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safely, that is, at the utter destruction of all evil within our own hearts :—for while destroying it in others, evil passions so mix in the work that we create as much as we destroy ;—but if we did labour heartily and intensely at the destruction of our own hearts' evil, if we did feel how great it was, how entirely God abhors it, and how blessed a thing it must be to destroy it, then indeed we should share the mind of the Spirit of God, and be fit for communion with Him. It is indeed a solemn truth, that the destruction of evil should be so great a good; for it is one which is our own condemnation. Yet so it is, and it is an attribute no less closely connected with the nature of God, than His unfailing mercy to the good.

God then makes evil the instrument of good, when He makes it the instrument of the destruction of evil. And this was the case when He put the lying spirit in the mouth of the prophets, because the time of judgment upon Ahab was come. Only here is God's long suffering, that He is slow to consider any man as evil, and therefore fit for destruction ; He suspends His judgment upon them till the very hour of death; till then even His punishments are not without something of chastisement ; that is, they may be used for the destruction of the evil that is in the man, so that he himself may be saved. And this was the case with Ahab. For when Micaiah opened the secret of God's counsel against him, the opportunity was given him of turning it to good. God had resolved to encourage to his ruin the wicked and hard-hearted Ahab; but Ahab, humbled and penitent, became another man, and the judgment against his evil self was revealed to him, that he might become another self, and so escape from it. For so it is ever true, that God desireth not the death of a sinner, but rather that he should be converted and live.

I have dwelt upon points which will not be generally interesting, but yet it was right to mention them, as there are some to whom it would have appeared unnatural to pass them over unnoticed; and as uninteresting and obscure as they are to those who have never thought on them at all, so are they in proportion full of interest to those whose minds have once become alive to them. But what remains is of a different character, and concerns us all. The same thing may happen now, does happen in a degree to all of us. An evil spirit is sent into the mouths of the prophets, and it tempts us continually to our ruin.

I notice the circumstance of its being put “into the mouths of the prophets ;” not into the mouths of the prophets of Baal, but of the very prophets of the true God; for the sake of remarking that we are tempted to evil, not always by those who might 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 condemnation 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 RamothGilead, 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. Ahab 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

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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 that 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 us. 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 bless us. 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


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

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