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in grace, nor in knowledge, without crosses and trials; for, as Hezekiah saith, “ By these things men live, and in all these is the life of my spirit,” Isa. xxxviii. 16. A child of God often gains ground by such stumblings, and gets fresh discoveries out of confusion; for God “discovereth deep things out of darkness, and bringeth out to light the shadow of death,” Job xii. 22.
Cushi. Very true; and this was the case with Prodigalis; he had been for some time in the business of an attorney, had learnt many curious quibbles of law, and had formerly entertained no mean opinion of his nervous logic. Satan knew this, and therefore, swelled his pride of that talent, exalted his former applauded reason to the decisive chair, and then shewed the inconsistency of his new religion with his former rules of logic. Prodigalis, having lost a sense of his comfort, and the sight of his Advocate, displayed his former talent: but, as reason was too stiff to submit to a superior power, pride called in rebellion; flesh and blood were conferred with concerning the mysteries of heaven; and the more reason laboured, the more she was confounded; unbelief, getting the upper hand, gave the lie to all that was divine: and thus, between a confounding devil and confounded reason, the trial ended in wind and confusion; and Prodigalis, with all his natural abilities, was found in the balance of the sanctuary to be lighter than vanity.
Ahimaaz. Nevertheless I dare say this trial turned to a good account to poor Prodigalis, as it must have taught him the insufficiency of natural reason to determine divine matters, and must undoubtedly convince him of the need of God's promised Spirit to guide him into all truth.
Cushi. Yes, my brother, Prodigalis lost nothing but dross in this fiery trial; he was effectually convinced that the Spirit of God was the only all-sufficient arbitrator in divine causes, and that reason must submit even to faith, instead of dictating to God. This was displayed to him in his after contemplations on the faith of Abraham, whose obedience is set forth as our example, after whose footsteps we are to copy and who is called the father of us all. Hence we are commanded to “ Look unto Abraham your father, and unto Sarah that bare you,” Isa. li. 2; and to tread
in the steps of our father Abraham, who is the father of us all,” Rom. iv. 12, 16. Prodigalis considered first the call of Abraham, and the obedience of his faith; in which act he found that carnal reason was wholly excluded: “
By faith Abraham, when he was called to go out into a place which he should after receive for an inheritance, obeyed, and went out, not knowing whither he went,” Heb. xi. 8. By faith he obeyed, and went; while Abraham's reason was kept entirely out of the secret; for he obeyed, and went out; not knowing whither he went, which reason would call a wild-goose chace. Abraham received a promise of the land of Canaan, and “ that he should be heir of the world,” Rom. iv. 13; yet God “ gave him none inheritance in it, no not so much as to set a foot on,” Acts vii. 5. Abraham had a good estate behind him in Ur, which he left to wander in a strange land, where he had all in hope, but nothing in hand. If reason had been consulted in this matter, her determination would have been that · A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush;' and, like Balaam, she would have been for getting herself “ back again,” Numbers xxii. 34.
When God made Abraham a great prince, and his lady a princess, reason would have expected the palace of Salem; but, instead of that, the king of that city blesses him as the less; for “ without all contradiction the less is blessed of the better,” Heb. vii. 7; gives him refreshment; and takes tithes of him as his sovereign and high priest; but gives him no invitation to the city, much less to the palace. All these riddles Abraham's faith had to explain; which would have remained as obscure to human reason as Samson's riddle to the Philistines. If we plow not with Christ's heifer we shall never find out his riddles. Abraham's leaving his own country was to teach him that this world was not his home; and his travelling in pilgrimage was explained by faith, that this was not his rest, because it is polluted, as the land of Canaan was, with filthy inhabitants; whilst his promise of the land of Canaan, and of the world, faith construed to mean an heavenly country, Heb. xi. 16; and a new world to come. By Abraham's not inheriting Salem after he had received the promise of the whole land, and was made a prince in it, faith led him to understand that he must seek Jerusalem that is above, as that
city which hath foundations, whose maker and builder is God," Heb. xi. 10.
These things Abraham had in view, and his faith brought them to live in his soul. An earnest and a foretaste existed in Abraham's heart by faith, and thus his “faith was the substance of things hoped for, and the evidence of things not seen,” Heb. xi. 1. The way by which these things were to be obtained was shewn to Abraham in the offering up of his son, as typical of Christ; which reason would have called murder instead of obedience. Abraham communed with his God in the promises that he had revealed to him, and enjoyed much sweetness in the blessings contained in them; and by his faith he lived in a state of perfect reconciliation and friendship with his God, enduring his pilgrimage like Moses, as seeing him who is invisible;" which to reason is no better than a plain contradiction, and is called enthusiasm to
As Abraham lived, so he died; faith attended his last moments, and, like a divine and constant friend, lent her supporting aid in the moment of dissolution, handing the redeemed soul to the centre of all happi
He “died in faith,” and “received the end of his faith, the salvation of his soul," 1 Pet. i: 9. His shield is now his everlasting portion; he enjoys Canaan in the best sense, and Salem is his royal city in every sense; and, like Melchizedek of old, he is no less than a king and a priest in it.
Ahimaaz. These contemplations must be very sweet to Prodigalis, as they teach him to keep reason in her proper place; and that, in matters of divinity, wisdom may be asked of him “that giveth liberally and upbraideth not,” James i. 5. Besides, he must see the necessity of being kept by the mighty power of God, when he perceived the various stratagems of Satan, and the advantages he had hitherto gained over him.
Cushi. It is a wretched fault in Christians to neglect prayer in these times of trouble; they often fall to reasoning, disputing, and contriving, instead of supplicating; this is their loss, and the devil's gain, as was evident in Jonah when God commanded him to denounce his judgments on Nineveh.—He begins to reason on the goodness of God, and of his slowness to anger; and thence concludes that, if God repented of the evil, his reputation would fall to the ground. He then began to contrive which way to save his reputation, and Satan told him by a flight to Joppa. Jonah tells you that they that observe lying vanities forsake their own mercy,” Jonah ii. 8. You hear nothing of Jonah's prayer til he got into the fish's belly; so far from it, that neither the importunity nor the example of the heathen mariners could draw one petition from him. The sailors called every man upon his god, and desired Jonah to try his interest with his God; but he would rather sink than supplicate-so stubborn is the sinner, when carried away with a lying vanity, in defence of his own supposed merit, worth, or reputation. However, Prodigalis found Satan too subtle an attorney for him, and therefore was glad to become a pauper upon the crown of heaven, where his inheritance lay, and where it was well secured by his Saviour (under whose direction only he could gain the suit), who is by profession an Advocate, and by nature and repute “wonderful in counsel and excellent in working,” Isa. xxviii. 29.
Ahimaaz. I greatly admire the instructions that Prodigalis got by his last trial; for I am fully persuaded that he who denies the sufficiency of his own reason in divine matters shall ever appear the most reasonable man; while, on the other hand, those that exalt it against divine revelation appear of all flesh the most unreasonable. Divinity is the great beautifier and ornamentor of nature; and to deify human nature in contempt of divinity, is to leave her exposed to in