« PreviousContinue »
an earthly king were to call upon us we should be filled with awe as soon as he discovered himself-how much more should this be the case, when he approaches us, who is King of kings and Lord of lords! Hence, Jacob exclaimed, “How dreadful is this place; this is none other but the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven?" Job said, "I have heard of thee by the hearing of the ear; but now mine eye seeth thee: wherefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes." Isaiah also, in like manner cries out, "Wo is me! for I am undone: because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell among a people of unclean lips for mine eyes have seen the King, the Lord of Hosts." Thus, awfully were these good men impressed as soon as they apprehended the presence and glory of God.
But impressions, good in themselves, may become excessive; and the cause producing them may be misunderstood, and improperly dreaded. Thus Manoah reasons, "We shall surely die, for we have seen God!" This was a common apprehension of old, and it is easy to account for it. Ever since man became a sinner, an enemy to God, every approach of the Diety has awakened in him terror and confusion. Our consciences naturally tell us that we deserve nothing but heavy tidings from the invisible world: we therefore dread every messenger from thence. And, even when God comes to us in mercy, the same sentiment occurs, and sometimes leads us, like Manoah, to mistake his design, and draw from it a fearful conclusion.
Thus, when he comes to convince us of sin, and to humble the pride of our hearts-we imagine that we shall now die.-But we are mista
ken: he is only come to prepare us for the proofs of his love. He impresses us with a sense of our danger, that we may flee for refuge; with a sense of our pollution, that we may wash and be clean. "They that be whole need not a physician, but they that are sick.”
Thus, when he comes in providence, and destroys our schemes, and visits us with breach upon breach-again, O! we are going to be undone! But we shall presently see that he came as a friend, though disguised, and only used means to wean us from the world, and bring us more entirely to himself, as our exceeding joy.
II. Let us remark the difference there is in the knowledge and experience of the Lord's people. What surprises and terrifies one, is both plain and pleasing to another. What opposite conclusions do Manoah and his wife draw from the same event! He infers wrath; she mercy. The former looks for destruction; the latter for salvation. Thus, there are degrees in grace, there is hope, and the full assurance of hope; some have little faith, others are strong in faith, rich in faith. In the church there are babes, and there are men of full age, who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.
And this difference is not always to be judged of by the order of nature, or external advantages. "There are first that shall be last, and there are last that shall be first." We find here the weaker vessel the stronger believer. Nor is this a solitary instance. They were women, yea widows, who ministered to our Lord of their substance. The three Marys approached the foot of the cross when the disciples forsook him and
fled; and these also appeared first at the sepulchre. Nothing is said of Timothy's father, but the apostle celebrates the unfeigned faith of his mother, and his grandmother. He also speaks honourably to the Philippians of those women who had laboured with him in the gospel.
Neither does this difference in their attainments affect the reality of their religion, or the safety of their state. The infant is no less a child than the young man. Our Saviour does not despise "the day of small things. A bruised reed shall he not break, and a smoking flax shall he not quench, till he send forth judgment unto victory."
Nevertheless, it is very desirable to be matured and established Christians-not only to be alive in religion, but lively, not only to be fruitful, but to bring forth much fruit, and to be
filled with all joy and peace in believing, that we may not only have hope, but abound in hope, through the power of the Holy Ghost." And this is important, not only as the glory of God, and the comfort of your own minds depend much upon it but also as it prepares for usefulness, and enables you the better to serve your generation, and the more easily to speak a word in season to him that is weary.
III. This leads us to notice the profit that is to be derived from a pious companion. "Two are better than one; because they have a good reward of their labour. For if they fall, the one will lift up his fellow; but wo to him that is alone when he falleth: for he hath not another to lift him up." Man is formed for society, and religion indulges and sanctifies the social principle. And if a man be concerned for his spiri
tual welfare, he will be glad to meet with those who are travelling the same road, and are partakers of the same hopes and fears: he will be thankful to have one near him, who will watch over him, and admonish him, who by seasonable counsel will fix him when wavering, embolden him when timid, and comfort him when cast down. And it is to be observed, that in spiritual distress we are often suspicious of our own reasonings and conclusions: we know the deceitfulness of our own hearts, and are afraid lest while they encourage, they should ensnare. We can depend with more confidence upon the declaration of our fellow Christians-and, only let them relate their own experience, and recall to our minds some forgotten truth, apply some promise, or give a new turn to a particular circumstance-and we are relieved, and delivered.
And, O happy is the man who has such a friend and helper in the desire of his eyes. In various instances, the importance of the female character to the welfare of man appears. She will aid Manoah in bringing up their children, and the earlier parts of education devolve almost exclusively upon her. She will assist him in the management of his estate: "The heart of her husband doth safely trust in her, so that he shall have no need of spoil. She will do him good, and not evil, all the days of his life. She looketh well to the ways of her household, and eateth not the bread of idleness." "No man ever prospered in the world, without the consent and cooperation of his wife." She will also help him in the preservation of his character, of his health, of his peace of mind. Her soothing voice can charm away the evil spirit. Her soft hand can
smooth the wrinkles of an anxious brow, and wipe off the mildew of an unwholesome evening. But she is found in the noblest sense, a help mate for him-in aiding his piety, in adding flame to his devotion, and by furnishing motives to his zeal. By prayer, by example, by conversation, she can encourage his resolutions, disperse his doubts, and help his unbelief. Such was the happiness of Manoah-he had one who was an ❝heir with him of the grace of life.-But his wife said unto him, If the Lord were pleased to kill us, he would not have received a burnt-offering, and a meat-offering at our hands, neither would he have showed us all these things, nor would, as at this time, have told us such things as these."
IV. Whence we take occasion to observe, that there is always enough in the Lord's dealings with his people to encourage them if they have wisdom enough to discern it. How well did this woman reason! How naturally, yet how forcibly! Nay-let us not turn that against us, which is really for us. We shall not die unless God be pleased to kill us-and surely the tokens of his favour are not the pledges of his wrath."
Her conclusion is drawn from two things"If First, the acceptance of their sacrifice. the Lord were pleased to kill us, he would not have received a burnt-offering and a meat-offering at our hands." It is not his manner to accept the offering and reject the person. "And the Lord had respect unto Abel and his offering, but unto Cain and his offering, he had not respect,' Secondly, the secrets with which he had favoured them-" Neither would he have shown us all these things, nor would, as at this time, have told us such things as these." This