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the penitent. Which then would we wish to imitate? which would we prefer to be like? the prophet; or the Lord who sent him? selfish, vainglorious, peevish, passionate man; or the holy and good God?
The extreme folly of Jonali's conduct is placed in the more striking light by his own remarkable declaration : “I pray thee, O Lord was not this my saying, when I was yet in my country? Therefore I Aed before unto Tarshish: for I knew that thou art a gracious God, and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness, and repentest thee of the evil.” He had a just conception of the divine character. And yet how little had he studied to conform the thoughts of his own heart to the attributes he ascribed to God! How blind must passion have made him to the true state of the case, to his own foolishness and sinfulness, when he could thus account for his misconduct, and excuse his ill temper, by the consideration which of all others most aggravated his fault!' To denounce destruction against that great city, without any hope of its being spared, would have been indeed a painful office. "To preach the terrors of the Lord would be a duty almost too burdensome for the most faithful minister to discharge, if it were not that he is all the time fully aware of the boundless compass of God's mercy.
And truly we have a striking instance of the divine mercifulness, in God's dealings on this occasion with Jonah himself; in the pains He took to convince the prophet, and by him to convince us, how ill we do to fret and murmur at the divine dispensations. Here was a plant made to spring up out of the earth, that it might shade him from the heat, and comfort him as he sat watching what would become of the city, and brooding over that change of God's sentence, which he took to heart as an affront put upon himself.
• So Jonah was exceeding glad of the gourd.” And yet he little knew how much he was to be beholden to it. He little thought how it was that this welcome plant would be made a means to “deliver him from his grief.” It was not by the shade which it imparted to his body, but by the light which through God's word would strike upon his mind, when he again gave way to his angry temper at the pain he felt on the withering of the gourd. Our worldly comforts seldom do us so much good in respect of God, as when we lose them. In possession they are apt to make us vain instead of thankful, wilful instead of meek and soberminded. When they wither, then our hearts are more likely to be open to conviction; as we may bope that Jonah's was at last. His loss had indeed an especial signification, applicable, as a parable, to his especial case. But the use to which God applied it may well signify to us, that He does not willingly attict the children of men, and that as He had rather spare than punish, so also it is his object, in chastising us, to convince us of our sins, and lead us to repent, and pave the way to our forgiveness.
Micah proclaimeth God's judgments coming on his people. i The word of the Lord that howl, I will go stripped and came to Micah the Morasthite naked: I will make a wailing in the days of Jotham, Alaz, like the dragons, and mourning and Hezekiah, kings of Judah, as the owls. which he saw concerning Sama- 9 For her wound is incurable; ria and Jerusalem.
for it is come unto Judah; he 2 Hear, all ye people; heark- is come unto the gate of my en, O earth, and all that therein people, even to Jerusalem. is : and let the Lord God be 10 Declare ye it not at Gath, witness against you, the Lord weep ye not at all: in the house from his holy temple.
of Aphrah roll thyself in the 3 For, behold, the Lord com- dust. eth forth out of his place, and 11 Pass ye away, thou inhawill come down, and tread upon bitant of Saphir, having thy the high places of the earth. shame naked: the inhabitant
4 And the mountains shall be of Zaanan came not forth in molten under him, and the val- the mourning of Beth-ezel; he leys shall be cleft, as wax before shall receive of you his standing. the fire, and as the waters that 12 For the inhabitant of Maare poured down a steep place. roth waited carefully for good:
5 For the transgression of Ja- but evil came down from the cob is all this, and for the sins Lord unto the gate of Jerusaof the house of Israel. What is lem. the transgression of Jacob? is it 13 0 thou inhabitant of Lanot Samaria ? and what are the chish, bind the chariot to the high places of Judah ? are they swift beast: she is the beginnot Jerusalem ?
ning of the sin to the daughter 6 Therefore I will make Sa- of Zion : for the transgressions maria as an heap of the field, of Israel were found in thee. and as plantings of a vineyard : 14 Therefore shalt thou give and I will pour down the stones presents to Moresheth-gath: thereof into the valley, and I will the houses of Achzib shall be a discover the foundations thereof. lie to the kings of Israel.
7 And all the graven images 15 Yet will I bring an heir thereof shall be beaten to pieces, unto thee, O inhabitant of Maand all the hires thereof shall be reshah: he shall come unto burned with the fire, and all the Adullam the glory of Israel. idols thereof will I lay desolate: 16 Make thee bald, and poll for she gathered it of the hire of thee for thy delicate children; an harlot, and they shall return enlarge thy baldness as the eato the hire of an harlot.
gle; for they are gone into cap8 Therefore I will wail and tivity from thee.
LECTURE 1422. Our being chosen of God aggravates our sins. It is painful to reflect, that whilst the men of Nineveh repented so readily at Jonah's preaching, the children of Israel gave so
little heed to the multitude of prophets sent them by the Lord. Micah, we find, prophesied amongst them in the days of three successive kings of Judah; but to how little purpose his own words plainly testify. Nay, the result bears testimony still more express. For the Lord found no occasion to reverse the fearful sentence, which He caused this prophet amongst others to proclaim, against Samaria, and against Jerusalem. It is of the daughter of his people that He declares, “ her wound is incurable.” And of the many terrible things with which He here threatens her, there is not one of which it can be said, that because of her repentance," he did it not.” Jonah 3. 10. Of the blessings, on the other hand, most graciously mingled with his threatenings, throughout the prophetic Scriptures, there are many which yet wait for their fulfilment. A painful reflexion, that this is for want of faith and love, in those whom He has chosen for his people. A profitable subject of self examination, to inquire, whether we, in proportion to our privileges, believe in Him, and love Him, and obey Him. A fearful consideration, that if we, whom He has chosen in Christ, be found wanting, the men of Nineveh will rise up in the judgment against us, and condemn us; “ for they repented at the preaching of Jonas; and, behold, a greater than Jonas is here.” Luke 11. 32.
Yes, Christ is our Prophet; it is his voice which we hear in the New Testament, it is his word and will, which we believe to be revealed, and study to understand, in the writings of the older covenant. He it is, whom we may consider as here calling on all the earth to listen, whilst He testifies against us, if we sin. He it is who here proclaims, that He is coming down from on high to judgment, and more especially to judge those who are called by his name. “For the transgression of Jacob is all this." Of all the iniquity abounding in the world, there is none so hateful in his sight, as that which He beholds in the people of his choice; the high places of religion becoming the head quarters of idolatry.
There must we expect that his righteous judgments will fall most heavily ; there will be heard the loudest wailing, there will be inflicted the most dreadful desolation. And what will be the shame, and agony of remorse, at that day, of those in whom are found the transgressions of Israel ;” whose sins are tenfold sinful, because the sinners are God's people ! Oh never may we fail to bear in mind our high and holy calling ! Oh never may we neglect to hear the voice, and to obey the will of Him, who has called us to the knowledge of his truth, and to the enjoyment of his grace and glory! Make us, O God, deeply sensible, of how much we have to answer for, in possessing so many inestimable privileges. And help us by thy grace so to use the talents entrusted to our charge, that when we stand before the judgment seat of Christ, He may make us partakers of his joy.
God's people are reproved for their grievous sins. 1 Woe to them that devise ini- his doings? do not my words quity, and work evil upon their do good to him that walketh beds! when the morning is light, uprightly? they practise it, because it is in 8 Even of late my people is the power of their hand. risen up as an enemy: ye pull
2 And they covet fields, and off the robe with the garment take them by violence; and from them that pass by securely houses, and take them away: so as men averse from war. they oppress a man and his 9 The women of my people house, even a man and his he- have ye cast out from their ritage.
pleasant houses; from their chil3 Therefore thus saith the dren have ye taken away my LORD; Behold, against this glory for ever. family do I devise an evil, from 10 Arise ye, and depart; for which
ye shall not remove your this is not your rest: because it necks; neither shall ye go is polluted, it shall destroy you, haughtily : for this time is even with a sore destruction. evil.
11 If a man walking in the 4 In that day shall one take spirit and falsehood do lie, sayup a parable against you, and ing, I will prophesy unto thee lament with a doleful lamenta- of wine and of strong drink; he tion, and say, We be utterly shall even be the prophet of this spoiled: he hath changed the people. portion of my people: how hath 12 I will surely assemble, O he removed it from me! turn- Jacob, all of thee; I will surely ing away he hath divided our gather the remnant of Israel; I fields.
will put them together as the 5 Therefore thou shalt have sheep of Bozrah, as the flock in none that shall cast a cord by the midst of their fold: they lot in the congregation of the shall make great noise by reaLord.
son of the multitude of men. 6 Prophesy ye not, say they to 13 The breaker is come up bethem that prophesy: they shall fore them: they have broken not prophesy to them, that they up, and have passed through the shall not take shame.
gate, and are gone out by it: 7 O thou that art named the and their king shall pass before house of Jacob, is the spirit of them, and the LORD on the head the Lord straitened ? are these of them.
. The most crying sin of God's people, that on which the prophets insist most largely, as the cause of the coming judgments, is idolatry. But we find ample proof in the prophetic writings, that the forgetfulness of God, implied in this abominable kind of wickedness, led to many other flagrant offences. And here we have an awful account of men devising iniquity upon their beds, and rising up in the morning to put it into practice; plotting mischief against their neighbours, instead of taking their rest in sleep; and instead of earning their own bread by industry, or enjoying their own means in peace, taking by force that which belonged to others. The violent preyed upon the peaceable. Men seized on the possessions of women and children, of defenceless widows and orphans. The magistrate seemed to bear the sword in vain. And to complete the disorder and impiety universally prevailing, there were false prophets, ready to teach, and readily listened to when teaching, that even God from heaven would not visit for such evil deeds as these.
But the voice of God's true prophet had a very different message to deliver. Evil must surely come on evil doers; spoiling on the spoilers. They that unjustly seized the fields of others, should have none left of their own to dispose of. They that gave heed to the false prophets, should derive no benefit from the words of them that were true. No; God's word would do no good except “to him that walketh uprightly," to such as heard it with an honest intention to fulfil it. And so our Lord has declared to us also, “If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God.” John 7. 17. Such there were in Israel of old, to hear his word, even when iniquity so largely prevailed. And to such as these we may suppose that the concluding verses of this chapter were addressed, to give them comfort in tribulation, the prospect of a Saviour, the promise of peace and piety under a King, who was to reign in righteousness. How much good must such gracious promises have done, in those evil days, to the few who then walked uprightly with God! How much more good might we derive from all God's words, whether promises, or threatenings, revelations of doctrine, or exhortations to duty, if we were to walk more uprightly, if we were to study them with more full and honest purpose of heart to put them into practice, if we were actually to believe and live more according to what we know! Let it then be our great object in the study of the Scriptures, to improve our hearts, to edify our souls. Let it be for this we seek to learn the will of the Lord, even that as we know it better, we may do it more. Then will his word profit us more and more largely, purifying our affections, elevating our minds, and making us “ wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.” 2 Tim. 3. 15.
Help us, O Lord, to know thy will, that we may know what we ought to do. Help us, O Lord, to do thy will, that so we may both know and do it, more and more continually.