« AnteriorContinuar »
which it shall have been employed. I dare not claim a right to dispose of the property of others, not even to obtain the honour or pleasure of contributing to every benevolent design. I would not rob a creditor to give to the noblest mission in the world but, as far as thou hast put it in my power, to subserve the promotion of thy cause, thou knowest, O Lord! it is not a task, nor a burden; but a pleasure, and a high gratification. As David accounted it an honour to prepare liberally for that temple which he was not permitted to build, and said, "Who am I? and what is my people, that we should be able to offer willingly after this sort? for all things are of thee, and of thine own we have given thee;"-so do I feel self greatly indebted to God, both for the power and the inclination to honour him with my substance, and with all the fruits of mine increase. Yea, O Lord! I am glad to deny myself in other respects, that I may the oftener enjoy this sweet pleasure of promoting the cause of Christ. Fain would I adorn the doctrine of God my Saviour in all things; and recommend the religion of Jesus to all around me. Nothing pains me so much as to hear or see any thing that tends to the dishonour of the gospel; or that gives the adversaries of thy truth a haudle to misrepresent thy holy religion. "When I behold transgressors, I am grieved, because they regard not thy law." But when my Lord is" wounded in the house of his friends," it fills me with peculiar distress; and surely I had rather meet with the heaviest trials of which I can conceive, than be left thus to dishonour thee myself. I would never be satisfied with any present attainments; but would follow hard after thee, O Lord! The more I know of thee, the more do I long to know thee myself; and that thou mayest be known, and loved, and adored by all around me; yea, I long for the knowledge of my Lord, to fill the whole earth as the waters fill the bed of the ocean! Yes, I trust, I often pray, as I wish to do always, according to the spirit (if not in the words) of that prayer which our Lord taught to his disciples; that" thy name may be hallowed, thy kingdom may come, thy will may be done on earth as it is in Heaven;" and would be more importunate and earnest in these petitions, than even in asking for my "daily bread." S. C.
THE VALLEY OF BACA.
THE Word Baca is to be found in Psalm lxxxiv. a psalm well calculated to excite devout affections; and will be admired so long as a spirit of devotion shall exist in the world. The Psalmist is supposed to have penned it when driven from Jerusalem by the rebellion of Absalom. His want taught him more
and more the worth of God's tabernacles; his very soul fainted for them. He pronounced the man blessed, not only who dwelt there, but even those whose hearts were in the way thither.. Love to the house and ordinances of God, helps over many ditficulties, which are found in the way to them. Many of the pious Jews lived at a distance from Jerusalem; but at the appointed seasons, they left their secular concerns to the care of Providence, and urged their way through all difliculties, to worship at the holy city. In their way they had to pass through the Valley of Baca.
This word Baca is Hebrew *. Lexicographers render it by the Latin word Morus, which signifies a mulberry-tree; and, to illustrate the word as used in Psalm lxxxivth, some critics have remarked that the mulberry-tree grows best in a dry sandy barren soil; and so the Valley of Baca, or Mulberry-trees, signifies a dry sandy barren valley, difficult for travellers to pass; but such was the love and pious zeal of ancient worshippers, that they surmounted all difficulties, and made, or accounted, Baca a well; or, as if it had been a well. But the learned Parkhurst refers us to Miller's Gardener's Dictionary, under the word Morus, which does not support the above remark respecting the growth of the mulberry-tree; hence, he thinks, the word Baca means a large shrub which the Arabs still call by that name; and which he supposes might be so named, from its distilling an odoriferous gun. It appears to be nearly related to the word Bace †, which signifies to weep; and the Seventy render the word Baca, by one in the Greek, which signifies weeping; hence the word may signify a "rugged valley, embarrassed with bushes and stones, which cannot be passed without labour and tears.”
It is generally agreed, that this "Valley of Baca" might be a striking emblem, that, in the way of duty, men may expect to meet with difficulty. That the way to the Heavenly Jerusalem is through vales of thorns and tears. This is not surprizing, for ever since the entrance of sin, the cross has been the way to the crown in all ages, faith has been a fight; from the days of Adam, the seed of the serpent has opposed that of the woman. Moses had affliction to endure with the people of God; David observed and experienced, that many were the afflictions of the righteous; the ancient worthies had heavy trials; they were mocked, scourged, imprisoned, stoned, sawn asunder, tempted, and slain with the sword. They had to wander about in sheepskins and goat-skins, being destitute, afflicted, and tormented. They wandered in desarts and mountains, in dens, and in eaves of the earth. When Christ was upon the earth, he told his followers, that, in the world, they must have tribulation. When he was gone to Heaven, his apostles continued on the earth to inform the primitive Christians, that through much tribulation they must enter into the kingdom of God.
THE VALLEY OF BACA.
Sach has been the experience of believers ever since the days of the apostles. Even in the present times of public ease and tranquillity, there is no going to Heaven with the wind and tide of the fashion of this world. The life of the Christian is still a warfare. Admitting that the sign of the cross is'a Popish ad dition to the ceremony in baptism, still it is true, that whoever is baptized with the Holy Ghost, must of necessity take up the eress of Christ; he must pass through the Valley of Baca before he arrives in the Heaven of Heavens. In his way, he must expect the rage of Satan; that enemy who beguiled Eve, through his subtilty; who put it into the heart of Judas to be tray Jesus; and filled the heart of Ananias, and Sapphirà his wite, to lie against the Holy Ghost: that same enemy, on the very same principle, continues to exert his utmost endeavours to keep men asleep in their sins; to prevent the opening of their eyes, and the shining of the glorious Gospel in their hearts. If once the thunder of the law, accompanied by the energy of the Holy Spirit, rouze the lethargic soul, so that, seeing its danger, it fly for refuge,-then this adversary, unwilling to lose his slave, sets all his engines and agents to work, to prevent his escape. Pharaoh could not be more hostile to the departure of Israel out of Egypt, than Satan is to those who set their faces Heaven-wards. If, in spite of all his rage, the soul wing its way to the Saviour's arins, and there get secure, still he will buffet, sift, tempt, lay snares, and even change himself into the appearance of an angel of light, the more effectually to beguile and deceive the unwary soul. He daily and nightly acts his part as the enemy of all righteousness and father of lies, in attacking the faith of believers, and labouring to turn them from the faith back again to folly. After many wrestlings and severe conflicts, they have the felicity to triumph over the enemy.
But in their way to Paradise, they have also a frowning world to face. They are not of the world, but testify against it, that its deeds are evil: as such, the world hates them. The people of the world often take counsel against the people of God, they consult against his hidden ones. Such is the enmity of their hearts, that, were it not for a kind Providence, they would enact sangumary laws, to inflict corporal punishments; and treat them as the Jews did the Lord Jesus, saying, "Away with them, crucify them, crucify them!" While they are not permitted to go such lengths, they cease not to do all in their power to hinder the servants of the Lord in their heavenly pursuits. At one time they flatter and allure; at another, they will not allow them even a good word; they threaten and ridicule: they defame and scandalize their characters: in short, they are briars and thorns in the way of saints, and make part of that Valley of Baca through which they pass to the heavenly Jerusalem.
I must add, That in their way to glory, they have the flesh to crucify. In all ages the flesh has been found the most dangerous foe to grace; it lusteth against the spirit; there is nothing
so treacherous, deceitful, ensnaring and bewitching, as its motions are: they who follow them, refuse the cross of Christ, leave the path of duty, and treasure up wrath against the day of wrath. In my flesh," said an apostle, " dwelleth no good thing;" but if no good dwell in the flesh, many evil things dwell there; it is earthly, sensual, and devilish. Besides, it is ever present; it accompanies the Christian like the shadow the substance, and shews itself more active in opposition to him when he would do good; it strives to clog his winged zeal, and cool his burning love; to excite a spirit of impatience in time of affiction, and of warm resentment for real or supposed injuries; it is a worse enemy than either the world or Satan; it gives them great influence and advantage in their opposition to the soul. When the prince of this world came to Christ, he found nothing in him to take with his temptations; he was holy, harmless, and undefiled. Far otherwise is the case with the best of Christians; in them is much fuel for his fire. In all ages they have groaned heavily, being burthened with the body of sin and death. In mortifying the deeds of the body, and crucifying the Besh with its affections and lusts, they have had pains to endure, not improperly expressed by those which are felt by the cutting off a right hand, and placking out a right eye. They do sacred violence to themselves when they take the kingdom of Heaven by force. If it be asked, Who is sufficient for these things? it may be answered, A feeble saint, through Christ strengthening him, shall win the day!-shall come off conqueror. Such have in them a supreme love to the Divine Being, and a love to divine things, proportioned to their importance. Now, love is courageous; it is not intimidated by difficulties in the way of its object. " Many waters cannot quench it, neither can the floods drown it: it is stronger than death." The Heathen poet could sing, Amor vincit omnia: "Love conquers all things." The true believer can sing the same; his love makes him bold; it alleviates his burthen, and shortens the duration of the heaviest afiliction. This was seen in the women who were so early at our Saviour's sepulchre; it was seen in Jacob, who loved and served; but above all, in Jesus, who loved and died. We daily see that men, to gratify corrupt affections, set all their wits and engines to work; they spare neither pains nor expence to indulge and gratify themselves. Is it not fair and rational then to expect, that the supreme affection, set upon the supreme object, must surmount al! difficulties in the way to its enjoyment? From this efficacious principle, men have gloried in tribulation, and fought their way through the world to the kingdom of God. They have made the Valley of Baca, as it were, a well. Scarborough. S. B.
REFLECTIONS ON ISAIAH LXIII. 9.
In all their affliction he was afflicted, and the angel of his presence saved them: in his love and in his pity he redeemed them; and he bare them, and he carried them all the days of old.
THE sublimity and elegance of the Prophet Isaiah, deserve the utmost attention. The glowing warmth of his expressions is a clear evidence that his lips were touched with a live coal from the sacred altar. The above passage is inimitably beautiful, and highly consolatory. There are three prominent features which may engage our attention.
1. That Lord who suffered for his people, will certainly sympathize with them in all their afdictions. Four passages of Scripture may be especially urged in support of this consolatory truth: "I have seen, I have seen the afflictions of my people, and am come down to deliver them *."-"I have surely heard Ephraim bemoaning himself t," &c.-"Why persecutest thou met?" "He (Christ) is able to succour them that are tempted ."-If it be objected, that true believers often complain of the Lord's absence, and of great darkness, there are two passages which may serve to elucidate and explain the matter §.
2. The love of Jesus Christ is grand beyond all description, and exalted above all praise. It is so, inasmuch as it disposed him to become incarnate. What condescending goodness! admire it, O my soul!' and adore his blessed name for evermore. The same love disposed him to suffer and die for our sakes! to work out a righteousness to justify us, and to procure the blessed Spirit for our sanctification: to reascend his native heavens, and there, as our Advocate and Intercessor, to plead our cause.
3. His arm has been the support of his ancient people; and it is still the same. Let this encourage the weak and helpless. God has, for our sakes, laid help upon One that is mighty; and his strength is made perfect in weakness. Let the tempted take encouragement, and let the fearful hope in his salvation**.
Oh! how great must their blessedness be who are in the hands of Jesus Christ! he is well able, and he is equally determined to preserve and secure them to life everlasting! How vile is sin when committed against such a Saviour! a Saviour who pitied. and who loved us in our low estate! We may be assured, that all who come to him, "weary and heavy laden," shall meet an hearty welcome. If the bleeding, dying love of Jesus Christ has its proper effect upon us, we shall feel our hearts ↑ Acts ix. 4.
*Exod. iii. 7, 9.
Heb. ii. 18.
† Jer. xxxi. 18. 19. Jer. xiv. 8, 9. Isa. liv. 7, 8. * See Isa. x li. 13, 14.; and xl. 19, 11.