Page images
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

wisdom, an almighty power, an eternal / round the listening earth. And so, day goodness. They are God's works, bear his unto day, and night unto night, like choir image and superscription : they contain a to choir, has tossed the song of the lofty revelation of his eternal thoughts, which skies. Light and darkness, alternate gladdens them because it glorifies him and tenants of the heavens, alternate rulers of blesses us. Men of all ages have so ac this earth; day and night, the changeful cepted them. The works of his fingers firmament, the changeless heavens — all sun, moon, and stars which he has or. | have maintained the unbroken strain, dained, the clouds in their rich pageantry "Glory to God in the highest." and unwearied munificence—have made his Again, David declares this revelation to name excellent in all the earth. Men have besometimes misinterpreted their message 2. Wordless. There is no speech nor and song. But “from the creation the in | language where their voice is not heard." visible things of God have been clearly The italicised words of this sentenceseen, even his eternal power and Godhead, words added by our translators-instead of being understood by the things which are helping, obstruct the meaning. Literally seen and made.” The fault bas been in rendered, it reads, “No speech, nor lanmen, not in the stars, if they have not guage: their voice is not heard.” The apprehended the “ declaration” of the thought seems to be, These celestial chorisheavens. The bent mirror can only give ters—the heaven and the firmament, day distorted reflections : the mirror whose and night-utter no articulate words; silver is worn thin, and in parts worn off, | their voice is heard by no outward ear ; can but give imperfect reflections. Love yet none the less their message wakens is the silver on the mirror of the soul. Let responsive echoes in the heart. Their the soul be deflected by sin, let selfishness message is so plain that it needs no words ; scrape off the silver, and, hold the mirror has so penetrative and all-pervading a power, up to nature how you will, all its reflections | that, without words, it is apprehended will be distorted or imperfect. That does among all the tribes of men. Surely a not prove imperfection or deformity in very beautiful thought! The sun speaks nature. Nay, those who have most er- no language, the moon utters no speech. roneously apprehended the God whose They need none. The message they declare glory is in the heavens, have yet by their is embodied in their being. Manifesting very failures added their testimony to the themselves, they declare God. They sing general consensus, that the heavens have a | as they shine ; nay, their very shining is revelation, had they but ears to hear. their song. We gaze on them, and though

This revelation David declares to be- no audible strain ravish the ear, our soul

1. Ceaseless. “Day unto day uttereth apprehends a divine harmony; in their speech, night unto night sheweth forth | beauty and magnificence, in their orderly knowledge." The conception here is a motion, their manifold beneficent opera. very noble and striking one. From of old, tions, and in a certain spiritual influence from the beginning, the ancient heavens which they exert on us we cannot tell how, have declared the glory of God. This has listing us to calm and serene heights of been their unceasing work and song, the thought as the moon raises the sea : in all true music of the spheres. They have these we find the proofs that God is, and known “no variableness, or shadow of that he is good and great. Because they turning.” Serene and calmly beautiful, are, and are what they are, the logic of the nohasting but unresting, they have poured heart-far more suasive and unerring than forth their anthem of praise, a sea of that of the head-convinces us that Ilo sound surging and breaking round the who formed them must be “glorious in steps of the eternal throne. But beneath holiness, fearful in praises, doing wonders.” the changeless heavens nothing has been That, in sublime disdain of words, they constant save vicissitude. All things give us true and great thoughts of him, at change, and live by change. Day has given once shows the excellency of their power, place to night, and night in turn has given and adapts them for the work they have to place to day. Still, each successive day do. The one primeval tongue is lost. bas heard and caught the unceasing song Languages and dialects are multiplied of the heavens above, repeating it through among us. The sun might speak in tones all its hours ; each successive night has of thunder, and the moon whisper in dulcet taken this song upon its lips, and borne it | sweetness; yet who would comprehend

their meaning, or interpret it to many | over all the ages and races of inankind. tongued man? But their unsyllabled Or, stripped of their poetry, the verses utterance-at once song without words and simply mean, that the heavens reveal God, hymn of praise-reaches every spiritual ear and that their revelation is ceaseless, wordand finds an interpreter in every pure less, universal. This, I take it, was the heart.

meaning which David saw in the words he Once more. David declares their cease. was inspired to utter. But, as I have less and wordless song to be

already said, Paul saw in them a meaning 3. Universal. “Their line is gone out profounder and more divine. To him they through all the earth, and their signs to were not only praise, but prediction; not the end of the world.” Here again the merely a laudation of the heavens, but also figure changes. The heavenly messengers a prophecy of the Gospel. are now set forth not as singers, por as And here we come on our second wordless teachers, but as proprietors thene: marking off the lot of their inheritance. II. The revelation of the heavens a Their line" is the measuring line used for prophecy of the Gospel revelation. In the determining the boundaries of estates and Epistle to the Romans, arguing with cerkingdoms. And the thought is, that tain Jews, Paul quotes a few of David's wherever the heavenly bodies — the sun words. He argues that the offers of the which rules the day, or the moon which Gospel are not to be confined to the Jewish rules the night-cast their rays, they mark race. In proof of his thesis, he adduces out the limits of their empire. As their passages from the Hebrew Scriptures, froin measuring-line traverses and embraces the the Law, the Prophets, and the Psalms. whole carth, the whole earth is within Among others he quotes from this ninetheir heritage. And throughout this vast teenth Psalm: “ Their sound went into territory the signs which proclaim God are all the earth, and their words unto the found.

ends of the world.” In this Psalm, thereConnected with what has gone before, fore, Paul saw a prediction of Christ, and the thought runs, That as the darkness of the word of Christ; otherwise he would night enshrouds the whole world ; and the not have cited its words while persuading bright, vivifying rays of the sun traverse the Jews out of their own Scriptures of the the whole world, so that nothing is hid universality of the good tidings of great from the light and heat thereof : even so joy. He says in effect, “What David sings also the ceaseless song of the heavens, its about the revelation of the heavens is true ; wordless but penetrative declaration of God, but then, as you very well know, and as goes forth over every land, insomuch that certain of your rabbis also have confessed, every tribe and kindred of men are touched that revelation foreshadowed the revelation and moved by the heavenly strain. All of the Messias ; and what David said about ages and all races, as they have passed ! the heavens is true of the Gospel which I across the face of the earth, have looked up

preach." in wonder, hearing in the heavens the de Here, however, we naturally interpose a claration of God, beholding in the firma. question. How came Paul, how came the ment his handiwork.

rabbis, to see in the words of the psalmist o This, then, is what David has to say about reference to the good news of salvation the revelation in the heavens. From that which came by Christ? And the answer beginning in which God created the heavens is, Somewhat thus :-The eternal, all-creand the earth-from - The Beginning," ating Father works through the co-eternal distant how many ages and æons no arith Son. All outward and all inward revelametic can compute-the firmament and the tions of the Divine life are manifestations heavens above the firmament have sung his of the Christ. The heavens were made by high praise. Beneath them, night and day, liim : his handiwork is in the firmament. in ceaseless interchange, have taken up and Man is the work of his fingers. The curse carried on their song; a wordless song, of labour, which is also the blessing of and yet more potent than any words--the labour, fell from his lips. The Jehovah unsyllabled but rythmic music of the skies. | who brake bread with Abraham, and struck These heavenly lords of song have cast hands of covenant with Noah, and shook their line round the very ends of the earth, Sinai with the thunders of his presence, drawing the whole world into their in- I was the Jesus who, in later days and in beritance, finging the spell of their song more winning guise, took flesh and dwelt among us. Without him was not anything 1 barriers of earth and time, sent it forth to made that is made. His word gave life to shine unto the ends of the earth, that none all: his breath is the inspiration which may be hid from its saving light and heat. gives men understanding. So that we have What a teacher, then, have we in the to conceive of Christ, the infinite and eter heavens! what glorious singers in night nal Son, as revealing himself within the and day! They come forth from the eternarrowing limits and imperfect conditions nity of God with their garlands and singing of time and space. This revelation of bim robes about them, making the hours of self must, to our finite minds, assume the time go musically and gladly for us. They form of a progressive series, of which the sing to us of God, of God in Christ. They first term is creation, and the last term re declare the glory of Him wbom, not having demption. Because we see but in part, we seen, we love. They speak to us of his see in successions, the Divine manifestation word, by which we have been created anew shifting perpetually into advanced and ad - the sacred, vivifying word of the Gospel, vancing forms. But despite and beneath which is yet to deliver the whole creation all this flux and change in his outward from its bondage to vanity and corruption manifestation, Christ himself remains the into the liberty of the sons of God. They same yesterday, to-day, and for ever. prophesy to us of the perpetuity, the power, Through the whole course and series of his the universal prevalence of the Gospel tes: manifestations, therefore, we shall find the timony and kingdom. Divine poets and same principles and attributes of character. singers that they are, they have comfort for There cannot but be an essential unity in every weary, wayworn heart. They stoop the successive revelations of One who is from their lofty seats and say, Come to us, eternally the same. Each stage of the ye weary and heavy-laden, for we will lead eternal progress will have in it the rudi. you to Christ. Consider the heavens, the ments, and, in the rudiments, the pro- work of his fingers, the moon and the stars, phecies, of the next. Let the interval which he has ordained. Listen to our between the creation of the heavens and ceaseless song of praise. · Muse on the glad the work of redemption be what it will, I prophecies of hope which ring their changes they are nevertheless both manifestations through all the strain. Mark how we, as of Christ, the glory of God, and in the first all things, proclaim his glory, and foretell we shall find the rudiments and prophecies the advent of his universal reign. Come to of the last. Whatever praise can be given us; for we will bring you to him, and he to the first can be given in yet fuller mea will give you joy for mourning, the garment sure to the last. So that the heavens, be. of praise for the spirit of heaviness. cause they are Christ's handiwork, because This is a comfort, a refreshment, we all they manifest and declare him, reveal the need to take, this of looking up and listensame general truths, and contain a general ing to the ancient heavenly song. Looking prophecy of that Gospel which is Christ's down, and round about, and within, all last most perfect manifestation and work. very necessary duties at times, are not

Both the heavens and the Gospel declare duties of a specially animating and hopeful Him who is the glory of God. In both are cast. All things here are full of change. the traces of his infinite wisdom, his Few of their changes denote advance. almighty power, his eternal goodness. And Christ's work seems to make little progress therefore, as in the revelation of the hea in our hearts, his kingdom little progress vens there is an unending manifestation of in the earth. We need to look up, to see his glory, a manifestation whose penetrating, God's glory in the heavens, to read the all-pervading power reaches beyond that of eternal ordinance of the stars, to know and words, a manifestation wide as the earth feel that the glory in the heavens will gloand as the heavens which encircle the earth, rify the earth, that the ordinance on high 80 also the manifestation of the Gospel will is being embodied in all that sequence of have at least a power as ceaseless, as potent, events which often alarms us with fear of as universal. "If Christ, and this is the change and loss; to let the steadfast, benemain point and stress of the apostle's argu ficent, all-embracing heavens—which transment-sent his heavens to proclaim him form even the polluted mists and miasmas through all lands, and all times, anointing of earth into healing, fertilizing showersday after day, and night after night, to sing become to us the sign and prophecy of his high praise, much more has he sent Christ's perpetual, transforming, all-emforth his good word of life to overpass all bracing kingdom,

To some of my readers, however, even works, which will reproduce those harmothe message of the heavens may come in | nies and beauties in you. He would have tones of reproach, though a reproach full of you to show forth power, to declare his merciful invitation. The heavens reflect the glory, to utter speech, to show forth knowimage and declare the glory of God; while ledge, to take your part in the heavenly, you, immortals for whom both earth and eternal song. He will help you to be what heavens were made, are effacing his image he would have you to be. He waits to be from your hearts, and hushing the thanks gracious, wants to be gracious. Accept his giving which often springs to your lips. love, his life. Entreat the inbabitation of Do not be less grateful than the soulless, his Spirit; and then all things, the heavens senseless heavens. His Spirit strives with above, and the earth beneath, shall speak to you, and would fain work that transforma. you of Christ, Maker and Redeemer of all, tion on you which will open your soul to and help to form you in his perfect likeness. the beauties and harmonies latent in all his



BY THE LATE REV. JAMES SMITH. I FEEL inclined for a few minutes to look back, call to mind what I was, and contrast the same with what I am now. Unquestionably I shall be justified in doing this, because the Lord directed Israel to look to the rock whence they were hewn, and to the hole of the pit out of which they were digged. In a worse state than I once was, it is almost impossible to be, and all the consequence of sin ; in a much better state I cannot well be, and all is to be ascribed to free grace. I had destroyed myself, and my deliverance was of the Lord alone. If any creature has reason to be humble, I have, on account of what I was once ; and if any creature has reason to be grateful, I have, on account of what sovereign grace has done for me. But to the point.

I was a slave. A slave to sin, to Satan, to the world, and to disease, lusts, and pleasures. A slave in fetters, in wretched bondage ; and, what was worse, I had no desire to be made free. I am now redeemed. Redeemed by the precious blood of Jesus, and by the power of invincible grace. Redeemed to God. My fetters are snapped asunder. My bonds are all broken. I am rescued from the hand of the cruel One, delivered from this present evil world, and freed from the domineering power of my lusts and passions. Blessed be God, that though I was a miserable slave once, I am the Lord's freeman now!

I was a criminal under sentence of death. I had broken the law, insulted the Law-giver, and even refused to accept a pardon. I hardened myself in crime, and treated eternal punishment with contempt. I am now a justified child of God. By faith in Jesus I have realized my pardon, I have obtained my acquittal, and I have received the Spirit of adoption. My sins are forgiven, blotted out, forgotten; and the perfect work of the Son of God, which he wrought out when upon earth, is placed to my account. Blessed be his name! he allowed my sins to be imputed to him, and he became a sin-offering for me, that I might be made the righteousness of God in him: and now, by virtue of union to him, I am righteous, as he is righteous. · I was an enemy to God. There was nothing in God I loved, nor did I wish to have anything to do with him. I had such an utter dislike to God, and such a wish to indulge in sin, and to be my own god, that I heartily wished there was no God beside. In his Gospel he lovingly called me to him, but I would not come; he begged me to be reconciled to him, but I contemptuously refused. But now I am a friend of God. I love him. I confide in him. I trust him

with all my secrets. I consult him in all my difficulties. I wish always to realize that he is present with me, and desire to think, speak, and act, as always under his eye. I prize his smile, his presence, and his love, above all things beside; and instead of being my own god, I wish every power, faculty, wish, and word, to be subjected to his will. Blessed be God, that by the death of his Son, the work of his Spirit, and the displays of his love, he has thoroughly reconciled me to himself.

I was a child of wrath. The wrath of God was revealed from heaven against my sins. There was everything in my nature and conduct to stir up and call forth the just wrath of God against me. I was born in sin. I grew up a sinner. I was becoming a daring, desperate sinner, when he called me by his grace. I could claim nothing but wrath as my inheritance. I deserved nothing but wrath by my conduct. But, О wondrous love! unsought, unsolicited, the God of love stopped me, transformed me, and made me a new creature in Christ Jesus. I am now an heir of God, and a joint-heir with Jesus Christ. The property of my heavenly Father is made over to me, and, therefore, though by nature I had nothing, now, as a child of God, I possess all things. For, saith the apostle, “ all things are yours.” As related to Christ, as one with Christ, I share in the immense wealth of the Son of God, and it would baffle the intellect of an angel to comprehend the unsearchable riches of Christ, to which I am entitled. Wonder, O heaven! be astonished, 0 earth! I, a poor degraded sinner, a hateful child of wrath, am now, as an act of God's most marvellous grace, made an heir of God and a joint-heir with his beloved Son!

I was once afar off. As far from God as sin could place me. God was not in all my thoughts. Nothing would have been more irksome to me, or have been more dreaded by me, than the presence of God. Tberefore, by my conduct, I daily said unto God, “Depart from me, for I desire not the knowledge of thy ways." But now I am brought near by the blood of Christ. All cause of fear and disagreement is removed, and he drew me with cords of love, as with the bands of a man. He drew me, guilty as I was, and said, “ Thy sins are forgiven thee." He looked upon me, vile and degraded as I was, and said, “I have loved thee with an everlasting love." Having received the pardon of my sin, believing the love that God hath to me, and feeling the attracting power of his mercy, I came into his presence, fell at his feet, and now can never be near enough to him, nor shall I, until admitted into his immediate presence. Blessed, for ever blessed, be the Lord, that I am no longer a stranger, or at a distance, but am known of God, and near to God!

Once more, I was possessed by Satan. The evil One dwelt in me, influenced me, and led me captive at his will. My heart was his workshop. I was his willing slave. But now I am inhabited by the Spirit of God. I am a temple of the Holy Ghost. The Spirit of Jesus dwells in me. He works in me every good work. He suggests to me every holy thought. He subdues my corruptions, and works in me to will and do of his own good pleasure, Wondrous change! my heart once, the den of the demons of darkness, is now the palace of the Spirit of light, Loliness, and truth. How can I sufficiently admire the grace that wrought the change, or adore the God of all grace, who displayed such grace in me!

Once I was the bond-slave of Satan ; now I am the redeemed of the Lord. Once I was a criminal, waiting for an ignominious execution ; now I am accepted in the Beloved, justified from all things, and acknowledged a child of God. Once I was a bitter enemy to God, without the least cause ; now I am his friend, and he always treats me as such. Once I was a child of wrath, an heir of hell; now I am an heir of God and a joint-heir with Jesus Christ. Once I was afar off from God by wicked works, and loved the distance well ; now I am brought nigh to God, and live in new and sweet communion with him. Once I was

« PreviousContinue »