« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »
Thus it fared with our Lord Jesus Christ himself in the days of his flesh. For the most part he lived unknown among men, he did not cry nor make his voice to be heard in the streets ; but when he discovered himself to them on any special occasion, the people ran into different extremes. When the characters of the Messiah appeared with evidence upon him, they would have raised him to a throne, and made an earthly king of him, John vi, 15. At another time, when his holy conduct did not suit their humour, they were filled with wrath, and led him to the brow of a hill to cast him down headlong, Luke iv. 29. Therefore our blessed Lord did not walk through the streets, and tell the world he was the Messiah ; but by degrees he let the character of his mission appear upon him, and discovered himself in wisdom, as his disciples and the world could bear it, and as the Father had appointed.
Let us imitate our blessed Lord, and copy after so divine a pattern ; let our works bear a bright and growing witness to our inward and real Christianity. This is such a gentle sort of evidence, that though it may work conviction in the hearts of spectators, yet it does not strike the sense with so glaring a light as to dazzle the weaker sort who behold it into superstitious folly; nor does it give such provocation to the envy of the malicious, as if the saints had borne the sign of their high dignity in some more surprising manner in their figure or countenance.
I might add also, There is something in this sort of evidence in their saintship that carries more true honour in it, than if some heavenly name had been written in their forehead, or their skin had shone like the face of Moses when he came down from the mount. It is a more sublime glory for a prince to be found amongst the vulgar in undistinguished raiment, and by his superior conduct and shining virtues to force the world to confess that he is the son of a king, than to walk through the rabble with ensigas of royalty, and demand honour from them by the mere blaze of his ornaments.
XVII. Praise waiteth for thee, o God, in Zion,
Psalm lxy. I. And does praise wait for God in the congregation of his saints ? Surely it doth not use to be so. Mercy uses to be beforehand with us, and the Lord waiteth to be gracious. Mercy is wont to be ready in the hands of God, before praise is ready on the tongues of men; and we are sure he waited on us to shew his grace, long before we had any songs ready for him, or any thought of praising him.
Yet sometimes it is so in this lower world. Holy souls may be waiting at the throne of grace, with their praises ready to ascend as soon as mercy appears : mercy may
be silent for a season, and then praise for a season is silent too. This is the original language of the psalm, and this the state of things, when the psalmist wrote; Praise is silent for thee in Zion. When the church of God under trouble has been long seeking any particular blessing or deliverance; and God's appointed hour of salvation is not yet come, then the songs of the church are silent: Yet she stands watching and waiting for the desired moment, that she may meet the salvation with praise.
But why should God suffer praise to be silent at all in Zion? Is not the church the habitation of his praises? Yes, but it is the house of prayer too : prayer and patience must have their proper exercise. If praise were never silent on earth, where would there be any room for prayer to speak? when would there be any season for the grace of patience to shew itself? God loves prayer as well as praise : his sovereignty is honoured by humble waiting, as well as his goodness by holy gratitude and joy. If praise be silent then, let prayer
be more fervent. The absent Saviour loves to hear the voice of his beloved; the lips of the church must never be quite silent, though they are not always employed in hallelujahs.
Praise is the sweetest part of divine worship; it is a short heaven here on earth. God lets our praises be silent
sometimes, to teach us that this is not a state of complete blessedness. After the great day of decision, praise shall be continual and unceasing, when there shall be no more sighing for the saints, no more death, no more pain. Then churches shall want ordinances no more, nor saints abstain from the bread of life. Jesus, their everlasting Pastor, shall feed them in pastures ever green, and from the tree of life, and lead them to the fountains of joy, and the streams where eternal pleasures run.
O may our souls wait with joyful hope for that day! and our praises shall not be silent.
Yet it is not with the church as it is with the world when praise is silent in both. It is ever silent among
the wicked, because they are forgetful of God their Maker; it is only silent among the saints' for a season, when their God seems to frown and hide himself, and, as it were, to forget his people.
Besides, Let us consider that all praise is not silent there. Daily incense arises before God in the temple, though particular thank-offerings wait till particular mercies are received. Praise for all the greatest mercies, (viz.) for redeeming grace, for electing love, for the sanctifying Spirit, is never silent in Zion. Psal. Ixxxiv. 4. “ Blessed are they that dwell in thine house ; they will be still praising thee.” But praise for some special favours may be silent for a season, as well as that large revenue of praise that shall grow due at the accomplishment of all the promises and the consummation of blessedness.
Again, The praises of God are silent in the world with. out any design of breaking forth; but the silence of 'the church longs to be lost in joyful songs of thanksgiving. It is like an engine charged with praise, that wants only the warm touch of mercy to make it shine with the glories of heavenly worship, and sound aloud the name of the God of Zion.
Sometimes God is as well pleased that praise should wait with humble silence, as that it should speak. It shews a well-disposed frame and temper of soul, that longs to ho
nour God. The hearts of his saints are instruments of music to the Lord; he has formed their souls for his glory, and tuned their heart-strings to his own praise. Now he loves to see them kept still in tune, though he does not always play his own praises upon them; he neither wants our services nor our songs, for his own perfections are an everlasting harmony to himself, without the slender notes that we can sound.
We may make this sweet remark at last, that Zion on earth shall be joined to Jerusalem above ; the family below shall be joined to the upper house, for they have learnt the work of heaven, their hearts are tuned to praise ; they want only such harps as angels have, to bring glory down, and make a heaven on this earth. In i Chron. xi. 4. we are told that David took Zion from the Jebusites, and built it round about, and added it to Jerusalem. So shall Jesus, the true David, the King of saints, take this earthly Zion from the powers of this wicked world, and shall build and adorn it around with glory and strength, with perfect beauty and complete grace, and add it to the Jerusalem which is above. Look upwards, O souls who are full of praises, and are even impatient to speak the glories of your God, look to Jerusalem above, where praise is constant and never ceasing, and rejoice to think that you shall be made inhabitants of that city, and united to that glorious church! It is your chief pleasure here to be praising your God, and it is the chief pleasure of your fellow-saints on high : where happiness is perfect, praise is perfect too, and never silent.
It is the chief delight of happy souls there to run over the glories of their God, and tell one another joyfully, and humbly tell their God, what a wise, what a holy, what an almighty and all-gracious God he is. Every breath of praise is a new gale of pleasure there; it is sweet breathing in air perfumed with praises, and this climate is most agreeable to your new nature and your constitution, you that are members and parts of Zion; and you shall be translated thither to your kindred souls. In heaven, the river
of pleasure springs from God's right hand, because Jesus the Saviour sits there. It is a river that makes glad the city of God, and every stream, as it flows along the golden streets, murmurs sweet praises to the fountain.
But heaven and the state of glory are not yet complete : the church waits above for many promises that are not yet fulfilled, and future blessings that are yet unknown. The work of grace is not finished till the great resurrection-day; and heaven itself, in all the blissful regions of it, waits for such praises as the ears of men or angels have never yet heard.
While the whole church of God on earth is in a state of imperfection and trial, a state of sins and sorrows, praise waits in all the sanctuaries below, and in Zion above too. The souls in glory wait for complete salvation, and the redemption of their bodies from the grave. On the harps of angels praise sits waiting, and it waits also on the tongue of Jesus the intercessor. His prayers shall one day change all at once into praises, and lift the praises of angels and of embodied saints to higher notes than ever yet they knew. O the voices, and the songs, the joys, the raptures of that moment, of that day, of that eternity, when such a multitude of praises shall burst out at once, which have been waiting long in that Zion, and shall become an everlasting praise! When Jesus the Son of God, the Mediator, shall lead the worship; and the praises that have been growing these seventeen hundred years on his tongue shall break forth and spread themselves abroad, and all the creation shall hear, and all echo to this song,“ Glory to God in the highest!” This is what we wait and hope for, and long to bear a part in those pleasures and those praises.
XVIII. O that I knew where I might find him!
Job xxiii. 3. Among all the various kinds and orders of God's intellectual creation, there is not one that uses this language besides a mourning saint in this lower world. As for all other