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frequently imparted to them the spirit of prophecy in a more abundant measure, about the time of their death. Thus Isaac and Jacob were peculiarly inspired at that season to foretell the things which should befall their children. Thus Moses also, when about to be gathered to his fathers, was commissioned to declare the states and circumstances of all the different tribes after their entrance into Canaan. Of Benjamin he foretold, that his tribe should be situated close to the place which God had chosen for himself a ; and that his proximity to the Lord's immediate residence should be to him a source and occasion of the richest benefits.
If it be considered how comprehensive many of the prophecies are, and how the Apostles themselves continually apply them to the general circumstances of the Church of Christ, we shall not be thought to put a force upon the text, while we take occasion from it to set forth, I. The state of God's people
The situation of the tribe of Benjamin may serve at least as an emblem to represent the state of “ God's beloved.” They are “à people near unto God','
dwelling by him, and covered by him, all the day long." 1. They maintain a sense of the divine presence
[They not only cannot, like the generality, live “ without God in the world," or rest, as many professors of religion do, in a round of formal duties; they are sensible that “God searcheth the heart and trieth the reins." They long to have a conviction of this fastened upon their minds, and to see, as it were, on every place this inscription written, " Thou, God, seest me." They do not harbour secret sin because it is invisible to man; but, assured that “ the darkness is no darkness
a This was remarkably fulfilled : for Mount Zion, whereon the temple was built, belonged to Judah : but the remainder of Jerusalem, and almost the whole of Mount Moriah (of which Mount Zion was a part) belonged to Benjamin : so literally true was it, that God, the head of all the tribes,“ dwelt between the shoulders of Benjamin." And this very circumstance occasioned the tribe of Benjamin to adhere to Judah, when the other ten tribes, under Jeroboam, apostatized from the worship of Jehovah. b Ps. cxlviii. 14.
with God,” and that he beholds the very counsels of the heart, they strive to “set him ever before them;" and to “walk in his fear all the day long."] 2. They walk in dependence on the divine aid —
[They are scarcely more conscious of their own existence, than they are of their utter insufficiency for any thing that is good. They have so often failed through their reliance on their own strength, and they feel such a proneness to every species of iniquity, if left one moment to themselves, that they are compelled to cry to their God for help. And, if they were not sure that “the grace of Christ is sufficient" for all who trust in it, they would utterly despair of holding out unto the end. Hence their continual prayer is, “ Hold thou me up, and I shall be safe:” and God imparts to them his promised assistance.] 3. They delight in doing the divine will —
[The “commandments of God are not grievous" to them. Their only grief is, that they do not obey them with greater readiness and joy. Not but that they often find the workings of an evil principle, that would bring them back again into captivity to sin and Satan: but, through the operation of the blessed Spirit, they are enabled to get the victory over their corrupt nature, and both to obey the law outwardly, and to “ delight in it after their inward mand." They would gladly do the will of God on earth, as it is done in heaven, without reluctance, without weariness, and without reserve.]
There doubtless is a great difference between the attainments of different saints: yet this is, on the whole, the state of all; and that they are blessed in it will appear by considering, II. The privileges they enjoy by means of it
While the saints thus live nigh to God, God “keeps them in safety," and covers them, 1. From the curse of the law-.
(We might speak of their deliverance even from temporal evils: since they have none which are not sanctified to their souls, and made blessings in disguise. But respecting spiritual evils we are warranted to speak with the fullest confidence. The saints may, it is true, be left to dread the wrath of Godf: but it shall never come upon them. While they are endeavouring to walk in communion with God, in dependence on him, and obedience to him, they have nothing to fear. God has pledged himself, that they shall never perish”.] 2. From the assaults of Satan
c Zech. x. 12. Isai. xxvi. 3.
d Rom. vii. 14-25.
[Satan will indeed exert all his power to destroy them; but he shall not finally prevail against them. He may" buffet them," and cast “ his fiery darts” at them; but he is a vanquished enemy; and shall, ere long, be bruised under the feet of even the weakest saints! Like the kings whom Joshua subdued, all the powers of hell shall one day be brought out of their dungeons, to receive, from the very lips of those whom now they persecute, the sentence they so justly meritk.) 3. From the power and prevalence of sin
[Notwithstanding “ the law of sin in their members,” God's promise to all his people is, that “sin shall not have dominion over them!.” As by the operation of fire on the hearth we may see what it would effect, if suffered to extend itself over the whole house, so by the working of sin in our hearts we may clearly see, to what a state we should quickly be reduced, if God should suffer it to rage with all its force. But he fulfils his word: and though thousands of times we have been, as it were, on the very brink of falling, God has interposed by his providence or grace to preserve our souls: and we remain to this day living monuments of his almighty power, and unchanging faithfulness.] EXHORTATION
1. Let us seek to become “ the beloved of the Lord” —
[We account it no small happiness to be beloved of our fellow-creatures; but how much more to be beloved of the Lord! Whose favour is comparable to his? whose so honourable, so permanent, so beneficial m? Let us then go to him in the name of Jesus; for whose sake we shall be admitted to his favour", and be blessed by him with all spiritual blessings."]
2. Let us endeavour to live more and more near to God
[It is our privilege to dwell in God, and to have God dwelling in us. We might " walk with God," as Enoch did, and though not visibly, yet really, converse with him as our
h Isai. lv. 7. John x. 27, 28.
m Ps. lxii. 3. VOL. II.
k 1 Cor. vi. 3.
friendo. And what greater encouragement can we desire, than that which the text affords? Others may fall ; but we shall be covered, and kept in safety P:” others may apostatize to their perdition ; but we shall be preserved through faith unto everlasting salvation] 0 1 John i. 3. p Isai. liv. 17.
41 Pet. i. 5.
STRENGTH ACCORDING TO OUR DAYS. Deut. xxxii. 25. As thy days, so shall thy strength be.
PREVIOUS to his departure from them, Moses pronounced a blessing on all the tribes of Israel. The blessing to each was appropriate and prophetic. That assigned to Asher was, that his posterity should be numerous and happy; that his provision should be abundant, and his strength, under every emergency, fully adequate to the occasion. It is thought indeed by some, that the promise, “thy shoes shall be iron and brass,” referred to mines in that part of Canaan which should be allotted to them: but it appears to me to import rather, that they should be possessed of great power; and to agree exactly with that address of the Prophet Micah to Zion, “ Arise and thresh, O daughter of Zion! for I will make thine horn iron, and I will make thy hoofs brass; and thou shalt beat in pieces many peoplea." Then the meaning of our text will be clear; namely, that whatever difficulties they might have to contend with, they should find their strength sufficient for them.
Now, though many parts of the blessings here pronounced were doubtless so peculiar as to have no reference except to the particular tribe to which they were addressed, yet such parts as were of a more general nature may, without impropriety, be more largely applied to the Israel of God in all ages. . Such parts will be found in almost all the addresses to the different tribes; and the promise in our text most assuredly admits of such an interpretation. The promise made to Joshua, “ I will not fail thee, nor forsake thee,” might appear to belong to him only, as the individual to whom it was personally addressed. Yet St. Paul applied it generally to the whole Church of God in all ages; and authorized all saints, in every period of the world, to regard it as spoken equally to themselves, and to expect most assuredly its accomplishment in their own persons : “ God hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee. So that we may boldly say, The Lord is my helper; I will not fear what man shall do unto me." In like manner, we may interpret this blessing, which was primarily addressed to the tribe of Asher, as properly belonging to all the people of God; so far, at least, as they may be in circumstances which call for similar support.
a Mic. iv. 13.
That we may enter the more fully into the meaning of this promise, I will point out distinctly, I. What it supposes and implies
It is here evidently supposed that the Lord's people will have seasons of trial, which will call for more than ordinary support.
And such seasons do sooner or later occur to all ; seasons, 1. Of temptation
[Who is there that does not experience more or less the temptations of Satan? He is not an inactive adversary. At no time is he unobservant of our frame, or unprepared to gain an advantage over us: but there are some times which he selects for his attacks, when he promises himself a more easy victory, and when he puts forth all his devices to draw us into sin. His wiles are unsearchable: innumerable also are the modes in which he makes his assaults upon us. Sometimes he assumes the appearance of an angel of light: at other times his own proper character is clearly marked in the blasphemies which he suggests to our minds: and, on all such occasions, if we were not succoured from on high, we should fall before him, as lambs before a devouring lion.
The world, too, presents its temptations on every side: it proposes to us its pleasures, its riches, its honours, as objects that may well stand in competition with Jehovah himself, and rival him in our affections.
b Heb. xii. 5, 6.