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factors. For them to “remain in the flesh is needful.” They are the correctors of the evil and the conservators of the good. They are the lights of the world ;—they break through the clouds of the world's errors, sensuality and vice, and bring to bear on it the radiance of eternal truth. They are the salt of the earth ;-they penetrate with their influence the mass, and prevent it from sinking into entire corruption. When good men leave the world, the world loses their prayers, sympathies, and personal presence.
The death of a good man is the quenching of a light in our sky; the drying up of a fountain on our earth. learn to value the good; and also to labor for others under the impression that we can only help our neighbors, children, and fellow citizens, during our short sojourn here.
II. THE DESIRABLE IN THE HISTORY CHRISTIAN. What is the desirable ? It is to be kept from the evil. “But that thou shouldest keep them from the evil.”
First: Evil is in the world. This is a fact too obvious to require either proof or illustration. Men may, and do, differ as to the introduction of moral evil; but they are all forced to admit the fact. The history of the world is little more than a history of its operation.
It is a serpent enfolding all things in its deadly coil; it is a dark cold mist hanging over every scene, intercepting the rays of the sun, and checking the growth of nature; it is a miasma impregnating the atmosphere and causing disease and death in every breath.
Secondly: Good men are liable to fall into evil. This is clearly implied, and this also is truth. Evil here is the ascendant principle. It is everywhere ; it presses all into its service :the loftiest genius and the greatest talent. It adorns itself in all the attractions that art can furnish. It speaks in the strains of music and appears in all the fascinating forms of beauty; it promises sensual gratification, social power, and secular wealth to its votaries. The prizes of the world are in its hand. In addition to this, there is ever in the bosoms, even
of the best of men, a susceptibility of being influenced by it. There are combustible elements which the fires of evil can kindle ; latent germs slumbering within which outward evil can quicken into life and power. “ The law in the members” is a lever in the human system always within its reach.
Add yet to this fact that there are infernal agents of evil agents whose numbers are overwhelming, whose skill and powers are immense, and whose efforts are incessant-availing themselves of every opportunity to contaminate and seduce. All these considerations are quite sufficient to show that good men while here are in danger of falling into evil. Meek-souled Moses was overcome by a gust of passion ; spiritually-minded David bowed to the power of a carnal impulse ; Peter, brave and bold, crouched into fear, and passed from cowardice to falsehood, ingratitude, and blasphemy. Indeed the history of humanity only furnishes us with the example of ONE who passed through the world uninfluenced by its evil. Prince of the world cometh and findeth nothing in Me. Temptation fell on His nature as dew-drops on Etna's fires, as sparks on ocean waves.
Thirdly: That the falling of a good man into evil is immensely injurious. To yield to one temptation, to swerve from one principle, to give up one element of truth, is a most serious thing. It is to break down the moral fences of the soul and lay it open to every enemy. One sin may destroy peace of mind, self-respect, and, as in the case of David, send us mourning all our days. It injures our power of usefulness. One sin greatly incapacitates for good. It weakens the aim, takes emphasis from the voice and influence from the life. And in addition to all this, it unfits for Heaven. Without holiness no man can see the Lord.” “And there shall in nowise enter in anything that defileth, neither whatsoever worketh abomination or maketh a lie, but they which are written in the Lamb's book of life.” (Rev. xxi. 27.)
Fourthly : That the power of God is necessary to prevent this falling into evil. Christ invokes the Almighty to keep
them from it. Who else can ? What arm but His can hold us above the surging waves ?
What wisdom but His can guide us safe through ? “Now UNTO HIM THAT IS ABLE TO KEEP YOU FROM FALLING, AND TO PRESENT YOU FAULTLESS BEFORE THE PRESENCE OF HIS GLORY WITH EXCEEDING JOY,
“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 give thee.” &c. Jonah iii. 1–10.
Analysis of Homily the Four Hundred and Thirty-seventh. This book is a strange history of a strange man. whose piety, if real, was signally defective, whose prophetic life is associated with the marvellous, and whose success as a reformer, in the rapidity, extent, and blessedness of its influence, finds no parallel in sacred history. The whole book develops at least five great practical truths. First: That the regard of Heaven was not confined to the Jewish nation. Jonah was sent to Nineveh. Secondly : That wickedness, if persisted in, must end in ruin. Nineveh was doomed. Thirdly: That God has no pleasure in inflicting punishment, but delights in saving the penitent. Fourthly: That there is no justifiable reason, in the case even of the greatest sinners, for delaying reformation. Fifthly : That all true reformation in every land and age is of God. The reformation of Nineveh was Divine. God influenced Jonah to preach, Jonah's preaching influenced Nineveh to repent, and Nineveh’s repentance led to its salvation. Our subject is Genuine Reformation ;-a subject of all others the most important. The end of all providential mercies, the theme of all Divine teachers, the indispensable condition of all true human power, dignity, and blessedness, is this.
There are three things which this chapter leads us to observe in relation to this reformation. Its method, its development, and its value.
I. ITS METHOD. First: It was effected through man. Why did the Almighty require the services of Jonah ? Why did He not speak with an audible voice to the men of Nineveh Himself? Or why did He not dispatch an angel from His throne ? Or still why did He not write what He had to say to them in red flame above their heads ? All we answer is, Such is not God's method with man.
He makes man the organ of blessing man. This plan serves several important purposes. (1) It serves to deepen man’s interest in his
(2) It stimulates men to seek the improvement of
If they are to advance they must look to themselves, &c. (3) It confers signal honor on the race. (4) It shows God's wisdom and power in the race.
“ We have this treasure in earthen vessels.” Secondly: It was effected through man speaking. Jonah was sent to speak
“to preach unto the city.” We are far enough from depreciating the press; it is a mighty, growing, ubiquitous, power; but it will never do the work of the pulpit. Truth spoken is the converting force. Christianity written, as compared with Christianity spoken, is as the winter to the summer sky. It may give as much light, but not as much heat; and without the summer radiance, the landscapes will wither and the fountains freeze. Thirdly : It was effected through man speaking what God said. « Preach unto it the preaching that I bid thee." Had he spoken his own thoughts, no valuable effort would have been produced. God's thoughts are the converting forces. God's thoughts are always reasonable and universally benevolent. When men preach their own thoughts--and such preaching, alas! is becoming fearfully popular--they babble. So much for the Divine inethod of human reformation.
II. ITS DEVELOPMENT. First: This reformation began with the intellect. “ So the people of Nineveh believed God.” (iii. 5.) All moral reformation begins with the intellectthe beliefs. Men must believe what God says, or no saving effect can be produced. Secondly : This reformation proceeded to the heart. “They put on sackcloth, from the greatest of them even to the least of them.” As they thought upon what they heard, deep contrition seized them, &c. Thirdly : This reformation extended to the outward life. “They turned from their evil way.” They renounced their old habits of wickedness, and adopted a new and virtuous course of life. Such is ever the natural development of true reformation. Divine ideas first enter the intellect, they are believed, they pass to the heart and generate emotions, and these emotions come forth in new actions. True reformation works from the centre to the circumference, from the heart to the extremities.
III. ITS VALUE. “And God repented of the evil, that he had said he would do unto them ; and he did it not.” (iii
. x.) Though this wonderful language is in accommodation to our modes of thought and action, it has a profound significance. It does not mean that God changed His mind towards them ;—this would be impossible. Two thoughts may throw light upon this language :-First : It is God's immutable purpose to punish impenitent sinners. Secondly: It is God's immutable purpose to pardon repentant sinners. When the impenitent therefore become penitent, God's conduct so far as they are concerned is changed. It is as if He had repented. The value of reformation is this :-It takes men from under the frown, and places them under the smile, of Heaven.
Brother, did the men of Nineveh repent at the preaching of Jonah, and dost thou remain impenitent under the preaching of Christ? “ THE MEN OF NINEVEH SHALL RISE IN JUDGMENT WITH THIS GENERATION, AND SHALL CONDEMN IT; BECAUSE THEY REPENTED AT THE PREACHING OF JONAS; AND, BEHOLD, A GREATER THAN JONAS IS HERE.” “As debts may be discharged by money, crimes by repentance ; But there is coin in both, which discharges neither.”