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The NARRATIVE of JOMH continued.
And they said every one to his fellow, Come, and let us cast lots, that we may know for whose cause this evil is upon us. So they cast lots, and the lot fell upon Jonah."
1st chap. Jonah, 7th verse.
The mariners in our narrative had recourse to the expedient of drawing lots, which appears to have been common in ancient times. When the Israelites were smitten at Ai, for their trespasses, God commanded Joshua to collect the different tribes of Israel and bring them together, and take that man, and all he had, who should be found to work folly and transgress the covenant of the Lord.
Again, when Saul was desirous to pursue the Philistines by night, and God did not answer him, he called hither the people of Israel to be on one side, and himself and Jonathan on the other. And the lot was cast, and fell upon Jonathan, and he was taken. And to come to later times, when an Apostle was to be added for the ministry of the Church, "they gave forth lots, and the lot fell upon Matthias." Likewise, after the crucifixion of our blessed Lord, his garments were parted, and lots were cast upon his vesture. So also it was in the instance before us, "They cast lots, and the lot fell upon Jonah." How great must his sin then have appeared! How convicted and how wretched must have been his feelings at that trying moment. Though he had concealed his error from man's knowledge, yet it was but for a time. He thought he was safe, and when he most considered that he stood firm, he fell. Thus was he a victim to his own folly. And so men now, equally rely on themselves, and perhaps when too late, discover their incapacity and the frailty of their undertakings. The fear of man, which had led Jonah to disobedience in the first instance, could no longer prevail, for the mariners were alarmed at the violence of the sea, and the reason thereof they were naturally desirous to know. The fear of God now prevailed, and to obtain his mercy was their foremost care. From this we see, that a time always arrives, when men become sensible of their sin, however long they may have indulged in error. "Come ye children, hearken unto me: I will teach you the fear of the Lord. What man is he that desireth life, and loveth many days, that he may see good? Keep thy tongue from evil, and thy lips from speaking guile. Depart from evil and do good; seek peace, and ensue it." A due regard to these moral and religious duties will prevent all Christians from falling into error. If Jonah had practised these, neither his disobedience, punishment, nor confession would have happened; but he departed from good, and peace therefore, he could not enjoy;— and the reflection of it wrung his conscience, as we shall presently more fully observe.
Let us now consider,—and may the guidance of the blessed Spirit be with us in our meditations.
I. Jonah's confession of his guilt to the mariners.
II. The fear resulting therefrom.
"Then said they unto him, tell us, we pray thee for whose cause this evil is upon us? What is thine occupation? and whence comest thou? What is thy country ? and of what people art thou? And he said unto them, I am an Hebrew, and I fear the hard the God of heaven, which hath made the sea and the dry land."
Such an acknowledgment was necessary, and Jonah was perfectly right in giving it, They were prominent and essential questions; and how much better is it to acknowledge guilt than to conceal it. Jonah at last felt convinced that there was a superior power overruling his conduct, and ordering the events he experienced; and so he acknowledged the omnipotence of Jehuvah. Here he confessed his country, and his sin convicted him so deeply that he was in great fear. He felt that the hand of the Lord was upon him, chastening him for a season. The occupation which was given him he had neglected to fulfil. He had brought his life to destruction, and placed the lives of his comrades in imminent danger. And what for? The foolish fear of man prevailed, and he lost his confidence in God, and so forsook the task to which he had been appointed of warning the guilty Ninevites of their precarious state. And what did such disobedience produce, but a just contempt and severe punishment from his heavenly Master? And he will soon reap the result of his open violation of God's command. "If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, God is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us."
II. The fear resulting therefrom :—
"Then were the men exceedingly afraid, and said unto him,— Why hast thou done this? for the men knew that he fled from the presence of the hard, because he had told them"
The mariners were justly afraid from the state of the waters, and the disobedience of their passenger the prophet. Their appeal to Jonah was startling, "Why hast thou done this?" He felt his guilt, and they were aware of it. Jonah embarked very quietly, and began to sail very smoothly; but as to think of the hereafter, he did not; for he slumbered into nature's peaceful oblivion. Oh, that every Christian believer would ask himself this question, when pursuing any wickedness, or acting contrary to his duty. When partaking of the pleasures of the world, and seeking for earthly possessions, and forgetting the Christian calling, such a question would stir up a confession, and probably a repentance. "For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation." If this question was always before us, how often would it prevent us from entering into the way of evil men. How often would it deter us from making the impulse of the moment, our excuse for doing what is wrong, and act as a check-string upon us. "For the wicked shall be cut off from the earth, and the transgressors shall be rooted out of it. But the path of the just is as the shining light that shineth more and more unto the perfect day."
"Eternal Spirit! we confess
Enlighten'd by thine heav'nly ray,
Thy pow'r and glory work within,
The troubled conscience knows thy voice;
Chelmsford, A. M. W.
16th April, 1845.
SHEARCROn, TTP. CHEIHSJTORD.
The NARRATIVE of JONAH continued.
JONAH'S ADVICE.—HIS FURTHER CHASTISEMENT.
Then said they unto him, What shall we do unto thee, that the sea may be calm unto us? for the sea wrought, and was tempestuous. And he said unto them, Take me up, and cast me forth into the sea; so shall the sea be calm unto you: for I know that for my sake this great tempest is upon you. Nevertheless the men rowed hard to bring it to the land; but they could not; for the sea wrought and was tempestuous against them. Wherefore they cried unto the Lord, and said, We beseech thee, O Lord, we beseech thee, let us not perish for this man's life, and lay not upon us innocent blood, for thou, O Lord hast done as it pleased thee. So they took up Jonah, and cast him forth into the sea: and the sea ceased from her raging. Then the men feared the Lord exceedingly, and offered a sacrifice unto the Lord, and made vows. Now the Lord had prepared a great fish to swallow up Jonah. And Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights." 1st chap. Jonah, 11—17th verses.
"yet a little while am I with you, and then I go unto him that sent me; Ye shall seek me, and shall not find me: and where I am, thither ye cannot come." God had been with Jonah, but the prophet now appears to be left to himself in the midst of his trouble, though only what he merited. He found it impossible to contend with the strength of the Almighty, and therefore became reconciled to a watery grave, and ready for the fruits of his late sin. Need I endeavour my friends, to describe the distressing state of the prophet; but for a warning it may prove useful. However much men triumph in their sin, afterwards they will receive the due award. Let us now consider 1st, The advice of Jonah to the mariners. 2nd, Their reluctant execution of the same. 3rd, The extent of Jonah's punishment.
The mariners' distress was great, and they were anxious to alleviate their perilous situation, and demanded of Jonah the best man