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CCCCV. A WORD IN SEASON,
Isaiah 1. 10, 11. Who is among you that feareth the Lord, that
obeyeth the voice of his servant, that walketh in darkness, and hath no light? Let him trust in the name of the Lord, and stay upon his God. Behold, all ye that kindle a fire, that compass yourselves about with sparks: walk in the light of your fire, and in the sparks that ye have kindled. This shalt ye have of my hand, ye shall lie down in sorrow.
OUR blessed Lord was thoroughly furnished for the great work he had undertaken: he had “ the tongue of the learned to speak a word in season” to every character. In the days of his flesh he encouraged the weary, and heavy-laden with most affectionate invitations: but against the proud and persecuting Pharisees he denounced the heaviest woes. Thus also he did in the passage before us.
It is in his name that the Prophet speaks: it was he“ who gave his back to the smiters," and encountered all his enemies with a full assurance of final success: and he it is who, in the text, proclaims I. Comfort to the desponding
There are some of God's people, who, notwithstanding their integrity, walk in a disconsolate and desponding frame
[For the most part, the ways of religion are ways of pleasantness and peace; though there may be found some exceptions to this general rule-Not but that real and unmixt religion must of necessity make men happy: but there are some, whose views of divine truth are clouded, whose souls are harassed with the temptations of Satan, and who are at the same time too much under the influence of unbelief, who are not haps py; notwithstanding they truly “fear God, and conscientiously obey his voice, they are in darkness and have no light;" at least, their hope is so faint and glimmering, that it scarcely affords them any support at all—If we were not able to assign any reason for the divine conduct in this particular, it would be quite sufficient for us to know, that God never suffers his people to be “in heaviness through manifold temptations,” except when he sees some peculiar “necessity for such a dispensation towards them-]
a 1 Pet. i. 6.
But to them is directed the most encouraging advice
(Let not such persons say, “ The Lord hath forsaken and forgotten me:”b let them not conclude, that because theit hemisphere is dark, it shall never be light; (for “light is sown for the righteous," though it may not instantly spring up) but " let them trust in the name of the Lord, and stay upon their God”—The name of the Lord is a strong tower, whither they may run, and in which they may find safety_In the most distressing circumstances let them “ encourage themselves in the Lord their God:”e and if he appear to frown, still let them say with Job, Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him?
- And whenever disquieting thoughts arise, let them chide their unbelief, as David did;s and determine, if they perish; to perish at the foot of the cross, pleading for mercy in the name of Jesus—]
To persons, however, of a different description the Lord changes his voice; and speaks II. Terror to the secure
While some are disquieted without a cause, there are others causelessly secure
[To“ kindle å fire and compass ourselves with its sparks”? seems a natural and obvious expression for seeking our own ease and pleasure: and this may be done, either by selfpleasing endeavours to “ establish a righteousnesss of our own, instead of submitting to the righteousness of God;” or by giving up ourselves to worldly occupations and carnal enjoy, ments 5-Now they, who find all their satisfaction iny one or other of these ways, are very numerous; while they who serve. God in sincerity, but walk in darkness, are comparatively very few:h and so persuaded are they, for the most part, of the happy issue of their conduct, that they will scarcely listen to any thing which may be spoken to undeceive them —But, how numerous or confident soever they may be, their state is widely different from what they apprehend-] To them God addresses a most solemn warning
[Sometimes, when the obstinacy of men renders them almost incorrigible, God speaks to them in a way of ironym Here he bids thein go on in their own way, and get
all the comfort they can; but warns them withal what doom they must assuredly expect at his hands-Precisely similar to this is his
b Isai. xlix. 14. c Ps. xcvii. 11. d Prov. xviii. 10.
& Ps xlii. 11. & 'This is strongly intimated in the text,“ Who is, &c.? Behold, ali VOL. IV:
warning to the same description of persons in the book of Ecclesiastesi-And how awfully is it often realized in a dying hour! When they are lying on a bed of “ sickness, how much wrath and sorrow” are mixed in their cup! And, the very instant they depart out of the body, what “ tribulation and anguish" seize hold upon them! Alas! who can conceive what it is to lie down in everlasting burnings? Yet thus shall their lamp be extinguished; and their sparks of created comfort be succeeded by a fire that shall never be quenched
We cannot conclude this subject better than by di. recting the attention of all to two important truths connected with it 1. To believe God's word is our truest wisdom
[What advice can be given to a disconsolate soul better than that administered in the text? We may “ offer thousands of rams, or ten thousands of rivers of oil; yea, we may give our first-born for our transgression, the fruit of our body for the sin of our soul;" but we can never attain comfort in any other way than by an humble trust in the promises of God: we must, even against hope, believe in hope:"'m our “ joy and peace must come by believing"-Nor is there less folly in arguing against the threatenings of God, than in questioning his promises- If God say respecting those who rest in self-righteous observances, or carnal enjoyments, that they shall lie down in sorrow, our disbelief of it will not make void his word: it will come to pass, even if the whole creation should unite to oppose it-Though men therefore may account it folly to believe the word of God, let us reinember, that it is our truest wisdom; and that, withoat an humble affiançe in it, we cannot be happy either in time or eter: nity-] 2. To obey God's word is our truest happiness
[We cannot have a more unfavourable picture of religion, nor a more favourable view of a carnal state, than in the text: yet who would hesitate which state to prefer? Who would not rather be “ altogether such as Paul," notwithstanding his chain, than be like Festus or Agrippa on their thrones?" Who would not rather be in the destitute condition of Lazarus, and attain his end, than live as Dives for a little time, and then want a drop of water to cool his tongue?'_Yes, the most afflictive circumstances of a religious man are infinitely preferable, all things considered, to the most prosperous state which an ungodly man can enjoy: the one sows in tears to reap in joy; and the other sows the wind to reap the whirlwind
i Eccl. xi, 9,
k Eccl. v. 17.
I Job xviii. 5, 6.
Let us then be persuaded that to serve God is to consult our truest happiness, and that in keeping his commandments there is great reward
9 Ps. xix. 11.
CCCCVI. THE FOLLY OF CREATURE-CONFIDENCE,
Hos. v. 13. When Ephraim saw his sickness, and Judah saru
his wound, then went Ephraim to the Assyrian, and sent to king Fareb: yet could he not heal you, nor cure you of your wound.
MEN continually provoke God to chastise them, but rarely make a due improvement of his chastisements. Instead of turning to God, they dishonour him more by applying to the creature under their distress rather than to him. The ten tribes, when punished for their willing compliance with Jeroboam's edicts," sought repeatedly to the Assyrians for help instead of humbling themselves before God: but they found, as “ Judah” also did on simi. lar occasions, that their confidence in the creature served only to involve them in shame and disappointment.
Taking the text simply as an historical fact, we deduce from it two observations, which deserve our consideration, I. Men, in times of trouble, are prone to look to the
creature for help, rather than to God This was one of the most common and heinous sins of the Jewish nation and it is universal also amongst ourselves
a Ver. 11, 12. God consumed them as moih does a garment, or as rottermess the bones, secretly sluwly, gradually, effcctually.
b Sometimes they relied on Egypt; Isaiah xxx. 1-3. and xxxi. 1. Sometimes on Assyria (as Manahem did on Paul, 2 Kings xv. 19. and Ahaz did on Tiglath pilneser, 2 Kings xvi. 7.) and sometimes on themselves, Isaiah xxii. 8–11. “ Jareb” here certainly means the king of Assyria: but whether it was his proper name, or a name : given bim by the prophet, is uncertain. It means Defender, and might be applied to him.in a taunting manner. In this view it would be a very severe sarcasm. See_2 Chron. xxviii. 20.
1. In troubles of a temporal nature
[In sickness of body, we lean, like Asa, on the physician. In distress of mind, we complain and murmur; but forget to, pray. In straitened circumstances, we expect relief from friends, or our own exertions. God is invariably our last refuge.] 2. In spiritual troubles
[Under conviction of sin, we betake ourselves to the observance of duties, and make resolutions to amend our lives, instead of fleeing to Christ as the refuge of lost sinners. In seasons also of temptation, or desertion, we adopt a thousand expedients to remove our burthens, but will not cast them on the Lord. Though foiled ten thousand times, we cannot bring ourselves to lie as clay in the potter's hands; but will rest in the means, instead of looking simply to God in the use of means.]
But the longer we persist in it the more we shall find, that II. The creature cannot efford us any affectual succour
There are circumstances indeed wherein friends may be instrumental to our relief: but they can do 1. Nothing effectual
[The consolations which are administered by man, or by the vanities of this world, are poor empty, transient. Not the whole universe combined can ever bring a man to glory in tribulations, and to say with Paul, “I take pleasure in them for the sake of Christ:”'i as soon might they enable him to stop the sun in its course, as to reduce to experience the paradoxes of that holy apostle.k] 2. Nothing of themselves
[It is not a little humiliating to see how weak are man's endeavours to heal either the disorders of the body, or the troubles of the soul, when God is pleased to withhold his blessing. The best prescriptions, or the wisest counsels, are even lighter than vanity itself. Reasonings, however just and scriptural, have no weight: advice, however sweetened with love and sympathy, is rejected: the very grounds of consolation are turned into 'occasions of despair.! When God says, “ Let there be light," there is light: but till then, the soul is shut up in impenetrable darkness.m]
c 2 Chron. xvi. 12.
d Gen. iv. 13, 14.
e Isaiah lv. 2.