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cess he is detected and humbled. Or, another has found an idol which he substitutes for God. On that idol his confidence reposes. To it his affections cling. By it his steps are guided. But, in the end, the idol is laid low; and while the bereaved one mourns over its departure, he may hear the voice of God in mercy asking—Dost thou well to substitute an idol for me? Was it wise to base thy hopes there, or to expect thy happiness from that which may be so suddenly torn away? Or, a third, soothed and regaled by a spurious form of religion-a religion which is earth-born, and not a fruit of the Spirit -may
be left to find that he has been clinging to names, and forms, and shadows; and when the soul is so convinced of its folly, it may feel as if Jehovah addressed it thus—Dost thou well to prefer the shadow to the substance, the name to the reality? Dost thou well to substitute man's smile for mine; or the approval of an unconverted heart for the witness of the Spirit of God? By these, and similar processes, many are awakened to solemn meditation. All, indeed, may fail. Man may
be wedded to his idols, and led captive by delusion. But warnings have been given. God has in mercy called; and then he will be justified when he speaks, and clear when he judges at the last.
But the lessons which are suggested here are far from being exhausted. The narrative, almost without designing it, exhibits the misery to which man is exposed as soon as he departs from the path of his duty: we see him in the act of drinking the cup of wormwood and of gall filled for himself by his own right hand. We here perceive again that it is not God who makes man wretched; it is man who makes himself miserable.
ALL SCRIPTURE OUR RULE.
But all these will meet us again, and we only notice now that Jonah's case is a strong illustration of the effects which follow when we take only a part, and not the whole of God's Word to guide us.
Had that prophet kept in view the whole of God's purpose—his purpose to
pardon the penitent, as well as to punish the guilty—then Jonah's character might have been depicted in light, and not in gloom. But as it was, he took the half of the Holy One's mind, and that the half which suited the sinner's own liking. He threw a shade over the rest, and therefore went astray; he committed an error which we never repeat without pain ensuing. Take a portion of the word, distort it, and be wretched. But take the whole counsel of God;-remember that all Scripture given by his inspiration, and is profitable for our gu ance, and then our path will be one of light, and liberty, and joy. Take the promises without the commands, and be a deluded antinomian. Take the commands without the promises, and be a self-righteous legalist. Or, take pardon without purity, and die unfit for heaven; but take the two together, by taking the Son of God as the Spirit shows his glory, then our joy may indeed be full. The liberty of the sons of God is ours—liberty of access to God in prayer_liberty from the bondage and condemnation of the law-liberty from the dominion of sin according to the promise—and liberty at last from the grasp of death; for “thanks be unto God who giveth us the victory over death and the grave, through our Lord Jesus Christ.”
“ So Jonah went out of the city, and sat on the east side of the
city, and there made him a booth, and sat under it in the shadow, till he might see what would become of the city. And the Lord God prepared a gourd, and made it to come up over Jonah, that it might be a shadow over his head, to deliver him from his grief. So Jonah was exceeding glad of the gourd. But God prepared a worm when the morning rose the next day, and it smote the gourd that it withered."JONAH iv. 5-7.
The first thing which we should settle in studying the Word of God is, the strict and literal meaning of its clauses—What precisely is the mind of God in any portion of the Scriptures? The second thing to be ascertained is—What doctrine, what reproof, what correction, or instruction in righteousness, does that clause bring from God to me? To study the Scriptures for any purpose but first to learn the will of God, and secondly, to go
and do it, is obviously to trifle in the most solemn of all concerns; and the apostle James, who insists so strenuously upon holy practice, has very distinctly told us, that “to be hearers only, and not doers of the Word, is to be self-deceivers.” Let us apply this maxim while we study our present passage.
We have seen, then, that Jonah was displeased because Nineveh had not been destroyed, according to the message which he delivered. Forgetting that the
GOD AND MAN IN CONTRAST.
threatenings of the Holy One are meant to prevent their fulfilment, while his promises are designed to be all kept to the letter, unless men reject them, this prophet was incensed because fire had not fallen from heaven, or some other wo been sent to crush and exterminate the guilty city. Under the guidance of passion, Jonah withdrew till he should see what would befall; for he could not forego the thought that the city might yet be destroyed. Surely the Word of God, as Jonah understood it, could not pass away without its fulfilment; He who had spoken would perform, and the prophet would therefore wait till the event had cleared ир his perplexity, and smoothed his troubled brow, or calmed his angry spirit. On the west of the city the river Tigris flowed; on the east, the ground swelled into an eminence; and from that somewhat elevated spot, Jonah would watch the course of events with Nineveh.
Such is simply the meaning of the narrative; but what are the lessons which this portion of inspiration brings from God to us? The first and most obvious is, that God's ways are not like our ways, nor his thoughts like ours. Here is man seeking the death and destruction of sinners; but here is God waiting for their life and salvation. Here is man saddened and perplexed, because Nineveh did not suffer as Sodom and Gomorrah did; but here is God seeking to be gracious, and not willing that any should perish. Here is man quick to wrath; but here is God slow to it. Here is a city of penitent men spared and rejoiced over by the penitent's God; but, though we can scarcely believe while we say it, here is one who grudges
mercy to the penitent, and would rather see the fire consuming, than God's mercy sparing. Was not David right when he exclaimed, in the hour of coming judgment, “Let us fall into the hand of the Lord, for his mercies are great; and let us not fall into the hands of
Or, next, this passage tells that the prophet erected a booth to dwell in--a temporary shed—a covering of boughs to screen him from the sun. He might have occupied a home in the city, and rejoiced with those who were happy there. Perhaps, the king or his nobles, who had humbled themselves at his message, would gladly have furnished the messenger with a home. He might thus have been fed on the finest of the wheat, and mingled his happiness with theirs. But, far from that enjoyment, this prophet turned away from every comfort. All that was joyous around him was bitter to his soul; and he could find no proper home to dwell in among the penitents of Nineveh, till he went out, and made him a booth, and sat under its shadow.
Now, this exhibits well the misery which man often brings upon himself, when he chooses a way or has a will different from God's. Urged on by self-will, the prophet hurried away from all that should have made him glad; and so it ever is, when passion and man's will set aside the will of the Eternal. Abandoning the path of duty, Jonah rushed into the arms of trial; and when did any sinner escape from that portion? The way in which God would lead is one of pleasantness and peace; the way which sinners choose, is declared, in Scripture, to be hard—the end thereof is death, so that when our passion, or our self-will,