they sit before thee as my people, and they hear thy words, but they will not do them: for with their mouth they show much love, but their heart goeth after their covetousness."—Let the righteous believe this; and remember, that though they are poor and needy, yet the Lord thinketh upon them; that he knoweth all their walking through this great wilderness; that their walls are continually before him. "Then they that feared the Lord spake often one to another: and the Lord hearkened and heard it, and a book of remembrance was written before him for them that feared the Lord, and that thought upon his Name."—And oh! thou dejected penitent, anxious to return with weeping and supplications to him from whom thou hast revolted—oh! think of this and be
Lord unerringly directs a messenger to his l comforted. You naturally turn from a vain
prisoner: "There stood by me this night the angel of God, whose I am, and whom F serve, saying, Fear not, Paul; thou must be brought before Cesar: and, lo, God hath given thee ail them that sail with thee." And what said he of Sennacherib? "I know thy abode, and thy going out, and thy coming in, and thy rage against me." Well therefore says the Scripture, "The eyes of the Lord are in in every place, beholding the evil and the good."
It was this truth that David applied to himself in a manner so solemn and affecting, when he said, "O Lord, thou hast searched me, and known me. Thou knowest my downsitting and mine uprising, thou understandest my thought afar off. Thou compassest my path and my lying down, and art acquainted with all my ways. For there is not a word in my tongue, but, lo, O Lord, thou knowest it altogether." Let us follow his example, and bring home this truth to ourselves. Let sinners think of it; and never dream of secrecy in their guilt; but wherever they are, and however privately engaged, remember that "his eyes are upon the ways of man, and he pondereth all his goings; there is no darkness nor shadow of death where the workers of iniquity may hide themselves: hell is naked before him, and destruction hath no covering."—Let hearers think of it; and remember that he is privy to all they think of their ministers when alone, to all they say of them when they are in company, to all the dispositions with which they come to his house, to all the workings of their minds while in his worship, Jo all their disregard of instructions when they return home and enter into common life: "Thou son of man, the children of thy people still are talking against thee by the walls and in the doors of the houses, and speak one
world, in which you find nothing congenial with your present views and wishes; you seek the shades: and are often alone—but he follows you—whether you are in the chamber or the field, his eye sees all your tears, his ear hears all your sighs. These are his promises, and he will not fail to verify them in your experience: "He looketh upon men, and if any say, I have sinned, and perverted that which was right, and it profited me not; he will deliver his soul from going into the pit, and his life shall see the light To this man will I look, even to him that is poor and of a contrite spirit, and trembleth at my word." II. However The Lord May Try Them,
HE WILL NOT SUFFER PRAYING SOULS TO CALL
Upon Him In Vain. "Go," says he to Ananias, "Go and find him out; for, behold, he prayeth, and I can withhold information and comfort no longer from him." Three days indeed he remained in a very awful state; and the period would seem an age. Every thing was calculated to add to the impression. He was deprived of sight; and thus nothing could divert him without, but all his gloomy thoughts turned inward upon himself. He was also without food; the anguish of his mind was such, that he probably could eat nothing. All that he had heard was this, "It shall be told thee what thou must do:" but this was general, and capable of various explanations; and his dismal and guilty feelings would incline him to the less favourable conjecture.
But says the Church, "Come, and let us return unto the Lord: for he hath torn, and he will heal us; he hath smitten, and he will bind us up. After two days will he revive us: in the third day he will raise us up, and we shall live in his sight" And here we see this literally accomplished. The third day arrives, and the messenger of mercy knocks at the door and inquires for one Saul of Tarsus. This was saying, "I have not abandoned or forgotten him: though I cause grief, yet will I have compassion; I 'never said to the seed of Jacob, Seek ye me in vain.'" Who is not here reminded of one of the mast beautiful and moving passages in the Old Testament? "I have surely heard Ephraim bemoaning himself thus; Thou hast chastised me, and I was chastised; as a bullock unaccustomed to the yoke: turn thou me, and I shall be turned; for thou art the Lord my God. Surely after that I was turned, I repented; and after that I was instructed, I smote upon my thigh: I was ashamed, yea, even confounded, because I did bear the reproach of my youth. Is Ephraim my dear son? Is he a pleasant child? For since I spake against him, I do earnestly remember him still: therefore my bowels are troubled for him; I will surely have mercy upon him, saith the Lord."
Joseph was a type of the Redeemer. His behaviour towards his brethren was for a time rough, and apparently very unkind. But it was more painful to him than to them. He was constrained to leave the room, and turned aside to weep. But the trial was necessary: and at length giving way to the compassion which his prudenoe had restrained before, he said, "I am Joseph your brother, whom ye sold into Egypt—but be not grieved."—Thus he, "whose heart is made of tenderness, whose bowels melt with love," leaves Saul three days without comfort; but it was in order to bring him to reflection, to convince him of sin, to make him feel his need of mercy, to prepare him for the displays of divine grace; and to dig low, and lay deep the foundation of a superstructure that was to rise so high. And all the time as Saul was praying, he was hearing; and longing to succour and relieve him.
What is the use you ought to make of this!—to persevere, waiting on the Lord and keeping his way, though you are not indulged with immediate success. His delays are not denials. He isas wise as he is kind. He has reasons for what we often deem indifference or severity, and reasons founded in a regard to our welfare, as well as his own glory. Hence it is said, "Therefore will the Lord wait, that he may be gracious unto you; and therefore will he be exalted, that he may have mercy upon you: for the Lord is a God of judgment: blessed are all they that wait for him." You cannot be in a worse condition than David was: but hear him. "I waited patiently for the Lord; and he inclined unto me, and heard my cry. He brought me up also out of an horrible pit, out of the miry clay, nnd set my feet upon a rock, and established my goings. And he hath put a new song m my mouth, even
praise unto our God: many shall see it, and fear, and shall trust in the Lord."
Say not therefore, "My hope is perished from the Lord—why should I wait for him any longer?" If you draw back, you are sure of destruction; but if you go forward, you are certain of success.. "The vision is yet for an appointed time, but at the end it shall speak and not lie: though it tarry, wait for it; because it will surely come, it will not tarry." You have his word to rest upon, confirmed by the experience of all his people: "Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you." And the longer you have been praying, the nearer is deliverance. Perhaps some messenger of mercy is now on his way; perhaps the next Christian you meet may speak a word in season; perhaps the next sermon you hear may let in the light of heaven upon your gloom, and turn "the shadow of death into the morning. Wait on the Lord; be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thine heart: wait, I say, on the Lord."
III. Though The Lord Can Accomptish BII WORK WITHOUT Human InstrumemtauTY, HE IS PLEASED TO MAKE USE OF IT. The
voice from heaven that called him by his name, and accused him of persecution, could have told Saul at once what he must dobut a messenger shall be employed. He could have sent an angel—but Ananias shall be engaged. He shall learn it from the lipa of a man; a man of like passions with himself.
Hit terror would not make him afraid. With him he could hold free intercourse and familiar conversation.
He could speak to him from his own experience; and therefore sympathize with him. He had himself exercised repentance towards God, and faith towards our Lord Jesus Christ He had felt the heart's bitterness peculiar to religion, and had intermeddled with its joy.
It would be also useful to Ananias as well as to Saul—and this is another reason why men are employed in doing the Lord's work. By doing good to others we benefit ourselves. What do we most admire in people? What constitutes their excellency? Not their fine equipage, nor their wealth; not even their genius or learning; no, but the tender heart, the melting eye, the hand ready to relieve, the tongue that speaks a word in season, the feet that run to the door of the fatherless and widows in their affliction, a conformity to him who went about doing good. But who needs to be told that knowledge is improved by communication; that the disposition » confirmed by exercise; that the habit is form ed and perfected by action? There is no waj in which God could instruct us, impress us honour us more than by making us the me dium, and distributers of those blessings of which he is the sole author.
It certainly was designed to prevent our undervaluing means, under a notion of depending on divine agency. These are not incompatible; neither does the one detract from the other. Was this communication less from God because it was made by Ananias!— Saul did not think so. Neither should we in all cases of the same nature.
Here let us however beware of two extremes. Let us not, on the one hand, overlook instruments in relying on God; nor, on the other, overlook God in using instruments. For as he uses means, so he gives them their value and their efficacy. It is not the sun that warms us, but He by the sun: it is not food that sustains us, but He by food. "Who then is Paul, and who is Apollos, but ministers by whom ye believed, even as the Lord gave to every man? I have planted, Apollos watered; but God gave the increase. So then, neither is he that planteth any thing, neither he that watereth; but God that giveth the increase. We have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us."
rV. Things Done In Our Own ApprehenSion, AND IN THE OPINION OF OTHERS, ARE FREQUENTLY NOTHING IN THE JUDGMENT OF
God. "Behold, he prayeth!" And what was there strange—what was there new in this? Had he never prayed before? Never.
But was he not a pharisee, and of the straitest sect of the pharisees? Were not these people held in such estimation, that it was proverbially said, If two men only enter heaven, a pharisoe will be one of them! And were they not more distinguished by their prayers than by any thing else i Yes. They prayed often and they made long prayers, and they prayed even at the corners of the streets. —Vet Saul had never prayed till now.
Suoh is the difference between the prayer of a pharisee and of an awakened sinner! See the difference drawn by an unerring judge. "Two men went up into the temple to pray; the one a Pharisee, and the other a Publican. The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this Publican. I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess. And the Publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner." And he only prayed. "I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other: for every one that exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted." Such a difference is there between praying in the comer of a street to be seen of men, and withdrawing to pour out the heart before God where no eye can see us. "But thou,
when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly." Such a 'difference is there between praying and saying our prayers with a form or without one. Prayer is the desire of the soul towards God, and words are not essential to the performance of it: words are nothing but as they express the state of the mind. A single sentence, or a groan that cannot be uttered, arising from a broken heart and a contrite spirit, "God will not despise:" while a fine and orderly address may be rejected, because Sn the exercise we draw nigh to him with the mouth, and honour him with the lip, while our heart is far from him. "God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth." It is an awful consideration; but there are many who attend several sermons a week, and never hear in reality; who often join in the devotions of the sanctuary and the family, and never serve God at all: their praise and prayer are nothing to him: and as religious characters, he will disown them at last: "I know you not whence ye are."
Finally. Prayer Is A Good Evidence Of Conversion. "Go, Ananias; he is ready to receive you. Go, and be not afraid of him— the man is changed—he is become a new creature—' for, behold, he prayeth.'"
"The spirit of grace" is always a spirit "of supplications." It brings a man upon his knees. It leads him to speak to God rather than to talk of him. And much will he see, much will he feel, to urge him to seek the Lord. A hell to escape—a heaven to obtain —sins to be pardoned and subdued—duties to be performed—trials to be endured—and God to be glorified—His generation to be served —His own wants and the necessities of others! —All these are enough to induce him to pray —and to pray without ceasing.
Be it remembered however that this mark is better applied exclusively than inclusively. What I mean is this. A man may pray, and not be in a state of salvation; but he that does not pray, cannot be in a state of salvation. A man may have convictions of conscience; he may be impressed by a sermon; he may be alarmed by sickness; and be led to pray when there is no gracious principle that operates in his heart Such a principle indeed may be safely inferred where prayer is not only public, but private; where it is not only occasional, but habitual and constant; where it is earnest and accompanied by corresponding exertions; where it is not only performed as a duty, but valued as a privilege.—But, without any distinction or qualification, we can apply it by way of exclusion. No man can be a partaker of divine grace that lives without prayer. -We are certain that a prayerless person—is a graceless person.
What then is the condition of many! They live without God in the world! They acknowledge him not, lying down or rising up, going out or coming m! God is not in all their thoughts! The duty of prayer they never discharge. The privilegeof prayer they never enjoy!
Is this your state? If it be—oh that this day may be rendered memorable by your joming "the generation of them that seek him!" From this hour may the Lord take knowledge of you, and say, "Behold, he prayeth." Then you will enter the way everlasting. The righteous shall compass you about with songs of deliverance. "And there shall be joy in heaven over one sinner that repenteth."
THE PARALYTIC; OR, SICKNESS IMPROVED.
And he entered into a ship, and pasted over, and came into his own city. And, behold, they brought to him a man tick of the patsy, lying on a bed: and Jesus'seeing their faith said unto the sick of the palsy; Son, be of good cheer; thy sins be forgiven thee. And, behold, certain of the scribes said within themselves, This man blasphemeth. And Jesus knowing their thoughts said, Wherefore think ye evil in your hearts? For -whetlter is easier, to say, Thy sins be forgiven thee i or to say, Arise, and walk? But that ye may know that the Son of man hath power on earth to forgive sins, (then saith he to the sick of the palsy,) Arise, take up thy bed, and go unto thine house. And he arose, and departed to his house.— Matt U. 1—7.
Who "went about doing good." Such is the representation given us by the apostle Peter of "Jesus of Nazareth, whom God anointed with the Holy Ghost and with power." And never was there a life more concisely or more justly drawn. All, even of the preternatural exemplifications of his character in the days of his flesh, have not come down to us. "Many other signs truly did Jesus in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book: but these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name."
Our Saviour had just arrived from the opposite side of the lake of Galilee, the country of the Gorgesenes. While there, he had proved his power over unclean spirits; and had dispossessed two demoniaes who had been long the terror of the place. The devils, such was their mischievous disposition, and such their subjection to the control of our Lord, asked leave to enter a large herd of
swine; he permitted them; "and, behold, Ik whole herd ran violently down a steep place into the sea, and perished in the waters." This was an exertion of authority and justice, as well as of power; the trade was unlawful, and constantly exposed them to temptation.
But see the worldly-mindedness of these people. Instead of being struck with his goodness in delivering their neighbours from such a wretched state, and in removing the occasions of sin from themselves, "the whole city came out to meet him; and when they saw him, they besought him that he would depart out of their coasts!" And "let him that is without sin among you cast the first stone" at them. Pause and inquire. Has he not approached you as a reprover—by cooscience, by friends, by ministers, by providence! And have you not disliked the remonstrance; and wished to be allowed to go on undisturbed? And what if he who knows your meaning should gratify your wish! What if he who is not obliged to force bis favours upon you should say, "They are joined to idols; let them alone!"
This was the case here. He takes these people at their word: "he entered into a ship, and passed over, and came into his own city." Indeed your desires, with regard either to his presence or absence, will be accomplished. If you desire his presence, and pray that he will be with you in all your troubles and duties, he will answer and say, "Here I am. 1 will never leave thee nor forsake thee." When Moses said, " If thy presence go not with me, carry us not up hence;" he said, "My presence shall go with thee, and I will give thee rest" When the two disciples gomg to Emmaus reached their abode, and he made as if he would have gone further, "they constrained him, saying, Abide with us: for it is toward evening, and the day is fir spent And he went in to tarry with them. When the Samaritans, allured by the woman's report, were come to the well, "they hesought him that he would tarry with them; and he abode there two days. But if you wish his absence; if you say, "Depart from us: we desire not the knowledge of thy ways," he will renew the expression of his severity, which the Jews suflered as our examples: "My people would not hearken to my voice; and Israel would none of me So I gave them up unto their own hearts' lust: and they walked in their own counsels." And ico unto us when he departs from us! What is a man when left of him? What is a man left to himself? Oh! welcome him, in whatever character he condescends to come to you. Welcome him, even when he comes as a reprover: for "as many as he loves, he rebukef and chastens." Welcome him, even when he comes as a destroyer: your swine are not your souls; your sins must die, if you would