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the Philistine army lay in defiance of the army of the God of Israel; and who shall say how many among their tribes were beseeching that God for deliverance? In the face of discouragement--whenready to abandon bope, as is the custom of our God, in order to take to himself the glory which to him is most justly due, he summoned the stripling David from his lone retreat, and, having brought him down into the midst of the assembled host, he filled him with a godly jealousy and a holy boldness; he sees, on the one hand, the favoured tribes—the tribes of the Lord ; on the other, he beholds the uncircumcised Philistines-the enemies of the Lord. A holy courage takes possession of his breast, and, with a sling and a few small stones from the brook, fearlessly he enters the mighty gap, in the face of the assembled multitudes. See yonder the little stripling comes, a mere shadow compared with him whose strength he ventures to defy. His God is with him--the presence of the Holy One is manifest to his conscience, and with holy boldness he exclaims, “Thou comest to me with a sword, and with a spear, and with a shield; but I come to thee in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom thou hast defied” (1 Sam. xvii. 45). He throws the stone, and, guided by an Omnipotent Hand, it enters the forehead of the boasting giant, and to the earth he falls. Oh, what a mighty God is ours ! How able to deliver, when we least expect the putting forth of his power ; how willing to deliver, when we most question the gracious interposition of his hand! Their champion dead, the Philistine army are instantly thrown into confusion ; a few moments before, and they stood in triumph, watching in the distance the increasing timidity of the Israelitish host- now they flee before them in utter dismay.
But, from this, and, indeed, from the whole history of David, learn, reader, a few lessons, which may be of importance to thee in thy daily walk. After the most visible displays of the fatherly hand of thy gracious God, be most in expectation of peculiar trial ; be prepared for the adversary to dispute the whole, and unbelief to give deliverance the lie. David, as a shepherd boy, could trace the hand of his covenant God in his daily supplies of all needful grace and strength; he dwelt, as it were, in a small compass, and matters were more obviously between God and his own soul : as a king, great as was his promotion, and visibly as it was of God, to us who see the whole history of the psalmist at a glance, he was more immersed in the world, and tossed to and fro upon a sea of apparent chance and uncertainty. Before a world was he exalted-before a world was he fearful of being put to shame. As a menial, he had, comparatively, no enemies ; as a king, he had multitudes. His retirement none envied ; his exaltation thousands coveted – hence the language of reproach and the strife of tongues. And well might David, under a consciousness of all, exclaim, “I am this day weak, though anointed king.” From the moment of his appointment, his troubles commenced; selected as little to be regarded and of nothing worth (see the whole history, 1 Sam. xvi.), he became at once the envy of his brethren ; like unto Joseph of old, his every step was misinterpreted, and then, guided as he manifestly was of and
by the Lord alone, they hesitated not to censure and condemn him (hear their language, 1 Sam. xviii. 28). As he became more known, so was he held up to public scrutiny, and subject to applause or ridicule. Little, therefore, was his condition to be envied.
David was weak-spiritually weak, as a shepherd boy; he was weaker as a king. In the former capacity, he had, temporally, little or no responsibility; in the latter, he had weighty anxiety and care, and, consequently, needed a far greater exercise of omnipotent power. His accountability to God and to man far outbalanced the honour of his position, when that accountability seemed to rest upon himself, and was not, in the sweet exercise of faith, laid upon the head of the great Surety. Hence, how little reason have any to regard the prosperity or high estate of those who fill exalted situations in society; and how wrongly do God's own family estimate the apparently pleasant condition of those who are free from pecuniary trials. The Lord is never at a loss for means by which to keep his people humbly and sensibly weak at his footstool. Many that are placed in affluent circumstances, fear that their portion is in this life, seeing that most of the Lord's family are exercised with tribulation and care; others that have known what it is to wade through the depths of adversity, have now to mourn over a barren frame, and, perhaps, a heart closed against the necessities of the brethren; others (cowardly as they were in the prospect of trial) regard almost with envy those seasons of affliction when out of the “ depths” of trouble they were compelled to “cry unto the Lord," and the Lord made himself known by the special visitations of his love and favour. All these are but as so many reasons for which the poor soul adopts the language of the text, “I am weak,” very weak, and stand in need more and more, day by day, of the strength of Jesus. He needs it in temporal life ; he requires it in spiritual life. He needs it temporally, as a poor pensioner receiving his daily provision, his every meal ; he wants it as a tradesman immersed in the business of life; he requires it in the midst of affluence and wealth. He wants it spiritually, as a poor helpless babe in grace, crying for mercy at the foot of the cross, with a tempting devil and a heart of unbelief trying to turn his unwary feet out of the path of life ; he wants it as a young man in Christ, bearing the burden and heat of the day, in the midst of the field of conflict, with molestation from every quarter, and unable to trace the pilgrim's track ; he requires it as a father in Israel, drawing nigh to Jordan's flood, and about to enter the promised land. Yes, each and all need it, even the strength of Jesus, and, blessed be God, each and all shall have it ; for we, a company of poor, blind, lame, and wrath-deserving sinners, come before thee, Othou great and Holy One of Israel, pleading thine own promise, “that thou wilt give power to the faint, and to them that have no might thou wilt increase strength ;” that the “bruised reed thou wilt not break, that the smoking flax thou wilt not quench ;" that the “righteous shall hold on his way, and he that hath clean hands shall wax stronger and stronger." As most sensibly weak, therefore, we come in thine own strength to ask the power of Jesus ; as most ignorant, we solicit the wisdom of Jesus--and as most fearful, discouraged, and ready to halt, we come entreating the Lord to put his hand afresh to the work, to revive us as the corn, and to cause us to grow up into Him, our living Head, in all things. We delight in the language of his ancient church, and venture to adopt it as being most suitably descriptive of our own helpless state and condition, “ We have no might against this great company that cometh against us; neither know we what to do; but our eyes are upon thee” (2 Chron. xx. 12). Yes, precious Lord-our only refuge, strength, and dwelling-place-our eyes are upon thee, and thee alone, for all needful grace, strength, and help ; beseeching thee to put forth thine almighty power on our behalf, as thou didst for thy servants of old ; leading us on through life, amidst its various perplexities and sorrows, sustaining in weakness, guiding in obscurity, and guarding in danger; upholding in death, cheering us in the dark vale, comforting us as the shades of evening gather around us, and giving us faith's retrospect of all the way by which thou hast led us, to prove us and to show us what was in our hearts ; and being our blessed portion to all eternity, when time, with all its concerns, shall have passed away. “Hallelujah! hallelujah! for the Lord God omnipotent reigneth!”
A WATCHWORD FOR ALL WHO PROFESS AND CALL
Beware of men.—Matt. x. 17. This is the caution which the Son of God gave to his disciples, when he ministered among them on earth, and the Holy Ghost caused it to be penned, that the true church of God might use it as a watchword to the end of time; and never since this caution dropped from the lips of Jesus, has it been more needed than now; for men seem to vie with the prince of darkness who shall most effectually oppose the kingdom of Christ and the spiritual interests of his blood-bought family.
“ Beware of men !"-not merely of profane men, open infidels ; but little caution is necessary respecting them, because “ the show of their countenance doth witness against them, and they declare their sin as Sodom, they hide it not” (Isa. iii. 9); but the men who assume the profession of Christianity, without possessing its vital principle, are the men of whom the Saviour's watchword is, “ Beware!" the men who put on the form of godliness, but deny the power thereof-whose carnal minds and carnal interests have always warred against the pure truth of God, and perverted the whole plan of salvation by lying fables and human traditions, seducing the souls of millions to utter destruction.
This baneful poison produced the monster Popery in the days of Constantine, when carnal men professed to be Christians because the emperor professed to be such, and thrust themselves into priestly office, blending priestly power with political power, until superstition and tyranny supplanted Christianity, and exercised a despotic sway over mankind; proudly dictating to every man's conscience, plundering his property, degrading his existence, and pretending to power over his eternal destiny: so that priestcraft sat like an infernal incubus over the entire population of Christendom, and spread its darkness, horror, and death over this favoured land, with tortures and cruelties perfectly satanic.
That awful night was chased away by the glorious Reformation, and the principles of liberty have had a shining day ; but who does not see the evening shades gathering all around us again, threatening midnight darkness with tempestuous horror ? Intellectual pride vaunts itself against the light of revelation ; superstition is trampling upon the siinplicity of the Gospel ; and error, of every name and form, is at war with the truth.
There is now scarcely a city or town in England but in which there are men sprung up in the office of priest (some Papist, some Puseyite), who are using all their efforts to bring back those dark days and those degrading superstitions which dishonour God, foster the pride of man, and delude millions of souls fatally ; and hence the importance of our Saviour's watchword, " Beware of men !" for these men are doing more mischief than devils could do without them.
“ Beware of men” who boast of apostolical succession, which they cannot prove, and who are no more like the apostles of our Lord, either in doctrine or character, than sin is like holiness or Satan like God. See what monstrous opinions they broach, such as baptismal regeneration, which rejects the ministry of the Holy Ghost; priestly absolution, which insults and virtually denies Christ; ecclesiastical authority, which sets at nought the word and the decrees of God the Father, and thus genders atheism, by denying all the Persons of the Godhead. Can they be honest, when they know that there is not a word in all the New Testament to sanction the existence of an official human priesthood, Christ only being the priest of the Gospel church after the order of Melchisedec ? Can they be honest in their boasted reference to the fathers, when they know that the usurpation of ecclesiastical power, and the right of one Christian minister to exercise authority over others, were never allowed in the churches for 300 years after Christ's ascension to glory? i " Beware of men!" such as our dear Redeemer has described," who desire to walk in long robes, and love greetings in the markets, and the highest seats in the synagogues, and the chief rooms at feasts; which devour widows' houses, and for a show make long prayers" (Luke, xx. 46). And again, the same Divine Teacher says, they outwardly appear righteous before men, but within are full of hypocrisy and iniquity ; therefore he denounces them as serpents and a generation of vipers, who shall not escape the damnation of hell (Matt. xxiii. 28-33). Indeed, whoever would see a full-length portrait of Puseyism, has only to read the whole of the twenty-third chapter of Matthew. It has enslaved the finest minds; it has prostrated the brightest genius; it has sugared the most virulent poison ; and sainted the most reprobate enemies to vital godliness ; in fact, it has outdone Popery itself in deception.
The tradition of apostolic succession is a religious hoax; the existe ence of an official human priesthood is a rejection of Christ and a return to Judaism ; the doctrine of baptismal regeneration is a barefaced falsehood ; and all pretensions to priestly absolution are blasphemy. Yet men who hold these hideous notions, arrogate to themselves the exclusive right to teach their fellow-man, saying with lying words, as did the false teachers in Jeremiah's day, “ The temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord are these” (Jer. vii, 4); or, in modern language, “ The Church, the Church, the Church," is the enthusiastic cry of those who possess not one feature of the church of Christ as described in Holy Scripture, and as exhibited in the early ages. The church of Christ is a spiritual body.
" Beware of men !” those very men who now seek to do by "all who, profess and call themselves Christians," as the spider does by the fly; first bind the wings and legs of our liberty with an invisible web, and then suck our blood by persecution, as in days of yore. Oh! search the Scriptures, and learn from thence what the true church of God is, and do not suffer a carnal priesthood to blind your eyes, enslave your consciences, and ruin your souls. See how they toil for human patronage ; mark their thirst for worldly honours; watch their abuse of ecclesiastical power; weigh the mock sanctity of their long prayers; and then say if these are the marks of apostolic descendants, or the characteristics of Christ's ministers. Rather, are they not the features of Baal's priests--the broad marks of antichrist ?
“ Beware of men !" even of those who pass for evangelical men ; for every grade of error is to be found among them. Even while I am writing this paper, my soul is distressed with the awful perversions of the word of God which surround me, and which are advocated by men of renown; one drowning the doctrine of regeneration in the baptismal font; another substituting the credence of carnal reason for the faith of God's elect, and another denying the Son of God; while the great bulk of so-called evangelical preachers try to dethrone Christ and to enthrone proud free-will as absolute sovereign.
“Beware of men!" for even those whose views are, in the main, scriptural, seem so determined to bite and devour one another through jealousy, that they make each other offenders for a word, and put more stress upon the shibboleth of a party than upon the fundamental doctrines of the Gospel; drinking into the spirit which our Lord reproved in his disciples, when they said, “Master, we saw one casting out devils in thy name, and we forbad him, because he followeth not us!" Oh! these are awful signs of the times, when even the real disciples of Christ have exchanged brotherly love for party-spirit and jealousy; all seeking their own, and not the things that are Jesus Christ's (Phil. ii. 21).
What, then, it may be asked, is real religion? I answer, it is altogether supernatural. It originates in the love of God the Father to his whole church, his chosen family, which is scattered all over the world. It is intrusted to God the Son, in positive responsibility by an everlasting covenant, for the redemption of their persons with his own blood, and their eternal salvation in his own righteousness imputed to them.