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and indolence, and then he fell. If we have received grace to be faithful hitherto, let us not pride ourselves thereon, or think ourselves privileged to take our ease for a season; but look upon ourselves as more than ever bound to watch and pray that we forsake not the Lord when He so mercifully leads us by the way, remembering that patient continuance in well-doing is the only safe course, and only sure method, for lengthening out our tranquillity.
Be it supposed, however, that we have fallen from our own stedfastness, which is the case that the history before us peculiarly calls upon us to consider.
Then, the way to honour God, as we may gather from the demeanour of David, and the way of duty and true repentance, if we would recover ourselves out of the snare of the devil when we have been taken captive by him at his will, -is, by a humble and patient submission to Divine chastisement, and an acquiescent acknowledgment of the justice and fitness of Divine rebukes. We should not, however, surrender ourselves to despair, as if the Lord would certainly absent Himself for ever, and was not wont in wrath to remember mercy; for this has in it less of humility than of infidelity and unworthy thoughts of God.
“I acknowledge my transgressions,” says David himself: "and my sin is ever before me. Against tlree, thee only, have I sinned, and done this evil in thy sight: that thou mightest be justified when thou speakest,” that is, to pronounce sentence against me, “and be clear when thou judgest ?.” And this must be our language also. Our misdeeds prevail against us, it may be. Our enemies have us in derision; we are scorned, reviled, reproached; our loins are smitten with a sore disease perbaps, and there is no whole part in our body; our spirits are sunk, our energies are broken, we water our couch with our tears. We cannot do the things which we would. We cannot arise and go forth in the strength of the Lord, any more than
? Ps. li. 3, 4.
Samson could when his Nazarite's vow was broken. Nothing seems to prosper with us. God is inaccessible and against us: “He hath set me in dark places,” we
“ say, “as they that be dead of old. He bath hedged me about, that I cannot get out: He hath made my chain heavy. Also when I cry and shout, He shutteth out my prayer :.” What, then! Surely He is righteous, and we need no more wonder than rebel. “Wherefore doth a living man complain, a man for the punishment of his sins * ?” Has He smitten us beyond our ill deservings? Is not what is left us far beyond an equivalent for any our good deservings? What are they? “The wages of sin is death 5,” that is undeniable; but every good thing is of grace, a free gift from God. And how know we how much is necessary to vindicate God's honour before a misjudging world, and to break our own stubborn wills? And besides, is not all that has befallen us in the natural course of things? Do we not know, beforehand, that fire will burn, and so keep our distance ? And did we not know, beforehand, just as well concerning sin, that, at the last, it biteth like a serpent, and stingeth like an adder? Why should God work a miracle to prevent the consequences ? Why should not the sinner eat of the fruit of his own way? ? Or even if the wound is healed, why should not the scar be left? or the lameness remain though the broken limb be set? The prophet, whose words I have before quoted, follows them up at once by a declaration of our duty: “Let us search and try our ways, and turn again to the Lord 6.” This is what we have to do; and then as to the consolation, “Tarry thou,” says David, “the Lord's leisure 7."
However, when the serpent had bitten of old, God did send the remedy by the hand of his servant Moses. “And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must,” we know, “the Son of man be lifted
, up: that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish,
3 Lam. iii. 6—8.
Lam. ii. 40.
4 Lam. iii. 39. 5 Rom. vi. 2.
? Ps. xxvii. 16, Prayer-Book Version. but have eternal life. For God so loved the world, that He gave his only-begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him, should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through Him might be saved 8.' Here let the chastened rest; hereon let his heart be fixed; and, having the hope herein afforded him, he may well possess his soul in patience, not rendering evil for evil, or railing for railing, if he meets with it; but, contrariwise, blessing; committing himself the while to Him that judgeth righteously. Though thou hast sinned, yet forget not that Christ hath died, yea, rather is risen again, and also maketh intercession for thee. In his name come to God, not to complain of afflictions, but to seek to have them sanctified, so that it may be good for thee to have undergone them. In his name abide with God in asking pardon for the offences which have made correction necessary. And then, though you may long have to say with David, “Why art thou cast down, O my soul? and why art thou disquieted within me?" yet you may proceed with him, “Hope thou in God: for I shall yet praise Him, who is the health of my countenance, and my God!."
THE DISOBEDIENT PROPHET.
1 Kings xiii. 24. “And when he was gone, a lion met him by the way, and slew him:
and his carcase was cast in the way, and the ass stood by it, the
lion also stood by the carcase. We have in this chapter the affecting history of a good man dying under the Divine rebuke. The right exposition of this history is not perfectly obvious to all sorts of persons; but it affords, when properly understood, much instruction. I shall, therefore, now employ myself in making some remarks upon it.
We read in the preceding chapter, that Jeroboam, the son of Nebat, had revolted from his master, Rehoboam, the son of Solomon, and, drawing ten of the tribes of Israel after him, had established a separate kingdom for himself. This done, it occurred to him, that if his new subjects were to be permitted, according to the commandment of God, to go up, from time to time, to worship at Jerusalem, they might be led (in consequence of such frequent intercourse with the tribe of Judah) to return to their allegiance to the family of David. To prevent this, “the king took counsel, and made two calves of gold, and said unto
the people, It is too much for you to go up to Jerusalem: behold thy gods, O Israel, which brought thee up out of the land of Egypt. And he set the one in Beth-el, and the other put he in Dan. And this thing,” says the sacred historian, “became a sin !.” It was a flagrant breach of the Second Commandment, in which is forbidden the making of any image of the Lord Jehovah: it corrupted the simplicity and spirituality of God's worship; and had a direct tendency to introduce that still more abominable idolatry, namely, the worship of false gods.
Accordingly, it pleased the Lord to testify his displeasure without delay. Whilst Jeroboam was in the act of dedicating the altar at Bethel, there came a man of God out of Judah, who prophesied in the name of the Lord against the altar, declaring, that a king should
a arise of the house of David, who should destroy the idolatrous worship then about to be established, and pollute the altar by burning men's bones upon it. At the same time the man of God gave a sign, or testimony, that he had indeed spoken by God's authority, by declaring that the altar should be rent and the ashes poured out.
Jeroboam, greatly enraged at the boldness and plainness with which the prophet had delivered his message, instantly put forth his hand to seize upon him, saying to the people, “Lay hold of him.” But when the Lord sends his servants upon any hazardous commission, as long as they faithfully discharge their trust He never fails to be with them and to defend them. “The king's hand which he had put forth dried up, so that he could not pull it again to him.” And the sign which the man of God had given coming to pass at the same instant by the rending of the altar, Jeroboam, as might be expected, was both alarmed and humbled. He no longer thought of wreaking his vengeance on God's messenger; but, in a suppliant