« PreviousContinue »
ends will lend grandeur to your life, and shed a holy, heavenly lustre on your station, however humble it be. Yes. A man of piety may be lodged in the rudest cottage, and his occupation may be only to sweep a street, yet let him so sweep a street, that, through the honest and diligent doing of his duty, God is glorified, and men are led to speak and think better of religion, and he forms a link between earth and heaven. He associates himself with holy angels. And, though at a humble distance, treads in the footsteps of that blessed Saviour, who, uniting divinity to humanity, as our Maker made all things for himself, and, as our brother man, whether he ate or drank or whatsoever he did, did all to the glory of God; and doing so, left us an example that we should follow his steps. Go and do likewise. Glorify God, and you shall enjoy him. Labor on earth, and you shall rest in heaven. Christ judges them to be the men of worth who are the men of work. Be thy life then devoted to his service. Now for the work, hereafter for the wages; earth for the cross, heaven for the crown. Go thy way, assured that there is not a prayer you offer, nor a word you speak, nor a foot you walk, nor a tear you shed, nor a hand you hold out to the perishing, nor a warning you give to the careless, nor a wretched child you pluck from the streets, nor a visit paid to the widow or fatherless, nor a loaf of bread you lay on a poor man's table, that there is nothing you do for the love of God and man, but is faithfully registered in the chronicles of the kingdom, and shall be publicly read that day when Jesus, calling you up perhaps from a post as mean as Mordecai's, shall crown your brows before an assembled world, saying, Thus it shall be done to the man whom the king delighteth to honor.
ttbriist is ifovidtnrt.
By him all things consist. — Colossians i. 17.
God's work of providence is " his most holy, wise, and powerful preserving and governing of all his creatures and all their actions." It has no Sabbath. No night suspends it, and from its labors God never rests. If, for the sake of illustration, I may compare small things with great, it is like the motion of the heart. Beating our march to the grave, since the day we began to live, the heart has never ceased to beat. Our limbs grow weary; not it. We sleep; it never sleeps. Needing no period of repose to recruit its strength, by night and day it throbs in every pulse; and, constantly supplying nourishment to the meanest as well as to the noblest organs of our frame, with measured, steady, untired stroke, it drives the blood along the bounding arteries, without any exercise of will on our part, and even when the consciousness of our own existence is lost in dreamless slumbers.
If philosophy is to be believed, our world is but an outlying corner of creation ; bearing, perhaps, as small a proportion to the great universe, as a single grain bears to all the sands of the sea-shore, or one small quivering leaf to the foliage of a boundless forest. Yet, even within this earth's narrow limits, how vast the work of Providence! How soon is the mind lost in contemplating it! How great that Being whose hand
paints every flower, and shapes every leaf; who forms every bud on every tree, and every infant in the darkness of the womb; who feeds each crawling worm with a parent's care, and watches like a mother over the insect that sleeps away the night in the bosom of a flower; who throws open the golden gates of day, and draws around a sleeping world the dusky curtains of the night; who measures out the drops of every shower, the whirling snow-flakes, and the sands of man's eventful life; who determines alike the fall of a sparrow and the fate of a kingdom; and so overrules the tide of human fortunes, that whatever befall him, come joy or sorrow, the believer says, It is the Lord: let him do what seemeth him good.
In ascribing this great work to Jesus Christ, my text calls you to render him divine honors. In the hands that were once nailed to the cross, it places the sceptre of universal empire; and on those blessed arms that, once thrown around a mother's neck, now tenderly enfold every child of God, it hangs the weight of worlds. Great is the mystery of godliness! Yet so it is, plainly written in the words, By him all things consist. By him the angels keep their holiness, and the stars their orbits; the tides roll along the deep, and the seasons through the year; kings reign, and princes decree justice; the church of God is held together, riding out at anchor the rudest storms; and by him, until the last of his elect are plucked from the wreck, and his purposes of mercy are all accomplished, this guilty world is kept from sinking under a growing load of sins.
"By him all things consist." Wonderful words, as spoken of one who, some eighteen centuries ago, was a houseless wanderer, a pensioner on woman's charity, and not seldom without a place where to lay his head! Yet how clearly do these words attest his dignity and divinity? More could not be said of God; and Paul will not say less of Christ. Nor, great and glorious as they are, do they stand alone. Certainly not. In language as lofty, and ascribing to Jesus honors no less divine, the apostle thus writes to the Hebrews, " God, who at sundry times, and in divers manners, spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds; who being the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person, and upholding all things by the word of his power, when he had by himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high.' How wonderful! He left a grave to ascend the throne; he exchanged the side of a dying thief for the right hand of God; he dropped a reed to assume the sceptre of earth and heaven; he put off a wreath of thorns to put on a sovereign's crown; and, in that work of providence to which I would now turn your attention, you behold Him, who died to save the chief of sinners, made " Head over all things to the church."
I. His providence appears in those extraordinary events which lead his people, and often compel his enemies, to acknowledge the hand of God.
I do not speak of miraculous events ;—as when the sea opened her gates to the flying Israelites, and man's extremity proved God's opportunity; as when the ravens, deserting their nests and young to cater for the prophet, hunted the fields to supply his table; as when hungry lions, like gentle lambs, crouched at Daniel's feet; as when the sun set at noonday over the red cross of Calvary, or shone at midnight on the hills of Gideon. It is to another kind of events that I refer; and of these—
1. Job's history furnishes a notable example. Satan has gone forth from the presence of the Lord, armed with this commission, Behold, all that he hath is in thy power; only upon himself put not forth thine hand. The devil can never go a step further against the saints than God chooses to give him chain. That is great comfort. Yet how ruthlessly, how pitilessly, how malignantly the Enemy of man used his power on this occasion, you know. The gallant ship that, with songs below, and gay dances on her deck, was sailing on a summer day over a glassy sea, in her sky no portentous clouds, in her snowy sheets but wind enough to waft her home, and of which, by nightfall, the only vestiges are some broken timbers afloat in the foam that the wild waves are grinding on the horrid reef, presents a striking image of the change that one short, eventful day brought on the house and fortunes of this man of God. One following hard upon another, like successive shocks of an earthquake, the messengers of disaster come. Ruin, ruin, is on their lips, as, pale with terror, panting for breath, they arrive with their tidings, and that doleful echo, that ever-recurring close of the woful tale, "I only am escaped alone to tell thee." Cattle, flocks, camels gone, all his property sunk, Job is a beggared man. Yet his children are safe; and with seven gallant sons and three fair daughters, he still is rich. These spared, let all else perish. But ah! the next wave, towering, cresting high over head, falls on his laboring bark, and, sweep