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acted wisely in his endeavours to pacify his brother's wrath, sending presents by many successive messengers, and dividing his family, so that, if some were slain by Esau, others might escape. These precautions sprang not from any want of faith in God, but from a determination to leave nothing undone on his part which might contribute to the desired end.
His confidence was not at all in the means he used, but in God, who, he hoped, would accomplish by them the purposes of his grace. But where means are so used as to become a joint ground of confidence to those who use them, there is the evil complained of in the text. Such was the character of the Jews who went down to Egypt for help against their enemies. God had told them, that “in returning and rest they should be saved; that in quietness and confidence should be their strength; and that their strength was to sit still.” But not able to rely on God alone, they went down to Egypt for help, and thereby provoked God to give them up to utter destruction a.
God is a jealous God, and requires that we should trust in him alone, and have no confidence whatever on an arm of flesho.] 2. Whose confidence in God is not entire
[Not only is there to be no reliance on the creature, but there should be no distrust of God. We should rely upon him without any doubt as to the issue of our confidence. We should view every thing, even to the falling of a sparrow, as under his controul. We should feel that there is no power or counsel against him: and that for man to defeat his purposes, is utterly impossible. We should see, that, if we trust in God, he will accomplish for us every thing that is good; and the things which are not, shall as certainly exist, as if they were already in existence?
But this measure of faith is not in the double-minded He cannot so repose his confidence in God. He does not so realize the thought of God's universal agency, as to be able to commit every thing into his hands, and to stand still in an assured expectation of seeing the salvation of God.” On the contrary, he is ever " limiting the Holy One of Israel :" and when successive trials arise, he overlooks his former deliverances, and reiterates his wonted apprehensions; like those who said,
“ He smote the stony rock indeed, that the waters gushed out; but can he give bread also, or provide flesh for his people h?"]
The character of the double-minded man will be more fully seen, whilst we proceed,
c Gen. xxxii. 13—23. and xxxiii. 1-3.
h Ps. lxxviii. 20.
f Rom. iv. 17.
II. To mark his conduct
“ He is unstable in all his ways,” and is ever liable to be turned from the truth, 1. In his principles
[Not having such clear views of the covenant of grace as to be able to lay hold of it, and confidently to expect all the blessings contained in it, he is ever open to the allurements of novelty, and ready, “ like a child, to be tossed to and fro with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and the cunning craftiness with which they lie in wait to deceive i.” Matters which really are of doubtful disputation, possess in his mind an importance which does not belong to them: and he will dwell on them, to the neglect of other things which are essential to his salvation. Hence it is that heretics of every description gain such influence: and hence it is that so many, “ led away by the error of the wicked, fall from their own steadfastnessk.” The versatility both of the one and of the other originates in this, that they have never obtained such a knowledge of God in Christ Jesus as has brought perfect peace into their souls. They know not what God is to his people : they see not to what an extent he has pledged himself to them : they have no conception of the interest which the Lord Jesus Christ takes in them, or how indissolubly connected their happiness is with his honour and glory. Let them be well “ rooted and built up in Christ, and established in the faith, as they have been taught, abounding therein with thanksgiving?;" and they will "stand fast in the faith, and suffer nothing to “move them away from the hope of the Gospel."] 2. In his practice
[The man that cannot fully confide in God will be alarmed, whenever a storm is gathering around him. Were “ his mind fully stayed on God, he would be kept in perfect peace m"; and, when menaced with the most formidable assaults, would reply, “ None of these things move me, neither count I life dear unto me, so that I may but finish my course with joy”.” But the double-minded man is so terrified by his adversaries, that he dares not to proceed in the plain path of duty. Like “ the stony-ground hearers, he is presently offended, and in time of temptation will fall away." How many of this description are there in every place, where the Gospel is preached in sincerity and truth! It convinces many; it calls forth many to make an open profession of their acceptance of it: but in a little
i Eph. iv. 14. m Isai. xxvi. 3.
k 2 Pet. iii. 17.
i Col. ii. 6, 7.
time how many fair blossoms wither! how many are blown off from the tree by storms and tempests! and how many, through their unbelief, are found rotten at the core ! Verily, it is rather the gleanings, than the harvest, that is brought home to reward the toil that has been bestowed upon them ; so many “turn back unto perdition, and so few believe to the saving of the soul."
But it may here be asked, Are we in no case to bend to circumstances ? Did not St. Paul himself diversify his modes of conduct, sometimes complying with Jewish rites, which at other times he declared to have been utterly abolished? Yea, was he not of so accommodating a disposition, that he became all things to all men, and acted as a Jew or as a Gentile, according to the society with which he mixed ? Yes; he did so: but there is this great difference between his conduct and that of a double-minded man: what Paul did, he did for the benefit of others: but the compliances of the double-minded man are only for the purpose of preventing evil to himself. His compliances too were only in things of perfect indifference: he would not have been guilty of denying or dishonouring the Saviour on any account: but the double-minded man cares not what dishonour he brings on the Gospel, provided he may but escape
the evils with which he is menaced for his adherence to it. He is “ like the wave,” now raised, now depressed, and driven hither and thither as the wind impels it; whilst the upright soul is as the rock, which, amidst all the storms and tempests that assail it, is unshaken and unmoved.] Let us LEARN then from hence, 1. The vast importance of self-examination
[Men do not easily see their own duplicity. “The heart is deceitful above all things," and readily persuades us, that our doubtful confidence in God, and our partial obedience to him, are all that is required of us. But God discerns the inmost recesses of the heart, and sees there all the latent workings of worldliness and unbelief: nor will he at the last day approve of any but those whom he can attest to have been “ Israelites indeed, and without guile.” As for “ the fearful and unbelieving,” he will assign to them no other portion than “ the lake that burneth with fire and brimstone." O let us fear, lest, after all our profession, " our religion prove vain," and we be found to have “ deceived our own souls”.”]
2. The indispensable necessity of being “ renewed in the spirit of our minds” [Never, till that takes place, shall we possess
" the single eye?," and walk before God in one undeviating path of holy
o Rev. xxi. 8. P Jam. i. 26. 9 Matt. vi. 23, 24.
obedience. We may take up a profession of religion ; but instability will mark our every step. To rely on God uniformly, and to “ follow him fully," are far too high attainments for the natural man. Let me then entreat you to seek of God a new heart, and to pray that he would “ renew a right spirit
Then may you hope to be “ steadfast, and immoveable, and always abounding in the work of the Lord :" and then shall you be fixed “as pillars in the temple of your God, that shall go no more out for ever."]
r Rev. iii. 12.
THE EFFECTS OF RELIGION ON THE DIFFERENT ORDERS OF
Jam. i. 9, 10. Let the brother of low degree rejoice in that he
is exalted : but the rich, in that he is made low : because as the flower of the grass he shall pass away.
RELIGION certainly appears in some respects adverse to the happiness of men, inasmuch as it inculcates the daily practice of humiliation and contrition, mortification and self-denial. The injunction to cut off a right hand and pluck out a right eye, cannot, it might be thought, conduce to our comfort in this world, whatever it might do with respect to the world to come. But, if Christianity deprive us of some carnal joys (I should rather say, limit and refine them), it affords abundant ground for joy of a more exalted kind. It does not merely concede as a privilege, but prescribes as a duty, that we should “rejoice evermore.” To persons of every description is this direction addressed in the words before us ; and the reasons upon which it is founded are declared. In conformity with the Apostle's views, we shall shew, I. The effects of religion upon the different orders of
societyWe shall notice them, 1. Upon the poor
[These are represented as “ exalted" by Christianity. Not that they are raised out of their proper sphere, or have
any right to assume consequence to themselves on account of their acquaintance with religiona: but they are exalted in their state and condition, their dispositions and habits, their hopes and prospects.
The poor are for the most part regarded in so low and mean a light, that a rich man would be ashamed to acknowledge them as related to him: yea, they themselves feel a very humiliating disparity between themselves and their opulent neighbours. But, when once they embrace the Gospel, and are made “ rich in faith,” “ God himself is not ashamed to be called their God :" he calls them“ his friends," " his sons,” “ his peculiar treasure:” “ he gives them a name better than of sons and of daughters.” They instantly become “ kings and priests unto God;" and the very angels in heaven account it an honour to wait upon them, as their ministering servants. In short, being born from above, they are sons of God, and “if sons, then heirs, heirs of God and joint-heirs with Christ.” What an elevation is this! Surely, in comparison of it, all earthly dignities are no better than the baubles of children, or the conceits of maniacs.
When elevated thus, the poor begin to feel also dispositions suited to their state. While they are destitute of religion, they either riot in a licentious independence, without any regard to character, or, with a servility unrestrained by conscience, yield themselves willing instruments to any one that can reward their services. But when once they are taught of God, they learn primarily and solely to regard his will. We again say, that they will obey all the lawful commands of their superiors"; they will regard their authority as God's, and do whatever is required of them," as unto the Lord :" but their first inquiry will be, "What does my God require ?” and, if urged to violate their duty to him, they will reply as the Apostles did, “Whether it be right to hearken unto you more than unto God, judge ye:" " we ought to obey God rather than meno.". Nor have they a lower standard of action than the most polished Christian upon earth: if they are truly upright before God, the rule by which they walk is that prescribed by the Apostled; and what can the highest refinement suggest more? Here therefore their elevation again appears, inasmuch as their habits are no longer formed by interest or the caprice of men, but founded on, and assimilated to, the mind and will of God.
As to the hopes of the poor, they have little to stimulate
a Ignorant persons are sometimes faulty in this respect ; but St. Paul strongly cautions all, and especially servants, upon this head. 1 Tim. vi. 1, 2. b Rom. xiii. 1, 2, 4.
di Cor. vii. 21-23.
c Acts v.