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THE SECRET OF OUR STRENGTH.
of accomplishing their end, men thus plunge into speculations, in which either their hopes are blighted, or, if they prosper, the result resembles the apples of Sodom in their hand.
But, finally, Jonah's flight proclaims the need of great spirits when there is a great work to perform. The prophet shrank from his mission to Nineveh, as if he who sent him could not have sustained him amid the peril involved in that embassy. Instead of simply taking hold of Omnipotence, he trembled, recoiled, and fled, and at this point we discover the secret of true grandeur in man. It consists in taking hold of Omnipotence in the feeble hand of faith, and then going fearlessly forward, though it be but as one man among a million. That was the spirit which sustained Elijah, when Ahab and Jezebel acted in Israel as if there had been no God to control them. It was the same spirit which bore Paul in triumph through his thousand perils. It was that that nerved the reformers to brave despotism, persecution, and death on behalf of the truth which they had been honoured to disinter and reassert ; and it is that that will guide us, if we ever be guided, to glory, honour, and immortality. The truly strong are they who are strong in the Lord ; the really invincible are they who are cased in the whole armour of God.
And just one suggestion more. Not even the spirit of prophecy can keep a sinner in the narrow way. Balaam had that spirit, but we know that he perished. Jonah had that spirit, but we see how resolutely he sinned, and how very far he fell ; and from all this we discover the need, not merely of the spirit of prophecy, but of the Spirit who converts, who sanctifies, and
guides. It were possible for man to have the spirit of prophecy, and yet die the second death ; but, with the Spirit of Christ in the heart as his temple, we are alive for evermore. Instead of fleeing then from the near presence of God," the heart pants after God, the living God, like the hart for the waterbrooks," and the day of that soul's coronation will be that on which it “
sees him no more darkly as in a glass, but face to face”-it will be satisfied then, for it has awaked in his likeness. As well attempt to stem a mountain torrent with an infant's arm, or hush the thunder by an infant's voice, as quell the heart of man into allegiance to God without the omnipotence of grace. But let that grace be felt, and the lion is turned into a lamb; faith supplants despondency; man glories in the Lord, and is made more than a conqueror by His almighty power. Such is the portion which is in store for the being who yet must bow so low as to be devoured by the worm.
“ But the Lord sent out a great wind into the sea, and there was a
mighty tempest in the sea, so that the ship was like to be broken. Then the mariners were afraid, and cried every man unto his god, and cast forth the wares that were in the ship into the sea, to lighten it of them. But Jonah was gone down into the sides of the ship; and he lay, and was fast asleep. So the shipmaster came to him, and said unto him, What meanest thou, O sleeper? arise, call upon thy God, if so be that God will think upon us, that we perish not.”—Jonah i. 4-6.
It was instructive to notice, that though Jonah had the spirit of prophecy, he yet grieved and sinned against the Spirit who makes us holy. The need of that Spirit's agency is thus made signally plain ; for though the Word of the Lord came to Jonah, yet, because the hallowing Spirit did not come with it, the prophet set that word at nought, and did the very reverse of what his God commanded. We read in Scripture that “the letter killeth ; it is the Spirit that giveth life," and the case of Jonah affords a perfect illustration of the truth. He heard the word of God. He knew it to be God's, but he instantly fled from the presence of the Lord.
And we are now to follow the prophet in his flight, and see how it will fare with him amid his strange and wayward career. Self-willed as he was, he could proceed no farther than his God permitted. Jonah
THE WIND GOD'S MESSENGER.
might take counsel of his own heart and refuse to be the servant of Jehovah, but the winds and the waves will do what the prophet declined ; and he was accordingly arrested in his flight by these messengers of God. We read in this passage, that “the Lord sent out a great wind into the sea, and there was a mighty tempest in the sea, so that the ship was like to be broken.” If Jonah had ever harboured the thought that he could escape from God, he is now to be undeceived. He may now understand what was said by Amos, “ Though they be hid from my sight in the bottom of the sea, I will command the serpent, and he shall bite them ..... I will set mine eyes upon them for evil, and not for good.”
Now, this portion of the Word of God supplies to the careful student of Scripture, at least three important lessons. First of all, it tells him the means which are often adopted by the only wise God to reclaim the wandering, and bring home the prodigal. Here is a man of God fallen from his right position. He has declined to do what that God commanded; he has proceeded on the impious assumption, that man is a better judge of the right than Omniscience is; and because he was a sinner, sorrow, and misery, and wo must be let loose, to awaken this prophet to a sense of his danger. Hail, and snow, and vapour, and the stormy wind, all move at the bidding, and all accomplish the designs of Jehovah; and we see them here in the act of arresting a rebel in the name of their God and his. Yawning death thus became the means of cutting off the prophet's flight, or awakening his slumbering conscience to the fact, that though he could make his bed in hell, God would be
THE WANDERER RECLAIMED - THE MEANS.
there, in the untarnished purity of his justice, to make the
very wrath of man to praise him. And, in principle, it is the same at this very hour. What is it, for the most part, that first awakens a wayward sinner to reflection? How are we generally roused from the spiritual torpor of nature, and taught to feel that verily we are in the hands of God over all—the God from whom we cannot escape, though we could take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the earth? It is the weight of some crushing blow. It is the wo of some sore bereavement. It is the bitterness of some sad disappointment. It is the aching void left in the soul by the departure of some object that was dear, perhaps to idolatry and sin. And if you, who have reason to believe that you have been brought home to God, will reflect upon your past history, it will most probably appear that you were arrested just as Jonah was. It might not be a heaving, yawning sea, which told you of the folly of that course you were pursuing; but it was a restless world, where you
had often a cross to carry, and many tears to weep. It might not be a tempest in the air; but it was perhaps a tempest in the bosom, the conscience, and the soulthat tempest of which the thunders and the lightnings of Sinai were a type. The calm and the sunshine of prosperity may leave us a prey to corruption and the second death: it is the tempest that drives us to the Man who is a hiding-place from the storm, and of whom we seldom ever earnestly think till troubles come to root us out from our refuges of lies.
Let us not forget, then, to notice with care, what this portion also suggests—that the storm which over