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Nehemiah prays—the king's heart is softened in a moment.
Paul and Silas pray-the prison shakes; the door opens ; every man's bands are loosed.
SERMO AD OLERUM-CLERICAL AND SEOULAR EMPLOYMENT,
" And he left the oxen.”—1 Kings 19: 20. The text is spoken of the prophet Elisha, who lived about nine hundred
years before Christ. He was, as we learn from the context, a man of property; a farmer of substantial eharacter, who oversaw his own workmen, and assisted in the operations. “ He was ploughing with twelve yoke of oxen, and he with the twelfth.” This marks his importance, and the extent of his agricultural business. He was no mean man; no insignificant farmer; and no idler waiting for an adventure in order to better his condition ; but a man of note in his day; a man of means, and a man of industry and energy. But when Elijah passed by him, and cast his mantle upon him, he
left the oxen. All of them; as well the yoke he drove himself, as the eleven others that went before. He did not even stop to give instructions in regard to the continuance of the work, or the putting out of the crop.
All that was declined by him, and devolved upon other parties. His avocation was honorable; it was useful; and it was profitable; but he left it all, to accept a higher position ; to engage in a nobler calling. His Master had a better work, and a more glorious reward.
He left the handles of the plough for the mantle of the prophet. He did it instantly. There was no hesitation; no weighing of considerations. He left the oxen. Not that he despised manual labor, or honest industry, but because he was CALLED. The call was divine, and must be obeyed. It required his entire time and thoughts, and could not be fulfilled by a partial attention. He could not prophesy as he ploughed, therefore he LEFT the oxen. He did not take them with him. He had no use for them in his new vocation. Other instrumentalities were to be used. Those he left would pass into other hands. He left the oxen. The separation was final; he never came back. His life was long and eminent, and much checkered by vicissitudes of fortune, but Elisha never returned to the plough. His inclination did not incline him; his health did not require it; and the necessities of life did not compel him. Called to be a prophet, he magnified his office, and his office supported him, or God supported him in it. He was not rich, but he was not in want. And when he was offered rich gifts, he declined them positively and promptly. God provided him with all things necessary. He left the oxen, but he did not starve or beg his bread. And in his case was illustrated the saying of the Psalmist : “I have been young and now am old, yet have I never seen the righteous forsaken, or his seed begging bread.”
His eminence was distinguished, and his mission marked, by God's signal favor. None more so. His name lives, and will live forever, in the oracles of inspiration and the praises of the saints-in time, and when time shall be no more.
What it would have been, had he not left the oxen, we can only surmise. Or what, had he left them and returned, we may only speculate. We will not be wise above what is written. Let the text teach its own lesson. A few practical observations in conclusion:
INFERENCE. From this subject, we infer—
1. That no one should leave his oxen for the ministry unless he is divinely called.
2. That being so called, he should leave them promptly, heartily and entirely.
3. That having so left, he should never return, but devote himself wholly to the work of his ministry,
4. That if he do so faithfully, he will be crowned with success and honor.
“He that endureth to the end shall receive a crown of everlasting life.”
When we see a minister of the gospel engage in secular employment, we say to ourselves, he is going back to the oxen. When we see his sermons, in consequence, lose their interest, and degenerate into the 'mere assertion of unquestioned platitudes, or equally unprofitable declamation, we inquire-- Why does he not leave the oxen? When the audience becomes sparse, the support small, and the interest less, we think-Will he not leave the oxen? When we find the congregation growing still smaller, the dissatisfaction increasing, and the support diminishing, until it is wholly inadequate, and the poor pastor leaving from sheer necessity, to seek another field, we are sick at heart, and mentally say, Why did he not leave the oxen ? — Christian Observer.
OHRIST OLEANSING THE HEART-TEMPLE.
In what a turmoil and confusion did our blessed Lord find the Temple when he entered it on a certain time of the Passover! A noisy crowd of money-changers and cattle-brokers are driving their selfish and sacrilegious traffic. Herds of oxen are lowing; sheep are bleating; cages of doves block up the way; the air is filled with the jabbering babel of traders' tongues, all eager to sell their beasts and birds for the sacrifice.
It is a terrible desecration of an edifice sacred to the Lord of heaven and earth.
Right among these noisy traffickers enters one who is greater than the Temple. Seizing the small rushes which were used for tying up the cattle, our Saviour twisted them into a "scourge” or whip, and drove out the whole crowd of profane intruders. The tables of the money-changers are overturned; and to those who were turning the sanctuary into a pigeon-house, the Divine Master says: “Take these hence! make not my Father's house a house of merchandise !" The temple is cleansed in an instant. Not, of course, by the terror inspired by a small whip in a single hand; but by a supernatural authoritythe authority of the Divine Messiah, which asserted itself in such a manner that the sacrilegious rabble moved off, convicted of their wrong, and overawed by the rebuke of that sovereign who was "Lord also of the temple."
In this striking scene I find a parable, full of spiritual instruction. The soul of every Christian is a temple. It becomes such at the time of conversion. Formerly a habitation of the evil one, it becomes, by regeneration, a “habitation of God through the Spirit. As the stones on Mount Moriah were but common stones until they were consecrated to God's use, so the powers and affections of a sinner's heart become, through true conversion, a dwelling-place for Jesus. “Know ye not, says Paul, “ that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you? If any man defile the temple of God, him will God destroy, for the temple of God is holy; which temple ye are.” What a glorious idea this presents of a faithful follower of Christ. His heart is a sanctuary of the Spirit-full of holy thoughts and devout aspirations. Not a gloomy cloister ; but a tabernacle of praise, with strains of lofty melody pealing through the arches, and the sweet incense of gratitude ascending from the altars. The mercy-seat of prayer is thero ; and the flames of love, consuming the offerings, send forth the savor of a sweet smell."
But alas ! how often is this inner temple of the believer profaned by intruders as sacrilegious as they who brought their beasts, and birds, and bullion into the sacred edifice on Mount Moriah! Selfishness brings its herd of sinful schemes into the apartments which belong to Christ alone. Gradually, and under fair pretenses, self edges—first into the outer courts, and then into the very sanctum of the soul. But into this profane heart how often does the loving Jesus come with the scourge of sharp chastisements ! How often does he twist the very plans of our selfishness into a thong to smite us! Selfishness becomes its own retribution. Our pride, too, is often fearfully scourged by humiliations and mortifications and exposures. Poor boastful Peter! What a scourging did his self-conceit receive in Pilate's garden. And what a terrible whip of retribution did David's lust receive, when the child of his guilt lay dead before his weeping eyes. It was to purify, and not to destroy, that the chastening Lord entered those heart-temples. And our pitying Saviour, when he weaves out of our sins a scourge to punish us, only carries out his discipline of nercy. Whom he loveth he chasteneth; and scourgeth (observe the word)—scourgeth every child whom he receiveth.
We could point to hundreds of church members into whose hearttemple covetousness has intruded and set up its tables of traffic, in despite of that solemn caution, “Ye cannot serve God and Mammon." Such men are eaten up by the greed of gain ; they are thoroughly worldly-minded and unspiritualized. The heart that was once a tem
ple has become a warehouse or a broker's office. Let such backsliding professors look out for the scourge! Perhaps it may come in a sore spiritual distress; perhaps in commercial disaster, which shall overturn the tables and scatter the hoards of coveted wealth. In 1857 the Lord entered into the American Church with the scourge of commercial chastisements, and threw down the tables of traffic in terrible bankruptcies; but it was to prepare the way for the most glorious revivals known in this century. What was the meaning of the late war, but the entrance of Christ into a profaned temple, where the foul demon of slavery had been allowed to entrench himself behind the very altar.
Sinful ambition is another intruder into the heart sanctuary. “Seekest thou great things for thyself? Seek them not !" But in spite of this tender warning, ambition gets possession; until at length the indignant Master enters to overthrow our guilty schemes, with the stern rebuke, “ Take these things hence;" “ he that exalteth himself shall be abased.” Methinks that some of us may have set up domestic idols in the temple of the heart. We loved them more than we loved Him who
And when the scourge came-came, too, in an unlooked-for hour-it drew the heart's blood! The surgery of bereavement was terrible. The death-query sounded through the innerchamber, while the Master was carrying off our idols. But, when the idol was gone, there was more for Him to whom the whole heart had once been promised. When our loved ones are taken, then, like the sisters of Bethany, we send for the FRIEND who had been quite too much forgotten or neglected before. Blessed be the chastisements, however bitter, which purify the heart for Jesus. Blessed be the scourge, if it is only in that hand which was once pierced for our redemption! Love never gives one blow too many, or too hard.
There is one other thought worth noting here, if it be not too close a torturing of the very words of the inspired narrative. You will observe that when Christ cleansed the temple of intruders, he“ made a scourge of small cords.” He wove the little withes that laid about the floors into the shape of chastisement. So does that same loving Lord now employ little trials as well as great bereavements, in the spiritual discipline of his people. Many a Christian has a daily vexation to try , his patience or to punish his besetting sins. Little pains, little annoyances, little discomforts, are as much a part of our discipline as are the formidable adversities that occasionally smite us like hurricanes. Little vexations often creep into the secret places, and, by finding out the sore spots, discover to us our faults. Let us not despise the chastening of our Divine Physician and purifier, when he sends small trials as well as great ones to test our graces or to drive out our sins. Remember that it was with a scourge of small cords the Lord of the temple expelled the profane intruders from his dwelling place. Better, far better, to bear the scourge of little cords, when laid on by the hand of love, than to endure the whip of scorpions in that world where punishment can torture and sting, but may never purify.—Rev. T. L. Cuyler.
THE PRACTICAL VALUE OF THE PSALMS.
It is not a little remarkable that the Psalms, in the estimation of religious persons, hold substantially the same place in the clearer light of the Christian dispensation which they did under the comparatively obscure Hebrew economy, and that with all the additional light which has been imparted under the Christian revelation, the Psalms have not been superseded. The Christian looks to the Psalms with an interest as intense as did the ancient Jew; and as expressive of personal religious experience, as well as for the purpose of a manual for worship, the Psalms are selected by the Christian, from the whole Bible, as they were by the Jew from the books in his possession—the Old Testament. As such, they will retain their value in all times to come, nor will there ever be in our world such an advance in religious light, experience, and knowledge, that they will lose their relative place as connected with the exercises of practical piety. How far this fact is to be regarded as a proof that the authors of the Psalms were inspired; that there was communicated to them a knowledge of the principles and workings of true piety, so in advance of their own age as to be on a level with what will be possessed in the most advanced periods of religious culture; that there must have been an influence on their minds, in composing the Psalms, beyond anything derived from mere poetic genius, is a question which must occur to all reflecting minds. It is a fair question to propose to one who doubts the inspiration of the Psalms, how he will account for this fact, consistently with his idea that the authors of the Psalms were men endowed only as other men of genius are, and with the acknowledged fact that they lived in an age when the views of truth in the world were comparatively obscure. How did it happen that a Hebrew bard, in the matter of deep religious experience and knowledge, placed himself so high as to be a guide to mankind in all coming times, after a new revelation should have been introduced to the world, and after all the attainments which men would have made in the knowledge of religion and of the human heart?
The special value of the Psalms arises (a) from the fact that they are adapted to the worship of God; (b) from the fact that they are records of deep religious experience.
(a) As adapted to the worship of God. For this many of them were originally designed in their very composition; to this the entire book seems to have been intentionally adapted by those who made the collection. It is not necessary to suppose that these sacred songs comprise the whole of the Hebrew lyrical poetry, for as we know that some of the books mentioned in the Old Testament, though inspired, accomplished their purpose and have been lost, so it may have been in regard to a portion of the lyrical poetry of the Hebrews. Mauy.of the words of the Saviour, though all that he spoke was pure truthtruth such as no other man ever spoke—truth such as the Spirit of God imparts—were lost from not having been recorded (John 21: 25); and in like manner it may have been that truths which were written may have accomplished their purpose, and have passed away. But, if