« AnteriorContinuar »
Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world."
CONFIDENCE IN GOD COMPOSING THE MIND.
Thou vrilt keep him in perfect peace whose mind it ttayed on thee.—Isaiah xxvi. 3.
In many things people differ widely from each other, but m one thing they are agreed —they all wish for satisfaction, they all desire inward tranquillity. And indeed what is every thing else without this? What is ease of circumstances, and even health of body, if the mind be perplexed, distracted, tormented ?" The spirit of a man will sustain his infirmity; but a wounded spirit who can bear?"
Now Isaiah tells us how we may obtain and preserve a blessed composure in a miserable world. "Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee." These words require some explanatory remarks, and will furnish us with some practical reflections.
In explaining these words, it may be necessary to inquire,
First, What we are to understand by staying the mind on God. And to this we answer, that it simply means, relying upon him or trusting in him. Man is an indigent and a dependent creature. He is not equal to his own happiness; ho feels a thousand necessities which he cannot supply from his own stores; he therefore goes abroad for succour, and looks after something to lean on—and as •Jie world always stands nearest, upon this he always leans first And though he finds it to be a "broken reed," which disappoints his hope, and "pierces him through with many sorrows," he returns to this miserable dependence again and again, till Divine grace brings him to his proper rest, and enables him to say —" Now, Lord, what wait I for? my hope is in thee." And thus are fulfilled the words of the prophet: " It shall come to pass in that day, that the remnant of Israel, and such as are escaped of the house of Jacob, shall no more again stay upon him that smote them; but shall stay upon the I/ird, the Holy One of Israel, in truth. The remnant shall return, even the remnant of Jacob, unto the mighty God."
Now that which, in these cases, we stay the mind upon, is the word of God—consisting of information and promises—revealing his goodness and his all-sufficiency—offering himself as our portion, and even commanding us to depend upon him. Accordingly it is said, "Trust in him at all times; ye people, pour out your hearts before him : God is a refuge for us. Trust ye in the I/jrd for ever, for in the Lord Jehovah is everlasting
strength." Here is a foundation that will not give way, a resource that cannot fail. And here we learn what is our duty: it is— not to hesitate, not to wait for fresh evidence and assurance—but to believe what God has spoken, to take him at his word, and to venture upon his engagements. In doing this, we run no manner of risk: his word is called "the faithful word;" it is said also to be "a tried word;" and those who have tried it most, have the firmest persuasion of its truth.
Now this staying of the mind on God, secondly, "keeps it in peace." It does this, not only as it insures the Divine blessing— for God will honour them that honour him, and by nothing is he so much glorified as by our reliance upon him—but also by a natural influence and tendency. Let us specify a few instances in which this confidence tranquillizes the mind.
This alone can calm the mind when convinced of sin, and searching in dreadful distress for pardon. "We which have believed," says the Apostle, "do enter into rest" "I am guilty," cries the awakened sinner; "but my condition is not desperate." "I wait for the Lord, my soul doth wait, and in his word do I hope." I hear a voice saying, "Behold the Lamb of God that taketh away the sin of the world." "The blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin." Here u something to stay the mind upon. He "died for the ungodly;" and such am I. Yea more, he invites "all that labour and are heavy laden to come to him," and promises to give them "rest"—and "mine iniquities are a burden too heavy for me to bear," and I sigh and groan, "O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death V Sometimes this confidence is very feeble; it scarcely amounts to a probability— it is merely a kind of peradventure—"who can tell ?"—I may succeed. But even this is attended with some effect Like a twig to a sinking man, it serves to keep his head ahove water, until something else can be brought strong enough to help him ashore. Or, to vary the image, it will keep him from giving up in despair the use of means and of prayer. "I will hang upon him till he shakes me off If he drives me hack, it is nothing more than I deserve—but I will not go back. If he is pleased to kill me, I shall have no right to complain—but I will not be my own murderer. 'If I perish, I perish;' but here I will die." In other cases this confidence rises higher; and however unworthy and helpless the man feels himself to be, he is persuaded that God will receive him graciously, and in due time appear to his joy. In consequence of this, agitation and terror eubside, and he "both hopes and quietly waits for the salvation of the Lord."
This confidence also calms the mind under delays. To pray, and receive no answer; to
stand knocking—not, like other beggars, for a few moments, but from day to day, and from week to week, and see no opening—this is truly discouraging—and the danger is, lest we should withdraw, saying, with the unbelieving nobleman, "Why should I wait for the Lord any longer V But " he that believeth maketh not haste." He will say—God is a sovereign, I have no claims upon him—a delay is no refusal—perhaps lie has answered me already, and I have a substitute for the blessing implored—however this may be, of one thing 1 am certain, I must succeed at last: TM He never said to the seed of Jacob, seek ye me, in vain."—Hence springs " the patience ofhope."
This confidence composes the mind in the events of life—and this is the thing principally intended. We live in a world of changes and uncertainties. Disorder and confusion seem everywhere to reign. Vice is often triumphant, and virtue oppressed. And with regard to ourselves, our wisest schemes are frequently thwarted, our fairest hopes destroyed, our choicest comforts laid waste. Thus we are liable to be perpetually ruffled. and dismayed; and there is only one principle that can sustain and solace the mind—it is, holy confidence in God. Nothing occurs by chance—God governs the world—if we could see what God sees, we should do precisely what God does—his people are his care —nothing can essentially injure them—yea, "all things are working together for their good." These are reasons for repose. Here the mind fixes, and feels peace: the peace of a child, who has only to mind his book; the Father will manage and provide: the peace of a traveller, who has one with him to order all the journey, and to bear all the expense. It is a peace that flows from the absence of anxiety: the believer casts all his core upon the Lord, who careth for him; he reclines his head on the' soft bosom of Providence, and falls asleep. This peace peculiarly regards intricate dispensations; for these are the most apt to perplex and discompose the mind. But when the mind is stayed on God, the believer is satisfied and serene, even in darkness. Though I know not whither I am going, I know°with whom—my guide is infallible. I will not "charge him foolishly," but confide in his skill: "what he does I know not now, but I shall know hereafter." I see much wisdom in what is clear, but there is much more in what is obscure; it is the depth that makes it profound, and that renders it so difficult to fathom. This tranquillity is commonly preceded by many a struggle with selfwill and self-conceit
We naturally wish to have things according to our mind, and make various attempts to'govern our own affairs. But by degrees we are convinced that "the way of man is not in himself; it is not in man that walketh,
to direct his steps." After repeated decep. tions, both on the side of our hopes and fears; after many embarrassments into which our folly and rashness had plunged us, or to which they had exposed us; we begin to say, in earnest, "The Lord shall choose our inheritance for us. I have now done. Lord, my heart is not haughty, nor mine eyes lofty; neither do I exercise myself in great matters, or in things too high for me. Surely I have behaved and quieted myself as a child that is weaned of his mother; my soul is even as a weaned child."
But the peace that flows from this trust m God is, thirdly, said to be perfect It is not indeed absolutely so, as if it were mcapable of addition—but it is so, first, comparatively. What is every other peace to this! What is the delusion of the Pharisee, the stupidity and carelessness of the sinner, the corn and wine of the worldling—what is every thmg else, compared with this peace? What can be so desirable, so excellent? It is « a continual feast" .
It is so, secondlv, In relation to this confidence. It is true, this peace rises and falls, but it is only because this confidence varies. All the disquietudes which a Christian feels, sprino- from the weakness or the want of faith m God. It is not from outward thmga These are often blamed, and these may be very tryinc—but it is not the water without the vessel that sinks it, but that which gets m. The primitive Christians could say, » We are troubled on everv side, yet not distressed; sorrowful, yet alway rejoicmg." It is very possible therefore to have this peace withm, while in the world we have tribulation; and Christians are so accessible to fear, so preyed upon bv anxiety, so depressed by afflictions of various kinds, because they do not sufliciently relv on God: "If ye will not believe, surely ye' shall not be established." - It is therefore true, that in proportion as the mmd is stayed on God, he keeps it m perfect
P6Let us apply the passage thus explained to some practical purposes.
First How mfe and how happy are real believers! The people of the world are exceedingly mistaken respectmg them. They imatrine their life to be a sad, heavy, gloomy thing; whereas it is the most free, and cheerful, and placid. While others are strugglmg in their own strength, and managmg all their concerns themselves, fretful when they meet with untoward events, and always dissatisfied even when they succeed, the Christian "casts his burden upon the Lord, and he sustains him." He leaves his aflairs with God, and goes on, assured that he will order them aright His concern is only to please and glorify God in the circumstances m which he U placed; events are the Lord's. "He is careful for nothing; but in every thmg, by
prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, he makes his requests known unto God; and the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, keeps his heart and mind through Christ Jesus. "I hope in him for eternal life, and it would be shameful not to trust in him for every present supply. 'He who spared not his own Son,' will 'withhold no good thing' from me. It is comparatively a matter of little consequence what befalls me here; I am only ' a stranger and a pilgrim;' my God 'ruleth over all;' and he has promised that 'he will never leave me nor forsake me.' 'The Lord is my helper; I will not fear.'"
"He shall not be afraid of evil tidings; his heart is fixed, trusting in the Lord."—Tell him, his substance is destroyed: No, says he, my " inheritance is incorruptible and undented, and fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for me." Tell him such a friend or relation is dead: but, says he, "The Lord liveth, and blessed be my rock, and let the God of my salvation be exalted." And you yourself are decaying and dying: Yes, says he, I am sent for, and am going home. With regard to public calamities, he feels, and in some respects he feels more than others. Divine grace produces sensibility, and excites a public spirit He knows the desert of sin, and the indications of approaching wrath make him shudder: "My flesh trembleth for fear of thee, and I am afraid of thy judgments." But, strange as it may appear, there is a firmness and a composure of mind blended with all these feelings. He knows that " the Lord reigneth ;" that he is " doing all things," and doing all things " well;" that whatever becomes of other empires, the Gospel shall spread, the Church is safe: and these are the most important interests—these render the world valuable. He can therefore join with Luther, who said, whenever he heard of any alarming intelligence, "Come, let us sing the forty-sixth psalm—' God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble; therefore will we not fear, though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea. God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved; Cod shall help her, and that right early. The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge. Selah.'"
Secondly. Let us seek after this blessed condition of the godly. Till the mind be stayed on God, it has no resting-place. It is union with God that gives the mind solidity. How light is it, detached from God; it is blown about easier than the down of a thistle in the wind. Out of him, as the sanctuary of the soul, every storm annoys, every trifle disquiets: and "man at his best estate is altogether vanity." If any thing could add force to these reflections, it would be the nature of the times in which we live. We be
hold a "cloudy and dark day." The revolutions which have taken place, and the general aspect of things at present, are dreadful to those who have no God. O let a sense of our danger endear the only refuge, and the vanity of this world induce us to seek after the real happiness of another! Let us abandon the practice of sin, and no longer "lay up for ourselves treasure upon earth," which only serves to debase the soul and fill it with perpetual alarms—and let us ask for God "our Maker, who giveth songs in the night;" let us depend upon him, cleave to him, live in him.
On what else can we rely, that will not, instead of settling the mind, discompose it the more i Is it Honour? WJiat so precarious and variable as the praise of man! Is it affluence ?" The rich man's wealth is his strong city, and as a high wall in his own conceit" But does not every day's observation, as well as Scripture, cry, "Trust not in uncertain riches, but in the living God?" Is it Moral Philosophy; a strength of reasoning? There are circumstances in which the calmest reflections and the noblest resolutions will be only as stubble before the wind. In the time of trial, all other supports will fail: the storm increasing, will drive us from our holdings: there is only one "anchor of the soul, sure and steadfast" It is, a scriptural hope in God. This will prepare a man for all the vicissitudes of time; this will help him to go on his way rejoicing through all the troubles of life; and this will finally enable him to look " the king of terrors" out of countenance, and to exult with the apostle, "Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through hun that loved us. For I am persuaded that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord."
Thou renewett the face of the earth.
All nature is a book, and the various parts of it are so many multiplied pages in which we may read and consider "the wonderful works of God." The Seasons of the year are every way interesting. They are necessary for the production of our food, and the preservation of our health. Their succession adds to the beauty of creation. Their revolutions furnish us with subjects of reflection, and lessons of importance.
The season is arrived in which we behold the renovation of nature. Let us endeavour to render it profitable.
L David was an attentive observer of the works of creation. Many a fine evening did he employ in "considering the heavens, the works of God's finger; the moon and the stars which he has ordained." He rose early, and beheld the "sun as a bridegroom coming out of his chamber, and rejoicing as a strong man to run a race." He looked abroad in winter, and exclaimed, "He sendeth abroad his ice like morsels; who can stand before his cold." He rejoiced when more favourable weather encouraged him to walk abroad: he observed "the birds building their nests, the springs running among the valleys, the grass growing for the cattle, and herbs for the service of man," and, hading the revival of a faded world, lifted up his eyes and said, "Thou renewest the face of the earth."
There are few real lovers of nature; there are few who so behold its scenes as to pause and admire, till they have imbibed a sympathy with them; till they feel themselves at home in them; till they are detached from every thing human, and little, and debasing. Let us go forth into the field to meditate: meditation is often better than books. Our own thoughts will do us much more good than the opinions of others. Wisdom and truth are shy in the world; but here they are easily discovered and secured. Danger often attends our perusal of the works of men; but there is no hazard in pursuing knowledge among the works of God. People complam of the world, and confess whenever they return from its companies and diversions, that "all is vanity and vexation of spirit"—why will they not come forth, and refresh themselves here! Why will they not leave the wilderness, and enter this garden of the Lord? Here I live in a world of my own— here I feel my independence and my freedom—here I can learn how I have been overcome, and where I must place a watch and a guard—here the good thoughts, which were scattered and weak before, are collected into a powerful motive, and bear down all opposition to duty—what was wavering before, is now decided—what was timid, grows courageous. When I go into the field, I enter my closet; I shut the door about me; I admit what company I please; I exclude the vicious who would pollute, and the trifling who would interrupt; I hear not the folly of the vain, or the slander of the malicious— that world of iniquity which drops from the tongue; "I pray to my father which is in secret; mine eye poureth out tears unto God;" I have an emblem of final repose—" here the wicked cease from troubling, and here the weary are at rest"
"God made the country, and man made tue town."
Nevertheless, how many are there who
leave the works of the Creator to bury themselves among those of the creature; and while professing to admire the beautiful and the marvellous, disregard the wonders that are perpetually springing up around them! They will go any distance, incur any expense, to see a piece of mechanism, sculpture, painting; while in their way they pass by productions infinitely more curious, and finished. They are struck with a fine robe; but never contemplate a lily: and yet " Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these." When a man of feme announces a design to perform any thing, thousands flock around him; while God, working day by day the most astonishing effects, is unnoticed; and no one is drawn forth to attend to him, though he has said, " I will that men magnify my works which they behold."
II. It becomes us not only to observe nature, but to observe it devotionally, and as Christiana There is a difference between viewing and improving these things: there is a diflerence between our studying them as mere admirers and phUosophers, and applying them as men formed by divine grace for a life of communion with God. It is the command of the Apostle—" Whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him."
See a Christian among the works of nature. He looks after God in all—for he needs him in all: and he is enabled to find him. Though familiar with the effect, he does not disregard the cause. With him, common instrumentality does not conceal divine agency. He maintains in his mind a connexion between the author and the work; and the one reminds him of the other. He walks with him in the ways of his Providence, as well as in his goings in the sanctuary; adores him in the field as well as in the temple; and acknowledges him in the ordinary course of nature, as well as in the extraordinary displays of his power, and wisdom, and goodness.
He also makes them images to remind him of better things. The rising sun brings to his thoughts "The Sun of righteousness arising with healing under his wings;" a flowing spring, the influence of the Holy Ghost; the ram and the dew, the doctrine of the Gospel. Thus, by a holy chemistry, he extracts heaven from earth.
From these scenes he also derives motives to devotion, and encouragements to confidence. For instance: does he view a proof of divine wisdom, he cries, " O how able is this God to teach me, to manage all my concerns—how wonderful in counsel, how excellent in working!" Does he contemplate a display of Divine power, "How able is this God to preserve, sustain, deliver me!' Is any thing too hard for the Lordi'" Does he observe instances of his bounty, he asks—" Can 'he who hears the ravens that cry,' refuse supplies to his children V
Nor does he partake of the bounties of nature like a brute, only concerned to gratify his animal appetite, and entirely regardless of him from whom every indulgence comes. He receives them from the hand of his heavenly Father; he tastes his love in them; he cries, "' O that men would praise the Lord for his goodness, and for his wonderful works to the children of men! Bless the Lord, O my soul—who giveth me all things richly to enjoy,' and who provides, not only for my relief, but my delight I will live to him who lives in so many ways for me, and by 'his mercies I will present my body a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable unto him, which is my reasonable service.'"
III. Let us observe and adore this wonderworking God in renewing the face of the earth. How many times nas he done this since the creation! He does it every year. The change is equally remarkable and pleasing. See the wmter drawing off his army of winds, and frosts, and snow, and hail--—and spring succeeding the monarch of desolation. Under his soft and gentle reign, all begins to smile: life in a thousand ways breaks forth: all is verdure, and fragrance, and beauty; all is joyous. What variety of colours, what harmony of sounds!" The valleys stand thick with rising corn, and the little hills rejoice on every side," while a voice from the fields and meadows calls—" Arise, and come away; for lo! the winter is past, the rain is over and gone. The flowers appear on the earth; the time of the singing of birds is come, and the voice of the turtle is heard in our land."
'Let us remember, that he who renews the face of the earth, can renew the Church. Think of any particular cause—however depressed, he can revive it; however small, he can increase it When his influences descend, "his word comes down like rain upon the mown grass, as showers that water the earth;" and his people are "filled with all the fruits of righteousness"—the congregation is like a field which the Lord has blessed." Or think of his cause at large. He can drive away errors, and superstition, and animosities from the nations of the globe, and bless the world with the Gospel of peace, and the means of salvation—and the "wilderness and solitary place shall be glad for them ; and the desert shall rejoice and blossom as the rose. It shall blossom abundantly, and rejoice even with joy and singing: the glory of Lebanon shall be given unto it the excellency of Carmel and Sharon; they shall sec the glory of the Lord, and the excellency of our God."
He can also renew the soul. The Fall has reduced our spiritual [lowers to a state of desolation the most deplorable. Now when a sinner is led to see and feel this, he prays,
"Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me." And we read of the "renewing of the Holy Ghost;" and of " being renewed in the spirit of our minds." Thus "God beautifies the meek with salvation;" and the change in nature is an imperfect representation of the change made in the soul by divine grace. This can illuminate the darkest understanding, and soften the most rebellious will; this can tranquillize the most troubled conscience, and sanctify the most depraved affections.—After conversion, the people of God may have a winter season: their growth may be checked; every thing may appear to be dead; they may feel the chilling absence of the "Sun of righteousness," and sigh, "O when wilt thou come unto me?" But when he returns, all revives. Then the believer is quickened, then he expands, and buds, and brings forth "much fruit" "He has life, and he has it more abundantly."
Again. He can renew the body. Has sickness invaded thy frame—art thou "made to possess months of vanity, and are wearisome nights appointed unto thee"—art thou saying, "my purposes are broken off"— "mine eye shall no more see good?"—Remember, "he killeth and maketh alive; he bringeth down to the grave and raiseth up." Every disease is under his control, and goes at his bidding. He can re-colour thy cheeks, "strengthen thy weak hands, and confirm thy feeble knees, so that thy youth shall be renewed like the eagle's." Let the body die—even then we are not hopeless— he shall renew it "So is the resurrection of the dead. It is sown in corruption, it is raised in incorruption; it is sown in dishonour, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; it is sown a natural body, it shall be raised a spiritual body." "According to this promise, we look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righfeousness." "And God shall wipe away all tears from our eyes: and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away."
To conclude. The Seasons of the year have often been considered as emblems of human life.— Youth is the Spring. Yes, my young friends, yours is the season of which nature, lovely nature, now reminds us. Think of this in all your walks. How pleasing and how beautiful is Spring! But how short, how fading! Yet how important! On this all the year depends. If no blossoms now appear, or if these blossoms be destroyed, no glory in summer, no abundance in autumn, no provision in winter.
My young friends, you are now forming your future destiny, and giving a character to your future years. O seize these valuable hours for purposes the most momentous—The