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that are we must a
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and spiritual claims. We are, indeed, to render unto Cæsar the things that are Cæsar's ; but we must also render unto God the things that are God's. If any being requires us to do what is opposed to the revealed will of God, we are prevented by an authority from which there can lie no appeal ; and we ought to obey God rather than man. Thus the midwives did not as the king of Egypt commanded them, but saved the men-children alive: “And it came to pass, because the midwives feared God, that he made them houses."
This conscientiousness, however, has often given the conduct of God's servants an appearance of insubordination and revolt; and their enemies have not failed to seize it, and turn it to their discredit. Jesus was not Cæsar's friend ; and stirred up the people. The Apostles turned the world upside down. And, doubtless, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, were censured and vilified for their disloyalty.
They could plead obligation. Nebuchadnezzar was not only their sovereign, but their friend and benefactor. He had educated them in a princely manner, and advanced them to the most honourable charges. And nothing tries like tenderness. Benefits attract and attach the heart; and good men are the most susceptible of grateful impressions. One of the most painful things in the world, to an ingenuous mind, is to refuse the wishes of one who has done much for him ; for there is nothing in which he would more delight, were he not restrained by principle. Suppose à dutiful child. He loves and honours his parents; and he ought to honour them. These parents, in other respects, are kind and good—but they are worldly, and require him to go into the dissipations of life; they are irreligious, and forbid him to attend, what, according to his conviction, is the truth of God-and, instead of threatening, they weep over him, and beseech him, by every tender motive, not to break their hearts, nor bring down their grey hairs with sorrow to the grave. Now to loosen from such embraces and entreaties; and act a part that looks like disrespectat the hearing of a voice that cries, “He that loveth father or mother more than me, is not worthy of me;" here is a trial hardly supportable. And much of this, these young men would feel, at the thought of the favours which had been heaped upon them.
They could plead universality of compliance. All besides obey; and why should they stand alone, and affect to be better than any one else? How often is this objection thrown out! Singularity, for its own sake, argues a little and a vain mind : vain, because it seeks notice; and little, because it can attain it in no better way. In things harmless and indifferent, we may lawfully conform to the usages of the day and place wherein we live; but where truth, and duty, and conscience are concerned, we must be stedfast and immovable; though deserted, opposed, ridiculed by all : and by unsought, but indispensable singularity, evince the purity of our motives, and the dignity of our principles. So did Abdiel.
“........ Faithful found
“ Though single.” So did Joshua, and Caleb, and Lot, and Noah. And all Christians are required not to be conformed to the world. And Jesus died to redeem and purify unto himself a peculiar people—and peculiar they must be while the multitude do evil. Well, said these sufferers, if all yield, we must not—will not whatever be the consequence.
And they could plead the dreadfulness of the penalty. We are often ready to justify or excuse
our conduct by the pressure of circumstances; and to allege, that the trial is too great for our virtue. And what is the trial ? What are our difficulties and perils in the path of duty? If we follow such a course—Well, shall we be bound to the stake? or thrown into a lion's den? or a fiery furnace? No. Shall we then be deprived of our liberty and confined in a prison ? or be stripped of our property, and reduced to beggary? No such thing-Blessed be the laws of this happy land. Behold our jeopardies and sacrifices! We may lose a trifle of our profit by not selling or working on the Sabbath. We may have less to hoard by giving alms to the needy. If we follow our convictions, we may lose the smile of a friend; or incur the sneer of a fool. By the redeeming our time, we may even be constrained to leave the bed of sloth a little earlier in the morning.
These are our tribulations because of the Word! These are the martyrs of our day! Ye professors of religion, who can exercise no self-denial, who can take up no cross ; “If thou hast run with the footmen, and they have wearied thee, then how canst thou contend with horses? And if in the land of peace, wherein thou trustedst, they wearied thee, then how wilt thou do in the swellings of Jordan ?” Look at these youths! What had they to lose ! What to suffer! . A fiery furnace-before their eyesinto which they were to be instantly thrown!
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Feb. 17.-“Rejoice the soul of thy servant."
Ps. lxxxvi. 6.
The Queen of Sheba not only admired Solomon, but hailed his attendants. “Happy are thy men, and happy are these thy servants that stand continually before thee.” What then is it to be a servant of the King of kings and Lord of lords !
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A servant of God, however, is not one that only subserves his designs. This, by an overruling Providence, all do, even the wicked themselves. But one, who, from conviction and disposition, resigns himself to his will, and holds himself at his disposal, always asking, “Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?" always praying, “Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O Lord, my strength, and my redeemer.”
And can such a man as this want spiritual joy? Yes. Even David himself, that eminent servant of God, does; and therefore prays, “Rejoice the soul of thy servant.” We ask, if I am his, why am I thus? We think our course of experience singular; but while we complain, we are passing by the very landmarks which those who have gone before us have set up to tell us that we are right. Our state is one thing, our joy is another: the former remains always the same, the latter often varies. Our safety does not depend upon our knowledge; but our comfort is much affected by it; and sometimes a servant of God has but very imperfect views of those glorious truths which make us “free indeed.” Sometimes he may be depressed by his bodily frame and infirmities. Sometimes, too, he is under Divine rebuke for sin- for this it is that separates between God and the soul. We should therefore search and try our ways. Is there not a cause? If the consolations of God are small with us, is there no secret thing with us? Is there no worm at the root of our withering gourd ? No Achan in the camp, the troubler of Israel ? Joab besieges Abel, and threatens to destroy it. A woman cries out to him to know the cause. He answers, there is one Sheba, the son of Bichri, a traitor to the king. Cast him over the wall, and I will withdraw. And so it was. And thus, if we would have peace with God, we must sacrifice every usurper, saying,
« The dearest idol I have known,
“ Whate'er that idol be;
“And worship only Thee.” - But a servant of God will value what he may want. He prizes it, not only because God has commanded and promised it; but because he knows, from experience, that the joy of the Lord is his strength. He has seen how it emboldened his profession, and enlivened his zeal, and weaned his heart from the world, and revived him in the midst of trouble. He has tasted its sweetness—this he can never lose the relish of; and this excites him to pray, “ Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation.”
For he is sure that God is alone the source and giver of it, and therefore to Him he goes—“Rejoice the soul of thy servant.” It is very desirable to see the morning after a dark night; and the spring, after a cold barren winter. But what makes the morning, and the spring ? Not all the lamps or fires in the world; but the sun. And the Lord God is the sun, as well as the shield of his people. All our light, and heat, and bloom, are from Him : and in him is our fruit found. He is the God, not only of all grace, but of all comfort.
It is He that comforts us in any of our common mercies; otherwise our sleep would not refresh us, nor our food nourish us, nor our friends cheer us. And what would the means of grace be, if he was not in them? God, says the Apostle, comforted us by the coming of Titus-not Titus, but God by Titus. Who then is Paul, and who is Apollos, but ministers by whom ye believed, even as God gave to every man? Luther says, it is as easy to make a world, as to ease a troubled conscience. But
“ The troubled conscience knows Thy voice;