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MAN BY NATURE, &c.
“ Now the word of the Lord came unto Jonah the son of Amittai,
saying, Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and cry against it; for their wickedness is come up before me.”—Jonah i. 1, 2.
THERE is little known regarding the prophet Jonah, except what we find written in the book which bears his
But in entering upon the study of that book, there are two or three points to which we may refer, as showing its importance and value.
In the first place, this is most probably the earliest portion of Scripture recorded by the Minor Prophets, for Jonah lived about 860 years before the Saviour came. He thus connects us with the days of Elijah the Tishbite, when Israel was so grossly corrupted that the truth of God was wellnigh unknown, and when the gates of hell had nearly prevailed against the church. He was above most of the prophets, a light shining in a dark place—and we shall see as we proceed that his soul often felt the power of that darkness; for concerning none of them are such strange things recorded, such sins and aberrations, such divine interpositions, and
yet such determined waywardness, as concerning the prophet Jonah.
Withal, however, he is quoted again and again by the Saviour himself, so that our attention is closely drawn to him by the highest of all authorities. The days of Jonah, and the days of the Redeemer upon earth, had many things in common. A similar corruption prevailed. A similar oblivion of the living God marked the minds of
men, and the Saviour was thus led repeatedly to mention the case of Jonah, as if identifying what that prophet had done, or been, with what the Saviour himself was to accomplish. Now, wherever the Redeemer found lessons, we also may learn wisdom; and under that conviction, we are now to explain the contents of this eventful book. In every verse, nay, nearly in every clause, there is something to warn, to encourage, or to humble the believer in Christ; and if the Spirit of God shall bless the undertaking, that believer may be strengthened and confirmed-while those who think, as Jonah did, that they can flee from the presence of the Lord, may be constrained to feel that the eyes which are like a flame of fire can penetrate every disguise, and detect us amid all our attempts to hide, while his power will bring us at last either to his footstool as suppliants for mercy, or to his judgment-seat as criminals to be condemned.
We proceed, then, without farther preface, to fix attention on the first clause of the book: “ The word of the Lord came unto Jonah.” That was the basis of all that Jonah had to do. With that for his guide, he was not to fear the face of man, and with that for his warrant, he was to execute his commission whatever
HIS WARRANT, AND RULE.
man might say, or however flesh or blood might object. In short, with the Word of God for a lamp to his feet, and a light to his path, the prophet was to hasten to the uttermost ends of the earth, if that Word sent him thither. His only open question was,
“ Has the Lord commanded ? ” and his only dutiful reply should have been—" Then, through the Lord's grace, I will obey.”
Now, we may at once perceive that we have precisely the same starting point from which to set out in every duty, and the same guide along the way as Jonah had --the Word of his God and ours. It came to him, as a prophet, through a peculiar channel, and accompanied by credentials which we do not tarry to explain; but to him and to us, it rests upon the same ultimate foundationthe authority of the eternal God. The various forms of corrupt religion proceed on a denial or suppression of the Word. Some efface one portion, and others another, while, over a large portion of nominal Christendom, the Word of God is utterly hidden from men ; they are left to wander and to grope in darkness, as if to verify the words, “Where there is no vision the people perish.” But wherever there is pure and undefiled religionwherever there are holy hearts and holy lives among the sons of men—wherever time, and earth, and man are kept in their place, and eternity, and heaven, and God exalted to theirs, it is the Word of the Lord that has been blessed to promote that result. There is one of us upon his deathbed. While all is dark and gloomy to the eye of nature there, the very radiance of heaven may be beaming on the soul of the departing one and why? Because that Word of the Lord which endureth for ever, has “come unto” him, and been his song in the
THE WORD, AND ITS BLESSINGS.
house of his pilgrimage. But another is on the verge
of the same eternity—he is about to appear before the same God, and the gloom which gathers round his dying bed is but an emblem of the darkness which has already gathered round the soul—and why? Because the Word of the Lord has not been regarded. Life has been spent without its guidance, and is now drawing to a close uncheered by its consolations—so that from these, and countless other cases, we can easily learn the solemn importance of the Word of God. As the dew refreshes the tender herb—as the air of heaven plays with joyous effect upon the frame long imprisoned and immured
so the Word of the Lord spreads light, and joy, and gladness through the soul in which it is welcomed. Is a brother, or a sister, or a child carried to the narrow house, and is grief pressing heavily on the bereaved ? Then, one promise, one clause, one little portion of the Word of the Lord, can dry our tears, and soothe our sorrows, by pointing our hearts to the home where there is no more death. The Bible's grand credential is its power felt in the conscience and the heart; and when that power is experimentally known, the truth is held as tenaciously as the philosopher held the conviction that our globe rolls round the sun, in spite of the deepest anathemas or the darkest dungeons of the inquisition.
It was with the Word of the Lord, then, that the duty of Jonah began—and it is with the same Word that our duty begins and ends. There is really no saving knowledge, no spiritual light among the sons of men, except what is conveyed through means of that Word. “Do as thou hast said," is an all-comprehensive prayer.