תמונות בעמוד
PDF

sligntest circumstances. This is the description of the church, as given to us in this Song of Solomon's. I shall therefore show in explanation of our subject, I. What has been the general character of the church in the wilderness; II. Her character when out of the wilderness; and, then, III. Make an application of our subject, by showing in what state the church may be considered at the present time. I. The church in the wilderness. It appears by the word of God, that for some wise purpose, God has called his people into the wilderness state, time and again. 1st. Abraham was called to go out from the land of his fathers “into a strange land, not knowing whither he went ; and he obeyed God, sojourning in the land of promise as in a strange country, dwelling in tabernacles with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise; for he looked for a city which hath foundations, whose Builder and Maker is God.” By this means, Abraham obtained the name of the Father of all them that believe. We learn by the history of Abraham, that the first seed of the church was called into the wilderness as a place of promise; where God took spe cial care of them, saying to the kings and princes of this world, “Touch not mine anointed, and do my prophets no harm.” We see them supported and kept through all the trials of life; and, in the midst of 1dolatrous nations, among whom they sojourned, not one of them lost their faith, or became impure in their worship; but God was with them, preserving them in war, famine, and the heavy judgments of God upon the nations with whom they soourned. The next account we have of the church being called into the wilderness was in the days of Moses, when the children of Israel were delivered from Egyptian slavery, and brought out by the mighty and powerful hand of God into the wilderness, where she was fed, clothed, and shod by miracle, and preserved by manna from heaven, and flesh from the desert; where the cloud of his presence overshadowed them by day, and the pillar of fire by night. The angel of the covenant accompanied them through all the wilderness, “gave them drink as out of the great depths. He brought streams also out of the rock, and caused waters to run down like rivers.” “He made his own people to go forth like sheep, and guided them in the wilderness like a flock. He led them on safely, so they feared not; but the sea overwhelmed their enemies. He brought them to the border of his sanctuary, even to the mountain his right hand had purchased. He cast out the heathen also before them, divided them an inheritance by line, and made the children of Israel to dwell in tents.” Thus sang the sweet psalmist of Israel. And what could God have done more than he did for his people in the wilderness P The next and last proof we have that God calls his people into the wilderness, you will find in Rev. xii. 6,14, “And the woman fled into the wilderness, where she hath a place prepared of God, that they should feed her there a thousand two hundred and threescore days.” “And to the woman were given two wings of an eagle, that she might fly into the wilderness into her place, (take notice, the wilderness is here called “her place.”) where she is nourished for a time, and times, and half a time, from the face of the serpent;” that is, away from the power of the Roman beast, or power which is here called the serpent. The prophet Hosea, in his vision of the wilderness state of the church under the gospel dispensation, says, “Therefore, behold, I will allure her and bring her into the wilderness, and speak comfortably unto her; and I will give her her vineyards from thence, and the valley of Achor for a door of hope, and she shall sing there as in the days of her youth, as in the day when she came up out of the land of Egypt,” Hosea ii. 14, &c. We might quote you more of this prophecy, and show you how exactly every word has been literally fulfilled in time and manner, as John has told us in Revelation; but I have sufficiently proved that God has called his church into the wilderness, for purposes of good to the churches. I will now, 2dly, show what object God had in view, so far as he has revealed his object in his word, in calling his church into the wilderness. Moses says, Deut. viii. 16, 17, “Who fed thee in the wilderness with manna, which thy fathers knew not, that he might humble thee, and that he might prove thee, to do thee good at thy latter end, lest you should say in your hearts, My power, and the might of mine hand, hath gotten me this wealth.” . Surely, my brethren, if we would read this passage and apply it home, we must see, unless we are wilfully blind, that if we are in the wilderness at this time, the object of God is lost upon us. We are not humble enough to believe that God is the Author and Finisher of our faith, or that salvation is of God. Are we not saying, not only in our hearts, but also in doctrine, words, and action, that we can do great things; our might, our wisdom, our hands, have gotten us this great wealth 2 Do we not see our benevolence trumpeted forth in every publication of the present day, and our contributions spread far and wide P For what? To feed the hungry and clothe the naked 2 No, not literally, but mentally. Yes, and do we not see that instead of feeding the public mind with wholesome food, with the sincere milk of the word, we have almost surfeited them with our tarts and spices, until the public mind has become so heated, nothing satisfies unless it has been highly spiced with some agitated question to more inflame the public pulse. More than three quarters of all our contributions are used to bloat each other up in self-righteousnes and pride; or to pull each other down, with our excited questions of right and wrong. The moral code which God gave to man for his happiness here and hereafter is demolished; and Judge Lynch is the order of the day, as well in morals as in our civil affairs. Where in the word of God are we commanded to have our gifts for charitable purposes published, either before or behind us, by a public gazette or a brazen-mouthed trumpet? Yet at the present day, we glory in our pride, and excuse ourselves in the manner of doing it; for the end, say we, justifies the means. Why, then, did not our Savior justify the Pharisees in the same means for the very same object—to make proselytes ? The wilderness then, under existing circumstances, is calculated as the best place to keep the church humble, teach her her dependence on God, and to give her a grateful heart. For there she mixes not with the world, there she is not wholly engaged after the riches, honors, wisdom, and fashions of this world. In the wilderness she depends more on the manna of God's word for her daily food; but in the great city, she seeks for the popular learning of the world, the vain philosophy of the ancients, or the wisdom of men. There God feeds her with spiritual bread, living water, and sincere milk of the word; but here she feeds on the old corn of the land; she mixes her wine with strong drink, until it sparkles in the cup; she pours out her milk as a drinkoffering to her idols, and mingles the doctrine of God's word with the doctrines of devils. There she learns, by a rich experience, her dependence on her divine Master; here she forgets all his mercies, and ascribes all ner blessings to her idol gods, or worship of her own hands. There the daily presence of God prevents her worshipping the idols of the world, or following after the gods which are no gods; but here the presence of worldly objects draws her attention from the one living and true God; and she has lords many and gods many. In the wilderness, the teachers in the church are more pure; there is nothing to tempt their cupidity, or foster their pride; they feed the flock of God instead of themselves; the church is not rich in worldly things to tempt the wolf or the fox to enter her folds. But among the citizens, she must expect, while man is wicked, that the false and designing teachers will rush into her ministry, to subserve their own interest, and draw off followers after them. In the wilderness, the church has but few temptations for the honors and emoluments of the political world, for she is nourished away from the face of this wily serpent, which has coiled his folds around the heart of many a professor of Jesus Christ, and destroyed all that piety of heart and life, which, separate from political strife, they once enjoyed. Moses, speaking of the church in the wilderness, says, Deut. xxxii. 9–12, “For the Lord's portion is his people; Jacob is the lot of his inheritance. He found him in a desert land, and in the waste, howling wilderness he led him about, he instructed him, he kept him as the apple of his eye. As an eagle stirreth up her nest, fluttereth over her young, spreadeth abroad her wings, taketh them, beareth them on her wings, so the Lord alone did lead him, and there was no strange god with him.” If the above is a true description of God's care and protection of his people in the wilderness, surely this must be a desirable state for the church. Isaiah, in his vision of the church in the wilderness, says, (xxxv. 1, 2,) “The wilderness and the solitary place shall be glad for them, and the desert shall rejoice and blossom as the rose. It shall blossom abundantly, and rejoice even with joy and singing ; the glory of Lebanon shall be given unto it, the excellency of Carmel and Sharon; they shall see the glory of the Lord, and the excellency of our God.” If the church had been in the city, instead of beholding the glory of God, her eyes might have been dazzled with the glory of the world, and excellency of her great men, or with the gods of the men of the world; so that, while in this state of trial and temptation, while imperfection is found in the church, the wilderness is a place of greater security from inbred lust and outward foes. Perhaps we have been in the habit of fixing in our minds quite a different idea of the wilderness state of the church, from what ideas I have given, or from what might be proved by the writings of the prophets and apostles. Examine for yourselves, and see. II. We are to learn the character of the church when it may be said she is out of the wilderness. 1st. What does the church enjoy when she is out of the wilderness? I answer, She enjoys possessions, privileges, and laws among the kingdoms and political nations of the earth; kings are her nursing fathers, and queens her nursing mothers. “They shall bow downto thee, with their face to the earth, and lick up the dust of . feet,” says Isaiah, xlix. 23. That is, the church, when in this situation, receives the courtly smiles of the great, and the sycophantic cringing of the political demagogue. But let the church remember, although

« הקודםהמשך »