« 前へ次へ »
invade them, and no tempter to seduce them from their God. It was not for their offences that evil came, nor could their prayers have prevailed against the general degeneracy, to have the judgments of God averted. But though the evil day was irrevocably fixed, they were not to see its tribulation. And what mercy was exercised in their removal ere it came, even had they stood the fiery trial, may be learned from the Lamentations of Jere. miah over the scenes of desolation which he survived to witness. Doubtless, to him it would have seemed mercy to be spared such a sight, and to be taken away from the evil to come. In the case before us, God in kindness to his people shortened their days upon earth, and hid them in safe places from the approaching woes . that darkened Manasseh's disastrous reign; though it is possible that others, or even themselves, may have misinterpreted those Providences; for what Christ said to his disciples respecting a particular action, has a wide application in our present state. “ What I do now, thou knowest not; but thou shalt know hereafter.”
And here we are furnished with a principle of solution that may be applied to
many providences that appear mysterious, and especially to examples of early death among the excellent of the earth. “They are taken away from the evil to come,” as it is expressed in our translation, but in the orginal, it is simply from evil; though, doubtless, it may be understood of both present and future evil.
For need we seek arguments to confirm the statement of Scripture, which terms this present world evil? Gal. i. 4. Are we ignorant of its difficulties, and its disappointments; its diseases, and its deaths ? • Or need we refer to its moral evils, so prevalent and, to the renewed mind, so painful? Is there no evil felt or acknowledged in the remains of unsubdued corruption, the recurrence of sin that wounds the conscience, the inability of the regenerate to do the things which they would, and the spectacle or report of iniquities openly practised by a generation that fear not God, nor believe in his Son, nor love the performance of any thing that is spiritually good, or eternally profitable to men's souls? That this world is a scene of evil, the groans, and complaints, and grievous dissatisfactions of those who cleave to it more than : heaven, emphatically demonstrate. And
to take one of his servants out of it, far from its vanity and snares, far from its temptations and its curse, is on the part of God a providence most merciful.
And besides present evil, the Almighty in his prescience may perceive other and greater evils in preparation and approach, from which the intervention of death can only deliver his saints. Of this, besides what was noticed above, as referred to in the text, we have an example (1 Kings xiv. 13.) in Jeroboam's son, a youth in whom
was found some good thing toward the • Lord God of Israel in his father's house,
and on this account was laid in an early grave as a refuge from the evil to come. He foresees the approach of calamities, in which he would not have his people partakers with the impenitent. Our Lord's prayer to his Father for the disciples was, “not to take them out of the world, but to keep them from the evil of it;" for their continuance in the world, to bear witness of what they had seen and heard while Jesus was with them in the world, was indispensably necessary for setting up the Gospel kingdom among men. On the same ground, there is a grand reason for leaving in the world a longer time such as
have been raised up and eminently qualified for special services in the Church. And accordingly, though others, not more beloved than Isaiah, were soon released from the evils of time, the prophet was spared to continue his testimony for at least four successive reigns. But where no special work is intended, divine mercy does often appoint a different order. The sins of nations, or the sins of families
growing to a height that render longer forbearance not compatible; and with judgment in
purpose, the Lord calls his people home, ere the vials of his indignation are poured out.
Or, may there not be foreseen in the very blessings of life, in the affluence of riches, the caresses of friends, and the flowing tide of prosperous and untroubled days, a gathering snare, by means of which, the soul would be hurt in its spirituality, and impeded in its progress toward heaven; and would suffer loss in point of poverty of spirit, and simplicity of faith, although not lured to love and be pleased with the world as all its portion ? O how exceeding evil must needs be this present world, when even what we call its good things are apt to beguile men into danger and depra
vation! The Lord, however, who knows our vulnerable frame, will not give up the righteous to the world; and, out of love to their immortal souls, he sends, and, by a gracious death, delivers them. But what befals them after death? Is all their future condition hid in darkness, and left in unrevealed obscurity ? No! vain speculation, indeed, will find little to gratify its idle curiosity, as to the modes of future existence, and the circumstances of disembodied spirits; but for reverential piety, enough is disclosed to answer rational inquiry, and to animate the believer's hope. And we notice,
2. That the righteous are not only taken away from evil, but to good; the consideration of which furnishes an additional vindication of their early removal, for “they enter into peace, and rest in their beds,” which is said with respect to the body; and
every one walketh in his uprightness,” in the full activity of conscious blessedness. To the saints, the grave is a bed of repose, in which their bodies, being still united unto Christ, shall rest till the resurrection. There the body has rest from its craving appetites and evil lusts, from the pains of sickness, and from the fears and forebodings of dissolution, which often inflicted a pang