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Let us," beholding as in a fed to the soul, and made the imprisoned inglass his glory, be changed into the same mate long for release. image, from glory to glory, as by the Spirit of the Lord!" Secondly. Think of this man; and suffer me to inquire how far his case represents your own. I would address you under a fourfold supposition.
He has done enough to secure your welfare and happiness, whatever your outward condition may be: for "blessed is the man whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sin is covered." Your trials are without a sting, and will soon be removed for ever; and "the inhabitant shall no more say, I am sick."
Fourthly. Are there none here who are freed from sickness and condemnation too? Such was the distinguished privilege of this poor man. Thus it was with Hezekiah. In his mercy, assurance of pardon and recovery from disease were combined. "Behold, for peace I had great bitterness: but thou hast in love to my soul delivered it from the pit of corruption: for thou hast cast all my sins behind thy back." If this be your case, resemble him. Say, "The living, the living, he shall praise thee, as I do this day: the father to the children shall make known thy truth." Say with David, after his remarkable salvation, "Return unto thy rest, O my soul; for the Lord hath dealt bountifully with thee. For thou hast delivered my soul from death, mine eyes from tears, and my feet from falling. I will walk before the Lord in the land of the living." Publish his praise, and constrain others to come to him. Say to your neighbours and friends, "O taste and see that the Lord is good: blessed is the man that trusteth in him."
First. Are any of you distressed in mind, and body too; oppressed at once with disease and guilt? It is a sad case; but the best thing you can do is to go to him, and address him in the language of one who has been in the same state before you. "Have mercy upon me, O Lord, for I am weak: O Lord, heal me; for my bones are vexed. My soul is also sore vexed: but thou, O Lord, how long? Return, O Lord, deliver my soul: oh save me for thy mercies' sake. For in death there is no remembrance of thee: in the grave who shall give thee thanks? Look upon mine affliction and my pain; and forgive all my sins."
Secondly. Has he healed thy body, and not said to thy soul, "I am thy salvation?" O be not satisfied with the inferior blessing. Rest not till you are justified by faith, and have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. It would be infinitely better to have the forgiveness of sins, and be left languishing under incurable disease, than to be released from the most dreadful malady, and left under the guilt of sin. What are fifteen years added to our life, to go on treasuring up wrath against the day of wrath, and the revelation of the righteous judgment of God! Thousands have been recovered from the borders of the grave, and have afterwards
seen not only the pit of corruption, but of THE WORK OF THE DAY DONE IN
destruction. What are the nine ungrateful lepers the better for their cure now! Many never think of this. They are only concerned to escape from a bed of sickness. Whether their souls are blessed or injured by the visitation, is no inquiry with them. But it is an awful thing to have an affliction removed and not sanctified.
Thirdly. Has he spoken peace to thy conscience, and is thy body still under the influence of disease? Be thankful that the greater work is accomplished, and submit to his pleasure with regard to the less. You may pray for ease and deliverance from your affliction: but it must be conditionally; "Not my will, but thine be done." He may have ends to answer by keeping you in affliction after he has pardoned you. He may design to endear to you the scriptures and the throne of grace; to wean you from a vain world; to afford you opportunities to prove the tenderness of his care, and the supports of his presence. Bodily infirmities, like breaks in a wall, says Watts, have often been avenues through which the light of heaven has enter2 G 20*
As the duty of every day required.
TIME, with regard to many-I use the words of Solomon, is "a price in the hand of fools." They know not its value, nor the importance of the things they could purchase Iwith it, if properly laid out; and therefore they barter it away upon trifles, or heedlessly lose it. But the talent is the same, notwithstanding the ignorance of the possessor.
Yes-time-time is unspeakably precious. And this is readily acknowledged by all those who know the worth of it by the loss. O what would the miserable in hell give for a little of that time which many consume in doing nothing, or worse than nothing! O what thoughts of time has a dying sinner, who has lived without God in the world! If heaven would lengthen his days, he would accept the boon on the hardest condition that could ever be proposed. Could he only but live, he would be content to labour in a mine, or beg his bread from door to door. Ah! how feelingly then does he admonish children,
friends, and neighbours to number their days, and "apply their hearts unto wisdom!"
No wonder, therefore, that the Apostle should call upon us to "redeem the time;" that is, to improve it, by devoting it to the purposes for which it was given. In doing this, there is no one rule of greater importance that that which we may lawfully draw from the words before us; in which we are informed that the pious Jews returned from Babylon, having erected an altar, kept also the feast of tabernacles as it is written, and offered the daily burnt-offerings by number, according to the custom, "as the duty of every day required." It is in the margin, "the matter of the day in his day." This has grown into a proverbial saying among those who love Scripture phraseology; and teaches us that we should do the work of the day in the day. I. WE MAY APPLY THIS TO LIFE IN GEThis is called "a day"-and it is a single day-a short day-a day which it is impossible to lengthen. And what is the language of reason; of Scripture? "To-day if ye will hear his voice, harden not your heart. Behold now-is the day of salvation." And what will be your language if the same mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus? "I must work the works of him that sent me while it is day; the night cometh, wherein no man can work."
II. IT WILL APPLY TO PROSPERITY. This is called "a day;" and Solomon tells us what is the duty of it. "In the day of prosperity be joyful." He cannot, we may be assured, intend to countenance extravagance and excess. The good creatures of God's providence are not given to be consumed upon our Justs, or to degrade a man below the beasts that perish. We are to use this world, but we are to use it as not abusing it.
The wise man would teach us to enjoy the comforts our circumstances afford, in opposition to that self-denial that arises, not from religious motive, but from anxiety; from a disposition to live comparatively poor and destitute at present, in order to hoard up for the future. Whereas the Apostle tells us, that "God gives us all things richly to enjoy." Those men are to be pitied who possess much and enjoy little; who have the blessings of life in abundance, but no heart to use them. These generally promise themselves great enjoyment hereafter when they shall have obtained so much. But what is the result? Their souls are often required of them before the expected season, "and then whose are those things which they have provided?"When they do reach this period, they feel the infirmities of nature, or the assaults of disease; many of their connexions, who would once have shared their joys along with them, are lodged in the cold grave, while those that remain are praying for their death: and when to all this we add, that they carry
into these new scenes old habits that cannot be changed; what wonder is it that they "have no pleasure in them?" We should never sacrifice present happiness to future imaginations. God, like a generous friend, is pleased to see his presents enjoyed-" to enjoy is to obey." Yea, such is the goodness of our heavenly Benefactor, that he does not desire us, even by a sense of our unworthiness, to lessen our relish of his favours. But let us be always joyful in him; let us enjoy all in God, and God in all.
For, behold another thing that the duty of this day requires. It is gratitude. The more you have received from God, the greater is your obligation to him; and your language should be, Bless the Lord, Ŏ my soul, and forget not all his benefits." In order to this, you must never sacrifice unto your own net, nor burn incense unto your own drag, be cause by them your portion is fat, and your meat plenteous; but "remember the Lord thy God: for it is he that giveth thee power to get wealth. The blessing of the Lord, it maketh rich, and he addeth no sorrow with it." Compare your circumstances with those of others, whose plans are equally wise, and whose dependences seemed equally sure.Compare your present with your former condition; the "two bands" with the "staff” Compare your indulgences with your deserts:
and how can you be unthankful? And surely the duty of this "day" requires liberality. He had others in view as well as yourselves, in all that he has done for you He has made you stewards, and not proprie tors; and he will soon call you to give up your account. This is your rule: "Let every one lay by him in store, as God hath prosper ed him. Charge them that are rich in this world that they do good, that they be rich in good works, ready to distribute, willing to communicate."
III. IT WILL APPLY TO ADVERSITY. This also is called "a day;" and it is said, " in the day of adversity, consider." This is the grand duty of the season. Whatever be your afflic tion, it is a solemn call to consider your ways; to examine your hearts and lives; to inquire wherefore he contends with you; and what he would have you to do. You are also to consider the alleviations of your suffering; how much worse it might have been; and to compare your resources with your difficulties.
Another part of the duty this "day" requires is submission. This is what the apos tle Peter prescribes, with promise: "Submit yourselves under the mighty hand of God, and he shall exalt you in due time:" and this is that which the apostle Paul so beautifully enforces-"Furthermore we have had fathers of our flesh which corrected us, and we gave them reverence: shall we not much rather be in subjection unto the Father of spirits,and live? For they verily for a few days chastened us
from play, but in rendering instruction more personal and minute, by some kind of examination and inquiry. In doing this, it is neither necessary nor proper to make the service long and irksome. It may be serious, and yet short and interesting too.
"What a dismal day have you described!
after their own pleasure; but he for our profit, that we might be partakers of his holiness." This subjection does not exclude feeling, but regulates it; keeping us, while sensible of the affliction, from quarreling with Providence, from charging him foolishly or unkindly, and leading us to say, "It is the Lord, let him do what seemeth him good." This, says an oldIt is a hard saying; who can hear it?"divine, turns the stroke of the rod into a kiss. But hard to whom?-To you? If so-what The duty of this day also requires prayer. can we think of your disposition !—And what "Call upon me in the day of trouble. Is any can you think of spending an eternity in reafflicted? Let him pray." The very exer-ligious exercises?-Hard! To whom? Not cise of it will soothe him, while the answer to a Christian. These are his " pleasant of it will deliver him. Indeed, prayer is the things." He does not say, "What a weariprivilege, rather than the duty, of sufferers. ness it is to serve the Lord; when will the Who ever tried it in distress and could not Sabbath be gone!" He resigns it with relucsay, "It is good for me to draw near to God?" tance; and in the enjoyment of its privileges IV. WE MAY APPLY IT TO THE SABBATH. he begins to enter "the rest that remains for This is called "the Lord's day" because it is the people of God." When once a regard consecrated to the memory of his resurrec- for the Sabbath is gone, every thing serious tion, and is employed in his service. But as goes with it. Have we to learn this? to advantage, it is our day. It" was made for man." It is a day in which we enjoy a solemn repose from worldly employment; in which we lay in a store of spiritual supplies for the week; in which we meet God in his ordinances, and see him in the sanctuary.
Such a season has peculiar claims upon us, and we are commanded "to sanctify it, calling the Sabbath a delight, the holy of the Lord, honourable; not doing our own ways, nor finding our own pleasure, nor speaking our own words." Some profane it. Some trifle it away. And let me remind you, that it may be trifled away even in divine things. If you go to the house of God, but "leave your souls behind;" if with your mouth you show much love, but your heart goeth after your covetousness; if you hear his words, however frequently, and do them not-in vain do you worship him.
Can this be doing all the duty of the day? Our obligation does indeed take in public worship; and a Christian will say,
"With early feet I love t' appear
"How amiable are thy tabernacles, O Lord of hosts! A day in thy courts is better than a thousand. I had rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God, than to dwell in the tents of wickedness." He knows that "faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God." He will therefore gladly hear; and he will take heed what he hears, and how he hears. But this is not all. He will retire. He will indulge in private reflection. He will apply the truths which have been delivered to his own soul. He will pray that the Holy Spirit may bring these things to his remembrance, and enable him to reduce his knowledge to experience and practice. And surely something more should be done in the family on this day, than at other times; not only in keeping servants from work, and children
Lastly. IT WILL APPLY TO EVERY DAY. No day comes without its appropriate duty. There is something to be done for God; our fellow-creatures; ourselves: something religious, and something secular. We are not even to neglect any of the duties of our civil concerns. We are to be diligent in our respective callings. And not only so-but we are to do every thing in its season; to do the work of the day in the day; and not leave it till to-morrow.
First, because we may not live till to-morrow. "We know not what a day may bring forth."
Secondly. Each day will have its own engagements, and it is wrong to surcharge one period with the additional work of another: "Sufficient for the day is the evil thereof." Note. It is unlawful to encumber to-day with the care of to-morrow; and to encumber to-morrow with the work of to-day.
Thirdly. Because, by this temporary negligence, we have nothing to do, or too much; whereas, by doing the work of the day in the day, we are never unoccupied, never oppressed; we keep our affairs under easy management, and never suffer them to accumulate into a discouraging mass.
Fourthly. Because by this means the mind is kept cool, and tranquil, and cheerful; and we shall know nothing of the perplexities and ill temper of those who are always in confusion and haste.
To verify this important maxim, let me lay down three rules.
every thing there is a season, and a time to
"If you look abroad into the world, you
Thus you will resemble the greatest and best of Beings, who condescends to propose himself as your model. He is the God of order. "He has fixed the bounds of the earth, and given to the sea his decree, that the waters should not pass his commandment. The day is his, the night also is his. He has made summer and winter. He appointeth the moon for seasons, and the sun knoweth his going down." And under his government, every thing arrives in its proper time and place.
May we be followers of him as dear children, and carry away with us this reflection, as one of the most important maxims of life and religion-That it highly concerns usand becomes us to be found doing as the duty of every day requires!
And as of ourselves we can do nothing, but "our sufficiency is of God," on him let us depend, and to him let us apply, that we "may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need."
THE MARTYRDOM OF STEPHEN. And they stoned Stephen, calling upon God, and saying, Lord Jesus, receive my spirit. And he kneeled down, and cried with a loud voice, Lord, lay not this sin to their charge. And when he had said this, he fell asleep. Acts vii. 59, 60.
THE words and actions of dying persons are peculiarly impressive. If we have not been present to witness the interesting event of their departure, we anxiously inquire how they behaved themselves; what they did, and what they said.
We often surround the cross, and contemplate the dying of the Lord Jesus; and it is impossible to do it too often. No death is to be compared with his; whether we consider the advantages derivable from it, or the graces
which it displayed. But perhaps no death, it as the martyrdom of Stephen. He finished recorded in history, approaches so nearly to his course with joy, a few weeks after his Lord and master; and near the spot where the one was crucified was the other stoned. Let us bring the whole of his short history under our review.
Church that fell a victim to the Stephen was the first of the Christian secution. He led the van in the noble army rage of perof martyrs that army, that "resisted unto blood striving against sin;" that army, that rose triumphantly to fame, not by the sufferings of others, but their own; that army, that conquered, but conquered by dying! Stephen was employed in administering the alms of the church. The people had been influenced in their choice of him as a deacon by his acknowledged piety and prudence:
dom." And such qualifications should alone he was full of the Holy Ghost and of wis recommend to all sacred offices. For a proper behaviour in a lower and a private condition is the best pledge of, and the best preparation for, a proper conduct in a higher and official situation. He "that is not faithful in little," is not likely to be faithful in much: "but to him that hath shall be given, and he shall have more abundantly, while from him that he seemeth to have." hath not shall be taken away even that which
duces envy; as it gives a man wealth, power,
spectators to observe the countenance of a
pronounced on one of his chaplains: "When," says he, "I hear my other preachers, they always lead me to admire them; but Masil
an undisturbed serenity; meekness and ma-lon always makes me dissatisfied with myjesty combined. Perhaps there was some- self."-Convinced against their wills, and thing preternatural in the case. Thus we having nothing to answer, these wretches read of our Saviour, that "as he prayed, the discover the very dispositions of the damned, fashion of his countenance was changed, and who are represented as "wailing and gnashhis raiment became white and glistering." ing their teeth." In them we see hell pourAnd it is remarked of Moses, that when he trayed and begun. But let us observe Stecame down from communion with God in Ho-phen, and behold in him the meekness and reb, "his face shone so that the Israelites, gentleness of Jesus Christ. could not steadfastly behold him for the glory of his countenance."
countenance would bear remark. It was neither flushed with passion, nor pale with fear. There reigned in it an unshaken confidence,
But the effect does not disarm or soften his adversaries. “Then said the High Priest, Are these things so!" We must pass over the speech of Stephen; only observing what has frequently and justly been remarked, that it seems not the whole of what he intended to deliver. He was more anxious to save his audience than himself; he thought a dying testimony would be preferable to a train of reasoning, which they were in no temper of mind to receive; he saw they were full of impatience, and would not suffer him to proceed further; he therefore judged it wise to draw towards a conclusion, by a short but faithful address to their consciences. "Ye stiffnecked and uncircumcised in heart and ears, ye do always resist the Holy Ghost: as your fathers did, so do ye. Which of the prophets have not your fathers persecuted? And they have slain them which showed before of the coming of the Just One; of whom ye have been now the betrayers and murderers: who have received the law by the disposition of angels, and have not kept it."
But he "he being full of the Holy Ghost." He was replenished with his influences and joys. It was this that preserved and sustained him. A Christian is not alone in his trials and difficulties: there is something divine that bears him up, when the world expects him to sink. For the world can see his afflictions, but not his succours. These are invisible, but they are real; and they are wisely proportioned to his exigences, so that as the sufferings of Christ abound, the consolations abound also.
He "looked"-not upon the council, to see if any was disposed to favour his cause; nor around the hall, to see if there was any way of escape-but he "looked up steadfastly into heaven". -as one that had already his conversation there, longed to spring from his molehill earth, and to begin the song of Moses and the Lamb! What said that look? "Saviour, it is thy cause in which I am engaged. It is for thy dear name I suffer. On thee I depend, to thee I appeal. O carry me through this trying hour, and be magnified in my body, whether it be by life or by death!"
"And saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing on the right hand of God." Three things are here observable. First. He did not see God. No man hath seen God at any time. He is as invisible as immortal-but he beheld a splendour, the symbol of his presence, and that intimated the place where he resides and reveals himself-he "saw the glory of God." Secondly. When of old the prophets saw the glory of God, it was always attended with angelical appearances. Thus we find seraphim in Isaiah's vision, and cherubim in that of Ezekiel. These were then his agents; ministers of his to do his pleasure. "But to the angels hath he not put in subjection the world to come, whereof we speak!" Angels, with every other class of creatures, are placed under our Redeemer's feet. He is head over
This was intolerable. "When they heard these things, they were cut to the heart, and they gnashed on him with their teeth." "The word of God is quick and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow; and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart." And it is a poor sermon that produces no resentment, either against the preacher, or against the hearer. Who can tell what rage and malice people sometimes feel against a faithful minister? They wish to remain asleep, and he rouses them; they wish to remain in darkness, and he flashes conviction into their minds; he demonstrates their duty, and they hold fast deceit and re-all things unto his body the church. All fuse to return. Were it not for the laws of power is given unto him in heaven and in the land, such a man would often be dragged earth. And this is the source of the Chrisfrom the pulpit to the stake. But it is well tian's consolation and triumph, that his Sawhen people are made enemies to them-viour is now at the right hand of God. Hence selves; when they go home at war with their he knows that his sacrifice is accepted, that pride, their avarice, their indifference; when his enemies shall lick the dust, and that all they determine even "to crucify the flesh those who put their trust in him shall be with its affections and lusts." It was a fine saved to the uttermost. "Who is he that eulogium the French monarch Louis XIV. condemneth? Is it Christ that died, yea,