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improvement of your understanding—the correction of your tempera—the formation of your habits—the enlargement of your capacity to serve God and your generation—and, above all, diligence in " working out your salvation with fear and trembling.
And, O thou God of all grace, hear our prayer!" Let thy work appear unto thy servants, and thy glory unto their children, and let the beauty of the Lord our God be upon us: and establish thou the work of our hands upon us; yea, the work of our hands establish thou it: that our sons may be as plants grown up in their youth, and our daughters as corner-stones, polished after the similitude of a palace." Amen.
THE HAPPY FAMILY.
JVY- w Jetut loved Martha, and her titter, and J.tizarut.—John xi. 5.
The Scripture is not filled with the creations of worlds, the revolutions of empires, the palaces of kings, the intrigues of politicians, the exploits of heroes. In perusing it, we are often led into common and private life; and are called upon largely to observe individuals who made no splendid figure in the eyes of mankind. But a character may be important and interesting without secular honours. He that is born of God is truly great, and he that is beloved of the Saviour is truly happy. Many persons of distinction who once lived in Judea are now forgotten; their names, their places of abode, their connexions, have all perished from the earth; but there is one family transmitted down to our own times with peculiar marks of regard, and which will be had "in everlasting remembrance." It resided at Bethany, and consisted of a brother and two sisters. These three happy individuals lived together in harmony and m piety—and what crowned the whole was this—"Now Jesus loved Martha, and her sister, and Lazarus." Let us consider—
THK OBJECTS of this love THE NATURE of
it—and The Manner in which it was ExPressed.
L The Objects of this love were Martha, and her sister, and Lazaras.
It is worthy of our observation, that several of our Lord's immediate followers were related to each other. Peter and Andrew were brothers; John and James were brothers; so also were James and JuiIe. The ruler whose son our Lord cured, "believed, and his whole house." And here our Saviour had three disciples in one dwelling, when perhaps the whole village scarcely produced a fourth.
I pity the family where there is no one beE
loved of Jesus—no friend to attract the Saviour's regards—no protector to stand in the breach and keep back invading judgments— no intercessor to draw down the blessing of Heaven—no good example to reprove, encourage, stimulate. What does an angel think when he passes by such an irreligious dwelling!
- It is a mercy to find even one pious individual m a house. And whoever that distinguished character be, I would say to him— Be thankful; be circumspect; remember,every eye observes you; and every tongue is asking, "what do ye more than others?" Labour to be the happy instrument of the conversion of the rest Render your religion amiable: "whatsoever things are lovely, and of good report, think on these things. For what knowest thou, O wife, whether thou shalt save thy husband? or how knowest thou, O man, whether thou shalt save thy wife?" But how happy is that family "where' two or three can gather together m his Name," and know that he is "in the midst of them;" where the whole number "are of one heart and of one soul;" where all are connected together by claims more endearing than those of nature —by ties which death cannot dissolve, nor eternity impair! And such was this family.
But though these three were all beloved of our Lord, they appear to have differed from each other very considerably. Of Lazarus indeed much is not said. lie seems to have been a serious, solid, established professor of religion. But the two sisters are more strongly marked; more minutely characterized. Mary, it is probable, had been lately called. She was full of those pleasing, but often transient emotions which generally accompany the beginning of the Christian* life. Wondering at the gracious words which proceeded out of his mouth, "she sat at the feet of Jesus." Of a devotional taste, a contemplative turn of mind, she was disposed to give more time and attention to her favourite exercises, than perhaps prudence would justify. The reverse of this was the defect of Martha. She was anxious, and eager. She was susceptible of domestic vanity; and therefore too fond of parade and expensive entertainment—" cumbered about much serving." She was also fretful, and by the loss of temper betrayed into such indiscretion as to break in upon our Lord's discourse, and petulantly to require him to send Mary to her assistance, and thus drew upon herself the rebuke of the Saviour: "Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things: but one thing is needful: and Mary hath chosen that good part which shall not be taken away from her." But our Lord loved Martha as well as Mary. He knew her frame; he saw kindness reigned in her heart, and that she was no less attached to him than her sister, though she baa mistaken the best way of showing her esteem. And hence we should do well to observe two things.
First That the real followers of Jesus may have their peculiarities, their mistakes, their imperfections. Christians are new creatures. They really differ from others, and the general tenour of their lives shows that they "have not received the spirit of the world, but the Spirit which is of God." But they feel in-s firmities; and too frequently give proof to those around them that they are renewed but in part We do not mean to plead for sin; but it is obvious from the history of the first disciples of our Lord and Saviour, that while the grace of God has a holy influence, it seldom if ever changes the constitutional complexion ; and that while it sanctifies the powers of human nature, it does not give us new ones. It renders the possessor open to conviction, and makes him willing to retract what he has done amiss; but it does not lay him under an impossibility of doing wrong. Hence a diversity of character in the Church of God. Hence a variety of degrees in the spiritual life. Hence blemishes mixed with excellences, and defects rendered the more observable by the neighbourhood of some very praiseworthy qualities in the same individual. And hence, while religion appears to be divine in its origin and its tendency, we can easily discern that it is human in its residence and its exercise.
Secondly. We should learn to esteem and value imperfect goodness. Yea, an old divine goes further, and says, '• We should love one another, not as saints but as sinners." Not that we are to love sin, or cease to reprove ft. This is not his meaning: but he would intimate, that we are to be tender and pitiful; that we are to consider ourselves, lest we also be tempted; that we are not to be indiscriminate in our censures, but to praise as far as we can; and that the strong are to bear the infirmities of the weak, and not please themselves. "For who hath despised the day of small things!" Behold "the Shepherd of Israel! he gathers the lambs with his arm, and carries them in his bosom, and gently leads those that are with young." Behold "the Lord mighty in battle! a bruised reed shall he not break, and smoking flax shall he not quench, till he send forth judgment unto victory." Behold the sufferer in the garden of Gethsemane! he compassionately apologizes for the infirmities of his followers: "What? could ye not watch with me one hour! the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak." "Be ye followers of him as dear children." Remember, " he loved Martha, as well as Mary and Lazarus."
But II. How did he love them? I answer —as a Friend—and as a Sayiour.
First I,ove is a passion of human nature. It shone forth in our Saviour with peculiar partiality. This is to be accounted for in the
congeniality peculiar to certain dispositions, by which they immediately attract each other and unite. Though the humanity of our Lord was real, it was also sinless; and, as his mind was perfectly free from every improper bias, doubtless nothing engaged the preference of his regard but what was virtuous and of good report The vicious, the sceptical, the worldly-minded, we may be assuied, had no charms for him, whatever were theiraccomplishments. There is one thing we may learn from this part of his example—it is, to justify the partiality of friendship. He would not have us to shut up our bowels of compassion against any of our fellow-creatures; for we are to do good as we have opportunity unto all men; but he teaches us by his own practice, that we are not bound to take every oae into our bosom. We are at liberty to choose and select Our Lord regarded all the Apostles; but John is called "the disciple whom Jesus loved." He was kind to all his followers; but it is said, "now Jesus loved Martha, and her sister, and Lazarus." But to "know Christ after the flesh," and to enjoy his peculiar affection under the advantage of his human nature, was a privilege confined to few.
There is therefore, secondly, another sense in which he loved Martha, and Mary, and Lazarus, and in which also he has loved us. It is, with the divine love of a Saviour; a love which existed long before we had a being; a love which sprang from no excellency in us, but was entirely self-derived; a love not only the most undeserved, but the most costly and powerful. It led him to undertake our cause, to assume our nature, to suffer and die for us. "He bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we being dead to sin, might live unto righteousness: by whose stripes we are healed. Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends:" but he has discovered a greater: he laid down his life for enemies; he "died for the ungodly: while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us." The same love gave us the Gospel, called us by his grace, and pardoned all our sins, for his name's sake. And the same love will perform all our reasonable desires; make "all things work together for our good;" and "keep us by his power, through faith, unto salvation, ready to be revealed in the last time." But this leads us
III. To observe the manner in which he expressed his love to these three favoured individuals. Everything is not recorded; but several circumstances are noticed, which will prove instructive and useful.
First He visited them. This interview was doubtless often refreshing to our Lord himself. While "foxes had holes, and the birds of the air had nests, the Son of man had not where to lay his head;" he had no house nor room of his own: and we have reason to believe, that sometimes at least, after preaching much, and journeying far, he was destitute of accommodations. Once we read that "he went up into a mountain, and continued there all night in prayer to God." In another instance, we find him so wearied as to be able " to sleep in the hinder part" of a fishing vessel, "even in a storm!" But some knew his value, and ministered to him of their substance. At the house of Martha he was always welcome. And we may be assured, that he was a guest that always paid for his entertainment He honoured them, more than they could favour him. Who can imagine the happiness of Lazarus and his sisters when they received the Lord of life and glory under their roof! Oh! to have heard him bless the food—to have heard him perform family worship—to have heard him discourse! He was " fairer than the children of men; grace was poured into his lips. Never man spake like this man." With what joy would Martha and her sister, and Lazarus think of such visits in prospect! how long would they furnish matter for conversation and remark afterwards! How unwilling would they be to lose him! how earnestly would they press his .stay!—Though removed from this world, as to his boJily presence, he will be with his people essentially, spiritually, peculiarly, to the end of time. He visits them now. "He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me: and he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him." Say not, "Lord, how is it that thou wilt manifest thyself unto us, and not unto the world?" Judas—not Iscariot—once asked him this question: and "he answered and said unto him, if a man love me he will keep my words, and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him."
Secondly. His love admitted of their suffering aflliction. Disease invades the family —" Lazarus is sick." The sickness of the brother is the distress of the sisters; they are filled with anguish, anxiety, and alarm. His love could have hindered all this; and probably we should have thought that it would have done it—" Surely he will exempt friends he so highly regards from every thing trying and disagreeable." But his thoughts are not as our thoughts, neither are his ways as our ways. His love is wise; it seeks our everlasting welfare; it does not take pleasure in our pain, but it does in our profit: and though "no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous, nevertheless, afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them that are exercised thereby." You may therefore share in his affection and be severely tried, relatively or in your own persons. A Lazarus beloved of Jesus sickens and dies- "As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten. Whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth,
and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth."
But, Thirdly. His love suffered him in their distress to treat them with apparent neglect As soon as Lazarus was seized, "his sisters sent unto him, saying, Lord, behold, he whom thou lovest is sick." Yet, instead of sending an answer, or repairing instantly to Bethany, it is said, " when he heard therefore that he was sick, he abode two days stilt in the same place where he was." And before he sets off, Lazarus is dead! A friend is born for adversity; then we peculiarly need his presence, his assistance, his counsel, his sympathy: and Jesus was their friend. How then is this indifference to be accounted for? It was not indifference. So indeed it appeared to .Martha and Mary; and no doubt it was very discouraging and perplexing; it gave rise to many unkind thoughts—" What can be the reason of this! surely be has relinquished his regard; we have presumed too much upon his friendship."—But he was not indifferent He was only "waiting to be gracious." His delay was no refusal. Every thing is beautiful in its season. He knew that " his time was not yet come." Our extremity is his opportunity. No! He indiflerent to their case! all the time he was thinking of them, and caring for them. He entered into all their feelings, and,
Fourthly, said to his disciples, "Our friend Lazarus sleepeth; but I go, that I may awake him out of sleep. .Let us go unto him." Before he approaches the bereaved house he comes to the grave—" Then, when Mary was come where Jesus was, and saw him, she fell down at his feet, saying unto him, Lord, if thou hadst been here, my brother had not died. When Jesus therefore saw her weeping, and the Jews also weeping which came with her, he groaned in spirit, and was troubled, and said, where have ye laid him? They say unto him, Lord, come, and see. Jesus wept Then said the Jews, Behold how he loved him! And some of them said, Could not this man, which opened the eyes of the blind, have caused that even this man should not have died?" Again he groaned in himself. At length, giving way to his compassion, he produced an undeniable proof of his affection, as well as of his power— "Lazarus, come forth!"—And he walks home between his sisters, who were filled with joy and gratitude. Thus all was overruled, not only for the glory of God, but for the good of Lazarus, the good of his sisters, the good of the disciples, the good of many, who, in consequence of the miracle, believed. And thus we learn that he can do us and our connexions much more service by the permission and continuance of our trials, than by preventing, or immediately removing them. He "does all things well. His work is perfect, his ways are judgment"
Let us then, satisfied that he has our welfare in view, leave the means by which it is to be promoted to himself Let us ascertain an interest in his love, and say, "Behold, here I am; let him do to me as seemeth good to him."
Ah! some of you are ready to exclaim, This is whit above all things I want to determine. Happy Martha, ana Mary, and Lazarus! Jesus loved you!—Oh that he loved me. This would be the cordial of affliction, and the consolation of death. Loved of him, I could bear reproach; I could endure all things. A fellow-creature may love me, and be unable in a thousand cases to succour me; but his love passeth knowledge, and is attended by the exercise of infinite perfections. There is no enemy which he cannot conquer, no wound which he cannot heal, no hope which he cannot realize. "Say unto my soul, I am thy salvation." Does he love me? Can I know this! Yes; and the case is more easily decided than you imagine. The very solicitude you express shows that your indifference towards him is destroyed. And he has said, "I love them that love me, and they that seek me early shall find me."
"/ love them that love me."—And do you not love him? Do you not esteem him above all, for the excellences of his nature and the blessings of his goodness? Do you not most Carnesuy implore his favour, his image, his presence? Are you not willing to live at his disposal; to obey him; to ask daily, "Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?" Now, if you love him, be assured that he loves you. But, O blessed Saviour, what a difference, what a disproportion is there between our love and thine!
"Our love so faint, so cold to thee.
"Come, holy Spirit, heavenly dove.
"Awl they that seek me early shall Jind me." For there are some who cannot say, with confidence, "I do love him." But their "desire is to the I/5rd, and to the remembrance of his name." They mourn for sin. They hunger and thirst after righteousness. They go on praying—"Oh that I may win Christ!" These are earnestly seeking him; and they shall find him—find him as "the pearl of great price"—find him to pardon, and sanctify, and keep;—find him here in all the supplies of grace, and hereafter in all the treasures of glory.
But, O ye young! the promise has the most favourable reference to you. You can seek him early; not only, as it implies, earnestly, but, as it more naturally means, betimes. And though all who seek him shall find, you shall find him peculiarly. It ii better to have a guide at the beginning,
than after we have long gone astray, and lost much of our time and strength for the journey. If invaluable privileges attend religion, the sooner they are embraced, the more advantage shall we derive from them. The Saviour is peculiarly pleased with your early devotedness to him. He considers himself more honoured by these, voluntary offerings of the first-fruits, than by the constrained services of worn-out age: and "them that honour him, he will honour." In every future period of life, in every distress, in every danger, in the hour of death, and in the day of judgment, he will say—" I remember thee, the kindness of thy youth."
THE SIGHT OF CHRISTIAN FRIENDS
ENLIVENING. And from thence, -when the brethren heard of ut, they came to meet tit at far a* Appii forum, and the three tavern*: whom, when Paul taw, he thanked God, and took courage.—Acts xxviii. 15. The case was this. From the malice of his countrymen, Paul had "appealed unto Cesar." He was therefore under the necessity of going to Rome. In his voyage he was shipwrecked on the island of Melita, now called Malta, and which has been of late, as well as in earlier times, so famous. After continuing there three months, he renewed his voyage, landed at Puteoli, not far from Naples, and went towards Rome. At Rome there were brethren; and when they heard of his approach, they went down to "meet him as far as Appii forum, and the three taverns." This did them honour; it marked their zeal and their kindness. But observe the effect of the interview on the mind of the Apostle—" Whom, when Paul saw, he thanked God, and took courage."
This teaches us, First, That Characters The Most Distinguished In The Church Of God, May Sometimes Need Encouragement. What made the Apostle now droop, we cannot determine. Perhaps he had heard what a tiger Nero had lately become; perhaps he began to feel some melancholy thoughts respecting the result of his trial. To appear before the emperor of the world, in the presence of a thousand spectators, was enough to make nature shudder—and there is nature as well as grace, and there are animal spirits as well as religious principles, in the best
Whatever was the cause, it seems the Apostle was now depressed and desponding —even he, who, in his epistle to the Romans, could say, "if God be for us, who can be against us! nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors, through him that
loved us"—even he discovers a dejection of mind, and a failure of courage.
People often imagine that the saints recorded in the Scripture, were a race of men entirely different from modern Christians. This is a mistake. Even they found themselves in an enemy's country; they travelled also through a vale of tears, pierced with thorns and briers—without were fightings, and within were fears. Our case therefore is not peculiar—we neither sigh nor tremble •lone. Where are the hands which never hang down, the knees which never become feeble t Zion said, "The Lord hath forsaken me, and my Lord hath forgotten me." Asaph said, "My soul refused to be comforted: I remembered God and was troubled; I complained, and my spirit was overwhelmed." David said, "My soul cleaveth to the dust" And Paul exclaimed, "O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death!" If such was the experience of characters so pre-eminent, what wonder that we are liable to thei same exercises? Secondly. Let Us Observe The Benefit
THAT IS TO BE DERIVED FROM INTERCOURSE
With Christian Friends. When Paul saw these brethren, he was inspired with new life; he dropped his melancholy gloom, and marched forward with confidence and joy— He "took courage." "Ointment and perfume rejoice the heart: so doth the sweetness of a man's friend by hearty counsel. Iron sharpeneth iron: so a man sharpeneth the countenance of his friend."
In no condition is it "good for man to be alone." Religion, instead of destroying the social principle, refines and strengthens it Our Saviour has promised, that "where two or three are gathered together in hiR name, he will be in the midst of them." To cheer and animate each other, "he sent forth his disciples two and two before his face." "Two are better than one; for if they fall, the one will lift up his fellow: but wo to him that is alone when he falleth; for he hath not another to help him up."
Have you ever been in distress! How soothing was the presence of a tender and a pious friend! Such a person was "a ministering spirit"—an expositor of the promise: "The Lord will strengthen him upon the bed of languishing; thou wilt make all his bed in his sickness." Have you ever been in spiritual darkness and perplexity?—you sighed, "No one was ever like me! But a Christian related his experience, and announced the same feelings, and you were set at liberty. Or have you in a scorching day been ready to perish for thirst? Like another angel, in the case of Hagar, "he opened your eyes, and showed you a well"—And you "went on your way rejoicing." God of all grace! whatever thou art pleased to deny us while in this world, withhold not from us a
Christian friend—one who will counsel us in our doubts, comfort us in our sorrows, animate us by his example, and encourage us by his confidence'
How pleasing is it, when traveling to heaven, to overtake those who will be "our companions in tribulation, and in the kingdom and patience of Jesus Christ?" How overjoyed is a Christian to find some followers of the Lnmb, when he has entered a town or a village; saying, wjih Abraham, "Surely the fear of God is in this place!" It has enlivened him, and he has exclaimed, "Well, there are more that love and serve my Lord and Saviour than I imagined." What a glow of satisfaction does a man, called by Divine grace, diffuse in a church when he enters to ask for communion and fellowship with them —" They that fear thee will be glad when they see me, because I have hoped in thy word." How desirable is the Lord's day, and the Lord's house, in which we see so many of our brethren!
"Lord how delightful 'til to tee
How charming will heaven be, where we
BE EDIFIED BY THOSE WHO ARE BELOW US IN
these private Christians helped an inspired
Let us learn then that there is no such thing as independence—that there is a connexion among men which embraces all ranks and degrees—and a dependence founded upon it; so that no being is above the want of assistance, and no being is useless or unimportant It is in the world, and it is in the Church, as it is in the human frame. "God hath set the members every one of them in the body, as it hath pleased him—and the eye cannot say unto the hand, I have no need of thee; nor again, the head to the feet I have no need of you—that there should be no