Sidebilder
PDF
ePub

midnight' for the precise time when the prisoners began to pray, in order to intimate, that the return of the Lord's day, and that preparation which serious persons are reminded to make for it, as well as its sacred services, are often the happy means of recovering those that have fallen into sin and despondency. Nothing will be effectual for the recovering of such persons, till they begin to pray' with fervency, impor. tunity, and perseverance. Ordinary diligence will here be unavailing: they have sought ease to the flesh, when they ought to have “ watched unto prayer;" and they must now watch and pray when others sleep; at least they must struggle against their own reluctancy, and persist in repeated application to the mercy seat, till they obtain a gracious answer.But such is our nature and situation, that in proportion as we have special need for earnestness in such devout exercises, our hearts are averse to them. The obedient child anticipates the pleasure of meeting his affectionate parent; but, when conscious of having offended, through a mixture of shame, fear, and pride, he hides himself, and keeps at a distance from him. Thus unbelief, guilt, and a proud aversion to unreserved self-abasement, wrought upon by SATAN's temptations, keep even the believer, when he has fallen into any aggravated sin, from coming to his only friend, and availing himself of his sole remedy: “ he keeps silence,

though his bones wax old with his roaring all the day " long"." But when this unbelieving stoutness of spirit is broken down, and the offender begins to cry fervently to God for mercy, with humiliating confessions, renewed application to the blood of Christ, and perseverance amidst delays and discouragements, it will not be very long ere he obtain complete deliverance from the gloomy dungeon of despair.

145.-5. A key... The promise of eternal life to every one, without exception, who believeth in CHRIST is here especially intended; but without excluding any other of the

1 Ps. xxxii. 3-go

exceeding great and precious promises of the gospel. The believer, when enabled to recollect such as peculiarly suit his case, and, feeling that he cordially desires the promised blessings, and truly expects them by reliance on the testimony and faithfulness of God, in his appointed way, has the key in his bosom, which will open any lock in DOUBTING• Castle:' and while he pleads them by the prayer of faith, depending on the merits and atonement of EMMANUEL, coming to God through him," he gradually resumes his confidence, and begins to wonder at his past despondency. Yet some remains of unbelief, a recollection of his aggra. vated guilt, and a fear lest he should presume, will render it difficult for him wholly to dismiss his discouraging doubts.But let it especially be noted, that the faith which delivered the pilgrims from giant DESPAIR's castle, induced them to return into the high-way of obedience, without delay, or making any more complaints of its roughness; as also to walk in it with more circumspection than before; and to devise every method of cautioning others against passing over the stile into BY-PATH meadow. Whereas a dead faith and a vain confidence will keep out all doubts and fears, even on forbidden ground, and under the walls of DesPAIR'S castle ; till at length the poor deluded wretch will be unexpectedly and irresistibly seized upon, and made his prey. And if christians will follow VAIN-CONFIDENCE, and endeavour to keep up their hopes when neglecting their known duty, let them remember, that (whatever some men may pretend) they will surely be thus brought acquainted with DIFFIDENCE, immured in DOUBTING-CASTLE, and. terribly bruised and frighted by giant DESPAIR; nor will they be delivered till they have learned, by painful expe. rience, that the assurance of hope is inseparably connected with the self-denying obedience of faith and love.

146..12. Till they... When offending believers are brought to deep repentance, renewed exercises of lively faith, and willing obedience in those self-denying duties which they had

declined, the Lord" restores to them the joy of his salvation," and their former comforts become more abundant and per. manent.--The DELECTABLE MOUNTAINS seem intended to represent those calm seasons of peace and comfort, which consistent christians often experience in their old age. They have survived, in a considerable degree, the vehemence of their youthful passions, and have honourably performed their parts in the active scenes of life; they are established, by long experience, in the simplicity of dependence and obedience ; the Lord graciously exempts them from peculiar trials and temptations; their acquaintance with the ministers and people of God is enlarged, and they possess the respect; confidence, and affection of many esteemed friends: they have much leisure for communion with God, and the immediate exercises of religion; and they often converse with their brethren on the loving-kindness and truth of the Lord till “ their hearts burn within them.” Thus leaning on their * staffs, depending on the promises and perfections of God in assured faith and hope, they anticipate their future happiness “ with joy unspeakable and full of glory.”—These things are represented under a variety of external images, according to the nature of an allegory. The shepherds and their flocks denote the more extensive acquaintance of many aged christians with the ministers and churches of CHRIST, the chief Shepherd, “ who laid down his life for the sheep."- This is • EMMANUEL's land;' for, being detached from worldly engagements and connections, they now spend their time almost wholly among the subjects of the Prince of Peace, and as in his more especial presence. The following lines are added here, as before

• Mountains delectable they now ascend,
Where shepherds be, which to them do commend
Alluring things, and things that cautions are:
Pilgrims are steady, kept by faith and fear.'

147..2. Too far... The certainty of the final perseverance of true believers is continually exemplified in their actually persevering, notwithstanding all imaginable inward and outward impediments. Many hold the doctrine who are not interested in the privilege; and whose conduct eventually proves, that they “ had no root in themselves ? :" but the true believer acquires new strength by his very trials and mistakes, and possesses increasing evidence that the new covenant is made with him : for," having obtained help of God,” he still" continues in CHRIST'S word," and " abides in him;" and, while temptations, persecutions, heresies, and afflictions, which stumble transgressors and detect hypocrites, tend to quicken, humble, sanctify, and establish him, he may assuredly conclude, that " he shall be kept by the power of “ GOD, through faith, unto salvation.”

..23. Names... These names imply much useful instruction, both to ministers and christians, by showing them what endowments are most essential to the pastoral office.--The attention given to preachers should not be proportioned to the degree of their confidence, vehemence, accomplishments, graceful delivery, eloquence, or politeness; but to that of their knowledge of the scriptures and of every subject that relates to the glory of God and the salvation of souls; their experience of the power of divine truth in their own hearts, of the faithfulness of God to his promises, of the believer's conflicts, difficulties, and dangers, and of the manifold devices of SATAN to mislead, deceive, pervert, defile, or harass the souls of men; their watchfulness over the people, as their constant business and unremitted care, to caution them against every snare, and to recover them out of every error into which they may be betrayed; and their sincerity, as manifested by a disinterested, unambitious, unassuming, patient, and affectionate conduct; by proving that they deem themselves bound to practise their own instructions, and by

si John, i19.

an uniform attempt to convince the people, that they “ seek

not their's but them."

148..10. Anhill...Human nature always verges to extremes. In former times the least deviation from an established system of doctrine was reprobated as a damnable heresy; and some persons, even at this day, tacitly laying claim to infallibility, deem every variation from their standard an error, and every error inconsistent with true piety. But the absurdity and bad effects of this bigotry having been discovered and exposed, it has become far more common to consider indifference about theological truth as essential to candour and liberality of sentiment; and to vilify, as narrow-minded bigots, all who “contend earnestly for the faith once delivered to the saints," however averse they may be to persecution, or disposed to benevolence towards such as differ from them. Thus the great end for which prophets and apostles were inspired, martyrs shed their blood, and the Son of God himself came into the world and died on the cross, is pronounced a matter of no moment; revelation is virtually rejected; (for we may know, without the bible, that men ought to be sober, honest, sincere, and benevolent;) and those principles, from which all genuine holiness must arise, are contemned as enthusiasm and foolishness! Some errors may indeed consist with true faith : (for who will say that he is in nothing mistaken?) yet no error is absolutely harmless; all must, in one way or other, originate from a wrong state of mind, or a faulty conduct, and proportionably counteract the design of revelation : and some are absolutely inconsistent with repentance, humility, faith, hope, love, spiritual worship, and holy obedience, and consequently incompatible with a state of acceptance and salvation. These are represented by the hill ERROR,' and a scriptural specimen is adduced. Professors fall into such delusions by indulging self-conceit, vain-glory, and curiosity; by" leaning to their own understandings,” and “ intruding “ into the things they have not seen, vainly puffed up by “ their fleshly mind," and by speculating on subjects which

« ForrigeFortsett »