« 이전계속 »
swer. Every one will say, that however important, or difficult an enterprise may be, we have no right to expect help from God, unless we enter heartily into the work ourselves; and how much less in the common affairs of life. God will never plough and sow the field of the sluggard, while he stands looking on with his arms folded, nor work a miracle to feed and clothe his family. He must shake off his sloth, and put his hand to the plough, or rags and famine will teach him a lesson not soon to be forgotten. So in aiding men to clear up the wilderness, to construct roads and bridges, to build up cities, and to found colleges, God adapts bis assistance to the capacities of intelligent, moral, and active beings.
True though it be, that they can do nothing without him, it is equally true, that he will not move a stone, nor furnish a plank, nor fell a tree for them. In like manner, if our mortal life is to be prolonged, or our souls are to be saved, or the church is to live, or the heathen nations are to be christianized, the means which infinite wisdom has appointed for these ends must be used ; and it is only when they are faithfully employed, that divine co-operation can be expected. God treats us, not as machines without power, without will, and without responsibility ; but as rational and accountable agents. As such, we have important parts to act, and upon this condition, we are encouraged to look to him for help in every emergency
This leads me to observe, that God exercises his indisputable prerogative in regard to the time ,as well as to the way of granting his assistance. Sometimes he appears in the first moment of danger, or perplexity. He dissipates the storm while it is yet gathering. He anticipates the fierce onset of the tempest, by plucking off its
wings. He points out the way of deliverance, ere the peril is seen in its full magnitude. He raises up friends, before we perceive how much we need them. But this does not accord with the general experience of those, who in the end feel themselves n.ost deeply indebted to God for help. He more commonly defers till danger presses hard-till their way is hedged up-till they know not what to do. And thus does he prepare them for the succor, which lingers only, that they may realize how much they need it. Thus was it with the Hebrews when the wilderness had shut them in. The Red Sea was before them, impassable mountains stood up on either hand, and the Egyptian host pressed hard upon their rear. Thus it was with the same people, when the great victory, which our text so concisely but emphatically records, came to their rescue. Thus it was with David when he was hunted like a partridge upon the mountains, and exclaimed in his extremity, I shall one day perish by the hand of Saul.' Thus with Asa, and thus with Hezekiah : and thus has it been with the church and individual christians in all ages.
When troubles have compassed them about as waters, and they have sent up their cries to heaven, God has often delayed coming out of his place for their help, till they have been ready to fear that - his mercies were clean gone forever,' and then he has stretched out his arm, at the very moment which was best suited to humble them and glorify himself. So when he is coming in the greatness of his strength' for their help, how often does he bide bis mercies amid the clouds and darkness that surround him.' Every event seems to be adverse, and every movement of providence retrograde. • All these things are against me,' said the aged and
afflicted Patriarch, when his sons came back from Egypt, having left Simeon bound as a prisoner of state, and communicated to bjin the demand of the prime minister for his beloved Benjamin : but how surprisingly must bis views have been changed, when at their next return, he saw the wagons ! All these things are against us,' thought Martha and Mary, when, in the extremity of their brother's sickness, the messengers returned without Jesus, and they followed Lazarus to the tomb four days before his arrival. But how must they have felt their unbelief rebuked, when in obedience to the call of Christ, Lazarus came up out of his grave. • All these things are against me,' hath the church often been ready to exclaim, when the fire was taking away her dross, and all things were actually working together for her good.'
So short-sighted are we, and such are the sinful infirmities of our nature, that but for the hand which keeps us back, and withholds from us the objects of our fond pursuit till we are better prepared to receive them, we should often defeat our own plans, and plunge ourselves into inextricable difficulties. Thus we repine under the most needful chastisements. We cannot brook opposition. When we set our hearts upon a favorite object, we must not only have it, but must have it in our own time, or we despond, perhaps murmur at the disappointment. Thus we betray at once our short-sightedness, our want of proper resignation, and of confidence in the wisdom and goodness of God; and all this too, in the face of bis recorded promises, of the whole history of the church, and of our own personal experience.
In regard to this point, I have no hesitation in making a direct appeal to my audience. Is there an adult now present, who cannot call to mind more than one incident in
the short history of his own life, to corroborate the preceding statements ? And is it not in the power of many, by extending the retrospect to the conduct and experience of others around them, to recall scores of similar incidents? You and your friends laid your plans, marked out your course, and chose your own time. But God, though he may have approved both of the object and the motive, was in no haste to gratify your wishes : and you were greatly perplexed and discouraged by this seeming delay. In the end, however, you saw how widely you had miscalculated, and that your safety and success depended upon the very disappointment which caused you so much disquietude. Thus it is, that in numberless instances, the help, which according to man's contracted and erring judgment comes lingering on long after it is wanted, is in his account who seeth the end from the beginning,' afforded right early.'
You will perceive, my hearers, from the bearings and relations of the subject before us, that it furnishes interresting matter for a great number of inferences and remarks; but I shall select those only, which strike me most appropriate to the present occasion. And,
1. If we can do nothing without God's help, then we are bound to acknowledge him in all our ways, and thankfully to recognize his efficient aid in the accomplishment of every good enterprise. I am aware, that we are liable to think more highly than we ought to think, not only of ourselves, but of all our favorite plans and institutions. These commonly have fewer claims to wisdom and originality, and are less important, compared with others, than we are willing to believe. Our motives too may be wholly or partially wrong, where we little suspect it. Our measures may be ill chosen and unskil
fully directed, when we are most confident that all is right; and the strong excitement of the moment, may present common events to our minds, as remarkable interpositions of Providence. On these and many other accounts, we have the most abundant cause for self-distrust and humility.
But after all, if God does approve of any thing we undertake ; if he ever does give us wisdom to plan, and power to execute; if he ever does by a secret influence encourage us to proceed, when we are ready to despond; if he crowns our labors with unlooked for success, and raises up friends and benefactors, when we stand in the greatest need of their prayers and their aid ;-we are not to withhold from him the honor which is due, for fear of making too much of our enterprises. And in reviewing the most important changes and events of our lives, in thinking of our humble instrumentality where any good has been done, in calling to mind our perils and our deliverances, what inscription is so fit to be engraved in capitals upon all our Ebenezers, as · Hitherto hath the Lord helped us ? '
2. If we can do nothing without God's help, let us unceasingly pray for it. Will he reward our stupid and criminal forgetfulness of his benefits by multiplying the number? Have we any right to expect he will give us what we never ask for; and if, to glorify himself, and to accomplish his all-wise purposes, he should unasked stretch out his hand a thousand times to help us, how shameful, as well as criminal, must our ingratitude appear? Were we wholly or even partially independent of God, could we devise, or execute any useful scheme without him, could we even lay the simplest plan, or resist a temptation, or take a step, the case would be wide