Page images

draws near to death, and judgment, and eternity. nigh to us, that we are slow to perceive them Yes, all those objects shall be even worse to the yet, and that because of their very nearness, soul, than the worms destroying Herod were to and of the aspect they bear, as being things Lis wretched body—they shall be as scorpions, allowed, lawful, and expedient. We are placed tormenting the soul, while it feels itself hurried in the providence of God in several earthly and away, and finds itself now departing hence, and temporal relations, the one to the other. These going to meet with an offended, omnipotent God. relations produce corresponding affections. The

Beware of the sin of Ilerod. Beware of the beneficent Author of our being, by whose hand sin of his flatterers. Hlave I never received with we are fearfully and wonderfully made, has imgratification the praises of men, when they seemed planted those affections in the human heart. to forget in bestowing them, to whom they were The exercise of them is not forbidden; it is comreally due? Have I this day, been guiltless in manded But the exercise, and the excess of this matter? Nay, how can I but be, in inter- them, are very different things. And what is the course with my fellow-men, guilty of it, when excess, the unlue exercise of them? It is, when by nature I am so prone to seek the honour the objects of those affections occupy the heart, that cometh from them, unless I be found in more than God and the Saviour; when the cherthe knowledge and love of God, sanctifying him ishing of them receives from us more heed, more in my heart; and devoting myself and my all to actual service of the heart, than God himself his glory's cause. Alas, this very sin, of taking receives as the object of our reverence, and love, to ourselves the glory that is due to God, cleaves and obedience. to us, and does most easily beset us. And in the And the blessed Redeemer here explains this acknowledgments made to benefactors, most folly, while he affectionately warns his people justly due in their place, even in the exercise of of their great danger, in the exercise of their gratitude and respect, most justly due for bene- lawful affections. He takes the endearing relafits received—how prone is the mind to forget tions of this life, and he speaks in words that the land of the Lord in the dispensations of his cannot but come home to the conscience and goodness, and to give to the creature the glory soul of those who have even begun to know him due to God only!

in truth. In whichever of these relations, then, or Beholding and feeling the supremacy of God if in each and all of them, the good providence of in his works of providence and of grace, would God has placed the believer, let him realize his not make us thankless or ungrateful to men when own danger, and beware of the sin, the sin of they do us good, but would enable us truly to loving father, or mother, or son, or daughter, be grateful, and would bring us, in a believing more than God. No obligations of a temporal spirit of love, to seek more and more their spirit- kind can equal those of children to parents. No ual and eternal welfare. We are beset on every human relationship can demand such returns. hand with dangers, and grace alone can uphold They cannot be more than fulfilled in any case, and deliver us, and can make us followers of whatsoever the special circumstances be. The God by Jesus Christ as dear children, glorifying commandment of God sanctions this.

It conhim in all things, as our Father in heaven. O, firms the full extent of filial ties. But there are let me never be satisfied, but in beholding and higher obligations even than these. We owe our feeling the claims of his grace upon me, that I parents themselves to God, and our own very may live to his glory.

being. Our parents, whatever their love to children, whatever the faithfulness and the tenderness of their duties, cannot save a soul. Their

love, in this, let it be even the warmest Christian THIRTEENTH DAY.—MORNING.

love, is in itself altogether unavailing. But the

love of God, the Father of our spirits, the former of *He that loveth father or mother more than me is

our bodies ;—that can save us; and it hath made not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or the abundant provision. The love of Christ is daughter more than me is not worthy of me;' Matt. x. 37.

stronger than death. He gave himself up to the

death, to endure for ruined souls the punishment When the mind has been awakened and enlight- due to their sins; he underwent the wrath and ened in such measure as to feel the evil of sin, and curse of God, to procure the soul's salvation from to realize the danger of those sins that do so easily everlasting death and destruction. beset us; yea, when we are brought carnestly to Am I, then, realizing these claims? Parental seck deliverance from them, there are dangers so love may desire, that the soul of the beloved child


and see

should inherit the knowledge of God, the faith of I may be shed abroad in my heart—that I may Christ, and through him all the principles of spirit- feel continually my obligations to thy redeeming ual and eternal life. Alas, how unavailing of itself. love, as God in three persons; and that it may It cannot reach to renew the heart, to take away be truly and constantly the prevailing desire of its natural unbelief, or to instruct it savingly, or my soul—that whatsoever others may do, as for with converting power. But the love of the Spirit me and my house, we shall serve the Lord. brings him even into the soul, the guilty soul, to convert it, to enlighten it, to renew and to sanctify it by the effectual operation of his saving grace, and by revealing Christ in the soul.

THIRTEENTH DAY.-EVENING. Blessed, adorable Saviour, thou hast purchased all these eternal, unspeakable blessings to undone And they all with one consent began to make souls like mine;-helpless and perishing, and shall

The first said unto him, I have bought I give the preference, even to an earthly parent?

a piece of ground, and I must needs

go May thine own grace prevent it, may it put and

it: I pray thee have me excused. And another keep me in thy love! d if thy providence have

said, I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I go placed me in the relation of parent to children,

to prove them: I pray thee hare me excused.

And another said, I have married a wife, and loved as my own soul, blessed Lord, deliver mine from the idolatry of their inordinate love. Thou

therefore I cannot come,' Luke xiv. 18—20. hast commanded me to care for them, to make Tue grace of God dealing with the soul, is like an temporal provision for their wants, to nourish and invader beset on every hand with active enemies. cherish them. The excess of this my heart's It is indeed, as Christ was himself, personally in affection toward them, even were all my other the world, opposed, and persecuted. He came sinful departings from thee, and from the giving to his own, and his own received him not. And of glory to thy name, rebuked and crucified--the when his saving grace establishes any true spiritexcess of this affection, would lead me to forget, ual principle in the soul, and that principle and to deny that Lord and Saviour, by the know- seeks its own exercise, it is opposed, and if grace ledge of whom alone both they and I can be itself, the everlasting fountain from which the saved :-it would lead me to dishonour thee principle comes, hinder not, the begun principle by a life of worldliness, and of ungodly pursuit of must be overborne and extinguished. The great carthly benefits.

business which grace has to do with the soul, is, The grace of God truly bringeth salvation. It to cast forth its idols, to redeem it from their places every thing in the place justly due to guilt and their power, to bring, in one word, the it. It ennobles the human affections. It graces soul to God—that he may be in truth and reality and dignifies the exercise of the affections, keep- the God of that individual soul, and the soul his, ing them subject to God. It makes his people by the exercise and power of redeeming love. desire not only temporal benefits to those on This divine grace has greatly abounded toward whose behalf their affections are exercised ; sinners of mankind, and especially, may we say, but raising the soul to the knowledge and to all who are within hearing of the gospel, and contemplation of spiritual and eternal objects, it within the reach of its merciful and gracious draws forth the soul's affections, in seeking an invitations. God is by the gospel addressing interest in these, as the good part, that cannot himself to sinners every day, setting the way of be taken away, to those toward whom the legiti- salvation before them, and testifying to them by mate affection is cherished.

his word, what the salvation is which he offers, Do I resign these the objects of my love and the preciousness of its blessings, and their need regard, to Christ? Yes, surely, I must, if I do love to receive them. And it is a truth beyond all him more than them. But if I love them more- controversy, that this message of reconciliation, then I deny him, and the calls and offers of his fraught with blessings to men, does come nigh, grace, and all my cares and toils will only tend to very nigh to individual souls, by the gospels outbring those who are committed of God to my care, ward and commanded ministrations, in private into the same destroying snares as I myself am and in public. caught by. Keep me back from presumptuous sin, Whether it have yet taken effect upon the O Lord, in loving these more than thee; and cleanse individual soul, is the question of utmost imme from secret faults, in which I am so prone to portance. Even with those upon whose souls deny thee. Make me what thou wouldst have it has taken no saving effect, in whom nothing me to be, by thine own grace, that thin. own love lof the good work is yet begun by it—there is felt a distinct conviction of its truth, and of their desire, or the heart, or ihe will, and they will not own need to receive its blessings.

seek this preparation of the heart from God. All And when these invitations and offers press this is brought out and realized in the sinner's themselves on the understanding and conscience; practical doings, when he is found avoiding God in when the mind fully realizes, that supreme heed secret, neglecting the means of grace, refusing to to it is necessary; it is even then alas, that sinners, pray-despising the word—and perhaps all the • with one consent, begin to make excuse.' They other ordinances of the gospel. are occupied with the world, and its pursuits Why go now, and see the piece of ground? Is engross their thoughts and their cares.

there any danger of losing it? And why, sinner, We find the Saviour here, exposing these ex- wilt thou hasten and hurry to thy occupation of cuses, detecting them, as it were, while by this earthliness, and refuse first to seek the Lord ? It parable, he is loudly calling upon every one, to is because of thine own enmity to God, and to all take heed to themselves. The instances given that pertains to his glory. This thy sin shall find are just examples of what passes in the minds thee out, and shall condemn thee in the righteous of hearers of the gospel message.

judgment of God. Why forsake God, why deny And we have especially to remark and con- to seek his salvation, for going to prove thy five sider, that the occupations here stated are all yoke of oxen? Just because thou seekest not to lawful. There is nothing sinful in the engage- be engaged in the service of God. ments themselves. They are all such as believers And it appears that those with one consent may be engaged in. But there is, notwithstanding, making such excuses, carry the same spirit of deceit in making them an excuse. God does not by mind with them into every relation of life. Instead the gospel desire that we should go out of the of seeking first the kingdom of God and his righteworld;' but he invites and entreats us, to be ousness, instead of acknowledging God, and surseparated from its ruling power. The sinner rendering themselves and their all to him, and feels, that by giving heed to the gospel's real rejoicing to have communion with him, in all offers, he would be detached and separated from their undertakings, and in all their relations, they the element in which he loves to breathe and to put away from them the claims of God, as if they move—the element of this world's ascendancy had no need of his blessing, or guidance, or grace. over him. It is his own love of this element, Stop, O deceived soul, and consider thy way! his own enmity to the power of the gospel that Stop, and think for once, solemnly, upon the God dictates and prompts the excuse. Cannot the with whom thou hast to do, and upon the endless gracious God who calls him bless his basket and eternity before thee; and despise no longer the his store, and is it not that God who does verily offers of redeeming love to thy soul. Wretched bless him already in his person, in his bodily are those relations entered into, without the counhealth, in his temporal lot? But he is unwill-sel and guidance of God being asked. ing, if we may so speak, to have any personal, This last excuse is the most guilty of all. It is direct, and immediate business with God. He the most important step in this life; and instead might prosecute every worldly calling, and have of seeking to be brought by it nearer to God, to his heart engaged in seeking the Lord; but this serve and honour him, in the institution of his own latter, is what he dislikes.

merciful and beneficent appointment, his author0, how futile, how deceitful, how false, these ity and his blessing upon it are alike despised. excuses! We hear persons, thus complaining, O, how the soul is hardened in these progressive or stating in mitigation of their felt guilt, in steps of a daring impiety! The world indeed disregarding the gospel, in refusing to make real may prosper for a season, but guilt is accumulatbusiness of seeking salvation, that they have no ing, and will yet speak forth in a voice of awful time. They are so pressed with its occupations! and overwhelming terror.

Pressed! it is by the power of sin, of the enmity But, believer, consider thou also thine own danof the carnal mind, that they are pressed, and ger. Cleave to God with full purpose. Let not the restrained, and retained by their own consent in world detach thee from God, or allure thee away their spiritual bondage, in their alienation from from communion with him, through the means God. God grants them the time, he bestows and ordinances of his grace. Cleave to these. upon them the means of grace, and they refuse It is in and through them, that God commands instruction, they decline to seek the Lord. They the blessing, by Jesus Christ, upon the souls of dislike the whole subject-matter of the gospel; and his people. O, watch and pray, lest thou enter thus they reject the counsel of God, against them into temptation, and lest the world and its pur

They have the time; but they have not the suits obtain ascendancy over thee. It seeks to

regain that ascendancy, wherever grace is seeking authority, and to the invitations and offers of his to dislodge it from the heart. Wait upon the grace, quickened in the heart, and brought into Lord, and he will give thee strength; yea, I say, very fearful activity. wait thou upon the Lord, O my soul!

How does such an individual do the same thing spiritually, as that which the children of Israel are here stated to have been doing? He

conforms to the world-he seeks countenance FOURTEENTH Day.--MORNING.

and support to himself, not from the openly Woe to them that go down to Egypt for help; and wicked, at least in the first instance, but from stay on horses, and trust in chariots, because ness by their stated bodily services. He sets up

those who pay a formal outward homage to godlithey are many; and in horsemen, because they

to himself their standard; he measures himself are very strong; but they look not unto the Holy One of Israel, neither seek the Lord! Isa. by their measure. This he does, when he has xxxi. 1.

felt so much as to enable him very clearly to per

ceive, that such persons have no living and real THERE is sin here reproved, to which the heart regard to the interests and the subject matter of is naturally prone. It is not unfrequently, alas, true and vital godliness. He will still seek to a sin of those to whom God has shown much of consort with them, valuing their communion, behis loving-kindness and mercy.

cause it is worldly, and avoiding communion and One would suppose, that God had shown so fellowship with the godly, because he feels that much of his own power and goodness to the chil- they are spiritually minded. He will seek to dren of Israel, that they or their children's children satisfy conscience with the performance of literal should never have thought of seeking any other duties, and to build his hopes on his own peraid than his in the day of their trouble, any other formance of these. safety than the strength of his Almighty arm, in This is truly to go down to Egypt for helpthe time of their threatened calamities, or in the such an individual may endeavour to satisfy himpresence of all their enemies. So, however, it was, self, in thinking that such persons are ‘many,' that they sought help from Egypt, the last quar- that they are reputable in the world, that they ter to which we should suppose they would ever perhaps have a name, even in the visible church, think of applying. Was it any failure in the of being worthy persons, well-disposed, laudable faithfulness of God toward them that caused them in their outward doings, and are possessed of to do this? Were they straitened in him? No! much name and much influence in society. But, assuredly. But it was their unfaithfulness to alas, when secret convictions are stifled, when God, in his covenant—it was this that brought light received is sinned against, when conscience their calamities upon them; and it was this that is trampled upon, and the workings of the Spirit made them now look toward Egypt for help. quenched—there is nothing in such a course but Moralists tell us, that if we injure an individual, woe.' Idolatry has begun it; the love of idols; doing him wrong, we hate that very person more and if persisted in, everlasting confusiou and shame than others; and it is thus, with respect to God. will be its end. It is an evil and a bitter thing When his Spirit has been striving with us, when to forsake the God of salvation, and such a we have received convictions of duty, and of our course of conduct is to forsake him. own danger as sinners; when an individual has

O! my soul, watch. If one idol obtain the been constrained under a sense of guilt, and ascendancy, this downward course is before thee. apprehension of coming wrath to seek the Lord, It is a broad way, and many walk in it. Fleshı and to give heed to his word; when he has been and blood may relish it for a time; but it is not brought really to feel that there is reality in god- the way of peace. liness, and that his interest is to pursue it—and Others there are, who take offence at the when yet again sin prevails, and he yields to its humbling truths of the gospel when they are first allurements, and ceases to wait upon God—then presented. They have never once allowed themassuredly it will happen, that such an individual selves to lay the subject-matter of those truths to will experience more decided hostility and enmity heart at all. They are filled with prejudices, and to the power of godliness in the soul, than if he the more that the truth is pressed upon them, their had never felt any conviction of sin at all. prejudices are the more kindled into active enmity.

Because of his own unfaithfulness, not only is They have recourse to the wisdom of this world — the power of sin again strengthened within him, they seek defences to themselves in their carelessbut there is real and positive enmity to God's ness of God, and of gospel truth. They lean in their


hearts, even to infidel opinions, though they may spirit of our minds, even during one day, how not perhaps dare to avow them. They are silent on great is our need of being turned, and brought all matters of practical godliness, and they eschew back to God! What can we for one hour engage every duty of godliness in private especially; or in, but the evil heart is found departing from the if haply they pray, it is with a decided preference living God, by the power of its unbelief and its to their own wisdom, not looking to the word or earthliness. How high our professions, our solemn counsels of God, but hardening their hearts against professions, in private and in public—and how them. And what produces this? It is the love of unworthy our practical conduct! sin, the love of the world and its pleasures, and The daily life is a daily and an hourly shortvanities, its associations, and honours, and gains. coming. The impressions made are effaced by They feel themselves supported and defended from the world, by its associations and objects. Ere the attacks of truth by the multitudes that live we yet think of our danger, sin is committed, as they seek to live themselves. They rejoice in because its principles still abound in the heart. the weaknesses, and failings, and backslidings of Turn thou me, and I shall be turned; for thou those who have been making professions of godli- art the Lord my God.'

This course is indeed a course of “woe.' Let me approach the throne of heavenly grace, But such is the world's expediency, in all matters where the glory of God appears above the mercy. of true and real godliness. They seek their seat, as the righteous and the sin-forgiving God, strength from sin, their counsels from sinners, and through the merits and intercession of the crunot from God. They go down to Egypt for cified and exalted Redeemer. It is here alone, help.

that I can receive the mercy to pardon, and the Whatever I have hitherto experienced of the grace to help in time of need. Have I not, this truth in its power—in that experience there is day, forgotten the Lord, and has not the world no safety to my soul. How many did “run well' and its objects and relations assumed the place of for a season, and yet have been hindered and led ascendancy in my spirit? And shall we sin astray, and turned aside from the way of salva- because grace abounds? God forbid. Let the tion. It is said of the righteous that God is their grace of God speak to my soul, and persuade it strength. The Lord Jesus is the righteousness into nearness and closeness with God in my

walk. and the strength of his people. Cleave thou to Lord, search thou and try me, make known to him, my soul, and prove the all-sufficiency of his me the evil ways that are in me, and lead me in promised and offered grace to keep thee from the way everlasting. Enable me to look, and to falling; he is my fortress and my rock, and in sce what my idols are—let me behold them in him let me trust—the God of my health-may their true shape, as they are seen of thee to be his name in me be praised.

my idols. Let my soul behold them revealed in the liglit of the knowledge of thine own glory, to whom all love and obedience of the heart and

affections are due—and then, and then only shall FOURTEENTH DAY.-EVENING.

I hate them, and cast them away. Ah, if mine

be a real turning to God, from whom all have so * Turn ye unto him from whom the children of deeply revolted—they shall be thus beheld, whe

Israel hare deeply recolted. For in that day ther they be silver or gold, or whatever allurement. every man shall cast away his idols of silver, Let the guilt of serving them be brought home to and his idols of gold, which your own hands

my conscience by the revelation of faith :—Loril, hare made unto you for a sin,' Isa. xxxi. 6, 7.

leave me not under their power. In the heart How merciful and gracious is our God! To the there is deep deceitfulness; and I think I perbackslider he speaks in accents of mercy and of ceive why it is that the Lord thus speaks of idols beseeching intreaty. How great is that mercy of silver and idols of gold. I know that I have which does call upon us to turn to him. “Turn, idols, yea, that my deceitful heart does turn aside () backsliding children, saith the Lord: “I will after objects which I know to be vanity, to be heal their backslidings; I will love them freely: but of little value, even in a worldly sense_obfor mine anger is turned away from him. “Letjects that I regard not even as any way essential the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous to my temporal lot, or to my personal gratificaman his thoughts: and let him return unto the tion. I have seen, and felt, and proven their vanity. Lord, and he will have mercy upon him; and to But still even by these I am ensnared, from day our God, for he will abundantly pardon. Ah, to day. These are my idols of silver-0, lct when we consider what we have been, in the grace come, let strength from above be ministered,

« PreviousContinue »