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intending Providence of GOD; and alarmed for the consequences from a conviction of their own deserts, they ask, in apprehension and dismay, "What is this that God hath done to US?"
There is much that argues favourably for their state of mind in this impressive enquiry. It argues, First, a consciousness of iniquity, no longer palliated by the false sophistry that had betrayed them into the commission of the crime, since whatever erring partiality their Father had displayed, they had no authority to judge, still less to punish it. It indicates, Secondly, a recognition of the all-controlling agency of Providence, as directing every event to the overthrow and confusion of the wicked. It implies, Thirdly, an apprehension, that the judgments they had deserved were about to be inflicted on them. lastly, it seems to express acquiescence in the divine will, and resignation to the divine chastisement. Not only this, indeed, but the whole of their subsequent conduct, seems to warrant the supposition, that their Father's advancement in grace had communicated its beneficial influence to them -that they had followed in the way in which he preceded, and that the effect of true religion was about to appear in those persons who had been previously, in practice at least, if not in appearance, most probably in both, insensible to the obligation of the commands of GOD. Henceforth, accordingly, nothing is recorded either of Jacob or his sons, which forbids the hope, that the latter (for of Jacob there is positive assurance that such was the case) were become, indeed, faithful and devoted and consistent servants of the Most High GOD, patterns of holiness and obedience, such as befitted the Fathers of His chosen people, whose names and whose seed were to be cöeval with the universe.
particular application of the text to the sons of Jacob, we are next to examine into ITS GENERAL APPLICATION TO OURSELVES. We also have reason, as they had, to enquire, "What is this that GOD hath done to us?"
Now, it is by no means necessary to the effectual and profitable proposing of this enquiry, that we should be conscious of any specific offence which can be compared to the mingled perfidy and cruelty of meditating to take our brother's life, and actually selling him for a slave, like the sons of Jacob; nor yet that the interference of Divine justice should be as peculiarly manifested in our case, the punishment as exactly suited to the crime, as it was in theirs. It must suffice for the former, that we have repeatedly, in various manners and proportions, deviated from the right path, and sinned in thought, word, and deed. It will be enough for the latter, that all events of our lives, whether weighty or trivial, momentous or minute, are alike ordered by our God. He determines the bounds of our habitation, and without his permission not a hair of his servants falleth to the ground. It is consequently our duty, and will therefore be our advantage (for duty and adadvantage must ever go hand in hand), to look for the workings of Divine Providence in our own actual and daily experience;-and knowing that the goodness of God is continually calling us to repentance, to ascertain whether we have yet heard and yet obeyed the call. For it can continue unheard only through the most culpable negligence; we cannot go on to disobey it without hazarding that, which of all condemnation is the most bitter;-the consciousness, I mean, that we have been accessary to our own ruin, instrumental to our own utter, and hopeless, and perpetual exclusion from the blessed presence of God.
I will, however, attempt to delineate a few of the characters to whom these Having now bricay considered the words are more immediately applicable
-and may the Spirit of grace direct my words to the hearts which they most nearly and pointedly concern.
There is, I will suppose, an individual here present who has been long engaged in active business; who has been diligently and assiduously exerting himself in his allotted occupation, whose integrity throughout life has been above suspicion; whose character is without a stain. He has omitted no means which appeared calculated to conduce towards the accomplishment of his object. Pleasure has in vain displayed its attractions to turn him aside-vanity has never betrayed him into the besetting error of the present day-the ambition of appearing wealthier than he is-he has for years risen early and laid down late, and eaten the bread of carefulness —and yet all his exertions have been, thus far at least, in vain. One disap- | pointment after another has cast a gloom over all his prospects, paralized all his energeis, dashed the cup of happiness from his lips when he was just preparing to taste of it, and he is, perhaps, at this very time, exposed to all the solicitudes that must rankle in the parental heart, when the means of providing for his offspring appear to decrease as the number of those depending on his exertions is augmented. But even here, however painful, however trying the circumstances, he will, if he is possessed of real faith, though but as a grain of mustard seed, he will not only acknowledge, but endeavour visibly and clearly to recognise the hand of a gracious Director, causing all things to work together for his good. He will not admit the vain idea, that it is a chance which happens to him; that he is encompassed and enchained by a species of fatality-that there is, as people absurdly, if not profanely express it, a spell against his prosperity;rather will he be stimulated to ask with the patriarch, "What is this that GOD hath done to me?" Why is his hand,
so liberally opened to others, closed
all, that is, that you really need. All are equal in the grave. Though the imperial crown or the lordly coronet be laid on the coffin it matters not; the dust within is not less loathsome, nor is the departed spirit of higher estimation in the sight of Him who made it. There is to all one judgment—there will be to all one Saviour, one acquittal, and one condemnation."
But there are some towards whom Divine Providence operates in a different manner. Their exertions have not been thus unsuccessful-no such blight has withered their budding hopes-no such cloud has rested upon their dawning prospects their success, if not memorable or excessive, has been all that they could reasonably expect, and quite proportionate to their own exertions, and with the prosperity of those around them. They have not been wholly free from disappointment, perhaps, (who upon earth can be?) but the blow has fallen lightly upon their heads. They are not free from solicitudes as to worldly things; but these have been only sufficient to ruffle the smoothness of their pillow, and not to plant it with thorns. In the case of these persons, however, though all seems tranquil and smiling without, there may be storm and tempest within though their worldly affairs prosper, there may be those domestic trials which fully counterbalance the pleasure of increasing wealth. The husband may experience in the wife of his bosom, tempests, or propensities, or desires, which mar their mutual happiness; the sharp arrows of the wicked, even bitter words may be interchanged between those who are most solemnly bound to love one another; her extravagance may dissipate his substance-her negligence impair his comfort-her coolness and estrangement may excite his jealousy. So, the Father may have reason to look with sorrow and sad foreboding on his
children. He may see his pains and instructions wasted, his anxious admonitions disregarded, his natural influence set at nought—he may behold his sons pursuing the opposite path to that in which he would fain guide their steps ; or he may feel within himself the seeds of disease, the symptoms of mortality, the indications of premature death. He may find cause to doubt whether he shall survive to reap the profit of all his labour which he hath laboured under the sun. In all such cases it will be his wisdom to ask, "What is this that God hath done to me?" For we are assured by GoD himself, that He does not willingly afflict or prove the children of men; but that like a wise physician, He administers, whereever needed, the efficacious, though bitter medicine that shall be for the healing of the soul. Any path, though it lead through thorns and briars, is good, which conducts the soul to Him. And to consider our disappointments and the drawbacks to our happiness with a view to his mysterious yet merciful design in their allotment, is the readiest and surest way to ultimate concurrence in the blessed experience of the Psalmist " Before I was afflicted I went astray; but now have I kept thy word.".
Others there are, again, who come under neither of the characters I have described; whose situation, since they are dependant on the exertions of another, or, humanly speaking, exempt from all dependance, frees them from solicitude and secures them from disappointment as to worldly things. While there is nothing calculated to disquiet them in their domestic relations, they enjoy the esteem and regard of those with whom they are connected and conversant; they are satisfied with the present and hopeful for the future, so far at least as the present life is concerned. Yet with all outward appliances and means of
comfort, they are not easy and tranquil-with all that is considered by those around them essential to happiness, they are not happy, they are not even contented; a weariness, a lassitude, a disgust, mingles with and impairs all their enjoyments. They feel that worldly pleasures are insufficient to confer solid gratification, partly because they perish in the using, and partly because they leave, at least in a majority of instances, a bitter memorial behind them. In the still hour of night, when stretched upon the restless couch, conscience seems to unfold before the mental eye a register of follies, inconsistencies, and transgressions, which excite, along with dissatisfaction for the present, alarm and apprehension for the future. There are more persons to whom this description applies than the world are aware of; for it is realised by many who have never betrayed their feelings, not even in the ear of friendship and under the seal of secrecy, much less blazoned them to the world around; but wherever such is the case, we may and should call on the individual, without making confession to us, or to any fellow sinner, to ask of his, or of her own heart, "What is this that God hath done to me? Why hath He excited in me this dissatisfaction with worldly enjoyments, this lively concern and solicitude after a more enduring portion? Why has He precluded me from fully enjoying the temporal benefits that his own bountiful hand has liberally bestowed? Is there not in this a purpose of mercy? Does He not design to show me the intrinsic vanity and nothingness of all that man deems most desirable? Would he deprive me of present gratification unless He intended to confer on me a better and more enduring gift-to lead me in a more excellent way-to endow me with riches that are less perishableto delight me with pleasures that are far more permanent and satisfactory? Let me not refuse, therefore, to hear the voice that speaks in mercy, though it speak through the medium of anxiety, and apprehension, and disquietude; and let me lay hold of eternal life unto which I am called, that so I may find everlasting reason to adore the mercy of my GOD, who, being determined to bring me to Himself, would
not suffer me to rest satisfied with ought on this side the grave.”
There is yet one more character to whom we are bound to apply the question of the text, and whom the Holy Spirit must ere this have taught to apply it for himself. I allude to the believer who is really deserving of the name; who has in time past bowed beneath the weight of sin, and sought pardon and relief at the foot of the cross-who has been renewed unto salvation by the regenerating influence of the Holy Spirit-who has felt that God is gracious, and tasted that Christ is precious-and who fondly hoped that the Sun of Righteousness, which shone out at his entrance on the narrow path, would never again withdraw its radiant and cheering beamswould never again be intercepted by the clouds of error, or obscured by the mists of unbelief-to whom prayer was not only a privilege but a pleasure, and who took so lively an interest in the means of grace, and the services of the sabbath, that he could say with the Psalmist, "I was glad when they said unto me we will go unto the house of the Lord-one day in thy courts is better than a thousand. O, how amiable are thy tabernacles, thou Lord of Hosts!" But now all is changed; the light of life is eclipsed or withdrawn; he scarcely knows whether he is advancing in the path or not, and if he be, his soul is sore discouraged because of the way. The words of prayer, once so copious, so fluent, so spontaneous, are slow and reluctant in their utterance. The more he strives to lift his heart to GoD, the heavier seems the weight that presses it down to earth. The services of public worship, once so eagerly sought, so heartily enjoyed, are now, though not wholly abandoned, tolerated rather than desired. His feet are drawn to the house of God by an impulse which he would, if he could, counteract and overcome; but his attendance there is little more than the service of the lips, the hearing of the ear; his heart no longer ascends, his whole soul is now no longer, as it once was, filled, engrossed, and absorbed by the riches of salvation. Such a person has peculiar reason to enquire, "What is this that God hath done to me?" What error have I committed to draw down
vation. You will feel the force of what is said in Scripture. "God calleth once, yea twice, but man regardeth it not;" you will apprehend and appreciate the full significance of that expressive figure, when Christ says,
Behold, I stand at the door and knock." You will see how often GOD has called and you have not regarded
such an expression of his displeasure? | ing how much it will reveal to you of Have I been pure in my own eyes, or the goodness of God, of his care, yea, righteous in my own sight? Have II may say, of his anxiety for your salfelt a secret satisfaction when I compared myself with others who were less forward than I hoped to be in the Christian course? Have I been negligent of that restraint which I ought to have imposed upon my desires and inclinations? Have I forgotten my sole dependance on divine grace for all that I need, whether of pardon for the past, or strength and deliverance for the future? Have I allowed fleshly lusts to revive within me, and thus been seduced into the pursuits or pleasures that ought to have been utterly renounced? Have I conceded too much in practice or in principle to the world around me? If the GOD whom I serve is not changeable or capricious, He will not causelessly obscure His loving kindness in displeasure-His very chastisements are designed in mercy. Let me then pray earnestly and ceaselessly till I am apprized, what is this that He hath done to me, and what I am to do that I may again be as in months past, when the candle of the Lord shone upon me, when the love of Christ was shed abroad in my heart, and when the Spirit of GoD daily led me by the hand, and made straight paths for my feet, and opened a passage through the things that are seen and temporal, to those which are not seen and eternal."
how often Christ has knocked and you have not opened to him—how often the Spirit has spoken by his ministers and by conscience, and spoken in vain. It is the revelation of this that will constitute one bitter ingredient in the cup of misery which must be drained by the eternally lost; they will see how often they have been invitedhow often admonished:-how near they have been to salvation-how they have omitted to grasp it when ready to their hands-and how fully will they then acquit their God-how bitterly and hopelessly condemn themselves! But will not also the experience of the happy souls that are redeemed and purified by the blood of Christ be something similar to this? O, if anything can enhance their transport and delight in finding themselves in that blessed place, it will be to trace the means by which God hath brought them thither-to see how all things worked together for good to them that loved him-how he brought Be persuaded then, men and brethren, them, though blind, by a way that to observe the workings of God's Pro- they knew not, and led them in paths vidence, yea, rather of His Grace, in the they had not known-how he made common affairs of life; recognize alike darkness light before them and crooked His vigilant, constant, unfailing super-things straight, until he led them out of intendence, whether you are prosper- the labyrinth into a large place, out of ous or adverse in your circumstances; the desert into a land flowing with whether honoured or disregarded, happy milk and honey-out of the troubled or unhappy in your private and domestic waters of sin and misery to a haven of relations; ask yourselves at every turn eternal rest. It will be their first the question, "What is this GOD hath theme of praise that He hath DONE done to us?" Regard every event as it at all-their second, that He hath one part of a complete system, one link done it THUS. of a mighty chain; and it is astonish
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