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Our friends who have left us,-where are they? not lost, not perished. We are sure, that to them, to whom to live it was Christ, to die will be gain. Where are they? They are where they are perpetually and perfectly blessed in the immediate vision and enjoyment of God, within the veil ; infinitely more happy where they are, than where they were. Where are they? Why, they are in the mansions of light and bliss, that are in our Father's house above, in the paradise of God, where they hunger no more, nor thirst any more. They are in the best company, employed in the best work, and enjoying a complete satisfaction. Where are they? Why, they are where there are no complaints; nothing to interrupt their communion with God, or cast a damp upon their spirits. Death has done that for them which ordinances could not do; has perfectly freed them from that body of sin and death, which was here their constant burden, and hath set them for ever out of the reach of temptation. The spirits of the just are there made perfect, beyond the perfection of Adam in innocency, for they are immutably confirmed in it. Where are they? Why, they are where they would be; in their centre, in their element. They are where they longed to be; in that blessed state, towards which, while they were here, they were still reaching forth, and pressing forward.
I HAVE BORNE CHASTISEMENT.
THE speaking this unto God under affliction, signifies, that our affliction is from His hand; and to the acknowledgment of this truth, the very natural consciences of men do incline them. Though trouble be the general lot of mankind, yet it doth not come on him by an improvidential fatality: though man is born to trouble, as the sparks fly upwards, yet it comes not out of the dust. Job v. 6,7. It is no less true, and in itself no less clear, that all the good we enjoy, and all the evil we suffer, come from the same Hand; but we are naturally more sensible of evil than of good, and therefore do more readily reflect upon the original and causes of it. Our distresses lead us to the notice of the righteous God inflicting them, and of our own unrighteous ways procuring them, and provoking Him so to do; and therefore it is meet to speak in this submissive, humble language to Him. It is by all means necessary to speak to Him. He is the party we have to deal withal, or to speak to, even in those afflictions whereof men are the intervenient visible causes. Thy are, indeed, but instrumental causes, the rod and staff in His hand who smites us; therefore, our business is with Him, in whose Supreme Hand alone the mitigations and increases, the continuance and the ending, of our troubles lie. Who gave Jacob to the spoil, and Israel to the robbers? Did not the Lord, against whom we have sinned? Isa. xlii. 24. So Lam. i. 14, The yoke of my transgressions is bound on by His hand. Therefore, it is altogether necessary in all afflictions to speak to Him. And as it is necessary to speak to Him, so it is meet to speak thus to Him I have borne chastisement, I
will no more offend. These words have in them the true composition of real repentance, humble submission and holy resolution. I have borne chastisement-that is, I have justly borne it, and do heartily submit to it: I bear it justly, and take it well; Lord, I acquit thee, and accuse myself. This language becomes the most innocent persons in the world in their suffering. Job knew it well, and did often acknowledge it in his preceding speeches. Though sometimes, in the heat of dispute, and in opposition to the uncharitable and unjust imputations of his friends, he seems to overstrain the assertion of his own integrity (which Elihu here corrects,) you know he cries out, I have sinned against Thee: what shall I do unto Thee, O Thou preserver of men? Job vii. 20. And chap. ix. ver. 30, If I wash myself with snowwater, and make my hands never so clean, yet shalt thou plunge me in the ditch, and mine own clothes shall abhor me.
"THY WILL BE DONE."
To desire to know the Divine will is the first duty of a being so ignorant as man; to endeavour to obey it is the most indispensable duty of a being at once so corrupt and so dependent. The Holy Scriptures frequently comprise the essence of the Christian temper in some short aphorism, apostrophe, or definition. The essential spirit of the Christian life may be said to be included in this one brief petition of the Christian's prayer, 66 THY WILL BE DONE;" just as the distinguishing characteristic of the irreligious may be said to consist in following his own will.
There is a haughty spirit, which, though it will not complain, does not care to submit. It arrogates to itself the dignity of enduring, without any claim to the meekness of yielding. Its silence is stubbornness, its fortitude is pride; its calmness is apathy without, and discontent within. In such characters, it is not so much the will of God which is the rule of conduct, as the scorn of pusillanimity. Not seldom indeed the mind puts in a claim for a merit to which the nerves could make out a better title. Yet the suffering which arises from acute feelings is so far from deducting from the virtue of resignation, that, when it does not impede the sacrifice, it enhances the value. True resig nation is the hardest lesson in the whole school of Christ. It is the oftenest taught, and the latest learned. It is not a task which, when once got over in some particular instance, leaves us master of the subject. The necessity of following up the lesson we have begun, presents itself almost every day in some new shape, occurs under some fresh modification. The submission of yesterday does not exonerate us from the resignation of to-day. The principle, indeed, once thoroughly wrought into the soul, gradually reconciles us to the frequent demand for its exercise, and renders every successive call more easy.
We read dissertations on this subject, not only with the most entire concurrence of the judgment, but with the most apparent acquiescence of the mind. We write essays upon it in the hour of peace and composure, and fancy that what we have discussed with so much ease and self-complacence, in favour of which we offer so many arguments to convince, and so many motives to persuade, cannot be very difficult to practise. But to convince the
understanding, and to correct the will, is a very different undertaking; and not less difficult when it comes to our own case, than it was in the case of those for whom we have been so coolly and dogmatically prescribing. It is not till we practically find how slowly our own arguments produce any effect on ourselves that we cease to marvel at their inefficacy on others. The sick physician tastes with disgust the bitterness of the draught, to the swallowing of which he wondered the patient had felt so much repugnance; and the reader is sometimes convinced by the arguments which fail of their effect on the writer, when he is called, not to discuss, but to act, not to reason, but to suffer. The theory is so just, and the duty so obvious, that even bad men assent to it; the exercise so trying that the best men find it more easy to commend the rule than adopt it. But he who has once gotten engraved, not in his memory but in his heart, this divine precept, THY WILL BE DONE, has made a proficiency which will render all subsequent instruction comparatively easy.
Though sacrifices and oblations were offered to God under the law by his own express appointment, yet he peremptorily rejected them by his prophets, when presented as substitutes instead of signs. Will he, under a more perfect dispensation, accept of any observances which are meant to supersede internal dedication-of any offerings unaccompanied by complete desire of acquiescence in his will? My son, give me thine heart,' is his brief but imperative command. But before we can be brought to comply with the spirit of this requisition, God must enlighten our understanding that our devotion may be rational, he must rectify our will, that it may be voluntary, he must purify our heart, that it may be spiritual.