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thy holy temple. It describes the crisis of his distress, the moment he was sunk to the greatest despondency, bordering on utter despair; out of which he is recovered by the hope of divine mercy. I said, I am cast out of thy sight. Did he mean that he was now beyond the reach of God's omniscience? No; though mortal eyes could follow him no further, he was well aware of his being naked to the eyes of Him with whom he had to do. His meaning was, I suppose, that he was cast out of God's favour; alluding to the practice of princes and great men, who admit their friends into their presence, but banish those who have offended them out of their sight. Thus the divinely favoured land of promise is described as that on which the eyes of the Lord were set from the beginning of the year to the end of the year; and thus the children of Israel, when they had for a long time offended God, are said to be removed by captivity out of his sight. Now Jonah had been favoured of God in several ways: as an Israelite, he had long enjoyed the means of grace, of which those of other nations had been destitute; but now he is deprived of them. 'No more shall I peruse the lively oracles of Jehovah! No more frequent his temple, in company with his people! No more join in the melody of Zion! Far from the holy abodes of hope and peace, I die alone! No fellow-servant of God to attend me in my last hours! No eye to pity me, nor hand to help me! I die an outcast— an outcast of the heathen!' He had also been highly honoured in being made a prophet. The Lord had employed him as an ambassador extraordinary; but having offended him, he appears now to be cast off. 'God,' as if he should say, 'will employ me no more. In this shameful and painful manner ends my stewardship.' Finally: As a religious man, he had enjoyed communion with God, and cherished hopes of everlasting life; but now, what can he think of himself, and of his prospects for eternity? If by this language he meant that all was over with him, for this world and that to come, it is no more than might be expected. Sin must needs cloud our evidences for heaven, and render our state doubtful. They that observe lying vanities, forsake their own mercies.
There is something in this language peculiarly awful. Of all the ills that can befall us, being castout of God's sight is the most
to be dreaded; because this is the source and sum of all evil. As God's presence is heaven, to be cast out of it is hell. Deprived of his favour, what is life, even though we were possessed of every earthly comfort, and could ensure it for a long series of years? What then must it be to one in the very article of dissolution? To live without the divine favour is dreadful; but to die without it is much more so!
It is also observable, how the punishment corresponds witli the nature of the offence; and this we shall find to be a general character of the divine administration. They that receive not the love of the truth, are given up to believe a lie; deceivers are deceived ; adulterers are cast into a bed, and those who have committed adultery with them; and they that have loved cursing, the curse shall come upon them, as oil into their bones. Thus Jonah fled from the presence of the Lord; and now his conscience forebodes the issue—I am cast out of thy sight.
There are two other remarks which present themselves from this desponding sentence, of a more pleasing complexion. One is, that happily for him, it was only he that said it. It was the punishment awarded by conscience at the time; but the awards of conscience are not final. They respect what ought to be, if we had our desert; but not always what shall be. Sovereign mercy reserves to itself the right of revising and reversing these decisions. If the Lord had said Amen, all had been over with Jonah; but Ms thoughts are not as our thoughts, nor his ways as our ways: as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are his thoughts higher than our thoughts, and his ways than our ways.—Zion said, The Lord hath forsaken me; but the Lord her God did not say so too! The other remark which offers is, the piety or godliness which appears even in the despondency of this good man. How different is the spirit of it from that of Cain! Future punishment is sometimes distinguished into a punishment of loss, and a punishment of stnse. The latter is the dread of the wicked. Could they but be exempted from positive misery, they would not be much concerned for the loss of God's favour; nor indeed at all, but as depriving them of natural enjoyment. But it is not thus with a good man. The loss of God's favour is, to him, the
heaviest of all punishments. This was the distress of Jonah. One sees in him also, in his darkest state, a tenderness of sinning against God, by being any otherwise accessary to his own death, than as owing what was his desert. Some men, if they had felt half his burden, would have plunged themselves into the sea; but be, humiliating as it must be, pronounces his own doom, and submits to be cast away by their hands!
But we have now arrived at the period of his dejection. Lo, when he was just giving up ail for lost; nay, when he had actually pronouneed his doom; when death had laid hold upon him, and he seemed already in his grave; a thought glances across his mind; a gleam of hope accompanies it: yet, before 1 die, 1 will look again toward thy holy temple! The thought proves a resurrection to his soul.
But, let us observe what it was on which his hope, at this affecting crisis caught hold. Was it the temple, the material building, to which he looked for relief? Surely not. An Israelite in name only, might have indulged a superstitious confidence in the place: hut Jonah looked farther. It was to the temple with respect to Him that dwelt therein, and the manner in which he dwelt therein, namely, upon the mercy seat, or propitiatory, that he looked. If expressed in New Testament language, it would be looking to God through a Mediator, who is our Advocate with the Father, and whose advocacy is founded on his having been made a propitiation.
The encouragement which the prophet felt to look toward the temple for relief, appears to have arisen from two sources, namely, scripture and experience. The prayer of Solomon at the dedication was recorded in the scriptures, and must have been familiar to every godly Israelite. After having enumerated divers particular cases, he adds, What prayer and supplication soever be made ly any man, or by all thy people Israel, who shall know every man the plague of his own heart, and shall spread forth his hands toward this house, then hear thou in heaven thy dwelling-place, and forgive, and do, and give. This was doubtless a directory for Jonah, when other help failed; and the answer given to Solomon, I have heard thy prayer, and thy supplication that thou hast made before me, turned all bis petitions into promises. Here therefore was rest for the soul of every distressed Israelite, throughout all their generations ; and for Jonah, though in the most deplorable state. / will look, saith he, toward thy holy temple ; and hear thou in heaven thy dwelling-place; aud forgive, and do, and give. To scripture direction was added former experience. The language implies, that this was not the first time that Jonah had looked to the temple for relief. He had looked before, and would now look again. It bad long, no doubt, been his practice, under every load of guilt or sorrow of any kind, to repair to the mercy-seat, where Jehovah had promised to commune with his people. This, to Old Testament believers, was as common as coming to the throne of grace that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help us in time of need, is to believers under the New Testament; and having formerly found relief in looking, they would be encouraged to look again. It is a good use to make of past experiences, to take encouragement from them to make renewed applications for mercy. They are not designed for a pillar of repose under the load of a guilty conscience; nor the source from which our comfort is to be derived; but a directory to point us to the Saviour, and an encouragement that we shall not apply to him in vain.
From the whole, we learn the following important instructions:—First: The great evil of departing from God, and of flying in the face of his commands. The story of Jonah leaves an impression behind it of the justness of his own reflection, They that observe lying vanities, farsake their own mercies. What are all the reasonings of the flesh against God's revealed will? Vanities, lying vanities; the end of which, if grace prevent not, will be death. Secondly: Yet if any one have sinned, let him not despair. While there is a propitiation, an Advocate with the Father, to despair were to add sin to sin. Thirdly: If through sin we have lost the light of God's countenance, and would recover it, it must be sought in the same way as that in which we 6rst obtained it. If ever we regain rest to our souls, after having backslidden and lost it, it must be by applying to him, as guilty, unworthy, and perishing sinners, entreating to be forgiven through the bloodshedding of the Saviour. This was the manner in which we first looked: and in this manner we must look again. Fourthly: Draw no positive conclusions of the state of the dead from what we see in the last hours of life. There may be no ground to conclude any thing in their favour; yet the cause of Jonah is sufficient to deter us from concluding that they are lost. Had we been present when he was convicted and cast away, and seen the manner in which he went down to the watery grave, we might have drawn an unfavourable conclusion of him. All that took place of a favourable kind, was after every human eye bad left him. Such a case proves the possibility of a penitent and believing look to the mercy-seat, when the party is removed beyond the ken of human observation; and this is sufficient to teach us our own ignorance; and incompetency to judge of the future state of any individual.
ON THE DANGEROUS TENDENCY OF THE DOCTRINE OF
As the scriptures abound in representations of divine truth, and of its influence in sanctifying and saving the souls of men, so they are no less explicit in declaring the unholy and destructive influence of error. It is said to increase into more ungodliness, and to eat as doth a gangrene. The same divine writer speaks of strong delusion,; or the energy, mighty working, or effectual operation of error. It is often alleged in behalf of the advocates of certain doctrines, that allowing them to be in an error, yet there is no reason to question their sincerity: and if so, it may be only an innocent mistake. If by sincerity be meant no more than that they really believe what they teach, there is no reason