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be supposed to be in favour of evil, but by those too sometimes from whom we might expect good : that even the very love of our friends becomes sometimes a snare to us; and that there is nothing up to the very Scriptures themselves, the very volume which contains God's revelations to His creatures, from which the evil heart may not expect to find encouragement to evil, from which it may not be tempted to believe a lie, that so its condemna-. tion may be the surer.
This perhaps may be particularly applied to us, when we like Ahab are meditating upon some enterprise, when we propose to do something, the event of which may be either a great hurt or a great good to us. I am not now supposing the case of a man like Balaam, resolving whether or no he shall do a wicked thing which he much desires to do, and looking out for some excuse to lull his conscience in doing it. The case of Ahab is different from this; the war against Syria to recover Ramoth-Gilead, which had been formerly taken from Israel, was not in itself a thing unlawful : it was not a thing which it was tempting God so much as to think of. Abab was deceived, not for his wickedness in the actual matter then before him, but for the general evil of his life; which made that which was innocent in common cases a snare to him. I cannot give what seems a more complete picture of the general meaning of this
passage of Scripture, than by supposing a man of very careless life considering whether or no he should enter into holy orders. It is Ahab's very question, “ Shall I go up against the enemy of God's Israel to battle, or shall I forbear?" And then there are many to answer," Go up, for the Lord shall deliver him into thy hand.” You are desiring a good work, and may expect upon it a good issue.
And this is true; but what are we tbat desire it? Are we such as God loves? Have we been so living as that we may be thought fit to be the honoured instruments of His glory? We are desirous now to fight against the enemies of the Lord, but have we ourselves faithfully served Him? or have we not rather been serving Baal? No doubt the work which we desire is good in itself, but it is not good for us. To us, such as we now are, it will be our destruction if we attempt it; and they are but lying spirits counselling us to our ruin who urge us to venture on it.
What follows from this? Surely, not that we should turn away our thoughts and desires from the ministry of God, but that we should rather fix them on it more steadily long beforehand; that so what is good in itself may be good also to
Then the lying spirit will have no room to tempt us to our ruin, or rather his words will be no lie, but the very truth; we may go up to the battle of the Lord, and He will be with us, and
Now, so many years beforehand, most safely may you be encouraged to desire highly the service of Christ's ministry, to think of it as your object, and so to fit yourselves for it. But if not thinking of it now, if not thinking of it at college, if living carelessly and sinfully, serving Baal and despising God; if then, at the time when it shall suit your worldly convenience, you turn round and say that you desire now to fight the battles of the Lord, then are you become such as that the very loving counsel of your friends is a snare to evil ; their encouragements to go on in the course which you propose, are but urging you on to bring upon yourselves the heavier condemnation.
But this need not be confined to one profession only, it belongs to all. In all we may strive against the enemies of the Lord; all are good in themselves, all are lawful objects of desire. Yet all, like Ahab's war against Syria, will be entered on only to our ruin, if we like him have been habitually serving Baal beforehand. Our friends
say well, “ this is an honourable and profitable profession; enter on it and prosper.” They say what is well in itself, but to us it is but the spirit that tempts us to destruction. We have fitted ourselves to receive not the good of the profession, but only its evil; not to make it a means of glorifying God, and being useful in our generation, but to encourage in us either our pride, or our indolence, or
our covetousness; or that fault, whatever it be, which the peculiar line of life on which we are going to enter is most likely to foster. For we all know that every line of life has its own temptations: every calling may be made the means of destroying our souls, as well as of saving them; and it is our previous evil dispositions and low principles which will make it to us the evil and not the good. And then it is too late to turn back; we must do something in life, yet we can do nothing safely; God urges us on to Ramoth-Gilead that we may fall and perish. Such is the state of those who are preparing to enter upon life,—whatever may be their particular views in it, under the curse of careless or corrupted principles, with their earlier years unimproved or marked only with sin. If they are saved at last, it may be truly said that they are saved so as by fire ; it is God's marvellous long suffering and abundant grace, which enables them to turn what was to them evil into good, by being changed themselves from evil; even as they had in the beginning turned into evil that which was in its nature good, because they had corrupted their way before the Lord, and were marked by Him for judgment.
August 26th, 1832.
Job, i. 5.
And it was so, when the days of their feasting were gone about,
that Job sent and sanctified them, and rose up early in the morning, and offered burnt offerings according to the number of them all : for Job said, It may be that my sons have sinned, and cursed God in their hearts. Thus did Job continually.
THE book of Job, from which these words are taken, contains in substance some of the most important truths of revelation. The greater part of it consists of a dialogue, in which opposite views, both equally erroneous, are maintained by the principal speakers; till towards the close a new character comes in, and states the truth; which truth is lastly enforced by language represented to .*7111 come from God Himself. Then Job, who had maintained one of the two erroneous views which had been thus reproved, confesses his fault, and throws himself entirely on God's mercy; while his