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Judges 1:6-7. But Adoni-bezek fled; and they pursued after him, and caught him, and cut off his thumbs and his great toes. And Adoni-bezek said, Threescore and ten kings, having their thumbs and their great toes cut off, gathered their meat under my table: as I have done, so God hath requited me.
THERE are times and seasons afforded us for the performance of our duty, which, if they be once lost, can never afterwards be recovered. It was thus with the Israelites in the invasion of Canaan: if they had followed up their successes with becoming zeal, their difficulties would have been comparatively light: but at no time did they advance with that ardour which they should have manifested in such a cause. Joshua had reproved them for their indolence [Note: Joshua 18:3.], and quickened them in some degree; but still, after his death, and fifteen years after their first invasion of Canaan, no one of the tribes had complete possession of the lot assigned them. The Israelites had increased, and now wanted the whole of their inheritance: but the Canaanites had increased also, and, possessing still their strong-holds, were able to cope with Israel in battle. Now therefore the different tribes found the bitter consequences of their past indifference; and, as it should seem, were afraid to resume a warfare with such potent enemies. However, after having consulted God, Judah, by divine direction, took the lead, and, in conjunction with the tribe of Simeon, renewed the conflict with the Canaanites. God gave them success, and delivered into their hand Adoni-bezek, one of the most powerful of the kings of Canaan. Him they treated with great severity: and their conduct towards him forms the subject of our present consideration. We shall consider,
The particular dispensation here recorded—
The conduct of this king had been most cruel—
[What occasions he had had for waging war against seventy kings, we know not: ambition never wants a pretext for its bloody projects: but to insult over their misfortunes in such a manner as to maim their persons, and compel them, like dogs, to gather up scraps from under his table for their subsistence, argued a degree of cruelty, which one could scarcely have conceived to exist in a rational being. One might suppose it possible that some particular provocation might have caused him to offer such an indignity to a single individual; but when such conduct was pursued towards so many vanquished kings, it manifestly proceeded only from his barbarous and brutal disposition. But here we are constrained to acknowledge, how empty is human greatness; how uncertain the continuance of those honours in which men so vainly pride themselves; and how often it happens that pre-eminence in station leads only to a sad pre-eminence in distress and misery. Nor can we forbear to notice, what desolation and trouble one ambitious tyrant may produce in the earth.
Whilst we see the dispositions of this man exhibited in such awful colours, let us not suppose that we ourselves are altogether exempt from them. The truth is, that the dispositions themselves are common to every child of man, though they have not attained in all the same maturity, or brought forth in all such visible and deadly fruits. We cannot but have seen that children feel a pleasure in vexing and tyrannizing over those who are weaker than themselves; and, as we grow up in life, a fondness for manifesting superiority and exercising despotic sway increases: and, in proportion as our opportunities for displaying these hateful qualities are enlarged, our evil tendencies become augmented and confirmed. How conspicuous is this in the great men of the earth, who can spread desolation over whole provinces without remorse, and invade, as we have seen, even neutral and friendly kingdoms for no other end than to gratify their own insatiable ambition!]
But he in his turn was made to feel the judgments which he had so wantonly inflicted upon others—
[It was a law in Israel, that magistrates should punish offenders in a way of just retribution [Note: Leviticus 24:19-20.]: and doubtless it was by the direction of God, the righteous Governor of the universe, that the Israelites on this occasion maimed the body of their captive king. To insult over him indeed, as he had insulted over others, would have been inconsistent with those gracious affections, which Israel, as the Lord’s people, were bound to exercise. In that part therefore the sentence was relaxed: but, as far as the law required, they “meted to him the measure which he had meted out to others.” This brought his sin to his remembrance, and compelled him to acknowledge the equity of Jehovah, who in his righteous providence had so requited him: “As I have done, so God hath requited me.” And though a feeling mind cannot but regret that such a judgment should be executed on a fallen prince, yet in this case we are constrained to acquiesce in it, and even to feel a secret satisfaction, in seeing that the evils which he had so cruelly inflicted upon others were at last brought home to himself.]
Let us now turn our attention from the particular dispensation, to,
The insight which it gives us into God’s moral government—
“God is still known by the judgments which he executeth”—
[God has not relinquished the government of the earth: he orders and overrules every thing now as much as ever; and in his former dispensations we behold a perfect exhibition of the government which he still administers. Still, as formerly, does he requite the wickedness of men; sometimes on the offenders themselves, as when he smote Uzziah with leprosy [Note: 2 Chronicles 26:19.]; and sometimes on others upon their account; as when he slew seventy thousand of the people, to punish the sin which David had committed in numbering his subjects [Note: 2 Samuel 24:15; 2 Samuel 24:17.]. Sometimes he inflicts the judgment immediately, as on Herod who was eaten up with worms [Note: Acts 12:23.]; and sometimes after a long season, as on the sons of Saul for their father’s cruelty to the Gibeonites many years before [Note: 2 Samuel 21:1; 2 Samuel 21:6; 2 Samuel 21:9.]. Sometimes his judgments are sent as a prelude to those heavier judgments that shall be inflicted in the eternal world, as in the case of Korah, Dathan, and Abiram [Note: Numbers 16:24-35.]; and sometimes after the offenders themselves have been forgiven, as was experienced by David in his family [Note: 2 Samuel 12:13-14.], and by Manasseh, whose iniquities were visited upon Israel after he himself had been received up to glory [Note: 2 Kings 24:2-4.]. Sometimes his chastisements had no particular affinity with the offence committed, as in the plagues of Egypt; and sometimes the offence was clearly marked in the punishment; as in the case of Joram, who had slain all his brothers, and whose children were all, with one exception, consigned to the slaughter [Note: 2 Chronicles 21:4; 2 Chronicles 21:17.]; and as David, whose wives and concubines were openly denied by his own son Absalom, just as he himself had defiled the wife of his faithful servant Uriah [Note: 2 Samuel 12:10-12; 2 Samuel 16:21-22.]. So minutely is this correspondence marked in the Scriptures, that even the time and the place are noticed, as designed to manifest the very offence which God designed to punish; as Israel’s wandering in the wilderness forty years on account of their murmuring at the reports which were brought them by the spies who had searched out the land forty days [Note: Numbers 14:33-34.]; and as Ahab’s blood was licked up by dogs, on the very spot where dogs had licked the blood of Naboth, whom he had murdered [Note: 1 Kings 21:19; 1 Kings 22:38.].
We might further notice the correspondence between the spiritual judgments which God oftentimes inflicts for spiritual transgressions. Those who “will not hearken to his voice, he gives up to their own counsels [Note: Psalms 81:11-12.];” those who abandon themselves to all manner of wickedness, he gives up to vile affections and a reprobate mind [Note: Romans 1:26-28.]; and those who “will not receive his truth in order to salvation, he gives up to their own delusions, that they may be damned [Note: 2 Thessalonians 2:10-12.].”
We have not prophets indeed at this time to declare the particular instances in which God intends this righteous procedure of his to be discovered: but we have no reason to think that he has altered his system of government, and consequently no reason to doubt but that he still displays his own righteousness in his dispensations, as he has done in every age and quarter of the world. If any imagine that this conduct of his was confined to the nation whose temporal Governor he was, we must remind them, that he dealt precisely in the same way with the heathen nations [Note: Isaiah 33:1.], and has taught us to expect that he will do so to the end of time [Note: Revelation 18:5-6.].]
Whereinsoever he fails to requite either good or evil in this life, he will requite it perfectly in the world to come—
[God inflicts some judgments here on account of sin, in order that it may be seen that he governs the world; but he does not do it in all instances, in order that men may know, that he will judge the world. It often happens that the wicked prosper, and the righteous are oppressed; and yet God does not remarkably interpose to punish the one, or to reward the other: but in the last day, all will be made right; and every creature in the universe, the good and the evil, the oppressor and the oppressed, will “receive at God’s hands a just recompence of reward [Note: 2 Thessalonians 1:6-10.].”]
From hence we may learn,
To investigate the reasons of God’s dealings with us—
[Every dispensation of Providence has a voice, to which we should give diligent attention. If we more carefully inquired into the design of God in his various dispensations towards us, we should find them an inexhaustible source of most instructive information. We might read in our afflictions some fault which God designs to correct; some mistake which he intends to rectify; some corruption which he desires to subdue; some grace which he is anxious to confirm; or some temptation, against which he purposes to fortify our minds. As in the instance before us, God brought to the remembrance of Adoni-bezek the sins which he had committed, and which perhaps in the fulness of his prosperity he had overlooked; so he often, by a particular chastisement, shews us the evil of some practice which we had justified, or revives in our minds the recollection of some which we had too slightly condemned. I would say unto you therefore, “Hear the rod, and Him that hath appointed it.” If you see not the reason of it, go unto your God, and say, “Shew me wherefore thou contendest with me?” and let no cross be suffered to escape from you, without having first paid to you that tribute of good, which by the order of Providence you are entitled to exact.]
To repent of particular sins—
[We cannot be too particular in calling to mind the sins which at any time we may have committed. Though we have not walked in the steps of this wicked tyrant, it is highly probable that we have lived in sinful habits, which custom has rendered familiar to our minds; and that we have in many things offended God, whilst we have not been conscious of committing any offence at all. Possibly Adoni-bezek at first felt a consciousness of doing wrong; but after a season, accounted his rival kings a legitimate prey, whom he might subdue, and torture in any way that he pleased. But at last God made him sensible of the enormity of his conduct. In like manner we may learn hereafter to view many parts of our conduct with far different feelings than we have yet done. God has borne with us indeed; but we must not consider his long-suffering as any proof of his approbation: he is recording every thing in the book of his remembrance, and will call us into judgment for it, whether it be good or evil. Let us then search and try our ways: let us pray that he will not “remember against us the sins and transgressions of our youth:” let us, like Hezekiah, “humble ourselves for the pride” or any other evil passion that has at any time been in “our heart.” In this way we shall avert many evils from ourselves which unlamented sin would bring upon us, and extract the sting from those which God in his providence may allot us.]
To abound in every good work—
[“The godly, no less than the sinner, shall be recompensed in the earth [Note: Proverbs 11:31; Proverbs 13:21.]:” “for godliness is profitable unto all things, having the promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to come.” Look into the Scriptures, and you will find that there is nothing that you can do for God or for your fellow-creatures, to which God has not annexed an appropriate reward. “Draw nigh to him, and he will draw nigh to you:” “honour him, and he will honour you:” “serve him, and he will gird himself and serve you.” Visit and relieve your sick neighbour, and “God will be with you in trouble, and make all your bed in sickness [Note: Psalms 41:1; Psalms 41:3.]:” “nor shall even a cup of cold water given to a disciple, in any wise lose its reward.” Would you then have testimonies of God’s approbation here? endeavour to “abound in the work of the Lord:” and expect also, that, in proportion as you improve your talents now, shall be the weight of glory assigned to you in a better world.]
CHRIST’S COMING TO JUDGMENT
Judges 1:14-15. Enoch also, the seventh from Adam, prophesied of these, saying, Behold, the Lord cometh with ten thousand of his saints, to execute judgment upon all, and to convince all that are ungodly among them of all their ungodly deeds which they have ungodly committed, and of all their hard speeches which ungodly sinners have spoken against him.
GOD has had in every age some to testify against the ungodly, and to warn them of the consequences of their sin at the future judgment: and though the faithful execution of this office meets with but ill returns from an ungrateful world, yet we trust there will be found, to the end of time, some, who will gladly suffer reproach or even death itself in the service of their God, and in the benevolent attempt to save their fellow-sinners from destruction. We do not indeed hear of many, who were witnesses for God, before the time of Moses; and even his warnings and exhortations were enforced principally with temporal sanctions: yet the certainty of a future judgment was known not only by Moses, but by the antediluvian world; and was solemnly urged by Enoch as a motive to repentance. This prophecy is not recorded in the Old Testament; but, by whatever means St. Jude attained the knowledge of it, whether by tradition, or by some written memorial, or by immediate inspiration, we may be sure that it was delivered by Enoch; and we may be thankful that such a precious fragment of inspired truth has been preserved to us.
It proclaims to us,
The manner in which our Lord shall come to judgment—
Christ, we are assured, is coming to judge the world—
[There can be no reason to doubt that Enoch referred to Christ, even to that very “seed of the woman, who was to bruise the serpent’s head:” him he represents as coming to complete his victory over Satan and his agents by calling them to his tribunal, and by consigning them over to the punishment they have deserved. The New Testament writers uniformly speak to the same effect: they declare that it is at the judgment seat of Christ we must stand [Note: 2 Corinthians 5:10.]; that it is Christ who is ordained to be the Judge of quick and dead [Note: Acts 10:42.]; and, that all judgment is therefore committed unto him, because he is the Son of man [Note: John 5:27.]; or, in other words, that he, who died for sinners, shall, in that very nature that he assumed for them, be the immediate author of salvation to his followers and of condemnation to his enemies.]
And even the manner of his appearing is here plainly predicted—
[It is not with “his saints,” but with his holy ones, or holy angels, that he will come. The saints will not be his assessors in judgment till they themselves shall have received their sentence: then indeed “they shall judge angels [Note: 1 Corinthians 6:3.];” but till then, they themselves will stand before him to be judged. But the holy angels will be his attendants in the clouds of heaven; all the “myriads” of them shall descend with him from their blessed abodes, to increase the solemnity of that day, and to honour him, to whom they owe their very existence. This accords with the description given by Daniel [Note: Daniel 7:9-10.], by St. Paul [Note: 2 Thessalonians 1:7-8.], and by Christ himself [Note: Matthew 25:31.]. How different will our Lord’s appearance then be from what it was when he first visited our guilty world, and lay a helpless infant in the manger! and how earnestly should we now exert ourselves that we may he prepared to meet him!]
That our minds may be raised to an expectation of that day, let us consider,
The ends of his coming—
It is not to display his own glory that Christ will come; but,
To pass judgment upon the whole world—
[All, who have ever lived in this wretched world, shall be summoned before him. The old and the young, the rich and the poor, will all come forth out of their graves [Note: Revelation 20:12-13.], and those that shall be then living upon earth shall be changed in the twinkling of an eye, and all shall stand together at his tribunal [Note: 1 Corinthians 15:51-52.]. Every one shall then be tried as by fire [Note: 1 Corinthians 3:13.]; their actions shall then be weighed as in a balance; and the most secret motions of their hearts be brought to light [Note: Romans 2:16.]. Then shall they that are approved, “have praise of God;” and they that are disapproved, be driven from his presence. Nor will Jesus merely pronounce the sentence of condemnation or acquittal, but he will “execute” it himself, either exalting them instantly to thrones of glory, or casting them headlong into “the lake that burneth with fire and brimstone.”]
To manifest the equity of his decisions—
[Whatever endeavours be now used to shew men their guilt and danger, they have many things to allege in their own favour [Note: They will impute their negligence to their situation in life, to necessity, or to any thing rather than the true cause, their own utter aversion to God and holiness.]; nor even “if we could speak with the tongues of angels,” could we bring home conviction to their hearts. But Jesus will shew them, beyond all contradiction, the futility of their excuses: and will prove by such unquestionable evidence “the deeds they have committed, the words they have spoken,” and the thoughts they have entertained, that they shall be silenced and confounded before him. The ministers, who once laboured for their salvation, shall then be forced to bear testimony against them: their companions in sin, though to their own confusion, must also testify of those deeds of darkness, which they once fondly hoped would be buried in eternal oblivion. The very places, where their most secret iniquities were committed, should rather stand forth to accuse them, than that they should escape with impunity [Note: Habakkuk 2:11.]. Above all, “God himself will be a swift witness against them [Note: Malachi 3:5.],” and will so thoroughly “convince” them of all their sins, whether of commission or of omission, that they shall be constrained to acknowledge the equity of that sentence, which dooms them to everlasting burnings. Even in hell will they be compelled to say, “Lord God Almighty, true and righteous are thy judgments [Note: Revelation 16:7.].”]
How needful is it that we should instantly begin our preparation for that day!
[Five thousand years ago the prophet spake of Jesus as so near at hand, that it seemed as if he were already come [Note: ἦλθε.]; and it is in this way that all, whether Prophets or Apostles, have been inspired to speak. So strongly did St Paul express himself on this subject that the Thessalonians conceived the judgment-day to be almost immediately at hand [Note: 2 Thessalonians 2:2.]. In the same manner must we say, “The Lord is at hand;” “the Judge is at the door [Note: Philippians 4:5.James 5:9; James 5:9.].” He surely is coming as soon as ever the events that are ordained to precede his advent shall have received their accomplishment. And with respect to us, it signifies little whether it be near or distant, since as death leaves us, judgment will find us. Is it not even madness then to delay our repentance, since we cannot tell but that death may come within the next year, or day, or hour? Beloved, shall your Lord come, and find you sleeping? Is he hastening towards you, and will you not prepare to meet him? O awake from your slumbers, and turn to him with your whole hearts; that so you may “have confidence before him at his coming.”]
How desirable is it to possess an interest in Christ!
[It surely is not necessary to prove that we are ungodly, since we have all sinned, times without number, in thought, word, and deed, against the Divine Majesty. Whither then shall we go for the remission of our sins? How shall we get our iniquities blotted out from the book of his remembrance? Our tears, even if we could shed rivers of tears, will never avail for this end: nothing but the blood of Jesus can ever cleanse us from the guilt of one sin: and, if we be not washed in that fountain, we shall die in our iniquities, and lie under the guilt of them for ever. Let us then seek an interest in Christ. Let us never attempt to substitute any repentance or reformation of our own, in the place of his meritorious blood and righteousness: but let it be our one desire to “be found in him,” and to obtain from him those garments of salvation, which alone can “cover the nakedness” of our guilty souls [Note: Revelation 3:18.].]
With what confidence and comfort may believers look forward to the coming of their Lord!
[Whom will they have for their judge but the very person who bought them with his blood? the very person in whom they have believed; and to whom they cleaved with full purpose of heart? Be it so then; the catalogue of their sins shall be produced, a catalogue reaching, as it were, from heaven to earth; and they shall not have one word to offer in arrest of judgment: yet, will the Saviour pass a sentence of condemnation upon them? Will he not himself stand forth and testify, “I saw their deep contrition; I treasured up their tears in my vial; I was witness to their frequent sighs and groans, and to their cries for mercy through my atoning blood:” “Deliver them from going down into the pit; I paid their ransom:” they were mine; and they manifested that they were mine [Note: God represents himself in this very light. Jeremiah 31:18-20.], by their obedience to my will, and their conformity to my image: “Come, ye blessed children of my Father, inherit my kingdom prepared for you?” Fear not then, ye weak and trembling saints; but rather “be looking for and hasting to the coming of the day of Christ [Note: 2 Peter 3:12.]:” ye shall surely stand before him with joy; while they, who once justified their ungodliness, and thought, that to be among the godly was a fit matter for derision, shall bewail their folly, and confess the equity of the sentence that fixes you in heaven, and themselves in hell. Remember then with gratitude that you are to have Jesus for your judge; and when he says, “Behold, I come quickly,” let your hearts reply, “Even so, come Lord Jesus [Note: Revelation 22:20.].”]
THE CHRISTIAN’S DUTIES
Judges 1:20-21. But ye, beloved, building up yourselves on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Ghost, keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life.
IN every age there has prevailed in the Church a proneness to depart both from the principles and practice of the Gospel. St. Jude in his day, writing to the whole Christian Church respecting “their common salvation,” says, “it was needful for him to write to them, and to exhort them all to contend earnestly for the faith once delivered to the saints.”
At the same time he declares, that “ungodly men had crept in amongst the saints,” and had not only grievously dishonoured the Gospel, but had “turned the very grace of God itself into lasciviousness,” and vindicated their licentious practices as allowed and sanctioned by the Gospel of Christ [Note: ver. 3, 4.]. Against the influence of such pernicious examples, the Apostle was anxious to preserve all who yet maintained their integrity. He bade them remember, that the Apostles of our Lord had from the beginning taught them to expect, that such hypocrites and apostates would arise [Note: ver. 17, 18.]: and he exhorted them so to walk before God, that they might hold fast their steadfastness even to the end. The directions which he gave them were such as could not but approve themselves to their judgment, and commend themselves to their inmost souls. The same dangers to the Church are existing still; and the same directions therefore are necessary for us, as well as for those in the apostolic age. Permit me then to call your attention to them:
To the two former, as instrumental to your welfare—
“Build up yourselves, brethren, on your most holy faith”—
[It is here supposed that you have embraced the faith, and that you are standing upon the true foundation which God himself has laid in Zion. But you must not be satisfied with having believed in Christ: for St. Paul says, “As ye have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk ye in him, rooted and built up in him, and established in the faith, as ye have been taught, abounding therein with thanksgiving [Note: Colossians 2:6-7.].” Your faith is verily a “most holy faith:” in its nature, in its tendency, and in all its practical effects, it is “most holy;” and to build up yourselves more and more upon it is your bounden duty. Seek then to advance continually in the knowledge of it, in all its bearings, and in all its relations. View the whole mystery as planned by Infinite Wisdom, and formed into a covenant of grace; the Father undertaking to accept an atonement in our behalf; the Son engaging to offer that atonement in his own sacred person; and the Holy Spirit engaging to bring to Christ those who should be given him of the Father, and those whom he should purchase with his most precious blood. Eternity itself will not suffice to explore the wonders contained in this mystery; and therefore, like the holy angels, we should incessantly be searching into it, with a view to comprehend, as far as our limited capacities can reach, the wisdom of God displayed in it — — —
We should seek to grow also in a simple reliance on the Gospel of Christ, as of itself perfectly suited to us, and altogether sufficient for the necessities of the whole world. It is impossible ever to be too jealous upon this head; since the mixing of any thing with this foundation will subvert it utterly, and make void all that Christ has done and suffered for us [Note: Galatians 5:2; Galatians 5:4.] — — —
In a realizing sense of its excellency, we should also be making higher and higher attainments. There is a rest of the mind, and a satisfaction of the soul, which it is our privilege to possess; and which, in its sublimer actings, approximates very nearly to the felicity of the saints above. There is no measure of this in which we should rest. We are told, that, by believing in Christ, we may be elevated to “a joy that is unspeakable and full of glory, and may already (by anticipation) receive the end of our faith, even the salvation of our souls [Note: 1 Peter 1:8-9.]” — — —
Yet not in these respects only, but in every possible view, we should “be building up ourselves on our most holy faith,” and be daily manifesting our progress, and “making our profiting to appear” to all around us.]
At the same time be “praying continually in the Holy Ghost”—
[Of ourselves we can do nothing: our sufficiency even for a good thought, must he of God alone [Note: 2 Corinthians 3:5.]: and from him it must be sought by earnest prayer. “He will be inquired of by us, before he will do for us” what in his covenant of grace he has promised to us [Note: Ezekiel 36:37.]. If we ask not, we cannot have [Note: James 4:2.]: but, if we ask in faith, we shall have our joy increased to the full [Note: John 16:24.]. We must therefore go to God continually; seeking from him in the first instance the “Spirit of grace and supplications [Note: Zechariah 12:10.],” by whose gracious influences alone we can approach him in an acceptable manner, and pray to him as we ought. “That blessed Spirit will help our infirmities;” and though he may not give us that fluency of utterance, or that enlargement of heart, which we may desire, “he will make intercession in us with groanings which cannot be uttered [Note: Romans 8:26.],” but which will enter the ears of our heavenly Father, “who knoweth the mind of the Spirit [Note: Romans 8:27.],” and will answer the petitions which are so dictated by him.
We are not indeed to expect any miraculous aid from the Holy Spirit: but a gracious influence we may expect; as St. Paul says, “Pray always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit [Note: Ephesians 6:18.].” Nor need we be concerned whether we address our God in words conceived at the moment, or in a pre-composed form: it is the frame of mind which God regards: and, if that be spiritual, our prayer, even though it consist only of a sigh, or a groan, shall come up with acceptance before him [Note: Psalms 38:9.], and shall bring down into our souls all the blessings both of grace and glory.
Whilst then we are building up ourselves on our most holy faith, we must be “pouring out our hearts before him” through the assistance of his good Spirit, and be bringing down from him such communications of grace and strength as our daily necessities require.]
The beneficial tendency of the two former directions being thus clear and manifest, let me call your attention,
To the two latter, as perfective of your welfare—
“Keep yourselves in the love of God”—
[This was primary in the mind of the Apostle: the two preceding being urged only as conducive to it. And certainly this is the great object which every Christian should keep in view, and at which he should aim day and night. To have a sense of “God’s love shed abroad in the heart [Note: Romans 5:5.];” to “have the light of his countenance lifted up upon us [Note: Numbers 6:26.];” to be going to him continually as a Father [Note: Romans 8:15.]; to “walk with him,” as Enoch did [Note: Genesis 5:24.]; and, like Abraham, to commune with him as a friend [Note: James 2:23.]; to “set him always before us [Note: Psalms 16:8.];” to have no wish or desire but to please him [Note: Colossians 1:10. Hebrews 13:21.]; to be “delighting ourselves in him [Note: Psalms 37:4.],” as our God, our portion, our eternal great reward [Note: Genesis 15:1.]: this is our wisdom; this is our happiness; this is our security. If we descend on lower ground, we are open to all manner of assaults: but who can reach us there? Who can break through to harm us, when we are “dwelling in God, and God is dwelling in us [Note: 2 Corinthians 6:16.]?” We are “encompassed as with a wall of fire [Note: Zechariah 2:5.];” we are in a fortress that is absolutely impregnable [Note: Proverbs 18:10.]: we may defy the whole universe to “separate us from his love [Note: Romans 8:39.].”]
Let me then especially urge upon you this important duty. Live not at a distance from God: rest not in a formal acknowledgment of him: but endeavour to “walk worthy of him unto all pleasing:” get back, as far as possible, to the state of man in Paradise; and labour to walk as on the very borders of the eternal world. My beloved brethren, “let your conversation be thus in heaven [Note: Philippians 3:20.]:” and let all the faith which you exercise, and every prayer that you utter, be, as it were, a breeze to fill your sails, and bear you forward to your desired haven; that “so you may never fall, but have an abundant entrance ministered unto you into the kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ [Note: 2 Peter 1:10-11.].”]
“Look also for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life”—
[However close your walk with God may be, you must not on that account lean in the least degree to your own righteousness, but must rely entirely on the mercy of God in Christ Jesus, and expect “eternal life solely as the gift of God for Christ’s sake [Note: Romans 6:23.].” And for this you must be waiting, looking, longing, in a state of constant preparation, and of eager expectation. The very perfection of the Christian state on earth is this, to be “looking for and hasting unto the coming of the day of God [Note: 2 Peter 3:12.].” Of many in the Corinthian Church the Apostle says, “they came behind in no gift, waiting for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ [Note: 1 Corinthians 1:8.].” Do ye then aspire after the same blessed attainment. “Let your loins be girt, and your lamps trimmed, and yourselves as those who wait for the coming of the heavenly Bridegroom;” that, when he shall come, you may “enter in with him to the marriage feast.” Whilst you are in such a frame as this, all earthly things will lose their influence; and all attempts, whether of men or devils, to retard your progress be in vain. From my inmost soul therefore I would offer in behalf of you the prayer which St. Paul offered for the Thessalonian Church, the prayer which so remarkably coincides with that of St. Jude in my text, “The Lord direct your hearts into the love of God, and a patient waiting for Christ [Note: 2 Thessalonians 3:5.].”]
[Settle it in your minds that this is true religion — — — This is the state in which it is both your duty and your privilege to live — — — and so living you are sure of mercy, and cannot fail of attaining that eternal life which the Lord Jesus Christ has purchased for you — — —]
AN ASCRIPTION OF PRAISE TO JEHOVAH
Judges 1:24-25. Now unto him that is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy, to the only wise God our Saviour, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and ever. Amen.
BY many this Doxology is considered as addressed to the Lord Jesus Christ: but though it is certain that by all the heavenly choir our most adorable Saviour is worshipped as one with the Father, without any distinction whatsoever, and that he is to be honoured in all respects by us precisely as the Father, yet we must be cautious never to strain any portion of Scripture for the purpose of honouring him; for, if we do, we give advantage to those who deny his proper Divinity, to represent all our worship of him as unauthorized and erroneous. The more fully we are assured of any doctrine, the more careful we should be not to establish it on a weak foundation; lest, when the foundation on which we have indiscreetly built is shaken, we be led to doubt the truth of the doctrine itself. Of the Divinity of our blessed Lord we have no more doubt than of any other truth of our holy religion: but in the passage before us we apprehend, that it is not to Him in particular that this Doxology is addressed, but to the Father. For, in several other passages, the Father beyond all doubt is addressed, and under the same character as is here described. St. Paul concludes his Epistle to the Romans thus: “Now to him that is of power to stablish you, ….. to God only wise, be glory through Jesus Christ for ever [Note: Romans 16:25; Romans 16:27.].” In the Epistle to the Ephesians he again speaks in similar terms: “Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, unto him be glory in the Church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end [Note: Ephesians 3:20-21.].” So again, in his First Epistle to Timothy he says, “Now unto the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only wise God, be honour and glory for ever and ever. Amen [Note: 1 Timothy 1:17.].” Those who would apply our text to Christ, think that it must refer to him, because he alone (as they imagine) presents his Church before the presence of his Father’s glory: as it is said, “He loved the Church and gave himself for it, ….. that he might present it to himself a glorious Church, &c. [Note: Ephesians 5:25; Ephesians 5:27.]” But the very same thing is spoken of the Father also, of whom it is said, that, “by Christ, the Father reconciled all things to himself, ….. even in the body of his flesh through death, to present us holy and unblameable and unreprovable in his sight [Note: Colossians 1:19-22.].” I consider the text therefore as addressed to the Father: and, in order to a suitable improvement of it, will set before you,
The character of Jehovah as here described—
His wisdom and his power are altogether infinite: and we might, not improperly, speak of those two perfections as they are delineated in the Holy Scriptures. But I conceive, that, though mentioned generally in the text, we should notice them not as existing in himself, but as exercised towards his Church.
Wonderful is the wisdom which he has displayed in his dealings with his people—
[Contemplate the plan of salvation through the incarnation and death of his only-begotten Son — — — What unfathomable depths of wisdom are here? — — — Well is it called, “The wisdom of God in a mystery!” To contemplate that, will be the employment of eternity.
Nor, if we entered into his particular dispensations towards his people, would this perfection appear in less bright colours; so “unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out.” The experience of every saint will furnish abundant matter for adoration through all eternity; for “he has abounded towards every one of them in all wisdom and prudence” — — —]
Nor is the power which he exercises towards them less stupendous—
[View the temptations with which every saint is beset — — — the enemies, even all the hosts of hell, with whom he has to contend — — — his utter incapacity to do any thing of himself — — — and yet his conflicts, his victories, and his triumphs — — — Must not that power be wonderful that is able to keep him, and effectual for his preservation even to the end? Yes verily, it is no less a power than that which was put forth to raise the Lord Jesus Christ himself from the dead, and to exalt him above all the principalities and powers both of heaven and hell [Note: Ephesians 1:19-21.].]
It is by the united and continued exercise of these two perfections, that he becomes “our Saviour”—
[In the name of “Saviour” he glories; and under that character he loves to be viewed by us. His perfections would indeed be the same, though never put forth for us, any more than for the fallen angels: but, as they are so exercised for our welfare, it becomes us to contemplate them in that particular view, and to render to him the praise which such manifestations of them demand. Reflect a moment on him as a “Saviour!” not merely as preserving us in our conflicts here, but as “presenting us faultless before the presence of his glory” in the world above — — — One moment’s reflection upon his character in that view, will abundantly suffice to shew you,]
The dispositions with which it should be contemplated—
Beyond all doubt our hearts should be lifted up with devoutest affection towards him, as the Apostle’s was; and should be filled,
[Review the character before described, and say, whether, though you yourselves were not the objects of his care, the very existence of those perfections ought not to endear him to your souls? How much more then, when from all eternity they have been consecrated to your service, and destined to be exercised for your good! — — — I call you then to love him, with all your heart, and all your mind, and all your soul, and all your strength — — —]
[Go to the world above, and see and hear how all the glorified saints are occupied around the throne: what songs of praise are they singing night and day to God, and to the Lamb! How do they all labour for utterance; and, by the very accumulation of the terms by which they strive to evince their gratitude, shew how inadequate even the language of heaven itself is to express the feelings of their hearts [Note: Revelation 5:9-13.] — — — Thus then should it be with us: our whole life should be, as theirs is, one continued song of praise and thanksgiving [Note: Psalms 145:1-7.] — — — Only consider what would have been your state at this hour, and to all eternity, if less wisdom or power had been put forth for you, and you will need no inducement to ascribe to him the glory due unto his name.]
[Where will you look for help, if not to him? Of whom besides can it be said that he has either wisdom or power to do such great things for you? With him alone is either wisdom or might sufficient for you. Go then to him: spread before him your every want: expect from him a supply in every hour of need, a supply suited to your wants and sufficient for your necessities. Never for a moment entertain a doubt of his kindness, his care, his all-sufficiency: for he is God, and not man; and therefore ye have not been consumed hitherto, nor shall any enemy prevail against you. Only bear in mind that “He is for you;” and you may defy all the assaults both of earth and hell.]
[At the close of his Doxology, the Apostle adds, Amen. Do ye also add, Amen, in the very same spirit as he did, and in the same spirit that the angelic hosts are doing it above. And seek to live in this spirit every day, and all the day long. Then, when death shall call you hence, you shall change your place, but not your employment; your sorrows, but not your songs.]
END OF VOL. XX.
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Simeon, Charles. "Commentary on Judges 1". Simeon's Horae Homileticae. https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week after Epiphany