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shall remember and turn unto the Lord, and all the kindreds of the nations shall worship before Him; for the kingdom is the Lord's, and He is the Governor among the nations."
(3) From this subject we learn how sincere and earnest is God's desire for the salvation of sinners—“He is not willing that any should perish.” It is related in 1 Samuel, chap. xxiv., that whilst David was being hunted by Saul from one hiding-place to another, one day he found Saul asleep in a cave. David's men urged him to slay Saul, to thrust him through with a spear. David, however, would not hearken to them; but that Saul might know that he had been in his power, David cut off the skirt of Saul's robe. When Saul found how mercifully David had dealt with him, he sent for him, and, when he saw him, he lifted up his voice and wept, and he said to David, “Thou art more righteous than I; for thou hast rewarded me good, whereas I have rewarded thee evil. . If a man find his enemy, will he let him go well away? Wherefore the Lord reward thee good, for that thou hast done unto me this day.”
“If a man find his enemy, will he let him go well away?” Such is not the manner of man; but God's ways are not as man's ways, and God's thoughts as man's thoughts. When God finds His enemies, instead of taking vengeance upon them, he assures them that if they will cease their rebellion, and lay down their arms of hostility, “He will receive them graciciously, and love them freely.” So anxious is God for man's salvation, that He always takes the initiative in the matter. God does not wait till sinners come to Him and beg for mercy;
He goes to them, and tells them of the greatness of their guilt, and the greatness of His mercy. He even condescends to dictate their confessions and petitions,—“O Israel, return unto the Lord thy God; for thou hast fallen by thine iniquity. Take with you words and turn to the Lord: say unto Him, Take away all iniquity, and receive us graciously; so will we render the calves of our lips” (Hosea xiv. 1, 2.
So anxious is God for man's salvation, that He waits to the last,--waits to be gracious. When the tide of life is fast ebbing away, He comes near to poor, perishing sinners, and says to them,
Why will ye die ?" "As I live, saith the Lord, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live." So merciful is God, that His heart's greatest grief is to see men despising and rejecting the great salvation, and his heart's greatest joy is to see them humbly and gratefully accepting of it. There is no jewel so precious in God's sight as the tear of a penitent, and no sound so melodious in God's ears as “the sigh of a contrite heart." Christians, well may we glory in your Saviour and Lord; for there is none so loving, none so gracious, none so merciful. My brother, whenever you feel overwhelmed by the number and nature of your sins, remember that Christ gave the first offer of mercy to his murderers. His command to the disciples was most explicit, “preach repentance and remission of sins in my name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem." Amen.
THE PRECIOUSNESS OF THE TRUTH :
BY THE LATE
WALTER M GILVRAY, D.D.,
GILCOMSTON FREE CHURCH, ABERDEEN.
“ Buy the truth, and sell it not.”—Prov. xxiii. 23.
LOOKING at this statement as it stands, it seems to involve something like a contradiction in terms. For you will observe that we are recommended to buy a thing which we are at the same time forbidden to sell. If the rule is intended to hold universally -if it applies to our neighbours as well as to us, which it plainly does—the question at once occurs, Where is the truth to be bought, if all men are exhorted to possess it, and no man is allowed to part with it on any consideration whatsoever? It is therefore clear at the outset that the statement before us is not to be understood in a literal or commercial sense ; for the merchant buys in order to sell, and an article that cannot be sold is to him an article of no use.
There are, no doubt, some things which are worth much in themselves, but are often sold at a loss because their actual value is not known. And there are other things which, from their very nature, can never be sold at a profit. These are things so rare and so precious that they are beyond all price. There is nothing too valuable to be given for them, and there is nothing valuable enough to be taken for them. Pre-eminent among these is the article mentioned in the text. Solomon tells us elsewhere that “ the merchandise of it is better than the merchandise of silver, and the gain thereof than fine gold. It is more precious than rubies, and all the things thou canst desire are not to be compared to it.” Such is the peerless, the transcendent object to which the wise man refers when he says, “ Buy the truth, and sell it not."
But how is the treasure to be bought? This is the first point that demands our attention here. We have already seen that it cannot be bought in any commercial sense, because the truth is not a marketable commodity; it is not an article of traffic. But yet it is to the laws of trade and commerce that Solomon alludes, and it is in the light of these laws that the subject before us ought to be viewed. Following, therefore, the figure which is here used, we remark
1. That the truth ought to be carefully examined. No wise man will buy an article, especially one for which a high price is demanded, without looking very closely into it; and the higher the price, the more anxious will he be to test and prove it before making up his mind to offer for it. There is no good thing but has its counterfeits and imitations. Gold or silver may be corrupted by an admixture of baser metals; compositions of paste and of coloured glass may be passed off for diamonds and pearls; and hence those who deal in these precious articles find it necessary to examine them very carefully, ere they venture to buy them. Now, the article we are here advised to purchase is admitted to be the most valuable of all things, and it is therefore the last thing that should be taken upon trust.
That it is liable to be perverted and debased, we all know, and we also know how pernicious such perversions may be. Truth is the aliment of the soul, the spiritual food which God has provided for us; and hence Moses, speaking of it to the people of Israel, says, “ It is not a vain (or light) thing for you, because it is your life.” But just as the best things, if adulterated, become the worst, so the Gospel itself may prove a savour of death unto death as well as a savour of life unto life. It is therefore of the utmost consequence that we should ascertain the soundness of those things that are set before us as “ truth,” so that we may not be led away by the good words and fair speeches of those who trade upon the credulity of the ignorant, and lie in wait to deceive. We are warned not to believe any spirit, but to try the spirits, whether they are of God. Even the great Teacher sent from God, He who was not only the anointed Revealer, but the living embodiment of “the truth,”—did not require His hearers to take His declarations upon trust. On the contrary, He not only courted but demanded enquiry; He referred His disciples to the great standard of appeal, and charged them to search the Scriptures, and judge for themselves as to the character of His doctrines and the legitimacy of His claims. And one of the most eminent of His followers speaks with high admiration of the people of Berea, because of the thoughtful and conscientious spirit which they manifested in this respect. For, while they listened attentively to all he had to say concerning the faith of Christ, they took care, at the same time, to bring his statements to the test of the inspired record. “They received the Word with all readiness of mind, and searched the Scriptures daily, whether these things were so." For this he declared that the men of Berea were a noble set of men, who were equally faithful to their responsibilities and their rights. So far was St Paul from cherishing that spirit of priestly assumption which is claimed by certain teachers, and so little did he wish to usurp dominion over the faith of his hearers, ignorant as many of them must have been as compared with himself, that he counselled his converts to prove all things, and to hold fast that which is good, that their faith might not stand in the wisdom of man, but in the power of God. This, then, is sufficient to show the importance which he attached to the principle of private judgment.
It is no doubt true that this principle may be abused. It is true that the unlearned and unstable may wrest the Scriptures to their own destruction, but that is no reason why the Scriptures should be wrested out of their hands. There are some, however, who, in sefish insolence and total disregard of all rights but their own, would trample their fellow-men under their feet, and keep them in bondage all their days. Such is the spirit of those ecclesiastical usurpers who deny the right of private judgment, and denounce the exercise of rational independence. These men may well talk of the antiquity of their churches and the unchangeableness of their creeds, for they have managed to carry down into the midst of this century the feudal despotism of the middle ages. Yes, while the civil governments of Europe have all recognised the principle of popular freedom, while even Russia has emancipated her serfs, and Spain—priest-ridden Spain, the cradle of the Jesuits, and the nursing-mother of the Holy Inquisition-has at last proclaimed liberty of conscience throughout all the provinces, from the rock of Gibraltar to the Bay of Biscay–while this mighty change has been going on among the nations of the earth, the priest (no matter whether he calls himself Roman or Anglican) has either been going backward or standing still. But (what is far more astonishing) we find him at this day surrounded by a multitude of voluntary slaves, so pitifully abject, so utterly bereft of their manhood, that they hug