Page images

to the prayer of thy servants, who desire to fear thy name; and prosper, I pray thee, thy servant this day, and grant him mercy in the sight of this man.

For I was the king's cup-bearer."These words furnish us with the following remarks:

I. God has his servants in all conditions and occupations of life. In his church there is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither rich nor poor. We behold Zenas the lawyer, Erastus the chamberlain, Paul the tent-maker, Luke the physician, Zaccheus the publican, Peter the fisherman, Joseph the carpenter, Amos the herdsman, Daniel the minister of state, Nehemiah the cup-bearer--all, all standing in the same relation, swayed by the same influence, rejoicing in the same hope, and destined to live together in the same everlasting kingdom.

This is by no means a useless remark. Let it teach us two things:

First. Not to condemn bodies and professions of men indiscriminately. All such reflections are not only illiberal, but dangerous, and often produce very mischievous consequences. For too many are governed by opinion rather than principle; and what they know they are commonly supposed to be, they are very likely to become; concluding that since they are doomed to wear the scandal of the character, they may as well have the profit of it. There may be exceptions, but, in general, we shall find, that if we honour those with whom we have to do, with our confidence, they will feel a responsibility, and be concerned to repay us—but when we indulge suspicions, and behave towards our fellow creas

[ocr errors]

tures as spies and enemies—is it likely that they will feel towards us as friends?

Secondly. Let us not make our business an excuse for ungodliness. Some lines of life are, indeed, much less favourable to morality and religion than others: they afford fewer helps, or more hinderances than others and this consi. deration should powerfully influence those who have the disposal of youth. But where the providence of God places us, the grace of God can keep us.

And hereafter you will see many of the glorified taken from the same employments with yourselves. “These," says God, these had the same nature, were partakers of the sanie infirmities, and placed in the same circumstances with yourselves. But they escaped the corruption of the world, through lust. They found time to serve me. They distinguished between the duties and the vices of their calling, and so performed the one as to avoid the other. They followed me in the regeneration, and I appoint unto them a kingdom. Well done, good and faithful servant; thou hast been faithful over a few things; I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy Lord.”

II. If we have access to superiors, we should use it for good. Many of the Jews could not approach Artaxerxes, but the office of Nehemiah gave him an introduction, and he resolves to intercede for his country, and his people. In this way some have opportunities of usefulness which are denied to others--they have the eye, the ear, the favour of the rich and great. And they should lay hold of these opportunities—not to indulge and agyrandize themselves--but to mention truths which persons in elevated circumstancés

[ocr errors]

seldom hear; to recommend religion, of which they generally entertain mistaken notions; to place before them scenes of distress, which are not often noticed in walking along the high places of the earth.

Should it please God to call them by his grace -though their souls are no more valuable than those of the meanest slaves—they can be more extensively exemplary and beneficial than others: or if not-it is well to remove their prejudices, it is well to moralize them, it is well to derive from them external assistance in relieving the poor, and maintaining the cause of God.

Let us remember, that we are answerable for all our talents, and this is one of them—the influence which in various degrees we have over others. How are we using it? Are we followers of Him who went about doing good ? He made this the grand business of life: it was his leading aim in every situation and company: to this he rendered every thing subservient. May the same mind be in us which was also in Christ Jesus!

III. The best way to succeed in any enterprise with men is to commend the matter to God, So did Nehemiah: “ Prosper, I pray thee, thy servant this day, and grant him mercy in the sight of this man.” And the propriety of this action fully appeared in his management of the undertaking, and the success with which it was crowned. Every thing is sanctified by the word of God and prayer. Nothing is too litile to bring to the throne of grace. Our intercourse with God will best prepare us for our dealings with men. It will repress every unhallowed purpose; it will give decision and vigour to good resolutions; it will inspire rectitude and dignity in action; it

will enable us to bear disappointment, or success.

When we have thus commended a concern to God, the mind is set at liberty, and feels satisfaction and composure. Hence, says Solomon, * Commit thy works unto the Lord, and thy thoughts shall be established:” as if he had said, “An enterprise will necessarily give rise to much thought and solicitude, but when we carry it to God, and leave it with him, the mind is fixed, and no longer driven hither and thither, troubled and perplexed." And in unison with this is the admonition of the apostle: "Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known unto God: and the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.”

When we have thus addressed ourselves to God, difficulties vanish. We know that if the affair be injurious, he can easily hinder it; and if it be good for us, he can as easily promote it.His kingdom ruleth over all; every event is under his direction, and every character under his control. When Herod had imprisoned Peter, the church assembled together to obtain his enlargement-but what did they? Did they draw up a petition, and address it to the king, signed with their names? No; they applied at once, not to the servant, but to the master: they applied to one who had Herod completely under his check:“Prayer was made, without ceasing, of the church unto God for him." And what was the consequence? What were bars and fetters to God?' " When Herod would have brought him forth, the same night Peter was sleeping between

[merged small][ocr errors]

two soldiers, bound with two chains; and the keepers before the door kept the prison. And, behold, the angel of the Lord came upon him, and a light shined in the prison: and he smote Peter on the side, and raised him up, saying, Arise up quickly. And his chains fell off from his hands."

Solomon has told us, and not without reason, that “The king's heart is in the hand of the Lord, as the rivers of water; he turneth it whithersoever he will.” Eastern monarchs were absolute; they consulted nothing but their own pleasure: yet God had them more under his command than a husbandman has the direction of the water in a meadow. The husbandman, you know, can easily give it a new current, by digging a new channel-and, in this case, it is worthy of our observation, that the nature of the water remains the same, and no violence is offered to impel it along: it flows as freely as before. Admirable image this, of God's overruling providence in making use of princes, and heroes, and politicians, to accomplish his own designs, while their dispositions are unchanged and unrenewed, and they willingly follow the leadings of their pride, avarice, or revenge.

There is a twofold dominion which God exercises over the mind of man. The one is by the agency of his grace. Thus, he can enlighten the most ignorant understanding, and subdue the most rebellious will; he can take away the heart of stone, and give a heart of flesh. We see this exemplified in the conversion of Saul of Tarsus, in his way to Damascus. From a furious persecutor, he becomes at once a disciple, and an apostle; and from that hour the language of his

« PreviousContinue »