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choosing the evil; such are even now crucifying the Lord, but hereafter will be banished from his presence, "for our God is a consuming fire." "Know thou the God of thy father, and serve him, with a perfect heart, and with a willing mind, for the Lord searcheth all hearts, and understandeth all the imaginations of the thoughts: if thou seek him, he will be found of thee; but if thou forsake him, he will cast thee off for ever." We will now return to the narrative. "They that observe lying vanities forsake their own mercy. But I will sacrifice unto thee with the voice of thanksgiving; I will pay that that I have vowed. Salvation is of the Lord. And the Lord spake unto the fish, and it vomited out Jonah upon the dry land." Here we notice 1st.—Jonah's wise reflection, that "lying vanities " forsake mercy. 2nd.—His joyful determination to serve the Lord. 3rd.— His happy deliverance by God, through prayer.
"Behold, the Lord's hand is not shortened, that it cannot save; neither his ear heavy, that it cannot hear." Jonah is delivered from the belly of the fish, his prayer is answered, and God is glorified. Our prayers can also ascend, and abundant blessings may be showered down upon us, if we use the appointed means. But in this age of indifference to religious benefits, this age of restless excitement and inquisitive curiosity, men look to themselves and to the world for support in trouble which though it may promise much, performs little or nothing. Men do not sail in that channel in which real assistance can be obtained; for God is the spring of it, and whosoever drinketh of this water shall never thirst, for our Lord declared that it was "a well springing up into everlasting life."— Too many are now to be found, as it were serving God and the world at the same time ; friendly with the righteous, and yet not shunning "evil communications which corrupt good manners. Ye cannot serve God and mammon;" yet men are daily doing so, Beware of such a deluded and wicked profession, for you will not be deceiving God, but you will be thereby deceiving yourselves, and to your eternal condemnation. "No man having put his hand to the plough, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God."
Jonah's remark (in the 8th verse) is a solemn truth; and lay it seriously to heart. Some in trouble, promise; and on deliverance forget. How many leading irreligious lives when suddenly attacked with severe illness, repent heartily of their sinful ways, and intend if allowed to recover, henceforth to lead new and better, and holier lives; yet alas! when once again entered into the world, temptation assails them afresh, and they yield to its all-powerful influence; thus once more fall back into their old and easy paths of folly and sin :—their vows indeed are "lying vanities." Let every man then who lives in the habit or practise of any sin consider what he is doing, and under what circumstances he is offending. "Many walk of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ, but whether ye eat, says the Apostle, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God: even as I please all men in all things, not seeking mine own profit, but the profit of many; that they may be saved. Love as brethren, be pitiful, be courteous, there is neither Jew nor Greek, bond nor free, but ye are all one in Christ Jesus." These may seem little things, but without them you will die in sin. Look at such things as these, for you will find the use of them more and more as the days approach and your lives increase. Christ indeed has done his part, all that his mercy called upon Him to do; he has done all for reforming and saving sinners, which perfeet goodness could dictate to Him. And shall we allow sinful pleasures, which are but for a season, and lead to eternal death, to allure us from setting our affections on heaven and heavenly things—to be lovers of pleasure more than lovers of God, and to desire the praise of men rather than the favour of God—to fear man so much as in the case of Jonah, and hence fall short of the better country, which God hath prepared for the faithful? The redemption of man is a stupendous truth, and imparts that peace, which the world giveth. not, and cannot take away. In the same merciful manner as God was pleased to release the disobedient prophet from the belly of the fish; so did Christ Jesus release, and even at the present time is full of pardon to the penitent and humble believer. He came to seek and to save that which was lost; yet search the Holy Scriptures and you will find no Saviour to the impenitent and wilful transgressor. At the same time " if they turn and repent of their evil ways" they can be saved. And let it be remembered that a Saviour is above, and will be merciful unto us, and deliver us from the bondage of sin, as much as he did the prophet from a watery grave; but a day is coming, we know not how soon, when He will judge us in righteousness, which at that day will end in the heaviest sentence upon those who have persisted in doing evil, who have despised the mercies of God—the message of his Son, and have only thereby treasured up for themselves wrath against the day of wrath. Who have indeed observed "lying vanities" and so forsook " their own mercy." Our blessed Lord hath told us "to whom much is given of them will much be required." From the heathens much, from the Jews more, but from us Christians most of all; for we have had bestowed upon us the clearest knowledge of the will of God, with a power aided by God's blessing of treading in that path, which leads to life eternal.
2nd.—Jonah's joyful determination to serve the Lord. The prophet had made a vow when in the Whale, and now that he is released from his uncomfortable situation he will pay that he vowed. He will sacrifice with the voice of thanksgiving for " Salvation is of the Lord." Jonah is conscientious: he was ready to perform all that he stated he would when in his deepest distress. "When thou vowest a vow unto God, defer not to pay it; for he hath no pleasure in them that observe "lying vanities:" pay that which thou hast vowed. Better is it that thou shouldest not vow, than that thou shouldest vow and not pay." There is nothing more difficult than to convince men of their frailty, for I know " that the way of man is not in himself, it is not in man that walketh to direct his steps." To convince men who are indulging in fleshly lusts which war against the soul, who are pure in their own eyes, and yet not washed from their filthiness, that a day will come when they will be afar off from God. "Because sentence against an evil work is not executed speedily, therefore the heart of the sons of men is fully set in them to do evil." When the vanities which had been to them on earth a constant scene of transitory happiness, the very means of quenching God's mercy, and stirring up his everlasting indignation. Salvation by works only will not avail, and surely not salvation without works: we must feel like Jonah, and look up to the giver of all good, and exclaim "Salvation is of the Lord." But here I would offer one caution to all, not to depend solely upon the mercy of God; for at that rate they might pursue wickedness because of expected pardon through Jesus Christ; neither to natter and deceive themselves with the notion, that because God has offered a full and plenteous redemption by the coming and death of Christ that sin may reign in their mortal bodies. No, my brethren, we have received much, and by it our responsibility is the more increased. The sacrifice of Christ will only benefit the humble and penitent believer—not the transgressor and the habitual wilful sinner, who reckons that Salvation will be given to him by Christ, as much as to the real practical Christian which is a very erroneous mpression; for let it be remembered that Jonah was not saved until he had brought forth fruit—his work was prayer, and aidea by God's Spirit, he was preserved. What does St. Paul say i "Remembering without ceasing your work of faith, and labour of love, and patience of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ, in the sight of God and our Father." What can be plainer than this ? Here faith and works are joined together, proceeding from " labour of love." Many in the present times endeavour vainly to separate them. I admit (and I wish this principle to be clearly understood) that "Salvation is of the Lord" but does not extend to the Sinner who does despite to the Spirit of Grace. Such a one must not err day by day—week after week—year after year, with the prospect of Mercy being held out to him; for such is a very great mistake. "As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also. The power "to will and to do" must come from above, as also every other perfect gift. Bui many who may possess such by God's grace quench it by perpetual sin, dreaming that all will be right at the last day "If ye live after the fleth, ye shall die; but if ye through the spirit do mortify the deeds of the body ye shall live." Therefore if we are desirous for acceptance—if we are real professors of Christ, and possess a true love for him, we shall show it by our deeds; "A tree is known by its fruits," and most assuredly we shall reap like Jonah, a plenteous remission of our sins. What then can we expect, after having been enlightened and prepared, after the great atonement and intercession made for us by the Son of God upon the cross, we " suffer sin to reign in our mortal bodies," if we yield our members as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin? why God's holy Spirit which we have grieved will forsake us, when we feel its value the most. And when thou 0 Lord withdrawest thy Holy Spirit from us, where shall we obtain refuge in the day of thy coming? To view less then the attractions of this present evil world and its many " lying vanities" is the only means of enjoying real happiness in the present life, and the forerunner of greater in the next. And what so likely to wean us from vanities and to stimulate us in walking worthy of the vocation wherewith we are called, and'to place our reliance on the mercy of God through Jesus Christ; than by being shown that they are actually vanity, andean produce only vexation of spirit? When we see our relatives and friends taken to a more enduring scene, how desirous we must be to follow them P When we behold our riches making themselves wings and flying away as eagles; are we not more zealous for laying up those treasures in heaven, "where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal." When we find our plans perhaps long-cherished and devised in the most careful manner, apparently certain, and yet fail of success, should we not be more eager in committing our ways to the Lord, to whom all things are possible P Once prove to a man as was the case with Jonah that the ship in which he is embarked is not sea-worthy, he will immediately hasten into port—in like manner when the effects of this world's pleasures are fully known and felt, men will then hasten to seek that "house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens." Let us like Jonah, "sacrifice unto God with the voice of thanksgiving, and pay that which we have vowed. Salvation is of the Lord."