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score years and ten.” Ask him how life looks | It urges us towards it, and helps to prepare in review ?-“As a tale that is told; as a us for it. Since it is only a troublesome dream when one awaketh.” Ask him how voyage, who would desire its longer continuit passed away ?—“ As a flood-swifter than a ance? Since all is vanity and vexation of weaver's shuttle." Ask him where now are spirit here, are we not even compelled to the companions of his youth? How many seek a better, a heavenly country? Since will he reckon up, who have gone down to the world is our grand enemy, is it not well the grave, and have seen corruption! and to find it rendered so unlovely and unseduchow few remain to be the associates of his ing ? Now you have only a few days to live; hoary hairs! “Behold, thou hast made my you have no time to trifle, but must attend days as an hand's breadth, and my age is as to the things which belong to your peace, nothing before thee; verily, every man at his before they are hid from your eyes. best estate is altogether vanity."
This frail life too, in the Fourth place, is And how often does a leaf fade, sooner than continually guarded by a wise and tender it falls! And is it not so with man? If Providence. All our times are in his hand. spared, how soon does he begin to discover He careth for us. “A sparrow falleth not to infirmities! “The days of our years are the ground without our Heavenly Father: threescore years and ten; and if, by reason and the very hairs of our head are all numof strength, they be fourscore years, yet is bered.” their strength labour and sorrow;" labour in Let us add two additional reflections and the preserving, and sorrow in the possessing. conclude. And First, if life be like a fading
The body decays; the head bows down; the leaf, let us regard it accordingly, beauty consumes away; the hands cannot Let it prevent despair. If life be short, thy perform their enterprise; “the grinders cease troubles cannot, O Christian, be long! because they are few, and those that look out Let us also repress fear. It is little the of the windows be darkened.”—The powers most powerful can do, and before they strike of the mind partake also of the declension. they may fall. “I, even I am he that comSir Isaac Newton, before his death, could not forteth you: who art thou, that thou shouldest comprehend one of his own axioms! The be afraid of a man that shall die, and the son memory drops its treasures. The vigour of of man that shall be made as grass?" fancy fails. Judgment is dethroned. · Man Let it check envy. “Be not thou afraid at his best estate is altogether vanity." when one is made rich, when the glory of his
Such is the representation of human na- house is increased : for when he dieth he shall ture. For this extends to all; whether old carry nothing away : his glory shall not deor young, poor or rich, despised or honourable, scend after him. Fret not thyself hecause foolish or wise, yea wicked or righteous- of evil doers, neither be thou envious against “ We all do fade as a leaf.” And who is not the workers of iniquity, for they shall soon be ready to say with David, “Wherefore hast cut down as the grass, and wither as the thou made all men in vain ?" But to enable us green herb.". to judge properly in this case, and to vindi- Let it moderate your attachments and decate the Divine perfections and providence- pendence. Make what use you can of a leaf
, Let us remember,
but do not lean upon it for support; do not First, That this state of frailty and vanity hold your estate by it. Regard your present was not the original state of man; but the possessions and comforts as vain and vanishconsequence of transgression. God made ing; and detach your affections from things man upright and immortal; but “ by one man below. “Wilt thou set thy heart on that sin entered into the world, and death by sin, which is not ?" Parents! view your chiland so death hath passed upon all men, be- dren as uncertain delights. Husbands! recause all have sinned."
member how easily the desires of your eyes And, Secondly, That it is not his only may be removed from you.—To-day we have state. There is another life to which the friends and relations, to-morrow we are alone present is introductory, and in connexion like a sparrow upon the house-top. with which it should always be considered. And oh! bring it home to yourselves you The one is the way; the other is the end. are going as well as your comforts. Reflect The one is the seed time; the other is the upon your frailty-not only at a funeral, or harvest. The one is a state of probation; the under sickness, or in old age—but habitually other of retribution.
—and immediately. To what purpose is it Thirdly, The vanity and brevity of the to put the evil day far off in apprehension, present life, if wisely improved, is advantage- when it is so near in reality ? * Boast not ous with regard to the future.
thyself of to-morrow, for thou knowest not It furnishes us with no inconsiderable proof what a day may bring forth. Go to now, ye of a world to come. Every thing in such a that say, to-day or to-morrow we will go into state as this being unanswerable to our facul- such a city, and continue there a year, and ties, our wants, and our desires; we are con- buy and sell, and get gain; whereas ye know strained to look out for another.
not what shall be on the morrow. For what is
your life? It is even a vapour that appeareth gods; and played the harlot with many for a little time and then vanisheth away.' lovers." Hence the calamities which befell
Let me then ask you, How do matters them. But while these calamities were the stand with regard to another world? Are effects of sin, they were also the means of you born again? Have you a title to heaven bringing them to a proper state of mind. or a meetness for it? The grand question is They are therefore considered eventually as -not " what shall I eat, or what shall I mercies; and are spoken of not in a way of drink, or wherewithal shall I be clothed ?"- threatening, but promise : “ Therefore, bebut " what must I do to be saved ?" You hold, I will hedge up thy way with thorns, should be principally concerned—not for to- and make a wall, that she shall not find her morrow_but for eternity. Tomorrow may paths. And she shall follow after her lovers, never come; eternity will. May the Lord but she shall not overtake them; and she shali prepare us for it!-"So teach us to number seek them, but shall not find them: then our days that we may apply our hearts unto shall she say, I will go and return to my first wisdom."
husband; for then was it better with me than Let us remember, Secondly, that all is not now." fading. “All flesh is grass, and all the But what is all this to us? Much every glory of man as the flower of grass. The way. “ Whatsoever things were written grass withereth, and the flower thereof fadeth aforetime, were written for our learning; away ; but the word of the Lord endureth for that we, through patience and comfort of the ever: and this is the word which, by the Scripture, might have hope.” God has a peoGospel
, is preached unto you." ---By means of ple for his name in all ages. And Christians this everlasting word, you are informed of a stand in the same relation to him now as SAVIOUR, who is the same yesterday, to-day, the Jews did of old. And are we better than and for ever-of durable riches-of bags they? In no wise. And were not God's which wax not old-of a crown of life-of dealings with them designed to be typical of "an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, his dealings with us? They were: and in and that FADETH NOT AWAY.'
reading their history, we may peruse our “Let us therefore fear, lest, a promise be-own. ing left us of entering into his rest, any of Let us then endeavour to explain and imyou should seem to come short of it." prove the words as applicable to ourselves.
They do not indeed require much explana
tion. For when God says—"I will hedge DISCOURSE XXXIV. up thy way with thorns," it is obvious that he
means- I will perplex them, embarrass them;
pierce them through with many sorrows. THE DESIGN OF AFFLICTION. There is another hedge which God raises for
his people, and of which we read in the Therefore, behold, I will hedge up thy way Scripture it is the hedge of PROTECTION. with thorns, and make a wall, that she shall Thus, speaking of Israel as a vineyard, says not find her paths. And she shall follow af- God, “I will take away the hedge thereof;". ter her lovers, but she shall not overtake thereby laying it open to the intrusion of them ; and she shall seek them, but shall not beasts and travellers. And thus, when Satan find them : then shall she
say, I will go and return to my first husband;
for then was it surveyed the condition of Job, he saw that he better with me than now.-Hosea ii. 6, 7.
could not touch him without Divine permis
sion—“ Hast not thou made an hedge about The language of Scripture is very figura- him, and about his house, and about all that tive. And herein lies much of its excellency i he hath, on every side? and utility. For since we derive our know- But the hedge here spoken of is the hedge ledge through the medium of the senses, in of affliction, composed of some of those thorns no other way could spiritual truths so easily and briers which sin has so plentifully proand forcibly lay hold of the mind.
duced in this wilderness world. And the Nothing is more common in the prophecies metaphor is taken from a husbandman, who, than to express the relation between God and to keep his cattle in the pasture, and prevent the Jews of old by the alliance of marriage. their going astray, fences them in; and the He was considered as their husband. Hence sharper the hedge the better. Thus God rethey were laid under peculiar obligations to solves to make our rovings difficult. If we him; and hence their sins had the character will go astray, we must smart for it. “Now of violating the marriage contract.
what hast thou to do in the way of Egypt, to They were commanded to worship the drink the waters of Sihor ? or what hast thou Lord alone; and Him only were they to to do in the way of Assyria, to drink the waserve. But, alas ! “ they often declined from ters of the river? Thine own wickedness his ways, and hardened their heart from his shall correct thee, and thy backslidings shall fear;" or, to use the language of the meta- reprove thee : know therefore and see that it phor : “They went a whoring after other I is an evil thing and bitter, that thou hast forsaken the Lord thy God, and that my fear is ter her lovers, but she shall not overtake not in thee, saith the Lord God of hosts." them; and she shall seek them, but shall not
But he adds—“I will make a wall, that find them: then shall she say, I will go and she shall not find her paths.” This is an return to my first husband; for then was it other image to convey the same truth, only better with me than now.” with this addition--that if lighter afflictions From the passage thus briefly explained, fail of their end, God will employ heavier. let us glance at four things. The First reThey may be foolhardy enough to break minds us of OUR DEPRAVITY. The Second, through the thorns, and may go on though of the DIVINE GOODNESS AND CARE. The wounded and bleeding—but they shall not Third, of THE BENEFIT OF AFFLICTION. And get over the wall—I have stones as well as the Fourth, OF THE DIFFERENCE THERE IS brambles- I will present insuperable difficul- BETWEEN OUR ADHERING TO GOD, AND OUR ties. Yes, God can deprive us of liberty; he DEPARTING FROM HIM. can reduce our means; he can deprive us of I. We are reminded of OUR DEPRAVITY. health and property; he can take away the It appears in our proneness to go astray. desires of our eyes with a stroke; and easily There is in us an “evil heart of unbelief in and effectually stop us in all the ardour of departing from the living God.” We trans our schemes and enterprises.
fer to the creature those regards which are It shows us what a variety of troubles God due only to the Creator. We fear other has to dispose of; afflictions of all kinds and things more than God; we love other things of all degrees; suited to our natural dispo- more than God. We make friends, and fame, sition and our moral perverseness. It shows and fortune, our dependence; and withdraw us also our obstinacy; that God is compelled our hope and confidence from Him who is to deal with us as with brutes, who are not the only portion of his people. Thus they to be governed by reason and ingenuous become our idols. motives, but require blows and restraints. And these are our lovers, who profess to So foolish are we and ignorant, so much are give us “our bread and our water, our wool we like a beast before him, that we must be and our flax, our oil and our drink." These hedged in with thorns, and confined in with are the rivals of the Supreme Being; and, a wall.
alas! they are too often successful, and draw At length, wearied to find their paths, and away our hearts from God. Our backslidunable to overtake their lovers, they are con- ings are many. For let us not deceive our. vinced of their folly, take shame to them- selves. Let us not judge of our declensions selves, and resolve to go back. To this they only by gross acts, but by the state of our are excited not only by present distress, but minds. It is indeed a mercy if we have been by former pleasure. They remember the preserved from those scandalous falls which happiness they once enjoyed in the service would disgrace our profession. But where of God-and say, “What have I any more to none of these vices have appeared in the life, do with idols ? I will go and return to my there have been many deviations from God first husband; for then was it better with me in our thoughts, and affections, and pursuits. than now."
By this therefore we should try ourselves. Thus it was with the prodigal. He had For in proportion as we “ love the world, the destroyed his reputation, and wasted his sub- love of the Father is not in us.” And in the stance among harlots and in riotous living; same degree that we “make flesh our arm, he had reduced himself to the most abject our heart will always depart from the Lord.” condition, and lived on the husks which the II. But our depravity is not more observswine did eat, and no man gave unto him. able than THE DIVINE GOODNESS AND CARE. One day—a thought of home struck him—he For while we are thus perpetually roving instantly formed a comparison between his from him—what does he ?' Does he destroy present and his former circumstances—he us? No. Does he abandon us to ourselves, recollected the honour that attended him be- saying, They are joined to idols; let them fore his wanderings; the plenty that crowned alone? No--but he employs means, various his father's board; how much was always means to hinder and to reclaim us. “I will taken away from the table, yea, how much hedge up thy way with thorns, and make a even the servants left;-and sighed—and wall, that she shall not find her paths; and said—“How many hired servants of my fa- she shall follow after her lovers, and shall ther's have bread enough and to spare—and not overtake them: and she shall seek them, I perish with hunger :-I will arise and go but shall not find them." to my father, and will say unto him, Father, And why does he make use of all these I have sinned against heaven and before thee, various expedients ? Is it because he stands and am no more worthy to be called thy son; in need of us ?—no—but because we stand make me as one of thy hired servants"- in need of him, and can do nothing without “Therefore, behold, I will hedge up thy way his counsels and his comforts—because he is with thorns, and make a wall, that she shall very pitiful and of tender mercy-because he not find her paths. And she shall follow af-l is concerned for our everlasting welfare
because he would not have us deceived, en- cessive messages of the word "Go," says snared, destroyed-because he would not God to some fiery trial, “ go and consume have us take up with this world as our por- such an enjoyment—and he will soon be with tion, but keep our eye upon a better, even a me; soon be upon his knees, saying, 'Do not heavenly country, and confess ourselves to be condemn me; show me wherefore thou constrangers and pilgrims in the earth. tendest with me. Why am I thus? Lord,
And when the believer comes to himself, what wilt thou have me to do?'” and considers these dealings of God with But here we particularly see that afflictions him, he exclaims, " • Lord, what is man, that are intended to be spiritual preventions they thou art mindful of him, or the son of man, are “ to keep man from his purpose.” The that thou shouldest visit him!'. What am I, people of God are not always aware of this to engross the attention of the Almighty! at first, and therefore, when they meet with Am I worthy of all these pains ? Can I ever these obstructions, they sometimes fret, and bring forth fruit to reward this expense of think they do well to be angry even unto cultivation? What is man, that thou death: they think he is their enemy, while shouldest magnify him? And that thou he is proving himself to be their friend; and shouldest set thine heart upon him; and that that he is opposing their progress, when he is thou shouldest visit him every morning, and only hindering their wanderings. Disappointtry him every moment ?!”
ments in favourite wishes are trying, and we III. This brings us to remark THE BENEFIT, are not always wise enough to recollectOF AFFLICTION. This benefit might be ex- that disappointments in time are often the emplified several ways.
means of preventing disappointments in eterAfflictions are designed to be trials. They nity. Our murmurings and repinings arise evidence the reality and the degree of our from our ignorances: we see not the precipice religion both to ourselves and others. When and the pit on the other side of the hedge or a person is surrounded with worldly posses- of the wall
. sions and enjoyments, it is not easy for him I wish you therefore, above all things, to to determine whether he is leaning on these remember, that it is a most singular mercy or on God. But let them be removed, and for God to render the pursuit of sin difficult. his reliance will quickly appear. If he is If we are going astray is it not better to placing his dependence on these, he will have the road tlled with thorns than strewed sink when they are removed. But if while with flowers? Is it not better to have it he uses them, and is thankful for them, he rough and uninviting, than smooth and allurstill makes God “the strength of his heart, ing? If there are certain things in us, the and his portion for ever,” he will not faint in destruction of which is equally necessary and the day of adversity; but be able to say with difficult—is it a blessing to have them fed, or former sufferers, “ We are troubled on every to have them starved? There are some who side, yet not distressed: we are perplexed, are now rejoicing because their plans succeed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not for- and everything favours their wishes, who, if saken; cast down, but not destroyed. Al they knew all, would see awful reason to though the fig-tree shall not blossom, neither weep and mourn--And there are others, who, shall fruit be in the vines; the labour of the if they knew all, would no longer be sorrowolive shall fail, and the fields shall yield no ful because they cannot advance, but are meat; the flocks shall be cut off from the checked in every path they tread. They fold, and there shall be no herd in the stalls: would see that they are chastened of the yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will joy in Lord, that they may not be condemned with the God of my salvation.”
the world. They would see that the loss Afflictions are excitements. They quicken of creatures is to lead them to ask more earto the exercise of grace, and to the perform- nestly for “ God their maker, who giveth ance of duty. When Absalom wished to songs in the night.” They would see that see Joab, he sent him a messenger, but he the sickness of the body is designed to be the would not come-he sent a second time, but cure of the soul. They would see that earth he still refused. Well, what was he to do is imbittered, that heaven may be endeared. now ?-Says Absalom to his servants, “See, Such a discovery of the design and conseJoab's field is near mine, and he hath barley quences of these exercises would change the there-go and set it on fire;" and he will whole face of the dispensation, and lead them soon come to know the reason. And so it not only to submit but to give thanks. fell out: “ Then Joab arose and came to But how awful is it when afflictions are Absalom, unto his house, and said unto him, useless; and even medicine is administered Wherefore have thy servants set my field on in vain! And there are those, who, like fire ?" Why, says Absalom, Not because I Ahaz in distress, sín more and more against wished to do thee an injury, but wanted an God. When He arms himself to withstand interview, and could obtain it in no other them in their mad career, they “ rush upon way. Thus, when we become indifferent to the thick bosses of his backler.". If they communion with God, and disregard the suc- cannot pierce the hedge or the wall by which
he opposes them, they will lie down in sullen | lieving, I entered into rest. Under every obstinacy and sin " as they can”—to use the accusation, he was near that justified me. In words of the prophet, rather than yield. every duty, and in every trial, he encouraged “ Thou hast stricken them, but they have me by saying, My grace is sufficient for thee: not grieved; thou hast consumed them, but I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.' they have refused to receive correction ; they Now I only see my sins and my enemies, have made their faces harder than a rock- but where is the Saviour and the helper they have refused to return."
then was it better with me than now ! But this shall not be the case with the Once I experienced the gracious influences people of God. The grace which employs of his Holy Spirit. By these I was enliventhe means will render them effectual. They ed, refreshed, and enlightened. I saw clearly shall not only feel—but reflect—and resolve. the path of duty. I could harmonize provi“ Then shall she say, I will go and return to dences and promises. I claimed the privimy first husband, for then was it better with lege of a child and an heir of God. But now me than now !"
the Comforter, who should relieve my soul, IV. We observe THE DIFFERENCE THERE is far from me. I have grieved the Holy IS BETWEEN OUR ADHERING TO GOD, AND OUR Spirit of God, by which I was sealed unto FORSAKING HIM. Behold the declining Chris- the day of redemption—Then was it better tian seduced by the world. When he was with me than now! O what enlargements beginning to deviate-many a Samuel cried, of soul had I in his ordinances! How often “ Turn ye not aside: for then shall ye go did I find the sanctuary to be no less than the after vain things, which cannot profit or house of God, and the gate of heaven! How deliver ;-for they are vain.” But he disre- sweet was his word to my taste, yea sweeter garded the friendly counsel. Others had than honey to my lips ! What a feast did I been drawn into this unhappy course; and enjoy at his table! His flesh was meet inthey had all told him the confusion and re- deed, and his blood was drink indeed !gret with which it had been attended.-But Then was it better with me than now ! he would also try for himself—and, says God, And oh! with what cheerfulness I carried my Let him try—“ that he may know my ser- cross! I could even glory in tribulation also; vice and the service of the kingdoms of the for as the sufferings abounded, the consolacountries." By-and-by he heard a voice say- tions did also much more abound. The storin ing—“O that they had hearkened to my without raged in vain—for all was peace commandments ! then had their peace been within—but now conscience knaws me like as a river, and their righteousness as the waves a worm-and the promises which should be of the sea !-Have I been a wilderness unto my support, are neither within reach nor Israel ? A land of darkness? Wherefore say within sight— Then was it better with me my people, We are lords; we will come no than now!' There was a time that I could more unto thee?"
see him not only in ordinances, but also in And now he bethinks himself, and begins providences; not only in his word, but also to compare the present with the past. “How in his works. I could enjoy him in my creadifferent the scorching sands, the briers, and ture comforts. I relished his love in my serpents of this desert, from the green pas- daily food; I saw his goodness in all my contures in which I once fed, and the still waters nexions: but now I know not whether any by which I once refreshed my weary soul! thing I possess is sent in wrath or mercy,
1 o that it was with me as in months past.' can find him in nothing : • Behold, I go forOnce I walked with God. I could behold ward, but he is not there; and backward, but his face with confidence. The glory of the I cannot perceive him; on the left hand, Lord was risen upon me, and I walked all the where he doth work, but I cannot behold him: day long in the light of his countenance, he hideth himself on the right hand, that ! • Then was it better with me than now!' cannot see him !? Once I had free access to the throne of grace. “I cannot fully describe my case. All I I approached it with humble and holy bold- know is and this I feel by an experience ness; and there are many places that can too bitter to be expressed—that it is not with witness to the tears of joy and sorrow with me as it-once was !" which I poured out my soul before God. But Some of these feelings, in a lower degree, now the recollection fills me with dismay. are common to an apostate professor, who I have now little heart to pray. Conscience has left off to be wise and to do good. But indeed drags me along to the duty, but I enter the experience of such a man differs exthe presence of my God with a slavish fear ceedingly from the feelings of a backsliding or a chilling indifference Then was it bet- believer; for the judgment of the believer ter with me than now!' Once I had sweet was never drawn over from the Lord's side, communion with the Saviour of sinners. though it was not suffered for a time to be When oppressed with a sense of guilt, I saw heard; and he has enjoyments to look back the all-sufficiency of his sacrifice, and the upon which a stranger never intermeddled perfection of his righteousness, and by be- with. He can remember not only the dread