« PreviousContinue »
as leading to a sound and legitimate conclusion. / and come snort of the glory of God, so, except But scripture teaches us to take a far larger and they should now repent, they must all likewise juster view of the divine government,-a view perish. There is not one individual to whom this which forbids us to measure the exact merit or call to repentance—this solemn warning, as to demerit of men in the sight of God, by the amount the infinite importance, and absolute necessity of of outward prosperity or misfortune that may repentance, does not apply. And noro is the befal them in the present world. In accordance accepted time. Have I then, seen my sins, and with this view, while Jesus abstained from pro- confessed them unto God, sorrowing over them nouncing any judgment concerning the Galileans after a godly sort? This is a matter that brooks who had been slain in the temple, he was evi- no delay. Death is continually at hand. None dently at pains to disabuse the minds of those know what a day or an hour may bring forth: who called his attention to the case, of the mis- and there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, taken ideas they had formed upon the subject. nor wisdom in the grave. In the system of divine providence, no man stands isolated and alone; and the events, accordingly, that
SIXTH DAY.-EVENING. happen to one individual, are often designed to have their chief bearing upon others. In order, there-Cast away from you all your transgressions,
whereby ye have transgressed; and make you a fore, to correct the erroneous opinions of those who told him of the Galileans, Jesus directed
new heart and a new spirit: for why will yo them to another case, in which they were likely
die, 0 house of Israel?' Ezek. xvii. 31. to feel that the rule they had been disposed There are three things very clearly taught by to apply would not hold. "Think ye,' said he, these words, and all of them are deserving of the that those eighteen on whom the tower of Siloam most serious consideration. I. That there can fell and slew them, were sinners above all men be no turning unto God without forsaking sin. that dwelt in Jerusalem ?' They were probably II. That there can be no living near to God well enough inclined to apply that method of without a regenerated nature. And, III. That judging to the Galileans, against whom they had those who die in their sins are responsible for a prejudice; but would they decide in the same their doom, that their blood is on their own heads. way as to these, their own townsmen, some of I. There can be no real turning unto God whom perhaps they had known and esteemed? without forsaking sin. "Cast away
all The tower of Siloam stood, as is generally believed, your transgressions, wherewith ye have transnear the pool of Bethesda; and some think it was gressed. This is the first and fundamental step built over the porches in which the victims of in every case of true conversion. Every expresdisease, who were waiting for the troubling of sion here used is full of significancy and force. the waters, were wont to seek shelter. The fall- | What is it we are to abandon? It is our transing of the tower on these poor sufferers, could gressions. This directly accuses us of being hardly be supposed to have been intended to breakers of the law of God. It does not tell us mark them as in a peculiar manner the objects of that if we have any sins we must renounce them. the divine displeasure. By that event, God may It assumes the fact. It addresses us at once as have been designing only to release them from notorious offenders. It pronounces us to be in a their sufferings, and generally to warn men of state of rebellion against the divine commandthe uncertainty of life. But while the Saviour ments, and therefore, in imminent danger of the thus sought to correct the views of those he was curse that cometh upon the children of disobediaddressing, on the important subject of God's pro- ence. Moreover, that we may understand the vidential dealings with men in the present world, odious nature of sin—how hateful it is in itselfhe reminded them at the same time, that though how essentially evil and abominable, the text calls they might hitherto have been exempted from any on us to fling it, like something deadly and loathsuch extraordinary visitations as these, though no some, out of our presence. We are not to dally such signal trials should ever befal them, they must with it for a moment, we are not even to lay it not on that account conclude, that God had no cause gently aside, as if it were an indulgence, to which of offence against them, that they were in no danger we might venture on some other occasion to of his displeasure. God has appointed a day in return. We must 'cast away' our transgressions, the which he will judge the world in righteous as being alike dishonouring and destructive to our fiess; and in that great and terrible day, he will immortal souls. Nay more, this renunciation of render unto every man according to his deeds. sin, must be not only energetic and instantaneous, And as all men have, without exception, sinned, but complete. All' our transgressions where
with we have transgressed, must be cast away. the sinner. There is here, no doubt, an irreconIt is not a matter that admits of compromise. The cilable hatred expressed against sin. The rightevil is not of a kind which half measures will eous Lord loveth righteousness, and hateth inicure. The law of God cannot condemi oue sin quity. Sin is the abominable thing which his and wink at another. Whosoever offendeth it in holy soul hateth. But this unchanging and one point, offendeth it in all. So long as the dis- unchangeable abhorrence of sin, is conjoined with position remains to do any single act which it for the tenderest compassion for the sinner. "God bids, or to neglect any single duty which it commendeth his love toward us, in that while we enjoins, there is there the spirit of rebellion; and were yet sinners, Christ died for us, Rom. v. 8. though the Lord be indeed 'slow to wrath,' yet God is, “in Christ, reconciling the world unto is he of great power, and will not at all acquit himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them, the wicked. If then, we would truly turn unto 2 Cor. v. 19. God, we must begin by departing from all iniquity. Why then, O sinner, will ye die? God is
II. But conversion implies, not only the putting waiting to be gracious. What excuse can you off the old man, which is corrupt, with all his offer for persisting in your infatuated career? deceitful lusts, but the putting on the new man, Think what it is 'to die,'—to die spiritually and which after God, is renewed in knowledge, right- eternally,—to become an outcast from God and eousness, and true holiness. Make you a new heaven,—to become the prey of the worm that heart, and a new spirit. "Verily, verily, I say dieth not, and of the fire that is not quenched;unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot the companion of devils,—the tenant of that dark see the kingdom of God,' John iii. 3. True, and dismal abode, where there shall be nothing indeed, this change of heart no man is either able but weeping, and wailing, and gnashing of teeth, or willing of himself to produce. To be born and where all hope shall be clean gone for ever. again, in this spiritual sense of the term, is to be O Lord, do thou turn us, and we shall be turned. born not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor Do thou draw us, and we shall be constrained to of the will of men, but of God: not of corruptible run after thee! seed, but of incorruptible, by the Word of God that liveth and abideth for ever. But when the
Seventh Day.--MORNING. Lord addresses to us the call, “make you a new "Turn yo eren to me with all your heart
, and heart, and a new spirit,' he at the same time provides the grace which is needful to enable the
with fasting, and with weeping, and with
mourning; and rend your heart, and not your penitent believer to obey. When Jesus com manded the man that had the withered hand to
garments, and turn unto the Lord your God: stretch it forth, he at the same instant supplied
for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, to him, as one having faith to be healed, the vital
and of great kindness, and repenteth him of the
eril, Joel ii. 12, 13. energy that gave him strength to do as he was required. And while, therefore, the man was I. WHETHER it be in the decisive moment of personally active in complying with the com- the sinner's first awakening to a sense of his guilt mand, it was in such a sense, and in such a way, and danger, or in his subsequent recall from sono as gave all the glory to Christ. So is it with the temporary defection, there is nothing that ever cure of that spiritual disease which preys upon did, or that ever can suffice to turn him from the our souls. While the Lord requires us to work evil and the error of his way, but a saving view of out our own salvation with fear and trembling, God in Christ;-a view of him as waiting to be he at the same time himself works effectually gracious,—willing not that any should perish, but in the believer, both to will and to do. Our con- that all should come to repentance. As seen cern, then, when we receive this call, “make you through the medium of the law, God is, and must a new heart, and a new spirit,' is to meet that call be to the sinner, a consuming fire; a sight that with the humble and earnest prayer, ' Lord, create causes him exceedingly to fear and quake: a siglit thou a clean heart, renew a right spirit within us.' from which he shrinks and recoils in terror and III. If we perish in our sins, our blood is upon dismay; and to escape the recollection of which
, ourown heads. "Have I any pleasure at all that the he likes not even to retain God in his knowledge. wicked should die, saith the Lord God, and not But when that glorious God speaks to him, not that he should turn from his ways and live? Ezek. from amidst the thunders and the devouring xviii. 23. “Why then will ye die, 0 house of flame that crowned the dark and tempestuous Israel?' is the solemn and affecting appeal which summits of Sinai, but from the persuasive crose l'ord is, in his word, continually making to of Calvary: speaks to liim as so loving the world as to have spared not even his only begotten and tions by the root, and writing vanity on all the well-beloved Son;-speaks to him in the strong pleasures and possessions of time; a heavy ani crying and tears, in the humiliation, the agony, unexpected reverse of fortune; the disappointthe death of Immanuel: when that bruised and ment of some fondly cherished hope; events like bleeding Saviour, crowned with thorns, nailed to these, subduing and softening the mind, will oftenthe accursed tree, is heard from that affecting, times render it accessible, by a merely natural that soul-subduing position, exclaiming in accents influence, to impressions of religious truth, such of unutterable tenderness, 'look unto me and be as for the time may be too readily mistaken for a ye saved,' “come unto me and I will give you saving spiritual change. The wound which has been rest;' and when that voice is made to come home, inflicted, time may very soon heal; either the not in word only, but in power, and in the Holy cloud that has shaded the path of life may disGhost, then it is that the victory is won, that perse, or the eye may get used to look on a less Satan is despoiled of another soul. The sinner sunny scene; and though not perhaps with the looks on him whom he has pierced; and amazed same keen relish as heretofore, still the world and confounded by the contemplation of the love may become as much as ever all that is loved or of God, his rebellious spirit is broken. In the sought. But when the truly awakened sinner, light of the cross he sees that he has been wil-with fasting, and weeping, and mourning,' "turns fully and wickedly kicking against the pricks; even to the Lord,' that which inspires him to and the very same evidence that serves to assure make this movement, is not so much that he has him, that the God whom he has so long and griev- taken a different view of the world, as that he ously offended, is still feeling towards him as a has obtained a different view of God. It is not Father, serves equally and intensely to make him any temporary distaste for, or disgust with the feel that he is no more worthy to be called a world, that will draw men in earnest unto him. son. And, therefore, it is 'with fasting, and That alone which will surely and necessarily weeping, and mourning;' in other words, with a attract them towards him, is a believing appredeep and godly sorrow for the sins which he hath hension of his grace and mercy in Christ. The done, that he comes, rending his heart, and not unregenerate man of the world, meeting with his garment, and “turns now unto the Lord. disappointment after disappointment in quest of
II. While, therefore, this lowly and contrite happiness among the things of time, may be comframe of spirit, is the natural and appropriate pelled to exclaim, almost in despair, “who will accompaniment of a realizing view of God's mercy show me any good ?' but still he persists in his to the sinner, let me further observe in illustra-infatuated course. But once let the light of the tion of the text, that wherever such a saving view glory of God, beaming from the countenance of a of the divine mercy is obtained, the immediate compassionate Redeemer, shine into his heart, and and irresistible effect is, to “turn’the sinner 'even he feels that here is the one thing needful, the to the Lord,'—to that very being whom he has so pearl of great price; that here at length he has grievously offended.
found out a treasure which the world cannot To “turn even unto the Lord,' is to make a give, and which it cannot take away. decided movement towards heaven. It is to forsake the broad way that leadeth to destruction,
SEVENTH DAY.—EVENING. and to enter on the narrow path that conducts unto life everlasting. The resolution to begin
• But when he was yet a great way off, his father such a course, forms, and will continue to form
saw him, and had compassion, and ran, and throughout all eternity, the grand crisis in the
fell on his neck, and kissed him,' Luke xv. 20. believer's spiritual history. Whether, therefore, How touching, how gracious, how encouraging that resolution has yet been truly taken, is mani- is this representation of the love of God! The festly a question of momentous importance to all; lost prodigal is welcomed as a son.
Let us cona question that bears directly on the safety of the sider what this implies. soul. There are, it is believed, comparatively few 1. To be taken back into the family of God, living under the ordinances of the gospel, who have implies a full deliverance from the curse of sin. not experienced, in the course of their lives, feelings And who can estimate the blessedness of being of concern about their souls. An alarming illness delivered from a state of wrath and restored to dissipating the day-dreams of a worldly mind, the favour of God. While the sentence of divine and presenting death, and judgment, and eternity, condemnation hung suspended over us, peace as already close at hand; the loss of beloved rela- must have been banished from our breasts. For tions or friends, tearing up deep and tender affec-whither could we go from his Spirit or flee from his presence?' Not in all the wide universe could | wherein he had seen evil, his father commanded the sinner find a shelter from the omniscient, the to receive him with the joys of a festival. Let omnipresent God. When David was hunted us eat and be merry,' said he, 'for this my son like a partridge upon the mountains by his was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is relentless persecutor Saul, assured of the divine found,' Luke xv. 23, 24. This it is to be taken favour and protection he could make even the back into the family of God! It is not such a rugged rocks of the wilderness re-echo as he measure of favour as David conferred on his swept his harp strings to the joyful strain, · The rebellious son Absalom, when in compliance with Lord is my life and my salvation, whom shall I the urgent intercession of Joab, he said, Behold fear? the Lord is the strength of my life, of whom now, I have done this thing: go therefore, bring shall I be afraid,' Psal. xxvii. 1. But who can the young man Absalom again.
and give peace to a mind at war with God? Men the king said, Let him turn to his own house, may forget all this amid the bustle of the world's and let him not see my face,' 2 Sam. xiv. 21, 24. business, or the intoxication of its pleasures. But Far different is it when the penitent sinner when the approach of death, and the prospect of returns to the Lord. To as many as God hath the judgment to come, force upon them the ap- predestinated to the adoption of children by Jesus palling conviction that living as they have done Christ unto himself—to one and all of them is this “ without God in the world, they are no better declaration made, “I will be a father unto you, than hopeless outcasts, for whom the whole world and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the has no shield, no refuge from the wrath that is Lord Almighty,' 2 Cor. vi. 18. revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and How unspeakable is the love of God! The unrighteousness of men—what would they not prodigal who had wasted his father's goods in then give, durst they only venture to think and riotous living; who had forsaken his father's to say, “Lord, though thou wast angry with me, house; who had dishonoured his father's name; but thine anger is turned away,' Isa. xii. 1. who had reduced himself to want and misery, is
When the poor prodigal of the parable to welcomed back again to his father's arms. He which our text belongs, came to his right mind, exchanges his filthy rags,' the memorials of a came to see the wretchedness and ruin to which life of sin and shame, for the more than royal his own evil courses had brought him,—he felt vestment of the righteousness of Christ. He as if it would be enough to ensure his happiness exchanges the unsheltered field, where he lay if only his father would forgive him. To be exposed to every storm, to the tempest of the restored to the privileges of a son was a distinc-wrath of Almighty God, for the refuge of the tion he durst not then hope to have. But if only covenant of peace, for the protection of him who his ingratitude and disobedience were pardoned, is a “sun and shield. He exchanges the husks the place of the meanest servant in his father's which the swine did eat,' the deceitful pleasures household would be enough for him.
of sin, the empty, unsatisfying enjoyments of 2. But to be taken back into the family of God, sense and time, for the rich and exhaustless
, implies not only deliverance from the curse of “provision of Zion. For 'in this mountain shall sin :—it implies the being reinstated in all the the Lord of hosts make unto all people a feast of privileges which it belongs to God's children to fat things, a feast of wine upon the lees; of fat enjoy. When the prodigal received that tender things full of marrow, of wine on the lees well embrace of a free forgiveness which the text des- refined,' Isa. xxv. 6. The repentant sinner, cribes, his father did not then turn away and restored to the favour of God through the merits leave him in the squalid poverty and abject dis- and mediation of the Lord Jesus Christ, is fed tress in which he had returned to his paternal with food convenient for him. Out of the fulabode. The prodigal had returned naked, -and ness that is in Christ he daily receives, and grace therefore the father gave instant command to for grace. He lives on Christ; for he is made bring forth, not simply a robe, but the best robe, of God unto the believer, wisdom, and righteand to put it on him, and a ring on his hand and ousness, and sanctification, and redemption; that
, shoes on his feet. The prodigal had returned according as it is written, He that glorieth, let him faint with hunger and ready to die; and there- glory in the Lord,' 1 Cor. i. 30, 31. And being fore the father gave instant command to kill the thus on earth nourished up unto eternal life
, he fatted calf, that his son might not simply be fed, is at length invited to sit down at the 'table which but fed with the best his house contained. The shall never be drawn, to eat of the hidden manna, prodigal had returned sad and disconsolate, and and “to drink of the river of pleasure which flows therefore to make him glad according to the days from the throne of God and of the Lamb!
an incomparably sweeter solace, or rather it • As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten : be and converts them into positive blessings, to know
changes their nature almost to its very essence, zealous therefore, and repent,' Rev. iii. 19.
that they are tokens of divine love, expressly That 'man is born unto trouble as the sparks fly contrived and commissioned to work, together upward,' is a sad, though familiar truth, gathered with the many other measures of grace, in perfrom the accumulating experience of ages, and con- fecting our spiritual education, and qualifying us firmed by the word of God. It is a saying more for the unmingled enjoyment of God in the ancient than we can tell, that we come wailing regions of his pure and perfect manifestations. into the world, and, if left to the course of And this happy knowledge do we imbibe from nature, go groaning out of it. The way between the very same oracles that teach us to look upon is in strict keeping with its beginning and its end; trouble as a necessary condition of our existence; and whether long or short, is darkened through- and explain the instinctive tears that water our out by the meeting shadows of the cradle and entrance upon life, with the revelation that we
are born unto trouble as the sparks fly upward.' It is some advantage to make ourselves ac- For as many,' says the affectionate scripture quainted, at the very outset of life, with this before us, “as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be necessary condition of human existence; that we zealous therefore, and repent.' may be armed, at least, with expectation: and, as In the very first sound of these stirring words we cannot avoid sorrow, may nevertheless escape we recognise the voice of a Father; and hear the the needless shock of its great surprises: for Judge of all the earth addressing us as children. surely they who, in the primrose season of their For neither in the promise nor in the down-pourlife, clothe the entire field of the future with ing of the most abundant blessings, is this endearflowers and sunshine; and start on their fond ing relation made half so evident as in the paternal career with the fancy that they are to be excep- care, concern, and stedfastness of purpose manitions from the common lot of humanity, are far fested in these rebukes and chastenings of children. more likely to be crushed in their first encoun- Bounty is an easy grace for God: his riches, like ter with woe, than he who, in firm and habitual his own being, are infinite; and no giving ever contemplation of all its forms, has, in some mea- makes them less. But rebukes are the striving sure, assimilated himself to its nature, and meets of his Spirit with man; and judgments are his it, when it comes, as a kinsman.
strange work.' And O! can there be a son It is a much greater advantage, however, to who has lived to bless the hoary head—or, if not know that affliction cometh not forth of the so fortunate—the memory of a father, because he dust, neither doth trouble spring out of the was wise in his tenderness, and shunned not the ground;' but that every sorrow incident to human tear and the wear of his heart in the exercise of life is dispensed by the same Universal Father, a painful but wholesome discipline; and yet feels "unto whom all eyes look up, and who giveth not, understands not the meaning of a crushing unto every one his meat in due season. Once in calamity, or a sobering affliction, dispensed by the possession of this simple knowledge, we are saved Father who is in heaven? Yet slow we are to at least from the despair of those who attribute comprehend the chastenings of God; because even their calamities to the choice and the guidance of in the full maturity of years and judgments we chance, and regard the ills to which "flesh is remain towards our heavenly Father, what, in the heir' as so many arrows flying at random in the waywardness of childhood, we were to our mortal dark. For surely we cannot mourn without parents; when we rebelled, at heart, against every hope' in the midst of our afflictions, while we infliction of the rod, and falsely believed that we believe that every sorrow of our few and evil days, should have loved them more had they punished so far from springing promiscuously out of the us less. So much the more have we reason to ground, cometh forth in reality from the counsels pray for grace to receive the rebukes of love in of heaven; and consequently must have at once the spirit of docility and meekness, that we may a motive and a commission, worthy of infinite the sooner be enabled to say with the Psalmist, wisdom; though hidden, like its great Dispenser, it is good for me that I have been afflicted, that in impenetrable darkness, from the understanding I might learn thy statutes: the law of thy of the sufferer.
mouth is better unto me than thousands of gold If it be an alleviation of our sorrows, however, and silver.' to know that they come from the benevolent What more can we require to reconcile all of us Giver of every good and every perfect gift, it is who are called by the name of the Lord, to the