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another, and making unity and concord a matter of no moment; parting them selves from each other, and giving room for the scoffings of infidelity: but the time is coming, and though I am no prophet, yet I see the time is coming, when all these specks upon Christianity shall be placed, where they ought to be placed, in outer darkness, when Christ shall reign gloriously, when he shall overcome all those petty, bitter distinctions that savour of coldness in the Church, and retard the interests of real religion. Then we shall see another thing, Jew and Gentile striving together for the benefit of the common faith: there shall be no longer a holding of the Gentiles as unworthy by the high-minded Jew, neither will there exist any more prejudice in the minds of the Gentiles against the Jew: for saith our blessed Lord, “ Other sheep I have which are not of this fold; them also must I bring, that there may be one fold under one Shepherd.” When we are able to realize the peace which the text promises, even the peace of God—when we are brought resting on Him, who is alone the support and sustenance of his Church and people—when we are brought to that which shall nullify all that Satan, and the world, and the flesh endeavour to do when we are brought to work righteousness; then shall we realize what the text promises, and shall dwell in peace. I cannot help thinking that the Christian very much resembles the travellers whom we have heard of in our own, but especially in other countries, who climb the mountain's heights, where the sun is shining beautifully at the summit, while the storm is seen to swell in the valley at the foot of it. The traveller mounts above the cloud, enjoys the sunshine and the joys it brings, while the storm is seen by him ruffling the valley below. So the Christian, when he has climbed mount Zion, can look around on all the beauteous scenes which meet his vision there; he can look calmly on all the bustling scenes that burst upon him from within, because he possesses the peace of God which passeth all understanding," for he is walking with his God, he hath committed all he possesses into his hand ; so that with feelings such as these, he hath sunshine which nothing can obscure or darken.
But, it may be inquired, whEN SHALL THESE BLESSED TRUTHS BE ACCOMPLISHED? WHEN SHALL THE PREDICTIONS IN THE TEXT TAKE PLACE? Read the first verse of this chapter, and what is there stated is enough to answer all inquiries upon this head, “ Behold a King shall reign in righteousness, and princes shall rule in judgment.” I expect this when the King of righteousness, the Lord Jesus Christ reigns. He does not reign at present : you see how many enemies are disputing his power; you see how infidelity is walking abroad in the noon-day: you see how the great men of the world are legislating without this King: we have none to stand up for this great Prince. O, sirs ! it will never be well with our nation until we are brought to recognise God in all the public acts of the day. When this King reigns, and reign he will, for it is the inviolable promise of the Father, “ Ask of me, and I will give thee the heathen for thine inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for thy possession;" when this comes to pass, and before long it will come to pass, then shall the promise contained in the text be fulfilled. Now, as to the manner wherein this is to be effected, we apprehend this is to be effected as set before us in the context. In the fifteenth verse you will see the period wnen these convulsions are to be terminated; when“ the Spirit be poured upon
us from on high, and the wilderness be a fruitful field, and the fruitful field be counted for a forest; then judgment shall dwell in the wilderness, and righteousness remain in the fruitful field.” When the effusions of the Holy Ghost are poured out largely upon the church, I expect the reign of King Jesus to come ; when it pleases God to work this in the church, then I shall expect the spread and accomplishment of this promise : when the church awakes from her slumbers, and cries mightily to God for deliverance, then shall these things come to pass: for till we are roused to wrestle with him, we have no right to expect the fulfilment of this promise. He puts it into the hearts of his people to pray for the realization of his promises, and then he gives unto them more than they require: and if ever I live to see the day when Christians are wrestling for the realization of God's promises, then I shall see the wilderness rejoicing and blossoming as the rose : then shall I behold the people of God dwelling in peaceable habitations, in sure dwellings, and in quiet resting places.
But what have we to do individually with this text? Do not suppose God designed these truths, great and glorious as they are, to be dealt with in a general way only; God meant them to be particular. And I put it to you, if you have never seen a glimpse of the glory and happiness of religion already ; and, I affirm, it is not because the arm of the Lord is shortened—it is not because the resources of Jehovah are straitened; but because you are straitened in yourselves : live on high, and you shall not only live in safety, but also in comfort.
The personal improvement of this subject, consists first in directing you to the safety of believers and their security. Here I direct you to the Psalm that has comforted men in all ages, “ A thousand shall fall at thy side, and ten thousand at thy right hand, but they shall not harm thee, for this is the portion of the people of God and the heritage of his children.” Peter, in reference to the same subject, says, “ The Lord knoweth how to deliver the godly out of temptations, and to reserve the unjust unto the day of judgment to be punished." Do not imagine that God has come to his last, that he can make no further effort for your deliverance. Why, Christian, let your trials be ever so great, and your circumstances ever so afflicting, your situation ever so complex, God knoweth how to deliver you out of them all. There is an old axiom in theology, and I am desirous you should bear it in mind—Man's extremity is God's opportunity. When we are coming to the last point of destitution, that is the time for the Lord to come forward and display his power, for our deliverance and his glory. Therefore, Christian, do not despair, do not be discouraged; write not bitter things against yourselves: remember who it is that has promised and declared, “ All things shall work together for your good!" remember who has said, “ In righteousness shalt thou be established: thou shalt be far from oppression; for thou shalt not fear: and from terror; for it shall not come near thee.” Here is another great promise for the people of God, “ No weapon that is formed against thee shall prosper (it is God that makes, and the Spirit that furnishes the Christian with the weapons of his spiritual warfare); and every tongue that riseth against thee in judgment, thou shalt condemn." This is the heritage (it is not a mere matter of chance ; every word is gold, yea, more precious than fine gold: it is not a thing that comes once in a century, it is not a casualty; it is) “ the heritage of the servants of the Lord; and their righteousness is of me, saith the Lord."
But our personal improvement standeth, also, in the conduct becoming those who have so high a destiny. For sure I am, that come what will in the world, as a believer, it shall be well with me. Does my faith begin to droop when I see the black cloud gathering? Do I begin to fear when I behold the dark combinations that are forming against religion? Let me see, I am in the ark; let my only concern be to know the Lord is my God, and I am his servant. What then? I shall be safe as Noah was when the flood destroyed the world : he was in safety, it destroyed not him. What then? I shall be in safety, as the children of Israel were, when the first-born of the Egyptians were destroyed. What then? I shall be in safety, as Lot was at the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, for the Lord will take me out. What then? I shall be as safe as the Christians were at the destruction of Jerusalem, when the Romans razed it to the ground, and the Christians were taken away out of the desolation. Thus it has been, and thus it will continue to be, to the end of the world; the righteous will be taken away from the judgments to come.
Do not suppose, however, that we are to sit lifeless, that is, in a lifeless manner on this account? No such thing. In this crisis the duty of the Christian is prayer, that is the one thing necessary; watch and pray, that it may go well with you: pray for yourselves, pray for your country.
Again, be valiant for the truth. You are soldiers of the Lamb: fight the good fight of faith ; stand fast for the truth. A good soldier of the cross would say, “ If I must die, let me die for God." O, remember if it should be ours to be dismissed from the body, by the strugglings we are called upon to endure for the truth, such struggles would only be preparations for our eternal happiness; as the flame enkindled around the dying martyr is only a preparation to lead his soul to God. What! if like our forefathers we are called upon to seal the truth with our blood; like them we shall be wafted in chariots of fire to the realms of glory. Courage ! then, Christian; let all who have put on the Lord's livery, wear it boldly let them go forth out of the camp bearing his reproach. The believing warrior has spiritual weapons for the conflict, he fights under the banner of Christ, he wages war against the Lord's enemies ; and when he has proved victorious, he shall possess the kingdom of heaven. May God Almighty give grace unto you and to me, that we may go on in the Christian course, and stand fast and immovable unto the coming of our Lord. The duty of the Christian in the present day is a patient waiting and active exertion. We are not to be idle-we are not to be content with present watching and prayer: we are to do something as the instruments of God to bring about the glorious era, when all his enemies shall be had in derision, and the kingdoms the earth shall become the kingdoms of our Lord.
Again ; It is your duty to continue in persevering faith. Let us not be sinking in heart, and turning away from religion. Now is the very time your religion will be tried, whether you have been mere formal professors, putting on the veil of religion, and possessing only its semblance, or no. pretensions are about to be tried—the time is at hand when Christ will make it visible to angels, men, and devils, who are his and who are not. Believers in the Lord Jesus Christ, you shall be tried; pray that your faith fail not; pray that you may have enlargements of this great grace : so will you be brought off finally more than conquerors.
Now your JACOB AT BETHEL
REV. J. PARSONS,
SURREY CHAPEL, JANUARY 9, 1836.
"And Jacoo rose up early in the morning, and took the stone that he had pat for his
pillows, and set it up for a pillar, and poured oil upon the top of it. And he called the name of that place Beth-el.”—GENESIS, xxviii. 18, 19.
The history of the early patriarchs, my brethren, who lived at so remote a period from our own times, must be contemplated with deep interest, as it is adapted to our eminent profit. The value of the record respecting them does not arise so much from the exhibition which it presents of early customs and early manners, as from the light it sheds upon the character and dispensations of God, and the examples it presents of those holy dispositions and graces, in the cultivation of which alone man can derive his comfort, his honour, and his happiness. We have to look back upon those ancient worthies as being emphatically our models : and it is as the spirit of their actions becomes transfused into our own hearts, that we are interested as partakers with them in the glorious inheritance of the promises.
There is now brought before you a symbolical action performed by the patriarch Jacob, from meditating upon the purport of which, under the blessing of God, much of profit and advantage will doubtless be derived. On his way from the house of his father, for the purpose of obtaining security against the vengeance of a disappointed brother, he had a remarkable visitation of spirits from the heavenly world, to which we shall soon more distinctly refer. When the vision terminated with the waking hour, Jacob exclaimed, “Surely the Lord is in this place ; and I knew it not. And he was afraid, and said, How dreadful is this place ! this is none other but the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven. And Jacob rose up early in the morning, and took the stone that he had put for his pillows, and set it up for a pillar, and poured oil upon the top of it. And he called the name of that place Beth-el."
In examining the action which in this manner was performed, we shall find it indicative of the state of mind felt by the patriarch in three important classifications. Here was commemoration; here was dedication; and here was anticipation. These are what we now intend to illustrate, trusting that these reflections may mould
you into the state of the patriarch, and that thus may be secured the highest welfare of your own souls.
We must observe, first, that in the action of the patriarch there was com MEMORATION. It was clearly his design in erecting this pillar, to commemorate che events which had recently transpired in his history, and, as far as possid.e
to give permanence to their remembrance. Before the invention, or the general use of the art of writing, the commemoration of remarkable events by monumental pillars appeared the most apt and the most effectual that could be designed : and this mode, therefore, of giving permanence to great events, is a custom also very genera.ly practised among the nations of antiquity. Without referring you to different examples which might easily be adduced from profane history, we must turn your attention, for the purpose of illustration, to one or two of those instances which occur in the sacred writings. It may be observed, for instance, that upon a period subsequent to the one which is now before you, when Jacob was making a solemn and a permanent league with Laban (as we are informed in the thirty-first chapter of this book), that “ Jacob took a stone, and set it up for a pillar. And Jacob said unto his brethren, Gather stones; and they took stones, and made an heap; and they did eat there upon the heap. And Laban called it Jegar-sahadutha : but Jacob called it Galeed. And Laban said, This heap is a witness between me and thee this day. Therefore was the name of it called Galeed.” It may be observed again, as you find in the thirty-fifth chapter of this book, the fourteenth verse, after another remarkable manifestation of God, that “ Jacob set up a pillar in the place where he talked with him, even a pillar of stone : and he poured a drink-offering thereon, and he poured oil thereon.” At a still subsequent period, when the children of Israel had achieved the passage of Jordan, they resorted, by the command of Joshua, to the same mode of commemoration. We find in the fourth chapter of the book of Joshua, the fourth and following verses, that “ Joshua called the twelve men, whom he had prepared of the children of Israel, out of every tribe a man: and Joshua said unto them, Pass over before the ark of the Lord your God into the midst of Jordan, and take you up every man of you a stone upon his shoulder, according unto the number of the tribes of the children of Israel : that this may be sign among you, that when your children ask their fathers in time to come, saying, What mean' ye by these stones ? then ye shall answer them, that the waters of Jordan were cut off before the ark of the covenant of the Lord; when it passed over Jordan, the waters of Jordan were cut off: and these stones shall be for a memorial unto the children of Israel for ever. And the children of Israel did su as Joshua commanded, and took up twelve stones out of the midst of Jordan, as the Lord spake unto Joshua, according to the number of the tribes of the children of Israel, and carried them over with them unto the place where they lodged, and laid them down there. And Joshua set up twelve stones in the midst of Jordan, in the place where the feet of the priests which bare the ark of the covenant stood : and they are there," says the historian “unto this day." And once more, when a remarkable victory had been achieved over the hostile Philistines, as it is recorded in 1 Samuel, vii. 12, “ Then Samuel took a stone, and set it between Mizpeh and Shen, and called the name of it Eben-ezer, saying, Hitherto hath the Lord helped us."
Now, my brethren, the principle of the action which in this manner has been Illustrated, is one doubtless deserving of universal recognition and observance -namely, that the mercies which man receives from God ought always to be preserved in vivid and in grateful remembrance. Although now we erect no monumentai pillars, and although now we chisel not on those pillars any