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After the man had professed the reality, and prayed for the increase of his faith, Christ granted his first request and healed his
This in some measure answered his other request; it confirmed his faith.
The disciples, seeing their master cast out the evil spirit, enquire, “ Why could not we cast him out?” Christ tells them, “ It was because of their unbelief.” They had attempted the miracle without a due persuasion of the presence and co-operation of Christ's power to give efficacy to their word. Now, in order to improve their faith, he directs them to prayer and fasting, as the proper means.
“ This kind goeth not out, but by prayer and fasting.” These had no relation to the ejection of an evil spirit, or to the performance of any miracle, otherwise than as they were the means of increasing the principle and enlivening the operation of faith.
Christ here teaches us the proper use of prayer, fasting and other external acts of devotion; it is to increase our faith, invigorate our pious sentiments, and thus excite us to every good work. If we think that prayer, fasting, hearing the word, or any devotional exercise, is acceptable to God for itself, and by itself alone, we entirely mistake the matter. The design of all the devotional parts of religion is to make us better in heart and life-to improve a holy temper in us—to impress us with a more intimate sense of God-to raise our thoughts and affections to him—to give us more exalted and influential views of him—to make us more like him in purity and goodness-to subdue worldly affections—to free us from earthly passions, and fit us for the practice of every duty.
Prayer is a greater thing, than we, perhaps, are apt to imagine. We pray to little
no effect to make us better inen. Prayer is a mean of faith, and faith is the principle of holiness and good works. Let us live much in prayer, that we may live more by faith. Under the influence of faith, let us walk in holiness; and by abounding in holiness secure to ourselves an abundant entrance into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.
THE DREADFUL SOUND.
JOB xy. 21.
A dreadful sound is in his ears.
ELIPHÁZ describes to Job the miserable condition of a wickeď man.
He demands Job's particular attention to what he was going to say; for he assures him, it was founded in his own personal knowledge, and in the observation of wise men, and in the instructions of the fathers who had in their day seen the same and told it to their children. “I will shew thee; hear me, and that which I have seen will I declare; which wise men have told from their fathers, and have not hid it; to whom alone the earth was given, and no strangers passed among them. The wicked man travelleth with pain all his days, and the number of his years is hidden, or secretly exposed to the oppressor. A dreadful sound is in his ears. In prosperity the destroyer shall come upon him. He believeth not, that he shall return out of darkness—he is waited for of the sword. Trouble and anguish shall make him afraid. For he stretcheth out his hand against God, and strengtheneth himself against the almighty.”
These and several circumstances of terror and wretchedness Eliphaz enumerates, as attending the condition of a wicked and ungodly man-one who stretches out his hand against God, and by a wicked life contemns his supreme authority. All wilful disobedience, all determined iniquity is stretching the hand against God. It is treating him with insolence and defiance.
But that circumstance of his misery, to which we shall now particularly attend, is the dreadful sound that is in his ears. In the margin it is rendered, a sound of fears in his ears. A sound which awakens painful and terrifying apprehensions—a sound that disturbs his rest, and destroys his peace and embitters his enjoyments.
We will consider what this sound is—how the wicked man usually treats it-and what is the use which he ought to make of it.
I. We will consider, first, what is that fearful sound, which is often in the ears of the wicked man.
1. The first sound, which Eliphaz mentions as dreadful to a wicked man, is the sound of worldy adversity.
In the day of prosperity the destroyer shall come upon him. The day of darkness is ready at hand. Trouble and anguish make him afraid.
The wicked man's heart is wholly in the world. His hope and happiness—his enjoyments and prospects are here. He knows nothing—seeks nothing, and looks for nothing beyond. Deprive him of his earthly treasures and expectations, you take away his gods; and what has he more ? Go to him in the day of his prosperity, and tell him of the vanity and mutability of the world, the uncertainty of every thing he possesses—how soon the frowns of Providence, or the injustice of men—his own incaution, or the pride and profligacy of his sons, may reduce him to a condition the reverse of the present; he will hear you with a cold, reluctant assent; but he does not at all like your subject. The sound is unpleasant. If you would speak in flattering terms of his worldly wisdom, successes and prospects, you would please him much better. But does he not believe the mutability of the world? Yes; and for that reason he hates to hear of it; and hates to think about it; and when adversity comes, it always finds him unprepared to meet it.
The temper of the good man is the reverse.
His heart is fixed, trusting in the Lord; and he is not afraid of evil tidings. He has in heaven an enduring substance, and he can spare
his earthly goods. He knows that Divine wisdom orders his condition, and he acquiesces in its allotments. He feels a consciousness of his love to God, and rests secure in the promise, that all things shall work together for his good.
The world brings the wicked man more trouble in proportion as his heart is more set upon it. And what is an additional unhappiness, he can draw no comfort from religion. For,
2. To him the law is a dreadful sound. I do not mean human law; though indeed this may sound terribly to a man, who by atrocious crimes has exposed himself to its penalties.
This however will give him no disquietude, as long as he thinks his crimes are concealed from the
And if iniquity is so framed by law, that under its protection he can acquire property by trampling on the rights of other men, it gives a pleasant sound to his ears.
But it is Divine law of which I now speak—that law which was delivered in thunder from Sinai. From this he hears a dreadful sound-more dreadful than the thunder of the mount.
66 Cursed is every one who continueth not in all things written in the book of the law to do them.” The law of God is perfect. It is exceeding broad. It forbids all sin both of action and neglectboth open
and secret. And God who has given the law knows all the thoughts and intents of the heart, as well as the outward acts of the life. He remembers sins that are past, as well as sees those which are present. There is no darkness, nor shadow of death, where the workers of iniquity can hide themselves. This law denounces a curse against every transgressor. Every wicked man, who is, in the least, acquainted with himself, must see that he falls under its dreadful sentence. This sentence he hates to hear. It is to him a dreadful sound and the more dreadful because it is just. It comes from the mouth of God. It is uttered by his voice. Conscience is awakened by its terror, and repeats the sound. If
the man would speak out his inward conviction, his own mouth would condemn him, and his lips would testify against him.
3. To the wicked man death is a dreadful sound. Death has a painful sting
The sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law. There are those, who through fear of death, are all their life-time. subject to bondage. Death is called the king of terrors. It is a terror to nature, and eminently so to the corrupt nature of the wicked man.
It strips him of all the possessions for which he has labored. It separates him from every thing, on which his heart is placed. It puts an end to all the enjoyments with which he is acquainted. It breaks all the purposes, which he has been pursuing. It lays his body in the dust, there to lie unregarded and forgotten. It sends his immortal spirit into unknown regions, there to exist in a new manner, and to mingle with beings with whom he has never been conversant—but beings too much like himself to afford him any satisfaction.
Such harsh sounds as these grate upon his ear, if death ever is the subject of his meditation—and, alas! poor man, he has nothing in hand, or in hope, which can give a new, a soft, or a pleasing tone to these ungrateful sounds. He has laid up no treasures in another world to compensate his losses in this. He has formed no friendships there to come in the place of those, which must cease forever here. Nothing remains for him, but a fearful expectation of a state once so dreadful to him, that he would not even indulge the thought of it. Death must be a fearful sound to the man who has every thing to lose, and nothing to gain by it.
4. Judgment is a dreadful sound in the ears of the wicked man.
As God has appointed to men once to die, so after this the judgment. Hence the principal terror of death. We must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that every one may receive according to the things done in the body. Knowing therefore the terror of the Lord, says the apostle, we persuade men.
Death is a solemn change. Judgment is more solemn. This will determine every man's condition for eternity. God will bring every work into judgment with every secret thing—not only the outward actions, but the imaginations of the heart. These are