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portion, and pray to Him for grace to enable you so to do. Avoid the great evils of leisure, avoid the snare of having time on your hands. Avoid all bad thoughts, all corrupt or irreligious books. Avoid all bad company. Let nothing seduce you into it. Though you may be laughed at for your strictness; though you may lose thereby amusements which you would like to par. take of; though you may thereby be ignorant of much which others know, and may appear to disadvantage when they are talking together; though you appear behind the rest of the world ; though you be called a coward, or a child, or narrow-minded, or superstitious; whatever insulting words be applied to you, fear not, falter not, fail not; stand firm, quit you like men; be strong. They think that in the devil's service there are secrets worthy our inquiry, which you share not: yes, there are such, and such that it is a shame even to speak of them; and in like manner you have a secret which they have not, and which far surpasses theirs. “ The secret of the Lord is with them that fear Him." Those who obey God and follow Christ, have secret gains, so great, that, as well might we say heaven were like hell, as that these are like the gain which sinners have. They have a secret gift given them by their Lord and Saviour, in proportion to their faith and love. They cannot describe it to others; they have not possession of it all at once; they cannot have the enjoyment of it, at this or that time when they will. It comes and goes according to the will of the Giver. It is given but in small measure to those who begin God's service. It is not given at all to those who follow Him with a divided heart. To those who love the world, and yet are in a certain sense religious, and are well contented with their religious state, to them it is not given. But to those who give themselves up to their Lord and Saviour ; to those who surrender themselves soul and body, those who honestly say, “I am Thine, new-make me, do with me what Thou wilt,” who say so not once or twice merely, or in a transport, but calmly and habitually; these are they who gain the Lord's secret gift, even the “white stone, and in the stone a new name written which no man knoweth, saving he that receiveth ito.” Sinners think that they know all that religion has to give,
9 Rev. ii. 17.
and over and above that, they know the pleasures of sin too. No, they do not, cannot, never will know the secret gift of God, till they repent and amend. They never will know what it is to see God, till they obey ; nay, though they are to see Him at the last day, even that will be no true sight of Him, for the sight of that Holy One will then impart no comfort, no joy to them. They never will know the blessedness which He has to give. They do know the satisfaction of sinning, such as it is; and alas, if they go on as they are going, they will know not only what sin is, but what hell is. But they never will know that great secret which is hid in the FATHER and in the Son.
Let us not then be seduced by the Tempter and his promises. He can show us no good. He has no good to give us. Rather let us listen to the gracious words of our MAKER and REDEEMER, “Call unto Me, and I will answer thee, and show thee great and mighty things, which thou knowest not ?."
1 Jer. xxxiii, 3.
MIRACLES NO REMEDY FOR UNBELIEF.
NUMBERS xiv. 11.
“And the LORD said unto Moses, How long will this people provoke Me? and
how long will it be ere they believe Me, for all the signs which I have showed
among them ?"
NOTHING, I suppose, is more surprising to us at first reading, than the history of God's chosen people; nay, on second and third reading, and on every reading till we learn to view it as God views it. It seems strange, indeed, to most persons, that the Israelites should have acted as they did, age after age, in spite of the miracles which were vouchsafed to them. The laws of nature were suspended again and again before their eyes; the most marvellous signs were wrought at the word of God's prophets, and for their deliverance; yet they did not obey their great Benefactor at all better than men now-a-days who have not these advantages, as we commonly consider them. Age after age
GOD visited them by Angels, by inspired messengers; age after, age they sinned. At last He sent His well-beloved Son; and HE wrought miracles before them still more abundant, wonderful, and beneficent than
them of His coming ? St. John tells us, “ Then gathered the Chief Priests and the Pharisees a council, and said, What do we? for this Man doeth many miracles. . . . . Then from that day forth they took counsel together for to put Him to death'."
i John xi. 47. 53.
In matter of fact, then, whatever be the reason, nothing is gained by miracles, nothing comes of miracles, as regards our religious views, principles, and habits. Hard as it is to believe, miracles certainly do not make men better; the history of Israel proves it. And the only mode of escaping this conclusion, to which some persons feel a great repugnance, is to fancy that the Israelites were much worse than other nations, which accordingly has been maintained. It has often been said, that they were stiffnecked and hardhearted beyond the rest of the world. Now, even supposing, for argument's sake, I should grant that they were so, this would not sufficiently account for the strange circumstance under consideration; for this people were not moved at all. It is not a question of more or less : surely they must have been altogether distinct from other men; destitute of the feelings and opinions of other men; nay, hardly partakers of human nature, if other men would, as a matter of course, have been moved by those miracles which had no influence whatever upon them. That there are, indeed, men in the world who would have been moved, and would have obeyed in consequence, I do not deny; such were to be found among the Israelites also; but I am speaking of men in general; and I say, that if the Israelites had a common nature with us, surely that insensibility which they exhibited on the whole, must be just what we should exhibit on the whole under the same circumstances.
It confirms this view of the subject to observe, that the children of Israel are like other men in all points of their conduct, save this insensibility, which other men have not had the opportunity to show as they had. There is no difference between their conduct and ours in point of fact; the difference is entirely in the external discipline to which God subjected them. Whether or not miracles ought to have influenced them in a way in which God's dealings in Providence do not influence us, so far is clear, that looking into their modes of living and of thought, we find a nature just like our own, not better indeed, but in no respect
Those evil tempers which the people displayed in the desert, their greediness, selfishness, murmuring, caprice, waywardness, fickleness, ingratitude, jealousy, suspiciousness, obstinacy, unbelief, all these are seen in the uneducated multitude now-a-days, according to their opportunity of displaying them. The pride of Dathan and the presumption of Korah are still instanced in our higher ranks and among educated persons. Saul, Ahithophel, Joab, and Absalom, have had their parallels all over the world. I say there is nothing unlike the rest of mankind in the character or conduct of the chosen people; the difference solely is in God's dealings with them. They act as other men; it is their religion which is not as other men; it is miraculous; and the question is, how it comes to pass, their religion being different, their conduct is the same; and there are two ways of answering it; either by saying that they were worse than other men, and were not influenced by miracles when others would have been influenced, (as many persons are apt to think,) or (what I conceive to be the true reason) that, after all, the difference between miracle and no miracle is not so great in any case, in the case of any people, as to secure the success or account for the failure of religious truth. It was not that the Israelites were much more hardhearted than other people, but that a mira. culous religion is not much more influential than other religions.
For I repeat, though it be granted that the Israelites were much worse than others, still that will not account for the fact that miracles made no impression whatever upon them. However sensual and obstinate they may be supposed to have been in natural character, yet if it be true that miracles have a necessary effect upon the human mind, they must be considered to have had some effect on their conduct for good or bad; if they had not a good effect, at least they must have had a bad; whereas the miracles left them very much the same in outward appearance as men are now-a-days, who neglect such warnings as now sent us, neither much more lawless and corrupt than they, nor the reverse. The point is, that while they were so hardened, as it appears to us, in their conduct towards their LORD and Governor, they are not much worse than other men in social life and personal behaviour. It is a rule that if men are extravagantly irreligious, profane, blasphemous, infidel, they are equally excessive and monstrous in other respects; whereas the Jews were like the Eastern nations around them, with this one peculiarity, that they had rejected direct and clear miraculous evidence, and the others had not. It seems, then, I say, to follow, that, guilty as were the Jews in disobeying Almighty God, and blind as they became