Page images
PDF
EPUB

guished sins by two expressive words, — sins of omission, andsins of commission. These are two fountains of sorrow to all who look on the suffering Son of God.

They mourn over inbred depravity, or the innate corruption of the heart. Heedless persons, careless professors, give no hreed to what passes within : if the out-side be fair, they are satisfied. Not so with a true penitent, who hath looked on the bleeding Saviour. Such a man examines the motives of his actions, and observes the various and multiplied deviations from the rules of perfect rectitude: he mourns, because of his pride, bis unbelief, his evil concupiscence, his wanderings; his want of fervent love, holy zeal, and lively animation: - he groans under a “ body of sin and death;" and often exclaims, “ Oh, wretched man,” &c.

They mourn, especially for their vile ingratitude. This is a in which is utterly passed by, as of very small moment, by the gay and thoughtless part of mankind; but God will be found to rank the unthankful with the unholy, True penitents recall to mind the numberless favours which they have received, the debt of gratitude which they owe,-and mourn!

Infer. I, If those who look on Jesus Christ and mourn, are men of enlightened minds, then such as never look on hiin, nor regard bis sufferings, are in darkuess unto this day. A darkness of the worst kind; and which, if not removed, must prove fatal! It is a thick darkness :- it may be felt. It prepares a man for outer darkness, into which the wicked shall be finally cast ! “ Take ye the unprofitable servant, bind him hand and foot, and cast him into outer darkness.”

2, If Jesus Christ was pierced in so tremendous a manner, then there must be weighty reasons for his sufferings; and inportant ends to be accomplished thereby. Certainly, man had sinned, the covenant was broken, God was offended, mankind were ruined, Satan was gratified: but man must be redeemed, a better covenant must be established, God must be reconciled, the church of God must rise from the general wreck of human-kind, Satan must be conquered, grace must triumph, and the Heavens be replenished with new inhabitants. To effect all which, there was no one able, no one competent, , but the Lord Jesus. " This is the true God, and eternal life.”

9, If those who look on Jesus Christ, and think on sin, mourn, then such as never mourn on the same accounts, are as insensible as a stone, and as cold as death. Ruin by sio, and recovery by Jesus Christ, are objects of the first magni. tude; and it'they do not effect men, it is because they are" dead in tre spasses and sins.” What must be the consequence if they

lepart out of this world in their present condition? Every ray of hope will be extinguished the inoment they expire, Re. peat ye, and believe the gospel." “ Now is the day of sad

HELP IN TIME OF NEED.

SCRIPTURE-history is to be considered not only as a simple record of facts, but as opening before us that school of science which addresses those instructions to the conscience, which penetrate to the heart, and produce that passive or practical obedience to the will of God, which is the ornament of the Christian character. “Sacred history," says the judicious Rollin,“ lays down rules, and prescribes models for all ranks and conditions; kings and judges, rich and poor, husbands and wives, fathers and children, all find there the most excellent instructions upon every branch of duty." We may select a specimen from the narrative of the widow of the poor deceased prophet and her sons, recorded 2 Kings iv. 1-7.

There ed a certain woman of the wives of the sons of the prophets unto Elisha, saying, Thy servant my husband is dead, and thou knoworst that thy servant did fear ihe Lord: and the creditor is come to take unto him my two sons to be bond men. and Elisha said unto her, What shall I do for thee? tell me what hast thou in the house? And she said, Thint hindmaid hath not any thing in the house, sate a pot of oil. Then he said, Go, borrow thee vessels abroad of all thy neighbours, even empty Tessels; borrow not a few. And when thou art come in, thou shalt shut the door union ther, and upon thy sons, and thou shalt pour out into all thesi vessels, and thou shalt set aside that which is full. So she went from him, and shut the door upon her, and upon her suns, who brought the vessels to her, and she poured out. And it came to pass, when the vessels were full, that she said to her son, Bring me yet a vesset. And he said unto her, There is not a vessel more. And the oil stayed. Then she came und told the man of God: and he said, sell the oil, and pay the debt, and live thou and thy children of the rest. — Froin these words we may make the following remarks:

1. Death is the common lot of all, of the righteous as well as the wicked. This woman's husband, one of the sons of the prophets, having served his generation according to the will of God, now slept the sleep of death, and was gathered to bis fatbers. Religion had been the subject of his choice; and to its service he had devoted bis talents and his life. With a soul formed for society, he had married a pious woman, by whom he had two sons. Living during the height of Jezebel's idoJatry, as his children grew up, he would spare no pains to instruct then in the nurture and admonition ofthe Lord. Ofien would be expose to then the folly and sin of idolatry, dwell upon the perfections of behovali, and describe to them that word which was able to make them wise unto salvation. Theo otiers were given to idolatry, the holy resolation of his

soul was, that however he might be reviled, or whatever he might suffer, he and his would serve the Lord. That the conduct of this prophet was well known to Elishu, appears from this appeal of his widow. . “Thy servant my husband is dead; and thou knowest that thy servant did fear the Lord." -' Often has he sat at thy feet, listening attentively to thy word. Well thou canst reinember with what boly zeal and fortitude be stood up for the honour of God. Had his conscience allowed him to follow the multitude to do evil, he might have fed at Jezebel's table, been promoted to honour; and have left me and my sons in affluence: but; good man, he could not dissemble, nor did he dare to transgress. He was faithful to his God; and surely liis God will not forsake us in our distress. O Elisha, pity our case, pray for our deliverance; and if thou canst do any thing, help us !--Here was a good man that dared to be singular in bad times; yet he lived despised, died poor, and left his family in great distress. Though he had neither gold nor silver, he had laid up a good inheritance for his children. Having lived by faith, he died in it; committing his fatherless children to the Lord, while he exhorted his widow to trust in him.

How necessary is it to have the heart rooted and grounded in truth, that it may be established with grace. In keeping God's commands there is a present reward; for godliness with contentment is real gain; and they who honour God, shall sooner or later be honoured by him. To this good man, Death would be a discharge from a hard warfare ; but though during liis life he might be despised, -in death, his character was honourably embalmed in that book which shall be preserved and revered through all generations.

9. A good man may, at his death, leave his family in embartassed circumstances. It has already been remarked, that bis adherence to God might stand in the way of his preferment; nor was this all, it might expose him to persecution. Tbat Jezebet stuck at nothing to accomplish her purposes, is clear from the case of Naboth. Even Ahab had pronounced Elisha à troubler of Israel; and probably the late husband of this poor widow was one of those poor prophets whom good Obadiah had hid in caves, feeding them with bread and water. With food and raiment this good man could be content for himself; but while looking upon his wife and children, had it not been for the hope of better times, bis heart had often failed. However, while Ahab is upon the throne, Religion in disgrace, and Idolatry triumphant, Disease lays its hand upon the son of the prophets, and Death executes its solemn commission. The time was come that he must depar!; but to die before bus debt was paid, or any provision made for the discharge of it, the prospect of that distress in which his family would be involved, would prove like thorns in his dying pillow. He must die; but the Lord liveth. He can only pray for them, consigning XII.

3 F

not.

them to that God who could help them in ways that he knew

3: Worldly trials frequently travel in a train, and succeed each other with hasty steps. Scarcely had death dismissed this good man's soul to Heaven, but the creditor evters with the demand of immediate payment, or the surrender of her two sons as bond-men. Had the love of the world excluded every sentiment of hunanity froin bis obdurate heart? This was pressing the thorn of affliction into the newly-opened wound. The delight of her eyes is already removed, and the darlings of her heart are, threatened to be torn from her! Wretched sufferer, born to trouble! Ah! what a variety of disappointments and distresses are necessary to make us relinquish our earthly hopes, and fix our affections upon things above! But we see the perplexities of this poor widow compelled her to spread her mournful tale before the Lord's prophet.

4. It is a huppy circumstance when outward trials, instead of leading us to reflect upon religion as the cause, compel us, with Xarmer allachment, to adhere to it. We hear of no reflection upon ber husband for his attachment to the good ways of the Lord; no remorse, as if she herself had cleansed her hands in vain; no apprehension that it was useless to wait for the Lord any longer. She does not entertain a single thought of recanting her religion, or seeking a sanctuary at the shrine of idolatry. Instead of reflecting on, she glories in the past conduct of her husband; openly she renews her resolution of taking his God for ber God :-- though poor in this world, she was vet rich in faith. Knowing that Elisha had a sympathizing heart, she flies to himn in the day of her distress ; confident that if he could not relieve her, yet he would pity her, pray for ber, and help her to bear the heavy load. Here we see that religion is the best support in a day of distress; and that the conversation of a godly friend sooths and supports the sinking heart.

5. The liberal heart deriseth liberal things. With this prophet it meets the distressed with a Il hat shall I do for thee? Silver or gold had he none, or it would not have been withheld ; at court he had no interest, or it would have been exerted; and if the distresses of this poor widow could not excite pity in the creditor's heart, there was little probability that any arguments he could use would do it. However, there was a court above, and a King there, who had all hearts and all things at his disposal. Him, as his tried friend, he addresses in this difficulty. Let us, likewise, enquire with this prophet, What can be done for our fellow-men, who are poor, sinful, mortal, and need help from God as well as ourselves. What can be done to convince the thoughtless, and convert the sinner from the error of his way? !!hat can be done to bring both foes and friends to submit to the God of grace and salvation ? li hat can be done la alleviate the distresses of our fellow-creatures? What can be done to give the gospel of Jesus a wider spread, both at home and abroad? Did such enquiries more frequently impress our ininds, we might all of us be more useful in the world than we are. Elisha was poor, but he could pray; and what he could not accomplish with his hand, he endeavoured to effect by his heart.

6. Genuine religion, though it be accompanied with poverty, will always demand respect, and be productive of confidence. Poor as this widow was, her neighbours discovered no reluctance to lend her their vessels. We may conclude they were idolaters, for that was the fashion of the day, but they knew that the religion she professed would not suffer her to do a dishonest action.

From the conduct of the two sons of this woman it appears,, that dutiful children will be concerned to minister comfort to parents when they need their aid. “Her sons brought the vessels to her, and she poured out.” In her we behold faith, ac. companied with diligence. She poured, and prayed, and praised, as shie beheld the increasing blessing Nor were her sons inactive; for wbile she called, they ran, presenting an empty vessel, as they bore away that which was full. (what a debt of love and duty do children owe to those parents who have ministered to them when they could do nothing for themselves! and can such withhold their aid when age and infirmia ties call for it! Jesus has set us an example; for he, while young, was subject to his parents; and when suffering for us upon the cross, was concerned for the protection and support of his mother. Froin this narrative it further appears,

That faith, when in the fullest exercise, comes fur short of the standard of God's grace and power. Go, borrow thee vessels abroad of thy neighbours," said the prophet; “ borrow not a few." “ And when the vessels were full, she said to her son, Bring me yet a vessel; and he said, there is not a vessel more, And the oil stayed.” The commission she had received was large, • Borrow not a few." Her faith was strony, for she lid as she was commanded; and the demand upon her was so great, as to require the servitude of both her sons for several years ; yet, with such a commission, and such a faith, and such a requirement, she found that God was able to do exceeding abundantly above all she could ask or think:- Be then your requireinents ever so numerous or complicated, present them is so many empty vessels to God; and every want shall be supplied, according to the riches of his glory, by Jesus Christ. Be it only our care, that all the vessels be psesented empty:

Even the unkind or cruel conduct we may recrive from others, cannot release us from the discharge of our duty towards them. She went and informed Elisha, that, in obedience to his direc

« PreviousContinue »