« PreviousContinue »
of walking correctly in it, and for that of directing another therein; and yet be incapable of determining accurately, the inclination of every ascent and descent;-and the exact bearing of every turn? The way which God hath constituted is plain. And it is equally worthy of our attention as
IV. A SAFE WAY.
"No lion shall be there."
The ideas are evidently taken from the dangers to which travellers are exposed in a country infested with beasts of prey: See Lev. xxvi. 6. Isai. xi. 9.
We may perceive the safety of this way, if we view it in contrast with that in which the wicked walk.
To what dangers are the wicked always exposed! Sin,-Satan, -death, and hell are ready to devour or to destroy them." But the steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord," Ps. xxxvii. 23. He preserveth the way of his saints, 1 Sam. ii. 9. Prov. ii. 8. Their bodies, their souls, and their circumstances are under God's gracious care, Ps. xci. Matt. x. 30.
The safety of this way will appear if we consider it merely in itself. The enemies of the christian may stand on either hand and threaten, but they dare not set a foot on this road ;-"No ravenous beast shall go up thereon, it shall not be found there." While a man keeps there, he is invulnerable, and consequently safe: See 1 Pet. iii. 13. Ps. xci.
'One property more of this road remains to be considered; a property, on account of which, it must be highly desirable:
V. IT IS THE WAY THAT LEADS DIRECTLY TO HEAVEN.-" The redeemed shall walk there,-and shall return and come to Zion, &c." Heaven, as a state, and as a place, is variously described in the word of God.
As a place it is here signified by "Zion."-Zion was a hill connected with Jerusalem; on which stood the city of David, (2 Sam. v. 7,9. 1 Kings viii. 1.) and the temple of Solomon, (2 Chron. iii. 1. Ps. ix. 11, and lxxxiv. 7, and lxxxvii. 2, 5, and cxxxii.) There the Priests officiated;-there the tribes of Israel worshipped God; (Ps. lxxxiv. 7, 10.)—there God manifested his presence; (Ps. i. 2.) and the very place is described as beautiful; See Psalms xlviii. lxxxvii. and cxxii. On these accounts, the word "Zion" was used to denote the church; and the place became an emblem of Heaven :—where the redeemed of the Lord, will be Kings and Priests to God; (Rev. xx. 6.) and where they will serve him day and night in his temple. (Rev. vii. 17.)
As a state.-Heaven, according to our text, is freedom from all suffering, and the possession of complete and everlasting joy. Mark the distinct ideas-sorrow and sighing shall flee away;-they shall obtain joy and gladness;-they shall sing;-and the joy that crowns them shall be everlasting. Think on Israel delivered out of Egypt; (to which perhaps the text has some reference)-or Israel returning from captivity: (Ps. cxxvi.) See Rev. vii. 9-13.
Ye saints of God,-Ye ransomed of the Lord,-Ye travellers to Sion! Yours is the way through which Patriarchs, Prophets, Apos tles, and the saints of God in all ages, have gone to Glory. Yours is no by-path, it is a highway, where a man may walk with boldness and
freedom. It is a holy way; of which none have any cause to be ashamed. It is a plain way, where people need not lose themselves. A safe way, where we may walk and not be afraid. O! Never tire, never faint, and you shall come to Zion with songs and everlasting joy.
Ye despisers,-ye neglecters of this way! What sort of a way is yours? Have you firm footing? Your way is not such as men of clean hands, and of hearts right with God are found in.-Is it safe to walk in your way? Ah! Where will it end? We might tell you in awful language:-but we would rather say" Come with us, and we will do you good: for the Lord hath spoken good concerning Israel." GAMMA.
The following has a different signature.
No. L. Revelations, ch. xxii. ver. 5.
• And there shall be no night there.
In the history of the memorable retreat of the ten thousand Greeks under Xenophon, it is said, that after travelling upwards of two thousand three hundred miles through the midst of their enemies, they at length ascended a mountain whence they could see the Euxine Sea, on the shores of which were several Greek cities. In raptures of joy they instantly shouted out, "the Sea, the Sea!" The sound was echoed, and re-echoed till the heavens resounded with their acclamations. Similar feelings (but far more sublime) animate the hearts of Christians passing through this hostile world, when from the summit of contemplation and faith they discover the vast ocean of eternal felicity, in which they will shortly be absorbed for ever. Such feelings we would fain excite in your bosoms at present. Look forward therefore to that city and palace of your glorious King, of which the magnificent description concludes in these emphatic words, "There shall be no night there, for the Lord God giveth them light," &c.
Night or darkness is the proper emblem of evil, and if this be removed by the Lord God, who is the everlasting light of his saints, in him they will enjoy all possible good for ever. There will therefore be in the heavenly state,
I. NO LITERAL NIGHT OF NATURAL DARKNESS.
In the present world all animals require, at stated periods, the refreshment of sleep. Hence the gracious appointment of night, that under her sable shadow, thoughtful man, and weary beast, might find repose, and the earth be refreshed by gentle and fertilizing dews. But although these, and other benevolent purposes are attained by the regular return of night, it is certainly a proof of the inferiority of the present state. Darkness wears an aspect of gloom and horror. It interrupts in a great degree the operations of mind and body. It affords the adulterer, the robber, the murderer, &c. opportunity to perpetrate their nefarious deeds. It exposes to imminent dangers from accidents, fire, &c. Sleep is the image of death. Darkness the picture of the grave. In Heaven there shall be no night; no vicissitude or change, but one perpetual, glorious, everlasting day. There the bodies as well as the souls of the saints, being spiritual and
freed from every corruptible quality, will require neither rest nor sleep. "The Lord God is their light." They depend no more on a luminary which leaves them to enlighten another hemisphere. They no longer dwell in a land of horrors and dangers; but are for ever illuminated by the glory of God and of the Lamb. Isa. lx. 19, 20. Rev. xxi. 23.
II. NO MENTAL NIGHT OF ERROR AND IGNORANCE.
Darkness is a common and very natural emblem of ignorance and delusion. Isa. lx. 2. Eph. iv. 18. Col. i. 13.
A thick gloom is indeed spread over the minds of men in the present world. Regard the unregenerate. How dark are they in spiritual matters! How gross and confused are their ideas of God-of themselves of moral obligation-of the rule of duty-of the plan of salvation-and of their final state! How does error succeed error, and one delusion follow another, as vapour chases vapour, and wave impels wave! Regard the pious. They enjoy the light of truth, but it is obscured by many dense and heavy clouds. Witness,
The varieties of sentiment which prevail among them-Their scanty knowledge of the works of God-Their incapacity to comprehend the dispensations of his Providence-Their imperfect conceptions even of divine grace-of the Redeemer's glory, and the extent of their privileges. 1 Cor. xiii. 12.
This state of imperfect knowledge is doubtless the effect of sin, and is permitted to remain. 1. To accord with a state of probation. 2. To afford us opportunity to exercise faith. 3. To excite us to aspire after a higher state.
But in Heaven there shall be no mental night. Our contracted notions shall give place to just and expanded views of the works, Providence, and grace of God. There ignorance and error shall be abolished. "We shall know as we also are known."
1. The causes of our ignorance shall exist no more.
3. Our means of information shall be proportioned to our powers. God himself shall be our teacher. Saints and angels, and perhaps innumerable intelligences from different regions of the universe, shall be our companions for ever.
III. NO MORAL NIGHT OF SIN.
In this sense the world is enveloped in the most palpable shades. Sin has spread her dismal wings over all parts of the globe; and O what a black night of injustice, and fraud, and rapine, of cruelty, oppression and murder, and of all sorts of moral evil, casts its detestable glooms over mankind!
It is true the pious are freed from the dominion of sin; but still they suffer much either from the remains of the carnal mind previous to its final extirpation, or from the examples of sinners, or from the danger of relapsing, through the temptation of the world, the flesh, and the devil. But in Heaven the saints are free,
1. From all moral pollution in themselves. The blood of Christ had cleansed them from all sin before they left the world, and now they enjoy the full perfection of holiness.
2. From the examples of sinners. The unholy shall never enter there. Rev. xxi. 27.
3. From the possibility of sinning-for all temptations are for ever excluded. Their probation is terminated. They can have no trial, of consequence no danger. O glorious and eternal day of holiness IV. NO PENAL NIGHT OF SORROW AND AFFLICTION,
"Man is born to trouble as the sparks fly upward;" but in the heavenly state there will be,
1. No bodily afflictions-no languishing or aching head-no throbbing, palpitating heart-no trembling nerves, &c. There all shall enjoy health and vigour, immortal youth, and unfading beauty. Isa. xxxiii. 24.
2. No circumstantial afflictions-no poverty, losses, or disappointments-no cares, labour, &c. They shall hunger no more, neither thirst any more, &c. Rev. vii. 16, 17.
3. No family afflictions. The misconduct of our relatives and friends-their misfortunes and sorrows-the bereavements of death, &c. shall rend our hearts no more-they shall have no place in Heaven.
4. Finally no afflictions produced by spiritual causes. We shall no longer suffer from the wickedness or persecution of sinners. No more deplore our own defects-the lukewarmness of professors-the falls of backsliders, or the little success of the Gospel.
But instead of a sorrowful night shall be a blessed and endless day, of peace and joy-of rapture and extacy-of triumph and exultation. Rev. xxii. 4.
Let us improve the subject,
1. By enquiry. Who shall ascend the hill of Zion? who shall dwell in the tabernacle of God? Answer Rev. xxi. 7, 8, 27. chap. xxii. 14, 15. Every one may attain the character there described, ver. 17.
• 2. By censure. On the amazing stupidity of those who will not make the sacrifices, and perform the duties requisite to obtain an inheritance among the saints in light.
3. By encouragement to those who travel towards the City of God.'
DELTA. We can make room only for the exordium and general division of a third specimen.
No. XXXIII. 2 Cor. ch. xii. ver. 9.
And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.
In the preceding verses of this chapter, the Apostle records an extraordinary revelation, with which God had favoured him fourteen years before the date of this Epistle. He describes himself as caught up into the third heaven-which he calls Paradise, where he heard unspeakable words, &c. verses 2-4. It is evident from the meaning and design of the context, that this was related concerning himself. His use of the third person in the description, was the result of that
modesty and humility, which are the inseparable companions of real worth; and which shone so conspicuously in the spirit and conduct of St. Paul.--He who, for more than fourteen years, had concealed such a distinguished privilege, was sure, when constrained to disclose it, to do it with the greatest possible caution and diffidence.-Who would have supposed, that such a glorious manifestation could have been liable to any abuse; or that such sacred discoveries should have produced any injurious influence? Earthly honours are, from their very nature, dangerous and ensnaring.-But can divine favours and spiritual attainments do any harm?-Yes! without great circumspection, they certainly may-so St. Paul found it.-He was in danger of being exalted above measure.-To prevent this, there was given him a thorn in the flesh, &c.-The Apostle prayed earnestly and repeatedly for its removal. Our text acquaints us with the result of his importunity.The answer of God to his prayer.-And he said unto me, &c.—This circumstance in the Apostle's experience, will lead us to observe I. HIS PECULIAR AFFLICTION.
II. HIS SEASONABLE CONSOLATION. • III.—HIS Grateful resIGNATION.'
These may be taken as fair specimens of the average style of these Sketches, and will supply, to those who approve of the simple, inartificial method adopted, a sufficient recommendation of the work. Already, we find, its sale has encouraged its Authors to announce a second volume, and we have been informed that they have proved acceptable to regular academic divines;-nay, a D.D. of some literary pretensions, (not, however, one of our London divines,) has condescended to take some of these skeletons, and clothe them with his own eloquence, much to the satisfaction of his unsuspecting audience.
It is but fair to state, nevertheless, that the Authors have not contemplated this use of their labours.
That our younger brethren,' they say, to whom they are respectfully tendered, and for whose use they are specially designed, should servilely copy the schemes of others, and pass them as their own,-is what we dare not recommend; as such a proceeding would too nearly resemble the conduct of the ancient prophets, who were censured by the Almighty for stealing his words "every one from his neighbour," and only serve to beget a habit of indolence and neglect of study, which is a sore disgrace to a Christian minister, who has to feed the people with knowledge, and to bring out of his treasury things new and old.
Their object is, to supply their junior brethren, in these sketches, with familiar models of composition in the simplest form; and at the same time it is suggested, that, the subjects being practical, and the observations plain and laconic, these outlines may, as they stand, be read in the family, as a sort of commentary on the texts selected, without encroaching on the time demanded by other duties.-Their chief use, however, will, we apprehend,