Page images
PDF
EPUB

that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven, but he that doeth the will of my Father who is in heaven."

And what we have thus said to professing Christians, is substantially applicable to all in this assembly. Yes, dear hearers, if you would inherit eternal life, you must love God in such a manner, and to such a degree, that if he were to demand of you the surrender of all your present possessions, or whatever sublunary object you hold most dear, as the condition of certain and ever-during happiness beyond the grave, you would not hesitate to submit to his will. This is, briefly, what you must do to be saved. Morality will do much for you in this world. It will secure to you the esteem and confidence of society, and administer largely to your real enjoyments. But it will not raise you to heaven. To reach that hallowed and blissful abode, you must bestow your affections supremely upon God. Now, we have nothing more to say than simply to ask you to make your election, and come to a decision. Be upright, temperate, and benevolent, and you shall bave your reward here. Love God with all your heart, and soul, and strength, and mind, and you shall have your reward certainly hereafter, and probably both here and hereafter. What then will you do?

do? We tremble to think that any of you should go away sorrowful. It is an awful thing to be near to the kingdom of heaven, and yet never enter into it-to perish at the very threshold of mercy!

29

SERMON XV.

JOB II. 10. (Middle Clause.)

« What! shall we receive good at the hand of God, and shall we not

receive evil?"

It is a fact not to be denied, that in the present world, good and evil are allotted to men without much apparent regard to their moral character. The virtuous are frequently visited with affliction, while the vicious enjoy a large share of temporal comforts and blessings. The ways of providence in this respect are somewhat dark and inscrutable even to those who possess the sacred volume, which discloses to a certain extent, the plan and purposes of the Deity in the government of the universe. How much more difficult, then, must it be for those who are denied the advantages of a Revelation to account, in any thing like a satisfactory manner, for that seemingly capricious distribution of prosperity and adversity, of which we now speak? We may readily imagine, that no circumstance which comes under the observation of a reflecting pagan, is calculated to perplex his mind so much as this. He, no doubt, often asks himself the question, If there be a wise and just and powerful Divinity on the throne of nature, why is it, that men are not happy or miserable here, according to their deserts ?

The book of Job, brethren, was written for the purpose of solving this very question—of clearing up this dark and bewildering point. We are here presented with the case of a man suddenly reduced from the height of prosperity to the lowest condition of adversity-his fortune and his children torn away from him, and his calamities aggravated to the utmost by some cutaneous disease of a peculiarly painful nature. His friends beholding his misfortunes, at once took up the erroneous idea, that notwithstanding his previous reputation for integrity and piety, he had really been guilty of some secret but enormous sins, for which his unprecedented afflictions were a judg. ment of Heaven. Under this confident impression, they visit him, and urge him to repent and acknowledge his offences and implore the divine compassion. Job in return vehemently asserts his innocence, and, indeed, is provoked by the unfounded suspicions and injudicious remarks of his friends, to go rather past the limits of modesty and propriety in doing so. At length God himself interposes for the reproof and instruction of both parties, and the book concludes so as to illustrate and enforce the important truth, that the best of men may be greatly afflicted in this world, in order to accomplish the wise and holy designs of Heaven, and to promote their happiness beyond

the grave.

The words of our text are part of Job's reply to his wife, who seeing, that, even in the extreme anguish both of body and mind which he endured, he was not tempted to murmur against Providence, exclaimed, “Dost thou still retain thine integrity? curse God and die.” We are shocked to think, that such impious advice should have proceeded from female lips, and accordingly expositors, in their exquisite tenderness for the reputation of Job's consort, have suggested several ways in which a less exceptionable construction may be put upon her language. It is, we presume, generally known, that the Hebrew term here rendered curse, is one so singularly ambiguous in its import, that it may also be translated bless. Why, then, may we not adopt this meaning in the present instance, so as to let the passage run thus: “Dost thou still retain thine integrity? Bless God and die?". We answer, Because if this bad been all that the woman said, Job would have had no occasion to reprove her in the very severe language of which our text is a part. Some have proposed to render the passage in this way: “ Dost thou still retain thine integrity, blessing God and dying?” But we are inclined to consider the common version as the natural and the true one. We suppose that Job's wife had not as much self command, nor as much piety as her husband, and that in a moment of deep dejection and extreme irritation, she gave utterance to the blasphemous sentiment here attributed to her. For this she was deservedly censured by her afflicted companion: “Thou speakest as one of the foolish women speaketh. What! shall we receive good at the hand of God, and shall we not receive evil?"

The text implies, that we all receive good at the hand of God. And where is the human being who can hesitate, for a single moment, in admitting this truth? Whither shall we go to find an individual ungrateful or insensible enough to deny, that the Deity has conferred upon him numerous and various favours ? From whom, brethren, have we derived our existence? To whom do we owe our intellectual faculties? By whose bounty is it that we are fed and clothed? Whose unslumbering eye watches over us when we sleep, and whose untiring arm protects us amid the dangers of the day? Who supplies us with kind and affectionate friends to reciprocate our joys and sympathize in our sorrows? Who in the season of sickness furnishes the means of relief, and restores us to the possession of health? But what tongue can recount the benefactions of Jehovah? Well does the Psalmist exclaim,

Many, O Lord my God, are thy wonderful works which thou hast done, and thy thoughts which are to usward : they cannot be reckoned up in order unto thee: if I would declare and speak of them, they are more than can be numbered.” And again, “ Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless his holy name. Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits: who forgiveth all thine iniquities; who healeth all thy diseases; who redeemeth thy life from destruction; who crowneth thee with loving-kindness and tender mercies, who satisfieth thy mouth with good things, so that thy youth is renewed like the eagle's.”

And, brethren, what is the temporal good which we have received at the hand of God, compared with the spiritual privileges and blessings which he has been pleased so richly to confer upon mankind ? The gift of his Son for our redemption immeasurably exceeds all the other favours with which he has distinguished us. How signal the exhibition of divine benignity which was afforded to the universe, when the only-begotten of the Father visited our earth in the likeness of sinful flesh, and, after a life of humiliation and sorrow, submitted to the accursed death of the cross! How many and how inestimable are the benefits which the mediation of Christ has procured for our otherwise wretched and undone world—the pardon of sin, the renewing and sanctifying influences of the Holy Spirit, peace of conscience, and a title to everlasting happiness! How grateful, dear hearers, does it become us to be, for this amazing display of love and mercy on the part of Jehovah! How should we rejoice, that, while so many millions of our hapless race are still strangers to the glad tidings of salvation, we live under the full blaze of gospel light, and are favoured with all the means of grace. And O! how much more ardent should be our gratitude-how much more thrilling our joy--if we have any

« PreviousContinue »