Page images
PDF
EPUB
[ocr errors]

and must have your portion with him who is
the "accuser of the brethren; a liar; a mur-
derer from the beginning; a roaring lion,
going about seeking whom he may devour."

Oh! to be-for ever a companion with Robespierre, with Nero, with Judas, with Pharaoh-with the devil-and his angels!! Surely there is enough in the thought, to keep any man in his senses all his life long from the paths of the destroyer, and to induce him to pray every moment, "Hide thy face from my sin, and blot out all my transgression. Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me. Save me, and I shall be saved; heal me, and I shall be healed; for thou art my praise." May God inspire you with these desires, and to him be glory. Amen.

DISCOURSE LXX.

THE AGED SAINT COMFORTED.

And even to old age I am he; and even to your hoar hairs will I carry you: I have made, and I will bear; even I will carry, and will deliver you.-Isaiah xlvi. 4.

Do you "worship God"-in public? Alone? Habitually? Do you worship God "in the Spirit?" Have you only "a form of godliness while you deny the power thereof?" Do you "draw nigh to him with your mouth, and honour him with your lips, while your heart is far from him?" Or do you pray, “Unite my heart to fear thy name?"

Do you "rejoice?" Are you grateful for your mercies; or full of murmuring and complaining? Is the service of God your pleasure, as well as your employment? Your privilege as well as your duty? Do you "rejoice in Christ Jesus?" Do you find consolation in him when the world is a vale of tears? When creatures fail you? Are you encouraged by the thought that there is such a Saviour? That he is so suitable to your case? So sufficient to save? Do you, even while unable to claim him, rejoice in hope; and under every dejection, throwing yourself at his feet, say,

"Should worlds conspire to drive me hence,
Moveless and firm this heart shall lie;
Resolved, for that's my last defence,
If I must perish, here to die!"

SUCH was the address of God to his peculiar people, the Jews. He has a peculiar people now; and we need not ascend up into heaven, and examine the book of life, to know who they are. We have a copy of this book of life in our possession. It is the Scripture. There we have not only their portion secured, but their characters described. Let us take one exemplification only. "We are the circumcision," says the Apostle," who worship" the Father of our spirits." God in the spirit; and rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh."

Have you "no confidence in the flesh?" No dependence upon your own resources, for your happiness? No dependence upon your own righteousness, for your justification? No dependence on your own strength, for your sanctification? No dependence upon your own wisdom, for your guidance?

These questions we ask so early in the discourse-that if you find yourselves to be strangers to the character of the Israel of God, you may be affected with your condition; and that, while you hear of their blessedness, you may sigh after it:-and if you are able to determine in your favour, and humbly hope, that you have avouched the Lord to be your God, and joined yourselves to him in a perpetual covenant, you may sit and hear, with gratitude and joy, that you have chosen that good part which shall not be taken away from you.

I. WHAT HAS GOD DONE? He has made

you.

II. WHAT WILL HE DO? Carry and deliver you.

III. HOW LONG? HOW FAR? To old age; to gray hairs. "And even to your old age am he; and even to hoar hairs will I carry you: I have made, and I will bear; even I will carry, and will deliver you."

I. WHAT HAS GOD DONE FOR YOU ALREADY? "I have made." This brings him very near. It presents him to us as our Creator; as the Fountain of life. Others have claimed us as children; and we early learned to say, My father; my father. But to them we owe our being subordinately, and instrumentally: to Him we owe it supremely and efficiently. They were "fathers of our flesh :" but He is

I love to realize this relation. Is my body fearfully and wonderfully made? Do I possess reason and immortality? Are matter and spirit, clay and thought, strangely united together, to render me the being I am? "His hands have made me and fashioned me." I behold, I feel his wisdom, power, and goodness; and at once embrace him and adore! The view is instructive; it is encouraging. The constitution I possess, limited as it is in capacity, and subject as it is to infirmity, he gave me. The degree of health and strength I enjoy, he assigned me. He knows my frame; and remembers that I am but dust. He sees that to will is present with me, though how to perform that which is good I find not: he knows that the spirit indeed is willing, though the flesh is weak." Why does Peter admonish those that suffer according to the will of God to commit the keeping of their souls to him in well doing, "as unto a faithful Creator?"-Because he who made me is perfectly acquainted with all I feel; because he who made me is able to save me;

because he who made me has a benign propen- | promise echoes back the prayer, and leads
sion to the work of his own hands. Do I form a us,
garden, or plant a tree? I feel a propriety in
it. That upon which I expend my exertion
and care will soon be interesting and endear-
ed. If a fine piece of statuary could be pos-
sessed of intelligence, the figure would find
much less satisfaction in the workman than
the workman in the figure. A real benefactor
feels more pleasure in doing a kindness than
the beneficiary feels in receiving it. What
a strength of attachment has God produced
in all creatures towards their young! And
will the author, and the model, of all these
sympathies abandon those who live, and move,
and have their being in him?

II. To consider WHAT GOD WILL DO. "I will carry. I will deliver."

First. He will carry. This implies something more than to guide and to lead them. It supposes helplessness and inability on their side; and tender support and assistance on his. If a man has any thing very valuable, and peculiarly esteemed, he would not wil lingly leave it, or intrust it to another. God's people are his jewels. They are precious in his sight, and honourable, and he has loved them. A father carries his child, and the burden is a pleasure. Moses, in his improper expostulation with God, says, "Have

But there is another and a higher operation conceived all this people? Have I begotten of which the Scripture speaks. "This peo- them, that thou shouldest say unto me, Carry ple have I formed for myself; they shall show them in thy bosom, as a nursing father beareth forth my praise." We are his workmanship, the sucking child, unto the land which thou created in Christ Jesus unto good works. swarest unto their fathers?" The imagery "If any man be in Christ, he is a new crea- is here taken from a journey. A family is ture." He has a new nature; new powers; traveling. But the babe cannot go alone. a new heart; new eyes; new ears-not phy- The father is mentioned as being the strongsically, but morally new: not new as to sub-er parent of the two; or, rather, it intimatesstance, but as to transformation and use. It that the mother is dead, perhaps she expired is the production of a Christian out of a man: in giving life-she is left behind-the father it is the change not only of that which was therefore becomes the nurse, lays the bevicious into virtuous, but of that which was reaved babe in his bosom, now doubly enearthly into heavenly; and that which was deared, and goes forward. God has a large natural into spiritual. It is of this the Apos- family; but, as Bishop Hall observes, none tle speaks when he says to the Philippians; of his children can go alone. Yet they are "I am confident of this very thing, that he not left to perish in their weakness. He will who has begun a good work in you, will render them equal to the difficulties and duperform it until the day of Jesus Christ." ties of the Christian life. He will afford Whence it appears, that this operation is not them seasonable and adequate succour. His only certain in its issue, but divine in its ori- grace shall be sufficient for them; and his gin and progress; and, therefore, excellent in strength shall be made perfect in their weakits nature. All God's works are good; but ness. "Fear not," says he, "for I am with this is called good by way of distinction. O thee; be not dismayed, for I am thy God: I Christian! it is the best work God ever did will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; for thee. His making thee a man was far less yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand than his making thee a new man. The one of my righteousness." brought thee into the world of nature; the other into the world of grace. The one made thee a partaker of a life full of vanity and sorrow; the other commenced in thee "the He delivers them from trouble. Who can life of God!" As the creature of his power, imagine from how many evils you are prethou art encouraged to hope in him; but this served in a world like this-every day and relation alone does not secure thee from his every hour? From how many afflictions displeasure—for it is written, “Because they have you been released in your passage are a people of no understanding, therefore through life? How has he appeared for you he that made them will not have mercy when there seemed no possibility of escape? on them, and he that formed them will show But he turned the shadow of death into the them no favour." But, as the subject of his morning. He brought your souls out of prison grace, a foundation is laid for everlasting con--and compassed you about with songs of defidence and joy in him. He "taketh pleasure in them that fear him, in them that hope in his mercy." He has said, "I will never leave thee nor forsake thee:" therefore they may boldly say, "the Lord is my helper; I will not fear;" and plead with him, like David; "Perfect, O God, that which concerneth me: thy mercy, O Lord, endureth for ever; forsake not the works of thine own hands." Our

Secondly. He will deliver. This implies that they are exposed to danger; but that they shall not become a prey.

liverance.

He delivers them in trouble. A state of suffering is a state of trial; and it is mentioned as a moral prodigy in the affliction of Job, that "in all this he sinned not, nor charged God foolishly." Rebellion against divine providence; distrust of God's goodness; impatience; envy at the exemptions and indulgences of others to these and many

[ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors]

should thy servant be yet a burden unto my lord the king?" Such also was the view David took of the same season: "The days of our years are threescore years and ten: and if by reason of strength they be fourscore years, yet is their strength labour and sorrow; for it is soon cut off, and we fly away." But Solomon has given us an enlarged representation of the decline of life; and he mentions the disadvantage of it to enforce an important duty: "Remember now thy Creator in the days of thy youth, while the evil days come not, nor the years draw nigh when thou shalt say, I have no pleasure in them." Then will you be unable to discharge the duties of religion; then will you require all its comforts; then how dreadful to encounter the remorse of reflection, and the horror of anticipation! "While the sun, or the light, or the moon, or the stars, be not darkened, nor the clouds return after the rain; in the day when the keepers of the house shall tremble, and the strong men shall bow themselves, and the grinders cease because they are few, and those that look out of the windows be darkened, and the doors shall be shut in the streets, when the sound of the grinding is low, and he shall rise up at the voice of the bird, and all the daughters of music shall be brought low; also when they shall be afraid of that which is high, and fears shall be in the way, and the almond-tree shall flourish, and the grasshopper shall be a burden, and desire shall fail: because man goeth to his long home, and the mourners go about the streets: or ever the silver cord be loosed, or the golden bowl be broken, or the pitcher be broken at the fountain, or the wheel broken at the cistern. Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was: and the spirit shall return unto God who gave it. Vanity of vanities, saith the preacher; all is vanity." am

Such is the period to which the promise extends; and two things may be observed concerning it.

First. The promise does not necessarily suppose that you will reach this period. Immensely the majority of mankind die before time can snow upon their heads. There are few comparatively who "come to their grave in a full age, like as a shock of corn cometh in his season." The wonder is that there are so many.

99

other kindred sins, we are peculiarly liable in I the day of adversity; and it is a distinguished privilege to be preserved from them, even if the distress should be continued.

He delivers them by trouble. But for "the thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet him," Paul would have been "exalted above measure." "Before I was afflicted," says David, "I went astray, but now have I kept thy word." It was "the hedge of thorns" that restrained the church from "finding her paths, and following her lovers." Who is not more indebted to his trials, than to his enjoyments?

And this leads us to another view of the deliverance here promised. Our bodily dangers are nothing to our spiritual. We should be chiefly concerned for the safety and welfare of the soul. Now what are our moral hazards? Is not "our adversary, the devil, like a roaring lion, going about seeking whom he may devour?" Do we not live in a world of error? Are we not surrounded with evil examples? Are there not "fleshly lusts that war against the soul?" Is there not "in us an evil heart of unbelief in departing from the living God?"—Who then can be saved? Who can hope to endure to the end?-No one but the Christian; and even his expectation would be no better than presumption, were it not that he has an Almighty Deliverer who is pledged to secure him. To him he looks: on him he relies. His defence is of God, that saveth the upright in heart. He is able to keep him from falling, and to present him faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy ;" and he says to him, as David did to Abiathar, "Abide with me, for he that seeketh thy life seeketh my life, but with me thou shalt be in safeguard."

I

III. BUT HOW LONG? HOW FAR will his tenderness and care extend? To old age; to hoar hairs. "And even to your old age he; and even to hoar hairs will I carry you: I have made, and I will bear; even I will carry, and will deliver you."

This is a period in which a man is deprived of many of his relations and friends; is gazed on by a new generation; feels a thousand infirmities, anxieties, and distresses; and is reduced to dependence upon those around him. "When thou wast young,' says our Saviour to Peter, "thou girdedst thyself, and walkedst whither thou wouldest: but when thou shalt be old, thou shalt stretch forth thy hands, and another shall gird thee, and carry thee whither thou wouldest not." Owing to the nature of this period Barzillai refuses the offers of a palace: "I am this day fourscore years old: and can I discern between good and evil? Can thy servant taste what I eat or what I drink? Can I hear any more the voice of singing men and singing women? Wherefore then

"Dangers stand thick through all the ground,
To push us to the tomb;
And fierce diseases wait around,
To hurry mortals home.

"Our life contains a thousand springs,

And dies if one be gone;

Strange, that a harp of thousand strings
Should keep in tune so long!"

But the meaning is, that if you should reach this period, you need not be afraid of it; he will be with you, and "a very present help in trouble."

[ocr errors]

is to come."

Secondly. It is only said that he will be | time of old age; forsake me not when my with you "to old age, and to hoar hairs." strength faileth. My mouth shall show forth He will be with you all through "the thy righteousness and thy salvation all the months of vanity; and the wearisome nights day; for I know not the numbers thereof. I appointed you;" he will be with you even will go in the strength of the Lord God: I when 66 your heart and flesh fail you." This will make mention of thy righteousness, even is implied. But it was not necessary to of thine only. O God, thou hast taught me mention it-old age and death are so near from my youth: and hitherto have I declared each other-they touch. This subject dis- thy wondrous works. Now also when I am plays old and grayheaded, O God, forsake me not; In the First place, The patience of God. until I have showed thy strength unto this Ye aged, are you not a wonder to your-generation, and thy power to every one that selves? Are you not compelled to exclaim, "It is of the Lord's mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not?" What a number of provocations has he had to bear with from you in the course of sixty, seventy, eighty years! How soon would a fellow-creature, however kind and longsuffering have abandoned you! But he is God and not man. Even he has asked, "How long shall I be with you? How long shall I suffer you?" And his providence and grace have answered the question-" Even to your old age I am he; and even to hoar hairs will I carry you: I have made, and I will bear; even I will carry, and will deliver you."

Thirdly. What shall I say to the hoaryheaded sinner? I do not pretend to inform you that the world is vain: with this you must be already acquainted. But is it not strange that you continue to retain such a tenacious hold of it, "trembling at once with eagerness and age?" It seems less necessary to tell you that death is near-the young may die, the old must. But like Ephraim, gray hairs are here and there upon you, and you perceive it not. You promise yourselves time to come, when there is but a step between you and death. You have lived longer than thousands of your fellow-creatures: but to The subject affords Secondly, Encourage- what purpose? The longsuffering of God ment for those who are descended into the was designed to lead you to repentance. Has vale of years. Doubts may assail the mind it done so? Look back. What a scene! of a believer to the last. And there are Time trifled and sinned away; faculties perthings that may peculiarly produce them at verted; privileges neglected and abused! this period. Such as a consciousness of guilt Nothing done for God or your generation!arising from faithful reviews of life; and a Thy gray hairs are only a fool's cap.-Thou sense of unworthiness resulting from present art ripe for ruin. And would it not be rightunprofitableness. They can now no longer ac-eous in God to cut thee down instantly as a tively serve God. The loss of animal spirits cumberer of the ground? If there be an obdeprives them of those lively emotions they ject of pity on earth, thou art the man. There once enjoyed. The feeble body enervates is nothing at present that can afford thee the mind; trifles distract them; and they comfort. But thou art not excluded from easily misjudge themselves. hope. "He yet waits to be gracious, and is exalted to have mercy upon you." Go to him, heavy laden with years and sins. Late repentance is seldom true, but true repentance is never too late. O that I could hear you saying, Lord, save, I perish!

But be of good comfort, ye aged servants of God. He will not turn you out of doors now your labour is over. He remembers "you, the kindness of your youth." He accepts of your desires and designs. He pities your infirmities. He is "the strength of your hearts, and your portion for ever." "If the world is weary of you, he is not. If "lover" and friend have been put far from you, and your acquaintances into darkness, the eternal God is your refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms.

Finally. What a motive is there here to induce us all to become the Lord's followers! A friend is born for adversity:" yet very little of this friendship is to be found. How many who possess a warm regard in prosperous and earlier life, cast us off in affliction and declining years! But he will be principally with us when we principally need his aid. We may live upon him when we cannot live for him.

Your salvation is nearer than when you believed. "The night is far spent, the day is at hand." You are riding at anchor off the fair havens; and the next wind or tide will waft you in.

And cannot you trust him, after all the proofs you have had of his power, faithfulness, and love? Cannot you make this language your own? "By thee have I been holden up from the womb: thou art he that took me out of my mother's bowels: my praise shall be continually of thee. Cast me not off in the

[blocks in formation]
[ocr errors]

What remains?-Let the best of all masters | more strikingly awful and improving than have the most dutiful of all servants. As he that of Gehazi. is never weary in doing us good, may we never be weary in well-doing. "But be steadfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, and, bringing forth fruit in old age, be fat and flourishing, to show that the Lord is upright. He is my rock, and there is no unrighteousness in him."

DISCOURSE LXXI

Let us enter a little into the history, and see what instructions it will afford.

It is supposed that Gehazi had lived with Elijah, and that at the translation of his master, he was taken into the service of his successor. However this may be, we know that he was the servant of Elisha, who it is probable had been hitherto ignorant of his real character. For the prophetical spirit was given him by measure, and the exercise of it was limited by the will of God; and till this event occurred, the true character of the man was not developed.

A person may go a long time before he meets with his own proper trial, intended to show what "manner of man he is." Indeed none of us know much of ourselves till we are tried. While the water is calm and clear, we are not aware how much mud there is at the bottom; but the winds and waves throw up the mire and dirt. If the weather be unfavourable the ants are invisible, but let the sun shine forth and they appear. Undisturbed, we see nothing of them; but remove the stone, and stir the brood only with alive. When our prophet had predicted the a straw, and swarms are in motion and all future vileness of Hazael, Hazael shocked at the intelligence exclaimed, "Is thy servant a dog, that he should do this thing?" He was probably at the time sincere; but he knew not how differently he should feel in new and untried circumstances; he knew not the seducing corrupting power of wealth and dignity upon the human heart. Hence he soon became the monster he had abhorred. These things had not even budded in winter; but spring soon calleth them forth; summer saw the blossoms turned into fruit: and autumn ripened them. And it is probable that had all this wickedness of Gehazi been foretold a few months or weeks before, he would have been equally surprised. Pray we, therefore, as directed by Him who knows what is in man, "Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil."

GEHAZI.

But Gehazi, the servant of Elisha the man of God, said, Behold, my master hath spared Naaman this Syrian, in not receiving at his hands that which he brought: but, as the Lord liveth, I will run after him, and take somewhat of him. So Gehazi followed after

Naaman. And when Naaman saw him running after him, he lighted down from the chariot to meet him, and said, Is all well?

And he said, All is well. My master hath sent me, saying, Behold, even now there be come to me from Mount Ephraim two young men of the sons of the prophets: give them, I pray thee, a talent of silver, and two changes of garments. And Naaman said, Be content, take two talents. And he urged him, and bound two talents of silver in two bags, with two changes of garments, and laid them upon two of his servants; and they bare them before him. And when he came to the tower, he took them from their hand, and bestowed them in the house: and he let the men go, and they departed. But he went in, and stood before his master. And Elisha said unto him, Whence comest thou, Gehazi? And he said, Thy servant went no whither. And he said unto him, Went not mine heart with thee, when the man turned again from his chariot to meet thee? Is it a time to receive money, and to receive garments, and olive yards, and vineyards, and sheep, and oxen, and menservants, and maidservants? The leprosy therefore of Naaman shall cleave unto thee, and unto thy seed for ever. And he went out from his presence a leper as white as snow.-2 Kings v. 20-27. As the sun in nature enlightens valleys as well as hills, and so diffuses its influence that nothing is hid from the heat thereof-so it is with the Scripture, the luminary of the moral world. It does not confine its attention to the great; but gives directions to all ranks and degrees of men. It describes not only the excellences and defects of kings but of subjects. It represents not only the virtues and vices of masters but of servants. It gives us instances of good servants; such as Elea-liness can find its reward in its work. He zar, Joseph, Obadiah. And it gives us exam- would teach us to do good for its own sake; ples of bad ones-of which number none is to use discretion in what is allowable; to dis22*

Elisha had healed Naaman, and Naaman in his gratitude for the blessing pressed the man of God to receive a present. "But he said, As the Lord liveth, before whom I stand, I will receive none. And he urged him to take it; but he refused." Not that he deemed the gold of the Syrian impure; or did not stand in need of assistance, for he was poor; or supposed it unlawful to take a gratuity: he thankfully accepted the hospitality of the Shunamite, who furnished him with a room, with a table, a stool, and a candlestick. But he spared his purse in love to his soul; he would teach this new convert that true god

2 K

« PreviousContinue »