The Sermons of the late venerable CLOWES being generally rather short, written in plain, familiar language, and bearing mainly on practical Christianity, are regarded by many readers as being especially adapted for private and family purposes. In order to enlarge this field of most important use, it was deemed advisable to select, for the present edition, a number of Sermons from the Author's Manuscripts, which have not before been printed, sufficient to make a volume, containing a weekly Sermon for every Sunday in the year. In accordance with this idea, twenty-two Sermons are herein added to the thirty-two originally published, making fifty-four in the whole; and it is hoped that, by the Divine blessing, the uses of this Edition will be augmented in like proportion, particularly in the religious exercises of the domestic circle, and in those of individual devotion.
By adopting a more modern page, the above additions have been made without increasing the bulk of the volume.
Manchester, May, 1850.
THE following Discourses were composed by the Author under the fullest persuasion, and most serious conviction, that not only the particular history which is the subject of them, but likewise all the other historical as well as prophetical parts of the Old Testament, contain in them an internal or spiritual sense perfectly distinct from the sense of the letter, and yet veiled under it; and that whilst the literal sense of the Sacred Records treats only of external and natural things,-of persons, places, and events of this lower world, the internal or spiritual sense treats at the same time of internal or spiritual things, such as relate primarily to Jesus Christ Himself, and secondarily to His kingdom in the heavens, and His true Church here upon earth. Under the influence of such a persuasion in his own mind, the Author was willing to impress it also on the minds of those for whose spiritual instruction he stands accountable before God, believing it to be a thing of the utmost importance for every Christian to be fully satisfied, not only concerning the authenticity and genuineness of the Sacred Scriptures, but also concerning that spirituality contained within their letter and history, by which they are most eminently distinguished from all other writings whatsoever, and which alone properly constitutes them what they are so generally called, the Word of God.
In making this avowal of his sentiments, the Author is well aware that he is at once supported and opposed by many high human authorities, which, if the decision rested only on the opinions of men, would render it difficult to decide where the truth lies. But, happily for the Christian Church, this is not the case; the evidence of truth, in this as in all other instances, is to be sought for and found, not in the testimony of man, but of God; not in the human and fallible speculations of finite minds, but in the divine and consequently infallible attestations of the Supreme and Infinite Intelligence. To determine, therefore, in what manner the Sacred Scriptures are written, and whether they contain an internal spiritual sense distinct from that of the letter, or are to be understood merely according to the literal sense, we are not left to the uncertainty of our own vain conjectures, nor yet to the greater hazard of calculation on the conjectures of others. We may possibly tremble whilst we hear it asserted by one learned prelate, that "the Sacred Penmen mere, in some cases, left wholly to themselves, and that their natural qualifications were sufficient to enable them to relate things with all the accuracy they required."1 And we may, perhaps, be equally concerned and surprised, to read in the works of another learned and right reverend author, that "when it is said that Scripture is divinely inspired, it is not to be understood that God suggested every word, or dictated every expression;2 and in another place (though without saying a word of the contrary declaration of St. Paul), "We may venture to pronounce, that in no one book of the Old or New Testament, which professes to relate past occurrences, is there a single instance of allegory."3 By another celebrated writer we are told, in one line, that "the Word of God, like His book of nature, teems with life;" and in the next line we find him darkening, if not contradicting his position, by his own explanation of it, where he says,-"Every part thereof is animated by incident and character."4 On the other hand, we are taught by authorities equally respectable for piety, for learning, and for dignity, that the Sacred Scriptures of the Old Testament contain a sense "which is styled by divines the prophetical, evangelical, mystical, and spiritual sense."5 We hear one to this purport assert, that "the Therapeutae (an ancient sect of the Jews) interpreted the Scriptures of the Old Testament allegorically, and that being wont to seek out the spiritual meaning of the law, they more readily embraced the Gospel than those who looked no further than the outward letter."6 We read in the writings of another, that "us the historical sense of the Holy Scriptures is fetched from the signification of words, so the spiritual from the signification of those things which are signified by the words."7 In like manner we hear a third testifying to " the double sense of prophecy;"8 and a fourth to " the conduct of the mystic allegory of the Scriptures;" and also to " the two-fold character of David, literal and allegorical;"9 and a fifth to the testimony of the primitive Fathers, "who (says he) were unexceptionable witnesses to us of this matter of fact, that such a [spiritual] method of expounding the Psalms, built upon the practice of the Apostles in their writings and preachings, did universally prevail in the church from the beginning."10 We may next consult Vitringa, Glassius, Witsius, Waterland, and other eminent writers who have discussed the subject; and yet, after all, the grand question will still remain to be asked and answered, viz., What is the testimony of God Himself on this important point? In other words, what do the Sacred Scriptures themselves testify concerning themselves, the manner in which they are written, and the sense in which they are to be understood?
1 See Bishop Law's Theory of Religion, quoted and sanctioned by the Bishop of Landaff in his Apology for the Bible, p. 108.
2 See the Bishop of Lincoln's Elements of Christian Theology, part I. chap i. p. 21.
3 See Ditto, p. 69.
4 See Sermons by the Rev. T. Gisburne, p. 174.
5 See Bishop Hornes Preface to his Commentary on the Psalms, p. 10.
6 See Archbishop Wake on the Catholic Epistle of St. Barnabas.
7 See Bishop Hall's Works, folio edition, p. 533.
8 See Bishop Hurd's Introduction to the Study of the Prophecies.
9 See Bishop Lowth on the Hebrew Poetry, Lect. XI.
10 See Bishop Hornes Preface to his Commentary on the Psalms, p. 21.
Now the very titles alone of the writings under consideration, if they be just and proper titles, appear to supply the dearest and most satisfactory answer to the above question,-such, at least, it must be deemed by those who allow the justness and propriety of the titles. For if the writings under consideration be indeed what they are called, Sacred Scriptures, and the Word of God, they must needs, in their very nature, contain a sense distinct from that of the letter, and yet involved within the letter. For the term sacred manifestly implies that they treat of sacred things; and the title "Word of God" plainly implies further, that they are the real speech and language of God, and therefore must contain His Divine will and wisdom, just as the words of a man, when he speaks from sincerity, contain the will and wisdom of the man. They must also contain that will and wisdom equally in one part as in another, since it is impossible to suppose that any part of the speech of God can be without a Divine meaning, or a meaning expressive of His Divine will and wisdom in power and in fulness. If there be, then, a single part or sentence of the Holy Book which does not contain a Divine meaning, it is impossible it can be the inspired speech of God; and alike impossible that it can constitute any part or portion whatsoever of His Divine Word. When therefore the Apostle said-"All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness,"11 his meaning must needs be, that one part of the Sacred Volume is inspired of God alike with another part, and therefore is equally His Divine speech and language, consequently equally alike full of His Divine will and wisdom, and hence not less " profitable for doctrine," &c.
11 2 Tim. iii, 16.
But where now shall we find, or how shall we be able to form any conception of, this Divine will and wisdom of God, thus "profitable for doctrine," &c., and contained in all parts of the Holy Word, if we look no deeper than the letter, and suppose that the literal sense is all that concerns us? It is true, in some cases, the sense even of the letter of the Sacred Volume expresses, in the most energetic fulness, both the will and the wisdom of Him who inspired it; but in how many instances is this not the case! To say nothing of the rituals of the Jewish Church, which form no inconsiderable part of the five books of Moses, commonly called the Pentateuch, what must any rational person conclude respecting the many apparently trivial, and in some cases unjustifiable, circumstances related of the three patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, if they be supposed to refer only to those patriarchs and their history, and to involve in them nothing deeper and more holy? For let it be asked, (but with a holy awe) of what concern is it to us to be informed (if the literal information be all) that "Abraham made a great feast the same day that Isaac was weaned;12 and that afterwards" he dismissed his concubine Hagar;"13 and presently that he provided a wife for his son Isaac, which latter transaction occupies the whole of the 24th chapter of the book of Genesis, and is recorded with a detail of the most minute and seemingly uninteresting particulars? What doctrine, again, what reproof, what correction, or instruction in righteousness, is further to be found in what is related of Isaac's servants "striving about wells of water with the herdmen of Gerar"14 Or in Isaac himself, on his death-bed, "longing for savoury meat, and commanding his son to hunt venison, that he might eat and bless him"15 or in the artifice by which Jacob imposed on his father, and robbed his brother of the intended blessing?16 or yet in the more signal and singular artifice by which he grew rich in the service of his master Laban, as it is recorded in the latter part of the 30th chapter of the book of Genesis? Surely common sense and reason must see that these apparently trivial relations can never be entitled to the sublime and sacred title of the Word of God, if they involve nothing more than what appears on the face of the letter; and, therefore, common sense and reason must acknowledge that if those relations be indeed the inspired speech of the Most High God, they must needs contain a sense worthy of their Divine Author, that is to say, a spiritual and Divine sense, which does not appear in the letter, but yet is concealed and conveyed under the literal history.
12 Gen. xxi. 8.
13 Gen. xxi. 14.
14 See Gen. xxvi. 18 to 22.
15 See Gen. xxvii.
16 See ditto.
We must then either change the titles of our Bibles, and no longer call them Sacred Scriptures and the Word of God, or we must allow that they are replete, in the whole and in every part, with the revealed Will and Wisdom of a Divine Inspirer and Speaker, consequently that they are replete with an internal or spiritual sense distinct from the letter, since, as hath been amply proved, and might be proved yet more abundantly, there are interspersed in the Sacred Volume various historical relations, in the letter of which so traces whatsoever are to be found of any such Divine will and wisdom.
But, thanks be to the Almighty Being who, in his unspeakable mercy, has been pleased to favour us with a revelation of Himself and from Himself there is no necessity for making any alteration in the names of the Heavenly Volume which contains the eternal treasure; because it will appear further, from the infallible testimony of the Holy Book itself, that it is fairly entitled to its high and dignified appellations, being in very deed and truth a Sacred Scripture and the Word of the Living God, by virtue of that deep and divine meaning which lies concealed under every part of its thereby instructive and important letter.
For, let us hear now the words of Jesus Christ Himself on the interesting subject,"Search the Scriptures, for in them ye think ye have eternal life, and they are they which testify of Me."17 What is here meant by "the Scriptures," He thus explains to His disciples after His resurrection:"These are the words which I spake unto you, while I was yet with you, that all things must be fulfilled which were written in the Law of Moses, and in the Prophets, and in the Psalms, concerning Me."18 The Scriptures, then, which we are commanded by Jesus Christ to search, are the Law of Moses, the Prophets, and the Psalms; and we are commanded to search these Holy Records for this most weighty of all reasons, because they testify of Him. But let it be considered, now, in how few passages do the Books of Moses and the Psalms testify of Jesus Christ, if they be regarded only according to the sense of the letter. For according to that sense, their general testimony is merely concerning men and human events, insomuch that there are several whole chapters, and some whole books, which, if viewed according to the letter only, are entirely destitute of any testimony concerning the incarnate God. Besides, if the testimony be confined only to the letter, why is it said that Jesus, after His resurrection, "opened the understanding a His disciples, that they might understand the Scriptures"19 For what need of having the understanding opened by Jesus Christ, if there was nothing to be understood but what was declared in the plain terms of the letter? The disciples had, doubtless, read the letter of the Sacred History over and over, but it seems had read without understanding it, and would have continued so to do, had not the merciful Jesus opened their eyes; which is surely a sufficiently convincing proof that something more was necessary for understanding the Scriptures, than merely to be acquainted with the sense of the letter.
17 John v. 39.
18 Luke xxiv. 44.
19 Luke xxiv. 45.
When Jesus Christ therefore said, "Search the Scriptures," and especially when He added the sacred and powerful motive to such search, "for they are they which testify of Me," He must surely mean to inform the unbelieving Jews, that there was something more contained in the Sacred Records than they had been accustomed to believe; and that this something was a Divine testimony concerning Himself, the incarnate God, which was to be found, not in a few detached sentences interspersed only here and there with a sparing hand, so as to render the search at once difficult and of doubtful success, but was diffused throughout the whole of the Divine Volume, constituting the substance, the vitality, the sanctity, and the unfathomable wisdom of all its most minute parts and particulars. For had this not been the case, why should the Jews be required to search for such a testimony? They, no doubt, had frequently, like the disciples above mentioned, read or heard the Scriptures of Moses, the Prophets, and the Psalms, and yet it is plain, had never discovered, either in their reading or hearing, that these Holy Writings testified at all to the Divine Person of the Blessed Jesus. But how shall me account for so strange a circumstance, that a people who entertained the highest possible respect for the writings of a law-giver whom they believed to be inspired of God, and who were also in the daily habit of reading or hearing those writings, should nevertheless overlook the one grand testimony contained in them, which was of all others the most, the only important? It is impossible to assign any reason for so criminal an oversight, but the grossness of their ideas, in looking no deeper than the sense of the letter of their favourite books, and in not apprehending, as they ought to have done, that the inspired Word of the Most High must needs involve some higher sense and meaning relating to Himself, His kingdom, His church, and His providence. It is impossible, therefore, to assign a reason why Jesus Christ should call this people to search the Scriptures, and to search also for a testimony concerning Himself, unless we suppose that this testimony was contained in and concealed under every part of the letter and history of the inspired Volume, and though "hid from the wise and prudent," was ready to be revealed unto the humble and the simple, who were desirous to find it for their spiritual edification and blessing.
And if this reasoning is seen to be conclusive, what sublime and edifying ideas does it present to our view respecting the contents of the Holy Volume! And with what new eyes are we taught to read, and with what new ears to hear, the consecrated pages of its wonderful history! For if the testimony concerning the Great Redeemer be infused into every part, so as to constitute the very life and soul-the internal spiritual sense and meaning of the Holy Word; if a divine life and idea thus animates, not only the general body of the Sacred Book, but also every sentence, expression, character, and incident; then what a sanctity of heavenly importance, what a sublimity of heavenly instruction, is immediately annexed to what must otherwise appear, in numerous places, destitute of both! Then the devout reader of the Blessed Volume, like the patriarch Jacob awaking out of sleep, is constrained to exclaim, "Surely the Lord is in this place, and I knew it not; this is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven."20 For then, whilst Jesus Christ is seen and confessed in the living records, every thing becomes interesting, every thing sacred and edifying, because every thing is seen to be full of the Divine Spirit and life of that incarnate God; and whilst it bespeaks His presence, it conducts to Him, and infuses more or less of His Divine power, benediction, wisdom, and salvation, into the penitent and believing mind. In this case we are no longer offended at apparent trifles, or even at apparent contradictions, in the Sacred History, because we are enabled to discern, that what is apparently trivial, or apparently contradictory in the letter, is otherwise in the spirit, where all is full of dignity and harmony, because all alike testifies to the incarnate God, His kingdom and church. In this case, too, from the dawning and discovery of the Sun of Righteousness in the Divine Volume, its face and its contents assume a new complexion and character, in like manner as from the rising of the material sun on this world, all its objects, which were before involved in darkness, are seen and viewed as to their real features and beautiful proportions. The persons, therefore, recorded in the Sacred pages are no longer regarded as the mere persons of men; nor the places as the mere habitations of men; nor the events as being what respect only human contingencies here below; nor the animals and plants as the mere creatures and growth of this lower earth; but whilst the believing eye is elevated to Jesus Christ, it catches and beholds in them all, both generally and individually, some blessed trait of His Divine countenance, some signature, more or less conspicuous and brilliant, of His eternal kingdom, power, and glory. Thus all the patriarchs, the prophets, the judges, and the kings of Israel, being seen as representative figures of the Great Redeemer,21 in their several histories we read His history; in the several events of their lives we read the events of His life, and of the life of His church or people. And thus, too, there is not a county, a city, a river, recorded in the Sacred History, but what was intended to open to the enlightened eye of the devout mind some blessed and animating prospect of that spiritual, that eternal world of living realities, in which all the natural things of this lower world originate, and of which they are at once the representative figures and truest manifestations.
20 Gen. xxviii. 16, 17.
21 The ancient patriarchs, prophets, priests, and kings, were typical characters, in their several offices, and the more remarkable passages of their lives.Preface to the Psalms, by Bishop Horne.
That there is nothing either vague, visionary, or enthusiastic in these ideas, but that, on the contrary, they are grounded in certainty, in reality, and in soberness, because they originate in the testimony of the Word of God itself, may yet be further manifest from the declaration of Jesus Christ to the murmuring disciples, who caviled and were offended at some such ideas expressed by Himself in his memorable discourse, as it is recorded in the 6th chapter of the Gospel according to St. John. It appears from that discourse that He had been labouring to convince His hearers that the "manna," with which their fathers mere fed in the wilderness, had relation to Himself, "who was the true bread that cometh down from heaven," (verse 33.) And in enlarging on this very interesting subject, He further instructs them that this "bread was His flesh, which he would give for the life of the world," (verse ii.) Such Divine language, however, appears to have been ill suited to the gross apprehensions of those to whom it, was addressed, and therefore, as we afterwards read, "they strove amongst themselves, saying, How can this Man give us his flesh to eat?" In answer to this cavil, the blessed Jesus proceeds, according to His first idea, to give a fuller declaration of His meaning, and therefore pronounces these awful words:-"Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of Man, and drink His blood, ye have no life in you," (verse 53.) And when this appeared even to His own disciples to be "a hard saying," (verse 60,) He endeavours to silence their murmurings by this extraordinary observation:-"It is the split that quickeneth, the flesh profiteth nothing; the words that I speak unto you, they are Spirit, and they are life, (verse 63.) We are taught then manifestly, by this last declaration of Jesus Christ, that there is a Spirit and a Life in all that He spake and said, and that whensoever, therefore, He adopted natural expressions (as it was absolutely necessary He should do, since otherwise His speech could not have been apprehended by natural minds) He always annexed to them spiritual ideas and spiritual life, and intended them to convey such ideas and such life to His hearers. Thus in the instance under consideration, where he applies the natural terms flesh, body, and blood, it is His manifest design, by and through those material images, to direct the thoughts and affections of His disciples to those living and eternal principles which were in and from Himself and which constituted Himself, viz., His Divine love and Divine wisdom, and to teach them the saving lesson, that it was absolutely necessary they should receive those vital principles from Him, and incorporate them into their own lives, in order to their attaining eternal life; in other words, that this was eternal life, to receive and to incorporate into themselves those vital principles. And as the blessed Jesus spake thus in the New Testament, there is every reason to suppose that He adopted a similar mode of speech in the Old, by virtue of which, under natural figures and images, whether of persons, places, or things, He intended to involve and to express spiritual ideas, and convey spiritual life. "The words which I speak, they are spirit and they are life," is a declaration, then, which applies alike to both Testaments, inasmuch as both are the Word and speech of the same Living God;-the one, of Jehovah before His manifestation in the flesh, the other, of the same Jehovah in the person of Jesus Christ after His manifestation; and therefore we are to conclude, since in God is "no variableness or shadow of change," that in both Testaments, under the literal expressions of the history, spiritual and eternal things !called by the speaker Spirit and Life) are hidden, to the intent that they may be conveyed and discovered to such as are in a desire to find them, and in a state to profit by them, whilst at the same time they are mercifully and providentially concealed from others.
And this view of the subject will enable us to explain a mystery in the language of Jesus Christ, which must otherwise remain for ever inexplicable, and involved in the thickest darkness, viz., the distinction which He makes between His Word and His speech, as likewise between what He said and what He spake. Thus He questions the unbelieving Jews-"Why do ye not understand my speech?" And then instantly returns Himself the singular answer-"Because ye cannot hear My Word."22 And thus He declares to them in another place-"I have not spoken of Myself, but the Father which sent Me, He gave Me a commandment what I should say, and what I should speak."23 But what, now, shall we say is the ground of these strange distinctions between the Word and the speech of Jesus Christ, and also between what He said and what He spake, unless me allow His language to have two distinct senses,-a natural sense, adapted to the apprehension, and calculated for the instruction of the natural man; and a spiritual sense, adapted to the apprehension, end calculated for the instruction of the spiritual man? If we reject this idea, the distinctions are involved in mystery and obscurity, because it is impossible to suppose that there can be any thing like tautology in the language of God: but if we adopt this idea, the distinctions are clear, the mystery is unraveled, and the obscurity gives place to a bright and cheering light, because in this latter case we are enabled to discern, that what Jesus Christ calls His Word, and what He says, has relation more especially to His internal meaning, or to the spiritual ideas concealed under His external expressions; and that what He calls His speech, and what He speaks, has more immediate reference to the expressions themselves, and to the external or natural images thereby conveyed. With good reason, therefore, might He press home to the Jews the awful conclusion, that they "did not understand His speech, because they could not hear His Word," since it must needs be impossible to comprehend the full force and meaning of the external language or speech of God, unless they were attentive to the spiritual affections and ideas involved in it; in like manner as it is impossible to comprehend the full force and meaning of the language of a man, whilst the mind of the hearer is intent only on the outward sounds, without attending to and endeavouring to collect the true sense and purport which those sounds were designed to convey.
22 John viii. 43.
23 John xii. 49.
With this view of the subject, too, we are enabled further to discover the reason why Jesus Christ so frequently addressed His hearers in the remarkable and weighty words,-"He that hath ears to hear, let him hear." For it is manifest that these words must needs have reference to something which was not to be heard by the outward ears of the material body, or yet of the mere natural mind, since all those to whom the Saviour addressed them, had alike "ears to hear" His outward speech and language. If, then, there was nothing more contained in that speech and language but what was expressed in the letter of it, why should the Divine Speaker still say to His hearers"He that hath ears to hear, let him hear," when get He must needs be aware that they all alike heard plainly that language and speech? But if that language and speech involved in it some deeper meaning than what the sound expressed; if it contained some pearls of heavenly wisdom for which the letter served only as a casket, then we discover at once the propriety, the reasonableness, the Divine purpose, force, and mercy of the admonitory precept, "He that hath ears to hear, let him hear."
It would be endless to point out all the passages in the Sacred Scriptures which bear testimony to this great truth, that they contain, under their varied history and letter, an internal and spiritual sense and meaning perfectly distinct from what the history or letter itself expresses, and that this internal sense and meaning is what principally constitutes them the Word of God, and entitles them to the high and holy appellation of Sacred Scriptures. But it ought not to be passed over in silence on this occasion, that Jesus Christ Himself adverts to two historical acts, as recorded in the Books of Moses, in both of which, according to His own Divine declaration, there is contained and conveyed that spiritual and hidden wisdom of which me have been speaking. The facts are, first, the miracle of the manna, as related in the 16th chapter of the Book of Exodus; and, secondly, the lifting up of the brazen serpent, as recorded in the 21st chapter of the Book of Numbers, each of which. we learn from the authority of the Great Redeemer, had respect unto Himself, agreeably to what He teaches in John, chap. iii. 14, 15; and chap. vi. 31, 32, 33. Now if these two historical facts involve in them a spiritual sense and meaning, as they must needs do, whilst they are declared by the Incarnate God to have respect to Himself; and if this internal sense and meaning be not discoverable from the facts themselves, but is perfectly distinct from them, and could not hare been known so certainly, had not Jesus Christ Himself been pleased to unfold it; then surely a strong presumptive evidence at least is hence deducible, that every other historical fact recorded in the same Sacred Books, and by the same Inspired Penman, is alike significative and holy, involving in it the same Divine testimony, and expressive of the same sublime and heavenly wisdom, though possibly the fact itself, as to its letter and history, may not appear to be stored and enriched with such important and valuable contents.
It ought not, again, to be passed over in silence, that Jesus Christ speaks of the patriarchs Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, in their representative characters as figures of Himself, where He describes the blessedness of His kingdom, by setting down24 with those pious fathers of the Jewish people, and by "lying in the bosom;" for it is written, that when Lazarus died "he was carried by the angels into Abraham's bosom."25 What could be the blessedness which the Saviour intended to express, if by Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, nothing more had been meant than the society and friendship of those three men? The bliss of the heavenly kingdom is assuredly a heavenly and spiritual bliss, derived from the love of the Divine Sovereign, and from mutual love; and consequently it would never have been figured and expressed by the association of merely human beings, unless they had been intended to represent that best of Beings, the Creator and Redeemer of the universe, whose Divine mercy, and love, and wisdom is the alone source of a solid and satisfactory joy to His penitent children. To the same purpose, it is plain, from the concurrent testimony of the Sacred Scriptures, David was intended to represent Jesus Christ, since numberless things are spoken of that King of Israel throughout the Sacred Records, and especially in the Psalms, which cannot be supposed in any sense to apply to him, unless the application be made to his figurative and representative character. And let any one read with due attention the blessing with which Jacob blessed his sons, as recorded in the 49th chapter of Genesis, and also the blessings pronounced by Moses oil the twelve tribes, as recorded in the 33rd chapter of Deuteronomy, and then say whether he conceives it possible that those blessings could be applied, in any satisfactory sense and meaning whatsoever, to the sons of Jacob, and the twelve tribes, only so far as they were representative, both generally and individually, of those spiritual and eternal principles from Jesus Christ, which constitute at once His Word, His kingdom, and His church. Let him read also the beginning of the 114th Psalm, where it is written, "When Israel went out of Egypt, the house of Jacob from a people of strange language, Judah was his sanctuary, and Israel his dominion," and then say what is to be understood by Judah being the sanctuary, and Israel the dominion of Israel and the house of Jacob, unless something more be meant by Judah and Israel, then the mere tribes so denominated.
24 Matt. viii. 11.
25 Luke xvi. 23, 23.
Were any further evidence necessary in confirmation of the position here intended to be established, it might be sought for successfully in the writings of St. Paul, who declares expressly concerning some historical facts recorded in the Book of Genesis, that they are all allegory ([Greek]),26 in other words, that they involve an internal sense and meaning distinct from the letter; and who instructs us also, that the events discussed in the following discourses, relative to the journeyings of the children of Israel in the wilderness, are to be regarded as types,27 for so the original term [Greek], which we render ensamples, ought to have been expressed. Again, in his Epistle to the Hebrews, the Apostle manifestly considers the whole of the Jewish rituals in the same instructive point of view, as must be plain to every reader who will be at the pains to pursue the edifying and interesting chain of reasoning which distinguishes that epistle. And it is well known that, guided by such an example, and supported by such authority, the primitive Fathers of the Christian Church who were most celebrated for their piety and learning, cherished the same spiritual ideas of the contents of the Sacred Scriptures, as may be seen more especially in the writings of Jerome, Ambrose, Amobius, Cassiodore, Hilary, Prosper, Chrysostom, Theodoret, and Tertullian. Thus, as the right rev. author above quoted expresses it, "They are unexceptionable witnesses to us of this matter of fact, that such a spiritual method of expounding the Scriptures did universally prevail in the church from the beginning." And although some of them might possibly fall into extravagancies in their mode of interpretation, and might lament, as one of them (Jerome) is reported to have done, that in the fervours of a youthful fancy they had spiritualized what they had not understood, yet this is no argument against the truth of the thing itself; it is only a proof, amongst many others, that the best of men, through a blind and misguided zeal, may occasionally be mistaken: and is therefore a reason, not why we should cease to look for a spiritual interpretation of the Sacred Records, but only why we should seek and pray more earnestly for a pure light and sure guidance, to direct us in our interpretations.
26 Gal. iv. 24.
27 Cor. x. 6.
It must indeed be acknowledged, that according to the above views of the subject, there is a difficulty in conceiving, at first sight, how, consistently with human freedom, historical occurrences could have been so directed and over-ruled by the Almighty, as to be made subservient to the purposes of bearing testimony to higher things, by pointing to the Great Redeemer and His kingdom, and thus, in their significative and figurative character, manifesting and expressing the spiritual things of that kingdom. But this difficulty vanishes at once, if it be considered what and whose wisdom was concerned in such contrivance and direction. For, as the pious and right rev. Commentator on the Psalms excellently observes, "The great Disposer of events, known unto whom are all His works from the beginning to the end of time, was able to effect this; and the Scripture allegories are therefore equally true in the letter, and in the spirit of them."28 It must therefore be for ever lamented by every lover of piety and learning, that a writer whose talents and erudition have both commanded and secured the respect of the Christian world, should be betrayed into the unguarded assertion, that in respect to the Mosaic history, the whole must be allegorical, or the whole literal.29 For why might not the whole be at once both? In other words, where could be the difficulty for Infinite Wisdom so to plan, and so to record historical facts, that they may be true both in their literal and in their significative sense, and thus, whilst they are events which really happened amongst men, may point to, and serve to record the unsearchable wisdom, and unutterable mercy, of the Great Creator and Redeemer, in the divine and spiritual administration of His church and kingdom?
28 See Preface to the Psalms, p. 37.
29 See Maurices History, vol i. p. 368.
But it is urged by those who are unwilling to admit of any such spiritual or allegorical way of interpreting the Sacred pages, that there is a danger attending it, or, as it is expressed by a learned prelate, that "the practice of allegorizing the Scriptures has been attended with the worst consequences."30 And, indeed, it must be confessed that there is some foundation for this remark of the right rev. author, and that "the practice of allegorizing," as he terms it, has not always been executed with judgment, nor attended with edification; but on the contrary, that whilst it has manifested in many instances a want of sound knowledge and discretion on the part of the interpreter, it has tended as frequently to bewilder and mislead his weak and over-credulous readers. But the question is, How shall we get rid of this danger? Shall we say, because in some cases the practice of allegorizing has been attended with ill consequences, that therefore it ought to be altogether discarded as visionary and groundless? Surely this is to plunge ourselves into a danger incalculably more dangerous, since it is presuming to say, that the Word of God does not, either in the whole or in its parts, bear testimony to Jesus Christ; that it relates only to human occurrences and events, and has no more of Divine Spirit and life in its histories, than other human records can pretend to. And what is all this but stopping up the "wells of salvation," so that no water of life can be extracted thence for the nourishment, health, and refreshment of those for whose spiritual benefit and consolation it was principally intended? Or, to change the metaphor, what is it but closing our eyes at once against every lay of heavenly wisdom, intelligence, and illumination, and thus reducing the Christian Church to that miserable Jewish darkness and blindness described by the prophet:-"The Lord hath poured out upon you the spirit of deep sleep, and hath closed your eyes; the prophets and your rulers the seers hath He covered. And the vision of all is become unto you as a book that is sealed, which men deliver to one that is learned, saying, Read this, I pray thee; and he saith, I cannot: for it is sealed."31 While attempting, then, to get rid of the danger of allegorizing the Scriptures, we must take heed how we fall into the greater danger of denying their allegorical sense and meaning. We ought therefore to digest well the wisdom which teaches that "a principle is not therefore to be rejected because it has been abused."32 We ought also to use heavenly prudence and discretion in our spiritual interpretations of the Sacred Records; and since all such prudence and discretion is of God, and not of ourselves, we must apply ourselves in devout prayer to the Divine Author of the holy pages, to give us those graces, and with them a right understanding of His Divine Word, agreeably with the practice of the Psalmist, where he prays,-"Open Thou mine eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of Thy law."33 If me are thus careful to guard ourselves by supplication to the incarnate God, of whom the Scriptures testify, and to interpret them according to the spirit of His holy love, charity, meekness, and humility, we may then have the consolation and the confidence to believe, that me shall not only be out of the reach of mischief in our interpretations of the Holy Volume, but shall also be conducted by the Divine Spirit and life to the possession of all that wisdom, blessing, and salvation, which the Word of God, in every part, was intended to supply to the humble, the penitent, and the believing, agreeably to the testimony of the Psalmist,-"Through Thy precepts I get understanding, therefore I hate every false way."34
30 See Elements of Christian Theology, by the Bishop or Lincoln, vol. i. p. 69.
31 Isaiah xxix. 10, 11.
32 See Bishop Hurd's Introduction to the Study of the Holy Scriptures.
33 Psalm cxix. 18.
34 Psalm cxix. 104.
If the Reader wants yet further satisfaction on the above important subject, the Author of the following pages has the happiness to think that he is able to direct him to it, and to assure him that, if he will follow the direction faithfully, he will not be disappointed in his search. But he must first take the liberty to ask him whether he can be content to seek what he wants, in the mire of obloquy and reproach? Has he the discernment to discover it in the dark shade of defamation, and the courage and patience to dig it out from under the rubbish of contumely, of contempt, and of the most opprobrious appellations? Moreover, is he seeking the desired information, not in the spirit of a vain and idle curiosity, still less with a view to gratify his vanity and ambition, but that, by becoming better acquainted with the laws of that eternal life and order which are revealed in the Word of God, and more fully persuaded of their Divine origin, he may be the better enabled to fulfil the Divine intentions of his heavenly Father, and thus become a regenerate child of His mercy and kingdom? If such be the reader's temper and qualifications-if he be actuated by that pure love of the eternal truth which will prompt him to pursue her whithersoever she conducts him, whether through good report or evil report, he may then safely be informed, that in the writings of a learned and honourable Foreigner, which have lately been translated from the original Latin into the English language, he may find the dearest and fullest confirmations of the divinity, the spirituality, sad the blessed tendency of the inspired Books of Moses and the Prophets. Does ha yet ask the name of this extraordinary writer? Let him seek it (where the proper name of a writer can alone be found) is his edifying writings, until he blushes to discover that the mad, the visionary, the enthusiastic, the nonsensical Swedenborg, as the world, and perhaps himself, has been pleased to call him, ought rather to have been surnamed the sound theologian, the able and luminous expositor of the Word of God, the cool and sober investigator of holy truth, the conductor to the heights of evangelical virtue, the declared foe to every species of enthusiasm, fanaticism, and disorder, whether civil or religious; the strenuous asserter of that fundamental article of Christian faith, the incarnation of the Son of God, and His oneness with the eternal Father; the loud preacher of repentance and regeneration; and thus finally the restorer of the only true Christian religion, viz., a belief in Jesus Christ as the only God of heaven and earth, and a, life according to His holy commandments of love and charity.
It is hardly to be expected that the reader will acquiesce in the propriety of this surname, unless he is already well acquainted with the writings which bespeak it; but be the reader's judgment what it may, the Author of the following discourses is free to confess himself most perfectly satisfied about such propriety, and conceives himself bound further to acknowledge, that many of the best thoughts contained in the succeeding pages are derived from that truly astonishing and edifying work entitled Arcana Coelestia, written by the above honourable Writer. This work is an exposition of the internal spiritual sense of the Books of Genesis and Exodus; and whilst it demonstrates that in those books, as Jerome expresseth it-"Singula verba plena sunt sensibus," or, as it is otherwise expressed by Tertullian, that "Ratio divina in medull est, non in superficie," it supplies at the same time the fullest and most convincing proof of the Divine inspiration, not only of the particular books of which it treats, but of all the other books of Moses, of the Prophets, and the Psalms. But if the Author is not ashamed to make this confession, he has sufficient reason to blush that his own explication falls so far short of the honourable Writer's in the above work, insomuch that he should never have been induced to present it to public notice, had he not been led to conceive, from the representations of others, that it may have its use in serving as an introduction to the more excellent and extensive interpretation contained in that work.
Separate however from this consideration, the Author is not without a hope, that if the following Discourses be read in that humble and teachable spirit which the fear of God inspires, they may be found conducive, as far as they go, towards establishing the reader in a well-grounded conviction respecting the internal spiritual sense of the Inspired Writings, and thus lead him to seek for, and to cherish more and more of their heavenly life and spirit in his heart and conversation. And it is his most devout prayer that they may be attended with this happy effect, and thus be instrumental in advancing the reader's progress towards the attainment of those evangelical graces and virtues, which alone separate man from his corruptions, open to him the kingdom of heaven, and fulfil the end of all knowledge, by rendering him a regenerate child of his heavenly Father, and thereby conjoining him with Jesus Christ and His kingdom, through a participation of His eternal mercy, truth, and blessedness.
The system of interpretation according to which Swedenborg explains the spiritual or internal sense of God's Word, is called the Science of Correspondences between things natural and moral, and things spiritual and divine. This science is founded on the laws of creation, and is, consequently, unchangeable in its nature. By this system the Divine Word is interpreted, and its spiritual sense made manifest, on the most solid principles, and with the utmost uniformity. This is the "key of knowledge" which opens the "wondrous things of Gods Word." This, when faithfully employed, entirely shuts out the possibility of mere fancy and conjecture as to the interior meaning;-a serious objection often alleged both by the ancients and moderns against the spiritual interpretation of the Scriptures, but which objection is now entirely removed by the Science of Correspondences which Swedenborg, through the Divine Mercy, for the spiritual instruction of mankind, was enabled and permitted to develop in his works expounding the spiritual sense of the Holy Word.35
35 See especially his works entitled "Arcana Coelestia" and "Apocalypse Explained," in which he expounds the spiritual sense of Genesis, Exodus, and the Apocalypse, and generally, a great part of the Word.
The Author cannot conclude his too long introduction, in words better suited to express his sentiments than those of the pious and right rev. Commentator on the Psalms adverted to above, who, speaking on the subject of the following discourses expresses himself thus:-"We are taught by the writers of the New Testament, to consider this part of the Israelitish history (the Call out of Egypt) as one continued figure, or allegory. We are told that there is another spiritual Israel of God; other children or" Abraham, and heirs of promise; another circumcision; another Egypt, from the bondage of which they are redeemed; another wilderness through which they journey; other dangers and difficulties which there await them; other bread from heaven for their support; and another rock to supply them with living water; other enemies to overcome; another land of Canaan, and another Jerusalem, which they are to obtain, and to possess for ever."36
36 See Preface, p. 54.
SERMON I. Page.
Moses and Aaron appear before Pharaoh-Aaron's Rod is turned
into a Serpent, and swallows up the Rods of the Magicians 1
The Waters of Egypt turned into Blood 9
Reflections on the multiplied Plagues of Egypt 18
The Children of Israel borrow Jewels of Gold and Silver, and spoil the Egyptians 22
The Death of the First-born, and the Institution of the Passover 28
The Children of Israel not led through the Land of the Philistines, but through the Way of the Wilderness-the Pillar of a Cloud by Day and of Fire by
Night-the Pursuit of Pharaoh, and his overthrow in the Red Sea 33
Moses' Song, or the Duty and Advantages of Spiritual Singing 40
The Bitter Waters of Marah, and the miraculous method by which they mere
made Sweet 47
The Israelites murmur for want of Bread 55
The Miracle of the Manna 61
On the Laws respecting the Manna 68
On the want of Water, and its miraculous Supply from the Rock in Horeb 75
On Amaleh coming up to fight with Israel 82
On Moses, Aaron, and Hur, at the top of the Hill, whilst the Battle below, is
determined by the holding up and letting down of Moses' Hands 89
The Counsel of Jethro, or the great Laws of spiritual Subordination 96
The Israelites at Mount Sinai, or the Truth and Sanctity of the Decalogue104
On the Tabernacle in the Wilderness 112
On the Offerings for the Tabernacle 119
On the several parts of the Tabernacle, with their Contents, viz., the Ark, the
Mercy-Seat, the Cherubim, the Shew-Bread, the Candlestick, the
Brazen Altar, and the Laver 126
On the Golden Calf 132
The Manna loathed 139
On the Spies sent out to search the Land 145
On the two different Reports of the Spies 152
On the Rebellion of Korah, Dathan, and Abiram, and in what its Sin consisted 159
On the Punishment of Korah, Dathan, and Abiram 166
On the Fiery Serpents, with which the Children of Israel were bitten in the
On the Brazen Serpent set up by Moses, as a Remedy against the Bite of the
Fiery Serpents 178
On the History of Balaam 184
On the Request of the two Tribes to take up their Inheritance on this side Jordan 191
On the Death of Moses, and the Appointment of Joshua to conduct the People
of Israel over Jordan 198
On the Passage of the Children of Israel over Jordan, and their entrance into the promised Land 205
On taking Possession of the promised Land, with a Consideration of the
Reasons why the wicked Inhabitants were expelled by little and little, and why some were left to prove Israel 211
The great Importance and blessed Results of seeking the Kingdom of God 217
Ditto ditto ditto 222
Ditto ditto ditto 228
Ditto ditto ditto 235
The Purity and Excellence of the Divine Law and Testimony 241
Ditto ditto ditto 247
Ditto ditto ditto 254
The Danger of Religious Lukewarmness 259
The Parable of the Talents 266
Ditto ditto ditto 272
Ditto ditto ditto 279
The Prophet's Rebuke of Jerusalem explained and practically applied 285
Ditto ditto ditto 291
The great Duty of Christian Prayer-To whom Prayer should be addressed-
The States of Mind necessary for the profitable Exercise and
Efficacy of Prayer 298
Ditto ditto ditto 304
Ditto ditto ditto 309
Ditto ditto ditto 314
Ditto ditto ditto 321
The Divinely predicted New Jerusalem, and how to be prepared for the
Second Coming of the Lord 328
Ditto ditto ditto 333
The Meaning and Blessedness of a Single Eye 338
The merciful Operations of the Divine Providence,-that they are equally
over all Things in general, and the Minutest Things in particular 346
Moses and Aaron appear before Pharaoh-Aaron's rod is turned into a serpent, and swallows up the rods of the Magicians.
"And remember that thou wast a servant in the land of Egypt, and that the LORD thy God brought thee out thence through a mighty hand and by a stretched out arm."-DEUT. v. 15.
THE call and deliverance of the children of Israel out of the land of Egypt is one of those extraordinary events which at once commands the attention, and promotes the education of the contemplative mind. It is impossible to think of such a signal operation of the Divine Power and Providence, without an equal mixture of astonishment and veneration; and whether it be regarded in a general view only, or examined more minutely as to the particular circumstances attending it,-whether it be considered in its merely historical and literal sense, or according to that more spiritual and internal meaning which we have reason to believe lies concealed under the letter in every part of the Word of God, we may be bold to pronounce, that there never was a fact recorded in history which combined in itself more of true greatness and instruction, both in its causes and in its consequences. Accordingly, we find in the Sacred Scriptures an especial stress laid continually upon this distinguished event. In the book from whence my text is taken, it is appealed to no less than eight1 several times, and on each occasion a strict charge is given to the children of Israel to keep it in remembrance.
1 Deut. v. 15; chap. vi. 12; chap. vii, 18; chap. xv. 15; chap. xvi. 3, 12; chap. xxiv. 18, 22.
Such, then, being the importance of the event under consideration, I could greatly wish to engage your present attention to some of its more particular circumstances, that so, through the divine mercy, we may be led to find in it all that saving wisdom and instruction which it was doubtless intended to convey to the most remote generations of mankind.
The first circumstance herein to which I shall call your notice, is very remarkable. Egypt was at this time a large and powerful kingdom, and governed by Pharaoh, who was a mighty but a wicked and unbelieving monarch. Turn now your eyes towards the palace of this prince, and you will see there a very strange, yet interesting sight; for behold two obscure men, whose names are Moses and Aaron, going up thither to deliver a message to the king. They were of the family of the children of Israel, who at this time had become very numerous in the land of Egypt, and were in a state of bondage. The import of the message which these men have to deliver, is still more extraordinary. It was expressed in these authoritative words,-"Thus saith the Lord God of Israel, let my people go, that they may hold a feast unto Me in the wilderness."2 You are surprised, perhaps, at the boldness of these two men in going and delivering such a message to so great a monarch; but you ought to be informed that one of them had previously received the message from God, who had appeared to him for this very purpose "in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush,"3 as he was keeping the flock of his father-in-law in the desert. The boldness, therefore, with which the message was delivered, as well as the message itself, was from God, for God never engages his servants in any undertaking, but he supplies them also with courage and resolution to accomplish it.
2 Exod. v. 1.
3 Exod. iii. 2.
4 Prov. xxviii. 1.
It must be plain to every considerate person that Moses and Aaron, on this interesting occasion, were but instruments in the hands of the Almighty to effect His gracious purpose of bringing deliverance to His captive people, by the ministration of His Divine and Most Holy Word; they may be regarded therefore as representative figures of that Word which they administered, since all that they spake and did was under its guidance, in conformity to its dictates, and supported by its authority. It is the Word of God, then, which ought to be regarded as the principal, the supreme agent in this miraculous message to the monarch of Egypt, and in the consequent rescue of the children of Israel from the bondage under which they groaned. And how ought this consideration to impress our minds with a devout sense of that inconceivable mercy, which has been pleased to communicate to us all the fulness of that Word, as we possess it in our Bibles! How ought we also to attend to the divine wisdom which it speaks, to the divine consolation which it inspires, to the divine message of salvation which it conveys, to the Divine Omnipotence by which it effects our deliverance from the tyranny of those most terrible of all task-masters, sin and the devil, whilst it is ever disposed to say and do all that for us which Moses and Aaron of old said and did for the children of Israel, when they went in unto Pharaoh and accosted him in the divine language,"Thus saith the LORD GOD Of Israel, let My people go, that they may hold a feast unto Me in the wilderness."
But to return unto the king of Egypt. The message was received by him in such a temper and spirit as might well be expected from a thoughtless and imperious monarch. "Who is the Lord," saith he, "that I should obey His voice, to let Israel go? I know not the Lord, neither will I let Israel go."5
5 Exod. v, 2.
The kind purposes of God, nevertheless, are not to be thwarted in their operation by the slights of unthinking man. The messages of God to a careless and sinful world, though at first rejected, must be again repeated. Such is the divine mercy, it can never rest and be satisfied, until every possible expedient has been tried to gather every human mind out of vanity and misery, into the bosom of the fatherly tenderness, blessing, and protection of a compassionate Redeemer. Accordingly we find, in the history before us, though Moses and Aaron did not succeed in their first message to Pharaoh, they are not on that account discouraged. For lo! they appear a second time at the court of the Egyptian king. But what is that which you now see in the hand of Aaron? Behold it is a rod; for so the Lord had before instructed him, saying, "Take thy rod, and cast it before Pharaoh, and it shall become a serpent."
6 Exod, iv. 2, 3; vii. 9, 10.
Who can help remarking, on this occasion, a further instance of the divine compassion and forbearance? It might reasonably have been thought, when Pharaoh had rejected the first message of God, that God would then have left him to suffer the consequences of his perverseness, without exerting any other means to convince and reclaim him. But how infinitely does the mercy of the Most High exceed all the bounds of human thought and conception! A divine miracle is now wrought, to persuade him who was not to be persuaded by intreaty, and it is a miracle peculiarly adapted to instruct as well as to persuade: The rod of God's messenger is changed into a serpent, a creeping, subtle, and poisonous reptile, before the eyes of Pharaoh and his servants. By this most significative sign, God would have warned the Egyptian monarch of the dreadful consequences of his unbelief, in its tendencies to convert the divine power, and grace, and life, into mere serpentine cunning, and the poisonous, destructive lusts of mere sensual principles and persuasions, which admit of no elevation towards heaven and its joys, but are always creeping on the earth of gross terrestrial and corporeal gratifications. Thus would He warn all succeeding generations of men to take good heed, lest by immersing their desires in the things of time and sense, and thus, through unbelief and impenitence, separating themselves from heaven and its blessed life, they should again convert the divine rod into a serpent, whilst, instead of ruling over their corruptions through the divine grace and power, their corruptions bear rule over them, rendering them subtle, sensual, earthly, and infernal.
But the wonder does not end here,-"Pharaoh," we read, "called the wise men and the sorcerers: now the magicians of Egypt they also did in like manner with their enchantments; for they cast down every man his rod, and they became serpents."7 What a singular spectacle is here presented to our view!
7 Exod. vii. 11, 12.
But let us return to the palace of Pharaoh, to witness still a fresh wonder. Behold, by a most marvelous and miraculous agency, Baron's rod swallows up the rods of the enchanters and magicians! For so it is written, "Aaron's rod swallowed up their rods."8 It is surely impossible for the most inconsiderate mind to mistake or misinterpret the plain language of this memorable sign; for who cannot see if he will but open his eyes, that Aaron's rod figures and denotes the almighty power of the grace and truth of God; and that the rods of the magicians and enchanters of Egypt figure and denote the contrary powers of sin and darkness, which would confound and pervert the divine power? Who cannot see, therefore, that by Aaron's rod swallowing up their rods, is figured and described, in the plainest and most impressive terms, the superiority of the divine power of the Most High God over all opposing powers, and that God hereby meant to convince Pharaoh, beyond all contradiction, that his magical and enchanting powers could not stand, and were as nothing, before the divine power of the Maker of heaven and earth?
8 Exod. vii. 12.
I should now proceed to consider the other circumstances of this most instructive history, but the present time will only permit me to observe how much it is to be lamented that this, as well as the other historical relations contained in the Old Testament, is so seldom regarded and attended to in any other light than as a mere history of facts, which have nothing more in them than the facts recorded in other common histories. But do not reason and religion conjointly forbid us so to degrade the Holy Word of the Most High God? For, if the Bible be (as we profess to believe, and as it undoubtedly is) the Word of God, who cannot see that it must be something more than a mere history of external facts, such as men are every day writing, and must therefore contain, under the letter of its history, an internal sense and meaning worthy of the wisdom of an all-wise God, and accommodated to the spiritual instruction of those for whose spiritual use and eternal benefit it was designed? Accordingly we find that in all ages of the Church, the best and wisest of her members have ever entertained this holy and sublime idea of the sacred Scriptures; and indeed the idea seems so congenial to all that is good and wise in our nature, that it appears as if man must take some uncommon pains to pervert both his heart and his understanding, before he can entirely divest himself of it.
Let us, then, beloved, be careful how we fall into such terrible perversion; let us rather cherish holy and worthy ideas of the Word of God; let us pray continually to God to enlighten our understandings and purify our hearts, that we may be qualified to behold the treasures of His ineffable wisdom which are stored up in the sacred Volume; let us dig deep for these treasures by a constant, diligent, and serious perusal of the heavenly pages.
The Waters of Egypt turned into Blood.
"And remember that thou wast a servant in the land of Egypt, and that the LORD thy God brought thee out thence through a mighty hand and by a stretched out arm."-DEUT v. 15.
IN a former discourse on these words, we have taken a view of some particular circumstances relating to the extraordinary history of the call and deliverance of the children of Israel out of the land of Egypt. We have attended Moses and Aaron to the palace of Pharaoh, the king of Egypt; we have heard the awful message which they delivered to this mighty monarch from the God of their fathers; we have witnessed the scorn and contempt with which the message was rejected; and we have further seen the two consecrated messengers not daunted with their first disappointment, but appearing again at the court of the Egyptian prince, to convince him by a miracle who was not to be convinced by persuasion. On this occasion we were surprised to behold the rod of Aaron turned into a serpent, and also the rods of the magicians and enchanters of Pharaoh; but our wonder was increased at observing that the rod of Aaron swallowed up their rods.
Having on that occasion made such observations on all these separate events as seemed most conducive to spiritual improvement, let me now direct your attention to some further circumstances of this most wonderful and edifying relation; and may that Holy Being who was the sole author and contriver of the various means whereby this deliverance of His people was effected, bless every circumstance thereof to our spiritual instruction and edification!
1 Exod. vii. 14-18.
2 Exod. vii. 20, 21.
One reflection must naturally occur to every thinking mind on hearing or reading the above terrible calamity inflicted on a thoughtless prince and his thoughtless people. The reflection I mean is this, that when other methods are found ineffectual to call men to repentance, and to hasten their conversion unto the God of heaven, it is then the usual plan of the Divine Providence to employ the salutary scourge of affliction for the purpose of begetting serious thought and apprehension.
Another reflection, which will not fail to be suggested in the considerate mind on the above occasion, is this, that the conversion of water into blood, which is here described as the terrible effect of Pharaoh's disobedience to the kind requirement of a merciful God, was not only a calamity intended to scourge and to alarm, but was also a miracle and a mercy intended to admonish and instruct; in other words, it was not an arbitrary punishment inflicted merely in the way of chastisement and correction, but it was likewise a most significative type or figure, ordained, like all other natural calamities, for information and edification, by expressing and representing, most minutely and precisely, that spiritual corruption of heart and life in which it originated, and thus by making manifest that corruption, as in an exact image and picture, to the eyes of the beholders. For the natural element of water, we learn from the authority of the sacred Scriptures, is itself a type or figure of that eternal truth of the Word of God in which it originates, and which it was intended to express and make manifest in this world of nature; accordingly we read in the Gospel that Jesus Christ, when speaking of that truth of which He was at once both the divine Source and Medium of conveyance, marks it by the significant appellation of water, as where He saith-"Whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him, shall never thirst, but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life;"3 and in another place-"He that believeth on Me, as the Scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water;"4 in which words it is plain that water and living water are terms applied by our blessed Lord to express that heavenly principle of holy truth which proceedeth from Himself, the incarnate God.
3 John iv. 11.
4 John vii. 38.
5 Isaiah i. 8, 15.
6 Ezek. ix. 9.
7 John iii. 19.
But, to return to Pharaoh, it might reasonably have been expected that the heart of the Egyptian king would have been moved to repentance and humiliation by this signal and significative scourge brought upon himself and his kingdom.
8 Exod. vii. 22, 23.
Wicked and careless men generally confirm themselves in their wickedness by vain and false reasonings; it is therefore not at all improbable that the Egyptian king might employ some delusive sophistry on this occasion, to weaken the impressions and stifle the convictions which the waters of blood must otherwise have excited in his mind. We may suppose, for instance, that he reasoned with himself in such manner as this,-"The rivers of my kingdom are indeed turned into blood, the fish thereof are dead, and my people cannot drink of the water of the river. These certainly are awful and portentous signs; but how do I know whether they are from God or not? Perhaps they may be nothing more than mere natural effects; perhaps they may owe their birth to mere incidental causes, and have come to pass in the common course of human events; possibly, too, even allowing that they are from God, they are no proof at all that he requires any thing at my hands; for what connection is there between the circumstance of a river turned into blood and the requirement of God that I should let His people go?" Alas! unhappy and deluded prince! How is worldly greatness to be commiserated, which is thus exposed to the temptations suggested by vain reasonings and speculative infidelity!
Beloved, we see plainly the specious fallacy by which, in those days, the unhappy monarch of Egypt suffered his understanding to be darkened against the light of truth, and drew upon himself and his kingdom a series of repeated calamities in his wilful and hardened opposition to the contrivances and operations of a gracious Providence calling him to repentance. But whilst our eyes are open to see another's wanderings in the mazes of error, it surely becomes us to take heed unto ourselves. Whilst me are surprised at the folly which could heretofore, in the character of a great prince, set itself against Omnipotence, let it be our wisdom, in our more private characters, to watch against the influence of a similar folly. We do not, indeed, behold, in our land the rod of Aaron lifted up literally to "turn our rivers into blood," as formerly was the case in the land of Egypt; but then, it surely deserves to be well considered whether the same rod is not uplifted over us at this day to produce other effects alike awful, alike providential, alike designed for our conversion and such probably as the waters of blood in Egypt were intended to typify, and to figure unto all ages. For what matters it in what shape calamity and distress appear; whether in the shape of a river of blood or in any other shape? If there be calamity and distress in any land, in that land there must certainly be uplifted the hand of God; in that land there must certainly be heard the voice of God calling to repentance; in that land, therefore, there must certainly be, to all intents and purposes, a conversion of water into blood, unless it can be proved that a change of joy into sorrow-a conversion of the purities, the consolations, the securities, resulting from the eternal truth-into the defilements, the miseries, and the dangers resulting from error and delusion, is not as great A wonder, and in its real signification the same wonder.
Here, then, let me earnestly call upon you to watch, if you would learn wisdom from the folly of the deluded prince before your eyes. Mark well the footsteps of calamity and distress in all their several shapes, whether public or private, whether of body or of mind, and believe them to originate either in the rejection or the perversion of the eternal truth, and to be the instructive admonitory manifestations of such impiety: believe them, therefore, to be the loudest calls from God to "let His people go," that so the true and acceptable service of repentance and sincere conversion may be performed before Him: In recognizing public calamity, we shall not have far to go at the present day, for we shall behold it, alas! both in our own and in most other nations of the earth, extending its ravages under the complicated terrible forms of war and of scarcity; and possibly we may discover private distress with as little difficulty, whilst worldly disappointments, the loss of health, the loss of reputation, or the loss of friends, turn the pleasant waters of worldly comfort into waters of blood, to the troubled Spirit. But be the cause or the kind of calamity what it may, let it be our principal care to profit by it. Let us learn to read, in every scourge of human trouble, the language of an inconceivable mercy, inviting us to seek shelter in the bosom of its comfort and protection. Let us leave to the folly of the Egyptian king the miserable sophistry of explaining away the judgments of God, by confounding them with the operations of nature; and of turning a deaf ear to the calls of heaven, by referring the heavenly voice to a blind chance, which has no existence, rather than to the wisdom of a divine and ever operative Providence. May worldly sorrows thus open to us the gate of heavenly joys! May worldly disappointments, by recalling us to God, teach us this blessed lesson, that true humility is greater gain than earthly grandeur; and that the delights of penitence, in returning to God, are infinitely more blessed than the gratifications of sense! Thus will every trouble be a call to us to come out of the darkness of our Egyptian bondage, and conduct us, by its blessed guidance, into the light and liberty of the heavenly Canaan. AMEN.
Reflections on the multiplied Plagues of Egypt.
"And remember that thou wast a servant in the land of Egypt, and that the LORD thy God brought thee out thence through a mighty hand and by a stretched out arm."-DEUT. v. 15.
IN two former discourses on these words, we have considered several of the particular circumstances of that extraordinary event to which they refer, making such reflections on each, as seemed most conducive to spiritual improvement and edification.
We now proceed to take a view of what is further interesting in this most sacred and singular history, and we again devoutly implore the Divine aid to enable us to profit aright by the various and instructive scenes presented to our notice.
Pharaoh, you may remember, we left rebelling against the convictions of conscience and the hand of Omnipotence, whilst he saw the waters of his land turned into blood, and yet hardened his heart, neither did he hearken unto them, as the Lord had said. The consequence was such as, perhaps, the thoughtless monarch little expected, but yet such as the mercy and truth of an Almighty God required for the vindication of His laws, and the deliverance of His people; a dreadful series of unheard-of calamities succeeds rapidly to the first plague with which the Egyptian kingdom had been smitten, and we no sooner read of the waters of blood, than we are presented with the melancholy catalogue of increased misery under the several following shapes, first, "of the land covered with frogs;"
1 See Exod. chap. viii, ix. x. xi. xii.
It is not my present intention to enter into a particular examination and explication of the nature of these several plagues, though it might easily be shown, if it were expedient, that these, like the first plague of the waters turned into blood, and like all other natural evils which infest either the material elements or the bodies of men, originated in spiritual causes, and were the necessary consequences and effects, as well as the awful external manifestations, of that disordered state of heart and life, in the merely natural mind, in which temporal things are exalted above eternal,-the love of this world above the love of God and His righteousness. But leaving such considerations to be the subject of your own retired thoughts, I shall at present content myself with calling your attention to a few observations obviously resulting from some particular circumstances noted in the history of the above plagues.
The first reflection which forces itself upon the serious mind on the sad occasion of such repeated calamity is this-how Strange it is that such a complication of trouble and distress should have been necessary to bring the unhappy king and his unthinking people to sober thought, and to incline their hearts to hearken unto the God of heaven! There is something so awful in every one of the above plagues, when considered singly, that we cannot help wondering how the human mind could remain unaffected by it; but what is our surprise to find, that no less than ten of these scourges were needful in the present instance to beget due reflection?
But, secondly, it is a circumstance which cannot escape the notice of the most careless reader, that the heart of the Egyptian king during the immediate pressure of each plague, was softened into something like penitence and conversion before the God of heaven; but that no sooner was the plague removed than he instantly forgot past conviction, and hardened himself again in his folly and impenitence; for thus it is written concerning the plague of the hail-"Pharaoh sent, and called for Moses and Aaron, and said unto them, I have sinned this time; the LORD is righteous, and I and my people are wicked." But observe now how soon conviction is forgotten-"When Pharaoh saw that the rain, and the hail, and the thunders were ceased, he sinned yet more, and hardened his heart, he and his servants;"2 and who can help seeing in this instance also an exact picture of the natural man in all ages? When the hand of affliction presses hard, the heart instantly understands the language, and sets its face towards the God of correction.
2 Exod. ix. 37, 28, 34, 35.
Thirdly and lastly, there is another circumstance of no small moment observable, respecting the plagues of which are speaking, namely, that the children of Israel appear to have been unmolested by them; and though they dwelt at this time is the land of Egypt, which was the dreadful scene of all the calamity above described, yet they escaped unhurt-"no plague came nigh their dwelling;" for the Lord, speaking unto Moses of the swarms of flies, said-"I will sever in that day the land of Goshen, in which My people dwell, that no swarms of flies shall be there, and I will put a division between My people and the people of Egypt."3
3 Exod. viii. 22, 23.
4 Exod. ix. 26.
5 Exod. x. 23.
Beloved, may we never forget the further lesson of wisdom and instruction thus presented to our view! May we learn from it to distinguish well in ourselves between the land of Goshen and the land of Egypt; and to discern how the former is ever under the protection and blessing of the Most High God, and preserved from the destroying plague; whilst the latter, in consequence of its opposition to God, must ever be exposed to the scourge of calamity and distress! or, to speak plainly and without a metaphor, from the miraculous distinction here pointed out between the children of Israel and the children of Egypt.
But on the contrary, if we are wise to repent of this our folly, and to seek a sincere conversion unto God-if we labour to become enlightened with the divine wisdom, that we may not perish in the delusions of folly-if, from a diligent obedience to the truth, we have been favoured with the happy discovery, that grace is an infinitely higher treasure than nature, and that heavenly principles confer a purer joy than mere earthly advantages;-if, in consequence of this discovery, it is our most earnest purpose to seek the renewal of our minds in evangelical purity and holiness, as the "one thing needful" to our happiness-in this blessed case our lot will assuredly be with the people of God, the true children of Abraham; our abode will be in the land of Goshen; "and in the midst of trouble we shall find peace." AMEN.
The Children of Israel borrow Jewels of Gold and Silver, and spoil the Egyptians.
"And remember that thou wast a servant in the land of Egypt, and that the LORD thy God brought thee out thence through a mighty hand and by a stretched out arm."-DEUT. v. 15.
IN three former discourses on these words, we have brought under your notice some of the more remarkable circumstances attending the miraculous call and deliverance of the children of Israel out of Egypt. We began from the time when Moses and Aaron first went to speak unto Pharaoh, and have proceeded to the time of the ten successive plagues by which the land of Egypt was desolated and nearly destroyed. We have made such reflections on the several circumstances as seemed most conducive to spiritual edification. We have seen how they are all applicable to ourselves, in those states which are induced by the calls and operations of God for our conversion and regeneration, and how they teach lessons of unutterable wisdom, to all who are in a disposition to be taught and to profit by them.
We come now to another circumstance no less extraordinary than the foregoing, neither, if well attended to, is it less edifying. It is expressed in these remarkable words of the Lord to Moses, "Speak now in the ears of the people, and let every man borrow of his neighbour, and every woman of her neighbour, jewels of silver and jewels of gold: And the LORD gave the people favour in the sight of the Egyptians."1
1 Exod. xi. 2, 3.
2 Exod. iii. 21, 22.
3 Exod. xii. 35, 36.
Let us then fancy that we hear God saying unto Moses"Speak now in the ears of the people, and let every man borrow of his neighbour, and every woman of her neighbour, jewels of silver and jewels of gold; for I will give this people favour in the sight of the Egyptians." How striking, and yet how strange are these words! Who can read them without wonder and amazement, especially when he considers the little probability of their accomplishment?
Yet these strange circumstances are but types of circumstances still more strange and wonderful. They are but figures, I say, of the unalterable counsels of the great Almighty in regard to His people and their adversaries in all ages and in all places. They are but signs (yet most significative and convincing) of that stupendous plan of divine arrangement and operation, by which the all-wise God is ever providing that He may bless those who fear Him, by compelling all things else to administer to that gracious end.
For does the time at length arrive, after the succession of the nine plagues brought upon Egypt, that the despised Israelites are received into favour by their Egyptian foes? Even so it is the will and determination of the Eternal, that His true children who love and fear Him, shall finally survive all the malice and contempt of those who once derided them. Virtue and holiness may be slighted for a moment, but in the end they are sure to meet with respect and reverence. The unconverted and the impenitent, the careless and the carnal, may for a time make a mock at the pious labours of the true believer; they may ridicule the fervency of his devotions, the circumspection of his conduct, the seriousness of his deportment; they may laugh at his scruples of conscience, at his nice discriminations in matters of duty, at his watchfulness against occasions of temptation, at his unremitted attention to the "one thing needful." They may call all this an excess of needless rigour; they may censure it as weakness, and expose it to contempt as the extravagance of folly. But alas I they little think how soon their judgment is to be reversed, and their eyes opened to see things in quite another light. For it was their judgment in prosperity, whilst the world deceived them by its smiles, and they knew not the day of trouble. But behold, now suddenly the hand of God is on them, and the afflictive rod is lifted up over their land.
4 Wisdom v. 3-5.
But further, did it come to pass, according to the Word of the Lord unto Moses, that the children of Israel did not "go empty out of the land of Egypt," but "borrowed of the Egyptians jewels of gold and jewels of silver, and raiment, and spoiled the Egyptians"? Behold here also the declared purpose of the Almighty respecting his faithful children and servants in all ages of the world. In the day of their purification and separation from the Egyptian powers and principles of unrighteous love, that they may attain unto the heavenly Canaan,-the pure love of God and of their neighbour, they do not go empty. Not that they are laden with the riches of this world-not that they are adorned with the jewels of gold and jewels of silver dug out of the bowels of the earth; these things appear in their enlightened eyes as things of small account, because they are perishable, and because they can not render their possessors either more holy or more happy. The riches and the jewels of the children of God are of another sort, infinitely more durable in their end, and more divine in their origin. They are the unfading treasures of righteousness, purity, wisdom, and truth in the inner man. They are those "pearls of great price," for which the wise merchantman "selleth all that he hath that he may buy them."5 They are those treasures in the heavens, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal."6 These are the jewels of gold and jewels of silver with which the true Israelites are ever enriched, and with which they appear adorned in the sight of God.
5 Matt. xiii. 45, 46.
6 Matt. vi. 20.
But the purpose of God does not end here. The Israelites, we are informed, borrowed the jewels from the Egyptians, and spoiled the Egyptians.
7 Matt. xxv. 28.
8 Matt. xxv. 29.
9 Matt. xxi. 43.
To conclude. The inferences from what has been said are obvious to every thinking mind. Those who are disposed in the days of their prosperity, to make a mock at the pious pains of the servants of God, will hence learn to remember, that other days are coming when their mockery will be turned into serious applause; when God will justify the ways of His children, and compel even their present deriders to justify them also; for this Scripture"The Lord gave his people favour in the sight of the Egyptians;" must be fulfilled unto the remotest ages.
The true believer will hence also derive encouragement to persevere steadfastly in his course of duty, notwithstanding all the opposition and derision of unthinking men. He will be taught that human opinion is frequently mistaken, and always changeable. He will therefore neither dread censure, nor court applause, whilst his conscience fears him witness that he is faithful to his God.
May we all, be loved, be of this happy number! AMEN.
The Death of the First-born, and the institution of the Passover.
"And remember that thou wast a servant in the land of Egypt, and that the Lord thy God brought thee out thence through a mighty hand and by a stretched out arm."-DEUT. v. 15.
HAVING already, in treating on these words, considered to some extent various and remarkable circumstances attending the call of the children of Israel out of Egypt, we proceed now to the continuation of that most wonderful and instructive history. Successive plagues, we have seen, had been employed without effect, under the guidance and administration of an all-wise Providence, to bring the Egyptian monarch and his unhappy people to serious reflection. They were humbled, indeed, under the immediate visitation, and induced to make fair promises, and assume appearances of sincere conversion and repentance before that Almighty power which afflicted them; but no sooner was the afflictive rod removed, than they hardened their hearts, and rebelled yet more against the counsels of God, refusing still to let His people go.
Nevertheless the counsels of God must be accomplished, and the opposition of the thoughtless and unconverted only tends to help forward the accomplishment. Vice and virtue, folly and wisdom, must, in the nature of things, be separated; and if one trouble be not sufficient for this purpose, another and a greater must be employed, and will prevail. It is an unchangeable law of the Eternal, that Israel shall come out of Egypt, and behold now the awful, but final efficacious means of enforcing this law!
1 Exod. xii. 29, 30.
Behold here to what misery and misfortune your carelessness exposes you! Perhaps you have children, who love you, and are beloved by you. But do you know that your folly and forgetfulness of God may possibly prove fatal to those children, as well as to yourselves? Are you aware that the lives of your offspring may be the just penalty of your perverseness, and that God, seeing no other means of awakening you to repentance, may smite your first-born? This was assuredly the case with the deluded Egyptians, with whom every call to conversion was ineffectual, till they were awakened at midnight with the cry of their expiring sons. And how can you be assured that it will not be your case? But perhaps it is your lot to have no children, and to be exempt in this respect from the divine judgment exercised on the first-born of Egypt-but, if you have no first-born of the body, have you no first-born of the mind? Reflect a moment, I entreat you, on this interesting question. Have you no objects in which your minds are interested, and in which they find delight? Have you no plans in life, no prospects, no favourite pursuits, which engage your chief affections, and set your lives in motion?
But possibly you think it unjust on the part of God, that the Egyptian children should be slain on account of their parents, and that punishment should thus be inflicted on the innocent for the sake of the guilty. It might be asked in reply to this objection, Who is innocent amongst the children of men? Have not all sinned, and fallen short of the glory of God? And are not all on that account fit subjects of punishment? But granting it is not so; is not the providence of God still justifiable in thus exhibiting visible proofs of the dreadful consequences of sin and disobedience? When we read, for instance, of the innocent victims the first-born of Egypt, slain for the transgressions of their parents, what is it that the awful judgment announces to us? What is the plain language which it speaks? Does it not declare to all ages, with an eloquence irresistible, that the countenance of the Lord is against them that do evil? Is it not a sign most significative to the remotest posterities of men, that death is the wages of sin? Is it not a divine call to all the families of mankind (and this of the loudest sort) to take heed to their own first-born? And can any read it without feeling the awful conviction, that not only his children, his friends, and his acquaintance, but every thing else that is most dear to him, his fortune, his talents, his faculties, the accomplishments of his body and the fruits of his mind, the treasures of nature and the treasures of grace, all may perish for want of consideration, and all will perish, like the first-born of Egypt, if by forgetfulness of God they be deprived of the life, the protection, and the blessing of God?
But further, one circumstance too remarkable to be passed over in silence, is the method pointed out of God to the children of Israel, whereby they were preserved from this last terrible judgment inflicted on the Egyptians, the death of the first-born. The method was this-they were required in the most solemn and particular manner, to "take a lamb, every man according to the house of their fathers, a lamb for a house; and the whole assembly of the congregation of Israel were to kill this lamb in the evening. And they were to take of the blood and strike it on the two side-posts, and on the upper door post of the houses wherein they should eat it. And they were to eat the flesh in that night."2 And it is added, "The blood shall be to you for a token upon the houses where ye are, and when I see the blood, I will pass over you, and the plague shall not be upon you to destroy you, when I smite the land of Egypt."3 Thus, we read, the children of Israel were preserved from the plague by eating the flesh of the paschal lamb, and by sprinkling the blood thereof on the doorposts of their houses.
2 Exod. xii. 1-11.
3 Exod. xii. 13.
It is impossible for the most careless reader not to see, that the lamb here spoken of was a type of the "Lamb of God," who should afterwards come into the world, to deliver His people from a bondage and from plagues ten thousand times more grievous than the bondage and the plagues of Egypt. But what is the law respecting these two Lambs, and what are the terms and conditions of deliverances thereby? Concerning the first lamb, it is thus expressed"Ye shall take of the blood, and strike it on the two side-posts, and on the upper door-post of the house wherein ye shall eat it, And ye shall eat the flesh in that night." And concerning the second lamb, it is thus expressed"Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of Man, and drink His blood, ye have no life in you."4 Can any eye now be so blind as not to see what is spiritually implied in these terms and conditions respecting the two lambs?
4 John vi. 53.
Would you then escape all the plagues of Egypt, and the death of your first-born? Would you be of the number of the true Israelites, and set out on your journey towards the heavenly Canaan? Would you thus be separated from sin, from folly, and from condemnation, to be born of God, and made the children of His righteousness, wisdom, and peace? Remember well, then, the divine command respecting the Paschal Lamb! Take heed that your houses be sprinkled with its blood, and that ye eat the flesh thereof; or, to speak plainly, and without the veil of metaphor, let the wisdom of Jesus Christ and His Gospel be well sprinkled upon your hearts and lives, that so you may no longer be deluded by the false and pernicious maxims of the wisdom of this world. Labour to form your tempers according to His temper, your spirits according to His Spirit, that so the plague of your own contending passions may not destroy you. Let it, with the blood of the Lamb of God, be written in your understanding, that Christian humility is above all worldly honour, that evangelical charity is the chief blessing and ornament of man, that contentment in Jesus Christ is an infinitely greater gain than all worldly wealth; and that the wisdom of His cross is the first and highest wisdom. Make it, in short, the first concern of your lives, and the end of your religion, to unite your wills to the will of the incarnate God, and to suffer your thoughts, words, and works to be ever guided and governed by Him. Thus, when He cometh in the day of the great judgment, "And passeth through the land to smite the Egyptians, the blood shall be to you for a token upon the houses where ye are, and when He sees the blood, He will pass over you, and the plague shall not be unto you to destroy you; but you shall go up unto the good land to which the LORD your God hath called you." AMEN!
The Children of Israel not led through the land of the Philistines, but through the way of the wilderness-the pillar of a cloud by day and of fire by night-the pursuit of Pharaoh and his overthrow in the Red Sea.
"And remember that thou wast a servant in the land of Egypt, and that the LORD thy God brought thee out thence through a mighty hand and by a stretched out arm."-DEUT. v. 15.
IN several former discourses on these words, we have invited your serious attention to various circumstances relating to the miraculous call of the children of Israel out of Egypt. We have attended Moses and Aaron from the time of their first going to Pharaoh, to deliver the message they had received from God, until that message had its due effect, and the Freud monarch of Egypt became so far humbled as to let the people go.
Let us proceed to consider some further particulars of this marvelous history, which we shall find to be no less interesting and edifying than the foregoing. We now behold a strange sight indeed, such as was never seen before those days or after them; one nation coming up from amongst another nation, to go and travel through a barren and desolate wilderness, in quest of an unknown and distant country, to which they were directed, and to be led immediately by God Himself. Was there ever such a spectacle as this presented to the eyes of mortals? Can any thing be conceived more grand or astonishing? Let us then view it attentively, that we may apprehend the sublime wisdom which it speaks to us; let us mark the progress of these heaven-directed wanderers, that we also may learn the way which leads to the true Canaan.
The first remarkable circumstance which calls for our notice is expressed in these words"It came to pass, when Pharaoh had let the people go, that God led them not through the way of the land of the Philistines, although that was near; for God said, lest peradventure the people repent when they see war, and they return to Egypt: but God led the people about through the way of the wilderness of the Red Sea."1 Thus does the Almighty, like a wise and tender father, ever consult the infirmities of his children; He sees them setting out on their journey to His kingdom, and proportions their labour to their strength; 'He does not suffer them to be tempted above what they are able to bear."2 He encourages them by the consolations of his mercy, before he puts them upon any considerable trials. It is the folly of a blind and mistaken zeal to discourage young travelers on their way to Zion, by presenting immediately to their view unsurmountable difficulties, or requiring more from them than they are as yet able to perform. This course is not agreeable to the wisdom of God, therefore He leads His people, not the nearest, but the safest way, in order to teach us not to be over-hasty even in the best things, because spiritual strength, like natural, must be acquired by degrees; and it is dangerous, in all cases, to lay heavy burdens upon too weak shoulders. Let us adore and practice the important lesson of prudence and discretion herein taught, that so we may comprehend the true character of the Divine Shepherd as described in these affecting words-"HE GENTLY leadeth those that are with young."3
1 Exod. xiii. 17, 18
2 1 Cor. x. 13.
3 Isaiah xl. 11.
But further, a second remarkable circumstance, which calls for our attention, is expressed in the following words"And the Lord event before them by day in a pillar of a cloud, to lead them the way; and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light; to go by day and night. He took not away the pillar of the cloud by day, nor the pillar of fire by night, from before the people."4 It is impossible for the most unthinking person to read these words without being struck with their awful and edifying contents.
4 Exod. xiii. 21, 22.
The history under consideration will yield yet deeper instruction, and more solid consolation, to such experienced believers as are in a disposition to receive and profit by it, because it will teach them that the blessed Jesus is their sure guide and strong support in every state and stage of the Christian life, whether of darkness or light, of sorrow or joy, by night or by day. For they know by experience, that the life of grace, like the life of nature, is subject to vicissitudes, and that they are not to expect the Sun of the divine mercy and truth, any more than the natural sun, always to shine upon them with the same degree either of heat or of lustre. But whilst they lament that their own corruptions are the latent causes of these apparent changes in the divine countenance and favour, they will learn from the above history not to be discouraged, because they will be taught by it to believe, that as the divine presence is tempered and shadowed by a cloud in its manifestations by day, lest its brightness should overpower them; so in the darkness of the darkest night there is still administered a secret support arising from the hidden fire of heavenly love in their humble hearts and penitent affections.
But further, greater events, if possible, call for our attention; for lo! the king of Egypt repents that he had let Israel go; and "he makes ready his chariot, and takes his people with him; and they Pursue after them (all the horses and chariots of Pharaoh, and his horsemen and his army) and overtake them encamping by the sea."5 What can be conceived more desperate than the situation of the children of Israel on this occasion?
5 Exod. xiv. 1-10.
6 Exod. xiv. 10.
7 Exod. xiv. 11.
8 Exod. xiv. 13.
9 Exod. xiv. 27.
There are two lessons of heavenly instruction principally taught us from the above relation: first, that when we begin to depart out of spiritual Egypt, and set our faces towards the heavenly Canaan, we must expect to be pursued by our spiritual adversaries; secondly, the best method of defending ourselves when so pursued. Let us give earnest attention to these lessons. It is a common imagination, that as soon as man forsakes evil, evil will forsake him, and give him no longer any trouble or disturbance, but suffer him to travel forward quietly and peaceably towards Mount Zion. This imagination, however, is neither agreeable to the testimony of the Holy Scriptures, nor to the experience of holy men; for both unite in the evidence, that Pharaoh and his people, though they have let Israel go, will yet be in haste to pursue after them. The case is, the empire of the powers of darkness in the soul of man has gained too powerful a dominion to be broken into, and dispersed, all at once. The disorderly passions, and corrupt affections, though once renounced, will still press for their wonted indulgence; and at the moment, perhaps, that they seem dead and buried, will rise again out of their sepulchers, and give us fresh disturbance.
10 Psalm lix. 3.
11 Psalm lxxxix. 18.
12 2 Cor. iii. 5.
13 Matt. xii. 25-30; Luke xi. 17-23.
Do you complain, then, that notwithstanding your departure out of spiritual Egypt, you are yet liable to be overtaken and assaulted by your Egyptian foes? Is it a trouble to you, that whilst your faces are turned towards the heavenly Canaan, you are yet exposed to the persecution of those evils upon which you had turned your backs? Take heed on the occasion how you give way to the spirit of murmuring and fretfulness; and for this purpose, treasure up in your hearts the comfortable words of the leader of Israel to his fearful people"Fear ye not; the Lord shall fight for you, and ye shall hold your peace; for behold that sea before you, and observe how its waters are dividing to let you pass through safely.
14 Exod. xiv. 30.
Moses' Song, or the duty and advantages of Spiritual Singing.
"And remember that thou mast a servant in the land of Egypt, and that the LORD thy God brought thee out thence through a mighty hand and by a stretched out arm."-DEUT. v. 15.
WE have presented before you, in several former discourses, the progress made in the miraculous accomplishment of the great deliverance to which these words refer, until the time that the waters of the Red Sea were divided to let Israel pass through, whilst Pharaoh and his host were overwhelmed therein.
We now proceed to consider what befel this chosen people of God, in their passage through the long and terrible wilderness into which they had now entered. The first circumstance which engages our attention, is a most heavenly and divine song, sung by Moses and the people who followed him, in commemoration of the great deliverance which they had just experienced at the hand of God. Never, surely, was there an occasion which called forth the voice of praise and thanksgiving more loudly than the present; and never was the voice of praise and thanksgiving better expressed than in that divine song, or hymn, which now resounded from upwards of six hundred thousand voices on the borders of the Red Sea. Permit me to recommend this song to your particular notice and observation, as the best calculated to express your thankfulness, at all times, for a deliverance ten thousand times more stupendous than that of the children of Israel at the red sea; I mean the deliverance from sill and death wrought by the great Redeemer.
Permit me, at the same time, to take this opportunity of pressing upon you the great Christian duty of singing spiritual songs, and to point out the many signal benefits and advantages resulting from a right discharge of it. First, let me bespeak your serious attention whilst I eadeavouor to point out the duty of singing spiritual songs. This duty, like all other Christian duties, is grounded in the will and express command of God, who in His Holy Word repeats again and again the solemn injunction-"Sing unto the Lord a new song; sing unto the Lord all the earth. Sing unto the Lord, bless His name, shew forth His salvation front day to day."1 And agreeably with this injunction, the book of Psalms was written for the use of the Church, that every believer might therein learn how best to glorify the God of his salvation. It is impossible, therefore, to assign a reason for the omission of this Christian duty which will not plead with equal force for the omission of every other. All Christian duties are grounded solely in the will of God, and are consequently of equal obligation; therefore whosoever, under any pretence, would seek exemption from the practice of one duty, may under the same pretence remove the sanctions of every other. We all acknowledge ourselves bound to pray unto God, and consider it a great sin to neglect the duty of prayer. But why are we not equally bound to sing unto God? and why is it not as great a sin to neglect the duty of singing psalms, as to neglect the duty of prayer? The Word of God, which we allow to be the sole rule and measure of all spiritual duty, presses psalm-singing upon our observation as often, and with the same authority of command, as prayer. Both duties, therefore, stand upon the same ground of obligation; they are both alike required by God; and therefore it is not easy to see why the sin of omitting the one is not as great as the sin of omitting the other.
1 Psalm xxxiii. 1-3; xcv. 1, 2; xcvi. 1-3.
It must be confessed, indeed, that our blessed Lord, in the Gospel, has no where insisted particularly on the duty of psalm-singing, neither has He left us any particular precepts or regulations respecting that duty: but what then?
2 Matt. xxvi. 30; Mark xiv. 26.
3 Col. iii. 16.
4 Rev. xv. 3.
Thus much, then, may suffice to establish the duty of psalm-singing. It is repeatedly enjoined in the Word of God; it was practised by Jesus Christ and His apostles; it has accordingly made a part of Christian service in all ages of the Church, from the beginning unto this day; and it is continued amongst the blessed to eternity.
Let us now proceed to take a view of the benefits and advantages resulting from this duty. And here I might appeal to the natural effect of singing in general, in its tendency to dissipate many evil affections which are very unfriendly to the spirit of true religion, such as melancholy, murmuring, sadness, chagrin, peevishness, moroseness, and the like; which, every one knows, are much abated, if not entirely dispelled, by the cheerfulness of a common song. How much greater, then, must be the prevalence of a spiritual or divine song over these terrible enemies to the peace of human minds! I might further appeal to the natural tendency of singing in general to awaken many good affections which are exceedingly friendly to a religious spirit, such as joy, peace, complacence, good humour, cheerfulness, and the like, which daily experience teaches are the effects produced by an ordinary song.
But passing over these considerations (which, by the way, are far from being unimportant) I choose to rest the great benefits and advantages of the duty of spiritual singing on its tendency, whensoever it is habitually and seriously practised, to strengthen the life of true religion in the soul, by increasing its energies, by elevating its affections, by extending its influences, and finally, by fixing and giving more firmness to its convictions. I say"whensoever this duty is habitually and seriously practised," because all its good effects, it must be manifest, will depend entirely upon these two points. If it be practised only occasionally, or with carelessness and levity, it might as well, or perhaps better, not be practised at all; and in vain shall me look, in such case, for its blessings and advantages; but if it be practised habitually and seriously-in other words, if to regularity and constancy in the discharge of this duty, we join a pure affection and intention of the heart-it is impossible to calculate all its salutary effects on the life of true religion in man. The reason is plainly this:-we all know how much power there is in singing and in music to strengthen the general life of man, with its affections, whether in good or in evil. Melancholy experience has lately confirmed the truth of this observation in respect to evil; and we have all been witnesses how the mischiefs of anarchy, confusion, and every evil work were extended and aggravated of late, in a neighbouring nation, through the fascinating and powerful influence of popular songs. But if singing and music have thus a tendency to strengthen and elevate the life of man in general, why shall they be denied to have the same effect upon his religious life in particular? Surely none but an infidel can deny that they have such an effect. For let us suppose a man to practise only so much Christian piety as to make a duty of singing every day a psalm of praise and thanksgiving to his Great Creator.
Besides, if such a practice was to be made regular and habitual, what a check would it prove against all the powers of evil and temptation! for how would it be possible for that man to cherish in his heart vain affections, criminal attachments, or any false and disorderly inclinations, who considered himself as thus consecrated to celebrate every day the praises of a holy God, and to rejoice in giving continual thanks to that Redeemer who was manifested to redeem him from all iniquity?
Let me then recommend, and earnestly press upon you the great duty of psalm-singing, not only as a duty commanded of God, but as being, in its tendencies and effects, most highly beneficial to your spiritual life.
Perhaps you have not heretofore been so attentive to this duty as you ought. Perhaps you have not considered either its obligations or advantages, and have accordingly neglected it. But how can you tell what you have lost by your neglect? How can you tell what additional spiritual graces, and what additional spiritual strength, you might have secured by a right performance of it? It is greatly to be lamented that the regular practice of this duty is a thing almost entirely lost sight of at this day, even amongst Christians, How few are there who regard psalm-singing as a necessary part of Christian devotion! But the general neglect of the duty is a reason why the thoughtful and sincere should be more zealous in their endeavours to restore it to its pristine rank in the catalogue of Evangelical exercises.
But you will perhaps, lastly, urge that you are not in a disposition to sing-the cares and troubles of life perplex and weigh you down; the corruptions of your own heart are an oppressive burden to your spirits; distress and misfortune have filled your cup with bitterness. And do you urge, as a reason for not singing psalms unto God, that you are in trouble, in perplexity, and in concern about your sins? Consider: this surely is the very reason of all others why you ought to sing, and to sing most loudly. For what can be a more effectual remedy for such distress than the voice of thanksgiving?
5 Jonah ii. 9.
6 Acts xiv. 25.
7 Acts xvi. 26.
In short, every thing calls upon you to the regular discharge of the duty of psalm-singing. God calls upon you by His Word-Jesus Christ, the holy angels and all the saints call upon you by their example; your very troubles and infirmities and sins call upon you by the hopes of obtaining comfort, and strength, and forgiveness. What shall I say more? Whether you regard duty or interest-whether you seek pleasure or profit-to please God or to gratify yourselves-to be holy or happy-to enjoy true peace here below or be fitted for eternal glory hereafter in the realms of bliss-whether, I say, you seek any or all these blessings, you must needs confess, that "it is a good thing to give thanks unto the Lord, and to sing praises unto Thy Name, O Most High; to show forth Thy loving kindness in the morning, and Thy faithfulness every night."8 AMEN.
8 Psalm xcii. 1, 2.
The bitter waters of Marah, and the miraculous method by which they were made sweet.
"And remember that thou wast a servant in the land of Egypt, and that the LORD thy God brought thee out thence through a mighty hand and by a stretched out arm."-DEUT. v. 15.
IN our last discourse on these words, we had the happiness of witnessing the holy joy with which the children of Israel celebrated the praises of their God, and consoled their own thankful hearts, on the occasion of their miraculous deliverance from the power and malice of their Egyptian pursuers.
We now proceed with this highly-favoured people in their further journey through that great and dreadful wilderness into which they had entered; and to mark those particular and extraordinary interferences of the Divine Power, which at once was their secure guide and most safe protection under all the perplexities which might bewilder, and the dangers which might confound them.
Before me proceed, I shall beg leave to call your attention to an observation of the apostle Paul, respecting the wonderful events which we are about to consider. He observes-"Now these things happened unto them for ensamples; and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come."1
1 Cor, x. 11.
No sooner do the chosen people quit the borders of that sea which had been the memorable scene of their deliverance, and of the destruction of their pursuers, than they advance three days" journey in the wilderness, and come to a place called Marah. The place, we learn, received this name from its bitter waters; for thus it is written in the holy records which contain the history-"And when they came to Marah, they could not drink of the waters of Marah, for they were bitter; therefore the name of it was called Marah."2 It is remarkable that the Almighty should so soon expose the faith of his people to this severe trial, by bringing them to a place where the water was too bitter to be drunk. And this is the more remarkable, when we reflect that He was able, by His omnipotence, instantly to have made the water sweet, and so have prevented the murmurings and repinings which (we read in the next verse) were the mournful effects produced by the bitter waters.
But "the ways of God are not as our ways, neither His thoughts as our thoughts;"3 and the truth of this observation is here confirmed. God might, indeed, have spared his people in this instance; and instead of putting their faith to so trying a proof, he might have converted the waters of Marah into sweetness, before their bitter taste had excited discontent.
3 Isaiah lv. 8.
Let the "waters of Marah," then, be our instructors, and let us learn from their bitterness this lesson of edifying wisdom which they teach-that the cup of sorrow, though not so pleasant, is frequently more profitable than the cup of consolation. Let us learn further, that the bitter water, and the sweet, are equally under the appointment and control of the Divine Providence; and that whether we mourn or are comforted, the purposes of God towards us are alike gracious, full of compassion, and of tender mercy. A fond and destructive self-love may perhaps suggest to us, as it appears to have done to the Israelites, that it would be better for us if there was no such place as " Marah;" if no drop of bitterness ever mixed itself with the waters of our lives: but let us remember that "Marah" is an appointed station for all the children of God-the true Israelites, in every age, and that howsoever unpleasant its waters may seem to the taste, they never fail to convey health, and strength, and blessing to every vital principle of the spiritual constitution.
4 Rom. v. 3-5.
The experienced and intelligent Christian will discover a still deeper meaning and signification in the "waters of Marah," because he will be enlightened to discern, that they have relation to that peculiar state in the regenerate life, in which he can no longer derive sweetness and satisfaction from the mere knowledges of truth, those spiritual waters from which he had before received both strength and consolation For water (as was above observed concerning the waters of blood in Egypt) is a natural element, expressive and representative of that eternal truth of the Word of God in which it originates, and of which it is a figure. Bitter water, therefore, is a further figure, to denote the unpleasantness of truth, which is an effect derived from the lack of that heavenly spirit of love and charity to which it points, and from which alone it derives at once both its life and its joys. And according to this signification also, " Marah" may be regarded as a necessary station or state of the Christian life, by reason of its two-fold tendency; first, to wean us from all dependence on speculative knowledge, whilst unaccompanied by that life of heaven-born charity which is necessary for its sanctification and blessedness; and secondly, to conduct us to that supreme good, the love of God, and the love of our neighbour, which perhaps we should never be led to pursue with the ardour necessary for its attainment, unless we were previously convinced by the bitter water that knowledge alone cannot constitute our proper bliss, and that the water can never be rendered sweet but by the life of knowledge.
But further, the providence of the Most High, whilst permitting its favourite children to drink the waters of affliction, is perpetually watchful to turn their sorrow into joy, as soon as those waters have had their proper effect; for thus we read in the very next verse concerning the children of Israel at the waters of Marah-"Moses cried unto the Lord; and die LORD shewed him a tree, which, when he had cast into the waters, the waters were made sweet;" and then it is added-"There He made for them a statute and an ordinance, and there He proved them, and said, If thou wilt diligently hearken to the voice of the Lord thy God, and wilt do that which is right in His sight, and wilt give ear to His commandments, and keep all His statutes, I will put none of these diseases upon thee which I have brought upon the Egyptians; for I am the LORD that healeth thee."5 What this memorable tree was which healed the bitter waters, and what were its particular virtues, we are not informed; we only read of its wonderful and blessed effects in rendering the waters sweet again; and we read further, that it was a tree, not of man's discovery, but of the Lord's; for He, it is written, "shewed it unto Moses." Who amongst us would not rejoice, and rejoice justly, if such a tree were now to be found growing on the face of the earth; a. tree whose healing virtues would remove the bitterness of every calamity, and communicate a blessed sweetness to all the waters of our life? Who, I say, amongst us would not sell all that he had for the purchase of such a tree?
5 Exod. xv. 25, 26.
But is it a matter of doubt whether such a wonderful tree exists at this day upon the earth or not? Can Christians at least hesitate for a moment to declare their full, positive belief in the existence of such a tree? Alas! if this be the case with us, it is too plain a proof with what little, or rather no attention we have read the Word of God, and particularly that part of it which contains the history of this tree! Let us then read it again, and blush at our carelessness and the dullness of our apprehension, which did not before discover what this extraordinary tree is, and means.
Beloved, how long shall we shut our eyes to the divine, the ever-blessed, and ever-blessing wisdom of the Word of God! How long shall we suffer our sight to remain merely in the veil of the letter, without praying to the Most High to enable us to penetrate through that veil, that we may contemplate and enjoy the living, the saving realities of the eternal mercy and truth, which lie concealed underneath it! How long shall we thus remain in our bitterness-those diseases of Egypt which the Almighty is ever disposed to heal, but which He cannot heal but by means of the consecrated tree which he has appointed, and to which He is ever directing us for this happy purpose!
Who, then, are those wise children who are willing to be instructed by their heavenly Father, and to profit by all His counsels? Who are those wise children who, in the perilous journey of human life-the mysterious and oft-times perplexing passage to the heavenly Canaan, when they come to the "waters of Marah," are disposed to profit by them; to find the bitter converted into the sweet-the distemper replaced by health? Let all such pray earnestly and continually unto the Most High God, to point out unto them that blessed and mysterious tree which, being cast into the waters of their lives, may impart to them its heavenly, its sweetening and healing virtues. Let them learn, that this tree is the Word or Commandment of the Almighty, the Eternal God; and that to cast it into the waters of their lives, is not merely to read or hear this Word, or Commandment, for we may do this and yet find bitterness of spirit; we may attain even to a deep knowledge of its heavenly mysteries, and yet that very knowledge itself, if not sanctified by obedience, shall increase the bitterness;-but to cast the holy tree into the waters of our lives, means, to cherish the blessed spirit of God's Word and Commandment in our hearts, by sincere repentance and obedience, by departing from every known evil, until we are made sensible of the divine efficacy of the Commandment in removing sin and sorrow, and restoring to the purity, blessedness, and vigour of a heavenly life.
6 Exod. xv. 27.
The Israelites murmur for want of bread.
"And remember that thou wast a servant in the land of Egypt, and that the LORD thy God brought thee but thence through a mighty hand and by a stretched out arm."-DEUT. v. 15.
IN a former discourse on these words, we attended the children of Israel in their journey through the wilderness till they came to the "waters of Marah;" and we endeavoured to point out the lesson of heavenly instruction which these bitter waters were designed to suggest.
We proceed now to notice the onward movement of this heaven-directed people, and to mark further instructive circumstances in that ever-memorable journey, which was under the immediate guidance and government of the Most High God. No sooner do the favoured tribes quit the "twelve wells of water at Elim," near which they had encamped, than we find them entering into the wilderness of Sin, where they begin to murmur for want of bread. For thus it is written"The whole congregation of the children of Israel murmured against Moses and against Aaron in the wilderness. And the children of Israel said unto them, Would to God we had died by the hand of the Lord in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the flesh-pots, and when we did eat bread to the full: for ye have brought us forth into the wilderness, to kill this whole assembly with hunger."1
1 Exod. xvi. 3.
It is singular, and yet melancholy, to observe on this occasion, how soon the remembrance of former mercies and miracles was effaced from the minds of this people.
It is remarkable that our blessed Lord, in the days of His flesh, when about to manifest His almighty power and mercy in feeding five thousand of His followers, puts this doubting question to Philip-"Whence shall we buy bread, that these may eat?" It is added"And this He said to prove hint; for He Himself knew what He would do."2 Such is still the mysterious conduct of this great and mighty God in dealing with all His children. When He is about to unveil to them the brightest glories of divine Majesty, He first casts those glories into a shade of obscurity and doubt, that their splendour may be rendered more bright and cheering by the dark cloud from behind which it emerges. In like manner, when He would confer upon them some signal favour-some distinguished mark of loving-kindness and liberality-He first suffers them to labour under the want of it. This He still does to prove them, for He Himself knows what He will do-knows the full measure of the divine blessing which His infinite love is preparing; and He knows also that this blessing will be rendered infinitely more blessed by the previous want and distress which leads to seek and to receive it.
2 John vi. 5, 6.
I have been the more particular on this subject, beloved, because there is too much reason to believe that its importance is not sufficiently attended to. There is too much reason to believe, that in general we have very imperfect ideas, if any ideas at all, of the nature, the intent, and the value of our wants. We do not enough consider that the want of every lesser good was designed to conduct us to the possession of a greater, and that it would certainly so conduct us, if we would follow faithfully the divine guidance. Thus in the striking case under consideration, the Israelites in the wilderness are permitted to want the blessing of material bread for the sustenance of the body.
From henceforth, then, let the mouth of murmuring and discontent be for ever dumb before the Almighty; and in the estimate we make of the signal blessings and favours which we receive daily at His hands, let us not neglect to take our wants also into the account, and to thank Him alike for what temporal goods me have not, as for what we have. It is possible me may not have worldly riches, worldly reputation, nor worldly comforts, we may not have bodily health, nor bread. But what then? Shall we murmur and repine at these temporal wants-the very wants that are not only replete with infinitely greater blessings than the objects wanted, but are also merciful calls from God to the possession of those blessings? Shall we call ourselves poor, when all the eternal riches of heaven are ready to be poured into our laps? Shall we say, we want reputation, when, if it is not our own fault, both God and angels will be ready to approve our conduct? Shall we say, me want comfort, and health, and bread, when the Father of mercies, the God of all consolation, is ever near to bless us with His everlasting comforts, to communicate health and vigour to our immortal spirits, and supply us daily with the bread of eternal life?
To conclude: I should now proceed to consider that extraordinary and miraculous interference of the Almighty in sending quails, and in the descent of the heavenly manna, by which He was pleased to silence the complaints of the murmuring Israelites; but the present time will only permit me to endeavour to impress on your minds the apostolic precept-"Neither murmur ye, as some of them also murmured, and were destroyed of the destroyer."3 Permit me, therefore, again to remind you of the infinite blessings from heaven contained and concealed in all our wants; and let this consideration lead us, instead of murmuring at them, rather to look for the blessings which they involve, and to supplicate the Most High to discover to us those blessings. We shall then assuredly find that in every temporal want there is stored up an eternal abundance-an abundance of the choicest goods, because in every temporal want we may find God, His Spirit, mercy, omnipotence, and kingdom. Thus our wants will be the blessed means of opening to us the gates of salvation, by introducing us into the presence and habitation of the Great Saviour; and by filling us with His Divine Spirit of humility, meekness, patience, contentment, and submission to His adorable will.
3 Cor. x. 10.
4 Mark xii. 43, 44.
The Miracle of the Manna.
"And remember that thou wast a servant in the land of Egypt, and that the LORD thy God brought thee out thence through a mighty hand and by a stretched out arm."-DEUT. v. 15.
IN treating on these words in several former discourses, we have attended the children of Israel from Egypt, till they came into the wilderness of Sin, where they began to murmur against Moses, and against Aaron, for want of bread. We have endeavoured to show both the unreasonableness and the danger of such a spirit of complaint and discontent, and how the conduct of the rebellious Israelites was recorded as an example of warning and caution to us, that in the various wants and miseries to which we are exposed in the journey of human life, we should "not murmur, as they also murmured," but rather, in humiliation and repentance, apply unto the Most High to relieve our wants.
We come now to a very affecting history, which exhibits the divine mercy and power in such a view as cannot fail to interest the considerate reader; for, behold, the Almighty-hears the complaints of His people, and interposes in a miraculous manner for their relief, Thus it is written-"Then said the Lord unto Moses, Behold, I will rain bread from heaven for you; and the people shall go out, and gather a certain rate every day, that I may prove them, whether they will walk in my law or not."1
1 Exod. xvi. 4.
2 Exod. xvi. 13-15.
In regard to the miracle itself, it is not easy to conceive any thing more August, or more stupendous, than the scene here presented to our view. Upwards of six hundred thousand people journeying, at the command and under the direction of God, through a desolate wilderness, where they had no visible means of sustenance, and were murmuring for want of bread. The God of mercy and compassion instantly hastens to relieve the want which His over-ruling providence had permitted them to experience, and in a place to which He had led them for this very purpose, that He might manifest His divine mercy and compassion in relieving their want. But first He gives the promise of relief, to prepare His people for the reception of it. Hear His gracious words-"Behold, I will rain bread from heaven for you." And as the promise of God can never fail of accomplishment, even so it came to pass; for, in the evening, at the command of the most High, behold the camp of the murmuring Israelites is covered with strange birds; and in the morning the ground is overspread with a small round thing, called manna, to be gathered and made into bread. Thus the Almighty manifests and magnifies at once His mercy and power; whilst His astonished and thankful people forget their wants, and are satisfied, on seeing a table thus miraculously spread in the wilderness.
It is impossible to read the account of this miracle without being struck with the reflection, how admirably it was calculated to check the complaints of the murmuring Israelites, and to inspire them with faith and confidence in their divine leader.
But let me ask, can we see nothing in our own situation, during our journey through the wilderness of this world, which resembles in the above respect the situation of the children of Israel in the wilderness of Sin? For is there any thing more wonderful in the manner by which they were supplied with bread, than in the manner by which we are supplied? It is true, their bread was sent miraculously every day from heaven; ours is sent according to the stated and regular laws of heaven; but how does this alter the case? Is there any thing in a miracle, more astonishing or more sublime, than in the ordinary operations of the Divine Providence? Is the raising a dead man miraculously to life any greater proof of divine agency than the preserving a living man? Let me not, however, be misunderstood as intending by these suggestions to slight or disparage that miraculous power of the Almighty, by which in all ages He has manifested His divine control over the ordinary laws of nature which He Himself has appointed. I only wish to suggest that the bread which we every day eat, comes as really from heaven as the bread of the wandering Israelites, and is an equally manifest proof of the astonishing and continual mercy and power of the Saviour who sends it; with this difference, however, that it is the fruit and effect of the gradual operation of wonderful laws, which ought but the more to excite both our gratitude and adoration. Let us not fancy, then, how we should have been affected had we seen the quails and the manna fall round the camp of Israel, unless we feel ourselves alike affected by observing the daily flesh and bread which fall round our own camp, and are brought every day to our tables.
3 Luke xvi. 31.
But let us next consider what was involved in the above miracle; in other words, what is its spiritual meaning and application? Our blessed Lord gives us the fullest information on this important subject, in His discourse with the unbelieving Jews. These Jews, we read, were dissatisfied with and questioned our Lord's authority, and in the course of their argument on the occasion, they proposed to Him this insidious question"What sign showest Thou, then, that we may see, and believe Thee? What dost Thou work? Our fathers did eat manna in the desert, as it is written, He gave them bread from heaven to eat."4
4 John vi. 30, 31
5 John vi. 32, 33, 48-50.
6 Rev. ii. 17.
Again, when Jesus Christ, at two several times, had fed His followers in the wilderness, by the miraculous multiplication of loaves and fishes, He rebukes His thoughtless disciples soon afterwards by this question of reproof-"How is it that ye do not understand?"7
7 Matt. xvi. 11.
8 Matt. xxvi. 26; Mark xiv. 22; Luke xxii. 19.
To conclude: It is greatly to be feared that, notwithstanding the declared testimony of the sacred Scriptures concerning the holy connection subsisting between natural and spiritual food, many of us have lost sight of this connection, insomuch that we are almost surprised to hear of its existence; yea, what is a still more melancholy and awful consideration, many of us, it is to be feared, are so grossly immersed in sensual appetites and worldly affections, as to forget and entirely lose sight of that "bread of life"-that nourishment of our souls-which Jesus Christ is disposed continually to give us. We say of this bread as the Israelites said of the food under consideration"What is this? For they wist not what it was."9
9 Exod. xvi. 15.
Blessed are they who are thus attentive to the holy law and commandment of their God! Blessed are they who thus "eat and drink to the glory of God," and the peace and salvation of their own souls! Blessed are they who not only gather manna for the nourishment of their bodies, but also receive it continually as a blessed figure of the mercy and love of Jesus Christ, and feed thus on the hidden manna of the Divine presence and loving-kindness in their purified bosoms! AMEN.
On the Laws respecting the Manna.
"And remember that thou wast a servant in the land of Egypt, and that the LORD thy God brought thee out thence through a mighty hand and by a stretched out arm."-DEUT. v. 15.
HAVING in several former discourses on these words considered the departure of the children of Israel out of Egypt, and their wonderful journey in the wilderness till the time of their being fed immediately from heaven with manna, I shall now intreat your attention further whilst I endeavour to unfold the singular laws delivered from the Most High respecting this extraordinary food.
It has been already seen that the manna was representative of spiritual breadthe bread of life, which was sent down from heaven in the person of Jesus Christ, and which He now gives from heaven for the nourishment of eternal life, to all such as come unto Him and keep His commandments. This will appear still more evident from considering the laws, relating to the manna, which God delivered to Moses, for the guidance of the children of Israel in their journey through the wilderness. These laws, three in number, stand in the following order:-first, The Lord commanded that "every man should gather according to his eating;"1 secondly, "that no man should leave of it till the morning;"2 and thirdly, "that an omer of it should be kept for their generations."3
1 Exod. xvi. 16.
2 Exod. xvi. 19.
3 Exod. xvi. 32.
Let us begin with the first of these laws, which requires "that every man should gather according to his eating." This law is manifestly grounded in the spiritual law which respects the heavenly manna of the eternal grace and love of Jesus Christ. For the spiritual law is this, that at all times every man gathers manna according to his eating; in other words, that every man receives grace from Jesus Christ according to the use he makes of it, or according to his application thereof to his own life in the removal of his natural corruptions by sincere repentance and conversion unto God. Jesus Christ, therefore, says-"Whosoever hath, to him shall be given, and he shall have more abundance; but whosoever hath not, from him shall be taken away even that he hath."4 Let us attend well to the tenor of this awful but edifying law, and it will teach us this most important lesson of holy wisdom-that if we wish to gather much of the heavenly manna of the divine grace in our hearts, we must then eat much; in other words, we must incorporate it well into our lives. Jesus Christ never imparts His heavenly blessings to the careless, the impenitent, and the disobedient. To receive grace, we must use it; to learn the wisdom which is from above, we must first be desirous to correct our lives by it. Should the Most High dispense His favours to the thoughtless and unconverted, it would be doing what He has forbidden, namely, "casting pearls before swine; or giving that which is holy unto dogs."5 An impure mind, therefore, can never expect to gather the heavenly manna until it desires to be delivered from its impurities; and the gathering will then be according to the ardour of that desire. Some, therefore, abound in divine grace, because they have a strong desire to be cleansed from their corruptions. Others possess a less share of the heavenly gift, because they are less willing to part with their abominations. Others, again, know nothing of the heavenly treasure, because they have no inclination to submit to that process of purification to which it would administer. It is written further on this interesting subject, that "he who gathered much had nothing over, and he that gathered little had no lack,"6 to teach us in our spiritual progress, neither to be presumptuous nor despondent.
4 Matt. xiii. 12; xxv. 29.
5 Matt, vii. 6.
6 Exod. xvi. 18.
But, secondly, it was commanded, respecting the manna, that "no one should leave of it until the morning." That this law is of singular importance, is manifest from the circumstance of its being so frequently enjoined; for we find it insisted on at the institution of both the passover7 and the sacrifices.8 The obvious tendency of this law is to guard man against all that anxiety of thought respecting the future, which Jesus Christ calls thought (more properly solicitude) for the morrow,9 and thus to lead him to the holy, the delightful rest and peace resulting from an entire dependence upon the divine providence of the Most High in all things, whether temporal or spiritual. Let us not suppose, however, that man is forbidden to take thought for the morrow, for this he must needs do in regard to the things of both this world and another. It is the anxiety, the solicitude, the restlessness of thought which is forbidden, and not the thought itself. For man must think, and is required also to think about the concerns of both his natural and spiritual life; but then he is required to think wisely, and this he cannot do until he respects, and loves to respect, the Divine Providence of the Lord more than his own prudence and foresight. The single question, therefore, with regard to thought for the morrow, is this-Do we think under the influence of the Divine Providence, and in entire dependence upon its wise provisions for us, or do we think under the influence of our own proper prudence, and in dependence upon ourselves?
8 Exod. xxvii. 18; xxxiv. 25.
9 Matt. vi. 34.
We have here, therefore, a plain and sure rule whereby to determine, at all times, in what principle or kingdom all our thoughts originate. For if there be anxiety and disturbance in our thoughts, we may then depend upon it, we think with and from the kingdom and principles of darkness and death, whether we are aware of it or not, inasmuch as all anxiety and disturbance are from that kingdom and those principles. But if there be in our thoughts peaceableness, composure, and trust in God, we have then a sure proof that we think with and from the kingdom and principles of heavenly light and life, inasmuch as all peaceableness, composure, and trust in God, are from that kingdom and those principles.
10 Matt. vi. 31.
11 Matt. vi. 11.
But, thirdly, it was commanded of the Lord, respecting the manna, that "an omer of it should be kept for their generations." The manifest intent and purpose of this law was to preserve amongst the children of Israel, to remote ages, a "perpetual remembrance" of that Divine Mercy which had showered down upon them the heavenly food for their support in the wilderness.
The same divine law is still in force amongst the children of God,-the true Israelites of all times and places, who, in their journey through the wilderness of this world, to the heavenly Canaan, have ever tasted of the blessed manna of the Divine Grace and Love for their comfort and support. They also are required "to keep an omer of this manna for their generations," in other words, it is the will of their heavenly Father that they should store up well in their minds the remembrance of His mercies; that so no grace, no favour, no consolation, no deliverance, may at any future time be forgotten; but, that recollecting past assistance, they may have a firmer reliance on future aid; that having perpetually before their eyes the loving-kindnesses of the Lord, and the infinite value of his gifts, they may be the less dazzled with the splendid vanity of inferior things; that, in short, seeing at all times an eternal good presented to their view and acceptance, they may be both more watchful and more strong to resist the temptations, and overcome the dangers arising from the allurements of temporal goods. Alas! what infinite loss do some Christians suffer in their spiritual concerns, for want of attending to the wisdom of this salutary law!
Beloved, may this never be the unhappy case with any amongst us! When God at any time puts into our hearts good desires, may we be careful to cherish and to preserve the recollection of them for ever! When he feeds us with the "hidden manna" of His grace and benediction, may we never lose the remembrance of these astonishing mercies! If a man gives us a sum of gold, we do not so easily forget the favour, nor lose the recollection of our benefactor. Yet what is all the gold in the bowels of the earth, when compared with a single good desire from God? Gold can only purchase for us a few temporal short-lived gratifications, but has no power at all to make us truly happy; whereas a single good desire from God brings along with it inward peace, and joy, and solid satisfaction, because it raises us above our defilements, it inspires us with the life of Jesus Christ, it exalts us to that great God, and opens to us His kingdom of heaven and immortality.
12 Psalm cxix. 52.
On the want of water, and its miraculous supply from the rock in Horeb.
"And remember that thou wast a servant in the land of Egypt, and that the LORD thy God brought thee out thence through a mighty hand and by a stretched out arm."-DEUT v. 15.
IN several former discourses on these words, we have attended the chosen people of God out of the land of Egypt, till they came into the wilderness, through which they were to pass on the way to the promised land. This wilderness, it has been already shown, was a striking figure of the trials and temptations which the people and children of God undergo, in all ages and places, during their journey to their promised land, the land of righteousness and peace, in God, to which they are introduced by repentance and regeneration.
The first trial or temptation which the children of Israel underwent in their wilderness, it has been already seen, was the trial of the bitter waters of Marah, which were afterwards rendered sweet; the second was, the want of bread, which want was relieved by the raining down of manna, for their support and nourishment. We come now to the consideration of a third trial or temptation which befel this peculiar people, and which is thus expressed in the Divine Records:-"And all the congregation of the children of Israel journeyed from the wilderness of Sin, after their journeys, according to the commandment of the Lord, and pitched in Rephidim; and there was no water for the people to drink.
1 Exod. xvii. 1 to 6.
There are two things in this account of the utmost importance, and which, therefore, demand the most serious consideration of all Christians:-The first is the want of water. The second is the relief of this want by Moses' striking the rock in Horeb. We shall begin with the consideration of the want of water. It has been already shewn, from the authority of St. Paul, that all things which befel the children of Israel in the wilderness, were types or figures of spiritual things which befal the true Church of God in all ages and places. "These things," saith the apostle, "happened unto them for ensamples," that is to say, for types or figures, as the original expression implies. This is the case with the want of water, which on the present occasion befel the children of Israel at Rephidim; it also is a most striking and edifying type, or figure, of a spiritual want which at times befals the church of God, and every true member of the church, in all ages and places, for their purification.
I am well aware that to the eyes of the merely natural man, who has never been accustomed to raise his thoughts to the contemplation of those spiritual and eternal realities from which all natural things are derived, this doctrine concerning types and figures, in the Word of God, will appear new, and perhaps questionable.
2 John iii. 9.
3 Ezek. xlvii. 1.
4 Rev. xxii. 1.
5 Psalm xlvi. 4.
6 John iv. 14.
7 John vii. 38.
It is impossible to conceive a more sublime or awful spectacle than what is presented to our view on this singular occasion. An immense multitude of people are ready to perish with thirst is a barren and desolate wilderness.
8 1Cor. x. 4.
9 Zech. xiv. 3; Rev. xxii. 1.
Beloved, it remains for us to say what shall in future be our thought and view of the miracle under consideration. It remains for us to choose whether we will look at the shadow only, or at the substance also; whether we will be content with receiving merely the dead figure into our memories, which will leave us as dead as itself, or will proceed further, and incorporate the Divine reality into our lives, by virtue whereof we also shall live; for, as before seen, these are the words of Jesus Christ"Whoso drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him, shall be in him a well of water springing up into eternal life."
10 John vi. 63.
11 Luke xxvi. 45.
12 Psalm cxix. 18.
On Amalek coming up to fight with Israel.
"And remember that thou want a servant in the land of Egypt, and that the LORD thy God brought thee out thence through a mighty hand and by a stretched out arm."-DEUT. v. 15.
IN treating on these words, we have heretofore attended the chosen people of God out of the land of Egypt, until in the wilderness they begin to be distressed for want of water. We have noticed also the miracle wrought by the Almighty for their relief on this sad occasion; and how, in consequence of smiting the rock in Horeb with the consecrated rod of Moses, the waters instantly gushed out, and the people were refreshed and revived by the copious stream. It was further shewn, how the waters thus miraculously called forth from the rock, were instructively and beautifully figurative of those "living waters" of heavenly truth and consolation, which flow forth from the glorified body of the Great Redeemer, for the refreshment of His thirsty people, whensoever they, like Moses, draw nigh unto this rock of their salvation, and smite it with the sacred rod of penitent prayer and faith.
We now proceed to the consideration of another circumstance which occurred in the journey of this memorable people; and which will be found no less interesting and edifying than any of the foregoing. It is related in these words-"Then came Amalek, and fought with Israel in Rephidim.
1 Exod. xvii. 8-11.
It is plain to see how differently these words will be understood by different people, and what a variety of thought they will excite, according to the various states of mind in which they are read or heard. Those, for instance, who have been accustomed to regard the Word of God as containing only a history of external facts, like the histories written by men, and have never elevated their minds to the spiritual and divine meaning contained in those facts, will discover nothing in the above relation but the record of a battle; and will therefore be no more affected and edified by it, than by the account of any other battle recorded by the pen of the human historian. But the sincere Christian, who, through repentance and faith in the Great Redeemer, has had his eyes opened to see that the Word of God must contain the wisdom of God, and that the wisdom of God must have a deeper and more divine meaning in its language than the wisdom of man-such a sincere Christian, on hearing or reading the above account of Amalek fighting with Israel, will be led to discern something more in this relation than the mere history of a battle, and something more in the victory of the people of God than the record of a mere human victory. For he will be enlightened to see, that when God, in His Holy Word, speaks of enemies, of battles, and of victories, He can never mean only such enemies, battles, and victories as are recorded in the writings of men, for then His Book would only be like the books of men; but He must needs mean spiritual enemies, spiritual battles, and spiritual victories, such as relate to Himself and to His spiritual kingdom; and that unless He had such a spiritual meaning, His Word could never in any proper sense be called holy and divine, but must needs be merely a natural and human record, like the words and writings of human historians.
As for example: What divinity, what sanctity, what spirituality, and what life, shall we say is contained in the history before us, where it is written-"Then came Amalek, and fought with Israel in Rephidim," whilst we suppose that Amalek means nothing more than Amalek, and that by fighting with Israel in Rephidim is signified nothing more than a mere battle between two armies of men collected together at a particular place of that name? Jesus Christ says-"The words that I speak unto you, they are spirit and they are life:"2 and the apostle declares-"All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness."3 But what spirit or life; what doctrine, what reproof, what correction, or instruction in righteousness, is to be found in these words-"Then came Amalek, and fought with Israel in Rephidim," if we look no further than to the letter? Besides, can we believe it worthy of the Great and Holy God to give us a history of combat, of enmity, and of destruction, unless he had therein some deeper, some more edifying and interesting meaning? Can we suppose that the Word of God, which really proceeds from Him, and was intended to lead us to Him, would be so full of accounts of nations rising up against nations, and kingdoms against kingdoms, to butcher and destroy each other, unless those accounts had been significative of something more spiritual and more holy? Surely common sense must see, that to make God the historian of a battle, and His Word the record of bloodshed and slaughter, without any deeper meaning, is in the grossest manner to dishonour and disparage both God and His Word.
2 John vi. 63.
3 2 Tim, iii. 16.
There is the more need, beloved, for every Christian at this day to examine well his ideas and sentiments concerning the Word of God in the above respect, and to take heed that they be well-grounded, inasmuch as there is reason to apprehend that the offence so commonly taken at this time against the revelation of the Almighty, is much increased and confirmed by the gross and corporeal sentiments and ideas which men entertain on the subject. And here I do not mean to advert only to the cavils of the profane and the scoffs of the infidel, who are against the Word of God, because the Word of God is against them and their vices; but I mean to extend the observation even to many of the serious professors of the religion of Jesus Christ, who, for want of discerning that God's words are not as man's words, but that God's words at all times express spiritual ideas by natural images, are led to doubt at least, if not to deny in many cases, the sanctity and divinity of the holy and eternal records. Thus it is no uncommon thing to hear some, even amongst those who call themselves believers, expressing both surprise and offence at many passages in the Psalms of David, because, say they, his language is bitter and uncharitable against his enemies; not recollecting that when David speaks of his enemies, the spiritual enemies of man, the powers of sin and darkness, are signified; and therefore all his invectives and maledictions are to be understood as applying only against the enemies of God, and of His kingdom and salvation.
But, beloved, let us learn to interpret aright the language of the Most High, that we may not be offended at it. Let us for this purpose, in the spirit of sincere repentance and conversion, apply ourselves to Jesus Christ, to teach us the true interpretation. We shall then be enabled to see what the Word of God is, and what it means. We shall behold it as the repository of the eternal wisdom and most holy will of the Almighty, let down from heaven amongst us, to communicate to us also the life and the light of heaven; we shall look at it with inexpressible delight, as at a rich casket or cabinet, containing jewels of inestimable value for our ornament and use. We shall be taught to take heed that me do not at any time judge of this treasure-house from its outside only, but from the jewels and precious stones that are contained within; in other words, we shall be careful not to form our judgment and ideas from the letter alone, but from the spirit-not from the dead history, but from the living sense and meaning which that history contains.
4 Psalm xix. 10.
5 Ephes. vi. 11.
To conclude; it is greatly to be feared that few Christians at this day have right ideas of their spiritual adversaries, or of the nature and necessity of spiritual combat, or the rewards of spiritual victory. The truth is, deadly and destructive doctrines have of late been circulated in the Christian church, which tend to extinguish every ray of spiritual light on those important subjects, by teaching, either that we have no spiritual enemies to fear, or that we are not called to wage war against them, or that we may conquer without engaging in combat. Hence the generality of Christians, there is reason to apprehend, are not so much upon their guard as they would otherwise be, and for want of seeing their danger fall asleep in a false and fatal security; for want, too, of being apprised of the glorious conquests to which they are called, they never enter into that combat which should conduct them to the rewards of victory. And yet, if we examine the Word of God, we must confess that the sacred records give us faithful warning on these as well as on all other points of deepest concern. We cannot duly attend to a page of the Holy Volume, without being struck forcibly with the conviction that we are encompassed continually with a host of enemies; that "the devil like a roaring lion goeth about, seeking whom he may devour;"6 that it is necessary, therefore, to be upon our guard, and to use the weapons of spiritual warfare for our defence; and lastly, that the reward of victory is given "to him that overcometh,"7 and to him only; whilst the careless, the slothful, and the timorous, fall a prey to their adversaries and are torn in pieces. Accordingly, in the office which our Church has appointed for the baptism of her children, we are taught to pray for every child-"That he may have power and strength to have victory, and to triumph against the devil, the world, and the flesh." Who then amongst us believeth this testimony of the Most High God? Who amongst us is faithful to the prayer which was offered up for him at his baptism? Let him believe, as the Scripture assures him, that a "lion" is always at his side-that a most poisonous and deadly "serpent" is ever ready to "bruise his heel."
6 Pet. v. 8.
7 Rev. ii. 7, 11, 17, 26; iii. 5, 12, 21.
8 Rev. ii. 10.
On Moses, Aaron, and Hur at the top of the hill, whilst the battle below is determined by the holding up and letting down of Moses hands.
"And remember that thou wast a servant in the land of Egypt, and that the LORD the God brought thee out thence through a mighty hand and by a stretched out arm."-DEUT. v. 15.
IN our last discourse on these words, we left the children of Israel in the wilderness fighting with "Amalek in Rephidim," after suggesting such reflections on the nature of this enemy, and this battle, as seemed best calculated to open and explain to us the wisdom of the Most High, contained in this and similar accounts of combat and warfare in His Holy Word.
We shall now proceed to the consideration of a very extraordinary and interesting circumstance attending this battle between Israel and Amalek, which, if duly attended to, will not fail further to convince every well-disposed mind, that the Word of God contains the most wonderful mysteries of divine and heavenly Wisdom, and that all the natural events recorded in the sacred volume, though really fulfilled in this world, do yet involve spiritual instruction, and are therefore the records of the operations of the eternal truth or grace of Jesus Christ in human minds, in all ages and places. The circumstance I allude to is expressed in these words-"Moses, Aaron, and Hur went up to the top of the hill: and it came to pass, when Moses held up his hand, that Israel prevailed; and when he let down his hand, that Amalek prevailed.
1 Exod. xvii. 10-14.
There are three things is this account which demand our particular consideration; first, that the success of the battle in the valley depended on what was doing at the top of the hill which overlooked it; secondly, that it depended on this singular and apparently trivial circumstance, the holding up or letting down of Moses hands; thirdly, the methods taken to stay up the hands of this leader of the people of God.
Let us begin with the first,-that the success of the battle in the valley depended on what was doing at the top of the hill which overlooked it. This was manifestly the case in the history before us; for we read that "when Moses held up his hand, then Israel prevailed; and when he let down his hand, then Amalek prevailed;" whence it is plain, that the success of the combatants in the valley did not depend merely on their own courage or exertions, howsoever it might seem to themselves to do so, but it depended upon what was transacting in a remote place by an unseen agent, whose operations (if we were to judge from human appearances only) had no manner of connection with the events to which they gave birth.
And what a striking figure is this, of the disposal and regulation of all contingencies at this day, by an agency superior to man, controlling every human event according to its own eternal counsels, notwithstanding the appearance that those events depend upon the counsels, contrivances, and determinations, of mere human agents! We, alas! in our folly and short-sightedness, are but too apt to overlook, if not entirely to forget, the mysterious connection here indicated between human and Divine operation. Blinded by an inordinate self-love, or by a fatal attachment to mere temporal land sensual gratifications, we are too often unwilling to raise our eyes to look up to yonder hill, the elevated abode of the Supreme Intelligence which at once discerns, directs, and governs, the various concerns of this lower world, and its multiplied inhabitants.
But, beloved, let us suffer the Most High to open our eyes to the light of that higher and better wisdom which the eternal Word was intended to communicate unto us. Let us be taught thereby to look continually unto that holy "hill from whence cometh our strength." Let us learn and recollect Who is seated on that hill, what are His purposes, and what the means of their accomplishment; and in all oar successes and prosperities, whether spiritual or temporal; in all our adversities, our calamities, our distresses, difficulties, and perplexities, whether relating to this world or another, let us remember that our valley is at all times overshadowed by the mountain of the Lord of Hosts, whose eyes are ever open to all our most minute concerns, and whose Divine Providence, if we have respect unto it, will never suffer Amalek to prevail, only so far as may be needful to increase in the end the splendour and joy of our triumphs.
But, secondly, the success of the combat between Israel and Amalek did not depend only on what was doing at the top of the hill, but also on this singular, and apparently trivial circumstance, the holding up or letting down of Moses hands.
In treating on this remarkable history of the departure of the children of Israel out of Egypt, and their journey through the wilderness, we have had frequent occasion heretofore to observe, that all the circumstances which befel them, as the apostle testifies, were types or figures of spiritual things, and that in this view "they were written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come."
This observation is verified in a particular manner in the circumstance under consideration, namely, the holding up and letting down of the hands of Moses. For who cannot see, that on this occasion both Moses and his hands, both their holding up and letting down, were but representative figures of things infinitely higher, that is to say, of things Divine? For Moses, it is plain, was but a man like ourselves, and therefore it cannot be supposed that there was any particular virtue in his hands more than in those of other men, to determine, by their rising and falling, the issue of a most important combat. Yet both Moses and his hands might be figures of a Greater than Moses, and of Hands infinitely more powerful. And so there is every reason to believe they were; and that the Almighty exhibited, on this occasion, such a striking figure of Himself, and of His operations, in order to instruct mankind, in all succeeding ages, concerning the nature of His kingdom and the economy of His providence. But what shall we say is the language which this figure speaks? What is the sublime lesson of wisdom which it announces to us? Surely, if we are desirous to receive, and to profit by the instructions of the Most High, it is impossible we can be so dull of apprehension as not to discern what the Almighty herein meant to teach us. We cannot fail to see, that the holding up of Moses hands is a striking sign and figure, and was intended to be, that in all our spiritual combats we ought to have respect at all times, to the Omnipotence of God, in which case the victory, on every occasion, is ours; as on the contrary, the letting down of Moses' hands is a, sign and figure equally plain and striking that we do not respect that Omnipotence, in which case the battle is sure to go against us. It is impossible, therefore, that we cannot discern further, that by this sign and figure God designed to teach us, that if we wish at any time for success, either is our spiritual or temporal concerns, then we ought to make it our principal care to consult His Omnipotence, and engage it to favour us. He also designed to teach us that disappointment, distress, losses, ruin, both in what relates to this world and to another, must ever be the fatal consequences of confiding in ourselves, in our own guidance, or in our own strength; because, in such case, the Hands of the Most High will assuredly be let down, and His providence cannot work with us.
This leads me to the third and last particular proposed for our consideration, viz., the methods taken to stay up the hands of the leader of the people of God; on which subject it is thus written-"But Moses' hands were heavy, and they took a stone and put it under him, and he sat thereon. And Aaron and Hur stayed up his hands, the one on the one side and the other on the other side; and his hands were steady until the going down of the sun."2
2 Exod. xvii. 12.
Behold here other types and figures equally striking and edifying as the foregoing. Behold the appointed methods necessary for lifting up the hands of the Almighty, and thereby attaining all that heavenly security and blessing which it is in vain to look for from any other source For how plain is it to discern from the history under consideration, that if the Divine hands are to be lifted up over us, they must be lifted up by us; in other words, we must do something in the way of exertion on our parts, otherwise the Hands of God, like the hands of Moses, become as it were heavy, and fall down, and cannot accomplish the purposes which were intended. Jesus Christ instructs us in the necessity of such co-operation with the Eternal for our salvation, when He saith of Himself-"My Father worketh hitherto, and I work;"3 for if, in accomplishing the great purposes of the union of the two natures, the Divine and human, in the Person of the Blessed Jesus, there was an expediency of mutual exertions on the part of each principle to effect it, how reasonable is it to suppose that in accomplishing the similar purpose of our conjunction with the Father of our being, there is a similar expediency of reciprocal energy, endeavour, and operation!
3 John v. 17.
4 Matt. xv. 28.
5 Matt. xiii, 58.
Here, then, if we are so disposed, we may be enabled to see, not only that something is necessary to be done on our parts, but also what that something is which we must do, in order to keep the Hands of the Almighty ever lifted up over us for security, for blessing, and salvation.
6 Matt. ix. 29.
7 John xv. 15.
Behold here the blessed means of keeping the hands of the Most High in a continual elevation over us, to the full and perfect accomplishment of all His merciful providences and intentions! Nothing is wanting to our blessedness, either in this world or the next, but that we should conspire with the designs of the Lord and of heaven for that happy end. If any of us perish, it can be for no other reason than because we separate our own powers from the power of God, our own purposes from His purpose. Let us but learn to unite our wills with the Divine will, and our operations with the Divine operation; let us learn to take part with Jesus Christ against our corruptions, and to take part with Him also in favour of those heavenly graces and virtues which He is willing to implant in the place of our corruptions; and from that moment all will infallibly go well with us. For from that moment Amalek will be discomfited, and Israel will prevail. All the infernal enemies of our peace and salvation will flee before us; and all our heavenly friends will exalt the banner of victory and protection over us. And is this case we shall do as Moses did on this occasion, we shall "build an altar, and call the name of it Jehovah-Nissi;"8 in other words, we shall worship our God with never-failing praise and thanksgiving for all the wonders of His power, protection, and salvation. AMEN.
8 Exod. xvii. 15.
The Counsel of Jethro, or the great laws of spiritual subordination.
"And remember that thou mast a servant in the land of Egypt, and that the LORD thy God brought thee out thence through a mighty hand and by a stretched out arm."-DEUT. v. 15.
IN our last discourse on these words, we took a view of the memorable circumstances which attended the battle between Israel and Amalek, and especially of that most remarkable figure, the lifting up and letting down of Moses hands.
We come now to the consideration of another singular event respecting that distinguished people, whose history has so repeatedly been the subject of our former attention. For we read, that immediately after the victory obtained over Amalek, Jethro the priest of Midian, and father-in-law of Moses, hearing of "all that God had done for Moses, and for Israel His people," came to visit them in the wilderness. We read further, how, being instructed of God, Jethro gave counsel to Moses respecting the government of the people over whom he was appointed; and especially respecting that subordination of order which was absolutely necessary for accomplishing the purposes of such government. For thus Jethro advises his son-in-law-"Thou shalt provide out of all the people able men, such as fear God, men of truth, hating covetousness, and place such over them to be rulers of thousands, and rulers of hundreds, rulers of fifties, and rulers of tens: and let them judge the people at all seasons; and it shall be that every great matter they shall bring unto thee, but every small matter they shall judge."
1 Exod. xviii. 18-27.
There are two things in this account which demand our most especial attention and consideration. First, that in every well-ordered government it is necessary that there be a distinction and subordination of governors under one head; secondly, that those several governors should derive their rank and authority, not from the people whom they govern, but from the head under which they govern. These two points, I repeat, are clearly deducible from the above account; for if we believe our Bibles, we must believe also that the government established amongst the children of Israel was the most perfect and best ordered that could have been devised, as being immediately from God; and yet in this most perfect government we find that there was a distinction and subordination of governors under one head, for we read of "rulers over thousands, of rulers over hundreds, of rulers over fifties, and of rulers over tens;" and that all these were under subjection to Moses as the supreme governor. We read further, that these several subordinate governors were not appointed by the people whom they were to govern, but they were appointed by Moses their head, for thus Jethro says to Moses-"Thou shalt provide out of all the people able men, such as fear God, men of truth, hating covetousness, and place such over them to be rulers."
Were this a proper time or place, I might take occasion to point out, from the above description of a most perfect form of civil government, established by God Himself, the wild and visionary ideas on the subject, which have lately been propagated amongst us by thoughtless men, who, rejecting the wisdom of divine Revelation, have had the dangerous presumption to exalt their own self-derived intelligence above the intelligence of the Lord of heaven. I might show how, by natural and necessary consequence, setting the feet above the head, or what amounts to the same thing, making the head dependent on the feet both for its origin and its authority, contrary to the counsel and command of the Most High, they would invert; the proper order of human society, and introduce a dreadful confusion into the whole system of civil administration.
Every serious and considerate person, who has been accustomed to reflect under any degree of holy influence concerning the sacred contents of the Word of God, will be enabled to discern that every page of that divine book, and every sentence of every page, in its interior and spiritual meaning, must of necessity have reference to the regeneration of man, or what is the same thing, to man's restoration to a right order, that is, to a heavenly order of mind and of life, this being the grand and the primary end and intention of all the revelations of God. Every serious and considerate person, therefore, who has been accustomed to read the word of God under such a sacred persuasion of its interior sanctities, will be enabled to see and discern further, that what is recorded in the above account concerning the advice of Jethro to Moses respecting the subordination of the children of Israel, by distinguishing them into thousands, into hundreds, into fifties, and into tens, and setting rulers over them according to such distinction-he will be enabled to discern that this subordination of the people of God would never have found a place in the Book of God, had it not involved another and a higher subordination, viz., that holy and blessed state of distinction, of order, and of wise government, which the people of God, in all ages and places, are still called to look for and to cherish in their own minds, as the only solid ground of protection, of salvation, and peace.
Let us stand still awhile to contemplate these two pictures, which will perhaps best illustrate the subject under consideration; and first, let us take a view of the picture of disorder. Behold, then, that thoughtless and unhappy man, wile has never become a convert to the God of heaven-has never, by self-examination and repentance, submitted himself to the order of heaven! Look attentively into his mind, so as to discern clearly what is passing there, and you will then see a chaos of confusion, of uproar, and of instability which will at once terrify and astonish you. For observe the crowd of his unarranged thoughts, the rabble of his uncontrolled passions, the mixed multitude of divers opposite affections and appetites, which no man can number, and which are unknown even to himself. You inquire naturally who is the ruler of all these various and contending principles-by what power are they governed, and to what end directed? But what is your surprise to find, that though you ask the man himself, he cannot answer these questions; for alas! so far from being able to answer, he has never been at the pains even to make the inquiry. He is, therefore, an utter stranger to himself, so as not even to know what is the power which guides and rules him, whether it be from above or from beneath, from heaven or from hell.
But let us turn now from this disgusting and painful sight, to behold the fair picture of heavenly distinction, order, and security, as displayed in the mind and life of the regenerate Christian. Jesus Christ thus speaks of this picture to His disciples"Ye have not chosen Me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain."2 The term ordained here used by our Blessed Lord, is expressed in the original by a word which signifies to arrange in the most exact order; so that Jesus Christ here teaches, that all His children have their minds arranged by Him in such an order; and that this is their qualification for bringing forth fruit, and that their fruit should remain. Behold here an exact description of the interior state of every regenerate Christian! His mind is restored to the most beautiful and perfect order; and this order extends itself, not only to the general, but also to every particular thing contained in his mind. For his mind, like that of the disorderly person above described, consists of innumerable affections, thoughts, passions, and appetites; but then the striking difference between them is this, that in the mind of disorder all these principles are confused, uncontrolled, and unarranged; whereas in this regenerate mind each is distinct from the other, each knows its proper place, and each is under its proper governor.
2 John xv. 16.
Behold here, then, the living reality of that striking type and figure exhibited in the camp of Israel, when Jethro gave the counsel of divine arrangement and order to his son-in-law Moses! Behold in this regenerate mind, the "rulers of thousands, the rulers of hundreds, the rulers of fifties, and the rulers of tens," all in subordination to their heaven-directed head! Behold the perfect-the consummate-beauty of that order which descends from heaven; and which, entering into humble and obedient minds on earth, forms them in its own likeness, after the similitude of its own kingdom, where all violence and outrage are restrained-where all is love, and harmony, and joy; where every principle knows its proper place, because it knows that the highest and happiest place is that of the most absolute submission to the Supreme Ruler, whose name is Jesus Christ.
To conclude, do we wish to attain unto the blessed order here described, and to come out of all the workings and confusion of the disorder? Do we wish thus to attain unto salvation and eternal life,, which are only other names for the life and subordinations of order; and to avoid destruction and eternal death, which are only other names for the misrule and anarchy of disorder? Let us then remember the counsel of Jethro to his son-in-law Moses, and in obedience to that counsel, let us make the proper distinctions and discriminations in the principles of our own minds. But whereas we cannot do this, only so far as we admit and exalt a higher principle, that is, Jesus Christ and His life, into our hearts and lives, because He only is the God of order, and no order can come except from Him alone; therefore this must be our further rule and law of conduct-to have continual respect unto that Great and Holy Lord and Governor. And whereas we cannot have such respect unto Jesus Christ, only so far as we enter into the ways of true repentance, through serious self-examination, and a diligent study and practice of the Word of God, which contains the laws of heavenly order; therefore this also is to be considered as absolutely necessary to our attaining that blessed end.
3Isaiah ix. 7.
The Israelites at Mount Sinai, or the truth and sanctity of the Decalogue.
"And remember that thou wast a servant in the land of Egypt, and that the LORD thy God brought thee out thence through a mighty hand and by a stretched out arm."-DEUT. v. 15.
IN attending the children of Israel on their memorable journey through the wilderness, as we have already done in several former discourses, we find them, after the space of three months, entering into the wilderness of Sinai; for thus it is written"In the third month, when the children of Israel were gone forth out of the land of Egypt, the same day came they into the wilderness of Sinai; for they were departed from Rephidim, and were come to the desert of Sinai, and had pitched in the wilderness, and there and were come to Israel encamped before the Mount."1 The mount, before which we now find the children of Israel encamped; was that holy mount Sinai, from which Jehovah, on this memorable occasion, delivered the law of the "Ten Commandments." Nothing can be conceived more worthy of human attention than the several circumstances which distinguished this great event. The occurrences heretofore noted respecting this heaven-directed people, from their departure out of Egypt till their arrival at the present encampment, are indeed both extraordinary and edifying; but the present occurrence surpasses them all in both wonder and instruction, teaching us by its high authority this important lesson-that the more we follow the counsels of God, the more we shall see of His marvelous works; and that every present manifestation of His power and glory (if we are obedient to it) is sure to be succeeded by a future one still more splendid and more convincing.
1 Exod. xix.1, 2.
2 Exod. xix. 3-6.
3 Exod. xix. 8.
But behold, the Lord speaks again unto Moses, and says-"Lo, I come unto thee in a thick cloud, that the people may hear when I speak with thee, and believe thee for ever."4 And having given this notice of His intention to come unto Moses, He gives directions also concerning the preparation necessary for the people on the awful occasion: as, first, that they should be sanctified for two days; secondly, that they should wash their clothes; thirdly, that they should be ready against the third day, for on the third day the LORD would come down in the sight of all the people upon Mount Sinai; fourthly, that bounds should be set unto the people round about, lest they should go up into the mount, and touch the border of it, for whosoever touched the border of it was to be put to death.5
4 Exod. xix. 9.
5 Exod. xix. 10-12.
6 Exod. xix. 16, 18, 19, 20.
It is impossible for the serious mind to read the account of these solemn and tremendous circumstances without being struck with the two following reflections:-first, that the revelation which they announce must needs be most true; secondly, that it must needs also be most holy. And first, the revelation here announced must needs be most true for this plain reason, because, being made in the presence of so many people who were joint witnesses of it, and being confirmed by so many remarkable signs applied to the senses of those people, it is impossible to suppose that there could be anything like fraud or imposition on the occasion. It is most true, therefore, that God really spake to Moses, and that the commandments of the decalogue, commonly called the Tell Commandments, which were delivered on this occasion, and which we find written in the twentieth chapter of the book of Exodus, are the real Words of God, and not the words of any man. Had we, indeed, nothing but the testimony of a single person, or of two or three persons, in support of such a revelation, it might possibly in some degree appear questionable, but on this occasion we have the united testimony of upwards of six hundred thousand people, to confirm our belief, whose eyes and ears both were convinced, by unequivocal signs from heaven announcing the divine presence.
But secondly, this revelation must needs also be most holy, as well as most true. Let me bespeak your most awakened attention to this very interesting consideration. The revelation made from Mount Sinai must be most holy, as coming immediately from the Great and Holy God, for whatsoever God speaks must of necessity partake of His divine holiness. The commandments of the decalogue, therefore, which God spake by His servant Moses on the above awful occasion must needs be full of a divine sanctity, and adapted to convey that sanctity to man. They are not, then, to be regarded as mere human laws, or as the laws merely of moral or civil life, although they contain the wisest regulations of both moral and social order; but they are to be regarded in a far higher view, viz., as divine laws-as the laws of heavenly life and association, intended to fit and qualify man to be an inheritor of a heavenly kingdom, by forming him after a heavenly order. Whosoever, therefore, rejects or slights these heaven-born laws, casts himself, by necessary consequence, out of the order and bliss of heaven, into the disorder and misery of the opposite kingdom. But whosoever is wise, from a thorough conviction of the sanctity and divine original of these laws of the Most High, to keep and do them, he proportionably re-enters into the life and order of the heavenly world; he becomes thus a citizen of the New Jerusalem; he is formed according to the highest wisdom of the angelic societies, and having conjunction thereby with the everlasting God, he ascends into the regions of celestial love, protection, and peace.
Behold here, then, the inexpressible sanctity of the law of the Ten Commandments! And yet how few amongst us, alas! are rightly affected by it! How few keep the law under a due sense of its divine original and divine intention! The case is, we read these commandments when we are children, without reflecting aright on their divine Source; and when we become men, capable of such reflection, and called to the profitable exercise of it, we still continue to act like children, and read the law, but forget from whence it came, and what are its heavenly purposes and effects.
As for example-in the laws under consideration, God expressly says-"Thou shalt do no murder; thou shalt not commit adultery; thou shalt not steal; thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour." Now if we regard these laws merely as laws of civil society here on earth, and not as laws of heavenly order and society at the same time; if we are not well aware in our minds of the divine sanctity of these heavenly laws, from a consideration of their divine original, and of their divine intention also to form us after a heavenly order, image, and life; it will be impossible they should have the blessed effect of re-conjoining us with God, and making us partakers of His holy life and kingdom, even though we observe and keep them according to the strictest sense of the letter. For suppose that we "do no murder," that we do "not commit adultery," that we do "not steal," that we do not bear false witness," and yet that we never regard God in abstaining from such evils, but only regard our own reputation, or the laws of civil society, how plain is it to see that our observance of the commandments of God does not conduct us a step nearer towards God, nor bring God nearer towards us, as it was intended to do, because, though we keep the commandment in the letter, we do not keep it in the spirit; though we abstain from the evils forbidden, we do not abstain from them under the influence of the sanctifying principle by which they were forbidden. The consequence is, we keep, indeed, the law in its external form, but we do not keep it in its internal power and sanctity: and thus separating that power and sanctity from the law, we separate God from it, and of course cannot have the slightest conjunction with God, His life, His order, or His kingdom, in thus keeping the law.
Would we then reverse this sad case, and find all the unspeakable blessings and benefits intended to be derived to us from the commandments of God? Would we experience the proper, the divine efficacy of the holy law, in delivering us from our corruptions, in re-conjoining us with God, and re-creating us in His blessed image and likeness? Let us then go to Mount Sinai, and mark the divine original of the consecrated tables. Let us open our eyes to behold the lightnings, the cloud, and the smoke; and our ears to hear the thunders and the voice of the trumpet on the holy mountain. Let us draw near with sanctified hearts, and let us also wash our clothes, that we may be ready on the third day to see Jehovah descend and to hear Him speak: but let us not stop here; when we are convinced in our own minds of the divine original and sanctity of the holy law of the Ten Commandments, let us then go to another mountain, of which Mount Sinai, with its lightnings, its cloud, smoke, thunders, and the voice of its trumpet, was but a figure. Let us go to that other mountain of which the apostle speaks, where he says-"Ye are not come unto the mount that might be touched, and that burned with fire, nor unto blackness, and darkness, and tempest, and the sound of a trumpet, and the voice of words; but ye are come unto Mount Zion, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to an innumerable company of angels, to the general assembly and Church of the First-born which are written in heaven, and to God the judge of all, and to the spirits of just men made perfect, and to Jesus the Mediator of the new covenant."7 Let us approach with penitent and believing hearts unto this holy mountain, and listen attentively unto the voice of Him who eternally reigns there, even the voice of Jesus Christ, the manifested Jehovah, continually saying-"If thou wilt enter into life, keep the Commandments."8 Then shall we be enabled to discern that the laws of the Ten Commandments are full of the life and spirit and sanctity of Jesus Christ, because they proceed from Him as from their true and proper Source.
7 Heb. xii. 18-25.
8 Matt. xix. 17.
To conclude, we read of a young man who came to Jesus inquiring what he should do to inherit eternal life. Jesus said unto him"Thou knowest the Commandments." He answered and saidAll these have I observed from my youth. Then Jesus beholding him, loved hint, and said unto him, One thing thou lackest; go thy way, sell whatsoever thou hast and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven; and come, take up the cross, and follow Me."9 Some have been led from this account to suppose that it is not enough, for man's salvation, to keep the law of the Ten Commandments, but that something further is required to be done for the accomplishment of that blessed end.
9 Mark x. 18-22.
On the Tabernacle in the Wilderness.
"And remember that thou mast a servant in the land of Egypt, and that the LORD thy God brought thee out thence through a mighty hand and by a stretched out arm."-DEUT. v. 15.
IN our last discourse on these words we left Moses and the children of Israel at Mount Sinai, receiving from God the laws of the Ten Commandments. These laws, it was shewn, are not only moral and civil laws, but also spiritual laws; in other words, they are not only laws of order respecting the well-being of societies here on earth, but they are also laws of order, tending to communicate spiritual and eternal life, and thus to introduce the devout observer into heavenly societies, by forming him after a heavenly image and spirit.
But we have not yet done with the divine instruction received from this holy mountain; for Moses, we read, was again called up unto God, and was in the mount forty days and forty nights,1 during which time he received command from the Most High to build Him a tabernacle. A most minute and particular description is then given of this sacred edifice through seven successive chapters, containing an account of its general construction, of its several parts, of the persons who were to minister in it, of its services, sacrifices, and furniture, all described most distinctly, and according to the most exact and orderly arrangement.
1 Exod. xxiv. 18.
It is not my intention to enter upon the explication of all these particulars of the holy building in the wilderness, though it might easily be shewn, that all and each of them involve some spiritual and highly instructive signification, being, as the apostle expresseth it, "patterns of things in the heavens,"2 and of consequence designed to figure those eternal realities, and thereby to make them known and manifest unto man. It is much to be lamented, that the state of men's minds in general, at this day, is but little adapted to such pure and spiritual interpretation of the Word of God. Too many amongst us, it is to be feared, having through our corruptions lost sight of the divinity and proper sanctity of the sacred oracles, and of the spirituality of their contents, confound them with the writings of men, and are indisposed to believe that they involve any deeper meaning that what appears in the letter. Whilst this gross persuasion darkens the intellectual sight, it is impossible we can discern the bright interior verities treasured up in the Word of God; yea, though they should be declared to us a thousand and a thousand times by the tongue of an angel, yet, under the delusive influence of such a persuasion, we should either reject them as visionary, or despise them as unimportant. But whence comes it to pass, that we can thus quietly submit to have our eyes put out, and to be rendered totally blind to the knowledge of those things which, above all others, do so essentially concern our everlasting welfare? Whence comes it to pass, that we can allow to the words of man the meaning of a man, but yet refuse to allow to the words of God the meaning of a God? In the case under consideration, God thus expresses Himself to Moses, "Let them make Me a sanctuary that I may dwell among them; according to all that I shew thee, the pattern of the tabernacle, and the pattern of all the instruments thereof, even so shall ye make it."3 God Himself, then, it is plain from these words, pointed out to Moses the pattern of the tabernacle, together with the pattern of all its parts and ordinances and instruments. All these things, therefore, were first in the divine idea, and sprung from that idea, before they were constructed in their material forms. But can we think so grossly as to suppose that the ideas of the Great and Holy God are material?
2 Heb. ix. 23.
3 Exod. xxv. 8.
4 John iv. 24.
Let us give this point a little further attention, not only on account of its general importance towards opening to our view the true nature and sacred contents of the Word of God, but also on account of its particular importance to unfold to our apprehension the high use and design of the consecrated tabernacle under consideration. We cannot open a page of the holy volume without being struck forcibly with the reflection that spiritual ideas are continually expressed by material images, which material images contain, and were intended to convey, those spiritual ideas. This is a language peculiar to God Himself, and distinguishes His Divine Word from all human words whatsoever. When God speaks, He uses indeed human expressions, such as are the names of natural and material objects; but then He always uses them in reference to the spiritual and interior ideas which, by the order of creation, those objects are calculated to suggest. Thus His Word is at once intelligible to man, and replete with heavenly and divine wisdom and life, which it could not be unless it was thus spoken and written. For if God, in speaking, did not use human expressions of natural and material objects, man could never understand His speech; and if those expressions again did not involve divine ideas and a divine meaning, they would not be the words of God, but of man. To illustrate this by a few instances: Jesus Christ, we know, calls Himself a door-"I am the door of the sheepfold."5 The term door in this passage is a human expression, taken from a material object, and thus accommodated to man's natural understanding. But who cannot see that this material term involves in it a spiritual and divine idea, and that if it did not involve such as idea, it would not be the Word of God; neither could it communicate any spirit or life whatsoever from God to man?
5 John x. 9.
6 John xv. 1.
7 John x. 11, 14.
8 John xiv. 6.
9 John viii. 12; ix. 5.
10 John vii. 37, 38.
11 Deut. viii. 3; Matt. iv. 4.
I shall beg leave to mention one other example of this mode of God's speaking, by reason of its immediate reference to the subject under consideration. It is written in the Revelation, chap. xxi. 3, speaking of the descent of the New Jerusalem-"I heard a great voice out of heaven, saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself shall be with them, their God."12 What is here called "the tabernacle of God," is in the foregoing verse called "the Holy City, New Jerusalem, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband: it is there written-"I John saw the Holy City New Jerusalem coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband."13
12 Rev. xxi. 3.
13 Rev. xxi. 2.
Here then, if our eyes be opened to any degree of spiritual understanding, we shall be enabled to discern clearly what was intended to be figured to us both by the tabernacle in the wilderness, and by the tabernacle in the Revelation of St. John, of which it is written, "Behold the tabernacle of God is with men." We shall be enabled to see that both these tabernacles are instructive representative figures of those spiritual and eternal principles of righteousness and truth derived from the Word of the living God, in which alone God dwells with man, and by which alone man is conjoined with God, and rendered a subject of the divine blessing. It is therefore said of the latter tabernacle, "Behold the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself shall be with them, their God; and God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes." But how now can God dwell with man, except in His own Word, as Jesus Christ testifies, "If a man love Me, he will keep My words, and My Father will love him, and We will come unto him, and make our abode with him."14 And how can God wipe away all tears from men's eyes, except by delivering them from their corruptions (in which alone all tears and sorrow originate) through the purifying power of His holy Word? Jesus Christ saith in another place, "Now ye are clean through the Word which I have spoken unto you."15 Unless man, therefore, has the words of Jesus Christ abiding in his heart, there is nothing in him in which Jesus Christ can possibly dwell; neither is there any medium of wiping away his tears: For Jesus Christ, it is plain, can never dwell in the filth of sin and corruption; neither can He "wipe away the tears" of those who live in impenitence.
14 John xiv. 23.
15 John xv. 3.
Besides, God declares of His holy city or tabernacle, that it was "prepared as a bride adorned for her husband." The comparison is surely most remarkable, and cannot admit of any possible application but to the conjunction between Jesus Christ and His Church. Jesus Christ, therefore, by virtue of such conjunction, is repeatedly called in the Sacred Scriptures the Bridegroom16 and the Husband;17 as His Church also is called the bride and the wife. But what shall we say is this Church, this bride, this wife of Jesus Christ, but those living principles of heavenly faith and love and obedience, derived from the Word of God, and operative in the hearts of men, in which Jesus Christ delights to make. His eternal abode, and by which He enjoys perpetual conjunction with man, and man with Him? Such is the tabernacle of God; such, therefore, are the heavenly principles which we are called upon to admit and cherish in our hearts and lives, if we hope ever to attain the high honour of becoming such holy tabernacles; of being "prepared as a bride adorned for her husband."
16 Matt. ix. 15; John iii. 29.
17 Isaiah lix. 5.
To conclude; whensoever from henceforth we read; or think of the tabernacle in the wilderness, let it lead us to reflect on that more important, because spiritual tabernacle, which God commands us all to build for Him in our own hearts, and in which He is ever disposed to dwell, with all the blessings of His Divine presence and kingdom. Let us imagine that we hear the Almighty speaking continually to us, as He spake by His servant Moses to the children of Israel,-"Let them make Me a sanctuary, that I may dwell among them, according to all that I shew thee." Let us never lose sight of this heavenly sanctuary, of the blessings which it involves, of the wisdom and holiness required for its construction. The "blessings which it involves" are such surely as must command the attention and highest regard of every reasonable being. For let us reflect for a moment, what it is to become the tabernacle of God. Is it not to be delivered from sin, from misery, from folly, and from death?
18 Isaiah lvii. 15.
On the Offerings for the Tabernacle.
"And remember that thou wast a servant in the land of Egypt, and that the LORD thy God brought thee out thence through a mighty hand and by a stretched out arm."-DEUT. v. 15.
IN attending the people of God on their memorable journey out of Egypt to the promised land, we have already considered, in several former discourses on the words of my text, some of the very extraordinary and edifying circumstances which befell them, together with the spiritual instruction involved in each of those circumstances. The last subject to which our attention was called was concerning the tabernacle or sanctuary which Moses was commanded of God to build in the wilderness, and it was shown that this also was a type or figure of that spiritual tabernacle, that eternal sanctuary, which every man is required to build for God in his own mind or spirit, and in which alone God dwells with man, and man with God. But how few amongst us, alas! give to this subject the attention which it deserves! How few consider the necessity of such a spiritual tabernacle, and that without it there can be no salvation! We feel an interest in providing earthly habitations for ourselves, but whence is it that we feel no such interest in providing a heavenly habitation for our God? We are concerned, and concerned justly, about the tabernacle of our bodies, but whence is it that we are not at least equally concerned about "that house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens," in which our souls are to take up their everlasting abodes?
The first intimation given to Moses by the Almighty respecting the building of the tabernacle was in these words,-"Speak unto the children of Israel that they bring me an offering; of every man that giveth it willingly with his heart ye shall take my offering."1 Therein are contained two lessons of the most interesting instruction, absolutely necessary for every one to attend to and practise, who aspires after the high honour and happiness of building in himself the tabernacle: of God. The first is, that an offering must be brought unto God; as expressed in these words of Jehovah to Moses, "Speak unto the children of Israel that they bring Me an offering." The second is, that this offering must be a free-will-offering, as expressed in these words, "Of every man that giveth it willingly with his heart, ye shall take my offering."
1 Exod. xxv. 2.
Let me bespeak your attention to both these particulars; and first to this consideration, that to build the tabernacle of God it is necessary that an offering be brought unto God. The offerings brought unto God on this occasion by the children of Israel were of various kinds, for it is written that "they came both men and women, as many as were willing-hearted, and brought bracelets and ear-rings, and rings, and tablets, all jewels of gold; and every man that offered, offered an offering of gold unto the LORD. And every man with whom was found blue, and purple, and scarlet, and fine linen, and goats' hair, and red skins of rams, and badgers' skins, brought them. And the rulers brought onyx-stones, and stones to be set for the ephod, and for the breastplate; and spice, and oil for the light, and for the anointing oil, and for the sweet incense."2 Thus did the children of Israel contribute all that they esteemed most valuable towards the building of that sacred tabernacle in which Jehovah was to be present and dwell amongst them.
2 Exod. xxxv. 22-29.
We are not, however, to suppose that any such offerings as these are required from us at this day, towards building in ourselves the spiritual tabernacle or sanctuary of our God.
3 1 John iii. 23.
4 Psalm l. 13, 14.
5 Psalm l. 23.
Such, then, beloved, are the offerings which we are called upon to offer, if me ever hope to attain the high blessedness of becoming the tabernacles of God. We are not required to give our gold or silver, our precious stones or apparel, though these also are the gifts of God, and are therefore of right His property. But we are required to make an absolute surrender of ourselves, that is to say, of all our faculties and of all our capacities, unto God, under the acknowledgment that they are His more than ours; for how plain is it to see that God cannot dwell where He is not acknowledged, and that He cannot be properly acknowledged but by that humiliation and thanksgiving which confess all things to be His, because they are His gifts? A proud and impenitent heart, therefore, can never become the abode of God, because a proud and impenitent heart, by insisting that its life and all its faculties are its own, and not God's, separates itself from God, and of course separates God from itself. Whereas, with the humble and the penitent, God continually dwells, and builds the eternal tabernacle of His presence and salvation, because the humble and the penitent are ever disposed to acknowledge in humility and thankfulness that their life and all their faculties are from God. It is for this reason that religion, the great end of which is to make us all the pure and happy abodes of Jesus Christ and His Spirit, lays so much stress perpetually on the virtues of humiliation and repentance, because these are the leading, the fundamental virtues necessary to establish the tabernacle of the Most High, to bring God down into the human soul, and to fulfil these blessed words of Jesus Christ-"Abide in Me, and I in you."6
6 John xv. 4.
But secondly, it is not only necessary that an offering be brought unto God, with a view to the building of His tabernacle, but it is necessary also that this offering be a free-will offering, as it is written, "Of every man that giveth it willingly with his heart, ye shall take my offering."
Let us attend also to this consideration. Religion, reason, and experience, all unite in announcing that God has bestowed upon every one of us the astonishing faculty of free-will, though in general, alas! it is too little considered what this faculty is, and what it involves. Yet without this faculty we should not be men, neither should we have die power either of thinking about, or of pleasing God; consequently we should not have the power of being conjoined with God, of becoming His tabernacles, and of receiving His life. The freedom of our wills, then, is the ground of our immortality, of our salvation, and of our highest bliss, because it is the ground of God's sanctuary within us. God Himself ever dwells with us in this astonishing faculty which He has given us, and renders it operative. It is by virtue of this faculty alone that we can choose God as our highest Good, and attach ourselves eternally to Him. It is by virtue of this faculty that we can renounce our corruptions, and ceasing to delight in sin, and vanity, and folly, can be admitted to, and enjoy the consolations of the Eternal Wisdom and Holiness. It is by virtue of this faculty that we are free to choose whatsoever we please, either life or death, either God and His kingdom, or their opposites. We can move ourselves in any direction we think proper, either upwards or downwards, either towards heaven or towards hell, either towards the everlasting light or the everlasting darkness. In short, this faculty of our free-will is every thing to us, and our all depends upon its determinations.
Here then we may see a reason why, in building in ourselves the holy tabernacle of God, it is necessary, not only that we bring Him an offering, but that this offering also be a free-will offering. The reason is plain-the holy and blessed God cannot dwell in any thing like compulsion, but only in the most perfect freedom. All the offerings therefore which we bring unto God, and which are forced, and not free, so far from being acceptable to Him, and inviting Him nearer to us, rather excite His disgust and drive Him from us. Our best prayers, and our highest praises, are no further pleasing in His sight, than as they proceed from our free-will.
7 John viii. 36.
Behold here the blessed, the infallible method of establishing in ourselves the sacred, the eternal sanctuary, in which the High and Holy ONE, Who inhabiteth eternity, may love to dwell!
He who, from freedom, finds his chief delight in the love, the service, and the acknowledgment of God, and his chief misery in the want of such love, such service, and such acknowledgment, is already become such a blessed sanctuary. God dwells in him, and he in God. His heart is the happy, the pure abode of the eternal wisdom, of the supreme good, of the everlasting life and peace. No sin, no misery, no darkness can approach and enter the sacred dwelling of such an humble, penitent, and free mind, but in it is fulfilled the declaration of Jesus Christ, "These words have I spoken unto you, that My joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full."8 AMEN.
8 John xv. 11.
On the several Parts of the Tabernacle, with their Contents, viz., the Ark, the Mercy-Seat, the Cherubim, the Shew-Bread, the Candlestick, the Brazen-Altar, and the Laver.
"And remember that thou mast a servant in the land of Egypt, and that the LORD thy God brought thee out thence through a mighty hand and by a stretched out arm."-DEUT. v. 15.
IN our two last discourses on these words, we were led to consider the tabernacle which Moses was commanded to build unto God; and it was shewn how this tabernacle was significative and representative of that spiritual tabernacle or abode which we are all called to build unto God in our own hearts and lives. There are some further edifying particulars respecting the construction and contents of this sacred tabernacle in the wilderness, to which I should be happy to call your present attention, because of their infinite importance. These particulars refer to the three following heads; first, to the inmost part of the tabernacle and its contents; secondly, to the interior part and its contents; and thirdly, to the outermost part and its contents.
Let us first consider the inmost part and its contents. This part, we read, was separated from the other parts by a veil, and contained in it the ark, in which was deposited the testimony, or the law of the Ten Commandments, and over the ark was the mercy-seat covered with the golden cherubim; and of this inmost part God said unto Moses"There I will meet with thee, and I will commune with thee, from above the mercy-seat, front between the two cherubim which are upon the ark of the testimony."1
1 Exod. xxv. 22.
Whilst man continues in his unconverted and unregenerate state, his heart is the abode of all unclean and unholy affections and thoughts, which hide from him the Divine Presence, and detain him in a miserable and slavish communion with the spirits of darkness: but no sooner does he turn unto God in the spirit of a true repentance, to become His regenerate child, than a new degree of heavenly and eternal life is opened within the veil, in the interior recesses of his converted and consecrated mind. In this new and blessed degree of life is reposited the Divine Law for the regulation and government of his life and conduct, according to the blessed promise-"I will put My law in their inward parts, and will write it in their hearts."2-This law is in connection with God from whom it comes forth, and is attended and overshadowed at all times by the divine mercy and providence, figured by the mercy-seat and the golden cherubim, to instruct us, that whensoever our minds are opened inwards by regeneration, to admit the Divine Spirit and to submit to its guidance, then we become at the same time subjects of the eternal mercy of Jesus Christ, and dwell continually under the protection and blessing of His Omnipotence, in ourselves. Then the Most High is perpetually present with us, and we with Him; He dwells in us, and we in Him, according to that blessed promise of Jesus Christ to His disciples, when He was about to leave the world-"At that day ye shall know that I am in My Father, and ye in Me, and I in you."3
2 Jer. xxxi. 33.
3 John xiv. 20.
But, secondly, besides this most holy part within the veil, containing the testimony, the mercy-seat, and the cherubim, there was in the tabernacle an interior and holy part, which contained the table of the shew-bread, and the golden candlestick, for thus it is written-"Thou shalt set the table without the veil, and the candlestick over against the table on the side of the tabernacle towards the south."4
4 Exod. xxvi 35.
5 John i. 1.
6 John vi. 50.
7 Psalm cxix. 105.
But, thirdly, there is yet another part of the tabernacle which demands our attention, and which may be called the outermost part, as containing things of a lower or more external order than the two former of which we have been speaking. This outermost part was distinguished principally by the brazen altar and brazen laver which were deposited there, the brazen altar being intended to receive the burnt-offerings and meat-offerings of the children of Israel, and the brazen laver being meant for washing, as it is written-"Aaron and his sons shall wash their hands and their feet thereat; when they go into the tabernacle of the congregation, they shall wash with water, that they die not."8 Behold here again, other "patterns of things in the heavens," as the apostle calls them, equally significative with those which we have already considered, and of a signification so plain and obvious, that it is next to impossible that any, who are desirous of attaining to the knowledge of the truth, should mistake or misinterpret it.
8 Exod. xxx. 19, 20.
For first, with respect to the brazen altar, every one may see, that an altar is representative of the holy worship which is performed upon it, and that therefore the brazen altar in the Jewish tabernacle was intended as a figure of the perpetual holy worship performed in the regenerate mind, whereby it offers up continually, not burnt-offerings and meat-offerings, which were only types of the true worship, but the more prevailing sacrifices of devout prayer and praise to the Eternal Father of life, mercy, and grace.
Secondly, with respect to the brazen-laver; who cannot see that this was also a figure, and that the thing figured by it is that spiritual purification from all evils of life and errors of opinion which is necessary to introduce the humble penitent into the sacred habitation and presence of the Most Holy God? It was, therefore, commanded-"When they go into the tabernacle of the congregation, they shall wash with water, that they die not," to warn us of the danger of attempting to enter into the holy mysteries of heavenly knowledge and love with impure and unsanctified hearts, and to teach us further the absolute necessity of repentance, of separation from sin, and of purgation from every defiling principle of life, before we can be admitted to the high honour of becoming the tabernacles of God, of enjoying the consolations of His mercy, and the illuminations of His truth.
Such, then, are the bright and instructive ideas which the Jewish tabernacle and all its parts were intended to excite in the minds of the penitent and the humble. And what has been observed concerning the testimony, the mercy-seat, the golden cherubim, the table of the shew-bread, the golden candlestick, the brazen altar and laver, might be extended, also, if occasion required, to the other constituent parts of the sacred edifice, as to the altar of incense, the curtains, the garments of Aaron, the anointing oil, and so forth, all which particulars could not possibly have found a place in the Most Holy Word of God, unless they had involved a divine and spiritual wisdom, and had thus been intended to suggest to us divine and spiritual ideas.
It remains only that we take these things into serious consideration, that so we may attain worthy sentiments of the contents of that Holy Book which we call the Book of God.
9 Exod. xxv. 22.
On the Golden Calf.
"And remember that thou mast a servant in the land of Egypt, and that the LORD thy God brought thee out thence through a, mighty hand and by a stretched out arm."-DEUT. v. 25.
IN our last discourse on these words, we left Moses, the consecrated leader of the people of God, on the top of Mount Sinai, receiving from Jehovah the pattern of the tabernacle in which the Most High was to dwell, which pattern has already been the subject of our consideration.
Our attention is next called to a most melancholy instance of human corruption, such as one would have conceived scarcely possible to occur; for, lo! whilst Moses is engaged in holy communion with God on the consecrated mount, and receiving from God those laws of the eternal wisdom which were to conduct the children of Israel to the promised land, this disobedient and gainsaying people persuade Aaron to make for them a golden calf, which they set up and worship as a god, saying-"These be thy gods, O Israel, which brought thee up out of the land of Egypt."1 This depravity on the part of the wandering Israelites was the more remarkable, and the more shocking, because they had so lately been eye-witnesses to the miraculous power of Jehovah their God: they had seen the waters of the red sea divided by His Almighty Hand, that they might pass over in safety: they had seen the bitter waters of Marah made sweet through the operation of the same Omnipotence: they had quenched their thirst, too, at the consecrated fountain which was opened in the rock at Horeb: and moreover, they had eaten of the quails and the manna which the same Divine Arm sent down from heaven for their support, when they were ready to perish for want of bread: and yet, notwithstanding all these signal interpositions of the Most High in their favour-notwithstanding both the mercies and the miracles wrought for their preservation and conviction (such is the corrupt propensity of the human heart), they forget in a moment all their past deliverances, and abandon themselves to the grossest and most abominable idolatries.
1 Exod. xxxii. 8.
2 Psalm xvi. xx.
We are struck with astonishment and regret at this perverse folly of the children of Israel; and, indeed, how should it be otherwise? For what can be more astonishing, or what more lamentable, than the consideration that so many human beings should forget their God, and the wondrous works which He had done for them, at that very moment when He was concerning with their leader the plans of their future blessedness and security; and at a moment, too, when they stood in the utmost need of His divine aid and guidance? We do well, then, to express both our surprise and concern on so deplorable an occasion: but do we consider that such conduct is not confined to the history of the wandering Israelites?
And first, with regard to our situation. If we attend to realities more than to appearances, and to things more than to names, we must all see and acknowledge that our journey through this world bears an exact resemblance to the journey of the children of Israel through the wilderness of Mount Sinai. We are going, as they went, towards a promised land; we have here "no continuing city, but seek one to come;"3 moreover we are called to the possession of that land by the same God who called them, and are conducted thither by the same Almighty Power; we are exposed also to similar dangers, and assaulted by similar adversaries; we have experienced, too, in the course of our journey, like mercies and miracles. But what renders the resemblance still more striking, is the consideration that we are as near to the mount of God, and thereby to God himself, as ever the children of Israel were, and have both God and His holy mountain as near to us. Our Moses, too, is gone up into the holy mount; and from thence, if we will open our ears, we may still hear God speaking, and speaking, too, for our benefit and instruction; because the speech of God is the Word of God, and in our Bibles we have this Word, or divine speech, ever uttering what is "profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness."4
3 Heb. xiii. 14.
4 2 Tim. iii. 16.
Such, then, is the resemblance between our situation and that of the Israelites at Mount Sinai. And would to God that we did not imitate them in their folly as well as resemble them in their situation! Would to God that whilst we enjoy the blessings and the privileges by which they were distinguished, we were wise to make a better use of them, by guarding against the thoughtlessness and impiety into which they were betrayed! But will truth and experience warrant us in concluding that this has been our case? Let us consider this point also with the attention which it deserves. The Israelites, to their shame, whilst their pious leader is communing with God on Mount Sinai, forget at once both him and their God, and are seen dancing round a golden calf in all the profaneness of idolatrous worship. If we regard the mere letter of this history, it is true indeed that it will not apply to ourselves; for according to the letter, we have certainly neither made a golden calf nor danced around it. But the question is, have we not done this in the spirit? that is to say, have we not done it as to our affections and thoughts? For if we have thus danced round a golden calf in the spirit, it is of little consequence whether we have done so with our bodies or not. It is the spirit of man which constitutes the man, and not the body separate from the spirit; and therefore, whatsoever enormity or disorder is committed in the spirit, that enormity and disorder is committed by the man, whether his body is concerned in it or not: just as in the case of the crime of murder; he that hateth his brother is a murderer,5 whether his bodily hands have or have not been imbrued in his brother's blood. But me thinks I hear it asked"How can we dance round a golden calf in the spirit? or what is this new species of spiritual idolatry, to the danger of which we are exposed? We believe in one God, who made the heavens and the earth, and all things that are therein; and we reject all idolatry as abominable; how then can we, in any sense of the words, be said to worship a golden calf?"
5 1 John iii. 15.
6 Coloss. iii. 5.
7 Philip iii. 19.
It deserves consideration on this occasion, that the idolatry of the Jews in setting up and worshiping a golden calf originated in their own corrupt affections and thoughts, in consequence of which they had forgotten their leader Moses, and the God by whom they had been so wonderfully and miraculously conducted and preserved. It was not, therefore, the golden calf which made them idolaters, but it was their idolatry which made the golden calf. In other words, it was not the figure or image which they worshiped that constituted their idolatry, but this their sin consisted in that love of the mere things of sense, and of the pleasures thence derived, which had first led them to forget their divine leader, and then to set up a golden idol in His place. They did not love to retain the true God in their thoughts and affections, but found their chief delight in sensual gratifications and indulgences, as it is written of them-"The people sat down to eat and to drink, and rose up to play."8 It was, therefore, their sensuality which made and set up the golden calf; and this image was nothing else but a figure or external manifestation of the corrupt principle in which it originated. It did not beget that principle, but was begotten by it.
8 Exod. xxxii. 6.
Here, then, if our eyes be at all open to spiritual discernment, we may be enabled to see how we also, when perhaps least aware of it, may be dancing round a golden calf, like the profane Israelites. The question is not concerning the posture or gesture of our bodies, but concerning the posture and gesture of our spirits. It is possible that our bodily hands may never be employed in making, or our bodily feet in dancing round a golden image, and yet we may, nevertheless, both make such an image and dance round it in the greatest reality. For if our minds be yet more delighted with the things of sense than with the things of God,-if our chief gratifications be still derived from sensual pleasures more than from heavenly joys,-if, in our short journey through this perishable world, we forget our Moses on the holy mount, together with the divine mercies and miracles by which we have been hitherto conducted and preserved,-if in this forgetfulness we think it safe to banish the thoughts of eternity from our hearts, that we may sit down to eat and to drink, and rise up to play,-if, in short, our affections be still earthly, and though we make a show of worshiping the God of heaven, yet we worship Him only with our bodies, whilst our spirits are dancing round the altar of inferior and polluted indulgences,-how plain is it to see in this case (whether we are willing to allow it or not) that in the strictest and most awful reality we are both making and dancing round a golden calf, and that all the difference between the sin of the Israelites and ours is this, that they worshiped the calf consistently and uniformly, both with mind and body, whereas we worship it inconsistently and dividedly, giving to God the worship of our bodies, whilst we devote our better part, our immortal spirits, to the golden idol of our own corruptions.
To conclude,-let us learn from what has been said, to adore the divine providence of the Most High, who, in recording the above idolatry of the wandering Israelites, has been pleased in His grace and mercy to warn us against being betrayed into the same enormity. And whensoever from henceforth we are led to think of the golden calf in the wilderness, let us not confine our thoughts to a calf of gold, but let us learn to extend them to that idolatrous and abominable principle in the human heart, of which the golden calf was but a figure; let us call this principle by its proper name, sensual pleasure.
If we are wise thus to regulate our affections by the eternal principles of heavenly love and purity and truth, from Jesus Christ, we shall then be in no danger of idolatrously dancing round a golden calf. On the contrary, our dance will then be about the altar of the Supreme Mercy and Truth of the Most High God; and in this blessed dance we shall see a heavenly order introduced into all the inferior joys of sense, by virtue whereof they will no longer prove injurious, but will rather administer to our bliss. Thus will be fulfilled in our well-arranged minds those blessed words of the Lord to His people-"Again I will build thee, and thou shalt be built, O Virgin of Israel; thou shalt again be adorned with thy tabrets, and shalt go forth in the dances of them that make merry."9 AMEN.
9 Jer. xxxi. 4.
The Manna loathed.
"And remember that thou wast a servant in the land of Egypt, and that the LORD thy God brought thee out thence through a mighty hand and by a stretched out arm."-DEUT. v. 15.
OUR last discourse on these words related to the history of a remarkable corruption on the part of the Israelites in the wilderness of Mount Sinai, in that they became the worshipers of a golden calf, during the time that their heavenly-appointed leader was communing with God on the holy mountain.
We come now to another memorable instance of their depravity, equally to be lamented: for lo! they are not advanced far from Mount Sinai in their way to the promised land, before they begin to loathe the manna with which they had been fed, and to require flesh for the gratification of their inordinate appetites; for thus it is written on the occasion-"The mixt multitude that was among them fell a lusting, and the children of Israel also wept again, and said, Who shall give us flesh to eat? We remember the fish which we did eat in Egypt freely; the cucumbers, and the melons, and the leeks, and the onions, and the garlick; but now our soul is dried away; there is nothing at all besides this manna before our eyes."1 It is never an agreeable thing to look at human corruptions; yet it is sometimes both expedient and profitable. The providence of God has accordingly, in His wonderful Word, been pleased to record the history of the transgressions of His people, as well as of His own mercies and loving-kindness, to teach us, by examples, both the heinousness and the danger of sin, and thus to lead us to a stricter scrutiny and a more vigilant watchfulness over ourselves.
1 Numb. xi. 4-7.
But it will be asked by some-What was this great enormity of the children of Israel, and in what did it consist? They had traveled long in a barren wilderness, and they began, as was natural for them, to hunger after flesh, which had been so long denied them. But where could be the crime of all this; or how can this history be at all applicable to ourselves, who are never likely to be placed in the same situation? Questions like these may be expected from all such superficial readers of the Word of God as look no further than to its literal history and meaning, without ever regarding the spiritual and deep wisdom of the Most High, which that literal history involves.
2 1 Cor. x. 6.
Here, then, if we are disposed to have our eyes opened, we may be enabled to see, not only in what the sin of the children of Israel consisted when they began to loathe the heavenly manna, and to require meat for their lusts, but also how this sin was intended to be an ensample or type unto us, "that we should not lust after evil things, as they also lusted."
But whilst we return our most grateful acknowledgments to the Eternal for this instance of His loving-kindness towards us, let us be careful to profit by the bright wisdom which it presents to our view. There is no temptation to which we are more exposed, there is none also more formidable, than what the great adversary of our salvation is ever suggesting under the secret insinuation that religion is a morose and severe service; that it imposes unnecessary restraints; that it deprives us of all true pleasures; and that, in calling us to submit to its burdensome yoke, it would separate us from every natural and rational satisfaction for which we were created.
We can all easily see the folly of this deluded people, who for the fish, the cucumbers, the melons, the leeks, the onions, and the garlick of Egypt, were willing to forget and forego at once all the treasures and the blessings of that promised land for which they had set out under the guidance of Heaven, and towards which they had now so long been journeying. And shall we forget and forego the treasures and the blessings of our promised land, for things alike little and contemptible with the fish, the cucumbers, the melons, the leeks, the onions, and the garlick of Egypt? Shall we renounce the love of the Most High, because an enemy suggests that we may be greater gainers by the love of this world? Shall we turn our backs on the eternal wisdom, because a deceiver insinuates that the pleasures of sense are more exquisite than the delights of truth? Shall we bid adieu to God, to heaven, to everlasting blessedness, because the father of lies would represent them either as things of doubtful existence, or, if real, scarcely worth our pursuit? Shall we-especially when we have now gone so far on our journey,-when we are arrived nearly at the gates of the eternal world, and see the things of this world fast receding from both our enjoyment and our sight-shall we, under these circumstances, suffer our eyes to be put out again by folly, that we may return unto the darkness and misery of mere animal gratifications? Surely the example of the wanderers in the wilderness must sufficiently convince us of the miserable infatuation of such conduct. Let us then keep this example continually before our eyes; and let us suffer it to teach us continually the lesson of heaven-born wisdom which it was designed to convey. Let it teach us that the joys and delights proceeding from the love and the knowledge of Jesus Christ are infinitely superior to all the pleasures of sense or the gratifications of worldly affections.
3 Psalm lxxviii. 30, 31.
Would we, then, escape this misery, and pursue stedfastly the great ends of our being, the path of our true happiness? Let us be watchful to exalt continually in ourselves the joys arising from the love of God above all inferior joys. Let us force every pleasure of sense to bow down and acknowledge thus its heavenly origin. And further, let us never fancy that religion was intended to debar us of, or to destroy any rational, any natural delight which is not in contradiction to the law of God; for religion was not designed to annihilate, but to sanctify,-not to destroy, but to save, our inferior joys, by conjoining them with the supreme joy. Let us then be careful to fulfil this intention of pure religion, and then pure religion, or rather its God; will fulfil His intention in us, by communicating to all our joys their proper life, according to the tenor of His own blessed words, which will apply to our satisfactions as well as to ourselves-"I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly."4 AMEN.
4 John x. 10.
On the Spies sent out to search the Land.
"And remember that thou wast a servant in the land of Egypt, and that the LORD thy Clod brought thee out thence through a mighty hand and by a stretched out arm."-DEUT. v. 15.
IN several former discourses on these words we have taken a view of some of the most distinguished events which befel the children of Israel, when miraculously called out of Egypt, and during their advancement in the journey towards the promised land.
We come now to the consideration of a circumstance not less edifying and interesting than those which precede it; for behold, as the heaven-directed wanderers approach near unto the borders of Canaan, "the LORD spake unto Moses, saying, Send thou men that they may search the land of Canaan, which I give unto the children of Israel; of every tribe of their fathers shall ye send a man, every one a ruler among them."1 We read afterwards, that Moses did as the Lord commanded him, and that the men whom he sent out to search the land, "came unto the brook of Eschol, and cut down from thence a branch with one cluster of grapes, and they bare it between two upon a staff; and they brought of the pomegranates and of the figs."2 Nevertheless they were not agreed amongst themselves touching their report concerning the land, for we read further, that "some of them brought up an evil report of the land which they had searched unto the children of Israel, saying, The land through which we have gone to search, it is a land that eateth up the inhabitants thereof."3
1 Numb. xiii. 1.
2 Numb. xiii. 23.
3 Numb. xiii. 32.
4 Numb. xiv. 7, 8.
5 Numb. xiv. 10.
6 Numb. xiv. 29-30.
There are two distinct objects of consideration arising out of the above historical facts, which demand our particular attention: first, what was intended to be signified and represented to us by the command which Jehovah gave unto Moses, to "send out men to search the land;" secondly, what was further intended to be signified and represented by the "different reports" of those men, and by the children of Israel "rejecting the good report, and believing the evil one."
To begin with the first of these considerations. When we find it recorded in the Word of God that "Jehovah commanded Moses to seed out men to search the land," we conclude that this command must involve some deeper and more hidden meaning than what appears in the letter of it. For all the commands of Jehovah, as proceeding from Himself, and being consequently filled with His eternal life and wisdom, must of necessity contain living and spiritual ideas, suitable to the Divinity in which they originate, and to the Divine life and wisdom with which they are replenished. When, therefore, Jehovah speaks of a land, and searching out a land, we can never suppose that He has no further meaning is such expressions than what is usually annexed to them in the language of men, for this would be to suppose that there is nothing more of life, of wisdom, and of spirituality contained in the Word of God, than is the words of men. And if we suppose so, what difference do we then make between what God speaks and what man speaks? If we annex to the speech of God only the same natural and terrestrial ideas which we annex to the speech of man, we must certainly deprive it of all that spirituality, that divinity of sentiment by which it is so pre-eminently distinguished; and of consequence, instead of testifying that He speaks "as never man spake,"7 we invert the testimony by the gross and criminal assertion, that God speaks as man, and man as God.
7 John vii. 46.
Besides, it is allowed to be a distinguishing character of the Word of God, that "it is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, and instruction in righteousness."8 But what profit of doctrine, of reproof, of correction, and of instruction in righteousness, is to be found in the above historical relation concerning the "spies whom God commanded to be sent to search out the land," if we regard it only according to the sense of the letter? Of what importance, or of what edification, is it to us at this day, to be told that God gave Moses such a command, if it be supposed to relate only to the children of Israel exploring the land of Canaan? We must, therefore, conclude, from this consideration also, that the whole of this memorable history, together with all its parts, involve divine and spiritual intentions worthy of that all-wise God in whom it originates, and communicative likewise of profitable doctrine, reproof correction, and instruction in righteousness to that creature man, for whose spiritual edification and use it was mercifully and principally intended. What those divine and spiritual intentions are, which are involved in the history under consideration, will be easily discovered and conceived by the humble and serious mind. Thanks be to that Divine Mercy which first uttered the words of eternal life, that their important meaning is neither of difficult or of doubtful interpretation with such as apply sincerely to the Divine Author for illumination and instruction. For in the case before us, what eye, which looks upwards toward heaven for the guidance of the light of the eternal truth, cannot see that when God speaks of a land, He does not mean only a portion of this lower earth, called the land of Canaan, or any other land; but He must needs mean what was signified and represented by that land, viz., the heavenly Canaan, the land of uprightness, as it is called by the prophet;9 in other words, the kingdom of heaven, the habitation of the blessed in the eternal world?
8 Tim. iii. 16.
9 Isaiah xxvi. 10.
The Most High has been pleased, by the revelation of Himself and of His kingdom, to announce to us the great certainties of the existence of an invisible world, and of our close connection with its important and everlasting realities. In the sacred Book of that revelation we read that there is a heaven, and that there is a hell; that each also has its unseen, its innumerable inhabitants; and that we ourselves, whatsoever appearances may be presented to the contrary, are not only approaching fast to take our eternal places in one or other of those two kingdoms, but are likewise, even during our abode in this world, entering into some sort of consociation and conjunction with them. We learn thus that our present life is but a passage to another, and that the present world which we inhabit, so far from being the termination of our existence, is intended only as an introduction to a future one. We are placed here as it were but for a moment, and are then to be transplanted to the abodes of our eternal destination. We are thus inhabitants as it were of two worlds at the same time; and whilst with our bodies we converse with men here below, and are employed in the concerns of our animal life, our immortal spirits are in consociation with their kindred beings in the eternal world, and taking up their everlasting abodes accordingly. Our senses, indeed, would persuade us that the material objects with which we are surrounded, and the persons with whom we converse, have here a fixed and durable being; but the wisdom of God assures us, and our own experience confirms the divine testimony, that all things here below are transitory and perishable; that they are only shadows of those eternal things from which they derive their birth; and that nothing is permanent, nothing is real, but God, and that invisible kingdom of His glory for the possession and enjoyment of which we were originally created.
But notwithstanding all this weight of evidence and demonstration with which the eternal things of God and of His kingdom are announced and confirmed to us, it is yet possible, and every day's experience proves the sad possibility, that we may remain altogether unaffected by it, and careless as to its consequences. The outward visible things of this world, uniting with our internal corruptions, may so hide from our views the inward invisible realities of the other world, that we shall believe nothing about them, or if we are convinced of their existence, we shall not feel their importance. Even the attention necessary to conduct our worldly business, and to regulate our concerns and engagements amongst men-even this necessary attention may, if we are not upon our guard, cast a veil over the bright evidences of another world, and render our prospects beyond the grave both obscure and comfortless. Thus we shall pass through this life as in a dream, and mistaking shadows for substances, phantoms of happiness for happiness itself, we shall never discover our fatal mistake till the trump of God awakes us to conviction in our future state of existence.
Behold here, then, the kind and merciful intention of our heavenly Father manifested in the command which He gave unto Moses, to "send out men to search the land" towards which they were journeying! He meant this command, like all the other laws which He gave on the same occasion, for our instruction and for our practice. He meant to teach us hereby this great and edifying truth, that if we wish to be fully and profitably convinced of the great certainty and importance of that eternal land, the heavenly Canaan, towards which we are journeying; if we wish to be no longer deluded by our senses and our corruptions, touching the weighty things of God and the awful concerns of another world; if we wish to view thing as they really are, and no more to mistake shadows for substances, phantoms for realities; we must do as the leader of the people of Israel did under similar circumstances-we must "send out men to search the land:" in other words, we must send our best affections and thoughts to heaven before us, and bring down thence the grapes of the heavenly Eschol for our conviction and our comfort; we must use the powers and faculties which the Almighty has given us, to explore the hidden laws and principles of His invisible kingdom; we must connect the things of this world with those of another; our engagements, our business, our interests and concerns here below with those more important engagements, that more important business, interest, and concern which we have above.
Having thus considered the first point presented to our view by the command of the Most High, to "send out men to search the land," I should now proceed to consider what was further intended to be made known to us by the different reports of those men; but the present time will only allow me to press upon your attention and practice the vast importance of the above history, from what has been already said concerning it. Certain it is, that the Almighty has not only given us a command to search out and explore that heavenly land for which He has created us, but He has also given and continually gives us power to comply with that command, by enabling us to raise our affections and thoughts towards Him and His kingdom as often as me please. There is not a moment of our lives in which we are left destitute of this power; there is not, therefore, a moment of our lives in which, if we were so disposed, we might not ascend up into heaven, with our better desires, and place ourselves at the feet of Jesus Christ, and implore His mercy, and at the same time explore the laws and customs of that eternal land, and also bring down thence some of its heavenly fruits, its grapes, its pomegranates, and its figs, for our refreshment and confirmation.
Let it then from henceforth become our great concern to use the power which the Most High has given us, that He might deliver us from our sins and exalt us to Himself. Let us accustom our affections and thoughts frequently to ascend above the lower things of this world, to contemplate and delight in those eternal realities of God and of His invisible kingdom, to which He so mercifully and tenderly invites us. In the language of inspired wisdom-"Let us walk about the heavenly Zion, and go round about her, and tell the towers thereof,"10 till our minds are fully persuaded, not only of the existence of the heavenly city, but also of its blessedness; not only that it is, but also that it is what of all other places it most concerns us to be acquainted with. Thus shall we no longer be distracted by any doubts concerning that invisible world towards which we are approaching; but being convinced of its blessed certainties, both by what we see and by what we feel concerning it, we shall be enabled to bear the happy testimony of the faithful spies, who said-"The land which we passed through to search it, is an exceeding good land. If the Lord delight in us, then He will bring us into this land, and give it us, a land flowing with milk and honey." And being thus fully satisfied as to the great end of our destination, we shall be led with more unwearied diligence, and more undaunted courage, to apply the means necessary to conduct us to it. We shall therefore be careful to "live soberly, righteously, and godly in this present world, always abounding in the work of the Lord," from this best of all motives, because "we know that our labour will not be in vain in the Lord."11 AMEN.
10 Psalm xiviii. 12.
11 Tit. ii. 12. 1 Cor. xv. 58.
On the two different reports of the Spies.
"And remember that thou wast a servant in the land of Egypt, and that the LORD thy God brought thee out thence through a mighty hand and by a stretched out arm."-DEUT v. 15.
IN our last discourse on these words we were led to the consideration of the remarkable history of the spies whom Moses was commanded to send out to search the land of Canaan, towards which the children of Israel were then journeying in the wilderness. Those spies and their search, it was shewn, are figurative of that spiritual search or inquiry respecting the heavenly Canaan which every man is commanded to make in his own mind and understanding, that so he may form just apprehensions of that eternal state or kingdom towards which he is fast approaching; and being thereby convinced of its nearness, its certainties, and its comforts, may be impelled by a stronger affection to go up and take possession of it.
Having thus, then, considered the heavenly instruction intended to be transmitted to us in the history of these spies, I shall now proceed to consider, as was proposed, the further lesson of interesting wisdom designed for our use in the different reports which those spies made concerning the land they were commanded to search. Some of them, we read, brought up an evil report of the land: when they returned to the children of Israel, they expressed their sentiments in these discouraging words-"We are not able to go up against the people, for they are stronger than we.
1 Numb. xiii. 31-33.
2 Numb. xiv. 1, 2.
We lament, and we lament justly, that these deluded spies should so miserably impose both upon themselves and others in a case of such vast moment; and we are further grieved to think that the children of Israel also should suffer themselves to be so easily misled by such an ill-grounded report, received from such ill-informed reporters. But do we consider, and consider seriously, that the same lamentable circumstances are transacting every day, and that the evil report of those spies of old is but a figure of that far more mistaken and more mischievous report by which we are in danger of perpetually imposing both upon ourselves and others, in the great concerns of God and eternity?
It has already been shewn, in treating of the spies collectively, that they are representative figures of the thoughts of man going forth to contemplate and explore the invisible things of the kingdom of God, and the principles of that heavenly and regenerate life necessary to be formed in himself, in order to his admittance into that kingdom and its everlasting blessedness. How plain, then, is it to see that these spies, who bring up an evil report of the land which they are sent to explore, are herein representative figures, denoting all those, in every age and place, who, in their thoughts and contemplations about God and His kingdom, see nothing but difficulties, and thus are perpetually discouraging both themselves and others by the view of the unsurmountable hardships which obstruct the way between them and the heavenly Canaan! Such are the thoughts and contemplations of those faint-hearted Christians who speculate about God and heaven with their understandings; whilst they are destitute of the pure love of God and heaven in their wills and affections.
Behold here, then, the instructive lesson presented to our view in the history of those spies of the children of Israel, who brought up an evil report of the land which they were sent to search! It was designed to teach us that in all our thoughts about God and His kingdom, and our own eternal life, we should be careful to think under the influence of a warm, that is to say, of a heavenly affection, grounded in the pure love of God and of our neighbour, and of the sanctity and blessedness of that love. Our thoughts would thus be animated, strong, and invigorating; whereas without such affection they will be irresolute, unsteady, and discouraging. We shall be alarmed with every difficulty, without having the courage either to surmount or oppose it. The victory over our passions will appear to us a thing impossible; and we shall fancy we see a giant in every one of them, whilst we shall seem as grasshoppers both to them and to ourselves. Our corruptions will thus gain strength by our timidity, and we shall never be able to overcome them, because we shall want the resolution necessary to engage us in the combat. Still less shall we be able to attain to that blessed order of heavenly and regenerate life to which the Gospel calls us, because we shall hardly believe it to be attainable. As, therefore, the children of Israel "lifted up their voices, and cried, and wept," on this occasion, "murmuring against Moses and against Aaron," so also shall we; and our whole lives will be spent in unprofitable sadness, dejection, and complaint against God and His laws, not because God and His laws are really either severe or unreasonable, but because me want the love and affection necessary to make them easy and delightful to us.
For let us turn now our eyes from these evil reporters, to consider, in the second place, what we are to learn from those more courageous and better-instructed spies who brought up a good report of the land which they were sent to search. The report of these spies is expressed in these animated and animating words-"The land which we passed through to search it, is an exceeding good land. If the LORD delight in us, then will He bring us into this land, a land flowing with milk and honey. Only rebel not ye against the LORD, neither fear ye the people of the land, for they are bread for us, their defence is departed from them; fear them not."3 Behold, here, the spirited language and bold sentiment of all the children of God, in every age and in every nation, who, in contemplating on the Most High, and on that eternal kingdom or state of heavenly life to which the Divine mercy invites them, are influenced in their thoughts by a warm love and affection towards the sublime objects of their holy contemplation! No dangers affright, no difficulties discourage them. They see no giants in the way, either to alarm or to intimidate. Elevated above the gain and glory of this lower world, and animated by the prospect of that eternal gain and glory presented to their acceptance in the favour and kingdom of Jesus Christ, they feel none of that timidity which is the child of selfish and earthly affections, but are inspired with all that courage and magnanimity which ever spring from and accompany the love of the sovereign-the supreme GOOD. But let us recall the expressions and sentiments of these good reporters, that we may give them a more deliberate attention.
3 Numb. xiv. 7-9.
"The land," say they, "which we passed through to search it, is an exceeding good land. If the LORD delight in us, then will He bring us into this land, a land flowing with milk and honey. Only rebel not ye against the LORD, neither fear ye the people of the land, for they are bread for us, their defence is departed from them; fear them not."
To conclude; me have sees the two very different views and reports of two very different classes of people, respecting the eternal things of God's kingdom and righteousness, and our own most awful connection with them. It now only remains for us to choose which of the two views and reports we will believe and be governed by, the evil or the good; for one of them we must choose, and our eternal happiness or misery must be the result of our choice. Our choice, however, it is well to be noted, will depend altogether on the state of our love and affections; for if we think of God, His kingdom and righteousness, without love and affection, yea, without our supreme love and affection, there is then every reason to apprehend and fear we shall be of the unhappy number of those who bring up and believe an evil report of the heavenly land.
Be it then from henceforth our grand concern to give to God and the things of His kingdom our first, our supreme love and affections. And since we cannot do this, only so far as we renounce and separate from ourselves the affections of a selfish and worldly love, which would usurp in our minds the place of the divine and heavenly love; be this further the principal study and labour of our lives,-be this our never-ceasing prayer to the Father of Mercies, that we may be inspired with the grace to bring every lower attachment and desire into subordination to the pure love of God and of our neighbour. Thus shall we be delivered from all the sill and danger of bringing up and believing an evil report of the land, and shall escape the terrible condemnation announced as the consequent effect of that report, in these awful words-"As I live, saith the LORD, as ye have spoken in Mine ears, so will I do unto you: your carcases shall fall in this wilderness, and ye shall not come into the land, concerning which I sware to make you dwell therein."4
4 Numb. xiv. 28, 29.
5 Numb. xiv. 24.
On the Rebellion of Korah, Dathan, and Abiram, and in what its sin consisted.
"And remember that thou wast a servant in the land of Egypt, and that the LORD thy God brought thee out thence through a mighty hand and by a stretched out arm."-DEUT. v. 15.
IN our last discourse on these words we concluded our observations on the history of the spies, who were commanded of God to be sent out by Moses to search the land whither they were going up to possess it.
We come now to the consideration of another equally remarkable and instructive history respecting these wonderful travellers in the wilderness; for we read in the Book of Numbers of a formidable rebellion which broke out amongst them, and which is thus described-"Now Corah the son of Izhar, and Dathan and Abiram the sons of Eliab, and On the son of Peleth, took men; and they rose up before Moses, with certain of the children of Israel, two hundred and fifty princes of the assembly, famous in the congregation, men of renown: and they gathered themselves together against Moses and against Aaron, and said unto them, Ye take too much upon you, seeing all the congregation are holy every one of them, and the LORD is among them: wherefore then lift ye up yourselves above the congregation of the LORD?"1
1 Numb. xvi. 1-3.
2 Numb. xvi. 31-33.
There are two things in this account which deserve our particular attention: first, the sin of the rebellious people here described; secondly, their punishment. In the consideration of their sin, we may regard it in a twofold view: first, as a sin against Moses and Aaron; secondly, as a sin against what was represented by Moses and Aaron, viz., the Revelation, or Word of God. In respect to this sin, according to the first of these views, viz., as a sin against Moses and Aaron, I wish only to observe, that it was a rebellion against the lawful authority which God had appointed for spiritual and civil administration; and therefore must have been highly offensive in the sight of God. For, not only then, but also according to the present constitution of the world, there must needs be some to govern, and others to be governed, otherwise the affairs of this world would soon fall into the most miserable confusion and disorder. Now those who govern, and those who are governed, it is well to observe, are alike under the control and appointment of the great Governor of the Universe, agreeably to the apostle's assertion-"There is no power but of God; the powers that be are ordained of God;"3 for the very permission, on the part of God, of the exercise of such powers, is a manifest proof that they are allowed of His providence, and thus confirms the truth of the apostle's further assertion, that"Whosoever resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God."4
3 Romans xiii. 1.
4 verse 2.
But I trust, beloved, that after so many years of sad experience, which we have lately witnessed in the nations around us, of the dreadful effects of rebellion against constituted authorities, there will be no occasion for me to dwell longer on the painful subject.
That Moses, Aaron, and all the prophets were representative figures of the revealed Word of God, is manifest from the manner in which that Word is spoken of by our Blessed Lord Himself, who calls it by the general name of Moses and the prophets. Thus in the parable of the rich man and Lazarus, Abraham says-"They have Moses and the prophets, let them hear them;"5 and again"If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded though one rose from the dead;"6 in which passage it is plain to see that Moses and the prophets are terms expressive of that revealed Word of the Most High which was communicated by or through them unto mankind; consequently that they are representative figures of that Holy Word which they communicated. The sin, therefore, committed by Dathan, Abiram, and their company, was not a sin only against the persons and authority of Moses and Aaron, but it was infinitely more malignant in its origin, and more tremendous in its consequences. For it was a sin against the person and authority of God Himself, because it was an opposition to, and rejection of, His revealed Word and wisdom, as manifested to His servants Moses and Aaron. When, therefore, this rebellious people adopted the impious language and said (addressing themselves to Moses and Aaron)-"Ye take too much upon you, seeing all the congregation are holy, every one of them;"7 their impiety is to be understood as directed against the revelation of God, and calling in question the authority of His Word. They interpret the infinite mercy of that revelation into an act of tyranny on the part of the Almighty, and are presumptuous enough to imagine that they are holy every one of them of themselves, without the law of holiness from God; and therefore that the communication of that law from the Great Creator is to them altogether needless and superfluous.
5 Luke xvi. 29.
6 Luke xvi. 31.
7 Numb. xvi. 3.
I trust that none of you, beloved, to whom I am addressing myself, have been infected with the rebellious insanity of which I am now speaking. I trust that we should all tremble at the thought of any such avowed and open hostility against the Word of the Most High-that we still retain a secret veneration for our Bibles, as for the book of eternal wisdom and life, and that so far all is well with us. But surely we ought, further, to consider seriously with ourselves, whether the veneration which we profess for the sacred Scriptures be the real veneration of our hearts in the sight of God, or only a veneration of habit and of custom; or what is still worse, a pretended veneration, for the sake of saving appearances before men. For if it be only a veneration of this latter kind, and not the real veneration of our hearts in the sight of God, how plain is it to see, that notwithstanding all pretences and appearances, we are get in heart rebels against the Divine Word, and joining in confederacy with Korah's rebellious company!
Behold, here, the sure and certain method of discovering at once in what sort of veneration we hold the eternal oracles! Behold, therefore, the sure and certain method of discovering further whether we rank amongst the profane followers of the rebellious Dathan and Abiram, or amongst those true Israelites who keep the covenant of their God, by adhering faithfully to His servants Moses and Aaron! For if, from such serious and sincere examination of ourselves in the sight of God, it appears that in our private and retired thoughts we are not so well affected towards the pages of the eternal truth as we ought to be: if it appears that when left to ourselves, and to indulge freely the inclinations of our own minds, we feel little or no reverence for our Bibles, little or no consideration of the blessed design and infinite importance of the divine volume, little or no gratitude towards the author of it, and, of consequence, seldom or never read it; or, if we do read it, are little or not at all influenced by what we read, as to our lives and conversations-in this case we have, alas! but too much reason to apprehend, that all the veneration we profess for the holy book is merely a veneration of habit, or of pretence for the sake of escaping the censure of men, and that of course, not being the veneration of our hearts and understandings, it is of no avail in the sight of God, but stamps us with the polluted name and character of those sinners against their own souls, who formerly withstood Moses and Aaron in the camp of Israel.
Having thus, then, considered the sin of the rebellious company of old in the camp of Israel, I should now proceed to the consideration of their punishment; but the present time will only permit me to observe, that there is perhaps no sin more heinous in the sight of God, or more terrible in its consequences to ourselves, than the sin above described.
8 Psalm cxix. 164.
On the punishment of Korah, Dathan, and Abiram.
"And remember that thou wast a servant in the land of Egypt, and that the LORD thy God brought thee out thence through a mighty hand and by a stretched out arm."-DEUT. v. 15.
IN our last discourse on these words, we considered the history of the rebellion excited against Moses and Aaron in the camp of Israel by Dathan and Abiram and their followers, as recorded in the book of Numbers. We endeavoured to shew in what the sin of this rebellion principally consisted, by proving that it was not a rebellion only against the persons and authority of Moses and Aaron, but against the person and authority of God Himself, because it was a rebellion against the revelation or Word of God.
Having thus taken a view of the sin of this deluded people in the wilderness, I shall now beg leave to call your attention to the punishment of that sin, as it stands described in these most awful words-"It came to pass as he had made an end of speaking all these words, that the ground clave asunder that was under them; and the earth opened her mouth, and swallowed them up, and their houses, and all the men that appertained unto Korah, and all their goods. They, and all that appertained to them, went down alive into the pit, and the earth closed upon them; and they perished from among the congregation."1 It may possibly be thought by some that this punishment is out of all proportion to the offence, and that it argues undue severity on the part of God to deal so harshly with His creatures on this occasion, without allowing them time to see and repent of the crime which they had committed.
1 Numb. xvi. 31-33.
But there is yet a further consideration in regard to the punishment here inflicted, to which I cannot help feeling desirous to call your particular attention, since it supplies us both with a full justification of the Divine proceeding in regard to the penalty, and also tends to open to our view the brightest display of the mercy and providence of the Most High in permitting the history to have been written for our instruction. The consideration is this:-that as the sin committed by the rebellious company against Moses and Aaron was a figure of a more terrible sin committed against God and His revealed Word, according to what has been already shown, so the punishment inflicted in consequence of that sin is a figure also of a more terrible punishment which the rebellious people drew down upon themselves by their crimes; and therefore the Almighty intended the former punishment to remind us of the latter. If you ask what punishment can be more terrible than to go down alive into a pit and to be swallowed up by the earth opening her mouth, I answer, that to go down into a pit with our spirits, is infinitely more terrible than to go down into a pit only with our bodies; and that the Almighty therefore proved Himself both wise and merciful in opening the pit's mouth, and inflicting this bodily punishment on the rebellious company, that it might be a standing memorial and warning to all future generations of that more dreadful pit and more dreadful punishment, to which similar crimes would inevitably expose them is regard to their spirits.
I shall endeavour to elucidate these observations in my following discourse by shewing these two things; first, that all opposition to the revealed Word of God, whether expressed in the way of doubt or denial, or in the way of disrespect, contempt, and neglect, has this dreadful unavoidable tendency to open the earth's mouth and plunge the soul of man into an infernal pit.
In regard to the first of these positions, it must be very plain to every considerate person, that when the Holy Scriptures make mention of a pit, as of the "pit of corruption,"2 or, as it is called in another place, the "pit of destruction,"3 they do not mean such a pit as we see on earth with our bodily eyes, or such as our bodies fall into here; but they must needs mean a spiritual pit, or such a pit as is the abject of spiritual sight, and into which the spirit of man unavoidably falls when he separates himself from God's Word, His life, His Spirit, and His kingdom. This state of separation from God, is called in other passages of the Sacred Writings, "a place of darkness and of the deep,"4 because the soul, which lives at a distance and separate from God, must needs be proportionably separated from the blessed light and life "on high;" and the further it is thus removed from the divine happiness and purity, the more deeply it must needs be plunged into the abyss of its own misery and corruption.
2 Isaiah xxxviii. 17.
3 Psalm lv. 23.
4 Psalm lxxxviii. 6.
And how many, alas! it is to be feared, are sunk deep into this infernal pit, and yet are not aware of their miserable situation! How many would tremble at the thought of the earth opening her mouth and swallowing up their bodies, who yet are perfectly at ease and composed under the same dreadful catastrophe, which is every day taking place as to their better part-their immortal souls-whilst they immerse their affections and thoughts in the cares and pleasures of this world, and thus live in a state of miserable separation from God and heaven! But how plain is it to see that this separation from God and heaven is a mere consequence and effect of their separation from the Word of God! for since God and His Word are one, and since the Word is the only possible means or medium of our access to God and conjunction with Him, therefore it must follow as an unavoidable consequence, that whosoever separates himself from the Word of God, either by thinking or acting in opposition to its blessed life and spirit, or by any other method of slighting, disregarding, or neglecting it, must needs at the same time, and by the same acts, separate himself from the God of that Word, and of course in the same degree plunge himself into the infernal pit of corruption and destruction.
When the patriarch Jacob saw is a dream the mysterious ladder, which was "set on the earth, and the top of it reaching to heaven, and behold the angels of God ascending and descending on it,"5 he was favoured with a figurative view of the Word of God, or Sacred Scriptures, which, in their origin, their descent, and their effect, answer precisely to the description given of this wonderful ladder. For was this ladder set on the earth? Even so the Word of God, being brought down here below amongst men by the greatest of mercies and miracles, whilst in its letter it assumes, as it were, an earthly body, clad in human language, is thus accommodated to the understanding and comprehension of human earthly beings. Did its top, again, reach unto heaven? The Word of God, in like manner, though is its letter it abides here on earth amongst men, set in its internal spirit and life it extends to all the societies of the angelic world, as it is written, "Thy Word abideth for ever in heaven."6 Lastly, "Were the angels of God sees ascending and descending on it? How beautiful, how dust a description is this of the Word of the Most High, denoting that the soul of man can only ascend unto and have communication with God, and the inhabitants of his angelic kingdom, by "means of what proceeds from God, viz., His eternal Word, and that God in like manner, with his angels of life, of blessing, and of salvation, can only descend to man by the same sure means, viz., by enlightening man with heavenly knowledge, and quickening him with heavenly life, by and through the reception of the eternal Word!
5 Gen. xxviii. 12.
6 Psalm cxix. 89.
Behold here, then, the plain reason why we can never rise up out of the infernal pit, only so far as we think reverently and devoutly of the Word of God, and suffer it at the same time to influence our lives and conversations! For if the infernal pit be nothing else but the pit of our own corruptions, when we live separated from the blessed knowledge and love of the Most High; and if the Word of God be the only possible means of delivering us from such separation, by effecting our ascent to and communication with the Supreme Good, and by effecting at the same time the descent of that good into our minds; then how manifest is it, that we call never hope to rise up out of that pit only so far as the blessed Word of God is the means of our elevation; and that the Word of God can never become the means of our elevation, only so far as it is implanted in our hearts, and becomes operative in our lives by a sincere veneration and right reception of its heavenly life, spirit, and order! Hence it was that the Psalmist of old was enabled to make this happy confession-"Thou, LORD, hast brought my soul out of hell, Thou hast kept my life from them that go down to the pit;"7 and in another place-"He brought me up also out of the horrible pit."8 But what shall we say was the immediate cause or ground of this great deliverance and consequent confession? The same writer himself tells us, where he says,"The law of Thy mouth is better unto me than thousands of gold and silver;"9 and again,-"Order my steps in Thy Word, and let not any iniquity have dominion over me;"10 and again, "Through Thy precepts I get understanding, therefore I hate every false way."11 We see, then, that the deliverance of every man from the pit of destruction is the sure effect and blessed consequence of his regard for, and reception of, the Word and Commandment of the Lord his God, whereby he is elevated out of and above his own corruptions, and admitted to a blessed communication and conjunction of life, of wisdom, and of happiness with the Father of the universe.
7 Psalm xxx. 3.
8 Psalm xl. 2.
9 Psalm cxix. 72.
10 Psalm cxix. 133.
11 Psalm cxix. 104.
To conclude; whensoever from henceforth we think of the terrible punishment inflicted on the rebellious people in the camp of Israel, let us regard it as a figure of that more terrible punishment which we shall unavoidably bring upon ourselves by despising or by neglecting the counsels of the Most High God revealed to us in His Holy Word. When we read, therefore, of the ground cleaving asunder, and of the earth opening her mouth, to swallow up the deluded followers of Dathan and Abiram, let us think of other ground, and of other earth, than what is visible to our corporeal eyes. And when me read further of the wicked company going down alive into the pit, let us think of another pit besides that which destroys the body, and of another descent besides the descent of the body. Let us think of the pit which swallows up the soul in its miserable separation from God and His blessed Word and kingdom; and let us think of the descent of this our spiritual and immortal part, whilst we are foolish enough to immerse our best lore and affections in the lower things of time and sense, instead of ascending, as me are mercifully invited, by repentance and faith, to the contemplation and enjoyment of the higher, the more blessed things of eternity, is the knowledge and love of God and His everlasting kingdom, revealed and brought near to us by and through His holy Word.
Thus will the history under consideration become to us a lesson of wholesome reproof, admonition, and instruction in righteousness. And thus will it prove itself indeed to come from God, by effecting that which every part of the Holy Word was intended to effect, viz., by raising us up out of the infernal gulf of our corrupt affections, thoughts, and purposes, which separates us from God and His Word; and thus by conducting us to that blessed elevation of heart and life of which the Psalmist speaks in his holy address to his Maker, where he says"Hold Thou me up and I shall be safe; and I will have respect unto thy statutes continually."12. AMEN.
12 Psalm cxix. 117.
On the fiery Serpents with which the Children of Israel were bitten in the Wilderness.
"But remember that thou wast a servant in the land of Egypt, and that the LORD thy God brought thee out thence through a mighty hand and by a stretched out arm."-DEUT. v. 15.
IN tracing the journey of the people of God out of Egypt through the dreadful wilderness, which was their appointed path to the promised land, we have already taken occasion to note a variety of calamities which tended to stagger their faith in their Divine leader, and a variety of wonderful deliverances which tended to confirm it.
We come now to another occurrence both of danger and of protection, alike striking and edifying as any that precede it, and which is recorded in the following most interesting relation:"They journeyed from Mount Hor by the way of the Red Sea to compass the land of Edom; and the soul of the people was much discouraged because of the way, And the people spake against God, and against Moses, Wherefore have ye brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? For there is no bread, neither water; and our soul loatheth this light bread. And the LORD sent fiery serpents among the people; and they bit the people, and much people of Israel died. Therefore the people came to Moses, and said, We hare sinned, for we have spoken against the LORD and against thee; pray unto the LORD, that He take away the serpents from us. And Moses prayed for the people.
1 Numb. xxi. 4-10.
First, then, let us consider the calamity which is here described as befalling the children of Israel. In treating of the history of this remarkable people, we have frequently taken occasion to confirm the truth of the apostle s observation, that the things which befel them "happened to them for our ensamples," or, as it might be more properly expressed, for our types, and were accordingly "written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come."2 But in no instance is this observation more clearly conspicuous, or more fully verified, than in that of the calamity under consideration, viz., the plague of the fiery serpents, which are described as being sent of God amongst the people, to punish them for their disobedience and opposition to His holy will and guidance. There can be no possible doubt, that such serpents mere really sent of God, and did really and is truth bite the bodies of the rebellious people, insomuch that great multitudes died in consequence of the dreadful poison communicated from the teeth of the venomous reptiles. If we believe the testimony of Moses, we cannot possibly deny or dispute these literal historical facts. But then, if we believe also the testimony of St. Paul, we are compelled by his authority to believe further, that all these literal historical facts are so many types or figures of spiritual things relating to God, His kingdom, and ourselves, and were accordingly written for our admonition and instruction, as containing in them so many holy lessons of the most important, because the most heavenly and Divine Wisdom. Thus, if we believe St. Paul, the fiery serpents themselves were figures, their bite also was a figure, so likewise was the poison communicated by that bite; and in like manner the consequent death of the persons who were bitten-all these things, we must acknowledge, were types and figures of spiritual things which thus they severally represented, and which they were intended to convey and make manifest to the latest posterities of mankind.
2 1 Cor. x. 11.
That the serpent itself is a figure, and a striking figure, of some spiritual being, principle, and property, is plain from the concurrent testimony of the Word of God throughout. Thus, when our first parents began to decline from the fear and love of their merciful Creator, and to yield to the temptation to eat of the forbidden fruit, they are described as being seduced by a serpent,3 inasmuch as this venomous reptile was an exact representative of that sensual principle in themselves which was now turning away from God, and becoming corrupted; and which disposed them to yield to its seducing influence. Again-when the Almighty would paint to us, in the most striking and awful colours, the extreme malignity and dangerous tendency of sinful passions and corrupt affections, He describes them in these figurative terms-"Their poison is like the poison of a serpent; they are like the deaf adder that stoppieth her ears."4 When He would warn us further of the deadly effects of listening to the dictates of our internal corruptions, He expresses Himself in this strong significative language-"I will command the serpent, and he shall bite them;"5 and in another place-"He laid his hand on the wall, and a serpent bit him."6 Again-are we to be taught the danger of wandering from the eternal truth of the Word of God, to listen to the false persuasions and destructive opinions of ill-designing men, or of ill-designing spirits? Behold the language of figure in which our Divine teacher is pleased to convey the heavenly instruction-"Out of the serpent's root shall come forth a cockatrice, and his fruit shall be a fiery flying serpent;"7 and in another place-"They hatch cockatrice eggs, and weave the spider's web; he that eateth of their eggs dieth, and that which is crushed breaketh out into a viper."8 The time would fail in attempting to collect together all the passages in the Word of God, where the serpent is thus figuratively named to denote those spiritual or mental principles of which it is so remarkable a representative.
3 Gen. iii. 1-7.
4 Psalm lviii. 4.
5 Amos ix. 3.
6 Amos v. 19.
7 Isaiah xiv. 29.
8 Isaiah lix. 5.
9 Matt. xii. 34; xxiii. 33.
10 Luke x. 19.
And would we know, beloved, the deep ground and real origin of this significative speech and language of the Most High God? It is manifestly this: all things here below, whether they be animals, plants, or of any other description of being, hare their birth from the eternal world, and were designed, by infinite mercy and wisdom, to express some particular principle or property of that world from which they originate, and in which they stand. Now the eternal world, we know from the highest authority, is two-fold, viz., the heavenly world, or the kingdom of God, and the infernal world, or the kingdom of the wicked one. Accordingly we find from daily experience, that all animals and plants are likewise distinguished into two kinds, agreeably to the worlds in which they originate, viz., the good and the evil, the clean and the unclean, the useful and the mischievous. And to prove to us that this distinction has its ground in the two kingdoms from which it is derived, we find that God Himself, in His Holy Word, is perpetually adopting and confirming it. Thus, when we would describe the heavenly graces and blessings which would descend from heaven to man under the Gospel covenant, He calls them by the names of the most beautiful and beneficial plants and animals-"Instead of the thorn shall come up the fir-tree, and instead of the briar shall come up the myrtle-tree; then shall the lambs feed after their manner. All the flocks of Kedar shall be gathered together unto thee."11 Again, when He would figure to us the infernal consequences of rejecting or perverting the counsels of evangelical truth, He calls them by the names of plants and animals which have their birth from the infernal kingdom"Thorns shall come up in her palaces, nettles and brambles in the fortresses thereof; and it shall be a habitation of dragons and a court for owls."12
11 Isaish lv. 13; v. 17; lx. 7.
12 Isaiah xxxiv. 13.
From this view, then, of the subject under consideration, it will appear evident to every serious, attentive reader of the Word of God, what was the spiritual instruction designed to be transmitted to us in the history of the "fiery serpents," and their direful effects upon the unhappy people amongst whom they were sent. It will appear evident that these serpents were intended to remind us of those more terrible serpents which will be generated in our own bosoms, and will infallibly bite and poison every faculty of our souls, even unto death, if ever we are thoughtless enough to act the same part of folly and wickedness with the deluded people of old, by murmuring against Moses and against God; in other words, by opposing in our lives and principles, in our conduct and persuasions, the heavenly wisdom and guidance of the revealed Will of the Most High, as manifested in His Holy Word of eternal righteousness and truth. For, in this case, the certain miserable effect and consequence will be, that we shall become merely natural, sensual, and corporeal beings, creeping like reptiles upon the earth, without ever either thinking or desiring to raise our affections to things above: we shall thus obey only the impulse of our bodily passions and senses, those poisonous serpents which will first bite and then destroy us: under the infatuation occasioned by that poison, we shall forget our eternal destination; and instead of ascending to the great Author of our being, and uniting ourselves with His eternal will and wisdom, and becoming thus His pure, and happy, and enlightened children, as He is infinitely desirous to make us, we shall descend down by degrees into the depths and darkness of our own miserable wickedness and folly, to live for ever with those wretched beings who have suffered themselves to be destroyed by the same venomous influences with ourselves.
Having thus, then, considered the nature of the calamity which befel the people in the wilderness when God sent amongst them "fiery serpents," I should now proceed to consider its remarkable remedy; but the present time will only permit me to conclude what has been said with the following observations.
It has been frequently remarked by pious writers, that man is more afraid of natural evil than of spiritual evil; in other words, that he is more alarmed at a mischief which may hurt his body, than at a mischief which may hurt his soul. The remark appears to be perfectly just and agreeable to general experience; but, perhaps, in no instance is it more strongly verified than in that of the calamity which has been the subject of our present attention. For who amongst us would not tremble at the thought of having our bodies bitten by a natural serpent, and especially of taking that serpent to our bosoms? And yet how few amongst us feel any apprehension of the sort respecting a spiritual serpent, that far more poisonous and destructive reptile which destroys the soul! How many, alas! take this reptile even into their bosoms, without any sense of their danger! But what eye cannot see the extravagant folly of such conduct as this? For what eye cannot see, if it was but disposed to see, that the life of the immortal soul is of infinitely greater value than the life of the perishable body? Let us open our eyes, then, to discover the true worth and estimation of the things which appertain to us; that so we may know both what me ought principally to love and principally to fear. Let us open our eyes, I say, and keep them open, through the divine grace and mercy, till we have discovered, so as to be influenced by, that eternal wisdom which said-"Fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul; but rather fear Him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell;"13 in other words, fear above all things to sin against and offend the merciful God. AMEN.
13 Matt. x. 28.
On the brazen serpent set up by Moses, as a remedy against the bite of the fiery serpents.
"And remember that thou wast a servant in the land of Egypt, and that the LORD thy God brought thee out thence through a mighty hand and by a stretched out arm."-DEUT. v. 15.
IN our last discourse on these words, we considered the terrible calamity which befel the children of Israel in the wilderness, when God sent amongst them "fiery serpents" as a punishment for their murmuring against Him and His servant Moses. These serpents, it was shewn, were figures, and intended to be so, of those still more poisonous and deadly serpents which are generated in the sinful and sensual affections and appetites of man, whensoever he opposes in himself the sacred guidance and government of the Holy Word and Spirit of the Most High God.
Having, thee, considered the calamity, we shall now, in the second place, as was proposed, go on to take a view of the extraordinary remedy or relief pointed out of God to His penitent people, as a security against that calamity. This remedy or relief is thus described in the sacred history-"The LORD said unto Moses, Make thee a fiery serpent and set it upon a pole, and it shall come to pass that every one that is bitten, when he looketh upon it, shall live."1 And accordingly these words were fulfilled, for we read in the next verse that "Moses made a serpent of brass, and put it upon a pole; and it came to pass, that if a serpent had bitten any man, when he beheld the serpent of brass he lived."2
1 Numb. x-li. 8.
2 Numb. x-xi. 9.
There is one reflection which will strike every thinking, considerate mind, from reading the above singular relation, and it is this-that into whatsoever depth of sin or of sorrow man may at any time cast himself by his thoughtlessness or his iniquity, the mercy of the Most High is ever ready and near to stretch out "the hand of divine relief and deliverance, so soon as the unhappy sufferer is made sensible of his transgression, and in the spirit of true repentance becomes a convert to his God. This reflection was remarkably verified in the case under consideration; for what could be conceived more tremendous than the situation of the children of Israel in the wilderness, when bitten by the "fiery serpents"? They not only experienced the deadly effects of that bite on their perishing bodies, but they felt a bite of a more terrible kind in their minds and consciences, reproaching them with sin against God and their heavenly leader. Yet no sooner do they shew signs of contrition, and present their penitent supplications to the Father of Mercies, than He instantly hears their prayers, and provides and extends the blessed means of relief and healing both to their afflicted minds and distempered bodies.
Whilst we adore that divine compassion and tenderness which thus in all ages have demonstrated both His will and ability to succor the afflicted and the penitent, let us be careful not to overlook the further instruction which the love of our Heavenly Father designed for our improvement, in that memorable and most significant sign or figure by which He was pleased to manifest and effect His healing purposes on the present interesting occasion. And thanks be to His holy name, we are not left to the uncertainty of our own vain conjectures, to discover what was His divine and gracious meaning when He gave the merciful command to His servant Moses"Make thee a fiery serpent, and set it upon a pole:" for He Himself has kindly condescended, is His manifestation in out flesh, to unfold this great mystery, and to open to our view the sublime and heavenly wisdom which it contains. For hear now the words of Jesus Christ on this important subject"As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up; that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have eternal life."3
3 John iii. 14, 15.
If it be asked, what is to be understood by the lifting up of the Son of Man, the sacred Scriptures give us the plainest and fullest answer to this important question, by informing us that the blessed Jesus, after accomplishing in His flesh the great work of our redemption by His sufferings and death here upon earth, was finally taken up into heaven and admitted to the fullest and most ultimate union with the Eternal Father, insomuch that the Godhead and manhood thus became one, and by virtue of this union He was enabled to say-"All power is given unto Me in heaven and in earth."4 If it be asked further, what was the ground and reason of this lifting up of the Son of Man, the same sacred Scriptures supply us with the most satisfactory answer to this interesting question also, by teaching us, that since the fall of our first parents, and in consequence of the hereditary corruptions thereby entailed on all the generations of men, we had removed ourselves so far from God, and our spiritual faculties were become so gross by sin, that we were no longer able to approach to, or have any conjunction with, the hidden unmanifested Godhead called the Father, agreeably to the testimony of Jesus Christ-"No man cometh unto the Father but by Me."5 In condescension, therefore, to this our fallen state, and in accommodation to the infirmities which it has entailed upon us, it pleased our Heavenly Father, in His eternal mercy, to manifest Himself to us in our flesh, to take upon Him a human body, in which we might see Him as a man, and have communication and conjunction with Him as a man; and after having fought against and subdued our spiritual enemies in that body, and set us an example of the most perfect and heavenly life, it pleased Him further to take that body up into heaven and glorify it, or make it one with Himself; that so, in that exalted, glorified, and Divine body, He might ever be visible and accessible to His creatures, who would not otherwise have been able either to behold or to approach Him, had He remained wrapt up in His primitive unmanifested majesty: to which purpose it is written"No man hath seen God at any time; the only-begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He hath declared Him;"6 and in another place-"No man knoweth the Father, but the Son, and he to whomsoever the Son will reveal Him."7
4 Matt. xxiii. 18.
5 John xiv. 6.
6 John i. 18.
7 Matt. xi. 27.
Behold here, then, the signal blessings announced and made known to all the families of the earth by that most important and significative figure of the brazen serpent in the wilderness, lifted up on a pole, and also by the effects which were manifested, in consequence of its exaltation, upon the poisoned and perishing bodies of the children of Israel! Behold the wonderful accomplishment of the Divine prediction from the beginning of the world, concerning the seed of the serpent and the seed of the woman-"It shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel!"8 For was that brazen-serpent commanded of God to be set up? Even so it was the Divine will of the Eternal, that the Son of Man, the blessed Jesus, as to His humanity or flesh, should be exalted to the most intimate union with Himself, and thus set up, before the eyes of angels and men, as a means or medium of their looking at and continually approaching to the Divine Majesty. Were the children of Israel again required to look upon that brazen serpent whensoever they were bitten by the fiery serpents? It is also the will and requirement of the Eternal Father that all mankind, under every bite of the old serpent, who is ever at work in their corruptions to deceive and destroy them, should henceforth look up to the GLORIFIED BODY OF HIS SON, this being the appointed, the only means of their communication with the Divine Source of all spiritual health, life, and preservation; and thus the only possible antidote against the deadly effect of that poison which must otherwise unavoidably destroy them.
8 Gen. iii. 15.
Lastly, Do we find it written concerning the figure in the wilderness, that "if a serpent had bitten any man, when he beheld the serpent of brass he lived"?
9 Isaiah xi. 8.
To conclude. Are there any here present who have felt at any time the serpent's bite, and been infected by its deadly and destructive poison? In other words, are there any amongst us in whom infernal passion occasionally prevails over evangelical reason and sober reflection, or, whose better thoughts and desires are sometimes extinguished by the more seducing influences of sensual pleasure and animal gratifications? Whilst we are sensible of the danger to which we are thus exposed, and shed the tear of penitence over the infirmity which so easily besets us, let us not despair of our situation, by supposing that we are left to perish without relief, and that no remedy can be found for the removal of the venomous infection communicated by the serpent. For behold, the Almighty Himself weeps over our calamity, and Himself gives the merciful, the omnipotent command to provide the blessed means and methods of deliverance! Behold, what unspeakable love!-the Son of the Most High God appears upon earth to dwell amongst the children of men; and having manifested amongst them His Divine power over that accursed serpent which would both deceive and destroy them, He returns again into His former glory to be one with the Eternal Father, from whom He came forth; and possessing thus all power in heaven and in earth, He offers and communicates that power for the healing of the serpent's bite, unto all the bitten that look up and come unto Him.
10 Luke x. 19; Mark xvi. 18.
11 Rom. vi. 22.
On the History of Balaam.
"And remember that thou wast a servant in the land of Egypt, and that the LORD thy GOD brought thee out thence through a mighty hand and by a stretched out arm."-DEUT v. 15.
IN our two last discourses on these words, we considered the history of the "fiery serpents," by which the people of Israel were bitten in the wilderness; together with the Divine relief extended on the occasion, by setting up the" brazen serpent."
We proceed now to the consideration of another danger, no less formidable than the foregoing, which presents itself in the way of the heaven-directed travellers; for lo! the king of the country, into the borders of which they are now entering, is alarmed at their approach and at their numbers. He determines, therefore, to oppose them, but yet he does not think it prudent to do so by force; he employs, therefore, other means of security, better suited as he supposes to answer his purpose, for he sends messengers with large rewards to a neighbouring soothsayer, saying-"Behold, there is a people come out of Egypt; behold, they cover the face of the earth, and they abide over against me: come now, therefore, I pray thee, curse me this people, for they are too mighty for me."1 We read afterwards, that the soothsayer, being directed of the counsel of God, refused at first to go with the messengers who had been sent to him. Nevertheless he is afterwards prevailed upon by a second message and goes; but lo! he is opposed in his may by as angel of the Lord, with a sword drawn in his hand; and the ass, on which he was riding at the time, seeing the angel, turns aside out of the way.
1 Numb. xxii. 5, 6.
It may be edifying to make a few remarks on this very extraordinary and interesting history, which, like all others in the Sacred Volume, was doubtless written for our instruction and improvement. And first, it may be useful to observe, that the soothsayer, Balaam, who was on this occasion employed by the king of Moab to curse Israel, was himself a very different man from what, on a cursory view, he appears to be. For in his heart he was an idolater, and opposed both the counsel of God and the prosperity of His people, as is manifest from what is afterwards written of him. For we learn in a succeeding chapter, that he was found fighting in the army of the Moabites against Israel, and was slain in battle:2 it was also at his instigation, we are informed, that the Moabites, by means of their women, tempted the children of Israel to whoredom and idolatry.3 Notwithstanding, therefore, all that he speaks in favour of God and His people-notwithstanding, too, the visions which he had, when, as it is written, "his eyes were open, and we heard the words of God, and saw the vision of the Almighty4-notwithstanding all these favourable appearances of sanctity, and even his being gifted with the prophetic spirit, he was still at enmity with God, in the gall of bitterness, and the bond of iniquity. By this polluted example, the Almighty certainly meant at once to warn and to instruct us, by teaching the edifying lesson that it is not what we say, but what we do; it is not our profession, but our practice; it is not our knowledge and our speculative opinions, but our love and charity, our purity and humility, which will render us acceptable in His sight, and place us in the honourable rank of His friends and children.
2 Numb. xxxi. 8.
3 Numb. xxi. 15, 16.
4 Numb. xliv. 4, 16.
But further-when we read in the history under consideration how the perverse soothsayer was opposed is his way by an angel of the Lord, with a sword drawn in his hand,5 who was at first invisible, let us collect also from this circumstance the holy and interesting wisdom which it was designed to teach us. Let us learn, that in all our perverse conduct, "an angel of the Lord with a sword drawn in his hand," stands also in the way to oppose us, and whether we see him or not, there he certainly stands, as sure as ever he stood before the wicked Balaam to oppose him. Do we then suffer ourselves at any time to be led astray from God and heaven by the pride, or vanity, or covetousness, or sensuality of worldly and selfish love? Do we at any time, under the influence of our corruptions, forget God, His kingdom, and our eternal destination? Let us recollect that the angel of the Most High is drawing his sword against us, or rather, that our perverseness draws that sword, which will never be sheathed until me repent of our iniquity, and in the spirit of evangelical humility and contrition return unto our God.
5 Numb. xxii. 22-24.
Moreover, we cannot help being struck with another singular event which befel the deluded prophet on this occasion: for, lo! whilst he is contending with the ass on which he was riding, and which, it seems, saw the angel of the Lord,6 whom the blinded rider did not see, the Lord opens the mouth of the heretofore dumb creature, to expostulate with her master, and convict him of his error. What a strange and miraculous occurrence was this!
6 Numb. xxii. 23.
7 Pet. ii. 16.
8 Psalm xix. 3.
9 Isaiah i. 6.
To the more penetrating mind, which is enlightened to see and to read the instructive language of figure (that appropriate language whereby the speech of God is distinguished from all other speech), the history of the speaking ass will not fail to suggest a still deeper and more edifying lesson of admonition and reproof. For the eye of such a mind will not confine its views to the dumb ass and to the perverse rider, but will extend them to those mental principles intended to be exhibited by this striking and animated picture. This eye, therefore, will no longer behold in the ass a mere beast of burden only, such as is presented to the bodily sight, but it will see an image of that inferior faculty of the mind by which a superior is sustained, and on which it rests, and thus as it were rides for convenience and support. In the rider, too, it will no longer see a rider according to the common idea suggested by the term, but it will contemplate that higher principle of intellect and persuasion which, in regard to the lower, doth as it were ride, because it guides and stimulates that which carries, conveys, and sustains it; agreeably to which idea the Lord Himself is described as "riding upon the heavens."10 Thus, when the dumb ass by speaking "forbad the madness of the prophet," the strange and interesting circumstance will suggest to the more intelligent reader the instruction of reproof dictated by an inferior to a superior faculty of the mind: and therefore he will not fail to learn from it this lesson of heavenly and important wisdom, that whensoever the superior faculty, or that which is conversant about the things of God and His kingdom, is perverse, wayward, and misguided in its persuasions and practices, it ought to hearken to and suffer itself to be directed by a lower faculty, such as is that which is conversant about the things of this world, agreeably to the intimation of Jesus Christ, that "the children of this world are in their generation wiser than the children of light:"11 of consequence, the wisdom of the children of this world, which is that of an inferior faculty of the mind, ought to be consulted and acted upon whensoever the wisdom of the children of light, which is that of a superior faculty, is rendered so perverse and foolish as to stand in need of such counsel.
10 Psalm lxviii. 4.
11 Luke xvi. 8.
But lastly, the conclusion of this memorable history merits our particular attention and consideration; for, behold, in three successive attempts made by the king of Moab, to draw down a curse on the children of Israel, his wicked intention is entirely frustrated, and the intended curse is successively converted by the Almighty into an increase of blessing to His elect. We learn from this circumstance, not only that God continually protects His people from all mischief, but also that He makes the intended mischief itself subservient to the purposes of His own mercy, by compelling it to give additional lustre to His glory, whilst it administers to the further purification, perfection, and happiness of His people. Let us stand still awhile to contemplate, as we ought, this wonderful providence of the Most High in the permission, the direction, and the control of all evil.
It has been asked, with an air of mixed triumph and ridicule, by a distinguished infidel, "If there be such a being as the devil, and if God be omnipotent, why does He not at once destroy His enemy? Why does He permit such an adversary any longer to exist and oppose His saving purposes?" But from the history before us, we are supplied with a full and satisfactory answer to these subtle and ensnaring questions. For we thence learn, that there may be the best and most sufficient reasons why God both permits His adversaries to exist, and also suffers them to exert their utmost malice and craft against Himself, His kingdom, and His people. He allows of this opposition, because He perpetually turns it against His adversary, and forces it to administer to His own purposes of blessing. His children, it is true, are hereby exposed to trial, to temptation, to trouble, and even to danger, in their sojourning here below: but what then? It is by those very exercises that their faith is confirmed, their love exalted, their affections purified, their victory over evil rendered more complete, their application to their Heavenly Father made more constant, and their conjunction with Him more permanent. God, therefore, in mercy ever permits His most favourite children to be tried and afflicted by the adversary, because He sees they will ever be gainers, and not losers, by their temptations and their sufferings.
12 Numb. xxiv. 5.
Let us imagine, further, that we discern, in this heaven-directed, this heaven-regulated host, a true figure and picture of those eternal principles of righteousness and truth from Jesus Christ and His Word, which constitute and form His angelic-His eternal kingdom; and which, descending thence into the bosoms of holy men here on earth, restore them to the order of heaven, make them the new-born children of their Heavenly Father, and place them, notwithstanding the enemies and the dangers which encompass them, out of the reach of mischief, and under the continual guidance an protection of an omnipotent God.
To conclude, do we find, from such a view, any desire kindled in ourselves to attain unto a similar state of blessed guidance and protection? Let our first care, then, be to cherish in our hearts and lives the pure and heavenly principles in which all sure direction and security from God originate. Let us labour after the descent and restoration of the Divine life and order of a pure love and holy wisdom in our own minds, and then our minds will be like the camp of Israel, and we may take up our parable and say of our tabernacles as was said of theirs-"Surely there is any enchantment against Jacob, neither is there any divination against Israel."13 AMEN.
13 Numb. xxiii. 23.
On the request of the two Tribes to take up their Inheritance on this side Jordan.
"And remember that thou wast a servant in the land of Egypt, and that the LORD thy God brought thee out thence through a mighty hand and by a stretched out arm."-DEUT. v. 15.
IN several former discourses on these words, we have attended the children of Israel in their memorable journey out of Egypt through the wilderness, until they come unto the borders of the promised land. We have noted all the most remarkable events which distinguished this journey, and have endeavoured to shew how all and each of them were figurative of spiritual things relating to Jesus Christ and His eternal kingdom.
We are now surprised with another circumstance of equal wonder, and of equal instruction too, with any which preceded it. For, lo! two of the tribes of Israel, and one-half of a third tribe, as they approach the promised land, refuse to seek an inheritance there, and ask for themselves a habitation out of the land, on this side the river Jordan, which divided between them and the land of Canaan. Moses, we read, on first hearing this extraordinary request, imputes it to their cowardice, and urges it as a proof of their fear to fight the Lord's battles. The two tribes, on the other hand, vindicate themselves from this imputation, by declaring to Moses that they were ready to go and fight the Lord's battles in company with their brethren; and that they did not wish to take possession of their own inheritance until they had first put their brethren in possession of theirs.
1 Numb. xxxii. 20-22.
There are two distinct particulars in the above history, which demand our serious consideration: first, what was intended to be figured to us by the request of the tribes to take up their inheritance on that side Jordan which was out of the promised land; secondly, what was intended further to be figured to us by the condition on which this request was granted, viz., that the tribes should "go armed over Jordan, and fight the Lord's battles."
First, then, let us consider what was intended to be figured to us by the request of the tribes to take up their inheritance on that side of Jordan which was out of the promised land. This figure is too bold and striking to be easily mistaken, if we are but in a disposition to appreciate its meaning; and daily experience, alas! too fully confirms the melancholy truth, that its meaning is every day realized before our eyes; in other words, that the request of these tribes to take up their inheritance out of the promised land is but a sad type of the request of many Christians at this day, in regard to their spiritual inheritance in the kingdom of God. It is never an agreeable task to point out the weaknesses, the failings, the imperfections and inconsistencies, either of ourselves or of our fellow-creatures; nevertheless, both truth and duty occasionally demand the performance of this task, because both truth and duty require that weaknesses, failings, imperfections, and inconsistencies should be corrected; and it is impossible they call be corrected, until they are first pointed out and discovered. The important question, therefore, on this occasion, is, not what is most agreeable and flattering to ourselves to hear and know-not what will most please and gratify our self-love, by presenting to our view the enchanting picture of our own fancied excellencies-but what is the truth and reality of things and circumstances; whether, for instance, if truth and reality are to decide, we are not many of us, like the tribes under consideration, stopping short of the promised inheritance, and taking up our rest in some defective speculations, persuasions, and practices of our own, out of the land of pure evangelical principles and practice to which we are called.
But, howsoever unwilling we may be to accuse any others, we should hardly be able to excuse ourselves on the present occasion, did we not declare it as our undisguised, unreserved opinion, that Christians in general, in their principles, their persuasions, and their practices, do not come up to the full standard of that perfection of excellence which the Gospel presents as the proper measure of their conduct and conversation. When we consider the infinite purity of the Divine law,-the spotless example of the Great Redeemer,His perpetual calls to all His disciples to follow Him,-the privileges, the graces, the virtues, the inestimable blessings held forth to His followers, together with the marked distinction between His children, and the children of this world;-when we consider all these things, and then cast our eyes upon the lives of the generality of Christians, is it the want of charity, or rather is it not the proof of its presence, to assert that all Christians are not what all Christians were intended to be; that many stop short in their heavenly course, and do not pass over Jordan to enter fully into the promised land; that there is a purity and a sublimity, a wisdom and a sanctity, a dignity and yet simplicity of Christian life and conversation, to which all are called, but which few, if any, have fully attained; and thus, that the conduct of the Jewish tribes is still lamentably repeated at this day, whilst the lives of many Christians still speak the same language, and say-"Let this land be given unto thy servants for an inheritance, and bring us not over Jordan."2
2 Numb. xxxii. 5.
But shall we then say that all those Christians are absolutely rejected of God, who have not improved His grace to all that extent to which they might have improved it? Shall we say that none are included in the covenant of salvation but the spotless and the perfect? Is no allowance to be made in this case for involuntary neglect, for constitutional infirmity, for defect in education, for an accumulation of hereditary corruption, for a pressure of lower cares arising from concerns for the body, all or any of which causes may operate to check the progress towards spiritual perfection? Is no allowance to be made by, and expected from, the Father of Mercies, under all these several cases? We have a full and sufficient answer to this interesting question, in the second point presented to our consideration from the history before us, viz., what was intended to be figured to us by the condition on which the request of the tribes of old was granted to take up their inheritance on that side of Jordan which was out of the promised land. The condition, we learn, was simply this, that they should go armed with their brethren over Jordan, and fight the Lord's battles, until the land was subdued before the Lord; and it was declared, that in case they fulfilled this condition, they should be guiltless before the Lord, and before Israel. Let me bespeak, beloved, your most awakened attention to this consideration, because of its infinite importance to your everlasting happiness, that is to say, to your eternal salvation.
There is every reason to conclude, both from the testimony of the Word of God and from the dictates of sound reason and daily experience, that there ever was, and ever will be, an indefinite variety amongst the servants and children even of God Himself. Some will love Him more, some will love Him less; some will attain to a high degree of His blessed knowledge and wisdom, others will be content with an inferior degree; some will improve His grace to the full, some will improve it more imperfectly: there will thus be the hundred-fold, the sixty-fold, and the thirty-fold, of spiritual increase, as it is described in the parable.3
3 Matt. xiii. 8.
4 Cor. xii. 14.
A moment's serious thought will teach us that sin, that is to say, sinful affection, sinful thought, and sinful act, is what alone separates us from God. A moment's serious thought, thee, will convince us further, that we can never hope to have communion or conjunction with God, consequently can never hope to attain salvation and eternal life, but so far as such sinful affections, sinful thoughts, and sinful acts are removed, and that they can never be removed until they are first opposed and combated; but if they are sincerely opposed and combated by us because they are contrary to God, then God must needs be on our side, and we on the side of God, for this plainest of all reasons, because no man of himself, without God, can possibly oppose sin; therefore, whosoever opposeth sin in himself, has an undeniable proof that he acts under the influence of the Divine power and grace, and that, consequently, Jesus Christ is with him, who hath said, "Without Me ye can do nothing."5
5 John xv. 5.
To conclude, let not any thing which has been now said be misinterpreted as having a tendency to abate of that diligence which is necessary to "make our calling and our election sure." It is rather to be hoped that its tendency will be the very reverse, by leading us to judge ourselves, and to judge of others, by the only infallible mark of Christian communion, viz., a rooted abhorrence of and deliberate opposition to every thing that is sinful, and because it is sinful.
On the Death of Moses and the appointment of Joshua to conduct the People of Israel over Jordan.
"And remember that thou wast a servant in the land of Egypt, and that the LORD thy God brought thee out thence through a mighty hand and by a stretched out arm."-DEUT. v. 15.
IN tracing the journeys of the children of Israel out of Egypt towards the land of Canaan, in several former discourses from the above words, we have at length attended them to the borders of that land, and see them just ready to pass over the liver which separates them from it. But, lo! here another extraordinary circumstance befalls them, which demands our attention. For their leader, Moses, under whose guidance and government they had proceeded thus far, is not permitted to conduct them further, but dies in the land of Moab,1 before they passed over Jordan. Another leader, named Joshua, is immediately appointed of the Lord to succeed him,2 and it is under the command of this new chief that the people enter into, and take possession of the promised land.
1 Deut. xxxiv. 5.
2 Josh. i. 1, 2.
To the inattentive and careless reader of the divine pages, the above circumstance will seem of too little importance to require any depth of consideration, and he will see nothing in it but the change of one leader for another. But, beloved, permit me here to repeat what we have had such abundant occasion to observe in the progress of the journey of the people of God, that every most minute event which befell them contains some instructive meaning, distinct from what appears in the historical relation, and that this is what discriminates the Book of God from every other book.
First, then let us consider what was meant to be figured and represented to us by the leader Moses. There will be no difficulty attending this consideration, if we only keep in mind what we have frequently had occasion heretofore to observe, viz. that not only Moses and Joshua, but likewise all the other leaders, prophets, and kings of the children of Israel, were representative figures of the divine leading and government of the Lord Himself, by means of His revealed Word or wisdom. But it is to be well noted, that although all the leaders, prophets, and kings of Israel were thus in general representative of the divine administration, yet in their several offices and characters each of them exercised a particular representation; in other words, each of them represented some particular and distinct office and character in the divine guidance and government. Thus Moses represents the Lord under one office and character, Aaron under another, Joshua under another, Samuel, Saul, David, Solomon, and the rest of the judges and kings, under others, and this with an indefinite variety, according to all the possible varieties of the application of the divine mercy and truth to direct, to assist, and to save the fallen human race.
Here, then, we may be enabled not only to see the reason why all the prophets, judges, leaders, and kings of the children of Israel were variously and distinctly representative of the Divine guidance and government, but also what was particularly figured and intended to be represented to us by the prophet Moses, who is the more immediate subject of our present consideration. For, as we have seen in a former discourse, Moses wits appointed of God to go in unto Pharaoh, to deliver and first make known to him the divine command to let Israel go, and for this purpose to shew signs and miracles for his conviction and conversion. He was afterwards required to lead Israel out of Egypt, and conduct them through the wilderness to the promised land. And in the course of this marvellous journey, he received immediately from the Most High the law of the Ten Commandments, together with other laws and ordinances for the direction of the children of Israel, over whom he presided. Hence Moses is a striking figure and representative of the Lord as the Divine Instructor and Guide of all His children in every age and place, by and through the wisdom and truth of His revealed will or Word, for it is by this wisdom and truth alone that we also are first brought up out of the bondage of Egypt-the bondage of our natural corruptions, to know and to serve the living God.
Having thus considered what was intended to be particularly figured and represented to us by the prophet Moses, let us now proceed to consider, as was secondly proposed, what was further intended to be figured and represented by the leader Joshua, in distinction from Moses. This will appear very plain from attending to the history of Joshua, as recorded in the sacred oracles; for from this history it is manifest that the proper and distinguishing character of Joshua was that of a mighty warrior, and therefore, in the battle against Amalek, he was appointed to the command of the armies of Israel, whilst Moses and Aaron sat on a hill retired from the combat.3 And again, when the angel of the Lord afterwards appeared to him in the land of Canaan, it was with a sword drawn in his hand,4 to mark more emphatically the warlike duties to which he was called. In short, the whole of the life of Joshua, as handed down to us in the sacred records, was a life of arms, of combat, and of victory. Hence, then, there can be no difficulty in apprehending what was intended to be figured and represented in the person and character of this illustrious chief: it will be easily seen by the enlightened eye of wisdom, that as Moses was a type and figure of the great Jehovah, instructing and guiding His people by the light and truth of His Holy Word, so Joshua was a type and figure of the same Omnipotent Lord, but under a varied and distinct character, viz., not as instructing but as combating, not as enlightening His people only by His eternal truth, but as enabling them thereby to fight against and overcome all their spiritual enemies, and thus conducting them through conquest to victory, out of the wilderness into Canaan.
3 Exod. xvii. 9.
4 Joshua v. 13.
Let us stand still a moment to contemplate the deep ground and high reasonableness of this representation, that so we may attain all that heavenly and sublime instruction which it was designed to convey unto us.
It is plain, from the revealed Word of God, that the light of the eternal truth, communicated by and through that most Holy Book, is the only possible means or medium of our attaining to any knowledge of God and of His kingdom; and until we attain to the knowledge of God and of His kingdom, it is impossible we call love them, for we cannot love what me do not know; and if we do not love God and His kingdom, we cannot have conjunction with them, for all conjunction is the effect of love, and of course we must perish everlastingly, because without living conjunction with God there can be no salvation. It is alike plain that the Word of God, in producing its intended saving effects, must needs operate in a two-fold manner on our minds, viz., first., in the way of instruction, to teach us what is good and what is evil; what we ought, therefore, to choose and love, and what we ought to refuse and abhor: and secondly, in the way of combat, by leading us to oppose in ourselves what we know to he evil, that is to say, contrary to God; for if we are content with merely knowing what is evil, without opposing it-if we think it enough to be instructed, without going on to subdue the enemies which instruction points out to us-how plain is it to see that our knowledge and instruction in such case, so far from being beneficial to us, will but increase our condemnation, agreeably to the words of Jesus Christ-"If ye were blind, ye should have no sin; but now ye say, We see, therefore your sins remaineth."5 It is for this reason, and from this ground, that the church of Jesus Christ on earth is called the church militant, because it is supposed to wage perpetual war against its spiritual adversaries: and accordingly the introduction into this church at baptism, is expressed in these remarkable words-"We receive this child into the congregation of Christ's flock, and do sign Him with the sign of the cross, in token that hereafter he shall not be ashamed to confess the faith of Christ crucified, and manfully to fight under His banner against sin, the world, and the devil,"&c.6 For the same reason, and agreeably to the same idea, Jesus Christ saith to His disciples-"Think not that I am come to send peace upon earth; I came not to send peace, but a sword"7-manifestly denoting the spiritual combats which His divine doctrines would excite in the minds of His true followers.
5 John ix. 41.
6 See the office of Baptism.
7 Matt. x. 32.
Here, then, the mystery is fully unravelled, and we ore enabled to see clearly not only what is distinctly figured and represented by Moses and Joshua, but also why Joshua and not Moses was appointed to put the people of God in possession of the promised land. For the promised land, it is plain, according to its spiritual sense and signification, means conjunction with God, by and in the heaven-born spirit of His own pure love and wisdom; and to take possession of this land is to attain to such blessed conjunction. But who cannot discern that this blessed conjunction is not attainable by knowledge alone, but by a life according to knowledge; that is to say, by opposing in ourselves those corruptions which our knowledge teaches us to be contrary to God? For if we know what sin is, and yet never enter into combat against it, in this case sin remains in us uuremoved, notwithstanding our knowledge, and of course forbids our entrance into the promised land. And, therefore, it is an eternal law, that not Moses, but Joshua-not knowledge, but obedience to knowledge-not instruction, but the spiritual combats and victories to which instruction leads-can alone put us in full possession of the heavenly inheritance.
To conclude. Let us learn from what has been said, to distinguish well in ourselves between the two heavenly principles and powers represented by the Israelitish leaders whose names were Moses and Joshua. Let us be careful to discriminate well between the truth which enlightens and the truth which fights-between the instruction which makes sin manifest, and the combat by which the power of sin is destroyed: and let us never forget, that the former only conducts us to the borders of the promised land; but to enter in and take possession, we must apply the latter to the removal of our defilements, by making a successful war against them. We must thus exchange the rod of Moses for the sword of Joshua, and use that sword valiantly as he did.
8 Deut. xxxi. iii.
On the passage of the Children of Israel over Jordan, and their entrance into the promised Land.
"And remember that thou mast a servant in the land of Egypt, and that the LORD thy God brought thee out thence through a mighty hand and by a stretched out arm."-DEUT. v. 15.
IN several former discourses on these words, we have attended the children of Israel in their miraculous journey out of Egypt through the wilderness, until they come to the borders of the promised land.
And now behold! having finished their long sojourning of forty years in a barren, inhospitable desert, the people of God prepare to take possession of the inheritance which had been the fond object of their expectations, and was now the near reward of their toils. Nothing separates them from this blessed land but a small river, the river of Jordan; and lo! as the ark of God approaches this river, the stream is suddenly divided by the Divine command, and the people pass over on dry around, for thus Jehovah had spoken-"It shall come to pass, as soon as the soles of the feet of the priests that bear the ark of the Lord, the Lord of all the earth, shall rest in the waters of Jordan, that the waters of Jordan shall be cut off from the waters that come down from above, and they shall stand upon an heap."1 It is impossible to contemplate the scene here presented to our view, without being struck with astonishment at the mercy and the miracle by which it is distinguished.
1 Josh. iii. 13.
Let us, then, open our eyes to view it distinctly, so as to discern all the parts and particulars of which it is composed. Let us view its inside as well as its outside, from a full conviction that as every circumstance recorded in the Word of God is more glorious within than it is without, so it is also in regard to the miraculous transaction here presented to our consideration. It is magnificent indeed in its external form and visible appearance; but it is infinitely more so in its internal signification and meaning, and in all those unseen glories which constitute the substance, of which the visible appearance is but the shadow. And what eye, if it be so disposed, cannot look thus into the interior of this astonishing history, and behold its hidden magnificence and grandeur? For what well-disposed eye cannot see that this history is a figure; in other words, that the passage of the children of Israel over the divided waters of Jordan, to enter into the promised land, involves, and therefore is a representative type of the passage of the faithful (the true children of God in all ages and places) out of the regions of time, of sorrow, of trial, and of danger, in which they have been long sojourning here below, to enter upon and take possession of the blessed regions of eternity, where "there shall be no more death, neither sorrow nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain."2 It is not, then, a mere dead history which is the subject of our present attention; for if we suppose so, we shall deprive it of all its life and glory, and ourselves, too, of the life and glory which it was intended to communicate.
2 Rev. xxi. 4.
3 1 Cor. ii. 9.
But there is yet a further meaning, and this also a most important one, involved in the history under consideration. For to enter into the heavenly Canaan, that is, into heaven, implies that we become heavenly-minded, according to the words or Jesus Christ-"Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God; and "Except a man be born of water and of the spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God."4
4 John iii. 3, 5.
Behold here, then, another most magnificent object involved in the passage over Jordan, and the entrance into the promised land, by the Israelitish army! These distinguished events are figures, not only of the admission of the faithful hereafter into the eternal kingdom of the Most High, but also of their admission or ascension, during their abode in this world, to those pure, evangelical, spiritual principles of life and love which are to be their qualification for a blessed eternity, by leading them to conjunction with the blessed and eternal God.
We are well aware that all this may seem strange and inconceivable to the thoughtless and inconsiderate, who will therefore wonder what possible connection there can be between the journey of a people from one country to another, and the progress of the human soul in heavenly wisdom and life. But, beloved, let us leave the thoughtless and inconsiderate to their own reflections, and let us remember that if they are disposed to put out their eyes, it is no reason at all why we should put out ours.
Then, if we persevere in this happy progress, shall we see clearly, and by a light infinitely surpassing that of the mid-day sun, how the journey of the children of Israel out of Egypt, in its every step and stage, was an exact type and figure of our spiritual advancement from the kingdom of darkness and misery to the opposite kingdom of light and joy. For then we shall discern what the thoughtless and inconsiderate, alas! never call discern, that the mind of man, as well as the earth on which he lives, is distinguished into regions lower and higher, answering to the land of Egypt and the land of Canaan, in the historical figure. We shall discern further, that so long as we continue the slaves of our corruptions, we remain miserable captives in the lower region of Egypt and in the house of bondage, because there is nothing so low and degrading as sin; there is no bondage so debasing, there is no chain so heavy and so galling, as that which binds us to the yoke of our passions and our vices. But no sooner do we begin, through the saving grace and power of the Most High, to break that yoke from off our necks, that we may be at liberty to know and serve the Living God, than we instantly quit the lower country of our captivity, and commence our spiritual journey towards the higher land of heaven-born freedom and enjoyment. In this case, indeed, we must needs pass through a wilderness, because no one can possibly put off his natural defilements without trial and trouble, of which the wilderness between Egypt and Canaan was a representative figure.
To conclude. Let us learn from what has been said that the whole journey of the children of Israel, from their departure out of Egypt to their entrance into the land of Canaan, is an exact representative of that far more important journey, by which the faithful and the penitent are led out of the regions of sin and vanity, to recover their proper, their lost state of innocence and bliss, in the knowledge and the love of God. But let us remember, at the same time, that we can never learn this perfectly, so as to believe it, till we set out on that journey ourselves. For whilst we continue to hug the chains of Egypt, by cherishing our corruptions, in this case, though we were told a thousand times by an angel from heaven what Egypt was meant to represent to us, we should give no manner of credit at all to his information. Would we, then, really know, so as fully to believe, what the history of the journey of the people of God was intended to figure to us, let us prepare ourselves to set out on the same journey, and diligently to pursue it. Let us beg of God the grace to forsake our corruptions. Let us proceed to oppose in ourselves whatsoever is contrary to His pure love and wisdom. Let us persevere in the blessed course, notwithstanding the trials and difficulties to which it may expose us. We shall then soon discover what Egypt, the wilderness, and the land of Canaan really are and mean, because we shall find fulfilled in ourselves the blessed words"Thou wast a servant in the land of Egypt, and the LORD thy God brought thee out thence through a mighty hand, and by a stretched out arm." AMEN.
On taking possession of the promised Land, with a consideration of the reasons why the wicked Inhabitants were expelled by little and little, and why some were left to prove Israel.
"And remember that thou wast a servant in the land of Egypt, and that the LORD thy God brought thee out thence through a mighty hand and by a stretched out arm."-DEUT. v. 15.
IN our last discourse on these words, we considered the introduction of the children of Israel into the promised land, so far as it is figured by the passage over Jordan; and endeavoured to point out the variety of spiritual instruction presented to our view by this wonderful figure.
There remains now only one further consideration respecting the journey of this extraordinary people, and with it we shall conclude the mysterious history. The consideration I mean, is their taking possession of the land to which they had been introduced; and this possession, we find, is attained and secured by combats against the idolatrous inhabitants who are found there, and by successive victories over them. Respecting these combats and victories, there are two points which deserve especial attention: the first is, that these inhabitants were not to be overcome at once, but were to be expelled, as it is expressed in the history, "by little and little;"1 the second is, that some of the inhabitants were not to be expelled at all, but were to be left, as it is described in the history"to prove Israel, to know whether they would hearken unto the commandments of the LORD, which He commanded their fathers by the hand of Moses."2
1 Exod. xxiii. 29, 30. Deut. vii. 22.
2 Judges ii. 21; iii. 1, 4.
Let us begin with the first of these considerations, viz., that the inhabitants of the land were not to he overcome at once, but were to be expelled, as it is expressed in the history, by "little and little." The instruction to be derived from this figure is so plain and easy of apprehension, that it is impossible for any sincere and well-disposed mind to mistake or misconceive its meaning. It is impossible not to see, if we be disposed to see, that the Almighty intended by this figure to instruct us, that in our combats against our spiritual adversaries, the powers of sin and darkness, we are not to expect a sudden victory; in other words, we are not to expect that the enemy will be subdued by a single blow, but on the contrary, that his subjugation will require repeated efforts before the victory can be complete. The ground and reasonableness of this delay or slowness of operation on the part of God, in conducting us to spiritual conquests, originates in two distinct considerations: first, in the numbers of the enemy to be subdued, which of course will give birth to multiplied assaults; secondly, in the natural pride of our own hearts, which might be nourished and increased by a hasty victory. That it originates in the numbers of the enemy to be subdued, we learn from the testimony of the sacred Scriptures; fur when Jesus Christ asked the devil," "What it thy name?" he answered, saying, "My name is Legion, for we are many."3 Legion, then, being the name of our spiritual adversaries, it is reasonable to conceive that his assaults will be in agreement with his name, and will accordingly be many and various. We are not, therefore, to suppose, when we have been successful in combating one sin and casting out one devil, that we have on that account gained the victory over all; for it is possible we may conquer pride, and yet be overcome by covetousness, or we may put down covetousness, and get be the slaves of sensuality. Thus we may bruise a single limb of the serpent, and yet leave him in possession of all his vigour. We may slay the Canaanites, and yet fall into the hands of the Perizzites; or we may escape the Perizzites, and still be in danger from the Hittites, the Hivites, the Amorites, the Girgashites, and the Jebusites.
3 Mark v. 9.
A second cause of this delay is grounded in our own natural pride, which might be nourished and increased by a sudden victory, on which account the Lord assigns, for the apparent tardiness of His conquests, this memorable reason"Lest the beasts of the field increase upon thee."4 It is possible, then, and also probable, that sudden success, even against our spiritual adversaries, might be dangerous, by cherishing presumption and the pride of conquest. Thus we might indeed trample upon one foe, but then we should be the slaves of another still more formidable. We might bruise the serpent's tail, but his head would be as much alive as ever. Whereas, the slowness and delay of conquest, by exercising our faith and patience, may tend to increase our humility and dependence on Divine aid, without which heavenly virtues, even victory itself would be no victory, because it would only tend to puff us up more with the vanity and fond conceit of our own excellences and powers, and would thus set us at a greater distance from the presence and blessing of the God of heaven, who is never so near and dear to us as in our states of humiliation and self-abasement. When the Almighty, then, declared to Moses the wisdom of His Divine purpose to deliver Israel by little and little, He meant also to hand down a lesson of instruction to the remotest ages of the world, by which His children might be taught to proceed deliberately and gradually in their spiritual conquests. He meant thus to check our natural impetuosities; and by the wholesome discipline of patience and long-suffering, to wean us from all fond conceit of our own virtues, as if they were our own and self-derived, instead of being acknowledged to be perpetual gifts from above. He designed further to instruct us that our enemy is not one, but many; and that, therefore, we ought to be prepared for multiplied assaults.
4 Deut. vii. 22.
But, secondly, another no less important and edifying law of the Divine Providence operative on this occasion is, that some of the wicked inhabitants of the land of Canaan were not to be expelled at all, but; were to be left, as it is described in the history, "to prove Israel, to know whether they would hearken unto the commandments of the Lord, which He commanded their fathers by the hand of Moses." The design of this law is equally wise and equally plain to be apprehended with that which we have been considering, manifestly teaching us this weighty lesson of spiritual life and spiritual combat, viz., that during our abode on earth, we are never to expect to be totally exempt from trials and temptations excited by our spiritual enemies the powers of darkness. For when it is said in the history, that some of the wicked nations were to be left to prove Israel, the expression to prove plainly denotes a state of trial or temptation, since trials or temptations are in all cases proofs, and perhaps the best proofs of all others, how far we are faithful or unfaithful to the spirit and commandments of the Lord our God. Let it not, however, be supposed that the children of Israel were unfaithful to their God, because some nations were thus left to prove them; neither let it be supposed that we ourselves are unfaithful to our God, merely because we are still exposed to trials and temptations. For to commit sill is one thing, and to be tempted to sin is another. Jesus Christ Himself, we know, was tempted to sin; bur. we know at the same time that He did not commit sin. In like manner all His most faithful followers, in every step and stage of their spiritual progress, are still exposed to spiritual trials and exercises: but then, so far from being defiled by these proofs of their faith and patience, they are rather purified; so far from being tainted with sin, they obtain a fuller victory over all the power of the enemy.
Behold here, then, the mercy and the wisdom unitedly manifested in the Divine law under consideration! Behold how the Almighty, in leaving some nations to prove His chosen people, meant to instruct us in this most interesting and consolatory truth, that whensoever we set ourselves in good earnest to oppose our spiritual enemies the powers of darkness, by opposing in ourselves the ascendency of our corruptions, and compelling passion to submit to the sovereignty of the Divine spirit and life-in this case our very foes will become our friends, by administering to our purification, and helping forward our spiritual advancement. The enemy, therefore, it is plain, has no power at all to hurt us, but what we impart to him by cherishing his purposes. He breaks to pieces, indeed, the bones of the wicked, because they are his willing captives, and never make any effort to loosen his chains. But the moment we are wise, by evangelical faith and repentance, to set our faces against our spiritual adversaries, and to control their dominion-from that moment the power of adversaries, which was heretofore against us, is now turned in our favour. They who before allured us to sin, and threatened our destruction, now, by a most miraculous and providential disposal, are converted into instruments of proving our virtue, and thereby of purifying our love, and promoting our salvation. Thus the Almighty orders all things, and all powers, to administer to His own purposes of blessing in regard to His children who love Him; and at the very time that He gives the enemy permission to assault them, and to continue the assault, even to the end of their lives here on earth, He is only providing the more effectually for their eternal happiness, by strengthening; extending, and perfecting their virtue.
To conclude. Let us learn from these two remarkable laws relative to the expulsion of the wicked inhabitants from the land of Canaan, neither to expect a sudden victory over all our spiritual enemies, nor yet such a victory as will leave us entirely out of the reach of assault and temptation. Let us, therefore, be content to be advancing by degrees towards the final and complete conquest, and let us not murmur and repine, but rather rejoice, if we find our faith and patience still put to the proof by those adversaries who are left in the land, by the Divine permission, for this very purpose, to try our principles, and in trying to purify, confirm, and fix them.
5 John v. 39.
6 Psalm cxix. 18.
The great importance and blessed results of seeking the Kingdom of God, considered in Four Sermons.
"Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and His righteousness." MATT. vi. 33.
WHILST a great part of mankind are wandering in the mazes of folly, and hear only the noise of worldly strife and contention and covetousness,-whilst passion is more attended to than reason, and the glories of this world are suffered to obscure the brighter glories of eternity-it behoves the children of God to be more stedfastly devoted to the higher interests of their immortal souls: let us, then, endeavour to open our ears to the voice of this eternal truth-"Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and His righteousness," let us endeavour, in a prayerful spirit, to comprehend the meaning of these heavenly words; let us diligently attend and resolve to obey them! Let us learn thereby that our souls are created for better things than this world call administer; that there is an invisible, an eternal kingdom to be sought after, to be found, to be possessed, and enjoyed-even the "kingdom of God,"-compared with which, all the kingdoms of this world are but as dress, and their most splendid dignities are but like the shadows of night which pass away.
"Seek ye first the kingdom, of God, and His righteousness." O most blessed words, which teach us where our true blessedness is to be found! We are not now left to the uncertainty of vain conjecture, in attempting to discover our highest, our most enduring good: the course we are to pursue is here plainly pointed out; and it is our own fault if we do not see and pursue it.
But me thinks I hear you inquire, How are we to seek this kingdom? where is it to be found by us? what is meant by seeking it first, or in the first place? in what does the kingdom of God and His righteousness particularly consist? I will therefore endeavour, beloved, to meet all these inquiries in their order; and first, do we ask, How shall we seek this kingdom?
I answer,-in the same manner that we would seek any other thing which we earnestly wanted to attain, viz., with the longing desires and affections-with the active labour of our souls. For, let me ask, How does the worldly man seek after earthly riches how does the vain man seek worldly reputation? how does the sensual man seek carnal gratifications? Do not they all desire such things, and labour to become successful in their respective pursuits? Are not those objects which they seek ever uppermost in their minds? Is it not their continual thought, and study, and contrivance, how they may attain them? Are not they happy in proportion to the success of their seeking and are not they miserable in proportion to their disappointment? Let us, then, learn of the worldly-minded, the vain, and the sensual, how we are to seek the kingdom of God, and His righteousness; and let it no longer be urged against us as a reproach, that "the children of this world are in their generation wiser than the children of light."1 Thus shall we be taught to perceive that it is in vain to think of seeking, so as to find, the kingdom of God and His righteousness, until we are thoroughly convinced that they are better worth our seeking than any thing else besides.
1 Luke xvi. 8.
Daily experience affords ample evidence of the fact, that men only seek that which they have been taught to value; and that their eagerness and earnestness in seeking it, is always in proportion to their estimation of its real worth.
2 Matt. vi. 21.
3 Psalm lxxiii. 25.
Here, then, let us begin our work, if we would become successful seekers of the kingdom of God, and His righteousness. Let us labour to convince ourselves (as we may very easily do when so disposed) that there is nothing which so well deserves our seeking as these immortal treasures. Let us ask the world what it contains that can be compared with the riches of the kingdom of God and His righteousness. The question itself, if seriously proposed, would instantly determine the point, and make us all diligent in seeking what belongs to a fetter world. For, alas! the true reason why the things of this world are in general more sought after than the things of God, is, not because they are in themselves more really estimable-not because they make the possessor more really happy-but because we are in general deceived by their specious appearances; and for want of seriously examining their intrinsic worth, we suppose them to have a value which they do not possess; we fancy them to be sterling gold, because they have a glittering outside, yet when carefully examined they are discovered to be nothing but counterfeit currency. For let us bring the things of this world to a true test, and we shall soon find they cannot bear the light of truth to shine upon them; and that to compare them with the things of God, is to weigh them in a balance in which they will be found wanting. For what is worldly glory, what is worldly wealth, what is worldly pleasure, that they should make men cold and blind to the pursuit of things which are infinitely more excellent? Can these perishable goods be the proper goods of an immortal spirit?
Nothing, then, is wanting but a moment's serious thought, to convince any reasonable person that the kingdom of God and His righteousness are blessings of infinitely higher value than any which this world has to offer us; and that if they are not thus seen, it is because they have not been examined-it is because man is willing to be self-deluded, and to substitute vanities for realities. Let him but once open his eyes, and the delusion is at an end. He then sees, with a light bright as the noon-day sun, that in seeking the kingdom of God and His righteousness, he call alone hope to find a real good and a permanent blessing.
And here let us especially beware of a dangerous error into which some persons fall who blindly suppose, that in the professions of faith and religion, they are seeking the kingdom of God and His righteousness, although their hearts and affections, and chief desires, are in reality turned quite another way. These are signified in the Lord's awful charge against the church of Ephesus"I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love."4 O terrible declaration against such deluded Christians as make a shew of seeking God and His kingdom, when their first love, their hearts and desires, and best affections, are far from Him! Wow is it possible, in such a case, to find God? Can words, can gestures, can opinions, can external acts of worship only, penetrate into the heavenly world, and gain admittance to the throne of God, and draw down His divine graces and blessings into the soul? No such thing. It is the fervent desire, it is the penitent affection, it is the earnest longing of the heart after God and heavenly things which alone seeketh and findeth them; and therefore it is written-"As the hart panteth after the waterbrook, so panteth my soul after Thee, O God. My soul thirsteth for God-for the living God: when shall I come and appear before the presence of God?"5
4 Rev. ii. 4.
5 Psalm. xlii. 1, 2.
Would we know, then, how we are to seek the kingdom of God and His righteousness, let us keep alive in our souls the heavenly flame of a holy desire towards things that are eternal. Let us take heed, for this purpose, lest temporal things-the cares and pleasures of this world, or the sensualities of the flesh-extinguish that holy flame. Our affections will burn brightly with the love of heaven, if we are careful not to quench that hallowed fire by the love of lower things. The Lord and His kingdom must have the uppermost, the ruling place in our souls. We must assign to Him the innermost chamber in our hearts, where He may ever dwell undisturbed, and where we may ever approach Him with the delightful sacrifice of unfeigned love and affection.
Would we, then, become real seekers of the Gospel pearls, and find them-would we fulfil the Divine requirement of our God, who not only freely offers His treasures, but also presses upon us to accept them-let us open our eyes, and beg of God to open them, that we may see what all other things really are, and what they can do for us; we shall then be taught better than by a thousand arguments, that the kingdom of God and His righteousness are of super-eminent worth and excellence; and that, above all other things, they deserve our constant care and our devout attention. Let us, therefore, unite in the devout supplication, that through the light of the eternal truth, which is the grace of Jesus Christ, our eyes may be ever open to discern, and our hearts ever disposed to make a right estimate of, the relative value of things around us, that so being enabled to see that the kingdom of God and His righteousness are things of infinitely higher concern to us than all others, we may be led to seek them with that ardour of affection, that penitent desire, that lively hope, and that enduring patience, to which is annexed all that blessedness where it is written-"Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you."6- AMEN.
6 Matt. vii. i.
"Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and His righteousness." MATT. vi. 33.
IN a former discourse on these words, it was shewn what we are here to understand by seeking the kingdom of God and His righteousness. We shall now proceed to shew, as proposed in the second place, what we are to understand by seeking this kingdom of God and His righteousness first, or in the first place, for so it is written"Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and His righteousness." Now if, as we have seen, by seeking anything is to be understood to make it the object of our love and affection, and to be greatly delighted with the acquirement of it; then, to seek anything first, or in the first place, must of necessity mean to make it the first or principal object of our love and affections, and to be above all things delighted with the acquirement of that first object.
It requires but little acquaintance with the human heart or will to see that there are in it several kinds and degrees of love, all in subordination to each other: as, for instance, there is a love of the world; there is a love of the body; there is a love of bodily pleasures; there is also a love of God, and a love of our neighbour, and of all the spiritual graces, virtues, and excellences connected therewith. The three first of these loves may be called natural or temporal loves; and the two last spiritual and eternal. These several degrees of love are always in some kind of subjection and subordination to each other, insomuch that some one of them is ever the uppermost, the first, or governing love; and whichsoever it be, it keeps the rest in submission and obedience under it, so that itself has the supreme rule and dominion in the heart or will.
2 Isaiah xliii. 24.
But in the spiritual, the converted, or the regenerate man, the order is altogether changed; for in him the love of God, and the love of his neighbour, with all the virtues, graces, and excellences connected therewith, have the ascendency, and are the first and governing loves; and in this case the love of self, the love of the world, and the love of sensual pleasures, are regarded as secondary and inferior loves, and are kept thereby in subjection and subordination.
Here, then, if our eyes be spiritually opened, we shall be enabled clearly to see and understand what is meant by seeking the kingdom of God first, or in the first place-that this consists in making the love of that kingdom our chief, our principal and governing love-that it is to give this love the rule and ascendency over all other loves, so that it may be, as it were, their king and governor, and keep them in subjection. It is to give unto God the throne, the sovereignty, the dominion over all our affections and thoughts, and thereby to suffer the Lord to arrange the various principles of our minds, our words and actions, that so no inferior love may ever usurp and take the place of a superior; but that all kinds and degrees of love may be ever kept in subordination to this heavenly love, this first desire of our souls-the love of God and His kingdom.
And here, as an encouragement to fulfil the heavenly precept of seeking first the kingdom of God, and His righteousness, permit me to call your attention more immediately to the consideration of the blessed design of our Lord, in regard to our loves and affections, as manifested, in this and in all the other precepts of His Holy Word and Commandment. It appears to the natural man, when he first begins to think about God, religion, and everlasting life, that in seeking after these eternal blessings, and in order to attain them, it is necessary to slay and sacrifice in himself every other love, every other affection, and every other delight of his natural mind. Thus he often fancies that to love God, he must cease to love almost everything else-that to lead a religious life, he must renounce and forsake every other way of life-that to secure eternal blessings and comforts, he must refuse to taste of temporal blessings and comforts; in short, according to his mistaken ideas at that time, he supposes, that to become a spiritual man, he must first utterly destroy the delights of his natural life, together with all his natural loves and affections.
I do not pretend to determine how far it may be expedient that things should wear this appearance, when man first begins to think about God and eternal life.
2 John x. 10.
Behold, here, the blessed secret pointed out of God himself for the preservation and exaltation of every kind and degree of man's life! Behold, I say, the heavenly and eternal law by which whatsoever is comprehended within its range is immediately saved from destruction, but apart from which every thing must needs perish by a deprivation of its proper life!
Finally, let me entreat you to join me in devout prayer to the Father of Mercies, that through His grace, without which we can do nothing, we may be inspired with the wisdom and the courage to enter into ourselves, so as to explore, by serious self-examination, our ruling loves and delights. May we thus be enabled to discover what is the supreme king and governor in the little worlds of our own minds! And if we find by such examination that all is not right with us, but that some inferior love has usurped the place of the supreme-that some lower, some temporal delight, has intruded, and thrust down the great, the eternal joy, which the love of God would exalt in us; may we, then, implore further the aid of the Divine Grace, to enable us to begin the life of true repentance and conversion unto Jesus Christ, that so He may restore and establish within us the order of heaven! May the eternal be thus exalted above the temporal, the living above the dead, the pure and incorruptible above the defiled and the perishable, until our hearts bear witness that we are in possession of all that real and substantial bliss which Jesus Christ intended for us when He said-"Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and His righteousness." AMEN.
"Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and His righteousness." MATT. vi. 33.
IN two former discourses on these words we have endeavoured to shew what is here to be understood by seeking the kingdom of God; and also what by seeking it first, or in the first place. To seek a spiritual object is to desire to find it; it is to give it a place in our love and affections, in our wishes and expectations: and to seek it first, or in the first place, is to make it the first object of our desires, to assign it the supreme or uppermost place in our love and affections.
I shall now proceed to consider what we are to understand by the kingdom of God, and His righteousness, which are the proposed objects of our search. Possibly we have heretofore thought of these words as conveying only one idea, or as presenting only one object for our contemplation; but a little deeper reflection will convince us that our Blessed Lord, in making use of the two distinct expressions, "the kingdom of God," and "the righteousness of God," must assuredly have had some weighty and important reason for making this distinction, otherwise, it is most reasonable to conclude He would never have made it. We shall be convinced, likewise, that He must also be desirous that we should inquire into the reason of this distinction, because He must needs be desirous that we should understand His Holy Word, which it is impossible we can do, only so far as we comprehend the reasons for the various terms and modes of expression which occur in His divine language.
In regard, then, to the above distinction, it appears to have its ground in the two distinct attributes, or principles, which constitute the nature of God, and also the nature of everything derived from God, viz., His divine wisdom and His divine love; for God, we learn from the sacred Scriptures, is both the Supreme Love and the Supreme Wisdom, and the only Source of both; and He has accordingly imparted more or less of these two distinguishing and distinct properties to all living creatures, but especially to His creature man, whom He created to be a living image and likeness of Himself in a super-eminent degree. Accordingly, if we look into ourselves, and examine attentively the constitution of our own minds, we shall find that they consist of two distinct faculties, viz., will and understanding: the will being created to receive the life of God's holy love, and the understanding to receive the life of His holy wisdom; in other words, the will being created to love God and the things of God, and the understanding to know who and what God is, because it is impossible we can love what we do not know or comprehend.
Moreover, it is very observable that this wonderful distinction pervades the whole of the volume of divine Revelation, because this sacred Book contains the living Word of the living God, and therefore it must needs be written with reference to the two distinct principles of which we are speaking, viz., the Divine Love, and the Divine Wisdom, to which principles, therefore, we find a continual advertence by the use of two distinct expressions, which, although they frequently appear to have nearly the same meaning-yet one is intended to express the principle of the Divine love, and the other the principle of the Divine wisdom, or to denote what has some relation to those principles.
It would be endless to enumerate all the instances of this singular mode pf expression which occur in the inspired volume, and which distinguish the Book of God from every other book; for they are to be met with in almost every page of the Holy Records, though in general they are little or not at all attended to by the superficial or careless reader, and seem merely repetitions of one and the same thing; when yet how plain is it to see that in the Word of God there can be no vain repetitions, but every expression must have a distinct meaning?
Having thus, then, endeavoured to explain the reason of this distinction used by our Blessed Lord, let us now proceed to consider what is implied in the name of the first proposed object of our search, viz., "the kingdom of God." The word kingdom, we know, denotes government, and therefore the kingdom of God signifies the government of God, or that power which He exercises over all those who are wise to submit to be guided and governed by Him. The angelic hosts, therefore, are said to be, and they really are, in the kingdom of God, because they submit to His divine guidance and government, being conformable in all things to the laws which He has established, and endeavouring to submit their own wills, and spirits, and lives, to the control of God's Will, and Life, and Spirit.
1 Luke xvii. 21.
2 Mark i. 15.
Here, however, it may be proper to note, that this kingdom or government of God is twofold, viz., a kingdom or government of truth, and a kingdom or government of love; in other words, that God guides and governs some minds more by the power of His divine truth enlightening and influencing their understandings, and other minds more by the power of His divine love warming and inclining their wills: and accordingly we find by experience, that some men serve God more from a principle of knowledge, because they know that it is their duty to serve Him; whilst others serve more from a principle of love, because they not only know that it is their duty to serve God, but they have also a delight therein, loving and embracing His service above every other good. These two distinct characters of men are pointed at and described in those memorable words of our Lord to His disciples, where He says, "Henceforth I call you not servants, but I have called you friends;"3 the reason of which change in this relationship of the disciples to their Redeemer was manifestly this, that they now began to serve the Lord from affection and delight, which entitled them to the honourable appellation of His friends, whereas they had before served him merely from a principle of knowledge, which taught them that they ought to serve Him, and under this character they merited no other title than that of servants.
3 John xv. 15.
Here, then, we shall be enabled, not only to see more clearly the ground of the distinction above pointed out, but also to apprehend what Jesus Christ specifically meant, when He called all men to seek "the kingdom of God."
Having thus taken a view of what we are to understand by the kingdom of God, it will now plainly appear, in the second place, what is implied in the other object which Jesus Christ proposes to our search, viz., the "righteousness of God." The term righteousness, or, as it might be more properly rendered, justice, it has been already shewn, has reference more to the love of God, as the term "kingdom" has reference more to the truth of God; and therefore, when Jesus Christ calls upon us to seek also the righteousness or justice of God, He means to apply Himself not only to our understandings but to our wills also, by calling us to come under the government of God in regard likewise to this faculty of our minds, that so we might not rest satisfied with mere speculative knowledge only, but might advance forward to attain the blessed end of knowledge, which is the pure love of God and of our neighbour.
Let me bespeak your particular attention to this further requirement of the Great Redeemer. The first step towards everlasting life, or the kingdom of heaven, is to know God; the second is to love Him: or, in other words, the first step towards everlasting life, is to have our understandings enlightened by the light of the eternal truth of God's Holy Word; for without this light, it is impossible we can make any advances towards God, since, as before observed, we can never either love or obey that of which we have no knowledge. This first step, however, it must be plain, is in itself insufficient, because we can never be saved by knowledge only, but by a life according to knowledge, that is to say, by the love of that which our knowledge teaches us to be good. This, therefore, is the second step to everlasting life, or the kingdom of heaven; and it is concerning this second step that Jesus Christ speaks in another place, where He says-"If ye know these things, happy are ye if ye do them."4 for to do them is to love them, and to love them is the orderly consequence of knowing them.
4 John xiii. 17.
Would we apprehend aright all that is involved in this second step, viz., the "righteousness" or justice of God? It involves that we should be righteous, or just, as God is righteous and just; in other words, it involves that, by true repentance, and through the knowledge of God which we have received in our understandings, we should depart from our natural unrighteousness or injustice-that we should no longer love ourselves and the world better than God and our neighbour-that we should hate and abominate whatsoever is contrary to the law, the spirit, and the life of Jesus Christ-that we should thus submit ourselves to be guided and governed by His righteousness or justice, until, through the purifying process of regeneration, our natural corruptions are removed, our passions subdued, our wills and affections purged and purified, and we are enabled to delight in loving God above all things and our neighbour as ourselves.
To conclude. Let us never forget the distinction above pointed out between the kingdom of God and the righteousness of God, nor the distinct duties to which it calls us. Let us never forget, that through die unutterable mercy of the Most High, and by virtue of the eternal connection between Him and ourselves, we are all invited to the participation of the inestimable treasures of His divine knowledge and of His divine love: not of His knowledge only, nor of His love only; for knowledge only, without love, is as a dead carcase which cannot profit us-and love only, without knowledge, is alike useless, being as a soul without a body. They can only, therefore, become to us saving and living treasures, by being united in one; and they cannot be united in one, but by our loving what we know to be of God, as well as our knowing what we ought to love.
Would we thee seek, so as to find, both the kingdom of God and His righteousness, let us implore first the Divine Grace to conduct us to the knowledge of the eternal truth, as it is revealed to us in the Holy Word; and let us endeavour to form our understandings accordingly. Let us next proceed to live in conformity to that truth, by suffering it to regulate our conduct, to control our passions, to elevate our affections, and to purify and regenerate our lives. We shall then soon be convinced, by happy experience, that the kingdom of God, as Jesus Christ declares, is nigh unto us, and within us; because we shall then find a heavenly wisdom within ourselves for continual guidance and government; and a heavenly love for continual consolation and life: thus having our understandings purified from error, and our wills from all evil, through the grace of the Redeemer, we shall comprehend better than any words of man can teach us, the nature and the value of those eternal treasures which He announced when He said"Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and His righteousness." AMEN.
"Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you."-MATT. vi. 33.
HAVING shewn in several late discourses what we are to understand by seeking first the kingdom of God, and His righteousness, I shall now proceed to shew the further instruction designed for us by our divine Lord and Saviour, in the concluding words of our text"and all these things shall be added unto you."
What these things are which should be added unto those who seek first the kingdom of God, and His righteousness, is thus declared to us is the preceding verse-"Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall me eat, or what shall we drink, or wherewithal shall we be clothed? for after all these things do the Gentiles seek (for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things):" and then it follows-"But seek ye first the kingdom of God," &c.
By the things, then, which it is here promised "shall be added" unto the true seekers of the kingdom of God and His righteousness, it is plain are meant all things relating to the body or the outward bodily life, its conveniences or necessities. Our blessed Lord meant hereby to impress deeply upon the minds of all His sincere followers this weighty and important truth, that whilst in their inner man they were first seeking Him, His kingdom, and His righteousness, they should not experience any want of things convenient or necessary for outward life and comfort; but that His divine Providence would secure all such needful things unto their possession, that they might have the fullest and surest dependence on His infallible Word and promise; that, having provided for them the greater goods-"the life," which is "more than meat," and "the body," which is "more than raiment"-He would assuredly bless them in all inferior things with such a supply and provision as would be best and most expedient for them; hence He says in ver. 25, "Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on.
It is greatly to be feared that many, even of those who have assumed the Christian name, suffer exceedingly in regard to their eternal interests, for want of rightly attending to the counsels of Divine truth here delivered by its eternal Author. They are so busy and so anxious about the concerns of this world, in providing for the bodily conveniences and necessities, or in labouring to enrich themselves and their families, that the realities of another world, the spiritual state of their minds, the eternal interest of their souls in God and heaven, it is much to be feared are looked upon as merely subordinate and secondary considerations. But can anything be conceived more sinful, more dangerous, more deceitful, than such a state of heart and life? First, such a state of heart and life is most sinful, for this plain reason, because it is most contrary to the Spirit of God, in which, and according to which, we know every Christian is continually called in the Gospel to form his life and all his tempers.
But, secondly, such a state of heart is most dangerous, and the reason is equally plain-because it exposes the soul to the loss of all its best and dearest interests in the love of God; for whilst this world, and the things and concerns thereof, are so greedily coveted, and engage so much of the mind's desire and anxious thought, who cannot see that the love and favour of God, and all substantial interest therein, must needs be neglected; and that the soul, therefore, cannot attain to those measures of grace and holiness and Christian perfection to which it is called, and might have attained by due attention to the counsels of infinite mercy. For, let us examine again the state of our hearts when worldly anxiety prevails therein; and let us ask ourselves the question, Do we find ourselves affected at such times as we ought to be, by a sense of our eternal interests? Has not the world at such times much more of your thought and care than God and His righteousness? And what is spiritual danger, if this be not dangerous-thus to play with a serpent, to drink the poison of a deadly attachment, which has a tendency to destroy in us every thought of God, of holiness, of heaven, and eternal happiness?
Lastly, such a state of heart and life is most deceitful, because it covers and excuses itself under the fair appearance of being engaged in the performance of its duty-that of providing for ourselves and families: for this duty has a specious name of somewhat that sounds praiseworthy; and indeed it has not only the sound, but also the reality, when practised under proper limits and restrictions. But what name shall we give to this duty, when, for want of such limits, it makes us forget God?
Beloved, may we all learn to profit aright by the heavenly admonitions of our dear Lord and Master! We live in a world where we shall have, from without, many temptations to forsake and forget Him and all our dearest interests in His mercy. There is a spirit, it is to be feared, gone forth through our land, the spirit of sordid, earthly covetousness, and of a too eager anxiety about temporal advantages in relation to the perishable bodily life, which is most infectious; and if we are not watchful against this spirit, it will take possession of us, and persuade us by its baneful influence that this world is our all, and that God and eternity are nothing. Even the provision which we are in duty obliged to make for ourselves and families, in the way of bodily necessities, conveniences, and comforts, may, if we are not upon our guard, prove exceedingly prejudicial to our interior spiritual life, and be a means of separating us from God and Heaven. What, then, shall we do? what course shall we take to avoid all the dangers and mischiefs with which we appear encompassed? We have a plain, certain, and most merciful direction in the words of our text-"Seek ye first the kingdom of God," &c. Here, then, beloved, let us fix our hearts, for it is elsewhere written-"Blessed is the man that feareth the Lord, that delighteth greatly in His commandments. Surely he shall not be moved for ever. He shall not be afraid of evil tidings; his heart is fixed, trusting in the Lord: his heart is established, he shall not be afraid."1 Here we have an assurance of the fullest protection and security in the midst of every possible danger, provided only that we fix our hearts upon the Divine counsel contained in our text; let us, therefore, resolve to regulate our lives by this rule, and to bring every principle and every duty into subjection to its influence and guidance, and all will then assuredly go well with us, both in time and in eternity.
1 Ps. cxii. 1, 6-8.
2 1 John v. 3.
The purity and excellence of the Divine Law and Testimony, considered in three Sermons.
"The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul." PSALM xix. 7.
BY the Law of which the Psalmist here speaks, is meant the whole Word of the Lord, as contained in the books of the Old and New Testaments: what is contained in the Old Testament, was spoken immediately by Jehovah to His servants the prophets; and what is contained in the New Testament, was spoken by the same Jehovah made manifest in the flesh, that is, our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, and by the apostles through His holy inspiration. In the Psalm from which the words of my text are taken, a lively description is given us of the glory, excellence, and benefits of this law, or Word of the Lord. May I bespeak your present serious attention, whilst I consider it under the two striking characters by which it is marked in my text: first, as a perfect law; and secondly, as a law converting the soul.
That the Law of the Lord is a perfect law, will appear plain to every considerate person who reflects upon the fact, that this Law proceeds from Him who is the Fountain of truth and purity, the Great Jehovah-God! For whatever was spoken by this most holy Being, must of necessity be likewise most holy, inasmuch as it must partake of the holiness of Him from whom it proceeded. The reflecting mind will also perceive that it is impossible to separate the Word or Law of the Lord from the Lord Himself, since, as when a good man speaks, we have in his words the expression of his will and his wisdom, whereby we may discern the mind-the nature and quality-of the speaker, or the man himself; so when the Lord God Almighty speaks, me have in His words also the expression of His Divine will and wisdom, and in that will and wisdom we discern the Infinite Speaker, the Lord Himself.
1 Matt. xix. 17.
So likewise it is with respect to men on earth: all the purity of the righteous is the purity which they derive from the reception of this pure Word of the Great Jehovah Jesus, who is the First and the Last of all purity, and the only PERFECT. And the impurity of the wicked is a consequence of their refusal to receive the pure Word of the God of heaven, that is, they will not bring their hearts and lives into obedience to its purifying and perfect sanctities. We learn that in Paradise man had the pure Word of Jehovah written and living in his heart; and this was his Eden or Garden of God: but when he fell away from his obedience to that pure Word, he fell by the same act into the defilements of sin, of selfish and worldly love, and this was his expulsion from Paradise. The written Word or Law of Jehovah was then given, in order to bring man back again into the ways of purity and peace; and in proportion as he cherishes in his heart and obeys that Word, it opens heaven and Paradise again in his bosom, by introducing him to the presence and mercy of Jehovah, and renewing him in the Divine image and likeness. By this renewal man is rendered pure and undefiled; but it is only because he has been brought into near connection with the First Cause of purity, that is, with God and His Holy Word. For the Word of God opens in the renewed soul all the purities and blessednesses of the eternal love and wisdom. It communicates thus to man the original undefiled sanctities of heaven and of heavenly life. It cleanseth him thereby from the defilements of his own corrupt nature, in which he lived to himself, the world, and the flesh, unconnected with the Father of purity through His holy Word. So again, without a renewal of mind through a vital reception of the perfect and undefiled Law of the Most High, man must needs remain impure, for the Word and the Spirit being a one, it is by this medium that the Great Jehovah imparts to His repentant children the renovating influence of His divine purity. It is the nature of sin and of the sinner to live unto himself, without any regard to the Law of the Most High; the sinful soul, therefore, is full of defilements, because it is in a state of separation from the all-cleansing, all-purifying commandment of God; it will not renounce its own impure will and wisdom to be guided by, and formed after the pure undefiled will and wisdom of its Maker and Redeemer, the great and good Jehovah Jesus.
2 Heb. xii. 14.
3 See John vi.
4 John xv. 3.
5 1 Pet. i. 22.
In the great work of our purification, then, we are not left merely to our own efforts, or to struggle with our corruptions in our own strength only. We have not to depend merely on any wisdom of our own, and still less on the perverse and unsettled determinations of our own wills. But we have Omnipotence on our side to help us, because we have the eternal, undefiled Law and Word of the Omnipotent God for our guidance and our government. We have thus infinite wisdom to direct us, infinite love to console us, and infinite power to protect us; and we have nothing to do but to apply sincerely and without reserve to this Divine source of all purity and power-the Word of the Most High.
Having thus considered how the Law of the Lord is a perfect and undefiled law, we should now proceed to consider the latter part of the text, which presents this sacred law under a further character, as converting the soul; but this we shall reserve for another opportunity, inasmuch as the present time will only permit us to make a short application of what has been presented already. Beloved, it will now, we trust, be seen that in the Divine Law, or Word of the Lord, we have the only true, undefiled purity; and that every thing is impure that has not some connection with the undefiled perfection of this holy law. Do we wish, then, to be cleansed from the defilements of sin and wickedness, and to come out of the impurities of our natural or fallen man, to enjoy the Divine, celestial purities of the renewed spiritual man through regeneration? Let us go to the pure and holy Word of Jehovah, and sincerely believe it to be His Word, and that it contains all the purities and sanctities of His divine will and wisdom. Whilst we are devoutly reading it, let us think that me are conversing with Jesus Christ; and that we have also fellowship thereby with heaven and all its inhabitants. Let us view the Word as a ladder let down from heaven, upon which we may spiritually see the angels of God ascending and descending, and inviting us thereby to their happy societies.
"The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul." PSALM xix. 7.
IN a former discourse on these words we endeavoured to shew how the Law of the Lord is here said to be a perfect law; and we would now bespeak your further serious attention whilst we proceed to shew, as before purposed, how it is said to be a law converting the soul. This is a subject of infinite importance, and which we are deeply interested to understand aright and practically apply, since, if we are not converted, it is impossible we can enter into the kingdom of heaven; and if we are converted, it is still highly expedient and necessary that we should consider and understand the original cause and source of our conversion. This Divine Law or Word of the Most High, as shown in a previous discourse, is in its spirit or inmost sense full of Jehovah-God: it contains, therefore, the essential virtues, purities, and graces of His most holy love and truth; and by this His pure Law or Word He gains admission into the souls of angels and men: it is also by this sacred Law that He worketh is His obedient children all the purposes and counsels of His adorable mercy and loving-kindness. It is this essential love and Truth of the Great Jehovah, with which the holy Law or Word aboundeth, that constitutes its converting power over the souls of men; for in the divine love and truth of God there is a strong attractive virtue drawing all souls towards itself, that it may for ever bless them and make them happy in itself: hence our Divine Redeemer says"And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me."1
1 John xii. 32.
But it may be useful to consider this converting power of God's most holy Word more particularly under two distinct aspects: first, the operation of this power in regard to those things from which it would convert our souls; and secondly, to the operation of the same power in regard to those things to which it would convert us. In respect to the first of these considerations, it is manifest that the holy Word of the Most High has a tendency to convert our souls from all sin and folly, and thus from all the miseries into which sin and folly would plunge us. For the Law of the Most High bears a powerful and awful testimony against all ungodliness, unrighteousness, unbelief, and impenitence on the part of man. It points out the infernal source, and also the destructive nature of all our corruptions. It is impossible, therefore, for any one to read, with seriousness and devout attention, the records of the eternal Truth, without being made sensible of their influence and tendency to inspire sentiments of horror and disgust at all the workings of iniquity and disobedience. Indeed, all true sense of the defilement and deformity of our transgressions is derived solely from this Divine source; and, therefore, if we are afraid of offending God,-if we are no longer the slaves of our passions and corruptions,-if the love of purity, of truth, and of rectitude has found any place in our delighted bosoms, we have a sure and infallible proof that we are under the converting influence of the Divine Law, and have thus been turned away from our sins, our errors, and our miseries.
Again. In converting us from our sin and folly, and thus from all inordinate love of earthly things, the holy Law of the Most High has a tendency to convert us also from association with the powers of darkness. This is a certain consequence of real conversion from sin and folly, since it is the very nature and tendency of those corruptions to connect us with infernal agents, viz., with the devil or legion of devils. For such is the miserable, the destructive effect of all unrighteousness, or of all unrighteous love, that it inevitably brings its unhappy and polluted subjects under the control and dominion of that "roaring lion," as the Scripture expresseth it, who "goeth about seeking whom he may devour." Whilst, then, the perfect Law of the Most High is divinely operating to convert us from the power of our corruptions, it has also the happy tendency to rescue us from those diabolical tyrants with whom our corruptions associate us. We have here, therefore, an additional motive for gratitude to our heavenly Father, that in supplying us with the revelation of his eternal Word, He supplies us at the same time with a power to beat down all our infernal foes, to escape from their miserable dominion, to break all their chains, and to attain unto that Divine Sovereignty, which the Great Saviour promises to all His faithful followers in these most encouraging words"Behold, I give you power to tread upon serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall by any means hurt you."2
2 Luke x. 19.
Having thus endeavoured to show from what things the Word of God would convert us, le us consider, in the second place, what are the things to which it would also convert us. And, first, it would convert us to all purity and wisdom; in other words, to all goodness and truth, since, by its oneness with God, it is the Divine source of both, and at the same time, as accommodated to man, it is the medium of communicating both. For the Word of God, as was shown in a former discourse, is replenished with all Divine life and virtue from its adorable and Divine Source, with which it is ever in connection. Whosoever, therefore, reads with a sincere and devout affection the holy records of the eternal truth, is presently made sensible in his own mind of the pure and heavenly principles of life which they contain and convey. As he reads, therefore, he is affected with a sanctity before unknown, and becomes enlightened with a wisdom of which he could before form no conception. His will becomes thus attracted to the Supreme Good, whilst his understanding at the same time is elevated into the Light of that Good which is the Light of eternal Truth.
But further. It was before shown, that in proportion as man is converted from sin and folly, he must needs also be converted at the same time from sinful and foolish love. The same observation will apply in the opposite case, viz., that in proportion as he is converted to purity and wisdom, he must needs be converted also to the love of purity and wisdom. For as sin and folly are not sin and folly to man unless he loves them; in like manner purity and wisdom are not purity and wisdom to man, unless they also engage his supreme love and affections. Whensoever, then, the perfect Law of the Most High converts us to purity and wisdom, it will assuredly convert us also to a pure and wise love. In pondering, therefore, the records of the eternal truth, if we are rightly affected by them, our wills acquire a new direction, and become enamoured of objects to which they were heretofore strangers.
But this is not all; for the Word of God, in converting us to purity and wisdom, and to the love of those eternal principles, converts us at the same time to a blessed association and communion with Jesus Christ, the One eternal God, and with all the happy inhabitants of His everlasting kingdom. This is a necessary consequence of being converted to purity and wisdom; for, as already shown, all sin and folly are in close association and connection with the powers of darkness, and unavoidably conduct their miserable subjects to such association and connection: in like manner purity and wisdom are is association and connection equally close with all the powers of heaven; thus with Jesus Christ Himself and all His holy angels, and conduct their happy subjects to the same association and connection. In reading, then, in loving, and in practising the perfect Law of the Most High, we become the blessed converts to an attraction which exalts us to a living conjunction with heaven and its God, or, as the apostle expresseth it, "We are delivered from the power of darkness, and translated into the kingdom of Jesus Christ," We were heretofore, indeed, the slaves of our corruptions; and whilst we continued in that miserable bondage, we were fast bound in defiled confederacy with the devil and his angels. But now, through the reception of the Revelation of the Most High, the chains of our captivity are broken, and we are set at liberty to regain our lost communion of life, of purity, and of peace, with the Father of our being, and with all the blessed inhabitants of His kingdom. Such, to all well-disposed minds, is the strong, the delightful converting power of God's most holy law, and such are its everlasting happy consequences and effects.
3 John viii. 47.
"The testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple." PSALM XIX. 7.
IN two former discourses we have considered the holy Word of God under the character given of it in the former part of this verse, as being "a perfect law, converting the soul;" and we would now bespeak your serious attention whilst we consider it further under the character here given of it in the latter part of the verse, as a "sure testimony giving wisdom unto the simple." The subject presents to our consideration four distinct particulars: first, what is here to be understood by a "testimony;" secondly, why it is called a "sure testimony;" thirdly, how it is said to "make wise," or to "give wisdom;" and fourthly, who are to be understood by the simple to whom such wisdom is given. With respect, then, to the first of these particulars, it will not be difficult to understand, that by a testimony is meant whatsoever testifieth or witnesseth to the truth of any proposition; and that, therefore, the Word of God is called a testimony, because it testifies to the penitent and converted that God is true, and the Fountain of Truth, and that all His commandments and promises, all His threatenings, judgments, and counsels, are true and to be depended upon with certainty. For the Word of God is a witness of the covenant of life, and blessing, and salvation, which Jehovah, the Father of Mercies, is disposed to enter into with His repenting creatures; it brings tidings of a rich inheritance in the holy love of God, and in the rest of His glorious kingdom-a rest which every fallen son of Adam may find, whensoever he will turn from his evil ways, and become truly obedient to the Word of this testimony.
But, secondly, God's holy Word is declared to be a "sure testimony." Nothing can be so sure, nothing so fixed and certain, as the eternal purpose of the great Jehovah-Jesus to bless and save all those who truly turn from their corruptions to love and to serve Him. Heaven and earth shall pass away, but His Word shall not pass away. Whensoever, therefore, the soul of man is once thoroughly convinced of the vanity and uncertainty of all things or principles which are separated from God, and by the force of this conviction is driven to seek refuge in the arms of the unchangeable Jehovah, and to look for rest and redemption in Him, the soul then begins to experience that His Word is a sure testimony, because it finds the sureness and certainty thereof ratified in its own mind. For it soon perceives in itself, through this holy Word, a joyful resurrection unto the fixed regions of security and bliss; is then sees clearly that all uncertainty, instability, and fickleness belong only to the things of time and of this world, whilst every human soul, which by a right conversion to God riseth above those things, enters into a permanent and sure rest, and through the grace and redeeming mercy of its Creator, takes possession of those happy mansions where all is firm and fixed by the Lord their Divine Founder, and will endure for ever.
But, thirdly, the testimony of the Lord, it is written, "maketh wise," or "giveth wisdom." Let us consider what is implied in this expression and character of the Divine testimony. All true wisdom, we are taught to believe, comes from Jehovah through His holy Word; therefore it is written-"The fear of the Lord is wisdom; and to depart from evil is understanding."1 The reason is, because the fear of the Lord and the departing from evil introduce the humble and the penitent immediately to the presence of the ETERNAL, to be taught by His holy Word in themselves; and there is no wisdom but that which either leads to, or is the result of, conjunction with the Great and Holy God, whose name is Jesus Christ. For what wisdom can it be-or rather, what folly is it not-to be separated from God, and in such separation to be plunged into all the miseries of sin and defilement? What is sometimes called wisdom, is abomination in the sight of God. An apostle asks-"Who is a wise man among you? Let him shew out of a good conversation his works with meekness of wisdom. But if ye have bitter envying and strife in your hearts, this wisdom descendeth not from above, but is earthly, sensual, devilish. The wisdom that is from above is pure and peaceable, full of mercy and good fruits."2 All that we call wisdom, which comes not from the Great Jehovah through His holy Word, and does not tend to lead the soul to be instructed and comforted and regenerated by Him-yes, all such mere human wisdom deserves only the name of foolishness: and therefore it is the testimony of the Lord alone which giveth true wisdom; because, by this testimony we are taught and directed of God-we are introduced to the heavenly school of instruction in pure knowledge, where patriarchs, and prophets, and apostles, and martyrs were taught in times of old-we here learn the holiest and most profitable lessons of edification, viz., how to love and please God, how to love and be useful to our neighbour, how to grow in grace, and how to rise thereby out of all the vanity, sin, and misery of our fallen nature; how to regain the riches of eternity, the garden of paradise, the rest of angels, the glories of heaven, the rewards of the redeemed and regenerate, in the everlasting kingdom of Jesus Christ.
1 Job. xxviii. 28.
2 James iii. 13-17.
But lastly. This wisdom, we are informed, is given to the "simple." Let us attend diligently, beloved, to the very important lesson of holy instruction here presented to us. It is not indiscriminately given to every one to know the wisdom of the holy testimony of God, for there must be a previous fitness or disposition in the soul to receive that wisdom. This fitness or disposition is here described under the character of simplicity, or being simple, by which character is signified an humble, meek, teachable disposition of heart, which distrusts itself and the wisdom of the world, and is willing to submit to be "taught of God." To all such the Lord giveth wisdom through the testimony of His holy Word; but where there is not such a fitness or disposition, there the wisdom of God is rejected and accounted foolishness. Thus the proud, the worldly-minded, the impenitent and unbelieving, make light of the wisdom of God and cast it behind them; or, according to the language of the apostle, they "change the truth of God into a lie"3. They light up the dim tapers of their own glimmering reason and call that wisdom, whilst they extinguish thereby the heavenly and eternal light of God in their souls, which would have led them by repentance to everlasting peace and rest. Not so those who are of an humble, simple, and child-like spirit; and in that state are become seekers of the eternal wisdom: these acknowledge all true wisdom to be from God, through the holy teaching of His Word or Spirit in themselves; they prepare their hearts, therefore, to be always taught of God; they lie low at the feet of Jesus Christ continually, and gather up the words of His testimony; they let these words dwell and operate in their souls to the enlightening of their inner man in the ways and counsels of their Redeemer; they know these words to be spirit, and light, and life, and that hereby they have admission to the eternal light and life of God.
3 Rom. i. 25.
To conclude. We have shewn how the Word of God is a sure testimony, giving wisdom unto the simple; we have seen the practical instruction which the text was intended to impart, and which we trust the Spirit of Truth from Jesus Christ has already impressed in our minds. Let us, then, ever remember that the Word can be no sure testimony unto us, it can give us no wisdom, unless in simplicity and sincerity we receive it into our hearts; whilst the testimony is in our Bibles, or in our memories only, that is, out of our hearts, we may well conceive that it cannot profit us, because it has no abiding place within us. No: to receive the true comfort and sureness of God's testimony, and to be enlightened with the wisdom thereof, we must become recipients thereof from the inmost affections of our souls; we must suffer it to convert us from sin and vanity, to lead us to seek and to possess within us the kingdom, and presence, and power of Jesus Christ in preference to all other things. We must accept the Word, and abide in it as a sure testimony, knowing that nothing is sure in comparison with it, and convinced of the vanity and uncertainty of all temporal things; and that in the Lord only we can find solid rest and peace. We must thus by conversion be brought into a simplicity of heart and singleness of understanding; and then, but not till then, our eyes will be opened of God to see the brightness of His eternal wisdom, and we shall be practically taught thereby. The day-star from on high will arise upon us as out of a dark place, and shine more and more within us "unto the perfect day;" and we shall thus experience the sureness of the Divine testimony, and be guided by the light of its wisdom into that holy city the New Jerusalem, which "has no need of the sun, neither of the moon, to shine in it, for the glory of God doth lighten it, and the lamb is the Light thereof."4 AMEN.
4 Rev. xxi. 23.
The Danger of Religious Lukewarmness.
"So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spew thee out of my mouth."-Rev. iii. 16.
MANKIND in general, in regard to religion, may be distinguished into three several classes: first, such as have no religion; secondly, such as have little religion; and thirdly, such as have much religion, These three classes are described, in the words of my text, under the figurative names of the cold, the lukewarm, and the hot; and they may be said to comprehend all the nations, families, and individuals of the human race, inasmuch as it is not possible for us to conceive of a human being who does not rank under one or other of these three general characters. This, then, being the case, that we all bear our several names, and take our several stations-either amongst the cold, who have no religion; or amongst the lukewarm, who have little religion; or amongst the hot, who have much religion-it may not be unprofitable for us to consider more particularly the marks and features of each of these distinct classes of men; that so, discovering each of us our own name and our own class, we may be led to change it for a better, if it be such as, on examination, we do not approve-or to cleave to it more stedfastly if we are fully satisfied with the choice we have already made.
Let us begin with the consideration of the first class, comprehending those who, in the words of my text, are termed "cold," or, in other words, those who have no religion.
1 Luke xix. 14.
2 Matt. vi. 24.
But, secondly, let us proceed to the consideration of the second of the classes into which mankind are divided, viz., the class of the lukewarm, or those who have little religion. When we reflect on the incomparable greatness of the things of God, and of the eternal concerns of man, it seems as impossible to conceive that men should have little religion as that they should have no religion; that they should be lukewarm, as that they should be cold. Yet such men there certainly are, and it is to be feared their numbers are considerable. It is to be feared, too, that many rank under this class who are not aware of their delusion; and who are still less aware of the dangers to which they are exposed by the character which they bear. For what is it to be lukewarm? What are the proper marks and features of those who have but little religion? Alas! to say nothing of their inconsistency, of their insincerity, of their miserable thoughtlessness, we cannot but shudder at the consideration that their religion is of no manner of advantage to them. For what is the amount of their religion? It is not the religion of love, but of fear; it is not the religion of the heart, but of the lips; it is not a religion of joy, of delight, and of freedom, but of sorrow, of constraint, and of bondage. They serve God indeedbut then it is only with a part of themselves, and that part by no means the supreme; for their best, their highest part is devoted to other service, is bound to another master. In short, their heart is not wholly with God, but is a divided heart; and instead of reading the commandment as it is written-"Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with ALL thy heart, with ALL thy mind, and with ALL thy strength," they read it thus-"Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with half thy heart, with half thy mind, and with half thy strength."
It is an awful reflection to think that the human mind can be so deluded, especially in concerns of such vast moment, as to be betrayed into a folly and infatuation of conduct like that we have just described. But why do I say folly and infatuation? It is self-destruction-it is trifling with God and the great concerns of eternity; nay, it is exposing ourselves to a greater mischief than if we had no religion at all, and that because it is written"I would thou wert cold or hot," by which words we are plainly informed that the "cold" are less obnoxious in the sight of God than the "lukewarm."
But I am persuaded you will be glad to hasten with me from this view of human folly and depravity, to contemplate, lastly, the character of those who form the third class in the number already described, viz., such as in the words of my text are termed "hot," or those who have such religion. From what has been already said, it will plainly appear what is the predominant feature in the character of those of this third class: for if they who have no religion are cold to the things of God and eternity, merely because they allow temporal things to engross the whole of their affections; and if those who have little religion are lukewarm for no other reason than because they suffer the world and the things thereof to divide the empire of God in their hearts; then it must be very manifest, that those who have much religion are thus warm and ardent in their attachment to heavenly things, because they consider heavenly things as the principal and the supreme objects of their concern. Behold here, then, the true name and distinguishing mark of those wise ones amongst the sons of men who in the words of my text are called "hot; and who are so called from the ardour of affection with which they pursue and cleave to the things of God and His kingdom! They perceive clearly what one would think every man in his senses must perceive, that eternal happiness is the grand concern of man, grand concern of man, and that God and religion are the only sources of that happiness. Their whole conduct is consistent with this conviction, because they deem it the most extreme folly to believe one thing and to act another. They dare not, therefore, present to God a divided heart, for they know that where division is there is inconstancy and inconsistency.
3 Matt. vi. 33.
4 John xiv. 21.
To conclude. From the above view of the several characters which we have been describing, much of important and edifying reflection will be excited in the considerate mind. Astonished and alarmed at the thought that it is possible for a human being to become "cold," or even "lukewarm," to those things which concern his everlasting welfare, we shall be led to take the more especial heed, lest that same deceitfulness of sin which so miserably imposeth upon others, should at any time impose upon ourselves. We shall therefore labour and pray earnestly, that our eyes may be kept ever open to see at all times the vast, the incomparable, the infinite importance of true religion: and through the Divine grace which we supplicate, we shall no longer suffer the world or our passions to cheat us with their delusions, and to divide the empire of our hearts between themselves and God. For perceiving that all our true peace must of necessity come from that which is eternal, we shall make this the primary, the governing object of our pursuit, and shall deem all other concerns as but secondary and subordinate. We shall thus tremble at the thought of admitting into our hearts any rival of God, because we shall see that every such rival must of course be an enemy, and that in dividing our affection he must destroy it. Jealous thus over ourselves, respecting the Supreme Object of our regard, we shall soon be convinced, because God Himself will convince us (if we continue stedfast in our purpose) that His righteousness, His love, and His kingdom are above all other treasures that our hearts can ever find.
5 Matt. v. 5.
The Parable of the Talents, considered in three Sermons.
"The kingdom of heaven is as a man travelling into a far country, who called his own servants, and delivered unto them his goods. And unto one he gave five talents, to another two, and to another one, to every man according to his several ability, and straightway took his journey."-MATT. xxv. 14, 15.
NOTHING can be conceived more beautiful and instructive than our Blessed Lord's parables. They are similitudes taken from natural things and circumstances, which, whilst they arrest the attention, operate at the same time most powerfully on the affections and the judgment. They are not indeed calculated to inflame the passions like the affected eloquence of worldly wisdom; they are not mere addresses to the fancy and imagination, which have no other end than to dazzle and amuse: but they are simple and solid appeals to man's highest powers or principles, viz., his heart and his understanding. And whilst the false eloquence of this world frequently misleads us by its sophistry, and corrupts us by its malignant influences, the wisdom of God in parables kindles in the devout soul the flame of heavenly devotion and piety, and enlightens it with the bright rays of the Eternal Truth This is remarkably the case with the parable from which the words of our text are taken-"The kingdom of heaven is as a man travelling into a far country, who called his own servants, and delivered unto them his goods. And unto one he gave five talents, to another two, and to another one, to every man according to his several ability and straightway took his journey."
But it is said of this "Man travelling into a far country," that "He called his own servants, and delivered unto them his goods." All mankind in general fall under the description of those who are here said to be "called," and to be the "servants" of the Son of Man. We ourselves are all included in that number. For how often has Jesus Christ called us in His Word! how often has He called us in His works! how often has He called us in our own consciences to come unto Him, and to be His servants, by forsaking the service of other masters! Yea, how often has He called us even by our vices and our vanities, by our follies and our weaknesses, by our troubles and our disorders-all which are perpetually preaching to us, in the most forcible language, if we had but "ears to hear," that in the service of Jesus Christ alone we can find rest and peace! But, alas! how few amongst us hare faithfully obeyed these Divine calls! It is not that we want testimony concerning the superior excellence of the service of God, and the continual importunities of that astonishing mercy which would lead us to salvation; it is not that we are not sufficiently warned by the dangers of sin, the disappointments of the world, the delusions of passion, the deceitfulness of our own hearts, the calamities of life, and the vanity of merely temporal enjoyments. For in these things every one of us finds a secret monitor, if we would but hearken, warning us how much we want the presence of God, His power, His comfort, and His grace, in our hearts and lives, to guide and protect us.
Howbeit, there is something else besides the "call," which binds us to Jesus Christ. His call alone, indeed, might be sufficient, but He is not content with this: His marvellous love has provided other claims upon our obedience; and therefore, after having "called his own servants," it is added in the parable, "He delivered unto them his goods." There are various kinds and species of "goods:" there are goods of the mind, and goods of the body; there are eternal goods, and there are temporal goods; there are real goods, and apparent goods-and without these, it would be impossible for man to enjoy any kind or degree of happiness. For let us ask ourselves what me call happiness: is it any thing else but the possession and enjoyment of something which we call a good? The merciful and gracious God has accordingly given to every one of us a portion of these His goods, because He infinitely wills and desires our happiness. But then, by calling them "His goods," he plainly points out to us the condition on which alone they can promote our happiness, viz., that we receive and use them in the humble acknowledgment that they are His, and not our own. The mischief is, we too often learn to call them our own goods, and not God's; and in so doing, we convert them into evils. For let us search and examine what is evil of any kind but a good thus separated from its Divine Giver, and not gratefully acknowledged to be His? Thus the accomplishments of the body, the faculties of the mind, the gifts of learning, of wealth, of honour, and of dignity, are in themselves goods; but what tremendous evils do they frequently become to the possessors by abuse and perversion! And whence does this abuse and perversion arise, but from this one fatal cause, viz., that the possessors have used those goods as being their own, instead of using them as the continual gifts of God; and in so doing, have separated the presence and the blessing of God from them. There is another consideration respecting these "goods" which deserves our most serious regard-it is this: the blessedness of them will always depend upon their order and due arrangement; in other words, upon the place of preeminence which we assign them in our minds and affections: just as, in the building of a house, the usefulness of the materials will depend upon each being arranged in its proper place.
1 Heb. vii. 7.
But to proceed with the parable"Unto one he gave five talents, to another two, and to another one; to every man according to his several ability." At first sight it would appear from these words as if the just and righteous God made an unequal and unfair distribution of His favours, assigning a larger portion to one servant than to another. This, however, cannot possibly be the case. "Are not My ways equal, saith the Lord, are not your ways unequal?"2
2 Ezek. xviii. 29.
3 James i. 5.
We should now proceed to consider the remaining part of this very instructive and Divine parable; but the present time will only permit us to draw up a brief summary of Christian duty from what has been already said. It has been seen how we are all called of Jesus Christ to he His servants; how He has delivered to every one of us a portion of "His goods;" how each is in possession of heavenly talents, either five, or two, or one. Under these circumstances, our rule of duty is surely plain; for the calls of God do most assuredly demand attention and obedience. Let us, therefore, take heed how we at any time slight them, how we at any time even overlook them; lest admonition should be made unprofitable, and the call be converted into condemnation. And respecting the goods which God has delivered to our care, two things are especially observable: first, that they are His goods; and secondly, that they should be arranged in due order. Let us attend particularly to these two circumstances, and then we shall sever do amiss; let us learn, not in word only, but in deed and truth, to acknowledge all our goods to be the Lord's gifts; and let us be afraid of ever regarding them as being our own. Let us be alike careful to give every good its proper place, exalting at all times the eternal above the temporal, the real above the apparent. And since we have seen that the benefit of the talent we receive from God will ever depend upon our application of it, how careful should this consideration make us to apply it aright! How earnestly ought we to pray and labour that the grace received may become more grace; and recollecting that "to him that hath shall be given, and he shall have abundance; but that from him that hath not shall be taken away even that which he hath"4-how watchful should we be to secure the blessed promise, and avoid the terrible threat! So will our one talent become two, and our two five, to the glory or God and our own salvation. AMEN.
4 Matt. xii. 12.
"Then he that had received the five talents went and traded with the same, and made other five talents. And likewise he that had received two, he also gained other two. But he that had received one, went and digged in the earth, and hid his Lord's money."-MATT. xxv. 16, 17, 18.
IN a discourse on the former part of the parable from whence these words are taken, we endeavoured to show what is meant by the "talents" here spoken of, and how they denote the dispensation of the grace of God, which is given to every one to profit withal. The words now chosen give us further information concerning these "talents," and concerning the "servants" to whose care they were entrusted, pointing out to us two very different classes of men, viz., the faithful and the unfaithful; and instructing us in respect of the very different application which each of these classes of men make of their talents; for, concerning the faithful it is thus written"He that had received the five talents went and traded with the same, and made other five talents: and likewise he that had received two, he also gained other two." But the conduct of the unfaithful is thus described-"He that had received one, went and digged in the earth, and hid his Lord's money." And here, beloved, let us reflect upon the solemn truth, that every one of us, whether we are aware of it or not, belongs to the one or the other of these two classes of men-the faithful or the unfaithful; and that every one of us is, therefore, acting the part either of the wise servants, who traded with and multiplied the talents committed to their care, or of that foolish servant who "digged in the earth, and hid his Lord's money."
Let us begin our scrutiny with the consideration of the wise servants, as they are thus presented to us in the text:-"He that had received the five talents," it is written, "went and traded with the same, and made other five talents: and likewise he that had received two, he also gained other two." Two things are very observable from these words: first, that the wise servants applied their talents to the purpose for which they were given-"they went and traded with the same;" secondly, the success with which this application was attended-the talents became fruitful and were multiplied, in one instance producing "five other talents," and in the other instance two other talents.
Behold, here, an exact picture of the faithful disciple of Jesus Christ, in every age and in all places, both as to his application of the talent of the Divine Grace committed to his care, and as to the increase and fruitfulness of that talent! For such a sincere follower of his "Lord and Master" always applies it to the purpose for which it was given; and like the wise servants here recorded, he trades with it, and his trading, too, is prosperous. In this respect he learns wisdom from "the children of this world," who, "in their generation," are said to be "wiser than the children of light."1
1 Luke xvi. 8.
2 Matt. vii. 8.
3 Rev. iii. 18.
Thus, then, we see the progress and prosperity of wisdom in the conduct of the faithful servants entrusted with their Master's goods. Let us now turn our eyes to note the proceedings and mischievous effects of folly in the conduct of the unwise servant. The conduct of the unfaithful is described, as we have already seen, in these words-"He that had received one [talent] went and digged in the earth, and hid his Lord's money." It is a painful thing to mark the wayward motions and deluded wanderings of human folly, in its deviations from God and true happiness; and yet sometimes it is profitable, because, as is well observed by a pious writer, "nothing can better demonstrate the excellency of true wisdom, which is the love of the pursuit of God-the supreme Good-than to consider the littleness and the vanity of every other and contrary may of life." For the illustration of the truth of this observation, we need go no further than to the case of the unwise servant before us, who, when he had received his Lord's talent, instead of trading with and multiplying it for his future support and comfort, as reason and wisdom would have suggested, goes and spends his precious time in the pitiful employment of "digging in the earth," and thereby "hiding" his Lord's money. Who could have supposed that any reasonable creature would have acted in a manner so unreasonable, and so directly contrary to his own interest? And yet, alas! if we look out into the world, how many sad instances of this same folly and inconsistency present themselves every day to our notice! For what are all the pursuits of avarice and ambition, which so often make men forget God and the talents He has entrusted to their care, but so many ways of digging in the earth and hiding their Lords money? What is that round of trifling pleasures and vain amusements in which some people think it safe to pass the precious moments of their lives, but another way of practising the same folly?
It appears, then, that the unfaithful in all ages are governed by the same priuciples, and led to the same practices with the unwise servant in the parable. May it be our wisdom, beloved, to shun both the practice and the principle of such unreasonable conduct! For this purpose may we be led to reflect constantly and seriously on the talents committed to our care by the Great "Lord and Master!" May we reflect on the astonishing faculties with which our merciful Creator has distinguished us as human beings, from all His other creatures-the faculty of regarding an eternal end-the faculty of attaching ourselves to the Great and Holy God-the faculty of resisting our passions, of controlling our disorderly appetites, of overcoming the love of the world and the love of ourselves; of rendering nature subject to grace, and attaining thereby to the possession and enjoyment of an eternal and ever-blessed life. Such are the talents entrusted to the care of every man by his Maker, to whom, and for the use of which, he is to consider himself ever accountable. But since we can never use these talents aright, except as above described, by trading with them in the way of communication and of exchange, according to the example of the wise servants-may we be diligent and faithful in such use and application! May our desires for this blessed end be ever elevated and extended towards that land of treasures which is "the glory of all lands,"4 the heavenly Canaan, where the wise "merchantman" is ever "seeking goodly pearls!"
4 Ezek. xx. 6.
It is an unhappy and mast fatal mistake which some men make in the great business of religion, that they never consider seriously that great change in themselves which religion proposes; and which, whilst it is the only important end, is at the same time the highest and most excellent privilege which the Gospel presents to our acceptance. How many, alas! who call themselves Christians, confirm the melancholy truth of this observation! With talents to control their passions, they never control them: with talents to subdue their corrupt propensities, they never subdue them: with talents to attain to the pure love of God and of their neighbour, they never attain it. Thus, like Moab of old-"Their taste remaineth in them, and their scent is not changed."5 Notwithstanding all the promises, privileges, graces, and gifts proffered under the Gospel covenant, they remain still in the bondage of corruption, with all their sins, their infirmities, and their disorders unchanged and unremoved. But, beloved, what eye cannot see the miserable folly of such conduct as this? What eye, therefore, cannot see that religion must needs be a thing totally unprofitable, only so far as it enables us to become new men, by rejecting and putting off all that is polluted, sinful, and miserable in our natures, and putting on that "new heart and new spirit"-those new affections, new tempers, and new ways of life, of which it is written-"He that is in Christ is a new creature."6
5 Jer. xlviii. 11.
6 2 Cor. v. 17.
Lastly. For our fuller confirmation in this work of wisdom, may we keep our eyes ever open to the extreme folly of a contrary course of conduct! And when we see unthinking men about us, who, either from the delusions of interest or of pleasure, are forgetting God, and neglecting the talents with which He has entrusted them, let us fancy we see them employed like the foolish servant in the parable-"digging in the earth, and hiding their Lord's money," instead of trading with and increasing it, to their own eternal happiness and salvation.
"After a long time the Lord of those servants cometh and reckoneth with them."-MATT. xxv. 19.
IN two former discourses on the parable from which these words are taken, we have already considered who that Lord is who is here spoken of, and likewise who are the servants. We have endeavoured, also, to show what the talents are which were committed to the care of these servants, and for the use of which the Lord now "cometh and reckoneth with them." We proceed, therefore, in the next place, to the consideration of this reckoning, and especially of its delay, as expressed in the words-"After a long time," &c. The delay of the reckoning here spoken of has long and often been made a ground of complaint with the righteous, and of presumption with the wicked. Whilst the former, in anguish of spirit, have exclaimed-"How long, O Lord, holy and true, dost not Thou judge and avenge our blood!"1 the latter have not failed to exult in the confidence of security, saying-"Where is the promise of His coming? for since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation."2 Thus-"because sentence against an evil work is not executed speedily, therefore the heart of the sons of men" is both discouraged in the practice of what is good, and "is fully set in them to do evil."3
1 Rev. vi. 10,
2 2 Pet. iii. 4.
3 Eccles. viii. 11.
But let us inquire, Is there any just ground for either the complaint, or for the boasting, to which we have adverted?
4 Ezek. xiii. 22.
5 Matt. xiii. 30.
But, secondly, as the delay of the appointed day of recompense is no cause why the "heart of the righteous should be made sad," so neither is it any cause why the "hands of the wicked should be strengthened." Nevertheless it appears that the hands of the wicked art frequently strengthened by the tardiness of retribution; in other words, that men often grow careless and negligent in their spiritual concerns, by reason of the distance which appears to stand between them and the day of their final account. This is a truth which we fear the experience of men in all ages but too fully confirms; and the Word of God testifies, that-"While the bridegroom tarried, they all slumbered and slept:"6 even those who are called "wise virgins" are but too apt to forget that-"He that shall come, will come, and will not tarry,"7 whilst the enchantments of the things of time and sense cast a temporary veil over the greater things of eternity.
6 Matt. xxv. 5.
7 Heb. x. 37.
But, beloved, is it any just cause for negligence and unconcern in the important business of our salvation, that the final decision thereon is deferred for a few years? Is it any reason, or will it be any excuse, for our dying in our sins, because the Day of Judgment is not to take place this year, but twenty years hence? Surely a moment's thought will determine these questions, and convince every one who is disposed to be convinced, that a day, a year, an age, are in this respect but one and the same thing. And yet, alas! how do we suffer ourselves to be imposed upon by false end mistaken calculations! How few are there who make the right calculation; who can read on their sun-dial at all times the true hour of the day; who mark thereby the rapidity of the revolutions of time, and are enabled to see the "one day as a thousand years," and the "thousand years as one day!"8 Let it be supposed for a moment (and certainly the case is not impossible)-let it be supposed that the "trumpet was blown in Zion," and that the voice of the archangel was heard to proclaim"TO-MORROW is the solemn appointed day when we shall all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad."9 Certainly in such a case none of us would remain unaffected; but, like the "virgins" in the parable, we should arise, and "trim our lamps to meet the bridegroom." There we really persuaded in our hearts to believe that to-morrow we must appear before God, surely no business, no pleasure, would be thought of consequence enough to prevent our attention to-day to the "one thing needful." And yet, what good reason can possibly be assigned why the "one thing needful" should not at all times engage as much of our attention as if to-morrow were the Day of judgment?
8 Pet. iii. 8.
9 2 Cor. v. 10.
10 Psalm xcvi. 13.
To conclude. May the consideration of what has been said have its due effect upon our minds and lives! May it lead us to form right computations of the time and season of our Lord's appealing, and of the reckoning which is to be the consequence of His coming! We live in an age when we are exposed, it is to be feared, in a peculiar manner, to the danger of mis-computation and mis-reckoning in this point of greatest importance. Such is the delusion arising from the present general spirit of the world-from its vices and its follies-from its enchanting pleasures and false glories-from its heretofore unknown systems of speculative infidelity, which have no higher origin than a perverted intelligence, and are in utter opposition to the wisdom and designs of God: from all these things, and under the fatal influence of this spirit, if it be suffered to gain ascendancy, we no longer see things as they really are; we become blinded by appearances, and a thick veil is cast over our eyes, hiding from our sight those great and near realities which most concern us.
The Prophet's Rebuke of Jerusalem explained and practically applied, in Two Sermons.
"Woe to her that is filthy and polluted, to the oppressing city! She obeyed not the voice; she received not correction; she trusted not in the Lord; she drew not near unto her God."-ZEPH iii. 1, 2.
THE Almighty, by His prophet, here reproves Jerusalem, and points out at the same time, in the most distinct characters, both the guilt and the danger to which she was exposed from her manifold transgressions. But the Divine reproof was not intended to be confined to Jerusalem, since the Word of God, whilst it is a sacred repository of the blessings presented from heaven to the acceptance of all nations, people, and languages, so is it as a sacred "looking glass" likewise, in which all nations, people, and languages may discover the several pollutions and corruptions that prevent their reception of those blessings. When God, therefore, announces, concerning Jerusalem, that "she obeyed not the voice; she received not correction; she trusted not in the Lord; she drew not near unto her God," He announces at the same time to every kingdom, to every city, and to every individual, in all ages of the world, the several awful marks and characters of guilt and of danger, against which they ought to guard themselves, if they wish to receive His blessings and to avoid destruction. Permit me, then, to direct your serious attention to the wholesome reproof contained in the words of my text-permit me to point out the guilt and the danger which that reproof was designed to make known to us-that so escaping both, we may fix our feet firmly in the ways of the eternal righteousness, peace, and security of the Omnipotent God.
The first object of this reproof is contained in these significant words, "She obeyed not the voice; and by this voice is here manifestly meant the voice of God Himself; that is to say, His most holy and eternal Word, contained in the book which we call the Bible; and by not obeying the voice is as plainly meant, when applied to Jerusalem, that she had disregarded the precepts of heavenly life revealed to her in that sacred volume of the covenant of her God: she had read, indeed, these precepts, and was convinced of their Divine Origin; but then she had suffered them to enter no further than into the outward court of her memory and understanding; she had not allowed them to make any change in her heartin the ruling principles and persuasions of her inmost mind: possibly she had insisted that her own reason was sufficient for her direction; and like some of the worldly wise of the present day, had persuaded herself to believe that she was able to guide herself as well as the Lord could guide her; and that her own intellectual powers supplied her with light sufficient for all needful instruction, happiness, and security. Or possibly she conceived (as too many, alas! of her posterity have conceived) that it would be time enough for her to attend to the counsels of heaven, when she had taken her full cup of this world's pleasures and gratifications, and that thus she might secure at once both her temporal and internal interests-her temporal, by immediate present indulgences; and her eternal, by purposing to serve God at some future period, or when she could no longer serve the world and herself. Nevertheless, whatsoever might be her thoughts on the occasion, she did not escape the judgment of the thoughts of her offended God; she is accordingly rebuked by the Must High as a "filthy, polluted, and oppressing city:" her guilt is fixed upon her head in these strong characters-"She obeyed not the voice;" and her destruction, agreeably with the constituted order of the Divine Providence, soon followed her guilt, for there can be no preservation from destruction where the Word of God is not preserved, but disregarded.
Behold here, then, beloved, an awful example both of crime and of insecurity, presented by the mercy of the Most High "for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come."1 Behold the first rudiment of defilement, of danger, and of destruction, whether relating to nations or to individuals! It is to profess belief in the Word of God with the lips only, but not to reverence it in the heart and life; it is to appear holy in word and in gesture, but to be unholy in deeds, and in those principles of love and affection which give birth to deeds; it is to set reason above religion, the world above heaven, and ourselves above God: it is thus to separate the Word of God from ourselves as effectually as if no such Word had ever been spoken; yea, it is to do a deed still more dreadful, because it is to convert the Word of God into an enemy, and to place in His hand a sharp two-edged sword to slay us, instead of making it our friend to nourish and support us with the Bread and Wine of life and blessing: for if the Word of the Lord be not obeyed-if it be not allowed to gain a place in our hearts, and to supplant our corruptions-it then becomes our adversary to rebuke, to chastise, and to condemn us. And what adversary can be more formidable than the Word of God? For if the eternal Truth be against us, everything must be against us, and we must needs perish for wane of a protector: whereas, if the eternal Truth be for us, everything is for us; and in this case our foes, howsoever numerous, will either be converted into our friends, or by their opposition will but bring into fuller manifestation the omnipotence and protection of our Divine and heavenly Friend.
1 Cor. x. 12.
But further. A second charge and most severe rebuke is urged by the Most High against Jerusalem in these words"She refused to receive correction." This was a consequence of the spirit of disobedience which made her liable to the former charge; for the Word of God being intended to correct the evils and errors of man's natural will and understanding, it must needs follow, that no such correction can take place unless that Word be obeyed. We must conclude, then, that Jerusalem, notwithstanding her being in possession of the Word of God, and thus of all the principles of heavenly purification, continued still in all her natural filthiness, defiled with the guilt of her iniquities, without taking a single step to purge herself from her corruptions.
2 Ezek. xiii. 14.
I should now proceed to consider the two remaining charges against Jerusalem, as expressed in these awful words-"She trusted not in the Lord; she drew not near unto her God:" but the present time will only allow me to press upon you a due attention to the two charges of which we have been speaking, and also to the imminent and terrible mischiefs which those charges involve. For if the Word of God be not obeyed, and if the correction which that Word presses so powerfully be not complied with-if we reverence the holy Book of Revelation with our lips, but deny it a place in our hearts-if we call its commands divine and holy, but refuse to submit our lives to its divine teaching and holy influences-if we remain thus in all our natural corruptions, notwithstanding the blessed means of purification which God has mercifully provided for us-what must be the necessary fatal consequences of our folly, but a miserable separation from God, from His Word, from His kingdom, from His life, from His peace, and from His security? And what, in such case, can we hope to be our lot, but misery, darkness, and eternal death, the certain companions and tormenting associates of every human heart which is not obedient to the precepts of the eternal Truth, and has not experienced the happy purification which that Truth has a tendency to effect?
"Woe to her that is filthy and polluted, to the oppressing city! She obeyed not the voice; she received not correction; she trusted not in the Lord; she drew not near unto her God."-ZEPH iii. 1, 2.
IN a former discourse on these words, we have considered the reproof which they enforce against Jerusalem, as extending, and designed to extend, not only to all the inhabitants of that city, but likewise to all people, nations, and languages on the face of the earth. We have taken a view, likewise, of the two first articles of this reproof, as expressed in these words"She obeyed not the voice; she received not correction:" and we have endeavoured to apply each of these articles to ourselves, by showing in what cases it is possible we also may be drawing down upon our own heads the same terrible rebuke from our God. Let us now proceed to consider the Divine instruction intended for our edification, in the latter part of the text. Permit me to bespeak your earnest attention, whilst I endeavour to point out both the guilt and the danger involved in this additional and most awful remonstrance from the God of heaven"She trusted not in the Lord; she drew not near unto her God." This want of trust in the Lord, as charged against Jerusalem, was a sure consequence of the other crimes of that polluted city, especially of her disobedience to the voice of her God, and her refusal to receive correction. For if the voice of God be not obeyed, and if correction be not received, there can then be no purification from sin; and if there be no purification from sin, it is absolutely impossible there can be any trust or confidence in, or any real drawing near to, the Divine Being.
Behold here, then, beloved, in the example of this polluted people, a lesson of awful and providential caution to ourselves! For if we have no " trust in the Lord," we have then no religion, no hope, no security, no peace, no sure ground of prosperity and bliss, either in this world or that which is to come. For who cannot see that to "trust in the Lord" is the fruitful source and fountain of every blessing; and that not to "trust in the Lord," involves in it every mischief? Have any of us, then, attained to a state of evangelical faith and love? It is all to be imputed solely to our "trust in the Lord." Have we had the courage to resist and combat against our corruptions-have we had the power to conquer them? All the courage and all the strength are the effects of the same Divine Trust.
Such, then, being the multiplied blessings connected with a real trust in the Lord, and such the multiplied mischiefs resulting from a want of such trust, should we not most ardently desire to be made acquainted with the sure methods by which those blessings may be secured and those mischiefs avoided; in other words, by which we may be conducted to the highest possible degree of this holy, evangelical, and saving virtue-"trust in the Lord"? These methods may be comprised under the two following duties:-first, to believe in the incarnate God, whose name is Jesus Christ, and to acknowledge Him as the only God of heaven and earth; secondly, to repent of our sins, and to live new lives in obedience to the will and commandments of that Great and Holy God. In regard to the first of these methods, viz., a belief in the Incarnate God, as necessary to conduct to a real saving "trust in the Lord," its fitness and propriety must be obvious to every thinking person from this consideration, that it is altogether impossible for us to trust in anything, or in any being, until we have some knowledge of what or who that thing or being is, and what are its qualities.
1 Matt. xi. 27.
2 John xiv. 7, 9.
3 Col. ii. 9.
A second method of attaining unto such sure and heavenly trust is, to repent of our sins, and to live new lives in obedience to the commandments of Jesus Christ. And the reason why such repentance and newness of life are necessary to conduct to a true and saving trust in the Lord, is, because, although we may know the Lord, in whom we ought to trust, yet, until we actually repent, and live new lives, we must of necessity be trusting in ourselves and in the world, and not in the Lord. For, before we repent and live new lives, we must needs be living immersed in all the defilement of our natural corruptions; and such is the terrible nature and tendency of those corruptions, that they separate us effectually from the Lord, and from all trust in Him, by leading us to depend upon ourselves more than on the Lord.
To conclude. It is an eternal, unalterable law, that no wicked man-no man in his sins-can possibly trust in the Lord, howsoever he may appear to himself to do so; and the plain reason is, because all wickedness, such as pride, covetousness, malice, hatred, vain glory, adultery, sensuality, dishonesty, unless it be repented of, and removed, not only distorts and perverts the mental powers, but is also as a dark cloud interposing itself between the defiled heart of man and his God, so that not a single ray of Divine truth and confidence can possibly gain admission. Do we wish, then, to avoid the terrible rebuke announced against Jerusalem in the awful charge-"She trusted not in the Lord; she drew not near unto her God"? Do we wish to shun the mischiefs which that rebuke involves, and to become partakers of all the blessings which a real trust in the Lord never fails to communicate? Let us, then, first, "draw nigh," with all our hearts, unto the manifested God, the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, believing Him to be ever One with the Eternal Father, and that He was made One for this blessed purpose, that we might see Him, might know Him, might approach Him; and thus might put our whole trust in Him. But let us remember, that in drawing nigh unto this great and holy God, we must he careful to do the work of actual repentance, by searching out and lamenting our corruptions, and supplicating earnestly the Divine grace and power for their removal. Let us devoutly pray unto the Lord to give us an utter aversion against all sin-to "create in us clean hearts, and renew a right spirit within us." Thus shall we remove from ourselves (or rather, God will remove) whatsoever separates between us and Himself, between onr Hearts and His love, between our understandings and His wisdom. hnd when this terrible hindrance to our salvation is separated, then Jesus Christ will gain admission, and will enter in with all the graces and blessings: of His presence and kingdom. And amongst other graces and blessings, He will not fail to communicate a fixed and confidential trust in His divine mercy, goodness, and power, by virtue whereof we shall go on "from strength to strength," subduing by degrees all our spiritual enemies. Our whole man will then "draw near unto God," so that no part will be separated from Him.
4 Rev. xxii. 14.
The great duty of Christian Prayer-To Whom Prayer should be addressed-The states of mind necessary for the profitable exercise and efficacy of Prayer-considered in five Sermons.
"Whatsoever ye shall ask in My Name, that will I do." JOHN xiv. 13.
NOTHING can be more animating and consolatory to the true Christian, than the encouragement which the Holy Scriptures hold forth to him to be faithful and constant in the discharge of the great duty of prayer. The petitions of the upright are there represented as being endued, in relation to the supplicants themselves, with a kind of omnipotence; for it is shown that nothing is impossible to those who pray arigrht-it is promised that they shall hare whatsoever they ask. By such prayer, they unite themselves with the Divine power of God, and in and through that power they have rule over all their enemies, both in time and in eternity. It must be very plain, however, to every attentive leader of the same holy records, that all prayer is not alike blessed with this wonderful and powerful effect: there is a prayer so called which is without power-a prayer that does not obtain its petitions; which is ineffectual, unblessed, and unsanctified inasmuch as not being united with the Divine power of God, it has its source and ground only in the creature, and consequently must proceed from and partake of the weakness and imperfection of the finite creature. It therefore becomes the solemn duty of every professing Christian who is at all concerned about his salvation, to consider well, not only the duty of prayer, but also what is the nature of his prayer, of what quality and character it is; whether it be endued with that omnipotence promised in the Gospel, to which "all things are possible," and which receives whatsoever it asks; or whether, on the contrary, it be a weak, powerless, and ineffectual prayer, which prevails nothing with God: for as no one has any Scripture ground to hope for salvation except he prays, so likewise no one has any such ground to hope for the promised blessings, except his prayer be of that character, of that quality, and consequently of that prevalence, which is described and recommended in the Gospel.
Now the words of our text, when well considered, will be seen to hold forth to every sincere Christian the dearest and fullest information on this important subject, so that every one who will truly examine his prayers hereby, may know of a certainty of what kind and quality they are. Let us, beloved, reflect deeply on this blessed promise-"Whatsoever ye shall ask in My Name, that will I do." We are here plainly taught how we ought to pray, in order that our prayers may be powerful and effectual-we must pray in the NAME of the Lord Jesus Christ. But, possibly, it will be asked, What is meant by praying in the Name of the Lord, Jesus Christ? And it will, perhaps, be further said, Do not all Christians alike pray in His Name? Are not all our forms both of public and private prayer in His Name? Do not we conclude all our petitions to God with these words-" Through Jesus Christ our Lord"? And is not this praying in the Name of Jesus Christ? and are not our prayers, therefore, accepted of God, and powerful with Him by virtue of that Name? To this we answer, that all Christians do indeed alike profess to pray in the Name of Jesus Christ; and all Christians are taught to conclude their prayers in His Name: but it by no means follows on this account that all Christians really pray in the Name of Jesus Christ, according to the full sense of these His words-"Whatsoever ye shall ask in My Name, I will do it;"-for were this the case, why, let me ask, are not our prayers always granted? Who do not we really obtain what we ask? Why do so many amongst us, who pray thus, live in open sin? Why do so many fall short of Gospel purity?
Now to ask and pray in the name of Jesus Christ implies these two things:-first, that we should approach and address Him immediately, as being Himself the Giver of all that we ask and pray for, because He says, "I will do it;" and secondly, that we should ask and pray under the influence of His Spirit, that is, in a conformity of heart and of life to His holy Word or Commandment. First, then, we affirm that to ask or pray in the Name of Jesus Christ implies that we should approach and address Him immediately, as being Himself the Giver of what we ask or pray for, because he sags, I will do it. This duty and manner of prayer is expressly commanded in other parts of the evangelical covenant, as where Jesus Christ Himself says-"Come unto Me all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest."1 For how can we come unto Him if we come not; in prayer? And how can we come unto Him in our prayers, but by addressing our prayers immediately to Him? Again, He says-"Abide in Me, and I in you;"2 and what is this but saying again, that we ought to address ourselves immediately to Him in prayer? For what is it that abides, or can abide, in Jesus Christ, but the sincere desire of the believing and penitent heart? And what is this sincere desire, but that which is felt in true prayer?
1 Matt. xi. 28.
2 John xv. 4.
But, beloved, who cannot see that this is a vain way of asking or praying in the Name of Jesus Christ? or rather that it is no way at all of asking or praying in His Name? For who does not see, when he reads the Gospel with serious attention and concern, that-as St. Paul expressly declares, in Jesus Christ, "all the fulness of the Godhead dwelleth bodily"?3 and that, as the Lord Himself testifies, "All power is given unto Me, in heaven and in earth"?4-that He is thus Jehovah the everlasting Father, manifested in the flesh, because He says, "He that seeth Me, seeth the Father;" and that, as He himself expresses it in the words immediately preceding my text, He is "in the Father, and the Father in Him." Consequently, whosoever approaches unto Him, approaches unto the Father; whosoever asks of Him, asks of the Father; and that this, therefore, is what is first meant by asking in His Name, viz., to approach and address the Father in, by, and through that Humanity which we assumed and made Divine, and which is now One with Himself, and wherein He for ever reigns as the God of heaven and earth, known to angels and men by the high and holy Name of the Lord Jesus Christ. It will perhaps be objected, that in the divine prayer which Jesus Christ Himself has taught us, we are directed to address ourselves immediately to the Father, as when we say, "Our Father, which art in heaven;" and that this form, therefore, implies that we ought not to address ourselves immediately to Jesus Christ.
3 Col. ii. 9.
4 Matt. xxviii. 18.
But, beloved, let us not be hasty to decide on so very interesting and weighty a subject; for surely it is interesting and weighty to determine as to the true Object of our worship and adoration. If Jesus Christ be indeed that object-if, as He declares, "all power is given to Him, in heaven and in earth"-if He be the Door of the heavenly sheepfold, so that none can enter in but by and through His Divine Person-if in His Divine Person the divine and human natures be united in ONE, and if this union was effected for the great end and purpose that we might thereby have access to the hidden Divinity, and thus be recovered from the terrible consequences of sin, and reinstated in righteousness and peace through conjunction with this our God, according to the concurrent testimony of Holy Writ-if, I say, all this be so, then it must surely appear a matter of the utmost moment to every sincere Christian, to consider Whom he worships, to Whom he prays, and whether he really approaches and addresses this manifested God and Saviour Jesus Christ according to His true Name and character. Besides, let any sincere person only make the experiment; let him first approach and address himself in prayer to the invisible, unmanifested Father, separate from Jesus Christ; let him then go and address himself immediately to Jesus Christ, that is, to the Father made visible and manifest in the human nature which he assumed and made Divine and One with Himself, in order that thus His sinful creatures might have access to Him; let the suppliant then attend to the different effects which his prayer, thus differently directed, will have upon his mind: and I will venture to say, that he will not hesitate a moment to declare that great and holy is the name of Jesus Christ, and that He is the great manifested Jehovah who alone is to be worshiped; and for this reason, because by approaching unto and addressing Jesus Christ immediately, the praying Christian will find his God nearer to him, more powerful in operation, more plenteous in grace and mercy-consequently that his prayers are more efficacious, and bring a greater blessing with them, than when addressed to a hidden and unmanifested God.
I should now proceed to consider what is further meant in the text, according to our second proposition-"that we should ask and pray under the influence of His Spirit," but this we must reserve for another occasion, as the present time will only permit me to exhort you, as I do most earnestly, to take into serious consideration what has been already said. And would you have your prayers granted-would you find them attended with Omnipotence-would you experience the exceeding fulness of that promised blessedness to have whatsoever you ask-then be sure to ask immediately of your Lord God and Saviour Jesus Christ; believe in Him as the manifested Jehovah; approach unto His Divine Humanity as containing in it all the Fulness of God; never think of any other Father but Jesus Christ, because He has distinctly said-"I and the father are One: I am, in the Father, and the Father in Me." Believe thus that in the Person of the blessed Jesus you see heaven and eternal life ever open and brought nigh unto you; ask thus of Him in faith and with pure hearts; and then doubt not, but to your everlasting comfort, whatsoever you thus ask, "He will do it." AMEN.
"Whatsoever ye shall ask in My Name, that will I do." JOHN xiv. 13.
IN a former discourse on these words, we endeavoured to shew what is here meant by asking in the Name of Jesus Christ, namely, that it implies, first, the approaching to and addressing Him immediately, as the Supreme Object of all adoration, under a full conviction of the truth of His own words, that He is in the Father, and the Father in Him; and that He is thus One with the Father: consequently that the Father cannot be approached but so far as He is approached in and through Jesus Christ, in Whom He dwells, and by Whom He has rendered Himself visible, near, and accessible. And we now beg leave to repeat this signification of asking in the name of Jesus Christ, and to enforce it further on your observation and practice. The carnal mind, we are well aware, makes various objections to this manner of Divine worship, as directed immediately to the glorified Jesus; for the carnal mind is at enmity with God, the carnal mind knoweth not God, the carnal mind understandeth not what or who it worshippeth; the carnal mind, therefore, rejects Jesus Christ as the sole object of its adoration, it would climb up into the sheepfold some other way, it would go unto the Father, but not unto the Father that is in Jesus Christ, and One with Him. Thus such a mind would separate Jesus Christ from the Father; and putting asunder what God hath joined together by an inseparable union, viz., the Divine and human natures in the One blessed Person of the Holy Jesus, that mind plungeth itself into as abyss of terrible and unutterable darkness, from which it never can be delivered but by sincere repentance and earnest prayer to the Great Redeemer, according to the power of His eternal Gospel.
1 Exod. xxiii. 20, 21.
2 Rev. ii. 17.
It is not to tell how some people deceive themselves in their prayers, for want of attending well to this indispensable rule respecting the true nature and manner of effectual prayer. Thus some, it is to be feared, according to the words of the prophet, "draw nigh to God with their lives, when yet their hearts are far from Him;"3 or, according to the Lord's words, they call Him "Lord, Lord, and yet do not the things which He says."4 They make use of His Name in their prayers, that is, they pronounce the sound thereof, and this they call praying in His Name; whilst yet, it may be, they have nothing of His Spirit or Word in their hearts-their lives are possibly like those who never pray at all; their affections are as full of vanity-their pleasures are as empty-themselves, perhaps, as great slaves to this world and the flesh, and as little acquainted with the powers of the world to come, and the delights of heavenly things, as if they had never heard of the Name of Jesus Christ; and get they are so strangely blinded by the spirit of perversity in their own imaginations, that they fancy their prayers are holy and powerful, merely because they conclude them " in or through the Name of Jesus Christ."
3 Isai. xxivx. 13.
4 Luke vi. 46.
But, beloved, who cannot see that this is a most unhappy delusion nourished by the enemy of souls in the hearts of the carnal and disobedient? For what, let me ask, is the great end of prayer, but to amend, to reform, to renew the heart and life to deliver the soul from the powers of sin and ungodliness, and reinstate it in the blessed, holy, everlasting powers of heavenly truth and righteousness, by a conjunction with God and heaven? And can we be so blind as to suppose that this great end may be accomplished by pronouncing a Name only with our lips?
But, beloved, permit me earnestly to caution you, as you value your eternal peace and acceptance with Jesus Christ, against such a vain, profane, and unprofitable manner of prayer. Remember, therefore, that to ask or pray in the name of Jesus Christ, implies an asking or praying under the influence of His Spirit, and in a conformity of heart and life to His most holy Commandments. Whensoever we pray, therefore, let us first place ourselves in the immediate presence of Jesus Christ; look up to Him, and Him alone, as our God and Saviour, our Deliverer from hell and death, the Opener of heaven, and the Giver of eternal life to our souls. Let us think, that in approaching to Him we approach to Omnipotent; and believe that He has all power to do for us whatsoever we shall ask, and that He will assuredly do it, if we ask aright. But be careful, let me entreat you, in the next place, to ask aright. Think it not enough that you approach even unto Jesus Christ Himself, unless you approach unto Him in a right spirit, that is, under the influence of His Spirit.
"Whatsoever ye shall ask in My Name, that will I do." JOHN XIV. 13.
HAVING already considered, in two former discourses on these words, what we are to understand by asking or praying in the Name of Jesus Christ, and thereby seen the nature of true prayer, let us now proceed to consider, as proposed, the efficacy or certain effect of prayer, as declared in these weighty words of our Lord"That will I do."
It is a great truth taught throughout the Holy Scriptures, and confessed by all good men, that every sincere prayer is most powerful in its effect. Such prayer, as we have before shewn, prevails mightily with God, and obtains whatsoever it asks: the sincere believer never rises from his devotions without receiving a secret or manifest signal blessing from the Almighty; he never seeks, but he finds the treasures of eternity; he never knocks, but the door of heaven, and of all heavenly graces, is opened unto him: whensoever in good earnest he directs and opens his heart to the great Father of Mercies, he is sure to be accepted with a hearty welcome, and to find a full accomplishment of every good thought and desire. But though all this be known to be the certain blessed effect of prayer-though both the holy Scriptures and the testimony of all good men bear witness to its mighty prevalence, yet few, it is to be feared, consider aright how the effect of prayer is produced, and in what manner its prevalence operates; and it is for want of such consideration that many, alas! are very remiss and careless concerning the great duty of prayer.
From the above view, then, of the nature of true prayer, we shall be enabled to see clearly, if we be so disposed, wherein its blessed efficacy consists. For, by introducing the soul into the presence of God, and placing it under His immediate operation, prayer fits and prepares the mind to receive Divine influence, and to be formed according to such influence in all its several pacts, powers, and principles. In all true prayer, therefore, there must needs be some essential change wrought in the inward state, temper, disposition, habit, and form of the devout soul. Prayer is not a mere ineffectual breathing, which leaves behind it no traces of its operation; it is not as a light vapour only, which rises up from earth towards heaven, and is then dissipated; it is not an empty form of unmeaning words without substance, of words which have nothing in them but their sound: but it is the most substantial, the most powerful, the most effectual principle of all others; its virtues and operations are most solid and permanent; it partakes of the sphere or influence of the Divine Omnipotence, and consequently its effects must be of a nature similar to that mighty Power from which it proceeds, and towards which it is directed. Accordingly it is plain, that all true prayer tends first to purification from evil and error. No one, we have already shewn, can say a true prayer but "in the Name" of Jesus Christ, that is, under His influence, and in conformity of heart and life to His Commandments; no one, therefore, can say a true prayer, without a sincere desire to depart from all evil, attended with examination concerning the nature of evil, and in what it consists: all true prayer, of consequence, must tend to remove evil from the devout soul, by weakening its power, by making manifest its qualities, and checking its operations. He who prays aright, therefore, cannot long live in sin: all pride, covetousness, wrath, malice, impatience, vanity, the evil love of this world, and the irregular appetites of the flesh, must of necessity fly before his prayers: for these things cannot stand in the presence of God; they cannot bear the light of the eternal truth: their evil and false suggestions, therefore, quickly perish in the devout soul; and it is rejoiced to find the power of prayer thus evidently manifested in removing and casting out all those vile affections which had before enslaved it to sin and sense, in the evil love of this world and the flesh.
The great end of religion, which is the Gospel and Grace of Jesus Christ, we know, is this,-to form in man a new life, a new spirit, or a new image; called in holy Scripture a new birth, a new creature, and a new man, with other like names. This also is the great end and design of all true prayer. Every time, therefore, that we bow down and make true and acceptable prayer before the Almighty, we help forward in a greater or less degree the formation of this new life, new spirit, and new image, which it is the design of Jesus Christ, and of His Gospel, to create in us. For by true prayer, as we have shewn, we come into the presence of the Almighty, and are placed under His immediate influence and operation; consequently we come under His forming, creating, or regenerating power and grace. This power and grace it is impossible should be without effect; and its certain effect is this,-to fashion us after its own image, of consequence to transform us from earthly to heavenly, from carnal to spiritual, from mere creatures of this world to be the pure children of God, to live in His life, to breathe His Spirit, to bring forth the blessed fruits of all His holy influences in our lives and conversations. Behold here, then, beloved, the blessed and certain effect of all true prayer, and in what sense the Lord said, concerning whatsoever is asked in His Name, "I will do it." For Jesus Christ, it is well to be noted, is present and is joined with us whensoever we pray aright. It is He who gives us the grace of prayer, and who also gives it effect: He is ever waiting to bless the children of men with the choicest blessings of His kingdom; and He only wants them to come and ask Him in sincerity, and He immediately grants all their petitions. Oh! that we did but all consider aright this importance of prayer, this mighty encouragement to the proper performance of our devotions!
Having thus considered the nature and efficacy of true prayer, we should now proceed to lay down some rules for the practice of it, but this must be left for a future occasion: the present time will only permit us to make a brief application of what has been said already. Would we wish, then, to experience the true efficacy of prayer, and to be made partakers of all the blessings and advantages resulting from that most important duty, we must believe in our hearts, that whensoever we pray aright, we come immediately into the presence of Jesus Christ, and under the more immediate influence of His holy power and operation. Let us believe, therefore, further, whensoever we pray, that we see this Almighty Redeemer standing over us, ready to communicate His Divine virtue unto our souls, as He once communicated it to the bodies of the sick, the lame, the blind, the deaf, and the dead, in the land of Judaea. Let us believe yet further, that the sole end and design of our prayers is to draw forth from our God and Saviour some portion of that Divine virtue for our spiritual purification and regeneration, and that the measure of the virtue which we thus draw forth is at all times the exact measure of the efficacy of our prayers. How constantly, then, ought these considerations to influence all our devotions! Is it possible to be laid at the feet of Jesus Christ, and not to be affected with due seriousness? Is it possible to be the subjects of His miraculous operation, and not to be impressed with a sense of its astonishing virtues and efficacy? Let us, beloved, believe without doubting, that whensoever we thus pray, we shall in spirit hear the great Redeemer say, "I will do it;" and we shall then experimentally know that "every one that asketh, receiveth; and he that seeketh, findeth; and to him that knocketh, it shall be opened." AMEN.
"Whatsoever ye shall ask in My Name, that will I do." JOHN XIV. 13.
HAVING already, in some former discourses on these words, considered the nature and efficacy of true prayer, or asking in the Name of Jesus Christ, we shall now proceed, as was proposed, to lay down some rules and regulations for the better performance of this most important duty. It may be expedient, first, to call to mind what is the end of prayer, as set forth in some of our former remarks, viz., that the great end and design of prayer is to effect man's purification and consequent conjunction with God and His life; and so far as this end is accomplished, so far prayer is profitable; but in the degree that this end remains unaccomplished-to the same extent the prayer is without its proper and genuine effect. But man, we know, consists of three distinct parts or principles, that is to say, his nature is threefold he has a will, an understanding, and an operation thence derived, which operation we call his words and actions. Man, therefore, cannot be purified and joined with God, only so far as he is purified and joined with God in these three distinct parts or principles of iris constitution; and consequently all rules and regulations respecting prayer will have reference to these three parts or principles in man, which are to be purified and joined with God. In laying down, therefore, such rules and regulations, we shall also have regard to these three parts or principles, and to each in its proper order.
And, first, to the will.
In all our approaches, then, unto God, let our first and chief concern be with the state of our wills or desires. Let us examine well their tendencies. Labour to bring them out of the defilements and impurities of mere creaturely love, that they may become sensible of the superior love of the blessed Creator. Tell them of the vanity of all things but God: tell them also of the riches of eternity, the glories of heaven, the rest and blessedness of God's children. And if they refuse still to be obedient-if they will not yet be weaned from false satisfactions-then try what threatenings will do.
Do we wish, then, to avoid such blind and unprofitable devotion, and to enter into the true spirit and practice of that edifying and efficacious prayer, which has the mighty power of purifying and joining our souls to God?-then let us he persuaded of the necessity of a serious and deliberate exercise of the powers of our understandings in prayer. Let us consider, first, Whom we are approaching, and unto Whom we are offering up our petitions: that He is the Great and Glorious God, the Creator of all worlds, of all intelligences, of all principles, and of all things; Who, from His holy inmost sanctuary, continually preserves, and sustains also, every world and every thing that He has created. He is likewise the Redeemer, the Regenerator, and Restorer of the living intelligences who had fallen from Him and rebelled against Him. Let us consider well, then, the infinite goodness and greatness of this eternal First Cause and constant Supporter of all beings, and impress on our minds right apprehensions of His adorable perfections; particularly His tender love towards us, His great desire and ability to bless us, by delivering us from all the powers of evil and darkness, and making us new creatures to live with Himself in heaven. Thus let us represent Him to ourselves as standing immediately over us; and imagine ourselves lying prostrate at the feet of His infinite Majesty, encompassed with all His holy angels. Let us think we see His hand stretched out continually towards us with a blessing, and that we hear Him say, as He said of old"Whatsoever thou shalt ask in My Name, that will I do."
When we have thus placed ourselves in the presence of our God, let us consider next what it is we really want with Him, Let us not dare to utter a word till we have attentively pondered its meaning and intention.
We should now consider this subject in reference to our words and actions, but the time will not admit of our proceeding further, on the present occasion. In conclusion, then, permit me to entreat you to reflect solemnly on what has been said. Let us, beloved, take diligent heed to our wills and understandings in the daily exercises of prayer-in all our private and public approaches to the throne of grace. Let us see that our affections and desires aspire only after heavenly things, in humble obedience to the will of the Lord; and that no selfish or carnal motives influence our devotions. To this end let our understandings, instructed and enlightened by the Word of the living God, have a due share of exercise in all our petitions. Thus shall we know in what spirit we ought to ask, to Whom we should pray, for what we should pray, and how we may expect, in hope and confidence, to receive a gracious and merciful answer, according to the infallible Divine promise-"Whatsoever things ye desire, when ye pray, believe that ye receive them, and ye shall have them."1 AMEN.
1 Mark xi. 26.
"Whatsoever ye shall ask in My Name, that will I do." JOHN XIV. 13.
IN my last discourse on these words, I endeavoured to lay down some rules for the preparation of our minds, and the better regulation of our exercises, in the great duty of prayer. The design of prayer, it was shewn, is to effect conjunction between man and God; but that man cannot be fully joined with God, until he is joined with Him in all the parts and principles of his constitution. These parts and principles of man are, as we have seen, his will, his understanding, his words, and his works. All prayer, therefore, ought to have-all true prayer will have-respect to the regulation and purification of these several parts and principles in man, in order to their full and perfect conjunction with God. We have already considered this weighty subject in regard to the will and the understanding; we shall, therefore, now proceed to consider it, as was further proposed, in regard to the words and the works of man.
Every considerate person may plainly see, that any devotion which has not respect to good words and good works, must be a false devotion. We learn from the sacred Scriptures, and to those who read attentively it is well known, that there is a true devotion and a false devotion; but it is perhaps not so well known that true devotion consists in being devout in what pertains to daily life, that is, in words and in works, as well as in the prayer of the lips; whereas false devotion consists in saying devout prayers and attending to pious exercises, without having any regard to devotion of life, that is, to a devotion of words and works to the will and service of God.
It was the false devotion of such persons as these which our Lord thus reproves in these awful words"Why call ye Me, Lord, Lord, and do not the thing which I say?"1 Observe, the Lord does not here reprove His hearers because they said no prayers, for they called Him, "Lord, Lord," according to His own declaration: but He reproves them because they did not carry the spirit of their prayers into their lives-they prayed in one spirit, and they lived in another spirit; they were devout in their closets, but not so out of their closets; they sought the presence of God at particular times, but then they did not love to dwell in that presence at all times; they wished to be in favour, or to have conjunction with God, but then they vainly expected such conjunction without the keeping of His Word-without obeying His Commandments-in their daily words and actions: the Lord, therefore, informs them, that the pronouncing His Name only with their lips, whilst they were performing their devotions, could be of no avail. Do we wish, then, beloved, to escape this terrible reproof of the Lord-to avoid the delusions of a false devotion-and to experience all the solid comforts of that devotion which is true and substantial?-let us remember, in this case, that such desire can only be accomplished by the constant regulation of our prayers with a special regard to our words and actions. Be it, therefore, our care and concern to consider well before we pray what is the great End of prayer-that it is to effect a heavenly conjunction between us and our God, a conjunction that can not be effected by mere lip-worship, but by an entire devotion or consecration of our hearts, our understandings, our words, and works, to His guidance and holy influence, at all times and on all occasions.
1 Luke vi. 46.
We have already shewn how our hearts and understandings should be affected by this solemn consideration: if we are sincere, it will also have a like effect on our words and works.
2 1 Cor. x. 31.
Oh, then, let us make haste, and lose no time in bringing our devotions under the regulation of so admirable and edifying a wisdom. Let us all, in our several stations, seek by holy prayers to draw down such a measure of the Spirit of our God as may enable us to discharge our several duties faithfully, diligently, cheerfully, conscientiously, to the glory of God, and the good one of another. Are we ministers of the Gospel appointed to teach others, or are we of those appointed to be taught? Are we rich and in affluence, or are we poor and in distress? Are we above the necessity of labour, or are we obliged to follow some worldly business or employment for our bread? Whatsoever we are, or whatsoever we are called to do, let us pray earnestly to God for the Spirit of His wisdom and understanding, His counsel and strength, His justice and judgment, ever to attend us, that whether in the church or out of the church, whether in the closet or in the market, whether we are prostrate before God or engaged in dealings with men, whether we are alone or in company, our words and our works may partake of the spirit, the purity, and holiness of true Christian prayer, and that we may enjoy the eternal blessedness of unceasing conjunction with our heavenly Father in all the ordinary duties and engagements of our lives. Thus should we enter indeed into all the solid satisfactions of true devotion. Our prayers would tend to purify our lives, by establishing us in all the laws of charity, order, uprightness, sobriety, diligence, and faithfulness; and the purity of our lives would give a fresh spirit, life, and energy to our prayers.
3 Ps. cxxi. 8.
The Divinely predicted New Jerusalem, and how to be prepared for the Second Coming of the Lord, considered in two Sermons.
"And He that sat upon the Throne said, Behold I make all things NEW."-Rev. xxi. 5.
IN the foregoing chapters of this concluding book of prophetic announcement, as well as in the chapter from whence these words are taken, the enlightened seer and apostle manifestly describes what was revealed to him, concerning a new and glorious dispensation of heavenly truth, which was designed by the Almighty to be opened to mankind in the fulness of time, for their instruction, their comfort, and their salvation. This new and glorious dispensation is described to us at the beginning of this chapter, under the figure of a city, of which the apostle says, "I John saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband;" and the blessedness and glory of this dispensation are thus described in the words which follow-"I heard a great voice out of heaven, saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself shall be with them, and be their God. And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes, and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain, for the former things are passed away." And then follow the words of my text, "And He that sat upon the throne said, Behold, I make all things new."
Seeing, then, that such remarkable things are written in connection with the occasion on which the words of my text were spoken, permit me, in the next place, to bespeak your most serious attention to a few observations concerning them, such as may be most likely to conduce to our spiritual improvement.
And, first, we would observe, that it has been the uniform method of God's dealing with mankind, in the successive ages of the world, to open to them various dispensations of heavenly truth, one after another, according to the particular circumstances and necessities of His church and people; each later dispensation being founded on what remains of the foregoing one, and all conducing, in their several times and occasions, to the spiritual wants of men, and thus also to the salvation of their souls, by turning their hearts from sin, the world, and the flesh, to know and to serve the living God. Thus when the old world perished, because "the wickedness of man was very great upon the earth, and every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually,"1 a new dispensation was then opened in the family of Noah, because with him was the remnant of righteousness, for "the Lord said unto Noah, Thee have I seen righteous before me in this generation."2 When that dispensation ceased, in consequence of sin and idolatry, God was pleased again to manifest Himself by His will unto faithful Abraham, and thereby to preserve a righteous seed upon earth. When the posterity of Abraham grew corrupt, and forgot the law of their God, then God, ever abundant in mercy, renewed His covenant with Moses and Aaron, and opened a new dispensation by the law of the Dccalogue, and the typical ordinances of the Jewish Church. And when this church came to its end or dissolution through the sins of the people, and the perversion of the covenant they had received, then the Lord Jehovah Himself appeared in the flesh, for the purpose of fulfilling all former dispensations, and establishing a new church of spiritual worshippers, which in consequence of acknowledging Jesus Christ for their God and Saviour, was called the Christian Church.
1 Gen. vi. 5.
2 Gen. vii. 1.
Thus has the Lord our God, in all ages, manifested His exceedingly tender love and mercy towards mankind; and by unvailing from time to time the glories of His presence, and displaying the riches of His grace and kingdom, and opening to His creatures, according to their necessities, further views into the inexhaustible counsels of His Word and wisdom, He has gathered to Himself, in the successive period of every church, holy servants and children, converted them from the power of sin, the world, and the flesh, and by a renovation through His holy Spirit, fitted them to be the habitations of His own glory, and to live with Him in bliss to all eternity.
But shall we say that the mercy and goodness of our God are now at a stand-that they are come to certain limits beyond which they cannot pass? Shall we affirm that mankind will no more so pervert and darken the counsels of divine wisdom, that the light of those counsels will be "hid from their eyes"? Shall we urge, that since the dispensation opened by our Blessed Lord, and the consequent establishment of the Christian Church, there is no further necessity for any new discoveries or unfoldings of Divine Truth, but that all must now remain in its old state, and for ever continue the same, without any fresh interposition on God's part? God forbid. The Holy Scriptures of Truth give us no warrant for any such surmises, nay, they are most particular and express in their declarations to the contrary; for, not to insist upon numberless prophecies of blessed things to come in the prophets of the Old Testament, which are yet unfulfilled, the words of our text,-"Behold, I make all things new," are a sufficient warrant of authority to expect that a future dispensation is certainly to take place, subsequently to that which was opened in the first Christian Church, and that it is to excel in glory, and to be a further means, in addition to all former dispensations, of gathering the Lord's children together, of turning the hearts of men unto their God, of delivering them from the powers of darkness, and of malting them, through its purifying and regenerating influences, a blessed "Tabernacle" for the Most High and Holy One to dwell in.
Let it not be here objected, that the Scriptures of the Old and New Testament are a sufficient rule of Truth, and therefore a sufficient direction to the kingdom of heaven, without any new lights and discoveries from heaven.
But here, after having spoken thus plainly concerning the blessed hope and certainty of a new spiritual opening of God's Holy Word,-a dispensation of heavenly truth to succeed that which was made unto the first Christian Church, it may be useful to suggest some important cautions in respect to this predicted dispensation.
There may be a danger-there is a danger-in being too hasty to receive every new doctrine that is attempted to be imposed upon us, under the pretence of its being from above: but it is equally true that there may be also a danger-that there is a danger, in rejecting all new doctrines alike, without examining well their pretensions, and the grounds of their authority. The prophets of old were thus rejected by the carnal Jews, as teaching things new; and thus also our Lord Himself was rejected by them, merely because they were so immersed in the things of this world and the flesh, and so satisfied with the old things of what they called their own law, and the "traditions of the elders," that they would not be at the pains to weigh and consider well the new things made manifest unto them.
But methinks my hearers ask, "If there be a danger in a hasty receiving of every new doctrine claiming to be a new opening or revelation of the light and truth of God's Holy Word, and a danger, too, in rejecting such doctrines, how are we to escape these dangers, and to be enabled clearly to distinguish between the true and the false prophet?" We answer, in the weighty words of our Blessed Lord, which contain the fullest and most satisfactory information on this subject,-"If any man will do His will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God."3 Here, beloved, we have a sure method whereby we may be qualified without doubt to ascertain at all times, whether any doctrine or dispensation be of God.
3 John vii. 17.
To conclude. The times, beloved, that we live in are important times, and that is the reason of my having said so much to you oil the present subject. The prophecies of the Old and New Testament, added to the warnings and convictions impressed upon many serious minds at this day, from beholding the iniquity and spiritual darkness which sow cover the face of the earth, leave us little room to doubt, that the Lord at this time is about to do some extraordinary work amongst us, towards the fuller revelation of Himself, and of His holy will, and for judgment upon the ungodly, but for redemption and salvation on those that fear His Name, and look for His appearing; for these divine words must needs be fulfilled, "Behold, I make all things new."
Let me here, then, beloved, as becomes my place and duty, as a messenger and ambassador of Jesus Christ, and under a full conviction in my own mind that "the time is at hand,"-let me warn you thereof, and stir you up to a serious and earnest preparation for the great event. Above all things, let us take heed lest when our Lord cometh He should find our minds intent on other things, as the cares and pleasures of this world and the flesh, for thus we shall be so effectually blinded as that we cannot see when, or where, or how, He cometh. Let us therefore take timely counsel: let us put away from us all unclean things, and keep our hearts open and ready, and seeking for the day of God. Let not evil or mistaken men, however high, in a carnal and worldly sense, their station and authority may seem,-let not such men persuade us that we ought to be content with old things, and not to look for new,-for the old things must certainly "pass away," and all things be "made new."
4Luke xviii. 8.
"And He that sat upon the Throne said, Behold I make all things NEW."-REV. xxi. 5.
HAVING shewn, in a former discourse on these words, the certainty and the blessedness of a dispensation of heavenly Truth promised herein, and signified by "the Holy City, New Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven," and having further endeavoured to shew that "the time is at hand," when we may expect this dispensation to be revealed in these latter days, we now desire to bespeak your further most earnest attention to what infinitely concerns us all in respect to this coming dispensation of the Lord, viz., the fulfilling, in ourselves, of these words, "Behold I make all things new."
A very little consideration will teach us, that no form of doctrine, no dispensation of truth, no revelation or manifestation of the Lord, howsoever certain, or howsoever glorious, can possibly profit us in the way of salvation, until such truth or doctrine finds its way into our hearts; nor can it there be of any advantage to us, until it so operates within us, to the making all things new, that is, operates to the removing the evil lusts, desires, and imaginations of the "old man and his evil deeds," which are according to this world and the flesh, and to the renewing our minds in the Spirit and Light and Life of Jesus Christ; for, as the apostle testifies, "If any man be in Christ he is a new creature; old things are passed away, and behold all things are become new."1
12 Cor. v. 17.
Beloved, let us consider and apprehend-let us ever well remember-that all dispensations, manifestations, and revelations of God to mankind, since the foundation of the world, in all their wonderful varieties of glory and brightness, have been designed solely for this one great end, to create men anew, that is, to make them partakers of a new and heavenly nature, by delivering them from the power of the devil, the world, and the flesh, and turning them to seek and to find the living God within them, as the Father and the Former of a new life-a new being-which is "not born of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God."2 Our "old man" cannot possibly enter into the kingdom of heaven; there must be a renewal and a regeneration accomplished in every soul, before it can have any meetness for eternal bliss. The lusts and imaginations of the natural man must be subdued, the carnal pleasures of this world and the flesh must be overcome and made subject to the laws of God, before we can realise the blessings of everlasting happiness.
2 John i. 13.
Let these considerations, then, sink deeply into our hearts, and we shall thus be enabled to see and understand clearly how and in what manner alone the dispensations of God can be truly profitable to us. We shall perceive that no light, no doctrine, no revelation can possibly do us any real service, except so far as it changes and renews our hearts and lives. We shall no longer therefore deceive ourselves with fancying that we are in the way of salvation merely because we possess the outward Word or truth of the kingdom of heaven, but, remembering the apostle's declaration already cited, that "if any man be in Christ he is a new creature," and that with such a one "old things are passed away, and all things are made new," we shall, under every doctrine and every dispensation, keep in view this its great end, and never think ourselves the better for it but so far as, under its teaching, we advance is this newness of regeneration and heavenly life.
Permit me further to enforce these weighty considerations, because of their infinite importance. The Jews of old called themselves "The temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord,"3 merely because they were in possession of the written Word of God, and professed to live in the observance of certain outward rites and ceremonies ordained of God by Moses.
3 Jer. vii. 4.
4 Matt. xxi. 31.
5 Matt. xxiii. 23. Luke xi. 42.
May we all, beloved, as we value eternal salvation, take a solemn warning herein, from this example of the self-deluded Jews! Their obstinate adherence to old things, and their sad neglect to look for newness of life by humble and devout obedience to the law of Moses, made them blind to the light and power of truth, insomuch that when the "Word was made flesh," and dwelt amongst them, they did not know Him, but crucified the Lord of Life. Oh, may we take heed lest this also be the case with us! for so it will infallibly be, if we do not look and labour earnestly for newness of life, through repentance and regeneration. In this case, like the Jews, we shall be blind to the time and manner of our Lord's appearing. Like them we shall make the Word of God of none effect by our traditions, whilst we are seeking salvation more in the outward professions of faith, than in the real newness of heavenly and regenerate life.
Let us, then, beloved, receive counsel before it is too late. Let us, with all possible earnestness of warm affection, and under the conviction that we must hereafter give account of our talents, take good heed that we do not deceive ourselves, nor suffer others to deceive us, in a matter so weighty. For this purpose, "let every man prove his own work; for every man shall bear his own burdens."6 The apostle here recommends us to try and prove ourselves, and the state of our hearts and lives, the ends of our religion, and the manner of our serving God, which may be done by some such questions as these:-"Are we using all outward dispensations and forms of doctrine as a means of advancing us more and more in the new life, which alone can prepare us for the kingdom of heaven, and which consists in loving the Lord above all things, and our neighbour as ourselves?
6 Gal. vi. 4, 5.
7 Heb. xii. 27.
In short, beloved, were it become the ruling desire and seeking of all our hearts, how to escape from the snares of sin in our "old man," and to experience a real change and renewal of our minds, through the meek, and lowly, and loving Spirit of Jesus Christ operating upon our hearts and lives; were this our religion, were this the great end and object of out liveshow would God then love us! How should we love God and one another! What peace, what comfort, what blessedness should we then experience, from the communications of the new things of the kingdom of heaven, ever opening afresh, ever received with renewed thankfulness in out duly prepared minds.
May we, then, beloved, labour most earnestly for these new things of the kingdom, looking unto Him who "sitteth upon the Throne," even the Lord God and Saviour Jesus Christ, who alone hath power to "create new heavens and a new earth," and who will infallibly do so in every soul that humbly looketh for His appearing! All such will "know of the doctrine, whether it be of God," and experience a blessed fulfilment of the divine promise, "Behold I make all things new." AMEN.
The Meaning and Blessedness of a Single Eye.
"If, therefore, thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light."-Matt vi. 22.
IT is evident that by the eye, of which our blessed Lord here speaks, is to be understood the eye of the mind, because it is this eye which can alone, according to any just sense of the word, be called single. It is equally plain, too, that by the body here spoken of, our blessed Lord, did not mean the material but the spiritual body, since the spiritual body alone can with any propriety be said to be "full of light."
It is further obvious, that by a "single eye" is meant the mind's understanding, grounded in the sincerity and purity of the purposes of the will, or in good affections from the Lord, because it is opposed by Him to an "evil eye," concerning which it is said, in the verse which immediately follows, "If thine eye be evil, thy whole body shall be full of darkness." Our blessed Lord, then, in the words of my text, declares to us this great and important truth, that the state of man's understanding, or of his perception and apprehension of the eternal light and truth, will at all times depend upon the state of his will, in respect to its pursuit of an eternal good, or, in other words, that the human mind sees, or does not see, the things of God and His kingdom, which are the great objects of revealed wisdom, according as its affections are disposed or indisposed to make those things the objects of its supreme love and delight. Let me therefore entreat your present most serious attention to the further consideration and elucidation of this most interesting declaration of the Great Redeemer!
It is a truth confirmed by daily experience, that the mind always sees those objects most clearly and distinctly with which it is most affected, or in which it finds its chief interest and delight. As for example: if it be most affected with and finds its chief interest and delight in the things of this world only, it then sees the things of this world only, whilst those of another world are kept out of' sight; and again, if it be most affected with, and finds its chief interest and delight in, the things of God and another world, it then begins to see and discern those things with a distinctness and clearness proportioned to the strength and quality of its affections. And the reason is plain; for the sight of the mind is its thought and understanding, and every one, we know, thinks most about, and understands those things best, which engage most of his affections, or in which he feels himself most interested and delighted. For what is it which gives a worldly man such a clear sight and understanding in the affairs of his worldly business, but the affection and desire of being well acquainted with them? What is it which makes great politicians, learned historians, eloquent orators, critical scholars, but the ardent desire and strong impulse of affection with which they are actuated in striving to acquire skill and understanding in their several pursuits? Take away that desire and affection, and you instantly take away the active source of all their knowledge and intellectual acquirements. Just so is it in regard to spiritual understanding and discernment. If there be no affection to acquire it, it never will be acquired; but if there be an affection, then there will most assuredly be produced an understanding, and this at all times in proportion to the nature and ardour of the affection. Whensoever, therefore, mankind are as desirous and as eager to become good Christians, and to know Jesus Christ, as they are to become great politicians, learned historians, eloquent orators, and clever men of business, they will then be enabled to understand the spiritual things or Jesus Christ and His kingdom, just as politicians, historians, orators, and men of business are enabled to understand the natural objects of their pursuits.
We complain, perhaps, of our ignorance in spiritual things, and we would be glad to have that ignorance removed,-we would wish to see more clearly the things of God and another world,-we would be happy to acquire a right spiritual understanding and discernment, and to be wise in that wisdom which is from above; and we fancy, that if we saw eternal things more fully and distinctly, we should pursue them with more steadiness and diligence.
It is well that we thus acknowledge our spiritual ignorance, and that we wish to have it removed. But can we bear to be told plainly what is the cause of that ignorance, and shall we believe when we are told? Are we willing to believe that all ignorance of spiritual things arises from an inward want of desire to be acquainted with them, and that whensoever our desire is as earnest to know eternal things, as the desire of natural men is to know temporal things, we shall then have the faculty of acquiring all the knowledge that we can possibly wish, according as it is written, "The secret of the Lord is with them that fear Him, and He wills shew them His covenant." (Psalm xxv. l4.) For let us be at the pains, now, to ask ourselves how and why it was that when Jesus Christ came as "the Word made flesh," to instruct and to save the world, some men at that time acquired a most intimate knowledge of Him, and of the things of His kingdom, whilst others, notwithstanding their nearness to the "true light," and notwithstanding that this "light" was willing and ready at all times to have opened their eyes, still remained in darkness, and knew no more of this great Redeemer and His kingdom, than if He had never appeared amongst them; thus confirming the truth of what is written,"The Light shined in darkness, and the darkness comprehended it not." (John i. 5.) The more we inquire into the cause of this darkness, the more clearly shall we discern the reason, and the only true reason, of all spiritual ignorance.
For by such inquiry we shall discover, that the reason at that time why some attained to the knowledge of Jesus Christ and of His kingdom in their own minds, whilst others remained in ignorance, was this: the first were desirous of attaining it; they felt the want of a Redeemer, from a conviction of their own inward corruptions and disorders, and this want led them to Jesus Christ; they mere convinced, moreover, that this world was not their proper home, and this conviction led them to inquire after a better world; their affections therefore were raised out of and above mere by temporal things, and this was their qualification to receive the knowledge of eternal things, agreeable to that declaration of the great Saviour"He that followeth Me, shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the Light of Life." (John viii. 12.)
Whensoever, then, we discover the reason why Herod, Pontius Pilate, and the chief priests and great lawyers amongst the Jews, knew little or nothing of Jesus Christ and of His kingdom, whilst Peter, James, John, and the rest of the apostles, together with an incredible number of other illiterate disciples, attained to a most clear and blessed knowledge of that God, of His eternal laws, and of His kingdom, we shall then discover the true and only reason or cause of all the spiritual ignorance, and of all the spiritual wisdom which have ever since been, and which still are in the world. But perhaps it will be said, This case is not applicable to us, since we are not in the same situation with the Lord's disciples. For they had Jesus Christ personally present amongst them, and could be instructed from His own mouth.
Let us see whether this reasoning is conclusive, and how far it may be depended upon. Is it true that Jesus Christ is not present with us, as really and effectually as with His first disciples? Is it true also that we cannot now be instructed by Him from His own mouth? What do we think of the Sacred Scriptures? Are not they the Word of Jesus Christ, and do not they contain the whole of His will and wisdom? Is not Jesus Christ also ever present in His own Word, and therefore in going to His Word, do not we go to Him? In hearing His Word, do not we hear Him? How, then, can we truly say that Jesus Christ is not as really present with us as with the Jews of old, and that we cannot equally be instructed from His own mouth, when yet we have at all times His Holy Word to go to, and may converse therein with Jesus Christ as often as we please?
It is not, then, the want of opportunities to receive all the advantages of spiritual instruction which is the cause of spiritual ignorance? neither is it the want of capacity on the part of man to comprehend such spiritual instruction. If we examine attentively our own minds, in the presence of God, and with a real desire to be rightly informed, we shall discover that there is a deeper cause and ground of spiritual ignorance than these,-we shall discover that the true, and the only true reason at this day, why mankind are not enlightened with the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ and the things of His kingdom, is, because they have not the same strength of desire to attain that knowledge which they have to attain other and inferior kinds of knowledge. Instead of being actuated by an orderly, ardent, and heavenly desire, some perverted desire, some defiled affection, some secret, unhallowed love or lust has gained a place in their hearts, and therefore they do not feel the same interest and the same delight in acquiring eternal truth, as they do in acquiring temporal science. For let us suppose for a moment, what we must confess is not an impossible case, that one of our fellow-creatures,-a man like ourselves, having had some experience of the uncertainty of temporal satisfactions, becomes convinced within himself of the vanity of this world, compared with that which is eternal.
1Ps. xxxvii. 4.
But we shall perhaps still say, We should be glad above all things to see and to converse with Jesus Christ, and, by such sight and conversation, to learn more of the knowledge of Him and of His kingdom.
Again, if we should be glad to converse with Jesus Christ, and to learn by such conversation more of the knowledge of Him and of His kingdom, cannot we, as before intimated, go as often as we please unto the Word of God, and is not this to converse with Jesus Christ? Does not He speak to men continually by and through His Holy Word; and could his first apostles and disciples hear Him speak plainer than we may do whensoever we go to that Divine Book, in a right temper and spirit, to hold converse with Him? Let us learn, then, only to read the words of Jesus Christ with delight and affection, and we shall no longer complain of our want of opportunity to acquire spiritual knowledge. But what shall be said, or what language can sufficiently express our folly, if it should hereafter, in the Day of Judgment, be found that, during our short but momentous passage through this world, we were more affected and delighted with the writings of man than with the writings of God, and that a newspaper, a novel, or a romance, which could only amuse for a moment, engaged more of our valuable time and attention than that Word of eternal life which was designed and is able to save our souls?
Away, then, with all further excuses for our want of spiritual understanding. Let us labour only to acquire spiritual affections and desires, and spiritual understanding, which is spiritual sight, will follow of course. Whensoever we find an interest in Jesus Christ, and His kingdom and laws, superior to other interests and delights, the eyes of our minds will presently be opened, so as to enable us to discern those eternal objects with which we are affected.
The merciful operations of the Divine Providence,-that they are equally over all things in general, and the minutest things in particular.
"But the very hairs of your head are all numbered." MATT. X. 30.
THERE is no subject of consideration better adapted to impress the mind with an awful sense of God, than that of His Divine Providence, when rightly understood. Herein the love, the wisdom, the power, the majesty, the infinity, the immensity, of the Great Father of all worlds, stand conspicuous, and beget astonishment and adoration in the contemplative soul. When we reflect on the number of worlds which God hath made, and on the innumerable varieties of creatures therein, and on the countless wants of each, and then reflect further, that the Creator seeth all those wants, and is continually providing for them, even in the most particular circumstances,what consideration can be so sublime? What so edifying? What can shew us so clearly the goodness and greatness of our God? What can more inspire us with confidence and trust in Him? What can bring us to such humble thoughts of ourselves? Yet what can so tend to exalt us-to give us a right and profitable knowledge of our own importance in the scale of being, as arising from our near relationship to that infinitely wise and Eternal Being that ever watcheth over us?
Since, then, the benefits and advantages to be derived from a consideration of the Divine Providence, are so important, permit me to bespeak your serious attention to this edifying subject, as it may be presented before us in a three-fold point of view: first, the Divine Providence, as exercised in natural things; secondly, as exercised in spiritual things; and thirdly, the duties incumbent upon us, in consequence of the merciful and constant care of Divine Providence over us.
By the Providence of God in natural things we would be understood to mean, the care which He exercises over the natural world and all things contained therein, to preserve them in order, harmony, and well-being. This providence, we are informed by our blessed Lord in the text, extends itself to the smallest and most inconsiderable parts of creation-"The very hairs of your head are all numbered;" and in another place He says:-"Not a sparrow shall fall on the ground without your Father." It is not therefore a general providence only, regarding empires, states, and kingdoms, but it reaches to every individual family and person, and not only so, but to every situation, thing, and most particular circumstance which regards each particular person. We are but too apt to respect the Divine Providence as concerned only about great and general events in the government of the world, without ever bringing it down to particulars, and viewing it in its concern for the smallest things relating to the creature; thus we readily allow of a providence watching over the affairs of great kingdoms, but then we do not so clearly see and allow of the same providence over the smallest events respecting those kingdoms. We say that God governs the world, but then we do not perceive that this His general government over the world is the result of His particular providence over every person and thing contained therein.
If, then, we would obtain a clear, and just, and edifying view of the Divine Providence in nature, we should bring it down to the most particular things and circumstances of creation,we should especially attend to it in ourselves,-we should observe that God, with all His infinite love, and infinite wisdom, is continually watching over us, and all that concerns us,we should mark His fatherly care in the health of our bodies, in the preservation of our fortunes, in our successes in business, in our daily deliverances from the many evils to which we are exposed; we should, in short, behold His hand in all our temporal blessings and prosperities, and confess His goodness in all the good that cometh upon us, because, what the Psalmist says of the Divine thoughts, is equally true of the operations of Divine Providence,-"How great is the sum of them!
1 Ps. cxxxix. 17, 18.
By the providence of God in spiritual things, we would be understood to mean His fatherly care over our spirits, to keep, to preserve, and bless them, and, so far as we will suffer Him, to convert, to regenerate, to sanctify and save our souls, and thus to bring them to His holy heaven, and thereby put them in possession of a sure and everlasting happiness with Himself.
The great end which God had in view at our creation, was to make us everlastingly blessed with Himself in heaven; our passage through this world was intended to be preparatory to that eternal state of things which is to succeed hereafter; the providence of God, therefore, as exercised in our present state, must needs always have in view our future well-being, and be determined in its operation accordingly. With this view, God sees it expedient at times to afflict our bodies, to permit ruin to come upon our fortunes, to trouble the waters of our temporal or natural lives; not that it is agreeable to Him thus to put us to pain, but because He sees such a process necessary for our greater-our future good, that is, to awaken us to a due sense of our situation; to deliver us from the bondage of our passions, and thus to set us at liberty to pursue our chief-our everlasting happiness. For, let it never be forgotten by us, that none can enter into God's kingdom but such as are converted to Him and become regenerate, according as it is written, "Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven."2 And again, "Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God."3 God, then, being infinitely desirous that all should come into His kingdom, must of necessity be alike desirous that all should become converted and regenerate, in order to attain that blessed end. Herein, then, is the adorable providence of God particularly exercised in regard to spiritual things, that His Divine love and wisdom are continually employed and at work, in order to effect the conversion and regeneration of every soul. It is plain, however, to see that this providence must vary in its operation, according to the particular states and circumstances of the souls towards which it is exercised. With the hardened and impenitent it is a providence generally fraught with judgment, and some sore calamities, that being the only method by which such souls can be wrought upon to bethink themselves aright, and turn into the ways of peace and righteousness.
2 Matt. xviii. 3.
3 John iii 5.
We now proceed, thirdly, to consider the duties incumbent upon us, in consequence of the merciful and constant care of the Divine Providence over us.
It is an awful consideration, but a consideration which must needs force itself at times on the reflecting mind, that the providence of God-kind, and wise, and powerful as it is-may yet, through the carelessness and thoughtlessness of man, be made of none effect both in natural and spiritual things. As for example: if, in natural things, the husbandman neglects to till his ground, to sow it with seed, to keep his corn clear from weeds, and at the proper season to reap and gather it into his barn, how plain is it to see that he must render the providence of God useless in respect to procuring a plentiful harvest? So again, if a man runs heedlessly and wantonly into danger,-if he cats poison instead of wholesome food,-if he neglects to take a prudent care of his body and his fortune,-how plain is it to see that such a one, notwithstanding the guardianship of the Divine Providence, makes it of none effect to his temporal good, for want of proper rare on his own part? When our blessed Lord came in person upon the earth, He extended the sphere of His Divine Providence, in a particular manner, towards even the bodies of men; but who does not see that had not the sick, and lame, and blind, and deaf come unto Him, and believed in Him, as having power to heal them, His providence would have been of no effect towards the removal of their complaints?
Thus, then, we may disappoint, or reader useless to ourselves, the providence of God in natural things; and in the same manner we may render it equally useless to us in spiritual things. As for example: Suppose a man wantonly and heedlessly to expose himself to spiritual danger, that is, to the snares of sin and wickedness,-suppose he thus eats spiritual poison instead of wholesome food,-suppose he neglects to take a proper care of his soul or mind and its eternal concerns,-suppose, that notwithstanding the warnings of God respecting sin, and the kind care of God in providing light to enlighten, food to nourish, medicines to heal, treasures to enrich, blessings to comfort, and grace to regenerate .his soul, yet he disregards those warnings, and will not come to receive that light, that food, those medicines, those blessings, and that grace which should restore him to spiritual health and strength,-how plain is it to see that such a one maketh the redeeming and regenerating providence of God of no effect to himself!
Hence, then, if our spiritual eyes be in any degree opened, we may clearly see what is our duty with respect to the kind Providence of God. It is to cooperate or work together with that providence, by a proper care and attention on our own parts, both as to our natural and our spiritual necessities. We are not, therefore, idly to expect that God will or call bless and preserve either our bodies or our souls, unless we also exert ourselves in our measure, and according to our degree, towards the blessing and preservation of both. The great Redeemer, therefore, willing to convince us of the necessity of such cooperation on our parts, sets us an example thereof in His own Person, for He says, "My Father worketh hitherto, and I work;"4 whence it plainly appears, that the Father's working or providence would have been of no avail unless Jesus also, as the Son, or as to His human nature, had worked together with the Father. And it is in the same sense, and to impress upon us the same important duty, that the apostle speaks of himself and his associates as being "workers together with God."
4 John v. 17.
5 2 Cor. vi. 1
The natural means of cooperating with the Divine Providence in respect to bodily health and blessing, it is well known, are these,-to be sober, to be industrious, to avoid all excesses, to observe the rules of order, temperance, cleanliness, and regularity. The spiritual means of cooperating with the Divine Providence in respect to spiritual health and blessing, as declared to us in the Word of God, are these,-to repent, and become converts unto the Lord Jesus Christ; to search out in ourselves, and deny, through the grace and truth of the Lord, all our bad passions and corrupt affections, consisting in the love of the world, the flesh, and ourselves, more than of the Lord and our neighbour,-to begin thus to lead new lives, according to the purity of the Divine Commandments; to distrust ourselves, and to put our whole confidence in God,-to consider ourselves as in a world of enemies, from whose assaults we can never be secure, but by continual attention to the presence and power of God; in short, to watch, to pray, to labour, to look for the kingdom and coming of the great God and Saviour in our hearts and lives; to subdue all that is evil therein, and to establish the joys and purities of His own holy love, and truth, and eternal peace in our bosoms.
Wouldst thou, then, O man, not make the kind providence of thy God of none effect to thee, but conspire with Him in His eternal purpose and counsel, for the good of both thy body and thy soul? Wouldst thou enter into the stream of that Providence, and be conveyed thereby to the kingdom of an eternal rest and peace? Then in an humble, dutiful submission to this God and His providence, exert thy own best endeavours both for thy body and thy soul; consider, digest, practise well those laws of order, truth, and sobriety with respect to both, according to which the Divine Providence operates towards thee. Think not to say within thyself, God will bless me, He can regenerate me, He can save me, He can bring me to heaven, by His own power and Providence, without my flee and active concurrence; and therefore I may live at my ease,-for this, alas! is a delusion of Satan which hath formerly, and still continues to destroy thousands of souls, and keeps them blind to the riches of eternity;-therefore, O man, rather say, "I will repent, I will return unto my God, I will obey His holy Commandments, I will flee from the natural vanity, blindness, and folly of my own corrupt heart, to lead a new life, to listen to the voice of God in my own soul, reproving, correcting, and comforting me; I will prepare a habitation for my God, that He may henceforth dwell with me for ever.
To conclude. Oh! how adorable are the counsels of God, and "His ways past finding out!" What tongue can tell, or heart conceive all the love, the tenderness, the watchfulness, the care, and concern of the God of mercy, as exercised over the souls of all His children, to effect their conversion and regeneration, and thereby prepare them for eternal bliss? May we all, beloved, rightly ponder this disposition of the Divine Providence towards us! May our hearts become rightly affected with it! May we take good heed that all this goodness of God be not in vain, that we may not reject His kind counsel towards us! For, alas! what can God do to help us, if we will not do something to help ourselves?-if we will not turn and comply with and submit to the counsels of His mercy and truth? May those counsels, then, be now and ever engraven deeply in our hearts! May they hasten our conversion unto the adorable God and Saviour Jesus Christ, in the spirit of true Gospel repentance! May they lay our minds low before Him in the depth of unfeigned humiliation, and sincere obedience to His holy will and Word! May they thus introduce us into the sphere of our Lord's regenerating providence, and make us fit subjects of its operation;-then shall we be indeed blessed; for then we shall enter into the bosom of the Divine Love,-we shall be carried in the arms of the Divine Mercy,-we shall be led by the hand of the Divine Power,-we shall be fed with Divine and heavenly food,-and thus, whether we be troubled or whether we be comforted, all things will work together for our good, because all things will bring us nearer to God.
May the Lord, of His unutterable mercy, give us all grace thus to conspire with Him in all the operations of His kind providence towards us, that so they may not be ineffectual either to our temporal or eternal welfare, but that, cooperating therewith, we may, through regeneration, find and taste the peace of God in this world, and be made meet for the full revelation of His glory in that which is to come. The Grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all! AMEN.
Cave and Sever, Printers, 18, St. Anns-street, Manchester.