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THE SINNER SLEEPS OUT THE STORM.
“ Jonah was gone down into the sides of the ship, and he lay and was fast asleep."
• He had
down”. that is, he had purposely sought a place of repose. “He was fast asleep”—that is, he had found what he sought. While heathens were in a paroxyism of alarm, this prophet of God was heedless as the innocence of infancy, or as reckless of danger in its most appalling forms.
Now, while we have glanced at these things, so honestly recorded by Jonah of himself, no doubt the instructions of the narrative have already occurred to every reflective mind.
In the first place, it was for Jonah's sin that that tempest was sent. He should therefore have been the first to cry to God—he was in truth the last. While all around were straining every nerve, Jonah—a man of God, a prophet—was utterly heedless of the wrath that had gone out; he had sunk into repose amid perils which caused even mariners familiar with tempests to quail. And have you not seen the same display in every passing age? Jehovah comes among us in the wasting epidemic, or the yet more fatal famine; but how
like Jonah, sleep on in sin, amid all that is fitted and designed to arouse them? Or the Lord of life and death enters our home. At his command, some object to which affection closely clung, is hastily snatched away. It is a warning to flee to God himself ; but oh, how many prove deaf to the warning, and, like Jonah, would sleep out the storm! Or conviction of sin falls upon a sinner. It might warn him that there is nothing but wrath for guilt—the pungency of conviction might tell of the worm which never dies, and the fire which never shall be quenched. But he also drops asleep again, and all that is said against
CONSCIENCE SEERED, BECAUSE GOD FORGOTTEN.
iniquity is buried anon in as deep oblivion as before. The remonstrance of conscience grows less and less frequent, till at last it sleeps, as Jonah did, in spite of all that can be done to rouse it.
Behold in this, then, the deadening effects of sin in the soul. When Jonah acted as a prophet in Israel, we may suppose that he was active in the service of God. His office made him a reprover of sin, and a promoter of holiness ; but see how far he has fallen! He committed iniquity, that is, he sinned against light, and now that prophet of God seems for a season to be darker and more dead in soul than the heathen idolaters beside him. He tried to flee from God, and now it appears as if God had fled from him. And is not this also exemplified in many a sinner's case? Has it not happened, that even they whose hands were red with murder have taken the Word of God and pretended to press upon others what they had themselves so fearfully outraged? So far was conscience weakened by sin, that it ceased to remonstrate—the very book which embodies the displeasure of the Holy One against all iniquity could be trifled with like the toys of children. Now, all this
rings to view a clear discovery of the sinfulness of sin. It creeps under various pretences over the soul, and at last that soul is left, like Jonah asleep in the reeling vessel-indifferent and callous, as if it were dead.
We might now pass to the clauses where the shipmaster proceeds to rouse the sleeping prophet. Heathen as he was, that man was more alarmed than the servant of God, and that case finds many a parallel in life—the zeal of many a worldly man would put to shame the efforts of some who name the name of Christ, as one
THE COVERT-THE ROCK-THE ARK.
who thought, as this history suggests, that every man had a God of his own, was employed to rouse and awaken him who professed to be the servant of the living God. But these lessons have already been glanced at; and we now draw to a close, remarking that the words which the shipmaster addressed to Jonah, may surely be addressed, in a higher and more solemn sense, to all who are asleep or at ease in their sin. In the New Testament they seem to be so employed, where we read, “Awake thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ will give thee life.” There is a hiding-place from the storm—who would not flee to it? There is a covert from the tempest -who would not seek it? There is the shadow of a great rock—who would not be found in safety there? There is an ark afloat amid the weltering waters—who would not embark, that it may float him to some Ararat of safety? Away, then-be this the vow of all—away with all that would impede our progress thither. As the startled seamen did, let all be cast overboard which would hinder our flight and prolong our danger. While acting thus, the soul through grace is safe. It is under the shadow of Him who is the rock, and whose work is perfect. It has an anchor cast within the vail, both sure and steadfast, whatever storms arise.
“ And they said every one to his fellow, Come, and let us cast
lots, that we may know for whose cause this evil is upon us. So they cast lots, and the lot fell upon Jonah. Then said they unto him, Tell us, we pray thee, for whose cause this evil is upon us; what is thine occupation ? and whence comest thou ? what is thy country ? and of what people art thou ? And he said unto them, I am an Hebrew; and I fear the Lord, the God of heaven, which hath made the sea and the dry land.” Jonal i, 7-9.
The heart of man has been laid very bare for our study and instruction in the portion of this history already considered. We have seen with what calm resolution and elaborate pains even a prophet of God, when His grace was withheld, could oppose the mind of the Supreme. It was no violent outbreak, no sudden surprise, that caused Jonah to sin. It was a plan deliberately formed, and systematically carried out, to substitute the will of a creature for the will of the Creator, or for doing what was acceptable to man, and setting aside what was acceptable to God.
In another passage of Scripture, we find a proud and pagan king resisting God over all, in spite of plague after plague, all speaking as plainly as if a voice from heaven were ringing in his ears; but we should not fail to notice that our present subject is more profoundly instructive still. It is a prophet opposing the will of the Eternal, and resolutely
THE RELIGION OF NATURAL CONSCIENCE.
determined to thwart, if he can, the purpose of the King of kings. He might not, indeed, recognise the full extent of his transgression, but that was its real nature, and it was his sin not to recognise it.
We have seen, however, that Jonah could proceed no farther than his God permitted. There is a limit in sin beyond which the sinner may not go. At that point, the Holy One arrests him; and by the hand of some trial or some cross, assures the transgressor that sin will find him out, that God is God, and that man, however self-willed, is but a creature still. It was on a tempestuous sea that the fugitive prophet was arrested. He might disobey his God, but the winds and the waves became his willing messengers, and by them Jonah was overtaken in his flight. And where our present passage begins, the sailors had recourse to a plan, dictated by superstitious fear, to detect the criminal that was among them. Natural conscience, even in the heathen mind, connects misery with guilt; and those hardy seamen, in their hour of peril, could think of no better method for detecting the origin of their danger than the plan of casting lots—"Come," they said, every one to his fellow, “let us cast lots, that we may know for whose cause this evil is upon us.” They never doubted but that there was guilt or transgression somewhere.
Natural conscience just re-echoed the voice of the Lord of conscience; and it said, our “ sin has found us out”-“the soul that sinneth shall die”_" though hand join in hand, sin shall not go unpunished.”
Now, on this subject, it will be difficult to compress all that might be said, but we offer the following remarks. And we may notice, that in obeying natural con