Page images

ter. When

When grace is first implanted, the difference between the good man and the man unrenewed, is seemingly very small. From that moment they diverge for ever. Still, in the present life, the difference will always be comparatively small. But when the Christian shall heir his crown of glory, and shall be made a king and a priest to God and to the Lamb for ever, the difference between him and the lost sinner will be infinitely widened. One, it is said, shall come forth to everlasting life, and the other to shame and everlasting contempt. The one is to have his part with devils, and the other is to live, and reign, and rejoice with angels. One is to display in his eternal ruin the justice of a sin-avenging God, while the other is to stand in heaven an imperishable monument of redeeming grace. On the one God will frown for ever, while on the other he will for ever smile. The one will be removed from his presence, and must have his everlasting abode in perdition, while the other will be permitted to see his face without a veil, and beholding as in a glass his glory, will be changed into the same image, from glory to glory.

If, then, the good man does not at present appear to any very great advantage, there comes a day when he will. If his present deformities conceal his noble birth, and his present rags and poverty hide his high and holy destiny, still he will one day break from this disguise, and will be clothed with the honor and the attire of a prince, and live and reign with Christ for ever.

If at present the righteous is more excellent than his neighbor, there will come a day when his superior excellence will be seen and acknowledged by all beings, in all worlds. There will come a moment when every deformity will forsake him, when every blemish will be bleached, when every excellence of character will be illustrated, when he will awake in the likeness of his Lord, and wear his beauties for ever. A moment will arrive when such will be his character, and such his condition, that angels will respect him, and heaven do him honor.


1. If this subject should render the believer proud, he has entirely mistaken its design. If he has any excellence of character, it is the gift of God; or if he has reached any state of joy, entertains any exalted hopes, sustains any honorable relationship, or is the heir of any high and holy destiny, it is all of grace. When heaven undertook to save him, he was a beggar and a wretch. And he is still the degenerate plant of a strange vine, and should for ever

remember the rock from whence he was hewn, and the hole of the pit from whence he was digged. If we are believers, the subject should make us thankful, but can never render us proud. We are conscious of having been totally deformed, and must know that there remains still in the heart a mass of moral pollution, exposing us to ruin, and rendering us worthy to be sent into eternal exile from the family of God. And, if one is finally saved, he is to be saved as a rebel, and is to be made an eternal monument of the power and grace of God, which can make a beggar rich, and a wretch happy. And the believer, although one day he shall be like his master, will carry with him, through all the years of heaven, a deep and humiliating sense of his own native defilements, and will owe his redemption to the pardoning mercy of God.

2. If this subject should render the sinner envious, and dispose him to censoriousness and detraction toward the character which thus outshines his own, this, too, is the very opposite of the effect it should produce. It should alarm him to find that he possesses deformity of moral character, but it should be his joy that some of his fellow. men have put off, in a measure, this deformity, and have been minded to favor with God and with heaven. It is a blessing to the world that God has sanctified some of its polluted population, else this world would be in a double and in a fearful sense, the valley of death. God would not hold that sun in its orbit, nor would he water this earth with his showers, did he, in his survey of its inhabitants, see nothing but moral pollution. Believers are the salt of the earth—are an honor to their friends, and a blessing to their enemies. They should be honored because Christ honors them; should be loved because he loves them; and should be treated kindly, because it is the purpose and the promise of God that they shall be happy.




Thy shoes shall be iron and brass; and as thy days, so shall thy strength be.

This is a part of that blessing which Moses, the servant of the Lord, at the close of life, pronounced upon the tribe of Asher. That tribe had their inheritance in the north-western corner of Palestine, a hilly country, bordering upon the Mediterranean, and received a blessing, as did all the other tribes, suited to the part

it was to act, and the station it was to fill among the thousands of Israel.

As the very name signifies a blessing, so Moses predicted to him a numerous increase ; “ Asher all be blessed with children;" the permanent friendship of the other tribes. “Let him be acceptable to his brethren;" and, it is added, “Let him dip his foot in oil ;” to indicate, probably, that his portion of the land of promise should abound in the oil of olives.

When it is added, “Thy shoes shall be iron and brass," some have supposed that Moses had allusion to the vast mines of iron and brass which abounded in this portion of the land of promise, and were thus like shoes under their feet. This allusion, however, seems not so natural, as to suppose the prediction to mean, That as they were to have a mountainous country, were to travel in rough roads, climb the craggy precipice, and stand upon the slippery eminence, so they should be shod accordingly; their shoes should be iron and brass, meaning that they should be fitted for their allotment. If this be the meaning, the same idea is repeated in the last clause, “As thy days, so shall thy strength be ;"—as thy days thy strength.

As no Scripture is of private interpretation, the text may be applied generally to the Lord's people, and contains a promise that they shall be fitted for every allotment of Providence; their feet shall be shod with the preparation of the gospel. The text has been thus applied in all ages of the Christian Church. Seldom has the believer been brought into perplexity when he has not gir

en utterance to this prayer, “As my day is so let my strength be.” And the history of the Church abundantly assures us that God has heard that prayer, and has granted his people timely strength. This delightful thought I shall endeavor to illustrate.

1. If God prosper his people he will still keep them humble. Occasionally he prospers them in worldly things. He permits them to gain wealth, and influence, and places them in circumstances of ease and independence. This appears to have been the case with Job, with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, with Joseph, and Solomon, and David, and with others more or less in every age of the Christian Church. It is, however, a small minority of the family of believers who have such an allotment. God does not seem to have viewed it as the safest path to heaven. Most of his people are poor, and many of them despised in the present world, that thus they may have their minds supremely occupied with the concerns of a better life.

But when God prospers his people he provides for their safety. He ever plants some thorn in the flesh, sends some messenger of Satan to buffet them, that thus they may be kept mindful that the present life is not their home, nor the present enjoyments their heaven. Job, lest he should be too much elevated, must come down from his height and lay in ashes, receive the reproaches of his wife and his servants, and must lose all his children. Abraham must have in his family a wild Ishmael, and Isaac a profane Esau. Jacob must mourn the fate of his idolized Joseph, and must be pained by the envy and treachery of his other children. David must witness murder and rebellion in his own family, and must hear it said that war should not depart from his house. He must bury his Absalom, and must be forbidden the honor of building the house of the Lord. Solomon must find a rottenness and a plague in every terrestrial enjoyment, and must write “vanity” on every thing that is done under the sun. And from that day to this, every good man who has been greatly prospered, has also been at some period of his life greatly humbled, or perhaps through the whole course of his elevation has experienced some mortifying and painful alloy, which like a millstone, bore him down from his giddy and dangerous eminence. An unpolished partner, or a vicious son, or a sickly constitution, or some other unpropitious circumstance, has ever preyed upon the spirits of the prosperous believ er. And these mixtures of bitter ingredients in his cup of blessings, have kept him from selling his birthright for the perishing and contemptible objects of sense. He was led by these trials to

become sick of comforts so poor and so coarse, and to keep his mind fixed on heavenly things. Thus his strength was made equal to his day. When he came to die, he would quit the world without regret. He had found that every earthly sweet had its poison, and was prepared to cast an eye of faith into that world where its pleasures are unmixed. We have in the history of Lot a striking example of God's faithfulness to his promise. He chose a place of prosperous wickedness as his residence, but God directed that he should come out naked from his guilty retreat. Lot might have been ruined if Sodom had not been burned. But when he saw all his treasures and all his family perishing in the flames, it waked him from his worldly reveries, and brought him back to duty and to God. The whole of this amazing transaction said to Lot, in a language which he could not mistake, “ As thy days, so shall thy strength be.” No worldly prosperity shall be able to subdue the fire of holy love that I have enkindled in your heart, or break the everlasting covenant that binds my heart to your better interests. Thus God's people are humble.

2. If God afflict his people, he will bestow those comforts which will keep them happy, and make them thankful. Hope is a grace which God is as much resolved to cherish in his people as humility. Hence, if he pain them, he is sure to preserve them from despair. While there is the deep conviction that his strokes are fewer than their crimes, and lighter than their guilt, there is too clear discovery of a parental hand which wields the rod, and a parental


which smiles through every cloud that covers them. Perhaps their lot is poverty. They are pressed all their days by the iron hand of indigence. At times they know not how their wants are ever to be supplied, how they shall obtain their bread and their raiment. There is consequent upon their poverty a loss of influence, and in the view of men a degradation of character that prevents their usefulness, and contracts their benevolent exertions. But the promise is that their strength shall correspond to their day-hence, in fulfilling this promise, God will keep them from all the moral evils incident to a state of penury. God will make them so afraid of sin as to keep them from coveting the gains of dishonesty. He will adapt their appetite to the coarsenesss of their provisions. He will give them to see his hand in the supply of their wants. Their faith will be strengthened by their daily experience, and they will find it as pleasant to receive their daily bread at the hand of God, as to be able to draw upon the treasury of their own. They are exonerated from those cares which

« PreviousContinue »