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consciously or unconsciously, carry out divine purposes, repent of their sin, they are not excluded from participation in the good they have been instrumentally, and sinfully, accomplishing.
There is divine philosophy in Joseph's words to his conscience-stricken, penitent brethren-—“ Ye meant it for evil, but God meant it for good.”........ Let Judas himself know that if he repent truly of his sin, the betrayed to the Jews shall be his deliverer from perdition ! In vain does Pilate wash his hands before the multitude ; but let him before God, when the deed is done, confess his sin and cry for mercy, and the blood spots he fain would wash away become the healing power of his soul.
Go and preach my Gospel, “ beginning at Jerusalem.” If you meet with him that smote me on the face, tell him I was bruised for his iniquities ! go ; and if you meet with him that put the cruel crown of thorns upon my head, tell him of the crown of righteousness that I will give ; go! and if you meet with that poor wretch that pierced my side, tell him, that the blood he shed has power to cleanse his soul from all the guilt it then incurred! Indeed, were it not so, what hope should we have ? for did not our sins also slay the Lord ?
It is illustrated :-
III. IN THE DISSEMINATION OF THE GOSPEL.
Means in themselves inconsistent with the spirit of the gospel, are in the order of Divine providence, indirectly employed. The great revolt in India seems wonderfully to have issued in such a desire for the Gospel as the missionaries never before have witnessed. Or to turn, somewhat abruptly indeed, to another class of means, we may refer for a moment to the fact that in some cases, for mere selfish and deceitful ends, the Gospel is sometimes preached, and with accompaniments that jar strangely with its deep spiritual harmonies. “What. then? Every way whether in pretence or in earnest, Christ is preached ;” and therein we will rejoice.
When we see the Gospel caricatured, the pulpit turned into a stage, and the preacher into a mountebank ; when we see mechanical and histrionical revivals “got up, ” we feel that no good can be, or ought to be, done; but God is much wiser and more merciful than we are—far more patient and tolerant—and to our surprise we sometimes see the “fruits of the spirit” where we had considered the spirit could not be.
Amongst the various forms of prayer used by us dissenters, this is common—“We pray Thee to bless Thy Word wherever it has been fully and faithfully preached." Amen! of course to this, but we may also surely pray God to bless His Word even where it has been only partially and unfaithfully preached; for of this we may be quite sure that wherever that Word has been at all—though diluted, veiled, becloudedthere is still in it a power and a glory that may, and often do effect Divine purposes in spite of human hindrances. A little light is better than no light at all. Wherever there's a single piece, or fragment, or the merest ravelling, from the great fabric of Truth, let us pray that even it may prove power of God unto salvation.” But as for the preacher himself who handles the word of God deceitfully, good indeed were it for that man, except he repent, if he had not been born.
One thought occurs to us in conclusion. Underlying all this sinful agency ;-ambition, cruelty, lust, ignorance, malice, wickedness of every sort and kind, there is a dark spiritual power—the power of the Devil and his angels--and this, together with the human means, is bent and welded by the Almighty for the accomplishment of His glorious purposes. There is, properly, no triumph for evil-no, not for an hour !
Satan in afflicting Job works out the Heavenly discipline. Paul's thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan sent to buffet him, is, by a Divine purpose, to answer a great spiritual end : -“ lest he should be exalted above measure so that the Devil becomes positively, in this sense, a
“means of grace !” Satan is an usher in the great school of the
Almighty! And if that great malignant Spirit should himself see this as the end of all his works, I can conceive no more terrible humiliation for him, no greater glory for the Lord, than this—that not only from “ seeming evil,” but from real evil, he is still evolving good. Satan does not reign even in hell! The triumphal march of all things in this universe is to the final good—the transcendent glory. In it the wicked have their place, and yet “there is no peace to the wicked saith my God.”
J. W. LANCE
“ Look not on his countenance, or on the height of his stature ; because I have refused Him : for the Lord seeth not as man seeth ; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart."-1 Sam. xvi. 7.
Analysis of Homily the four Hundred and forty-ninth.
Sent to choose a King to reign over Israel, in the place of Saul, Samuel is taken with the personal appearance of Eliab, and says, “Surely the Lord's anointed is before Him.” This judgment was erroneous—it was formed on false grounds, he is set right by the Divine communication :-“ Look not on his countenance," &c. From this we may infer :
I. THE DIVINE SUPERIORITY
PREJUDICES. The prophet was misled by a mere prejudice. The lofty stature, the fine form, the noble countenance of the man, determined his choice, and had he been left to follow the bent of his own inclination, Eliab would have been King of Israel. This is a too common mode of judging. Very frequently the outside show, the mere accidental circumstances of personal appearance, wealth, or position, are taken as criteria of worth. Now we may observe respecting such modes of estimation :
First : That the standard is obviously false. To decide a man's real worth by the display he makes ;—by the magnitude of his possessions, by the honors he wears, or even by the greatness of his intellect, is to view him in a deceptive light-to measure him by a false standard. On this principle the most degraded of moral beings, nay Satan himself, might be more highly esteemed than an angel of light. That it is a false standard is evident at a glance, and as such is condemned in the text, and by Him who said, “ Judge not according to appearance, but judge righteous judgment.”
Secondly: It is one of which many take advantage. Many avail themselves of this common prejudice for purposes of the darkest villany. It is the convenient cloak of the base and the hypocritical. Under its cover multitudes pass for what they are not. They deceive by specious pretences, by mere tinsel by the resemblance of goodness, and are after all but “whited sepulchres ;-ungodly men walking after their own lusts.”
Thirdly: It is often the cause of great wrong. Much injustice is perpetrated through the force of this prejudice. The wicked are justified while the righteous are condemned. The plausible, showy, depraved, man is hailed with shouts of applause ; while the truly good man is despised or even execrated. Thus it was Jesus was covered with obloquy and nailed to the cross, amidst the cries of the multitude, “ away with him, away with him, crucify him.” Even now the best men often meet with the most contemptuous treatment, while “the vilest men are exalted.” It is not thus God judges. “Man looketh upon the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh upon the heart.” We infer :
II. THE CERTAINTY OF THE RIGHT-HEARTED BEING PREFERRED. Those whose hearts are right with God may be contemned by the world, but they may be sure of approval in His sight “who looketh on the heart.” That such will ever be the case may be argued :
First : From universal conviction. False as are the principles on which men choose to act, their convictions are gene
rally on the side of the right. The common conscience of humanity testifies to the worth of right-heartedness. The world
may hate the true and the good, but it cannot love and respect the hypocrite. It is compelled to do homage to truth and sincerity, while it maligns and persecutes those in whom they predominate. This strange contradiction shows how entirely the depraved heart of the world is at war with its moral consciousness. But in this I hear the voice of God speaking through humanity, and saying, "I the Lord, search the heart, I try the reins,” &c. Jer. xvii. 10.
Secondly: From the voice of revelation. The Bible is decisive in its assertion of this principle. It pronounces as with a voice of thunder, its indignant repudiation of the prejudice by which human conduct is governed, and maintains the opposite as the eternal rule of Divine preference. On every page the inscription is indelibly written, “the Lord looketh on the heart.” Man may make great pretensions, dazzle with glittering show, be exceedingly punctilious about forms and creeds, and Jebulike cry, “Come with me and see my zeal for the Lord,” and yet find their condemnation written in the Bible, because with all their pretentious externalism their hearts are not right with God. As a man “thinketh in his heart so is he," is the dictum of God's word—the emphatic voice of revelation.
Thirdly: From their own consciousness. The wrong-hearted are self-condemned, while those whose hearts are right with God enjoy a cheering consciousness of His approbation. They are conscious that they have His approval, as the child is conscious of that of the parent whose countenance is lighted up with the complacent smile, whose eye rests upon it with beaming pleasure. “If a man love me,” &c. John xiv. 23. “Let us not love in word, neither in tongue,” &c. John iii. 18—12.
Yes, the right-hearted know they have God's approval, they walk in the light of His countenance, they possess “the soul's calm sunshine and the heartfelt joy,” which His presence creates. Theirs is “the peace which passeth all understanding.” We infer :