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THE FOLLY OF MAN'S DEVICES.
raised from their degradation ! In the present instance, the divine remedy is, one man to about one million ; and the means which he was to employ was simply“ Preach the preaching that I bid you.” The foolishness of God in Nineveh, as well as at Corinth, was to be wiser than men; and by God's message, preached in faith, and heard in faith, the city was to be at least respited, and its desolation for a season delayed.
Now, this indicates, once more, to all who receive the Scriptures as the Word of God, how the moral wretchedness of man is to be counteracted. We refuse no auxiliary in this work, if it be in unison with the mind of God. Let society after society be formed—let institution after institution arise, if the wisdom which comes from above preside over their purposes and doings. There is need, there is room, there are loud demands for them all. But they will all fail; they will be buried in their own ruins at the last, unless the maxim in Jonah be acted on—“Preach the preaching which God bids.” We know that by many other means you may lift men up a certain length from the degradation of nature; but you cannot keep them up by any means but by the truth of God imparted to the heart. Are we seeking to elevate the long-neglected myriads of our streets and lanes ? The maxim before us must in spirit be obeyed. Are we seeking to reclaim the heathen to Him whose covenant-heritage they are? Then the maxim before us is still to be obeyed. Jonah's commission was but a special instance of an universal law; and though the whole world were won to Christ-though not a Nineveh stained or burdened our globe by its crimes though at the name of Jesus every knee were bowing, and
every tongue confessing, there would still be need for the maxim before us, and for believing action upon it. The same means which make men believers, are required to keep them so. The converted and the unconverted alike need “the preaching which God has bidden"—the gospel of his grace-pardon, salvation, and heaven, through the atoning blood of the Redeemer. For want of that the world is corrupt; and were they deprived of that, even the souls of the people of God would speedily sicken and pine away.
The end of the whole matter, then, is that we should prize with all the heart a preached gospel. We should rejoice in it. We should ponder and pray over it. We should humble ourselves for the neglect of it, as Nineveh did, that we may be spared as Nineveh was. We should resist as an attempt to raze the foundation of our hopes, every thing which tends either to corrupt the gospel, or mar its influence with men. And let not the feeble despond amid the efforts which they may make to do good. Jonah might have desponded when he was sent, one man against ten hundred thousand; but he leant upon God and was strong; he was more than a conqueror at last, and his case is recorded for our encouragement. Weak things are chosen to confound the mighty, and the weakest are ever the mightiest when Jehovah is their strength.
Nor should we neglect to sound a warning here. The same sun which freshens vegetation, and makes all nature glad when spring and summer return, hastens on corruption in other spheres; and in like manner the very truth which does not quicken kills—when it is not a savour of life unto life, it is a savour of death unto death.
THE DIVINE ALTERNATIVES.
It either mollifies and wins, or it hardens and repels; it either produces fruit unto holiness, or truth rejected renders conscience seered. And may the Spirit of God grant us the understanding heart to receive, to ponder, and apply all these things, that repentance towards God, and faith towards our Lord Jesus Christ, may more and more appear!
“So Jonah arose, and went unto Nineveh, according to the word of
the Lord. Now Nineveh was an exceeding great city of three days' journey. And Jonah began to enter into the city a day's journey, and he cried, and said, Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown."-JONAH iii. 3, 4.
In Christian lands we are familiar with the theory of the divine government regarding our fallen world. Sin has thrown a great gulf between God and man. The separation is so complete, that no created power can reconcile the two. But still they may be reconciled. For that purpose the mind of God is revealed in the Bible concerning the means of our reconciliation. His mind is to become our mind, and then the great gulf is filled up—man is brought back from his wandering ; and as soul after soul is persuaded to act according to the word of God, soul after soul is restored to his favour, and guided in the way to his eternal dwellingplace.
Now, we have been contemplating the conduct of one who exhibited in his life and history, at one time, the results of opposing the mind of God, and at another, the effects of submitting to his will. Opposing the mind of God, Jonah was wretched and an outcast;—submitting to it, he was enabled to hope even in the depths of the ocean. Opposing the will of God, the prophet sank
in the moral scale, till even the heathen triumphed over him, or seemed to occupy a higher position than his ;submitting to the will of God, again, that prophet was lifted from his degradation, and restored to the rank which he had forfeited by sin. Jonah's history, then, just exemplifies an universal law, of which this is the formula: Oppose the Holy One, and sink into everdeepening wretchedness--act in the spirit of the words, “ Thy will be done on earth as it is done in heaven," and stand again where Adam stood before sin had tainted his nature, or banished him from Eden and the favour of his God. The whole design at once of the providence and the revelation of God, is to convince the world that that is the law which should regulate every conscience and every soul.
In this strange history, then, we have now reached the point at which the effects of Jonah's trials may be fully ascertained. He has heard a second message, in some respects more testing than the first. He is to go to Nineveh, and simply to preach what God might command. The proposal might seem to man to be unwise, and not adapted to the end in view. It might appear very unlikely that a city containing a million of souls, would care at all for the message of a solitary stranger. Ridicule might mock, and worldly wisdom might despise the effort, but with all these Jonah had nothing to do. Duty and not speculation, acting according to the mind of God and not consulting his own wayward heart, was here the prophet's part; and we are now to see that he had learned to do it. “So Jonah arose," are the words which immediately follow the command. He is now subdued and submissive. Affliction has done its work