« AnteriorContinuar »
—a depravity in yourselves, which has led you ever since to exclaim, Behold, I am vile —and such a glory in the Saviour as maltes you willing to follow him whithersoever he goeth ?" Flesh and blood have not revealed this unto thee, but our Father who is in heaven." .
Had his aim been your ruin, would he have produced in you such sentiments and dispositions ?—So that the heart of stone is removed: you mourn for sin, and for the sins of others, as well as your own. You "hunger and thirst after righteousness;" and as much long to be sanctified as to be pardoned; and pray as much to obtain purity as peace. You love the sceptre, as well as glory in the Cross; and your dependence upon the Saviour's death is accompanied by endeavours to imitate his example; and you can never be perfectly reconciled to yourselves, till "the same mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus." If he smiles, you are satisfied to bear the frowns of the world; and can say, as you advance in duty and reproach, "If this be to be vile, I will yet be more vile."
And under your greatest discouragements, under every temptation to go back, have you not been enabled to persevere in the use of means! Though you have been strangers to comfort and freedom in duty, you have not restrained prayer before him; but, through many a benighted season, you have waited for him "more than they that watch for the morning." On the very verge of despair, something has afresh excited hope: "then I said, I am cast out of thy sight: yet, will I look again toward thy holy temple." You have had a degree of confidence—not only that you shall not seek him in vain—but that you have not sought him in vain: "I said, in my haste, I am cut off from before thine eyes: nevertheless thou heartiest the voice of my supplication, when I cried unto thee." And thus, while powerfully drawing you, he has been secretly sustaining you; as in the case of David, who said—" My soul followeth hard after thee—thy right hand upholdeth me."
Now all this is really his work. By the grace of God, you are what you are: it is "he that has made you thus to differ" from others, and from yourselves. And if "the Lord has a mind to killyou," why should he have done all this! The conclusion is as obvious as it is encouraging. He could have destroyed you without these exertions in your favour. Surely, he does not excite expectations, to disappoint us; or desires, to torment us. Surely he does not produce a new taste, a new appetite, without meaning to indulge, to relieve it Besides—as he does nothing in vain, so he does nothing imperfect What he begins, he is able to finish; and when he begins, he designs to finish. With regard to other agents, we cannot certainly infer the completion from the beginning: their views
alter; they meet with unexpected difficulties; their purposes are frequently broken off—but it is otherwise here. The foundation of God standeth sure, and the "top stone shall be brought forth with shoutings—grace, grace, unto it!" It shall never be said of the God of our salvation—"He began to build, but was not able to finish." "We are confident," says the Apostle, "of this very thing, that he who hath begun a good work m you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ"
May you likewise be humbly confident of the same truth. May you be enabled to say, with David, "The Lord will perfect that which concemeth me: thy mercy, O Lord, endureth for ever: forsake not the work of thine own hands."
And " when you are converted" from your doubts, and fears, and dejections, "strengthen your brethren. Comfort the feebleminded. Support the weak. Be patient towards all men. Lift up the hands which hang down, and the feeble knees; and make strait paths for your feet, lest that which is lame be turned out of the way; but let it rather be healed."
THE PROFANE EXCHANGE.
Lett there be any fornicator, or profane perton, at Esau, who for one mortel of meat told hit birthright For ye know how that afterward, when he would have inherited the blessing, he wat rejected: for he found no place of repentance, though he sought it carefully with teart."—Heb. xii. 16, 17.
The history of the wicked, as well as of the righteous, is useful. By their crimes we are cautioned; and we are warned by their miseries. And as the Israelites fled from the tents of Korah, when "the ground clave asunder and swallowed them up," saying, "lest the earth swallow us up also"—so should we abandon the course of the ungodly world, lest we share in their tremendous ruin.
Anxious for our welfare, the Scripture addresses our fear as well as our hope, and holds forth instances of divine vengeance, as well as proofs of divine mercy. Hence the command of our Lord: "Remember Lot's wife." And hence the admonition of the Apostle: "Lest there be any fornicator, or j, profane person, as Esau, who for one morsel of meat sold his birthright For ye know how that afterward, when he would have inherited the blessing, he was rejected: for he found no. place of repentance, though he sought it carefully with tears."
And what is all this to us! "Much every way." I compare your privileges with his privileges—your sin with his sin—and your doom with his doom.
I. Let us view Esau in his original state— and Oompare Your Privileges With His Privileges. To stand supreme in the house of the pitriarch Isaac was no trifling prerogative: his house was "the house of God, and the gate of heaven." ' In this family, Jehovah revealed himself; and there he was adored and served, while idolatry prevailed over all the other nations of the globe. And such was once the condition of this unhappy character. Accordingly he possessed the birthright, and stood in a fair way to obtain all the advantages flowing from it And these were great and numerous.
To the birthright belonged pre-eminence over the other branches of the family. To the birthright appertained a double portion of the paternal inheritance. To the birthright was attached the land of Canaan, with all its sacred distinctions. To the birthright was given the promise of being the ancestor of the Messiah—the "first-born among many brethren"—the Saviour "un whom all the families of the earth were to be blessed." And to the birthright was added the honour of receiving first, from the mouth of the father, a peculiar benediction, which, proceeding from the Spirit of prophecy, was never pronounced in vain.— Such were the prospects of Esau.
And what are yours! It is true, you were not born in the house of Isaac; but you have been brought forth in a Christian country, in a "land the Lord careth for," where "the darkness is past, and the true light now shineth." You have the Bible; you have Sabbaths; you have sanctuaries; you have ordinances; you have ministers; you have the throne of grace; you have the promise of the Holy Ghost: and all things appertaining to your everlasting happiness are now ready. Vou possess much; but all your present advantages are not to be compared with those glorious hopes to which you are called by the Gospel. You have the prospect of becoming a "kind of firstfruits of his creatures," of joining " the general assembly and the Church of the firstborn, whoso names are written in heaven"—a primogeniture whose privileges far surpass those of the son of Isaac: a birthright which comprehends a "better country" than Canaan, even heaven, where we shall reign "kings and priests unto God," where "the Lord commandeth the blessing, even life for evermore!" But this pearl is not for the-fciwne, who/Ignorant of its value, tram* pies it under foot; but for those who, conscious of its incomparable worth, prefer it to every thing else, and, like the wise merchant, are willing to sell all to buy it These high advantages may be sacrificed. ,
II . Let us therefore view Esau in the surrender of his privileges, and Compare Youk Sin With His em—" For one morsel of meat
he sold his birthright" It is obvious that the loss was voluntary and base. First, it was voluntary. No one forced it from him— he sold it He was indeed tempted to part with it by the sensation of hunger, and the sight of pottage when he was faint: an object was before him which promised the immediate gratification of his sensual appetite. But he could very soon have obtained food upon far easier terms. And surely the birthright could not have a rival in a mess of meat? Where was reason? Does the man yield to the brutes?—No: he was not compelled to sacrifice his claims. And who compels you to abandon your hopes of heaven? Who forces you into perdition? You say that you live in a world full of enticing objects; that tho dominion of sense is strong; that it is not very easy to resist the impulse of the moment But is it impossible to resist? Have not many overcome, though placed in the same circumstances, and possessed of the same nature with you? What is goodness untried? Have you not reason as well as appetite? Is not grace attainable by you? Is it not sufficient for you? And remember that you can never have so strong a motive to commit sin as to avoid it The greatest difficuities therefore which you have to overcome, are those which are placed to keep you from hell. What is the applause of a fellowcreature to the frown of the Almighty % What is a momentary pleasure to endless pain? And you know you act frerly: you know that all the men m the world cannot force you to will: you know that the tempter can do nothing more than propose—the determination rests with you. You cannot justify yourselves even now to your own consciences, and hereafter, unable to allege one excuse, you will be speechless! Here is the true cause of your ruin—"ye will not come unto me that ye might have life." "Ye have loved idols, and after them ye will go."
Secondly, it was equally base. For what is the price of the birthright i An empire! A crown?—A crown sparkles in the eye of ambition: a throne is the highest pinnacle of human pride:—Nothing like it—but a despicable trifle, "one morsel of meat"—"a mess of pottage"—the dearest dish, says Bishop Hall, that was ever purchased, except the forbidden fruit But I feel ready to dispute this. Are not you more than like him? Do not ybu surpass him in folly? For what do you sell the treasures of the soul and eternity—but a thing of nought, a fleeting indulgence, a false point of honour, an imaginary interest? Here is your eternal infamy and disgrace!" Ye have sold yourselves," says the prophet "for nought" For what proportion is there between the things which you thus exchange? Duly consider the " unsearchable riches of Christ;" think what it is to be "blessed with all spiritual blessing*
in heavenly places;" what it is to live in pleasure, to die in hope, to obtain "glory, honour, and immortality." These are the blessings you give up. And what do you gain by the surrender? Solomon tells you, "vanity and vexation of spirit" Worldly things are less than the soul, and cannot fill it; worse than the soul, and cannot satisfy it
field: but your condition will be destitute of all resources. And with no business to engage, no amusements to beguile,
"Say, ye gay dreamers of pay dreams,
H<tw will ye weather an eternal night,
Then your application will be useless. Yon
may supplicate; but you will be rejected.
They have no relation to our grand | and no place will be found for repentance in
wants, or our best interests. They please,
AND COMPARE YOUR DOOM WITH HIS DOOM.
"For you know how that afterward, when he could have inherited the blessing, he was rejected: for he found no place of repentance, though he sought it carefully with tears." Read the relation in the book of Genesis. Nothing could be more affecting than his expostulations, and his bitter cries—but to no purpose does he urge his petition or press his father to retract: the benediction is pronounced, and Isaac acquiesces in the decision of Heaven. For repentance here refers to Isaac, not to Esau: the meaning is, not that Esau humbled himself in vain for his sin, and could not obtain forgiveness—but that he could not prevail upon Isaac to change his mind, and reverse what he had spoken: that, with regard therefore to the birthright which he had sold, his loss was irretrievable.
And did God thus by his righteous judgment exclude from all his claims the profane Esau because he had despised them—" How shall we escape if we neglect so great salvation! Of how much sorer punishment suppose ye shall he be thought worthy, who hath trodden under foot the Son of God, and hath counted the blood of the covenant, wherewith he was sanctified, an unholy thing, and hath done despite unto the Spirit of grace V Are you disposed to pity him? Yea, rather, weep for yourselves. Your loss is inestimably greater than his loss. After all his disappointments he had something left, and could entertain himself with the diversions of the
the mind of your Judge, though you "seek it carefully with tears."
Hence we see what a difference there is between the origin and the issue of an irreligious course. "A prudent man foresecth the evil and hideth himself, but the simple pass on and are punished." The wise will always judge of things by their end. It is the end that crowns the action. Sin is never profitable; but its beginnings are flattering. "Stolen waters are sweet, and bread eaten in secret is pleasant—but he knoweth not that the dead are there; and that her guests are in the depths of hell. Though wickedness be sweet in his mouth, though he hide it under his tongue: though he spare it, and forsake it not; but keep it still within his mouth: yet his meat in his bowels is turned, it is the gall of asps within him." "What fruit had ye then in those things, whereof ye are now ashamed? for the end of those things is death."
Again. Sin unavoidably brings a man sooner or later to lamentation and regret "Thine own wickedness shall correct thee, and thy backslidings shall reprove thee: know therefore and see, that it is an evil thing, and bitter, that thou hast forsaken the Lord thy God, and that my fear is not in thee, saith the Lord God of hosts." And hence, if we studied our true comfort, we should never sin: we should reason thus: "If ever I am saved, I must be brought to repentance, and every sin I now commit will then give me pain: and if I have not that godly sorrow which worketh repentance unto life, what will be the self-condemnation and anguish of a dying bed and a judgment day? Sin, like Ezekiel's roll, is written, 'within and without, with lamentation and mourning and wo.'"
Let us also remark, that there is a repentance which is unavailing. Paul tells us of a "sorrow of the world which worketh death." Some are fretting because every one will not submit to their humours. Some grieve over their temporal losses, and never ask "where is God my maker, that giveth songs in the night? " Every remorse of conscience is not the effect of saving grace. Judas " repented, and went and hanged himself." The eyes which sin closes, eternity will open. But then grief comes too late. The blessing once lost, cannot be recovered.
I know that many unguarded things have been said of the loss of a day of grace. The
subject is alarming. I do not pretend to do justice to it, or to answer any curious questions which may arise from it What I think I am authorized to say from the Scripture is thia First That while there is life, there is hope; nor can we imagine that God would prolong existence but to afford us space for repentance. This indeed he has assigned as the reason. God " is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance." "The longsuffering of our Lord is salvation." Secondly. It is always dangerous to delay the work of repentance; since, by repeated acts, habits are formed, and dispositions rendered more and more unfavourable. The disease neglected, becomes inveterate; and the shrub suffered to stand, grows into a deep-rooted tree. "Can the Ethiopian change his skin, or the leopard his spots? then may ye also learn to do good who are accustomed to do evil." But we should not only consider repentance as a work to be performed by us, and the delay of which multiplies difficulties; but also—and without this our repentance cannot be saving —as a blessing and an influence to be imparted from God. Now your criminal delay in seeking this renders it less probable that you will ever find it: for though you cannot deserve grace, you may grieve it: and after so many mvitations scorned—what wonder if he should say, "None of them that were bidden shall taste of my supper!" Thirdly. There are cases and circumstances in every man's life more friendly to religion than others. On these much seems to turn; and these may be lost even in this life. I have no doubt but that when Felix trembled, he felt as he never did before, and never did again. But he wilfully strove to do away the impression. And have not some of you had convictions which have for the time filled you with fear? Have you not had such relishes of good things as have led you to "call the sabbath a delight," and to " hear the word with joy!" Have not your closets occasionally seen a bended knee? Have not your walks witnessed your tears and vows! Your earthly hopes withered, and your comforts removed—have you not been constrained to turn aside from the world, deploring its emptiness, and sighing for a nobler good? Now when he draws, we should run; when he knocks, we should open. Fourthly. Death, it is certain, ends all your opportunities. After this, no pardon will be offered; no motives will be urged. Time is for sowing, and eternity for reaping; and "what a man soweth that shall he also reap." Hence the distinction always maintained in the Scripture between this world and another: the one is a state of prolxition, the other of decision. Hence the importance of life. Hence the wisdom of complying with the admonition, "Seek ye the Lord while he may be found, call ye upon him while he is
near." For there is a season when, if Too "call upon him, he will not answer, and if you seek him early, you will not find him.'' And how soon you may be in this unalterable state it is impossible to determine. We know your breath is in your nostrils; you are exposed to a thousand accidents and diseases.
But your harvest is not yet past, your summer is not yet ended. Still he bears with you. Once more he invites you. It is time, it is high time, and, blessed be his name, it is not too late, to seek him. I see him now standing with the door wide open, beseeching you as you love your souls to enter in— You refuse—and he shuts to the door, saying, "O that thou hadst known, even thou, at least in this thy day, the things which belong unto thy peace—but now they are hid from thine eyes!"
NATHANAEL. And Nathanael said unto him, Can there any food thing come out of Nazareth f Philip taith unto him, Come and tee. Jetut tav Nathanael coming to him, and taith of him, Behold an Itraelite indeed, in whom it no guile! Nathanael taith unto him, Whence knowett thou me? Jetut answered and taid unto him, Before that J'hilip called thee, -when thou watt under the fig-tree, I tn« thee, Nathanael ant-wered and taid unit him, Rabbi, thou art the Son of God; thov art the King of Itrael. Jetut anrwertd and taid unto him, Became I taid unto thee, I taw thee under the fig-tree, believett thou? thou thalt tee greater thingt than thete.— John i. 46—50.
Much of the excellency of the Scripture lies in this—that it does not state things in general representations, but descends to particulars—that it does not place them before us in speculative notions, but in practical e£ fects—that it does not describe them only, but exemplifies—so that we see them alive and in motion.
The passage of Scripture which is now to engage our attention is peculiarly interesting and instructive. It is a narrative of the interview between our Lord and Nathanael. It leads us,
First, to observe The Advantages Of OcCasional Solitude.—What was Nathanael doing under the fig-tree! We are not informed. Perhaps he was reading the Scripture— perhaps he was engaged in meditation—perhaps he was praying—perhaps he was joining himself to the Lord in a perpetual covenant, saying, "Lord, I am thine, save me: ami manifest thyself to me." Some purpose had allured him there which our Saviour noticed and approved; he saw him "in secret," and he now "rewards him openly." Does he see ts? Are we strangers to retirement? Surely, if we are Christians, and concerned for the welfare of our souls, we shall often retire, and find that we have much to do alone. I pity the man whose life is full of action, and void of thought I pity the professor who lives only in public; who is always hearing sermons; who pays very little attention to the duties of the family, and none to those of the closet
It is alone that we disengage ourselves from the dominion of the world. The world conquers us in a crowd. When our senses ire dazzled, and our minds amused, we are too much occupied to find out the cheat; but when we are drawn back from it, when we calmly consider it as an object of lonely contemplation, oh! how is its importance diminished, how is its influence reduced! It is then we sigh—" vanity of vanities, all is vanity." It is alone that conscience operates, that motives impress, that truth is examined and applied. It is alone that we obtain a knowledge of ourselves; it is there we can examme our condition, investigate our characters, discover our follies and our weaknesses. Alone, we can be familiar with God, and divulge to him secrets which we could not communicate to the dearest friend, or express in any public or social exercises of religion.
I love the fig-tree. I love to go forth from among the works of man, to enjoy the creation of God: to enter a wood—to walk through a field of standing corn—to follow the windings of a river—to view the playfulness of the lambs—to listen to the varied melody of the birds. Here is nothing to vex, nothing to pollute. What an innocency, what a softness does it spread over the mind! How disposed is the heart to welcome and cherish every devotional sentiment!
"O acred solitude! divine retreat!
Secondly. Let us remark How Perfectly Acquainted oira Sayiour Is With Our Most I•bi Vate Concerns. "Whence knowest thou me?" asks Nathanael, when our Saviour had, in few words, developed his character. Jesus answered—" When thou wast under the fig-tree I saw thee." This good man imagined himself alone there: he supposed no eye saw him. No wonder therefore he was surprised,<o hear a person, who appeared only a man like himself, announcing the whole affair: no wonder he was immediately convinced of his Messiahship, and exclaimed," Rabbi, thou art the Son of God, thou art the King of Israel." To know all persons and things infallibly, is the prerogative of God only. He therefore claims it, in distinction from all creatures: "The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked;
who can know it? I the Lord search the heart, I try the reins, even to give every mac according to his ways, and according to the fruit of his doings." And what says our Lord, in his address to John ?" The churches shall know that I am he who searcheth the reins and hearts; and I will give unto every one of you according to your works." In the days of his flesh, actions were not necessary toinform him, nor did he derive additional discovery from the declarations of others: "he knew all men, and needed not that any should testify of man: for he knew what was in man."
Let us remember therefore, that "the eyes of the Lord are in every place, beholding both the evil and the good." Of this he will give proof hereafter, when "he shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil. It will be in vain for the sinner then to say—when his wickedness is published to the world—" Whence knowest thou this V— I saw thee, says the Judge, devising mischief upon thy bed; I saw thee walking in a way that was not good; I saw thee endeavouring to stifle every conviction of conscience, and to banish every serious reflection from the mind; thou hast always stood in my presence; thou hast always sinned under mme eye. I beheld all thy actions, I heard all thy words, all thy thoughts were open to my view—and here they all are —
But let the righteous rejoice. He sees their situations, their trials, their dangers, their fears, their desires. He has "engraven them upon the palms of his hands, their walls are continually before him."
Let the broken-hearted penitent be encouraged. Godly sorrow affects loneliness. Into many a corner you retire to pour out tears unto God. Well, thither his eye follows you—" To this man will he look, even to him that is poor, and of a contrite spirit, and that trembleth at his word." "And the Lord said unto Ananias, 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."
Thirdly. Sincerity In Religion Is A
QUALITY WHICH OUR Saviour CALLS UPON US
To Observe And Admire. What an honourable character, as he approaches him, does he give Nathanael! "Behold an Israelite indeed, in whom is no guile." By calling him an "Israelite," he distinguishes him from other nations; and by callmg him an " Israelite indeed" he distinguishes him from his own. For all "were not Israel, who were of Israel." From the beginning, "he was not a Jew who was one odtwardly; neither was that circumcision which was outward in the flesh: but he was a Jew, who was one inwardly; and circumcision was that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter;