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2. In the world to come
[" There is a rest which remaineth for the people of Gods;" a rest, into which the true Joshua shall introduce them, as soon as ever they shall have completed the period fixed for their abode in this dreary wilderness: and there shall they “remain” for ever : there shall they be as “pillars in the temple of their God, and shall go no more out." But how shall I represent their happiness in that place where there will be no remains of those evils which they experienced in this world"; and where every blessing which they here sought for, shall be imparted to the utmost extent of their desires, and of their capacities for enjoyment*
On the other hand, there is a day of retribution for the ungodly, when they shall not only be "convinced of all their ungodly deeds which they have ungodlily committed, and of all their hard speeches which they have spoken against the Lord and his ways, but will have judgment executed upon them” by the Judge of quick and deady. And what words can ever suffice to give an adequate idea of their misery, when, driven from the presence of their God, and from the congregation of his saints, they shall be consigned to those regions of misery, where they will take their portion in “ the lake that burneth with fire and brimstone," and " dwell for ever with everlasting burnings?"
If men would but reflect one moment on these consequences of their impiety, there would be no longer any occasion to descant on the wisdom of seeking after God, or the folly of provoking his displeasure by a life of sin.] Let us LEARN then, 1. To form a right estimate of religion
(Religion is wisdom, even though the whole world should combine to call it folly – --] 2. To seek it in due measure
[To receive it into the head is to little purpose: the proper seat of it is the heart. Nor is it sufficient that we yield a constrained obedience to it: its service should in our estimation be accounted perfect freedom. It is only “ when wisdom enters into our heart, and knowledge is pleasant to our soul,” that we can be said to have received the grace of God in truth. The worldly man is at home in the world: it is his element wherein he moves. And such must religion be to the child of God, his rest, his element, his delight -]
3. To let it have its full operation on our souls& Heb. iv. 9.
21. with Rev. iii. 12. u Rev. xxi. 4. * Psal. xvi. 11. y Jude, ver. 15. z Ps. i. 5. Luke xiii. 28.
[Wherever true wisdom is, there will be " discretion to preserve us, and understanding to keep usa.” We conceive this observation to be deserving of peculiar attention ; because the indiscretions of religious people are rarely traced to their proper source, a want of right dispositions in the heart. Where meekness, and modesty, and diffidence, and humility reside in the heart, there will be a corresponding propriety of conduct in the life: but where pride, and conceit, and forwardness, and selfwill are predominant, there will the deportment savour of these hateful qualities in all our intercourse with mankind. There is this remarkable difference between human wisdom and that which is divine: human wisdom leaves the heart untouched, or even administers fuel to its corruptions: but divine wisdom
pours the very soul into the mould of the Gospelo," and assimilates all its dispositions to the image of God himself. It was not Paul's eminence in intellectual attainments that made him so eminent in Christian tempers: it was the abundance of God's grace that rendered him so fruitful in every good word and work: and, if the grace of God abound in us, we also shall proportionably adorn the Gospel in the whole of our life and conversation. Let that then be remembered which Solomon has told us, “I Wisdom dwell with Prudence C:” and let us be careful that we do not by any indiscreet conduct give “occasion to the adversary to speak reproachfully.” Our determination, through grace, must be, to cut off from the world all unnecessary occasion of offence. We must not imagine that our separation from an ungodly world gives us a licence to violate either the duties or the charities of life; but, whilst we abstain from all appearance of evil,” we must cultivate to the uttermost not only “ whatsoever things are true, and honest, and just, and pure, but whatsoever things are lovely and of good report d. We must labour to “ behave ourselves wisely in a perfect waye."]
a Prov. ii. 11. b Rom. vi. 17. The Greek. c Prov. viii. 12. d Phil. iv. 8.
e Ps. ci. 2.
CONFIDENCE IN GOD ENCOURAGED.
Prov. iii. 5, 6. Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and
lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him; and he shall direct thy paths.
THE book of Proverbs is not so much designed to open to us the way of salvation, as it is to regulate our conduct after we have attained the knowledge of the truth. It abounds with maxims admirably calculated to assist us in our intercourse with men, and with instructions also relative to our walk before God. Of this latter kind is the advice given us in the words which we have just read; wherein we see, I. The confidence which God requires of us
As creatures, we are of necessity dependent on Him who first gave us our existence; for in him we live, and move, and have our being. But it is by no means sufficient for us to acknowledge this as a truth which we cannot controvert: we must acquiesce in it as a state that we approve, and glory in it as our highest privilege. Our confidence in Ġod must be co-extensive with our necessities: it must be1. Entire
[We must trust in the Lord "with all our heart." There must be no aversion to such an appointment as unnecessary, no distrust of it as insufficient. We should view ourselves as utterly incapable of ensuring our own happiness; and we should regard God as engaged to order every thing for our good. We should not for a moment doubt his wisdom to discern what shall eventually prove best for us, nor his power to execute it, however great or numerous the difficulties may be which appear to obstruct its accomplishment. Nay, we must be persuaded, that his love delights in caring for us, and that his truth and faithfulness will perform all that in his unbounded mercy he has undertaken in our behalf. From this conviction we must commit all our concerns to him, to be ordered and overruled as he in his infinite wisdom shall see best. There must be an actual transfer of them (if we may so speak) into his hands, and a full conviction of mind that he is able to keep, and will assuredly keep, what we have so committed to him, so as to bring all our affairs to a blessed and successful issue] 2. Exclusive
[We must “not lean to our own understanding,” so as to rely on it for any thing. We are to use our understanding indeed, but not to transfer to it any measure of that dependence which should be placed on God only. We know not what would be the ultimate issue of any one thing. We are ready to suppose, that whatever obstructs our wishes for a time, will endanger their final accomplishment: whereas God often makes those very events subservient to his own gracious
a Ps. xxxvii. 5. with 2 Tim. i. 12.
purposes, and uses them as means whereby his ends shall be fulfilled. This was remarkably the case with Joseph, in all his trials: and there is no true believer who will not acknowledge, that in his own experience many things which have been desired by him would have proved injurious, and many things which have been deprecated by him have been overruled for his welfare. From a full conviction that “ a man's way is not in himself, and that it is not in man that walketh to direct his steps b," we must renounce all idea of planning for ourselves, any further than in an entire dependence on the divine guidance and direction. We are doubtless to use all proper means for attaining what on the whole appears most desirable: but the relying on our own devices, as calculated of themselves to ensure success, is the thing which God has marked with his strongest disapprobation
The doing of this demonstrates our follyd, and exposes us to the heaviest curse e. We must therefore altogether “ cease from our own wisdom". "] 3. Uniform
[“ In all our ways we must acknowledge him;" not in those only which seem to be of greater importance, but in all without exception. It is not in the rise and fall of empires only that God's hand is to be viewed, but in the falling of a sparrow, or in any event equally insignificant. We are apt to consider some things as important, and others as unimportant; but the truth is, that in God's sight nothing is important (except as it may advance his glory); nor is there any thing unimportant as it relates to us. Many things which in their effects and consequences have been of the greatest imaginable importance, may in their origin be traced to the slightest possible occurrence. If we look into the book of Esther, we shall see this observation confirmed in its utmost extent. Nor is God to be acknowledged only in those events which would be deemed small, but in those also which are casual, or, as we call them, accidental : "the lot (than which nothing is more casual) is cast into the lap, but the whole disposal thereof is of the Lord.” In every thing therefore, whether great or small, painful or pleasant, concerted or fortuitous, God must be acknowledged as having sent it, if past, and as having the entire disposal of it, if future.]
To place this entire confidence in God will be found our truest wisdom, if we consider, II. The encouragement he gives us to trust in him
b. Jer. x. 23. c Isai. xxii. 8–11. See also Isai. xxx. 1—3, and xxxi. 1-3. d Prov. xxviii. 26. e Jer. xvii. 5, 6. f Prov. xxiji. 4.
Wonderful is the promise here given for our encouragement; “He will direct our paths.” But how will he direct us? Will he speak to us in dreams, or visions, or by Urim and Thummim, or by an audible voice? Or will he go before us in the pillar and the cloud, as he did before his people in the wilderness; or answer us, as he did David, in reference to the men of Keilah, and the Amalekites & ? No: we are not authorized to expect any thing of the kind : yet will he direct us sufficiently to preserve us from any material error, 1. By his Spirit
[To“ open the eyes of our understanding" is one of the most important offices of the Spirit: and, in doing this, he will purge away from our eyes that film which obstructs our sight. Pride, passion, interest, and a thousand other things, incapacitate us for a clear and perfect discovery of our duty: and, till these be mortified, we are constantly exposed to the most awful delusions: we are ready at all times to call good evil, and evil good; to put darkness for light, and light for darkness.” But, when our minds are duly enlightened, we see things in their proper colours.
On different occasions, when the apostles would have called fire from heaven to consume a Samaritan village, and when they contended with each other who should be the greatest, our blessed Lord instructed them better: and so will he do with us, bringing to our remembrance some portion of God's word which bears upon the point in hand. Thus he fulfils that blessed promise, “ that we shall hear a word behind us, saying, This is the way, walk ye in it; when we should otherwise have turned either to the right hand or to the left h.” We say not, that the Holy Spirit does not sometimes effect this without the word: we are inclined to think he does; and that too by a kind of impression on the mind deterring us from evil and guiding us to goodi: but he never does it contrary to the word. Suffice it to say, that whether with or without the word, he will guide us into all truth, so far as shall be necessary for the rectifying of our views, and the regulating of our conduct.] 2. By his Providence
[God often interposes for men in a most wonderful manner, to preserve them from evil, and to guide them into that which is good. Even a wicked Balaam was obstructed in his way by God's appointment, in order to awaken him to a just 8 1 Sam. xxiii. 4, 11, 12, and xxx. 8.
h Isai. xxx. 21. i Ps. lxxii. 24. 1 John ii. 20, 27.