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and say, with Eli," It is the Lord; let him do what seemeth him good!." Let us " hear the rod, and him who hath appointed ite;" and endeavour to make a just improvement of it for the good of our souls.]
3. If we have submitted patiently to the rebukes of our earthly parents, much more should we to those of our heavenly Father
[Earthly parents do not always correct so justly or so temperately as they ought; their rebukes being sometimes little else than an ebullition of their own evil tempers: yet we have submitted to their corrections without presuming to arraign the wisdom, the justice, or the love that inflicted the chastisement upon us, This is a part of that honour which children were by God's law enjoined to pay those who were the fathers of their flesh; and which, if they obstinately refused to pay, they were, by God's own appointment, to be stoned to death. But this submission is due in an infinitely higher degree to Him who is the Father of our spirits: and, if we refuse it to him, a far worse death assuredly awaits us in the world to come; for he never inflicts any evil upon us but for our greater good, even that we may become in a greater degree
partakers of his holiness." On the other hand, to obedient children there was a peculiar promise of a long and happy life; a promise doubtless fulfilled to multitudes in former times, and not unfrequently accomplished now. But to those who meekly submit to the Divine chastisements, it shall be fulfilled in the Canaan that is above, even in the regions of blessedness and glory for evermore. Shall we then refuse to the corrections of our heavenly Father that submission which we paid to our earthly parents? “ Shall we not much rather be in subjection to him, and live?” Surely this is our truest wisdom, and our highest privilege.]
4. Our sufferings, how grievous soever they may appear at the time, are all sent for our eternal good
[Whilst we have the feelings of humanity, chastening, of whatever kind it be, cannot but be grievous to us at the time: but after it has produced its proper effects, “it yields the peaceable fruits of righteousness to them that are exercised thereby.” At first, tribulation works impatience: but, when the soul has been well disciplined by a continuance or recurrence of it, a better temper is produced; and, through the sanctifying operations of the Holy Spirit upon the soul, a different process is produced; and “ tribulation worketh patience, and patience experience, and experience hope; even a hope that maketh not ashamedi.” Now shall we complain of dispensations which are sent for such an end? Shall the vine complain of the pruning knife, which cuts only with a view to increase its fruitfulness? Shall the vessel complain of the furnace into which it is put in order to effect its meetness for the Master's use? Let us then look to the end; and we shall never repine at the means which Infinite Wisdom has ordained for the attainment of it. If we be “ in heaviness through manifold temptations, let us not forget that there is a fit occasion for them; and that the trial of our faith, which is infinitely more precious than that which purifies the gold, will be found to the praise and honour and glory of our God, and to our own also, at the appearing of Jesus Christ." If we be “ made partakers of his holiness,” we shall never complain of the means which were used to bring us to the attainment of it.]
f 1 Sam. iii. 18.
8 Mic, vi. 9.
h Deut. xxi. 18—21.
5. Walk so as to encourage others by your example
[The influence of example is far greater than we are ready to imagine. Peter, in order to avoid the displeasure of the Judaizing Christians, had recourse to dissimulation. (Here I may observe that if an Apostle swerved so grievously from the path of duty, through his carnal reasonings, who has not reason to take heed lest he also fall ?) And
what effect had this on others ? 6. The whole Church dissembled with him ; insomuch that even Barnabas himself was carried away with their dissimulation!." On the other hand, see the effect of good example in the Apostle Paul. He was imprisoned for the truth's sake, and retained his fidelity undaunted, and undiminished; insomuch that "his bonds for Christ's sake became a matter of notoriety through Cæsar's palace, and in all other places. And what was the effect of this? We are told, that
many of the brethren in the Lord waxing confident by his bonds, and by what they heard of his fortitude in supporting
were much more bold to speak the word without fear," so that “the Gospel was furthered” by the
very means which its enemies used to obstruct its progressm.
Similar effects will, in a greater or less degree, follow from our conduct under our afflictions. There are in every place many who may be considered as lame," who will be stumbled and weakened, and discouraged, if they see us faint; whilst, on the other hand, they will be encouraged and emboldened to go
i Rom. v. 3-5.
k 1 Pet. i. 6, 7.
forward, if they behold us adhering resolutely to the path of duty, and supporting manfully the trials which are come upon
Let us then think of the probable effect of our conduct upon those around us: let us think how much good or evil we may do, according as we approve ourselves to God, or not, in the discharge of our duty. There is a high line which we should pursue, even that which the Apostle prayed for in behalf of the Colossians, to be “ strengthened with all might, according to God's glorious power-unto all patience, and long-suffering, with joyfulness-giving thanks unto the Father who hath made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in lightn." And think not that such an aim as this would betray any arrogance in you: for Timothy was but a youth, and yet was directed to be an example, not to the world only, but to believers also, in every thing that was goodo: and it is the duty of every one, whether a minister or not, “ so to let his light shine before men, that all who behold it may be led to glorify their Father which is in heaven P." In a word, let us all endeavour so to walk, that we may say with the Apostle Paul, “Whatsoever ye have heard and seen in me, do; and the God of peace shall be with you."]
The Apostle having instructed the Hebrews in the true nature and end of their sufferings, suggests some further considerations, II. For their direction and guidance
These also we shall consider as addressed to us ; and in correspondence with them we would say to all sufferers of the present day,
1. Yield not to dejection
[Troubles, whether felt or feared, are apt to depress the spirits, and to enervate the whole man. This we see depicted in strong colours in the Prophet Ezekiel. “Sigh,” says God to him, “ Sigh, thou son of man, with the breaking of thy loins, and with bitterness sigh before their eyes. And it shall be, when they say unto thee, Wherefore sighest thou? that thou shalt answer, For the tidings : because it cometh : and every heart shall melt, and all hands shall be feeble, and every spirit shall faint, and all knees shall be weak as water?." But it should not be thus with us, whatever be the trials with which we have been visited, or with which we may be menaced : for they all are ordered by a wise and gracious God, who controuls and limits all according to his own sovereign will, and without whose permission not a hair of our head can be “ Say ye
n Col. i. 11, 12. ,0 1 Tim. iv. 12. p Matt. v. 16. 4 Col. iv. 9.
r Ezek. xxi. 7.
touched. Our enemies, unconscious of their dependence on him, plot and threaten our destruction. But see what the Psalmist says concerning them : “The wicked plotteth against the just, and gnasheth upon him with his teeth: but the Lord shall laugh at him," as a poor, impotent, and malignant worm, that exists only through his forbearance and tender mercy. Now, I ask, shall God laugh at him, and we cry? Shall we not rather set the poor impotent worm at defiance? But see what the Psalmist further adds: “ The wicked have drawn out the sword, and have bent their bow, to cast down the poor and needy, and to slay such as be of upright conversation." And what is the issue of all this?" Their sword shall enter into their own heart, and their bows shall be brokent." not then, A confederacy, like those who are crying out, A confederacy; neither fear ye their fear, nor be afraid: but sanctify the Lord of hosts himself; and let him be your fear, and let him be your dread: and he shall be to you for a sanctuaryu." And when others would alarm you with the supposed power of your persecutors, let your answer be, “ The Lord is in his holy temple; the Lord's throne is in heaven I." The greatest of all your adversaries, even Satan himself, could not so much as enter into the swine without permission : how then shall he, or any of his confederates, hurt a child of God without permission? You may laugh them all to scorn, and shake your head at them?: for, with God on your side, there are a million times "more for you than against you." Only “ be strong in the Lorda," and you will be more than conqueror over all.] 2. Swerve not from the path of duty
[Fear, and unbelief, and impatience “ will make our ways crooked b:" and the contrivances to which under their influence we shall have recourse for the purpose of avoiding difficulties, will augment our difficulties an hundred-fold.
The way to "make straight paths for our feet,” is simply to fulfil the will of God, and leave events to him. If Daniel and the Hebrew Youths had set themselves to consider how they might avoid the trials with which they were threatened, they might have attained their end, it is true; but they would have involved their souls in the deepest guilt. They followed the straightforward path: not moving to the right hand nor to the left, to avoid the fiery furnace, or a den of lions. This was right
And this is the very direction given to us also by God himself: “Ponder the path of thy feet; and let all thy ways be established: Turn not to the right hand, nor to the left; remove thy feet from evil." Adopt this then as the principle from which no consideration under heaven shall induce you to depart; “I must obey my God;" and, if the whole world combine to divert you from it, let your reply be,“ Whether it be right to hearken unto you more than unto God, judge ye." This will deliver you from endless perplexity. This will make your every path both clear and straight. “If your eye be evil," and the film of carnal hopes or fears be upon it, "your whole body will be full of darkness :” but “if your eye be single, and you have no purpose but to serve and honour God, “ your whole body will be full of light," and your steps be directed in a way wherein you shall neither err, nor stumble.]
s Ps. xxxvii. 12, 13.
t Ps. xxxvii. 14, 15.
u Isai. viii. 12–14.
c Prov. iv. 26, 27.
d Matt. vi. 22, 23.
THE NECESSITY OF HOLINESS.
Heb. xii. 14. Follow .... holiness, without which no man
shall see the Lord. THE Gospel, while it brings us into a state of reconciliation with God, enjoins us to maintain peace with man.
This is rendered difficult, not only by the evil dispositions that are exercised on account of daily occurrences, but more especially by the enmity which subsists in the hearts of the generality with respect to religion ; in reference to which our Lord himself said, “I come not to send peace on earth, but a sword.” Much however may be done by means of patience, meekness, and forbearance; and it is our duty to sacrifice any thing, except a good conscience, for the sake of peace. But our duty to God is paramount to every other consideration : therefore the Apostle, exhorting the Hebrews to “follow peace with all men,” adds immediately," and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord :" the import of which is, that we may fail in obtaining peace, however earnestly we may seek it; but holiness we may, and must, attain at the peril of our souls; for without it no man shall see the Lord.