« AnteriorContinuar »
HOPE, IN THE LAST EXTREMITY.
141 As God's presence is Heaven, to be cast out of it is Hell. Deprived of his favour, what is life, even though we were pos. sessed of every earthly coinfort, and could insure it for a long series of years? What then must it be to one in the very article of dissolation. To live without the divine tavour is dreadfal; but to die without it, ismuch more so.
It is also observable, how the punishment corresponds witla the nature of the offence; and this we shall find to be a ge. neral character of the divine administration. They that receive not the love of the truth, are given up to believe a lie; deceivers are deceived; adulterers are cast into a bed, and those that have committed adultery with them; and they that have loved cursing, the curse shall come upon them, as oil into their bones. Thus Jonah Aed from the presence of the Lord; and now his conscience forebodes the issue, “I am cast out of thy sight.”
There are two other remarks which present themselves froin this desponding sentence, of a înore pleasing complexion. One is, that, happily for him, it was only him thut said it. It was the punishment awarded by conscience at the time; but the awards of conscience are not final. They respect what ought to be, if we had our desert; but not always what shall be. Sovereign merey'reserves to itself the right of revising and reversing these decisions. If the Lord had said Amen, all had been over with Jonah ; but “ his thoughts are not as our thoughts, nor his ways as our ways: as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are his thoughts higher than our thoughts, and his ways than our ways." “ Zion said, the Lord hath for: saken me;" but the Lord'her God did not say so too !--The other remark which offers is, the piety or godliness which appears even in the despondency of this good man. How different is the spirit of it from that of Cain! Future punishment is sometimes distinguished into a punishment of loss and a pupishment of sense. The latter is the dread of the wicked. Could they but be exempted from positive misery, they would not be much concerned for the loss of God's favour: nor indeed at all, but as depriving them of natural enjoyment; but it is not thus with a good man. The loss of God's favour is, to him, the heaviest of all punishments. This was the distress of Jonah. One sees in him also, in his darkest state, a tenderness of sinning against God, by being any otherwise accessary to his own death, than as owning what was his desert. Some men, if they had felt half bis burden, would have plunged themselves into the sea: but he, humiliating, as it must be, pronounces his. awn doom, and submits to be cast away by their hands !
But we have now arrived at the period of his dejection, Lo, when he was just giving up all for lost; nay, when he had actually pronounced bis doom ; when death had laid hold upon bim, and he seemed already in his grave,-a thought glances across his inind; a gleam of hope accompanies it :-yet, before I die, “I will look again toward thy holy temple !” This thought proves a resurrection to his souř.
But, let us observe what it was on which his hope at this affecting crisis caught hold. Was it the temple, the material building, to which he looked for relief? Surely, not. An Israelite in name only, might have indulged a superstitious confidence in the place : but Jonah looked farther. It was to the temple, with respect to him that dwelt therein, and the inanner in which he dwelt therein, namely, upon the mercy-seat, or propitiatory, that he looked. If expressed in New Testament language, it would be looking to God through a Mediator, who is our Advocate with the Father, and whose advocacy is founded on his having been made a propitiation.
The encouragement which the prophet felt to look toward the temple for relief, appears to have arisen from two sources, namely,--scripture and experience. The prayer of Solomon at the dedication, was recorded in the scriptures, and must have been familiar to every godly Israelite. After having enumerated divers particular cases, he adds --" What prayer and supplication soever be made by any man, or by all thy people Israel, who shalt kuow every man the plague of his own heart, and shall spread forth his hands toward this house, then bear thou in Heaven thy dwelling-place, and forgive, and do, and give, &c. 1 Kings viii. 39. This was doubtless a directory for Jonab, when other help failed; and the answer given to Solomon, “ Į have heard thy prayer, and thy supplication that thou hast made before me,” turned all his petitions into promises. Here therefore was rest for the soul of every distressed Israelite, throughout their generations; and for Jonah, though in the most deplorable state, “ I will look;" saith he, "toward thy holy temple; and hear thou from Heaven thy dwelling-place; and forgive, and do, and give !" To scripture-direction was added former experience. The language implies, that this was not the first time that Jonah had looked to the temple for relief. He had looked before, and would now look again. It had long, no doubt, been his practice, under every load of guilt or sorrow of any kind, to repair to the mercy-seat, where Jehovah had promised to commune with his people. This, to Old Testament believers, was as common as coming to “ the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help us in time of nced,” is to believers under the New Testament; and having formerly found relief in looking, they would be encouraged to look again. It is a good use to make of past experiences, to take encouragement from thein, to make renewed applications for mercy. They are not designed for a pillow of repose under the load of a guilty conscience; nor the source from which our comfort is to be derived; but a directory to point us to the Sa
HOPE, IN THE LAST. EXTREMITY. vions, and an encouragement that we shall not apply to him in vain.
From the whole we learn the following important instructions: First, The great evil of departing from God, and of flying in the face of his commandments. The story of Jonah leaves an impression behind it of the justness of his own reflection, “ They that observe lying vanilies, forsake their own mercies." What are all the reasonings of the flesh against God's revealed will? Vanities, lying vanities; the end of which, if grace prevent not, will be death.. Secondly,-Yet if any one have sin, ned, let him not despair. While there is a propitiation, an Advocate with the Father, to despair were to add sin to sin. Thirdly,–If, through siu we have lost the light of God's countenance, and would recover it, it inust be sought in the same way as that in which we first obtained it. If ever we regain rest to our souls after having backslidden and lost ii, it must be by applying to him, as guilty, unworthy, and perishing şinners, intreating to be forgiven through the bloodshedding of the Saviour. This was the manner in which we first looked; and in this manner we must look again. Fourthly,Draw 'no positive conclusions of the state of the dead from what we see in the last hours of their life. There may be no ground to conclude any thing in their favour: yet the case of Jonah is sufficient to deter us from concluding that they are lost. Had we been present when he was convicted and çast away, and had seen the manner in which he went down to the watery grave, we might have drawn an unfavourable couclusigp, of him. All that took place of a favourable kind, was after every human eye had left þím. Such a case, proves the possibility of a penitent and believing look to the mercy-seat, when the party is removed beyond the ken of human observation, and this is sufficient to teach us our own ignorance, and incompetency to judge of the future state of any individual.
GAIUS. 1. Ijslė 71979
ON THE SUPPORT OF CHRISTIAN MINISTERS. Gentleinen,
To the Editors.
これこれ ) I BEG leave to address you once more on the support due to the futhful ministers of the gospel for their important services, In my last *, 1 endeavoured to examine with calidour and iuipartiality; -—" What is a just remuneration from the members of a congregation to their ininister? I hope that the subject bus been seriously considered by the professors of religion, who reud your Magazine; and that it is their deterihination to follow the dietates of equity. To those who are ready to grudge a snbscription, wo higher standard shall be proposed; bit let thema take heed that they do not fall below it. 'l'he generous disia:
. Ses the Evan. Mag, for last November, p. 337.
ples of Christ, who are many, are not numbered with this class, nor are referred to the same rule; they are left to the dictates of their benevolent hearts, which will suggest liberal things, and thus display their respect for the ministry of the gospel, and delight in the ordinances of the sanctuary !
Stewards' and Deacons, ye are intreated to consider, that on you, in a great measure, the efficacy of the reasoning on this subject depends, and to exert yourselves in your important office. Circulate the letters on this subject in the congregation, among those who do not give what is equitable; and try to stir thein up to do justly. Persons who are rising in the world, remind of their obligations to an increase of support; and let not one who is able to give, continue attending from month to pronth, without being applied to for his equitable subscription. Remember, my friends, it is as much your duty to attend to all these things, and to make it your business to attend to them, and for this purpose to know who the people are that statedly come to worship, as it is for a minister to preach the gospel purely and faithfully, and to seek the salvation' of all' who lear It is particularly recommended in small congregations, to make the utmost exertions for the support of the minister. Persons of substance residing in sach places, should feel themselves under peculiar obligations to devise liberal things; and alt should stand forward according to their abilities. The deacons should pot forget one individual who can lend the smallest aid. What wonders did Mr. Wesley do by the penny a week, which the poorest of the people were accustomed to give ! But when all in the congregation have done what they can, in the present state of things, while all the articles of living are so high, there is need of more. It is therefore earnestly to be wished, that the opulent christians in a county, would regard it as a doty to subscribe to the aid of every small congregation in that county: Five guineas a year distributed in this way by the richest, and half that sum by a second class of people, of less substance but equal generosity, would increase the salary of ministers of poor and sınall congregations, at least twenty, or five-and-twenty pounds a year..
There is another resource :- London contains a very great number of opulent christians, who were originally from the country. If these good men were to subscribe to each of the şmall congregations in their native county, as a'token of gratitude for benefits there received, and more especially to the one where they attended in their early years, and perhaps found spiritual benefit, or were admitted to communion with the church, it would be a very suitable and acceptable display of christian benevolence, and tend to the advancement of the kingdom of Jesus Christ.
In opposition to all wbich has been adduced in the way of
ON THE SUPPORT OF MINISTERS.
1.15 reasoning and exhortation, some think it sufficient to say,-“ It is good to keep ministers poor:” but no one is pleading for riches, but a competent provision. The objectors have surely forgotten the mind of God, as expressed by the lips of Agur, in Prov. xxx. 7-9; for he represents the temptations of poverty to be very great, as well as those of riches. The desire of the advocate for ministers, is to place them remote from both. In order to bring the judgment of these gentlemen to coincide with his, he only wishes for thein, what they wish for ministers, That the Lord may make them poor for seven years.. Like Nebuchadnezzar, they will learn wisdom, and at the close of that state of probation, give up their objection.
The mere representation of the inatter will carry with it sufficient motives to thousands, who never before attended to the subject. Others need only to be told, that it will conduce greatly to the comfort of ministers and their families, and is really necessary for their support; and besides that, it is but an equitable return for their laborious and afleotionate services.
It migbt, in addition, be urged on such as feel not the force of these motives, that their own interest is at stake; because mens' observance of their duty and the blessing of God, are so closely connected, that without the former, a professor of religion has no reason to expect the latter. We have full proof of this from the mouth of God himself in the propliecies of Haggai, (ch. i.) but more particularly to the subject now under discussion, in Malachi iii. 8-10.“ Will a man rob God? Yet ye have robbed me. But ye say, wherein have we robbed thee? In tithes and offerings. Ye are cursed with a curse: for ye have robbed me, even this whole nation. Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in inine house, and prove me now herewith, saith the Lord of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of Heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it.” Compare · with this passage Nehemiah xiii. 10-12. The matter is recorded for the instruction, doubtless, of every succeeding age, that the sin of withholding from the ministers of religion their due support, restrained the divine blessing, and provoked God to send a curse in its place; and that he, in infinite mercy, desirous of loading them with benefits, enjoins the observance of their duty to his servants who ministered in his sanctuary, in order that he might remove the curse, and pour upon thein the fruits of his bounty in rich abundance.
The advancement of religion in our dear native country, is another consideration of the greatest weight. It has pleased God, in an eminent degree, to diffuse of late, a spirit of attention to the word of life, a readiness and desire to hear it beyond what was formerly known; and there seems hardly an obstacle in the way of a more extensive propagation of the gospel, but a want of due support for the ministers of Christ. Should this be wanting?