« AnteriorContinuar »
The NARRATIVE of JOMH continued.
JONAH'S RENEWED MISSION.
And the word of the Lord came unto Jonah the second time, saying, arise, go unto Nineveh, that great city, and preach unto it the preaching that I bid thee. So Jonah arose, and went unto Nineveh, according to the word of the Lord. Now Nineveh was an exceeding great city of three days' journey. And Jonah began to enter into the city a day's journey and he cried, and said, Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown. 3rd chap. Jonah, 1—4th verses.
We are now to take a brighter view of the narrative. Jonah is reconciled to his lot, and is sent again by God to preach to the still guilty Ninevites. He is sent the second time upon the same errand— he is no longer disobedient, but acts in conformity with the will of God. What a different feeling must now pervade the prophet when contrasted with his feelings, when he in his disobedience, took flight to Tarshish. How great the difference between doing good and doing evil; and how sensible men are, when they act either virtuously or wickedly. This is seen plainly in the prophet. It is a wise maxim, "to be good is to be happy;" and Jonah when disobeying his first call was miserable,—now he his happy: he sets about the task to which he is appointed with zeal and spirit, his own salutary repentance encouraging the prophet in his exhortation and warning to the city so mercifully regarded by God; for as he derived pardon therefrom, so might also the Ninevites, if they were really desirous to preserve their lives and their city. Neither were such apprehensions groundless, for they did come to pass. "Rend your heart and not your garments, and turn unto the Lord your God; for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness, and repenteth him of the evil." The same wickedness that prevailed in Nineveh, when God first called Jonah, still raged in the place.— There was no difference, yet God's mercy still lingered, and though through (Jonah's disobedience) they had not heard his threatenings, still God waited for the prophet's deliverance, and then sent forth his mandate a second time. There is a painful pleasure and profit in reflecting upon those cities that fell victims to their sinfulness, and suffered the just punishment of God as the result of their evil doings. Nineveh was the capital of the Assyrian empire, and one time a very extensive and populous city. It is recorded by some heathen historians, that its walls were " a hundred feet high, sixty miles in compass, and so wide that three chariots might be driven upon them abreast." There were "fifteen hundred towers,'each two hundred feet high." It contained "more than six score thousand persons, that could not discern between their right hand and their left hand," that could not discriminate between right and wrong. Her desolation is described in the 2nd of Zephaniah, and 13th verse to 15th "this is the rejoicing city that dwelt carelessly, that said in her heart, I am and there is none beside me." Self confident in herself, and triumphing in her wickedness, caused God and godliness to be quite forgotten. The multitude were adepts to the art of witchcraft; their religious feelings were deadened, and its " day of darkness and gloominess had arrived. Their land was full of silver and gold—and no end of their treasures: their land full of horses, neither any end of their chariots: their land full of idols, and worshipping the work of their own hands. Her merchants were multiplied above the stars of the heaven: the cankerworm spoileth and fleeth away." From this we see that notwithstanding her worldly possessions, her heart was far from God. Though he had given innumerable blessings, she acted unworthy of them. Though God had multiplied her merchandize she w*as indifferent to it. Is Nineveh a solitary instance of a mighty nation's possessing wealth, and not applying it to the glory of the bountiful Giver? England our own nation and our pride, is in the enjoyment of every privilege and advantage, which a nation can desire. But it is to be feared that there are too many nominal christians; and who forget that "it is not the outward and visible sign, but the inward and spiritual grace'
which constitutes real holiness in heart and life. And the daily sins of each individual combined accumulates and composes the transgression of the mass of nations. Therefore, despise not comparitively trivial things, which occur day by day—do not overlook them because of outward exactness in weighty matters. "Do unto others as you would wish others to do unto you," was a blessed precept of our Lord's, yet how seldom is it witnessed between man and man. How often we witness some act of unkindness arising from worldly matters, without thinking of the pain given to others, which if they had to experience themselves would raise their indignation. How seldom we observe "forgiveness of injuries" to those who may have oppressed or ili-treated us. On the contrary, the like is very frequently returned, sometimes by the excuse to justify one's self, and occasionally out of dislike. Pride and Envy too seem closely connected in men's dealings with one another, and do not only blemish Social Intercourse and Society, but give it such a colouring contrary to the humble example of our blessed Lord,— and therefore should be guarded against in the strongest manner. Station in life, and talent, and wealth, each cause Envy by those who possess neither. And there are some who seem to place no limits to Distinction who look at the outward ornaments and the worldly possessions of some of their brethren, and forget others equally as good (perhaps better in the eyes of God,) through worldly Rank and worldly Pomp not being theirs to claim. The proud and envious one will speak against a wealthy man, because he possesses means to give and can well afford it, whilst he is in far less prosperous circumstances. Or jhat there is talent and humility, while he carries himself exalted and proud,—and then what a clash takes place. Political sentiments also frequently destroy Unity.— Religious dissension promotes schism in the church; and where, I ask, is to be found in these things and the practise of them, that spirit of Religion, which men so much boast of, and yet is so seldom visible? Now, brethren, is not this the case in the present age? and if one tries to injure you, or acts dishonourably by you, or speaks evil behind your back, and the contrary to your face, that cutting words or deeds are returned. Is it not evil for evil—railing for railing—overcome of evil instead of overcoming evil with good? And moreover, is it not in total contradiction to the precept and example of our blessed Lord, "who went about doing good." How great the contrast between the love of God, and the Spirit which seems now to actuate man towards man. How few we see living in peace, health, happiness and prosperity, are affected by those who are suffering from miseries, or lingering in sickness, which frail nature is heir to. Are you not too much satisfied with your own enjoyments, and your own advantages, whilst you are content to remain regardless to the wants of others? Remember the rich man clothed in purple, and fine linen, while Lazarus lay at the door, and the dogs more feeling than their master licked his sores. And again, the Priest and the Levite, the same principal prompted them, their brother was wounded and almost lifeless—they passed by on the other side, untouched, with hearts as cold, as the wintry elements. My christian brethren, these things ought not so to be. You may consider them trivial, but all united together will rise up against you at the day of judgment. How many hundred pages may God already have against us for our want of zeal to him, and our want of love to our neighbour. These sins with others of a greater weight were mixed together, and thereby subsequently the great and powerful city of Nineveh was destroyed. When Jonah sent forth God's threatenings she was in the practise of sins minor and great, not dreaming of the consequences. You, my brethren (God grant not) may be overtaken as they were with total destruction.— The call has already been given to you, and if you do not entirely forsake sin for ever, your desolation may also come to pass. "Beware, therefore, lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men; after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ." Covet the best gifts, and when obtained, use them to God's glory. For if you only love those which love you, if you pity only those who pity you, and if you salute your brethren only that do the same to you, "What do ye more than others?" If you honour those who honour you, and use your brother as your brother uses you, how, I ask, dwelleth the love of God in you? If you are selfish instead of pitiful; if you are unforgiving to those who may have trespassed against you, remember that unless you forgive, as you hope to be forgiven, how can you be at peace with God? Let us then judge ourselves in these matters, and see how far they are applicable to our past and our present conduct. Let us examine into the motives of our actions, whether they are really what they externally appear, and whether in our dealings towards each other we are actuated by liberality, love, and candour. Whether also we are zealous in our heavenly calling, so as to ensure God's unspeakable gift. "Be not weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap if we faint not. For if there be first a willing mind, it is accepted according to that a man hath, and not according to that he hath not."
We will now return to the narrative. I have already observed that the wickedness, which had existed in Nineveh still raged over the place, and Jonah was no longer disobedient, but went as God commanded him. Nineveh was three days'journey, and may be taken as giving from, fifty to sixty miles. But the three days' journey of Jonah describes the circuit, and the one day's journey the length of Nineveh. Jonah however went in obedience to the command of God, and denounced the threats, which were to alarm the Ninevites. This brings us to consider the prophet's threat of destruction to the inhabitants of that great city, "Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown."
What a cry was this for a city plunged in ruin! What a cry of terror for a people conscious of deserving it! Yet forty days, and our Nineveh may also be destroyed. It is to be feared that too many are clinging to the world. Though rich and affluent— though of a meek and contrite spirit, you may be still envious and proud, for all Christ did, it may be of no avail. And if so, time will prove it, though it may now be hidden from particular notice;