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might Elijah think, "He looketh on the earth and it trembleth; He toucheth the hills and they smoke.” But the Lord was not in the earth. quake. There is stillness again. Is the Lord neither in the storm nor in the earthquake? might Elijah ask himself. Shall something mightier come ?, Yes, something still mightier comes. A fire came. It bursts out of the earth; it falls from heaven; a scorching glow breathes through the air; flame and smoke fill the heavens and the earth. Can anything more terrible succeed? Truly, this is Horeb, the mount of the burning bush! Elijah, thou wert counted worthy of a nobler sight than Moses ! But the Lord was not in the fire; not in the most terrific convulsions or dreadful scenes of nature. Once more stillness ensues. Yet grander, nobler, more violent, more awful, yet to come ? might Elijah ask himself; but he knew not what to answer. Astonished, his whole soul is on the stretch. It can endure the great, and is familiar with the terrible. Let there only come the grander and more awful. As it comported with the wrath of the Lord, so it accorded with the heart of Elijah. He waits, he looks,-his whole soul is in his eyes. There came a still small voice. An air of peace springs up; soft zephyrs are wafted round him; a breeze of mildness and of mercy breathes upon him. What is that? A tremor comes over him, pierces his soul, breaks his heart-a heart which distress and enmity could only harden. He is speechless. Yet that still small voice speaks on. He trembles inwardly. The depths of his soul are moved. Suddenly a light springs up. He understands the sign, and that face, once so fearless, he wraps in his mantle! · Hast thou, too, understood it, church of the Lord ? Hast thou under. stood it, and felt in thy heart that gentle yet powerful movement, and a light sprung up in thy spirit ? Hast thou understood the divination of the Gospel, the omnipotence of love, of all-conquering grace ? O that thou hadst! Then wouldst thou happily distinguish the Law from the Gospel; then wouldst thou have found the only true relief for all the troubles of life; then wouldst thou know what it is to live in grace and upon grace: the mysterious operation of the Word of God would unveil itself to thee! Not in the storm of the chastising word, not in the earthquake of destroying judgments, not in the fire of consuming zeal, or of wasting repentance, is the Lord ; and the kingdom of God comes not with autward observation, but in demonstration of the Spirit and with power. The violent, the terrible, that which makes an outward show, is not the means which the Lord loves. His going is in the still small voice. Before him, indeed, may the law, and the scourge, and repentance proceed. But repentance is only sin becoming alive, the scourge disheartens, and the commandment kills. In the still small voice is the Lord. In the voice which breathes from the Cross, in the still small voice in which He came to thee, when full of cares and troubles, and heavy laden, thou didst cast thyself before him. In the still small voice when He passed by, beheld thy tears, heard thy sighs, and said, “ Peace be with thee!” In the still small voice, when He breathes over the dry bones, and life rises within thee, and thou dost stand and walk a new-born soul! On grace and faith rests the new life. Before it is for. given thee, perhaps thou hast fought against sin; perhaps thou hast wrought and worried thyself ere the inner joy of faith is fulfilled ; perhaps thou hast striven with all thy heart and strength ere thou art acquainted with the grace of God. On the Jordan stands the second Elijah, and preaches repentance, and cries, “ The axe is laid to the root of the tree.” But He who hangs on the cross supplicates forgiveness for his enemies, thirsts, and cries, “It is finished ! And on the day of Pentecost stands Peter, and preaches, “ Beloved brethren, to you and to
your children is the promise; be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sin.” And in the jail at Philippi stånd Paul and Silas before the self-murderer, stay his purpose, and cry, “Believe, so shalt thou be saved, and thy house.” This is the simple way of the Gospel. The world uses much art, gives a thousand counsels, makes the simple and easy hard and intricate, and falls short of its aim. But go thou, poor and needy as thou art, with all thy poverty, with all thy sins, and thyself with thy unbelief, to Christ, tell him how it stands with thee, ask for grace, and in the still small voice shall it come, and make its abode in thy soul! • It is hard to leave, even for a moment, the sum and substance of the Gospel, and the blessed peculiarity of its announcement, but we do so only to return to it with more assurance. Whenever the Word of God operates in this way on ourselves or others, the objection presents itself, 6 What then, by such a doctrine, will become of active life? The still
small voice lulls asleep; a spiritual sluggishness will come over all, when , we require only grace; at last on our death-bed, when all is over, the eye
dim, and the arm powerless, then we have only to yield ourselves to the grace of God; but as yet we have an eye to see, and an arm to work, and duty to perform.” What shall we say to this? What shall we say, dear bearers, but that we must first be poor, and always becoming poorer through our whole life, and then, when all is over, seek salvation. “But is not duty a great word, and the law of God a still greater ?”. Yes, they are so, indeed; but true fidelity to duty, and right obedience to the law, requires new eyes and new arms. The law shall be fulfilled, but with new knowledge and new power. This Elijah teaches.
“What dost thou here, Elijah ?” spake the voice. Darest thou think of resting ? Imaginest thou that separation from the people to whom the Lord sent thee is obedience to his will? Thinkest thou that He can pause because thou art desponding and inactive? Elijah has been taught how grace operates. He shall have a new commission, and instead of one he receives three charges. He must proceed to Damascus, and anoint Hazael to be king over Syria; he must go to Ramoth-gilead, and anoint Jehu to be king over Israel; he must go to Abel-meholah, and anoint Elisha to be a prophet. The work of the Lord shall begin anew, and on three sides shall it be advanced by his hand. So little can our exertion, our philanthropy, our service in the cause of mankiųd diminish when we are born again, that the commission will increase much more than threefold. The earlier obligation remains, but we see new ones where we formerly saw none, and we discover in the former weak points which till now we had overlooked. Let the light increase, and the eye will become sharper.
But the power and the pleasure also increase. Elijah hears that the Lord had reserved in Israel seven thousand whose knees had not bowed to Baal. He knows now that he had only deceived himself, when he thought he was the sole believer who survived in Israel; he sees seven thousand companions, who, as well as he, had come under the power of grace. Must not his courage and delight have increased at this ? Must he not have put a more joyful hand to the work, when he learnt that seven thousand companions hold up his hands by their prayers ? Must he not have felt an unspeakable strengthening in such society, when his work is also their work, and both theirs and his the work of the Lord ? • Ob, happy condition into which he who is born again enters, when he has known the work of the Lord in the still small voice! His labour may indeed increase threefold, but he sees seven thousand companions around him. Yet let us not forget, when our self-seeking exertion is turned to shame before our eyes, and we have recognised in the work of the Lord, both in our own heart and in the church, the mysterious and mighty power of his Word, that both take place together. Great, violent, and striking changes, which the world wonders at and admires, we will not seek. Should the Lord bring them, we implore him to enlighten our eyes, that we may see in the outward only the inward, and so fortify our hearts, that in the outward we may love the inward alone. But should his Word take the silent and sure method of the still small voice, we will rejoice the more, and doubt not but that it will prosper in the thing to which He sends it. The human heart requires such a message of peace as the gospel affords it; it longs in its extremity for such a salvation as is held forth in Christ; it longs for such a happiness of faith as is found in his church; and it feels this indigence, this aspiration, this longing, when it permits them not to be heard, or even to be well known to itself. Therefore the ministers of the Word, conscious of this, need only appeal to yourselves; and while they set forth the wants, the pains, the miseries of life, and the longings of the heart, or the drawings of preparatory grace, they would always of new beseech you, Be ye reconciled to God! Only reconciliation, only grace, only faith! Let this stand as the one and the ever new before the soul, and it can never fail of producing genuine humility, and lively exertion, and ascriptions of praise to our Lord Jesus Christ, to whom, with the Father and the Holy Spirit, be glory now and for ever!
DAVID IN THE WOOD.
BY THB REV. JAMES SMITH. “And Jonathan Saul's son arose, and went to David into the wood, and strengthened his hand in God."-1 Sam. xxiii. 16.
The word of God is full of important instruction and choice consolation. It meets every case, and suits us in every condition. Read where we will, there is something for the soul, something upon which we can feed. But it is profitable not only by what it directly states, but also by what it suggests. If the mind is spiritual, if we are lively in the Lord's ways, we shall often see Jesus, when others see him not, and enjoy spiritual blessings while reading literal histories. The history of David is specially profitable to the Lord's people. We have often found Jesus, while reading of David; and traced out christian experience, while following him through his trials and troubles. Let us now look at one incident in his story. He was hated by Saul, pursued by the enemy, and betrayed by the Keilites. His life was in imminent danger, and he went for safety into a wood. “And Jonathan Saul's son arose, and went to David into the wood, and strengthened his hand in God.” We will,
First, look at David and his situation. David was typical of Jesus, of honoured saints, and of the faithful servants of God. We will not now consider him as representing his Lord, but as typifying his brethren. His very name indicates his greatest privilege,-be was beloved of God. The eye, and the heart of God, rested upon him with complacency and delight. His name was registered in heaven, and his interests were in · the hands of Jesus. Just so every believer is beloved of his God. God
loves him distinctly, personally, infinitely. He loves him with an ever, lasting love. A love, the beginning of which can never be traced out, and which has noend. A love vast as infinity, tender as the heart of Jesus, and durable as eternity. A love, which prefers its objects to everything beside, and never did, never will, never can part with one of them. Oh, the honour, the happiness, of being beloved of God! But every christian, the weakest, the poorest, the most infirm, is as really, and as much beloved of God as David was. David was appointed to the kingdom, he was chosen to this honour by God himself: and we, beloved, are appointed unto a kingdom too. As Jesus said to his disciples, “I appoint unto you a kingdom, as my father hath appointed me.” Not a carnal, but a spiritual, not an earthly, but a heavenly kingdom. We shall be kings and priests unto God. “And when the days of our pilgrimage are ended, when our work is finished, and our testimony completed, Jesus will say unto us, “ Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.” Then the crown of righteous. mess will be awarded us, the crown of life will be bestowed upon us, the crown of glory will adorn us for ever. David was consecrated with the holy oil. It was taken from the tabernacle by Samuel, conveyed to Bethlehem, and there poured upon the young shepherd's head. That oil represented the Holy Spirit, in his gifts, graces, and operations. We have received no natural oil, no literal anointing, but we “have an unction from the Holy One." “ The anointing which we have received of him abideth in us." If we have not the sign, we have the thing signified. Jesus hath given unto us his Holy Spirit, and we have experienced his softening, soothing, and solacing influences in our souls. That Spirit is the earnest of the inheritance. It is the proof that we are appointed to the kingdom. Brought from the holy place by Jesus, the gift of God, it has been poured, not upon our heads, but into our hearts, and there it abides and works. David was hated and persecuted by Saul. And they who are born after the flesh still persecute those who are born after the Spirit. Satan hates and persecutes all God's anointed ones. He always follows the oil, and begins to vent his malice and his rage; and just in proportion to the consistency of our course, the clearness of our testimony, and the usefulness of our lives, will be the strength of his opposition. “ If any man will live godly in Christ Jesus, he shall suffer persecution.” Poor persecuted christian, cheer up; though hunted like a partridge upon the mountains, the kingdom is sure, the crown will be glorious, and the mansion grand and magnificent. David was the friend of Jonathan, the king's son, and we are the friends of Jesus, the Son of God. Hé calls us his friends, and he shows himself friendly to us. Blessed Jesus, I had rather be thy friend than the conqueror of the globe, or king of kings!
The situation of David was trying Driven from the city, he was obliged to hide in the wood. A wood indicates loneliness, perplexity, and privation; and very aptly represents our state at times, in reference to providence and grace. How many of the Lord's Davids are in the wood now, as it respects their temporal affairs ! They are lonely, for they cannot open their hearts to any one. They are perplexed, for they know not what to do. They are in privation, pinched, pierced, and troubled, by claims they cannot meet, circumstances they cannot control, and wants they cannot supply. There they are startled by the roaring winds, the howling wolves, and the rocking trees; they feel alone, they are perplexed and troubled. So in reference to grace, how many of the Lord's people are in the wood! They fancy that their experience is singular, no heart was ever so foul, no corruptions ever so black, no blasphemies ever so dreadful, as what work or sound in their souls. They feel so hard, so stupid, so prayerless, that they are sure no christian is like them. They are in the wood. They do as Jeremiah said, “ He sitteth alone and keepeth silence, he putteth his mouth in the dust, if so be there may be hope.” They are filled with perplexity, they dare not go back, they cannot go forward, but, like a person lost in a wood, they wander about, weary, forlorn, and wretched, coming back again and again to the old spot." They start at every sound, and misinterpret every voice. There are no bright views, no cheering rays, no sweet flowers, only trees. They feel bewildered, like David in the wood. They suffer many privations, for they cannot enjoy the ordinances, they have no sweet fellowship with God, they can hold no satisfactory communion with the saints; pinched with hunger, parched with thirst, and drenched with night dews, they sigh, groan, and grieve, but see no path, no way of deliverance, no friend; they are in the wood. We will now,
Secondly, notice Jonathan and his kindness. “He arose and went to David in the wood, and strengthened his hand in God.” Jonathan, like Jesus, was the king's son, and David's best friend. Hidden from him, his heart still glowed with love to him, and he arose to go to him. He sought him, he found him, he strengthened him,-his heart, his hand, in God's power, providence, promise, and protection. He strengthened him by reminding him of past achievements, by referring him to future pros. pects, by assuring him of safety, and by bringing forward the Lord's marvellous dealings with him. Just so, Jesus, when his people are in the wood, comes to them; by his blessed Spirit, by some friend, or by his own sent ministers, he finds them out, and strengthens them. The heart is strengthened, and so the hand, which now lays hold afresh on God's gracious character, precious word, and covenant relations. Outward circumstances may remain the same, a wood; but inward emotions and sensations are all changed. The soul can now rest upon divine power engaged for it, upon a special providence working on its behalf, upon the precious promises assuring it of deliverance and supplies, and upon God's faithful care, as its protection from all real evils. Faith becomes strong, hope lifts up its head, and confidence finds a centre in God's glorious perfections. One hour, one moment, with our spiritual Jonathan in the wood, turns the wilderness to Eden, and the wood itself into a delightful residence. O Jesus, whenever brought into a wood by thy providence, or by thy dealings with us in grace, come, come and visit us, and strengthen our hands in God !
When Jonathan comes, we are reminded of the past; we remember how we were delivered out of the jaws of the lion, and out of the paw of the bear, how Goliah fell before our sling and stone, and come to the happy conclusion, “He that hath delivered, doth deliver, and in him we trust, that he will yet deliver us.” We are referred to our future prospects, and beyond the wood we see the fields of waving corn, the silver brooks, the sunny plains, the goodly mountains, and the everlasting bills. We see the end of our doubts, fears, misgivings, sorrow, conflicts, privations, and sins; we have before us the rest that remaineth, the hopes laid up for us in heaven, the city that hath foundations, and the house not made with hands. This mightily strengthens both heart and hand in God. We are assured of safety, for God's promise is pledged, his hosts encamp around us, and his own potent arm is raised up to defend us. He will never leave us; but in wood or city, on the mountain or the plain, in conflict of at peace, he will be with us to defend and secure us. We now remember the days of old, the years of ancient times. We call to remembrance our song in the night." We remember the years of the right hand of the Most High. These things soon dry up the cold damp dew, chase away our fears, silence the winds, and we see our way out of the wood clearly.