« PrécédentContinuer »
"difference there is between those who serve the Lord, and those who serve him not "." Let not this distinction then be made a subject of profane ridicule, but a motive to seek the Lord, that we may be numbered with his people, and be made partakers of his benefits.]
h Mal, iii. 18.
CONSOLATION FOR THE AFFLICTED.
Isai. li. 1-3, Hearken to me, ye that follow after righteousness, ye that seek the Lord: look unto the Rock whence ye are hewn, and to the hole of the pit whence ye are digged. Look unto Abraham your father, and Sarah that bare you: for I called him alone, and blessed him, and increased him. For the Lord shall comfort Zion: he will comfort all her waste places, he will make her wilderness like Eden, and her desart like the garden of the Lord: joy and gladness shall be found therein, thanksgiving, and the voice of melody.
AN attention to the voice of God in his word would comfort us under all troubles, and keep us stedfast amidst all the vicissitudes of life-God, anxious for the welfare of his people, says continually, Hearken to me, hearken to me - He has just before exhorted them, when walking in darkness, to trust in him-He now bids them bear in mind his former mercies, and expect yet richer blessings at his hands, when the destined period of their captivity shall have elapsed-Thus did God provide comfort for them against the day of their calamity-And the same comfort is reserved for all his people in their seasons of darkness or affliction--To obtain the consolation which the text is suited to convey, it will be proper to
I. What God has done for us already
The description given of God's people is sufficiently appropriate, and will distinguish them from all other people upon earth-They "seek" the favour of "the Lord," and "follow after" it with incessant care in the way of "righteousness"-But
They once had little prospect of ever attaining to the blessings they enjoy
[The Jewish nation was to descend from Abraham; but the promised seed was not given him till, according to the course of nature, there was no probability that his family should be increased-There was then little reason to expect that that nation ever should exist-Thus the people of God may look back the time that they were lying as stones in a quarry, and as clay in a pit-How little prospect was there then, that they should ever form a part of "God's spiritual building!"They were as blind, as stupid, as averse to God and holy exercises, as any people in the universe-If they "ran not to the same excess of riot" as others, they were restrained merely by the overruling providence of God, and not by any hatred of sin which they had more than others—]
Yet they are now "called and blessed" of the Lord
[The descendants of Abraham rapidly increased, and in process of time formed a very numerous and powerful nationWho that beheld them at their departure from Egypt would have imagined that, only four hundred years before, these two millions of people had no existence but in the loins of Abraham ?-And who, that sees a person now " following after righteousness," would imagine that he was once a determined enemy to God, and had a nature as corrupt as any of his fellow creatures?--Let the saints remember what they were, that they may see what "great things the Lord has done for them" Let them "walk softly all the days of their life" under a sense of their former guilt; and stand amazed at the goodness of their God, who has so distinguished them with his favour-]
Nor is this any thing more than an earnest of II. What he has engaged to do
As the church at large, so every individual member of it may be in very afflictive circumstances
[The Jews were reduced to the greatest distress during their captivity in Babylon; and their once fertile country was become a wilderness; nor could they remember Zion but with deep sorrow and regret-Thus the people of God at this time may be brought into great tribulation-Through persecution or temptation their "sorrows may be enlarged," and their joys be turned into pain and anguish--]
But God promises to interpose for them in the time of need
Rom. iii. 10—19. and viii. 7.
[He repeatedly foretold that he would deliver his people from their Babylonish captivity; and restore them with joy and triumph to their own land-This was a faint representation of what he would do for the true seed of Abraham under the Christian dispensation-He will revive his people with spiritual consolations-He will make their hearts, which now seem barren, or productive only of thorns, to be "fruitful in every good word and work"-Paradise itself, before sin had deformed its beauty, was a just emblem of what the soul shall be when God returns to visit it-The harp hung upon the willows shall be strung anew; "joy and gladness" shall succeed to the effusions of sorrow, and the groans of contrition yield to thanksgivings and the voice of melody"-Let but the afflicted soul tarry the Lord's leisure, and it shall surely experience the wished-for deliverance-]
To encourage all to confide in this promise, let us consider
III. In what respects the recollection of mercies received may strengthen our expectation of those that are promised
Nothing could be more animating to the Jews in Babylon than the recollection of what God had done in raising so flourishing a tree from the dead stock of Sarah's womb, and in continuing to water it for so many centuries, notwithstanding the bad fruit it had continued to produceNor can any thing be more consoling to us than a retrospective view of God's dealings with us-In them we may behold
1. His sovereign grace
[In every thing relative to the raising of the Jewish nation God displayed his sovereignty-And may we not behold the same in his choice of us? Why did he hew us out of the quarry, while such a mass of stone, equally fit for his purpose, was left behind?-Why did he "form us into vessels of honour," while so much of the very "same lump was left to form vessels of dishonour?"-Who shall deny the fact that such a selection has been made? or "Who shall say unto God, What doest thou?"-Shall any drooping saints then despond because of their unworthiness? Let them remember, that, as God never chose them for their superior worthiness, so he may still continue his favours towards them notwithstanding their unworthiness-His grace is still his own as much as ever; and, if they do but lament their unworthiness and cast themselves on his mercy, it shall still be glorified in their restoration and bliss
2. His almighty power
[As the Omnipotence of God was manifest in producing such a nation from two, whose "bodies were as good as dead,' so is it no less visible in the "quickening of those who are dead in sin," and forming" an host of living saints from those who were like dry bones scattered over the face of the earth". Can any then, who have been quickened by grace, doubt whether God be able to preserve or restore them?-Can any thing appear to them too hard for God?"-Surely though their souls appear at present only like a desert or a wilderness, they need "not stagger at the promises of God; but yet may entertain the hope that they may "blossom as the rose," yea, that they shall " put off their sackcloth, and gird them with gladness"-]
3. His unchanging faithfulness
[After God had promised to Abraham, he never would recede-Though he delayed, he did not forget his promiseAnd even when constrained to punish his people, he did not cast them off-Not even at this time are they finally abandoned; but are preserved a distinct people, monuments of God's faithfulness, and a seed for a future harvest-And is not every saint a distinguished monument of God's faithfulness? Would any one stone of God's building have withstood the shocks and tempests that have assaulted it, if God himself had not interposed to keep it fixed on the foundation ?—Would not every vessel of his sanctuary have been dashed in pieces times without number, if the potter himself had not averted the stroke or hardened us to endure it?-Where is there a saint who is not a wonder to himself, a spark kept alive in the midst of the ocean?-Well then may the faithfulness we have already experienced confirm our hope, that God" will never leave us nor forsake us"-And well may the most disconsolate of God's people wait, "knowing in whom they have believed," and assuredly expecting the promised revival-]
Let us HEARKEN to the advice given us in the text 1. Let us, both for our humiliation and comfort, review the dispensations of God's providence and grace towards us
2. Let us, under our heaviest trials, look forward to the season when God's promises shall receive their final accomplishment.
Apriler, 1866 CCXI. THE CHANGE WROUGHT BY THE GOSPEL. Isai. lv. 12, 13. For ye shall go out with joy, and be led forth with peace: the mountains and the hills shall break forth before you into singing, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands. Instead of the thorn shall come up the fir-tree, and instead of the brier shall come up the myrtle-tree: and it shall be to the Lord for a name, for an everlasting sign that shall not be cut off.
THE change wrought annually on the face of nature from desolation and barrenness to beauty and fruitfulness, is a lively representation of the change effected by the gospel of Christ. "The rain and the snow descending on the earth" nourish the whole vegetable creation, and cause every part of it to spring forth in its appointed season: and, in the same manner, "the word of God, dropping as the rain, and distilling as the dew" upon the souls of men, infuses life into them, and renders them fruitful in every good word and work. This is the parallel drawn by the prophet himself, who, expatiating on the subject, predicts, under the image of the Jews return from Babylon, the progress of the gospel in renovating the intellectual and spiritual world. His words will lead
us to consider
I. The effects of the preached gospel
The civilizing of the world is a very small part of the work which the gospel is intended to accomplish. It is
1. To inspire new feelings
[Man in his natural state is an entire stranger to spiritual joy, or solid peace. The peace that flows from a want of foresight or reflection, and the joy that consists in mere animal gratifications, he may possess: but he is as destitute of spiritual enjoyments, as the brute creation are of intellectual pleasure. His state however is wonderfully changed when he receives the word of God in truth. At first indeed he feels trouble and anguish; but as soon as ever he has a sense of his acceptance with God, his tears are wiped away, and "the bones which were broken rejoice." It frequently happens, especially where the preceding sorrows have been deep, that the joy which succeeds them is rapturous and abundant. The surprise of Peter, on the eve of his expected execution, was not unlike that of a new convert: suddenly, a light shone in upon