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When Hezekiah was ordered to set his house in order, he turned his face to the wall, and wept sore, and prayed for recovery. And if you take a man better acquainted with the way of salvation and a world of glory, yet his evidences of a personal interest are not always satisfactory-And can he be willing to go in a state of uncertainty? He may also have peculiar attractions, and detentions, in his connexions: the benefactor may feel these in his dependents; the father in his children; the minister in his people. It was this that placed Paul in a strait between two: he longed to depart to be with Christ, which was far better; but to abide in the flesh was more needful for those among whom he laboured.-David had a father and a mother who fled with him, and depended upon him for support.
But David was in no danger of perishing by the hand of Saul. Saul was indeed a malicious and powerful enemy; but he was chained, and could do nothing against him except it was given him from above. And the Lord was on David's side. And he had the promise of the throne, which implied his preservation. And the holy oil had been poured upon his head. And he had already experienced many wonderful deliverances. And he should have reasoned from the past to the future, as he had done before-"The Lord that delivered me out of the paw of the lion, and out of the paw of the bear, he will deliver me out of the hand of this Philistine." But here we see how hard it is to trust in God in the hour of difficulty.
I am far from thinking that it is an easy thing to trust in God at any time. Some, I know, are accustomed to say, "O, it is easy enough to trust in God in prosperous scenes." But they are mistaken; and mistaken because they probably never made the trial; or, at least, never made it in earnest. In such scenes it is difficult to see God, and realize him. When we have health, and peace, and affluence, and friends, it is difficult to determine whether we are relying on these, or on God. When they are removed, then our dependence is obvious. If God was the strength of our souls, he will be our support: if the creature was our portion, we shall faint in the day of adversity. The nests appear in the trees and hedges when stripped of their leaves; the winter discovering what was done in the summer, but hid before by the foliage. And thus it is with us: adversity betrays the resting-places we had in prosperity.
But to return. It is hard to repose, and maintain a becoming confidence in God in the hour of difficulty. When means failand we are forbidden to look for miracles; when our way is hedged up with thorns, and we dare not break through the fence; when Providence opposes the promise, and God
himself seems to be fighting against us; it is not every Job that can say, "Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him." In these cases our diffidence often extends to the power of God, as well as his goodness. People, indeed, think that they only question his will; but if they did not doubt his all-sufficiency too, why does their faith waver as difficulties multiply? Does God know any thing about difficulties? Why are they disheartened as means fail? Cannot God furnish means if he does not find them? What was the language of the Israelites?-Will he? No-But can he furnish a table in the wilderness? Can he give bread to his people? What is the commendation of Abraham's faith?-That he believed God's goodness? No-but his power: "He staggered not at the promise of God through unbelief, but was strong in faith, giving glory to God-being fully persuaded that what he had promised he was able also to perform."
You would, therefore, do well to take the advice of an old writer. "Never," says he, "converse with your difficulties alone." How is it when you suspect that a man wishes to entangle you in your talk, or to take advantage of your weakness? Fearing that he will prove too much for you, and induce you to commit yourself, you take with you a third person, a wise and an able friend. When your difficulties wish to parley with you, let God be present; God in promise, or God in experience then they may tell you any thing. "God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble: therefore will not we fear, though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea. The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge."-But we are,
II. Reminded of David's FOLLY. "There is nothing better for me than that I should speedily escape into the land of the Philis tines." But nothing could have been worse. For by this step-he would alienate the affections of the Israelites from him-he would justify the reproaches of the enemy-he would deprive himself of the means of grace and the ordinances of religion-he would grieve his soul with the vice and idolatry of the heathen-he would put himself out of the warrant of Divine protection and lay himself under peculiar obligation to those whom he could not serve without betraying the cause of God.
I cannot enlarge on these: but I would remark two or three of the evil consequences naturally arising from this measure. For how could he expect to gather grapes from thorns, or figs from thistles?
First. The king of Achish gave him Ziklag for his residence. Thence he invaded the Geshurites, and the Gezrites, and the Amalekites; “ David smote the land, and left
neither man nor woman alive, and took away | ing to our mind, should we not have been the sheep, and the oxen, and the asses, and cursed by many an indulgence? and should the camels, and the apparel, and returned, we not have shunned those trials which enaand came to Achish." But when questioned ble us now to say, "It is good for me that I concerning this business by the king, he used have been afflicted? Who knoweth what is a dissimulation unworthy his character; in- good for a man in this life?" We cannot ducing him to believe that he had destroyed distinguish between reality and appearance; Israelites only, and gaining his confidence by between the present and the future. We falsehood. "Achish said, Whither have ye look forward into new and untried conditions made a road to-day? And David said, with our actual views and feelings; not conAgainst the south of Judah, and against the sidering that new and untried conditions will south of the Jerahmeelites, and against the draw forth new views and feelings; and that, south of the Kenites. And Achish believed like Hazael, we may become the very chaDavid, saying, He hath made his people Is-racters we abhor. Lot thought he could do rael utterly to abhor him; therefore he shall nothing better than choose the land of the be my servant for ever." plain, the vale of Sodom, well watered as the garden of the Lord. But in doing so, he separated himself from intercourse with his uncle Abraham-his soul was vexed from day to day with the filthy conversation of the ungodly-he was taken a prisoner by the confederate kings-he was driven out of the place by fire and brimstone-his wife became a pillar of salt-his daughters plunged him
Another embarrassment attends him. War breaks out between the Philistines and Israel; and Achish orders David and his men to accompany him to the battle. Now if, when the armies engaged, he should retire, or betray his post, he would be chargeable with cowardice, and treason, and ingratitude towards the king, who had been his friend, and honoured him with the command of his life-into unheard-of infamy. guards. On the other hand, if he should fight against his own people, under the banners of the uncircumcised, he would be justly considered an enemy to the Israel of God, a betrayer of his country, and would render his ascension to the throne more difficult. Out of this strait, God, who does not deal with us after our desert, delivers him. The lords of the Philistines are dissatisfied with David's going along with them, and insist upon his dismission.
But behold a third result of this wrong measure. He returns; but little does he imagine what had befallen him at home. By accompanying Achish he had left Ziklag, where his substance and his relations were defenceless. The Amalekites took advantage of his absence, and burned the town, after carrying away the spoil, and making his friends and his wives captives. Informed of all this, David was greatly distressed; and the anguish of loss was embittered by self-accusation, and the reproaches of the people: for "the people spake of stoning him, because the soul of all the people was grieved, every man for his sons and for his daughters."
See, First: How much depends on one improper step. The effects may be remediless, and give a complexion to all our future days. Our reputation, our comfort, our usefulness, our religion, our very salvation may hinge upon it.
Take care, therefore, how you say, "There is nothing better for me," than to do this, or that. Venture on nothing rashly. Move with all your moral senses alive and awake. In your connexions for life; in removing your residence; in giving up, or changing your employment, "ponder the path of your feet, that your goings may be established." Let your eyes look on, and your eyelids straight before you. Pray, as you are directed, "Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil." Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths." We may acknowledge God in words, while we deny him in works. But it is a practical acknowledgment that is required of us; and it consists in three things. First: in our taking no step without asking counsel of the Lord. Secondly: in refusing to take one, when he calls us. Thirdly in not charging him foolishly, when having taken a step, in compliance with his command, it proves unanswerable to our wishes and expectation: for we may be in the will of God, and meet with very painful exercises; but we must justify him in all that befalls us.
To conclude. See the dangers and mischiefs of unbelief, or the want of confidence in God. It is the worst counsellor we can ever consult: the most perilous guide we can Secondly. Let us learn how incompetent ever follow. What did Moses and Aaron we are to judge for ourselves. "The way lose? "Because," says God, "ye believed me of man is not in himself; it is not in man that not, to sanctify me in the eyes of the children walketh, to direct his steps." Who has not of Israel, therefore ye shall not bring this found this to be true, in his own experience! congregation into the land which I have Who can look back upon life, and not see given them:" and no entreaty could induce how often he has been mistaken, both in his God to revoke the sentence. From how many hopes and fears! If things had been accord-gratifications, and advantages, does unbelief
cut us off, even when it does not destroy! | DUCTIVE OF SUITABLE INFLUENCE AND EFIt robs the mind of stability—"If ye will not believe, surely ye shall not be established." It withholds from it peace-"Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee, because he trusteth in thee."
Without faith, the soul is like a ship, deprived of the rudder, driven of the winds, and tossed. By believing in God, we shall find that our strength is to sit still; instead of running from one creature to another. "It is good for a man, both to hope, and quietly wait for the salvation of the Lord;" instead of conferring with flesh and blood, and adopting unhallowed expedients for relief. Them that honour God he will honour; but they that despise him shall be lightly esteemed. "For thus saith the Lord God, the Holy One of Israel; In returning and rest shall ye be saved; in quietness and in confidence shall be your strength: and ye would not. But ye said, No; for we will flee upon horses; therefore shall ye flee: and, We will ride upon the swift; therefore shall they that pursue you be swift. One thousand shall flee at the rebuke of one; at the rebuke of five shall ye flee; till ye be left as a beacon upon the top of a mountain, and as an ensign on a hill."
Now, the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that ye may abound in hope, through the power of the Holy Ghost."
THE SAVIOUR'S GRACE IN ITS
And the grace of our Lord was exceeding abundant with faith and love which is in Christ Jesus.-1 Tim. i. 14.
PERHAPS Some of you are come from motives of curiosity, and expect to hear some thing new. But I have nothing new to communicate. There is only one way of salvation, and this is older than Adam: for "he hath saved us, and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began."
You will therefore, probably, be disappointed; but this will be of little importance if you are benefited. It is at your profit I aim; and nothing is more likely to secure it than the subject we have chosen; for God only gives testimony to the word of his grace.
And as for those who have tasted that the Lord is gracious, they are saying, Evermore give us this bread. Let us,
I. I may address you, my dear brethren, in the language of the apostle to the Corinthians, "Ye know THE GRACE OF OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST, that, though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, that ye through his poverty might be rich."
It was this that led him to remember you in your low estate; to interpose on your behalf; to assume your nature, and to give his life a ransom for many. "Surely he hath borne our grief and carried our sorrow. He was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed."
Behold, how he loved him, said the spectators around the grave of Lazarus, when they saw only his tears. Behold, how he loved them, was surely the exclamation of angels, when, at his cross, they beheld his blood. Here is a love which passeth knowledge.— For was he compelled to submit to this undertaking? No.-Did we deserve it! “When we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. Scarcely for a righteous man will one die; yet peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die. But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us."-Did we desire it! It was accomplished ages before our existence. And therefore, when we were awakened, and began to seek after these things, we found them already provided: we had them not to procure, but to enjoy; and the voice cried,
Behold redemption for the enslaved, pardon for the guilty, sanctification for the unholy, strength for the weak, health for the sick, . and consolation for the miserable-Come, for all things are now ready!"
In the application, as well as the procuring of our salvation, the grace of the Lord Jesus appears. Means were used; but they derived all their efficacy, and their very being, from him. Go as far back as you please, you will find him there before you; predisposing instruments, awakening and encouraging your application, preventing you with the blessings of his goodness. A friend, by his conversation, enlightened your mind-but who made this friend? Who placed him in your way? Who inclined him to seek your welfare? You hunger and thirst after righteousness: you wait for the Lord more than they that watch for the morning. But whence sprang this desire? From conviction. What produced this conviction? Reflection. And what produced this reflection! A train of events. And what are events? Providence. And what is providence? God in action: and
I. CONSIDER THE GRACE OF OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST. II. SHOW HOW EMINENTLY God, acting for the welfare of the unworthy, IT WAS DISPLAYED IN THE CONVERSION OF is grace. "Of him, and through him, and to PAUL. III. PROVE THAT IT IS ALWAYS PRO-him are all things; to whom be glory. We
love him, because he first loved us. I am sought of them that asked not for me; I am found of them that sought me not: I said, Behold me, behold me, unto a nation that was called by my name."
The progress is equally from the same source. He who quickens us, when dead in trespasses and sins, renews us day by day; and enables us to hold on our way, and wax stronger and stronger. Which of you, whatever be his attainments, would ever reach the end of his faith, the salvation of his soul, were he to discontinue the supply of his own Spirit? But he does not. We live in the Spirit and walk in the Spirit. His grace is sufficient for us; and in this grace we are commanded to be strong. As this laid the foundation, so it will raise the superstructure; and he shall bring forth the top-stone thereof, with shoutings, crying, Grace, grace,
such language may be insufferable affectation; and is sometimes used by persons who give ample evidence of their not believing it. When show is a substitute for reality, it is generally excessive. Many fish for praise with the bait of humility; and say things against themselves in hopes that you will contradict them-but be sure never to gratify them. It is otherwise with a real Christian: he speaks according to his real views and feelings. He does not, however, mean that he has been the greatest profligate: but he knows that sin is to be estimated by its guilt, not by its grossness; and he knows more of himself than he can know of others. He can only see the actions of others, and not the greater part even of them; but he can look into his own heart. He knows not but the sins of others will admit of extenuation; and he ought to be willing, as far as possible, to excuse; but he knows against what light, and advantages, his own transgressions have been committed.
But, though all are saved by this grace, some individuals seem to be, in a peculiar manner, the trophies of it: and were it necessary, we could make, even from the records of Scripture, a marvellous selection of instances. We could mention Manasseh; the dying thief; the murderers of the Son of God; the Corinthian converts: but it is needless to go beyond our subject.-We are reminded,
II. THAT THIS GRACE IS EMINENTLY DISPLAYED IN THE CONVERSION OF PAUL; "And the grace of our Lord," says he, "was exceeding abundant." Never did his heart pity a more undeserving wretch; or his hand undertake a more desperate case.
dance of it, observe
And on his head were many crowns. The expression refers to the universality of his empire for he is King of kings, and Lord of But, even without this justification of his lords. But it will be also exemplified in the language, Paul may well refer to himself as praises of all the redeemed from the earth. a very signal display of the riches of the SaFor if those, who are called under the preach-viour's grace. To see the exceeding abuning of the word, are said to be the joy and crown of the ministers, who are only the instruments of their conversion; how much more will they be so to him, who is the Author! O what a multitude of praises will adorn his head-since every believer ascribes to him the undivided glory of his own salvation; when he shall come to be glorified in his saints, and to be admired in all them that believe! and from every tongue he will hear the exclamation-"Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood, and hath made us kings and priests unto God and his Father; to him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen."
What he once was. He tells Timothy that he was a persecutor, a blasphemer, and injurious. The first time he appears in the sacred history is in connexion with the murder of Stephen; when, it is said, the witnesses laid down their clothes at a young man's feet, whose name was Saul. He, probably, reproved their slackness, and said, "Strip, and stone him-I'll take care of your raiment." How did this circumstance pain his mind, in review; and how feelingly does he mention it: "When the blood of the martyr Stephen was shed, I also was standing by, and consenting unto his death, and kept the raiment of them that slew him!" In this cause he continued; " Many of the saints did I shut up in prison, having received authority from the chief priests; and when they were put to death, I gave my voice against them. And I punished them oft in every synagogue, and compelled them to blaspheme: and being exceedingly mad against them, I persecuted them even unto strange cities." And could he have dismissed their souls to hell as easily as he deprived them of property, liberty, and life, he would have done it gladly. So unparalleled was his ferocity, that he seemed beyond the possibility of reclaim. They who knew the extent of the Saviour's grace seemed unanimously to despair of him; and when he assayed to join himself to them, they were afraid of him, and drew back, like sheep from the wolf.
Perhaps you say, this made the Apostle so humble. It did. But humility is not ignorance and folly. Christians are often ridiculed for speaking of themselves in depreciating terms; especially when they call themselves the vilest of the vile, or the chief of sinners. It is admitted and lamented that
Again. Observe how he was engaged at the very time of his conversion. Perhaps he has repented, and reformed: perhaps he is begging forgiveness; and is thus preparing
himself for the Divine regards. Some have been called under the preaching of the Word, when they were far from expecting it. They have been apprehended under a minister, whose doctrine they came to insult, and whose person they came to injure. The word has reached the heart, and turned the stone to flesh they have thrown down the weapons of their rebellion; and weeping over them, acknowledged the presence of all-conquering grace.-Paul was now in a journey of iniquity: he was engaged in open defiance of the Son of God, crucifying him afresh, and putting him to an open shame, at the very moment, when the Lord took knowledge of him! Observe, also, The manner of his call. He is not saved in an ordinary way; but his conversion is illustrated with marvellous and miraculous circumstances. Jesus personally comes down from heaven for the purpose. But how Flashing the lightning and rolling the thunder? No. He comes down low enough to be visible-but no terror clothes his brow. He approaches near enough to be heard he speaks-in wrath surely?" O thou child of the devil-I have found thee, O mine enemy." No.-Nothing but the tender expostulation, "Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me? For three-and-thirty years I lived in thy nation-I went about doing good-I opened the eyes of the blind-to parents I gave back their children from the grave-I healed all manner of sickness and diseases among the people. I am Jesus whom thou persecutest-the Saviour of others-and of THEE!"
lice. He thus resembled the blind man recovered, in the Gospel: "immediately he received his sight, and followed Jesus in the way."
And First. Divine grace produces faith. Faith is the belief of the Gospel; a firm and lively persuasion of the truth of the record that God has given of his Son, accompanied with acquiescence, dependence, and application. It will lead me to have recourse to him for all I want. It will induce me to make use of him for every purpose he is revealed to accomplish: to enter him as my refuge, to build on him as my foundation, to follow him as my guide; to regard him as my prophet, to teach me; my high priest, to put away my sin, by the sacrifice of himself; my king, to rule me; my shepherd, to feed. This representation will hardly satisfy those whose minds are speculative; but it is Scriptural. The sacred writers describe faith, rather than define it. They hold it forth, not in the nakedness of abstraction, but in attributes and actings, by which it is more subject to apprehension. It is, in their language, looking to Christ; coming to him; committing the soul into his hands against that day.
Secondly, Divine grace will equally produce love.-To whom? To the Saviour himself; his name, his word, his day, his service, his ways.-To whom? To all his people; as branches of the same household of faith; as parts of the same body, having communion with each other; so that, if one member suffers, all the members suffer; and if one member be honoured, all the members rejoice. -To whom? All mankind, so as to desire their welfare, and to do them good as opportunity offers-determining the exercise of this affec tion by their necessities; instructing them if ignorant; reproving them if vicious; feeding and clothing them if destitute; always re membering that we are to love, not in word and in tongue, but in deed and in truth.
Trace, finally, what followed. He trembles and is astonished; but this is not all. His heart is changed. He had fallen to the ground -but he now kneels. Behold, he prayeth! and to the very Being he had so often blasphemed—“Lord, what wilt thou have me to do!" He consecrates his life to his service. The lion is turned into a lamb; and a little child leads it. The persecutor is an apostle." Whoso hath this world's good, and seeth He is straightway in the synagogue, and his brother have need, and shutteth up his preaches the faith that once he destroyed. bowels of compassion from him, how dwelleth Consider the journeys he took; the sufferings the love of God in him?” he endured; the sermons he delivered; the epistles he wrote; the churches he planted and watered see him, at the close of a life the most laborious and unexampled, the willing martyr" I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand." Contemplate all this, and see, whether "the grace of our Lord was not exceeding abundant:" and also if we are not authorized,
Thirdly. Divine grace will produce both these in the same subjects. In five other places, as well as in the passage before us, we find faith and love in Christ Jesus connected together. This must be more than sufficient to show, that the combination is not accidental. In fact, there cannot be a more natural, or a more noble union.
III. To observe, that THIS GRACE IS ALWAYS PRODUCTIVE OF SUITABLE INFLUENCES AND EFFECTS. "In faith and love," says the apostle, "which are in Christ Jesus." Many effects followed; but nothing appeared more certainly and powerfully than these: faithin opposition to his former unbelief; and love -in opposition to his former hatred and ma
Faith, according to the Apostle's order of statement, goes before love for faith precedes every thing in religion: it is an original principle; it is the spring from which flow all the streams of pious temper and practice: it is the root, from which grow all the fruits of Christian obedience and affection. Using another metaphor, it is considered a foundation; and we are required to "build up our.