« PreviousContinue »
this being unanswerable to our faculties, our wants, and our desires; we are constrained to look out for another.
It urges us towards it, and helps to prepare us for it. Since it is only a troublesome voyage, who would desire its long continuance? Since all is vanity and vexation of spirit here, are we not even compelled to seek a better, even a heavenly country? Since the world is our grand enemy, is it not well to find it rendered so unlovely, and unseducing? Now, you have only a few days to live; you have no time to trifle, but must attend to the things which belong to your peace, before they are hid from your eyes.
This frail life, too, in the fourth place, is continually guarded by a wise and tender Providence. All our times are in his hand, who careth for us. "A sparrow falleth not to the ground, without our Heavenly Father: and the very hairs of our head are all numbered."
Let us attend to two additional reflections, and conclude. And, first, if life be like a fading leaf, let us regard it accordingly—
Let it prevent despair. If life be short, thy troubles cannot, O Christian, be long.
Let it also repress fear. It is little the most powerful can do, and before le strikes, he may fall. "I even I, am he that comforteth you: who art thou, that thou shouldst be afraid of man, that shall die, and the son of man, that shall be made as grass?"
Let it check envy. "Be not thou afraid when one is made rich, when the glory of his house is increased: for when he dieth he shall carry nothing away; his glory shall not descend after him. Fret not thyself, because of evil doers, neither be thou
envious against the workers of iniquity; for they shall soon be cut down as the grass, and wither as the green herb."
Let it moderate your attachments, and dependence. Make what use you can of a leaf, but do not lean upon it for support; do not hold your estate by it. Regard your present possessions and comforts as vain and vanishing; and detach your affections from things below. Wilt thou set thy heart on that which is not? Parents! view your children as uncertain delights. Husbands! remember how easily the desires of your eyes may be removed from you.-To-day we have friends and relations, to-morrow we are alone, like a sparrow upon the house-top.
And, 0, bring it home to yourselves-you are going as well as your comforts. Reflect upon your frailty-not only at a funeral, or under sickness, or in old age-but habitually and immediately. To what purpose is it to put the evil day far off in apprehension, when it is so near in reality? Boast not thyself of to-morrow; for thou knowest not what a day may bring forth. "Go to, now,
ye that say, to-day or to-morrow we will go into such a city, and continue there a year, and buy, and sell, and get gain; whereas ye know not what shall be on the morrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapour that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away.”
Let me then ask you, how do matters stand with regard to another world? Are you born again? Have you a title to heaven, or a meetness for it? The grand question is-not, "What shall I eat, or what shall I drink, or wherewithal shall I be clothed?"-but "What must I do to be saved?" You should be principally concerned
hot for to-morrow-but for eternity. To-morrow may never come: eternity will. May the Lord prepare us for it!"So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom."
Let us remember, secondly, that all is not fading. "All flesh is grass, and all the glory of man as the flower of grass. The grass withereth, and the flower thereof falleth away: but the word of the Lord endureth for ever: and this is the word which by the gospel is preached unto you." By means of this everlasting word, you are informed of a Saviour, who is "the same yesterday, to-day, and for ever-of durable riches of bags which wax not old-a crown of lifean inheritance incorruptible and undefiled, and that FADETH NOT AWAY.
"Let us therefore fear, lest, a promise being left us of entering into his rest, any of you should seem to come short of it."
THE DESIGN OF AFFLICTION.
Therefore, behold, I will hedge up thy way with thorns, and make a wall, that she shall not find her paths; and she shall follow after her lovers, but she shall not overtake them; and she shall seek them, but shall not find them; then shall she say, I will go and return to my first husband; for then was it better with me than now. Hosea ii. 6, 7.
THE language of scripture is very figurative. And herein lies much of its excellency and utility.
For since we derive our knowledge through the medium of the senses, in no other way could spiritual truths so easily and forcibly lay hold of the mind.
Nothing is more common in the prophecies than to hold forth the relation between God and the Jews of old, by the alliance of marriage. He was considered as their husband. Hence they were laid under peculiar obligations to him; and hence their sins had the character of violations of the marriage contract.
They were commanded to worship the Lord alone: and him only were they to serve. But, alas! they often declined from his ways, and hardened their heart from his fear: or, to use the language of the metaphor, they went "a whoring after other gods;" and "played the harlot with many lovers." Hence the calamities which befell them.
But while these calamities were the effects of sin, they were also the means to bring them to a proper state of mind. They are therefore considered eventually as mercies, and are spoken of, not in a way of threatening, but promise: "Therefore, behold, I will hedge up thy way with thorns, and make a wall, that she shall not find her paths; and she shall follow after her lovers, but she shall not overtake them; and she shall seek them, but shall not find them: then shall she say, I will go and return to my first husband; for then was it better with me than now."
But what is all this to us? Much every way.— "Whatsoever things were written aforetime, were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scripture might have hope." God has a people for his name in all
ages. And Christians stand in the same relation to him now, as the Jews did of old. And are we better than they? In no wise.-And were not God's dealings with them designed to be typical of his dealings with us? They were: and in reading their history, we may peruse our own.
Let us then endeavour to explain and improve the words, as applicable to ourselves.
They do not indeed require much explanation. For when God says-I will hedge up thy way with thorns, it is obvious that he means-I will o perplex them, embarrass them; pierce them through with many sorrows. There is another hedge which God raises for his people, and of which we read in the scripture-it is the hedge of protection. Thus, speaking of Israel as a vineyard, says God, I will take away the hedge thereof; thereby laying it open to the intrusion of beasts and travellers. And thus, when Satan surveyed the condition of Job, he saw that he could not touch him without divine permission—" Hast not thou made a hedge about him, and about his house, and about all that he hath, on every side?"
But the hedge here spoken of, is the hedge of affliction, composed of some of those thorns and briers which sin has so plentifully produced in this wilderness world. And the metaphor is taken from a husbandman, who, to keep his cattle in the pasture, and prevent their going astray, fences them in; and the sharper the hedge the better. Thus God resolves to make our rovings difficult. If we will go astray, we must smart for it. "And now what hast thou to do in the way of Egypt, to drink the waters of Sihor? or what hast thou to do in the way of Assyria, to drink the waters of the river? Thine own wickedness