« PreviousContinue »
the spiritual mind regards all these as the shadow, the unreal, the unsubstantial; essential beauty can reside only in mind, and the superlative, the highest form of it, the absolute, only in the Divine mind. There is the beauty of holiness, brought near to which, all other beauty, by its brightness, grows dim, and disappears.
Now this beauty of God can be put on us. It is so, when he stamps on us his image. In this was man at the first created. It is this that redeeming mercy restores: “ created anew in Christ Jesus, after the image of him that created him, in righteousness and true holiness.” When, therefore, the children of God become in an eminent degree holy, so that they visibly reflect this likeness of God in the midst of an evil world, then may this beauty of the Lord be said to be on them, and reflected by them. But alas, at the best how imperfectly! As in the margin of a lake you see strangely blended the glorious heaven, in its azure brightness, with the earthly productions growing on its border, thus blended in man, at the best, is some faint reflection of God's beauteous image with the incongruous objects of earth.
This beautiful supplication has again its plea. The Lord of whom we entreat this favour is “our God.” Thus the prophet's mind warms as it advances, glows with its own prospects of beauty and love, and rises in holiness as it seems to approach nearer the celestial throne.
4. The writer still amplifies: “Establish thou the work of our hands ; yea, the work of our hands establish thou it.” Here he does appear to introduce a new request, but it is, perhaps, more in appearance than in reality. The supplication is, that God would crown his people's work with success; that he, without whom the strength of man is but weakness, would add the seal of his blessing, without which all the toil is in vain. This is true of man's work in relation to the things of time. Does he build ? He builds in vain, “unless the Lord build the house." Does he watch? “Unless the Lord keep the city, the watchman waketh but in vain." Does he eat? His food is ineffectual for life's support, unless the power of the Lord add efficacy. “Man doth not live by bread only, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of the Lord doth man live.” It were possible that man should live by God's word without food, but it is not possible that man should live by bread without God's effectual word.
These thoughts hold good in spiritual things. Do we pray ? It is in the Holy Spirit.” Do we read the word of God ? Its spiritual truths are spiritually ap. prebended only by the aid of God's Spirit. Do we, in short, work out our own salvation, in the observance of all duties of watchfulness and obedience? “ It is God that worketh in us to will and to do of his good pleasure.”
It is thus in labouring for the salvation of others. God does not exempt man from an honoured and blessed concurrence with himself, in effectieg the salvation of man. It is God's own work to turn from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God; yet said the Lord to Paul, “I send thee to the Gentiles, to open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God." And it is in relation to this divinely es tablished concurrence of God with man, and man with God, that the Apostle Fays in his Epistle to the Corinthians, “ We are workers together with God.” To God, nevertheless, must be attributed the excellency of power; that without which all is inefficacious, both in things temporal and spiritual. He depends not at all on an arm of flesh, while our dependence on him is entire. Hence, therefore, must ever arise an utter abnegation of self, with hearty ascription of praise to God. “Not unto us, O Lord, not unto us, but unto thy name be glory, for thy mercy and for thy truth's sake."
II. We offer a few brief reflections arising from this subject.
1. That when the Almighty withdraws his gracious influence, it becomes his people to humble themselves before him. We see Israel in the wilderness under the Divine displeasure. Whence arose that suspension of God's manifested favour, that darkening of the bright beams of his glorious goodness ? Their history records the melancholy fact-it was their unbelief and disobedience. Is there in our Churches a suspension of that holy influence by which religion flourishes, the salvation of our own souls is promoted, and the conversion of our fellow-men secured? Can we attribute our privation to a different cause ? Shall we say that God thus dealt with the Israelites for their sin, but visits us thus from some other cause? Let us not be blindly self-partial. Let us admit the fact. Let us take shame to ourselves on account of it. Let us confess before God that our sins have separated between him and us—that we are unsuccessful in his work by our own culpable, moral unfitness. In such confession and shame we shall glorify our Heavenly Father, and take the first and most fitting step to prepare the way for his return. · 2. To humiliation should be added fervent prayer for the renewal of his favours.
The text supplies us with appropriate language. Although breathed forth under the shadow of Sinai, the terms are every way adapted to the desires and hopes which belong to the kingdom of Christ. We ought to recognise the importance of prayer, not only to the sinner returning from his ways, and to the saint contending with temptations, afflictions, and sin, but in every step, and every work which has for its aim the extension of the kingdom of the Lord. Hence the first Pentecostal effusion of the Holy Spirit was preceded by an extraordinary continuance in prayer of many persons. The subsequent institution of the deacon's office is stated to be, that the ministers of the word might give themselves uninterruptedly to prayer in connexion with the dispensation of the truth. The words of Jesus Christ suppose that prayer will always enter into meetings that are holden in his name (Matt. xvii. 19, 20).
3. We may see in conclusion the importance of Christian labour.
We cannot consistently join in the prayer before us, and withhold the employment of those powers for good which God has conferred on us. The appearance of God's work to us, and of his glory to our children, is by his blessing on the work of our hands. And then it is that the beauty of the Lord our God is indeed upon us, when he honours us to labour in his cause, with hearts truly in sympathy with his own holy mind, seeking, in subserviency to himself, to effect the high and gracious aims which he accomplishes through the mediation of his Son. Then is our voice in some sort an echo of his who “preached glad tidings to the poor;" then we walk in the footprints he has left on the sin-stained soil of our globe, when our heart beats responsive to the compassion that dwelt in His, and the activities of our lives are impelled by his love, and guided by his wisdom.
BY THE REV. B. PREECE. « The Lord thy God in the midst of thee is mighty; he will save, he will rejoice over thee with joy ; ho will rest in his love; he will joy over thee with singing."-Zephaniah iii. 17.
ONE may well ask with surprise, Can in reference to you, in reference to me? this be the language of the Infinite Jeho. The thought overwhelms us. The attempt vah in reference to his fallen creature man? to realise the fact overpowers us. The Is it possible that the Eternal Mind, the human mind cannot grasp it. Conceive, source of bliss, the fountain of happiness, if you can, that the tenderest concern, the sun of purity, can employ such language ! the most watchful care, the deepest sympathies, the intensest emotions, and the , through the wilderness to the promised most loving regards of the Great Jehovah, Canaan, was, “My presence shall go with are all drawn forth by and centred in this thee, and I will give thee rest." The one little world of ours. Look abroad upon all-animating and soul-stirring considerathe mighty concave of heaven: with the aid tion that sustained the Israelites in the of a telescope you would see its countless time of danger was, “The Lord of Hosts stars and planets multiplied by millions is with us." The one promise which Christ more; and, had you a telescope of sufficient | gave his disciples before he left them, as range, you would see these multiplied by the one rock upon which they could rest as many millions more; all of which share with confidence and security, was, “Lo, in Jehovah's affection, and acknowledge I am with you alway. The realisation, too, Jehovah's government. What, then, is our of the Divine presence on the part of the world compared with these? Why should believer, is the highest stage of Christian this little speck in creation, this dew life to which we can attain on earth. It drop upon a leaf in creation's mighty was said of Enoch, as though his spiritual forest, occupy the highest place in Jeho- | life had reached its highest and fullest vah's heart? Why should this insigni development of which earth would admit, ficant world of ours be selected by him as | “He walked with God.” You will rememthe platform for the sublimest display of ber, too, that the one exhortation which his infinite wisdom, the brightest mani God gave to Abraham, the father of the festation of his ineffable glory, and the faithful, was, “ Walk' before me;” or, most unparalleled expression of his Divine “Walk in my presence, and be thou perlove? Why, O why? Who shall give fect.” Now, this privilege belongs to every us a satisfactory reply? But think believer in Christ. Every believer is the again. Look abroad upon this, to us, vast subject of this constant, present, adequate and magnificent and lovely world, and superintendence on the part of God; but upon what part of it is it that Jehovah's it is not every believer that realises it. The fondest, tenderest, deepest, and most loving sun shines equally upon and for all ; but it regards and sympathies are fastened ? is not equally enjoyed by all. So God is Upon its everlasting hills, its ancient rivers, in the midst of every Christian ; but his its crowded forests, its lovely landscapes ? presence is not equally realised and enjoyed No, but upon what appears one of the most | by all. It is not every believer that can or insignificant items of creation-upon an will discipline himself to the enjoyment of atom-man. Think for a moment, reader; God's presence. To enjoy God, you must strive to realise the thought the Infinite retire within yourself. You must enter Jehovah, the Almighty Creator, passes by the inner temple to hold communion with myriads upon myriads of worlds, suns, him. What shall we say to you to urge planets, stars, systems, far, far surpassing in you to this discipline of soul ? You have magnitude and grandeur our own-myriads à “ feast of fat things" within, but you upon myriads of intelligent beings, angels, don't half enjoy them. You have a founarchangels, principalities and powers—at ! tain of joy, but you drink very sparingly present occupying positions of bliss and from it. You have a refuge of unbroken honour far transcending our own-to give rest, but you don't half avail yourself of it. to you, to give to me, the sublime assurance “The Lord thy God is in the midst of thee.” couched in the surprising language of the How frequently has this been realised by prophet, “ The Lord thy God in the midst you this day ? yesterday ? during the past of thee,” &c. These words have, doubtless, week? Can you realise it now? this an ultimate reference to the future glory moment ? Can you at this moment rest and peace of the church, but they have also in God, and realise a holy serenity, a peacean application to the present life of the ful calm, an indescribable quiet ? You believer ; and they promise
have seen the little babe nestle in the arms I. Adequate superintendence.--" The
and upon the bosom of its mother : is that Lord thy God in the midst of thee is | a faint illustration of thy soul's repose in mighty." Frequently, both in the Old and God? Now, it is only in proportion as New Testaments, the presence of God is you can realise God's presence that your regarded as the sum of all blessings. spiritual life can grow and be developed. Having this, everything else is secured. God is the sun of the spiritual world-the The one promise given by God to Moses, sun of thy spiritual life. You know full when about to undertake his journey | well that the trees, and the shrubs, and the flowers cannot bud and bloom and bear , have been conquered ; for as long as your fruit without enjoying the presence of the spirit is ruffled, and perturbed, and disfull rays of the son of nature. So the quieted, so long you must be a stranger to tree of thy spiritual life can thrive, and the enjoyment of God's presence. There flourish, and bear fruit only in proportion are some discontented, dissatisfied souls as you enjoy and realise God's full pre never quiet or calm enough to hear " the sence and superintendence. Again, as the still small voice" of God's friendship and sun of nature will pierce every recess, and presence. Now God has done everything quicken into life and activity everything on his part necessary to secure that holy, in which the spark of life exists, so with the peaceful calm in which he delights to spiritual sun-the superintending presence reveal himself. Friend, what is it that of God—and the tree of thy spiritual life, disturbs and distresses thee? Is it the realise that superintending presence ; and want of present good? Is it the prospect every branch, and twig, and fibre, will ex of future trouble? Is it the loss of earthly pand and burst forth in full flower. Under friends and earthly comforts ? Is it the its influence no part of thy best nature can fear that thy spiritual foes will prove too remain dormant or inactive. As the lovely many, and thy spiritual difficulties too verdure and luxuriant foliage in which great ? What is it? Why is it? Surely, nature will soon be arrayed, will bear tes thou canst not believe the promise in our timony to the return of spring and the text. It is given to thee to ease thy soul presence of the sun, so will thy soul, bloom of every burden, to clear thy sky of every ing with all the fragrance and fruits of cloud, to hush all thy sighs, and to dry all holiness, bear testimony to the felt presence thy tears. “The Lord thy God is in the of God, to the realisation that “the Lord midst of thee;" but that cloud of sadness thy God is in the midst of thee.” The and that fog of care hides him from thee. presence of the natural sun is sufficient for He superintends all thine affairs; but thou every purpose in nature, and so the super art so rebellious, that he has frequently to intendence of the loving Jehovah-the pre inflict blow after blow to keep thee from sence of the spiritual sun-is adequate for frustrating his plans. He has promised everything in providence and in grace. thee certain deliverance, but he has freBut as in the one case, so in the other, quently to hedge in thy way with thorns, to there must be an entire yielding up of prevent thee from laying violent hands ourselves thereto.
upon his purposes. All thy temporal II. Certain deliverance.-"He will save." affairs he will so arrange as to secure thy Why allow carking care to wrinkle thy good; and all thy spiritual matters he will cheek, and corroding anxiety to disturb so order as to secure his own purpose in thy bosom? Why allow doubt, and fear, thy complete salvation. Don't be anxious, and misgiving, and distrust to cloud thy then ; leave the matter with him, whether sky, and to envelope thy soul with gloom? it pertains to thy body or to thy soul, to « The Lord thy God in the midst of thee is the church or to the world; deliverance is mighty," and " he will save.” God knows | certain, for “he will save.” that carking care, corroding anxiety, dark III. Joyous contemplation." He will forebodings, restless solicitude, are all hos- rejoice over thee with joy." The thoughts tile to the strength, and growth, and hap- suggested by these words almost stagger piness of the spiritual life; and so to ease us. Is it possible that the Infinite Jehovah thee of them all, to calm thy fears, and to is so intensely interested in us, and so inti. set thy heart at rest, he has taken the mately allied to us, that he will work in us superintendence of all thine affairs upon that which shall move and call into exercise himself; and you have his promise that the deepest, the profoundest, the most "he will save. You have his promise powerful emotions of his holy soul? Think, of certain deliverance. Now, understand, dear reader, what must be your position, you cannot realise or enjoy God's presence my position, if this language be applicable while you fret, and worry, and repine. to you and to me. “He will rejoice over God puts you from him like the parent his thee with joy." Has the Eternal Father fretful child; he does not listen to one of | thus rejoiced over you? Have you been in your prayers ; he does not speak one com- a position the sight of which has touched forting word, or relieve you with one sunny the deep springs of his infinite heart? You smile. He leaves you to yourself until | know the touching representation of the your naughty temper and unlovely spirit | Father's love as given by Christ in the
parable of the Prodigal Son. Can you re- 1 joicing over thee with joy. And wilt thou member anything of the hour when the spend thy days in sadness, in sorrow, and Divine Father ran to meet you as you were in gloom? Rise, we pray you, to a fuller returning to him, when he fell upon your realisation of the place you occupy in your neck, and embraced you, and pressed you to Father's heart,- of the intense interest his bosom? Then all heaven rang with the with which he watches over your every joyful welcome, “ It was meet that we step, of the tender care he is constantly should make merry and be glad,” &c. exercising over you. Strive to enter into his From that moment Jehovah has been joy. You are a source of joy to him ; don't watching over you with joy. Can Infinite be a source of sorrow to yourself. He now love watch unmoved the wandering child " rejoices over you with joy." retracing his steps to his Father's house ? IŤ. Profound complacency." He will Can Infinite love watch unmoved the pil- rest in his love." Heaven will not only be grim as he plods on over hills of difficulty a rest for the people of God, with redeemed and through vales of humiliation, as he humanity there it will be a rest for God copes with this foe and vanquishes that himself. As the husband finds rest in the enemy on his way to the celestial city ? wise, and the wife in the husband, so the Can Infinite love watch unmoved the re- | Church will find rest in God, and God in generated spirit struggling to be free from the Church. But God rests in his love the power of sin, and guilt, and death ? now. He looks upon you and upon me as No; as the Eternal Father watches his we walk the earth, and he knows that in us child approaching nearer and nearer his his largest desires will be realised, and the Eternal home, “he rejoices over him with ardent yearnings of his soul gratified. But joy.” Judging from the way in which our the words before us may have another own affections are brought into exercise, meaning. The term “rest” may be renredeemed humanity would be necessary to dered - silent." Then it would read, "He call out and to exercise the warmest and will be silent in his love ;" that is, Jehovah's the most ardent affection in the Divine na complacency in his people is so profound, ture. We know by experience and observa the love which he cherishes for them is so tion that we are differently affected by the great, and the emotions they awaken in his presence of different persons. Some will heart are so deep, that he cannot give uttercall out our esteem, others our reverence, ance to them, he cannot express them in others our love, a few our affection, and one words. Think, Christian, the love that in particular our earthly supreme love. So, Jehovah cherishes towards you is so great, in other ways, there are some with whom so vast, 80 unparalleled, and the com. we can only talk upon common subjects ; placency with which he contemplates you there are others with whom we can converse is so profound, that he hangs and yearns upon particular themes ; and there are over you with the silence of intensest emoothers to whom we can open all our minds, tion. He beholds you in Christ, and his the moment we begin to converse with loving heart rests. Who can imagine what them we feel elevated to a higher region of there is in store for the children of God! thought and feeling, from which we have what glory! what honour! what bliss ! again to descend to mingle with the what satisfaction! what joy! when Je. world. Applying this principle with all hovah, looking down from the heights of reverence, may it not be the same with God | his ineffable glory, shall say of them, “ It and redeemed spirits? With angels the is enough; I am content; I can desire noInfinite Father can converse about suns, thing more.” Ponder over this thought. and planets, and systems; but with re- | We have done our best to give you a faint deemed spirits he can converse upon mercy, idea or description of it; but how poor, and grace, and redemption. With angelshow meagre, when compared with the great he can talk about the work of his hands; reality! “ He will rest, he will be silent with redeemed spirits he can talk about the in his love." work of his heart. Can you realise, then, V. Rapturous exultation.—"He will joy that you touch springs in the Divine mind, over thee with singing.” Inward joy, howand call forth emotions which angels and ever deep and profound, is sure, eventually, archangels cannot ? God has never felt to find vent in outward expression. Sing. toward angels as he has felt towards thee. | ing is regarded as the most fitting and apHe has never rejoiced over angels as he i propriate outward expression of joy and has rejoiced over thee. He is now re- pleasure ; hence part of the employment of