« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »
To Him is intrusted the security and protection of all who believe. And this is the strong-hold to which we are commanded to flee. He is Lord of all ; and engages to succour, defend, honour, deliver, and save the people who place their confidence in Him. The commandment hath gone forth to save us : every provision is made to effect our rescue from the hands of all our enemies, " to set o feet upon a rock, and to order our goings.” In this great work, all agents and instruments are under the control of the Great Proprietor and Governor of universal nature, who has determined to build his church, and defend every individual believer in the hour of danger. He rules over all, and overrules all for the good of his people: prosperity and adversity, friends and enemies, joy and sorrow,
life and death, are all commissioned to promote and accomplish the salvation of the Israel of God. The bush may burn with fire, but it will not be consumed. The sale of Joseph to the Egyptians was a preliminary step to the advancement of his family, and their deliverance from famine ; and the severest trial to which the father of the faithful was subjected, immediately preceded, and was preparative to, the triumph of his faith. The law of God's house is, “My grace shall be sufficient for thee :" he hath commanded the blessing out of Zion, even life for evermore. We ought, therefore, to glory in infirmity, that the power of Christ may rest upon us; “ for when we are weak, then are we strong." These reflections on the character and promises of God naturally lead to application: for in all these things he will be inquired of by the house of Israel to do it for them. This should remind us of David's prayer, in which we have,
III. The expression of his desires; “ Be thou my strong habitation, whereunto I may continually resort."
To understand the beauty and force of this supplication, it is necessary to recall to our mind the situation of the Psalmist at the time when it was uttered. Think, then, of the monarch of Israel driven from an earthly palace by the unnatural conduct of his profligate and wicked son, forced out of his chanıber when he was sick, stripped of every honour and every comfort, and excluded from that sanctuary where, as he tells us, he had so often thought of the loving-kindness of God. Behold him as he passes over the brook Kedron, ascends the brow of Mount Olivet, barefoot and weeping, to seek, in the plains of the wilderness, a place where to lay his head, and shelter his venerable form from the treasonable machinations of his oppressors. Endeavour to unite in your idea age, indigence, and infirmities, an aching bead, and a bleeding heart,
and you will have one of the most striking portraitures of royalty in distress that the page of history ever exhibited. See him, bereft of all on earth, extending his aged hands to heaven, and imploring a refuge from the impending storm in the words of the text, “ Be thou my strong habitation, whereunto I may continually resort ;" and this will give you a sublime view of the Divine character, as a refuge from the storms of life, and a sufficient and safe abode in the time of utter desolation. The trials of this world drive the Christian to his God, just as a thunder-storm drives us to our habitations for shelter; and, on the other hand, the smiles and prosperity of life, like a lovely summer's day, tempt us to wander further and further from our home. Is any man afflicted, then let him pray,--pray for a deeper conviction of the relative character which God sustains in behalf of his servants,-pray for a more enlarged view of his gracious and providential government, and an abiding sense of the fidelity of his precious promises ; let him earnestly seek an increase of that faith by which, and by which alone, he can appropriate all God is, and all he gives, to cheer his disconsolate bosom, and fill it with joy and peace. Thus will he rise superior to all the disquietudes of this present state, and may defy the power of evil to injure or destroy. It is true of all the sons and daughters of the Lord Almighty, that “they dwell on high: the place of their defence is the munition of rocks: bread shall be given, and waters shall be sure.”—“The Christian's life,” says the amiable and judicious Doddridge, “has a double security; it is reserved in heaven, and hid with Christ in God: secure, there- . fore, as the abode of Christ with the Father, or as the fidelity and immutability of the Father himself could make it."
Finally, the desire of David was to have continual access to this
strong habitation;" and it is the habit of faith and prayer, by which we shall realize God as our refuge and strength, and turn as naturally to him for protection and succour in the evil day, as the weeping infant to the maternal bosom for solace and security. A state of probation is one of constant trial, and the life of a true believer, as it implies continued dependence, consists in habitual reliance on the revealed character and promises of God. As repeated exercise gives vigour and stability to all our other graces, so does it especially to the grace of faith : prayer is the appropriate expression of confidence, and engages all the perfections of Deity on behalf. He therefore, who lives in the daily use of these high privileges, or, in the words of the text, “ resorts continually to God as
strong habitation,” is best prepared to meet the events of life, however painful, and need not fear what man can do unto him.
Thus will he successfully resist the temptations of Satan, the rising corruptions of a degenerate mind, and the dangerous allurements of this present world; and thus, in the last sad conflict of dissolving nature, shall he be able to exclaim," My flesh and my heart faileth, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion for ever."
My christian brethren, the prayers of David the son of Jesse are exchanged for praise ; and he has long since attained the end of his faith. But we continue in an enemy's land: let us derive encouragement and instruction from his noble example, and make the Son of David our refuge and strength. He is the rock, and his work is perfect: his precious blood cleanseth us from all sin ; his precious promises are fraught with strong consolation. Let us earnestly seek that faith which is no less precious to make these blessings ours: "it is the gift of God.” May our lives exemplify its power, and our dying-beds be the scenes of its noblest triumph; and thus “ shall an entrance be ministered unto us abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ."
I cannot close without asking, if the righteous be saved through much tribulation, where shall the ungodly and the sinner appear ? The imagery of the text is full of terror to the enemies of God, they are houseless, unsheltered exiles, obnoxious to all the pitiless storms of life, and the future tempest of eternal wrath, a prospect more dreadful than language can depict is before them. As inhabitants of this world, they are orphans in the most painful sense, and pierced through with many sorrows, without Christ, without hope, and without God; in the midst of sufficiency, they are in straits ; in adversity, without consolation; in death, without hope !—Turn ye to the strong-hold, ye prisoners of hope, flee to the refuge set before you in the gospel,--take hold of the strength of the Lord, that you may make peace with him, and you shall make peace with him. So shall you be delivered from all your enemies, and serve him without fear, in holiness and righteousness before him all the days of your life, and become at last the happy possessors of a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.
To which, that we may all arrive when the storms of life are ended, may God of his infinite mercy grant, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
THE SALVATION OF INFANTS.
BY JOHN JEFFERSON.
MARK X. 14.-Of such is the kingdom of God.
THERE are comparatively few parents who have not been called to feel the anxious solicitudes which are awakened by the sufferings and death of an infant child. We have seen the lovely objects of our tender regard seized by some virulent disease; we have watched their rapidly decaying energy ; we have endeavoured in vain to relieve their distress; our flesh has shuddered at the thought of their separation from us; we have wept over their last struggle ; and with aching hearts we have committed them to the silent tomb. But the grave was unable to bound our anxiety. Their afflictions and death were irrefragable proofs that they were treated as guilty, in the government of God; and confirmed the scriptural doctrine of the imputation of Adam's first sin, even on them who have not sinned after the similitude of Adam's transgression :" and the question naturally arose, What is their future condition ? To this inquiry, the text is thought to furnish a direct and satisfactory reply ; “Of such is the kingdom of God.”
Various opinions have been entertained concerning the fate of dying infants. Some have supposed that all dying in infancy are annihilated; “for,' say they, 'infants, being incapable of moral good or evil, are not proper objects of reward or punishment:' but this notion is opposed to the scriptural doctrine of the immortality of
Others think, that as, among adults, part are saved and part perish, assigning the happiness to the children of God's people, and the misery to those of the wicked: this view of the case seems to lose sight of individual character, and to attach an unwarranted degree of importance to relative holiness. Others affirm that all
are saved, because all are immortal, and all free from personal guilt: whilst others think that we know nothing certainly respecting it, and must content ourselves with the assurance that they are in the hands of a merciful God.
The only tenable supposition seems to be that they are all saved. Before we proceed to the proof of this assumption, we may be indulged with one or two preliminary observations. First, our remarks apply exclusively to children who are not yet arrived at years of accountability; that is, to all children who are not yet capable of employing the appointed means of knowledge and salvation. The period when infancy in this sense ceases, cannot be determined ; it will probably be found to vary in different subjects. That children at a very early age become accountable, is a circumstance which should deeply impress our minds, and powerfully influence all our treatment of them. No question is now agitated respecting such as are in any degree accountable: we speak of those only who die before they are capable of clearly understanding and rightly employing the means of life.—Again, it is not said that the children of believers and the children of unbelievers are in all respects in the same case: on the contrary, we are led to view the relative holiness of the children of believers as an important blessing. Their circumstances are more favourable to the formation of a religious character than those of others; their means of salvation are more direct, and their motives to employ them are more powerful; and it is true that God has provided more fully for the consolation of his people in the death of their children, than he has done for that of others. But we state that the child of a believer has no other claim on the mercy of God than may be put in by every infant, and because it is an infant; and that his mercy extends to all who die in infancy, whether nominally Christian or otherwise. The doctrine to be established is simply this,—that the souls of those who die in infancy (understanding by infancy the whole of that period of life during which the seed of Adam are naturally incapable of employing the divinely appointed means of salvation) do immediately pass into glory; and that their bodies shall be raised up at the last day to everlasting life. In pursuing this subject, we shall
I, State the argument in proof of infant salvation.
1. There are various general considerations which suggest the hope of infant salvation.
The first of these is, they are not accountable. Our remarks apply to those only, who, by reason of their tender age, are incapable of moral obligation. On what grounds, then, are they to be