« PreviousContinue »
Men, brethren, and fathers, praise ye the Lord. Praise ye Him all his angels; praise ye Him all his hosts. Kings of the earth, and all people; princes, and all judges of the earth ; both young men and maidens ; old men and children. Let them praise the name of the Lord; for His name alone is excellent: His glory is above the earth and heaven. Let every thing that hath breath praise the Lord. Praise ye the Lord.
What a valuable acquisition to the Jews was the ark of God! The Bible is our ark, and contains more than it contained; and will, if prayerfully and faithfully perused, perform more wonderful works. Dr. Leechman, at one time Principal of the College of Glasgow, and proprietor of the estate of Auchenairn, in Cadder parish, had a great veneration for the Sacred Oracles. When on his deathbed, he said to the son of a worthy nobleman, You see the situation I am in; I have not many days to live; I am glad you have had an opportunity of witnessing the tranquillity of my last moments ; but it is not tranquillity and composure alone, it is joy and triumph ; it is complete exultation. And whence does this exultation spring ? From that book, (pointing to a Bible that lay on the table,) from that book, tuo inuch neglected, indeed, but which contains invaluable treasures,-treasures of joy and rejoicing; for it makes us certain, that this mortal shall put on immortality.
Coleridge looked forward with great delight to the return of the Sabbath, the sacredness of which produced a wonderful effect on the temperament of that Christian poet. To a friend, he said, one Sunday morning, I feel as if God had, by giving the Sabbath, given fifty-two springs in every year, (Isa. Iviii. 13, 14.)
Revolve often in your mind the outline,-the astonishing outline of the mission and work of Christ. We express the different parts in a single word,-1. Incarnation, (John i. 14 ;) 2. Birth, (Isa. ix. 6; Luke ii. 11-16.) 3. Circumcision, (Luke ii. 21;) 4. Presentation, (Luke ij. 22–21 ;) 5. Admission, Luke ii. 42-49 ;) 6. Baptism, (Matt. iii. 13-17 ;) 7. Temptation, Matt. iv. l-11:) 8. Obedience, (Rom. v. 19 ; Gal. iv. 4, 5; Isa. xlii. 21;) 9. Sufferings, (Isa. liii.; 1 Pet. ii, 21; iii. 18; iv. 1: Heb. ix, 26-28;) 10. Death, (Rom. iv. 25; 1 Cor. xv 3;) 11. Resurrection, (Psalm xvi. 10; Matt. xxviii. 6; Mark xvi. 6; Luke xxiv, 6; John xx. 15-17; 1 Cor. xv. 6-20; Rom. i. 4 ;) 12. Ascension, (Psalm lxviii. 18; Acts i. 9-11; John xx. 17; Ephes. iv. 4-10;) 13. Sending the Spirit, (John xiv. 16, 26 ;) 14. Advocacy, (1 Jobn ii. 1;) 15. Intercession, (Isa. liii. 12; Rom. viii. 34; Heb. vii. 25; xiii. 15.)
“ Thou wilt shew me the path of life : in thy presence is fulness of joy;
at thy right hand are pleasures for evermore."- PSALM xvi. 11.
THERE is, at least, as much evidence for the existence of mind, as of matter; and, consequently, it is equally certain, that we have souls, as it is true that we are possessed of bodies. From the unbounded capacities, and the unimperishable natures of our souls, we are almost necessarily led to conclude, that they are formed for a future existence; and that this world is only a preparatory step to another, and a higher, and nobler state of being. From the great inequalities in the condition of mankind, and the immense disproportion between crimes and punishments, under the just and equal government of God, we are led to believe, that there must be a future state, where the good shall be happy, and the bad miserable,-the oppressed rewarded, and the oppressor punished. These are supposed to be the conclusions of reason; but for the certainty of them, at least, she is indebted to the declarations of revelation. We have no doubt, that Adam understood, that when the time of his probation was expired, he was to be translated to a higher, and even a nobler world, nearer to the throne of his Father and his God. The translation of Enoch, if there was no previous declaration, taught his posterity, most distinctly, that not only the soul, but also the body, was to be prepared, and received into a superber, and more lasting place of abode. And as touching the resurrection of the dead, have ye not read in the book of Moses, said the Great Teacher sent from God, how, in the bush, God spake unto him, saying, I am the God of Abrabam, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob. He is not the God of the dead, but the God of the living. The translation of Elijah was another, and, in some sense, a stronger proof, of this cardinal doctrine of Christianity, published from the foundation, almost, of the world. No Jew who attended to the facts, and believed the declarations contained in the Old Testament Scriptures, ever did, or could doubt, the certainty of this consolatory truth. In proof of this assertion, we are happy to be able to produce the evidence of fact. When their hopes were weakest, their prejudices strongest, and their unbelief publicly avowed and inculcated, we find a simple, unlettered woman making this glorious confession at a special entertainment, (if the dignity of the guest be considered,)—a woman, too, who had been gently checked for an undue concern about temporal things. Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things; but one thing is needful. In the celebrated passage which records one of our Lord's most striking miracles, it is thus written,-Then Martha, as soon as she heard that Jesus was coming, went and met him ; but Mary sat still in the house. Then said Martha unto Jesus, Lord, if thou hadst been here, my brother had not died. But I know, that even now, whatsoever thou wilt ask of God, God will give it thee. Jesus saith unto her, Thy brother shall rise again. Martha saith unto Him, I know that he shall rise again, in the resurrection at the last day. Although life and inmortality have been more clearly, and, we may say, more fully brought to light through the Gospel, or the New Testament dispensation, yet it neither was created, nor even obscurely revealed, in the Law, the Psalms, and the Prophets. Lawgivers taught it, Prophets proclaimed it, and Poets sung it. Thou wilt shew me the path of life : in thy presence is fulness of joy; at thy right band are pleasures for evermore.
An inspired interpreter informs us both who spake these words, and also concerning whoin they were originally and primarily spoken. For David speaketh concerning Himnamely, Jesus of Nazareth. Saith Luke, quoting accurately from the Septuagint, I foresaw the Lord always before my face; for He is on my right band, that I should not be moved. Therefore did my heart rejoice, and my tongue was glad : moreover, also, my flesh shall rest in hope. Because thou wilt not leave my soul in hell, neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption. Thou hast made known to me the way of life; thou shalt make me full of joy with thy countenance, (Acts ii. 25-28.)
Either translation will equally answer our purpose, and is a foundation sufficiently ample and durable to support the superstructure we intend, by the help of the Holy Spirit, to endeavour to erect. The latter is the translation of a translation, while the foriner is, we believe, an accurate translation of the Hebrew original. The passage, as rendered in our text, is more full, and, being accurate, more perfect, than that given by the Evangelist. Do not imagine, that we are finding fault with Luke, or his Great Master, for quoting from the Septuagint translation. They were satisfied if they got the sense froin a translation generally then used ; and they sanctioned not only that, but, by consequence, every faithful translation of the Sacred Volume. Still, we would not be warranted to give the sense as they did ; but should quote every word and letter of the Divine Record. By the variety of expression in our text, and the force and fulness of that expression, fulness of jov, pleasures for evermore, as well as hy the presence, immediate presence of God, and His right hand, the place of honour, authority, and trust, we are justly led to conclude the infinite extent, and unchangeable and eternal nature of those high rewards of grace and glory that await those who are faithful to the death. Image is heaped upon image, and figure added to figure; for we all know, that joy and pleasure are degrees of the same feeling ; but how is feeling overpowered, and language, and conception, and imagination baffled, when they are conversant with eternal things. Admiring, then, the condescension of God, and adoring His goodness and His grace, when He not only humbleth himself to take the least notice of us, but exciteth, and animateth, and supporteth our faith and hope, by giving to us such glow. ing, and ravishing, and transporting descriptions of the pleasures and joys that are prepared for the righteous.
To expand and elucidate still farther the language contained in our text, which is applicable to every member, as well as to the exalted Head, we observe, in the
First place, That the happiness of the redeemed will partly arise from surveying the sufferings which they have endured, and the dangers to which they have been exposed, and from which they are now for ever freed.
Secondly, Their pleasure will be increased by the holy and happy state and place into which they are introduced, and the glorious and harmonious society into which they are ad. mitted.
Thirdly, Their joy will be still more increased, by beholding continually that glorious and victorious Captain of Salvation, by whose merits and intercession alone they have been so highly and permanently exalted.
Fourthly, Their transport will be still more highly raised by the security which they possess, that the felicity and glory which they now enjoy shall endure as the days of heaven.
First, The sufferings they have endured, and the dangers to which they have been exposed, will, upon retrospect, furnish one of the sources of the joy of the redeemed.
It is a truth that needs no confirmation, that man that is born of a woman is of few days and full of trouble ; yea, that he is born to trouble as the sparks fly upward. This is inevit
able from the condition into which he has brought himself. The wages of sin is death, and it is utterly impossible that the sinner can be exempted from suffering, the precursor of dissolution. The permission of moral evil to enter into this fair and flourishing world, is one of those difficulties which has nonplussed, and ever will puzzle the limited faculties of man. But He who brings light out of darkness, and order out of confusion, and good out of seeming irremediable evil, hath, by this high and mysterious act, exhibited all His great and glorious perfections in such a manner as, we believe, in this world, at least, they could never otherwise have been seen by the children of men. In consequence of this awful catastrophe, we now see mercy and truth meet together, and righteousness and peace einbrace each other. We behold God dwelling with men upon earth, that they may dwell with Him for ever in heaven. Whether the knowledge of evil was necessary, to make us prize more highly the good, and a state of suffering, to give us greater cause of rejoicing, it does not belong to 118 to determine; but we will boldly affirm, that the Judge of all the earth has done right; and those parts of His conduct of which we can give no account, we will endeavour to learn, with silence and submission, to adore, saying, Even so, Father, for so it seemed good in thy sight. The introduction of sin and misery into our world hath, doubtless, been intended, and is calculated, and shall be overruled, to promote our happiness, if we accept of, and improve the offered remedy. Having lasted the worin wood and the gall, we will drink more rapturously those draughts of joy which flow from beneath the throne of God and of the Lamb. It became Him for whoin are all things, and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons unto glory, to make the Captain of their Salvation perfect through sufferings. For the joy that was set before Him, Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, endured the cross, and despised the shame.
If the Head behoved to be made perfect through sufferings, surely it is as necessary for the members. If the scars and wounds which He received fighting our battles, add to the glory of His triumph, surely those which we receive for Him, must add lustre and honour to ours. But why need I thus reason a point which many of you, I trust, can stand up and confirm from your own happy experience. After you tasted that godly sorrow which worketh repentance unto salvation not to be repented of; and after you have wished that your heads were waters, and your eyes fountains of tears, that you might weep day and night for your sins; and after the