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divine system of discipline under which we live, , perfection, can we tell the diversity of ways in than to know that it is administered in love, and which he seeks to regain his possession of our is at once a necessary and efficacious means of grace. lost souls, and restore them to the paradise from 0! let that assurance be unto us the rainbow of which sin and misery has so estranged their imaail our tears; and, rising as upon eagles' wings, ginations as well as their desires. In the morning, to the contemplation of that living bow which we were contemplating the longings of divine encompasseth the throne of God; let us gather love manifested in the chastenings of his way. strength from the thought that “our light afflic- ward children; and now in the evening we are tion, which is but for a moment, worketh for us called to meditate the tenderness of his affection, a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory.' exhibited in the multitude of his loving-kind. And with this thought lying warm and strong at nesses. In the eloquent scripture before us, the our hearts, let us render even now to the Lord Lord is represented as leading us to repentance, the justice, which, in the ripening of our judg- and to his own open arms, by a long continuance ment, we refuse not to our fathers and mothers, of goodness, forbearance, and long-suffering; and and bless the hand that corrects us. And, consequently by a permanent display of his love while we acknowledge the love that deals the in that very form and aspect which we think blow, may we mourn with a godly sorrow most congenial with our nature, as well as most over the sin that provoked it: for surely if efficacious in winning our affections. The light we love him who first loved us, and have in which the paternal tenderness of God is thus known what it is through the working of the represented is inexpressibly affecting; as we see Spirit within us to cry unto God, “ Abba, Father! him varying his mode of working on our hearts, the whole bitterness of affliction will be gathered so as to suit himself to our varying sensibilities; together in the thought, that we have provoked and seeking at one time to accomplish, by a perour heavenly Father to strike us.
severing gentleness of manner, what he attempts, at another, by apparent severity. And yet the motive in both cases is the same; for the end is
our ultimate glory; and the immediate effect our Eighth Day.--EVENING.
repentance. And surely when we consider that
the subject of the repentance required of us, is Or despisest thou the riches of his goodness, and forbearance, and long-suffering; not knowing Spirit
, by leading a life of resistance to his will
simply sinning against God, and vexing his Holy that the goodness of God leadeth thee to repent
we cannot imagine even the infinite wisdom and ance,' Rom. ii. 4.
the untiring tenderness of our Father in heaven MOURNING, as we all profess to do, the fall of adopting a mode more likely to subdue our man, and the woes in which the first transgres- enmity, soften our hearts, and heap coals of fire sion of the holy commandment has involved the upon our heads; or, in a single word, melt us into entire posterity of Adam, it might naturally be a repentance never to be repented of, than thus expected, that the whole energy of our intellect rendering good for our evil, friendship for our would be concentrated in a great and continuous enmity, and love for our hatred. And all the effort to regain our lost paradise, and raise our- more efficacious should we feel the power of this selves to the lofty rank from which we have kindness to be, when we consider that it has an been degraded. Alas! to the shame and con-object in view beyond itself, and contemplates
, fusion of our fallen race, we learn from the ora- not only our present gratification, but the workcles of God, and our own experience, that this ing out of our salvation, and the raising of our reasonable order of things is all inverted; and that fallen nature to a life of honour, glory, and iminstead of mankind pressing in a continuous suc- mortality beyond the grave. The joys of the cession of generations against the walls of heaven, present life, however lavishly God may dispense like waves on the rocks of the sea-shore, it is them, are soon exhausted, because our lot in time God who all the while is "bowing his heaven is short; but there is an infinity of love and of and coming down,' and searching all around the riches in every token of the divine favour, and in hearts of man, to discover its soft side, that he every gift of God, which has for its ultimate may enter in—make of it a temple, and fill its object the well-doing of our souls throughout the enormous void with love, with heaven, and with endless ages of eternity. -himself.
What then shall we say to the scarlet sin of We may exhaust figures of speech; but just despising the riches of God's goodness? Can as little as by searching we can find out God to we conceive what God thinks of it? Surely if
he that despised Moses' law died without mercy ling of the feet on the dark mountains, when the at the mouth of two or three witnesses; of how light of God, sought too late, is turned into the much sorer punishment shall he be thought shadow of death.' worthy, who hath trodden under foot the Son of Gud, and hath counted the blood of the covenant wherewith he was sanctified an unholy thing, and hath done despite unto the Spirit of grace !'
NINTI DAY.-MORNING. Yet unto that Spirit of grace is every soul of man I have surely heard Ephraim bemoaning himdoing most manifest spite, and openly despising
self thus ; Thou hast chastised me, and I was the riches of divine goodness, who is still living
chastised as a bullock unaccustomed to the yoke: in a state of sin; and deferring-be it from day to day, or from year to year—the simple but
turn thou me, and I shall be turned; for thou
art the Lord my God, Jer. xxxi. 18. momentous step of turning to the Lord.
For where are they on whom the Lord has Wuile the scriptures denounce hypocrisy, and not lavished his goodness, times and ways with condemn every ostentatious display of sanctity out number; and who among us is not a living as a homage rendered to man, and not to his monument of his forbearance and long-suffer- Maker, they are full, to overflowing, with ening? Our own mouth condemns us if we plead couragement to the secret mourners in Zion, an exception of our own case from the general who bewail their wickedness with the deepest rule, “that the tender mercies of God are over sorrow where they are least observed. The all his works. For is it not a most eloquent wounds which God has declared himself most testimony to the patience of God that we willing to bind up, are those that bleed in the are this day alive ? Why were we not dark; and the
ear, are slain in the moment of our first sin? Why did soonest heard in heaven. In the passage before not the lightning of divine vengeance start us, we see the heart of a penitent laid open in the from its slumber as we stretched out our hand, moment of turning to God, and have an opporfor the first time, to a forbidden fruit ? or slay tunity of contemplating the anguish with which ns, while the meat was in our mouth? Why he reflects on the folly and wickedness of his past did our second transgression escape the penalty life. And just at this point of his repentance we due to every sin, and not overwhelm us at once in are struck with a most interesting and remarkthe curses of time, and of eternity? And now able truth, which unquestionably makes itself when we have sinned so often, that we cannot manifest in the personal experience of every ono recollect the day when we gave up all thought who can tell, from his own practical knowledge, of counting our wilful transgressions, can we what repentance unto life in reality means. In this pretend that with all our impenitence we are at first moment of awakening, from the long slumber least guiltless of sinning against the mercy of God, of the soul, to a sense of sin and its heinousness, and despising the riches of his goodness! O! let the penitent of our text feels that God has all us rather think, and feel, that, while the long- the while been at work upon his conscience, and suffering of God affords time for repentance, knocking loud and often at the door of his heart while his goodness and mercy supply us with a without obtaining an entrance, or so much as motive; and the longer the time thus allowed, and exciting a consciousness of the divine presence. the more copious the mercies vouchsafed, just so Just as a person awakened by repeated cries out much the more scarlet-coloured is the sin of 'stop- of a deep sleep, hears in the end, not only the sucping our ear, like the deaf adder, that will not cessful call, but a series of preceding voices that listen to the voice of the charmer, charming ever grow the louder and the plainer, the more he thinks 80 wisely
back upon them; so does it seem invariably to It were wise, moreover, to consider that while happen that every effectual calling of the Spirit, the riches of God are indeed inexhaustible, his in the very moment of making itself effectual
, patience and long-suffering are limited; and sooner impresses upon the awakened sinner the convicor later must run themselves out. At the most tion that it is not the first, nor the second, nor they can last, as far as our individual cases are the third call that he has heard; but that in reality concerned, but the threescore and ten years that the Spirit of grace has been daily “reproving hiin make up the span of human life; while, for any of sin, of righteousness, and of judgment;'-aye, thing that we can tell, they may set for ever with and from the first burning of his fingers on forbidthe next setting of the sun; and leave the im- den things, daily calling unto him, "Turn ye, turn penitent despiser of divine mercy to the 6 stumb- 1 ye, why will ye die ? O! for every prayer that riseth up to heaven, to be treasured “in the vials | our hearts are right with the Author of our being. full of odours, which are the prayers of saints,' there But just as the magnetic needle, while far away come down from on high a thousand incomparably on the quiet waters of the Pacific, points regularly more earnest warnings, admonitions, and entreaties, towards its pole; yet, from the moment the prow of urging us to turn from the evil of our ways, and the vessel is stedfastly turned to the north, begins seek the Lord while he is waiting to be gra- to vary the more, the farther it advances, and will cious. The generality of us, however, go on settle on any point of the heavens, except the resisting and vexing the Spirit of grace, and stop right one; till, at last, the navigator throws it aside ping our ears, like the Jews, when St. Stephen as useless ; so does the human heart, when urged was declaring his vision of the glorified Redeemer; beyond the cold, quiet, and distant adoration, which till either death puts an end to this waste of it easily learns from natural piety, to a close warnings for ever, and drops the curtain of eternity communion with God, face to face--spirit to between the soul and its God; or till the Almighty spirit-eye to eye—suddenly waver, recoil upon Saviour, by a series of gracious afflictions, and itself
, and search, as it were, all around the horizon, a continuous pressure of sanctified calamities, for a refuge from the very thought of the Father, crushes the heart into a sense of its own depravity, the Son, and the Holy Ghost. and subdues its resistance like a worm beneath the We find all this strikingly verified in the rolling of his chariot wheels.
prayer of the penitent Ephraim. We might In this state of enlightened humiliation, Ephraim readily think within ourselves, that he is already compares himself with a beast of the stall, a turned to God, because he is praying. Alas! do we bullock unaccustomed to the yoke, that stubbornly not know that it is mainly in prayer we gather refuses to serve the master who feeds and pro- our experience of the truth we have just been tects it; or to answer the purpose for which it is stating; and feel the tendency of the heart to turn kept. The more it is chastened, the more does away from God in every attempt to approach him. it rebel; and only submits, in the end, when ex- Hence is it just this aversion of the soul from its hausted with the unequal struggle, and incapable Maker that forms the subject of the penitent of further resistance. And we would do well to Ephraim's prayer, and just in the attempt at regard ourselves frequently in those faithful mir- turning unto God in it, that he prays, “Turn thou rors, which the providence of God is continually me, and I shall be turned; for thou art the presenting to our view, in some department or Lord my God.' other of his creation; and judge ourselves by the And happy is the heart which the Lord has feelings excited in our bosoms, when it is our turned to himself, for never again does it turn turn to meet with resistance where we have a right back to the ways of the world, or its own; but, to exact submission, and to harden a will by all once more, like the magnet, when brought close our endeavours to subdue it. When we are up to its pole, ceases from all its waverings; and wishing, like Balaam, that we had a sword in rests secure on the rock of ages. our hand to slay the creature that resists our will, it is time to remember that God has his sword always within reach; and to bow the head in submission, lest we perish in his anger.
Ninth Day.-EVENING. • The prayer of the penitent, in the eventful moment of spiritual life is, very remarkable; and "Surely after that I was turned, I repented; and may cast some useful light over the understand
after that I was instructed, I smote upon my ing of those who think they can turn at any time
thigh : I was ashamed, yea, eren confounded, to God; and who therefore, defer their repentance
because I did bear the reproach of my youth,
Jer. xxxi. 19. till the day when “desire fails,' with the prospect of turning their face to the wall, and to the Judge In repentance "unto life' there are two parts, of all the earth, at the same time. Experience, equally essential to each other ; the first of which however, is a faithful teacher; and from it do we is turning from sin, and the second turning to soon learn, that of all bodies the heart is the God. Without this second movement of the most unwieldy and difficult to turn upon its mind, the former is not only fruitless in regard course; and that of all points, moreover, in the to its results, but imperfect, and even false in its
it is slowest in turning to God. O! in own nature. We may hate and abhor our most our hours of ease, when we think little about the besetting sins, because of their bitter consespiritual world, and far less about its greatest quences; and by a violent effort tear ourselves loose
habitant, we are apt enough to suppose that from them, one after another; and then that tear.
ing of our hearts on the thorns in which they are in either case, it is all in the sorrow that so entangled, may we dignify with the name of seldom excites it. For what is the loss of an repentance; but if we go no further—if our eye estate to him who has health and hands to earn, still continue in the direction of our relinquished in common with the mass of mankind, his daily vices—we are not in reality hating sin, but bread in the sweat of his face? But to gambol merely its punishment; and our repentance is with the pearl of the soul; to frolic with the favonly remorse. If, on the contrary, we turn from our of God; to squander the infinite riches of it to God, there is not only a new feeling super- redeeming grace, and throw away an eternity of added to our previous emotions, but a new spirit glory, is a source of sorrow which no figure of infused into our abhorrence of sin: for we see it speech can ever adequately express; and which from that eventful moment in a totally different can be a subject of wonder only to those in whose light, and regard it not only as injurious to our minds the whole spiritual world, with all its forms selves, but as a grief to the Spirit of grace. and features, is a mist. And yet this is not the
It is just after this turning to God, and con- main source of the sorrow manifested in the words templating the august, the majestic, and righte- of our text. It is the simple contemplation of ous Sovereign, whose authority he has so long God that is cutting the soul of Ephraim; and despised, that the soul of the penitent Ephraim sharpening his sorrow for sin. We hear him is stricken with the real enormity of his guilt. saying, like David, in a moment of similar anguish, What was shame and self-condemnation, before against thee, thee only, have I sinned; and done the Lord, in answer to his prayer, had turned this evil in thy sight.' him round to himself, is now the most poignant In all this anguish of soul, however, poignant anguish that perhaps the flesh of the human heart as it manifestly is, there is no misery. For just can bear on this side of the grave. 'Surely after as repentance in its very beginning implies an I was turned,' he exclaims, 'I repented; and apprehension of the mercy of God in Christ after I was instructed, I smote upon my thigh. Jesus,' without which there might be a horror of What is the instruction he has received in so sin, and of conscience, but no turning to God, so short a space ? He has seen as it were the face is there hope in the sorrow of Ephraim, which of his offended Father in heaven, and contem- essentially distinguishes it from the misery charplated the sin of his long rebellion by the light acteristic of the sinful state. It is just in reality of that pure eye that cannot behold evil; and it is the very goodness of God that goes so sharp and just in this view of the divine countenance—in deep into the heart which he has turned from sin beholding for the first time, though but as through to himself; and from that goodness does every a glass, the beauty and majesty of his God, so returning sinner derive, even in the moments when long a stranger to his thoughts, and so different it is most poignantly wounding him with the from all his previous imaginations, that he shrinks reproach of his youth, the highest encouragement within himself, overwhelmed with shame and to advance nearer and nearer to a throne of confusion; and yields up his soul to a sorrow grace. O! most abundant authority have we for which the world knows nothing of.
declaring that God is all the while watching our This anguish of the penitent Ephraim is un sorrow with an anxious eye; and will not suffer doubtedly a wonder and derision to the world, and it to exceed, by an atom of dust in the balance, to the great masses of mankind, who measure the the measure necessary for its removal. For in iniquity of sin by the standards of the earth, or the very front and forehead of our text, do wo the judgments of a criminal court; and most un- read, that God in the midst of anger remembers questionably would they attribute such an extra- mercy, and that the very first manifestation of a ordinary distress about sin, either to a morbid godly sorrow for sin, on the part of the stricken state of intellect, or a conscience troubled with sinner, is the signal for the return of divine the secret guilt of some enormous crime. Yet no favour, and the down-pouring of healing waters on one all the while ever wonders at the frenzy and the broken heart. Not a sigh of the penitent soul despair of a gamester who has played away the is lost. Not a moan of the mourner in Zion last acre of his ample domains, in a den of thieves, escapes the ever-waking ear of the Father, who or thinks it out of nature if he follow up the ruin has afflicted only to soften, and wounded only of his heritage, not by smiting on his thigh'or to bind up. It is the Lord himself, let us his forehead alone, but in the uttermost excess of observe to our inexpressible comfort, that speaks remorse, doing violence to nature itself, and throughout the whole of this remarkable passage. plunging a dagger to the hilt in his own The very words of the penitent come to us at bosom. Yet verily if there be cause of wonder second hand; for they reach us and there is not in scripture a more touching circumstance than in cases of judicial blindness, or hardness of this—not as they passed from the lips of Ephraim, heart, in which the sinner is suffered to glide but from the mouth of God. We know then, smoothly down the stream without a thought of that God has all the while been listening to the future, till he be swallowed up of eternity; Ephraim; has not only heard him, but heard but extends even unto instances of indescribable because he was listening; and that he has been alarm and anxiety concerning the life which is to listening, moreover, with the tender anxiety of a come, when “sinners in Zion are afraid, and fearFather, on purpose to convince himself that he fulness hath surprised the hypocrites; and they 'has heard aright. “Surely I have heard Ephraim begin to cry, who among us shall dwell with bemoaning himself thus.' And then because he has the devouring fire? who among us shall dwell heard aright, "I will surely,' he declares, have with everlasting burnings?" For then there is mercy on him.'
rending of garments, and tearing of hair, and wringing of hands, and crying unto the Lord; but he will not hear them, for their season of
grace is past; their sentence is already proTenth Day.-MORNING.
nounced, its execution begun, and the mercies of Seek the Lord while he may be found, call ye however little we may have familiarised it with
God for ever clean gone. This awful truth, ye upon him while he is near,' Isa. lv. 6.
our own meditations, is nevertheless abundantly We know that the time of our probation is revealed to us in scripture; but never without a limited at the utmost by the sum of the few and most sufficient vindication of its equity, and evil days' that make up our lot in the land of the ample directions for averting its infliction. Thus, living; for in the grave, unto which we are all in the book of Proverbs do we read, that prayers hastening, there is no work nor device, and “as extorted by calamity, after a long contempt of the tree falls, so it lies.' We are hence in full divine counsel and mercy, shall be in their turn possession of the very awful truth, that when treated with scorn and derision. Because I the silver cord is loosed, and the wheel is broken have called, and ye refused; I have stretched out at the cistern, our disembodied soul is destined to my hand, and no man regarded; but ye have set find God seated,—not on a throne of grace,—but of at nought all my counsel, and would none of my judgment, dispensing no longer mercy, but equal reproof; I also will laugh at your calamity, and handed justice, according to the fruit of our mock when your fear cometh. . . . Then shall doings, whether they have been good or evil. they call upon me, but I will not answer; they We know therefore at the saine time, that with shall seek me early, but they shall not find me; life ends the season of prayer; for there can be for that they hated knowledge, and did not choose no praying at the judgment-seat, where they the fear of the Lord. who are clothed with the wedding-garment have We have the same principle just as clearly laid no more need of mercy; while unto those who down in the passage immediately under consideraappear in the filthy rags of their own righteous- tion; for in exhorting us to seek the Lord while ness, all the mercies of God are for ever clean he may be found, and call upon him while he is gone. Warned and wilful do we therefore rush near, we have a most significant intimation of a upon the sword of Divine justice, if deferring, time when he is not found, and a place where he from day to day, and from year to year, the duty is no longer near; while over both are cast all of securing, by the prayer of faith, an interest the terrors of uncertainty and darkness; for not in the all-sufficiency of Christ, till death, coming in more palpable obscurity is muffled the year as a thief in the night, strip our souls of the knees and the moment of our death, than the instant that were made for kneeling on the footstool of when the cup of divine indignation shall overgrace, and the hands, and the eyes, and the voice flow, and the God and Father of our Lord Jesus that were given to be lifted towards heaven in Christ cease for ever to be gracious. prayer and devotion.
But just as significantly, all the while, are we We are not so familiar, however, with the cheered in every scripture. that intimates the fact that, short as our portion of time is, the approaching sunset of divine mercy, with the reign of divine mercy is sometimes still shorter; assurance that, so long as the day of salvation and that unto some the sun of Righteousness sets endures, and the accepted time of the Lord is before their day is done. What casts a hue, passing by, in the Father of our Saviour there is moreover, of special fear and solemnity over this grace sufficient for our need, and mercy ready to fact, is the circumstance, that not only is it true flow in the most blessed abundance at every up