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productive, in many cases, of great difficulty in determining how to act.
“ When they persecute you in one city,” said our Lord, “ flee ye to another.” But what is the degree of danger, what the serious advance] of the approaching storm, that will exempt flight from the charge of pusillanimity? What the just limits betwixt a temporizing policy and imprudent rashness? There is, doubtless, a just limit betwixt wantonly exposing ourselves to danger, and a cowardly shrinking from it; betwixt that selfish timidity which will sacrifice truth to safety, and that undistinguishing fearlessness which will prompt us “ to cast pearls before swine,” though it be morally certain “ they will turn again and rend us.”
A nice discernment of the true path of duty on such occasions can only be acquired by divine teaching
II. The wisdom necessary in such circumstances includes especially a right temper of mind towards God and our fellow-creatures.
1. Towards God. This temper very much consists in a humble acquiescence in his dispensations, in a readiness to suffer under his hand, and in his
It is one thing to suffer under the hand of God inevitable calamities; and another to suffer with a cheerful resignation, with a full and unreserved acquiescence in the divine disposals, mixing adoring thoughts of the wisdom of his proceedings and the equity of his dispensations, saying, from the heart, with our blessed Lord, “Not my will, but thine be done;" “ Father, glorify thy name.” In this, and in every other instance, the conduct of our Lord furnishes us with a perfect example of that wisdom it is our duty to implore of God. The wisdom that bows the mind to submission, “stays it upon God,” and fills it with meekness and compassion, while we “commit ourselves to him as to a faithful Creator," is of no ordinary kind—can be procured only from one quarter.
2. This includes a proper temper towards our fellow-creatures : and particularly towards the authors of our sufferings. Nature, left to itself, is apt to break out into resentment, to feel exasperated; and the more in proportion as the treatment we meet with is unquestionably unreasonable and unjust.
The first suggestion of nature, in such circumstances, is “ to render evil for evil,” to wish to be revenged, and to retaliate the usage we have sustained. Very different is the wisdom that is from above: which teaches, “ if our enemy be hungry, to feed him; if thirsty, to give him drink, and thus to heap coals of fire upon his head:” that, instead of being “overcome of evil, we may overcome evil with good.”* To look upon men, however injurious, as instruments in the hand of a just and holy God; and to overlook the former, in an attention to the latter, is a high attainment of spiritual wisdom; like David,
• Rom. xii. 20, 21.
who, when he was cursed and insulted by Shimei, said, “Let him alone, for the Lord hath bidden him; it may be that the Lord may requite me good for his cursing this day."
While we feel the effects of their malice, to forgive it freely and sincerely, and to pray with sincerity that it may not be laid to their charge,not to permit the conduct of the enemy to induce a forgetfulness of what belongs to him as a creature of God, and a partaker of the same nature,—is a piece of wisdom that is truly godlike. While we are assisted by divine grace to bear persecutions and afflictions in a right spirit, the gracious purpose of God, in permitting them, advances towards its completion; the process goes on without disturbance; the sanctifying tendency of it continues unchecked; patience has its perfect work, in order to our being “perfect and entire, lacking nothing.” Repining and impatience tend eminently to frustrate the [merciful] intentions of Providence in our affliction; while the composure of a well-regulated mind-of a mind stayed upon God, gives them an opportunity of working their full effect. And, on this account, a suitable temper in a season of persecution and trial may justly be denominated an important branch of wisdom. Though the apostle had, in enjoining the duty before us, an especial view to the case of persecution, yet this is by no means the only case to which the advice is applicable. The occasions
* 2 Sam. xvi, 11, 12.
in which we lack wisdom are very numerous: in each of them it will behove us to ask it of God.
We are continually liable to difficulties and sorrows, from which nothing but a superior skill to our own can extricate us : The
way is not in himself: it is not in man that walketh to direct his steps.”* Are we at a loss, in present circumstances, to descry the path of duty and safety, when our way appears to be hedged in on every side; is darkness set in our paths, and we know not how to proceed ?-“ Let us ask wisdom of God.” Do we feel ourselves habitually overpowered by the force of temptation ; do we feel evil present with us, or are we in danger of being carried [along] by the (violence] of our sensual appetites, against which we have hitherto struggled in vain ? [let us ask wisdom of God.]
Enforce the exhortation of seeking it of God in the following considerations :
I. As it is of indispensable necessity, so it is in vain to seek it elsewhere.
II. It resides in him in its utmost perfection.
III. He is willing to communicate : “For the Lord giveth wisdom: out of his mouth cometh knowledge and understanding. He layeth up sound wisdom for the righteous.”+ “Giveth liberally,” álms, with a liberal mind, bountifully.
The caution,-“nothing doubting.”
* Jer. x. 23.
+ Prov. ii. 6, 7.
ON ENGAGEDNESS OF HEART IN APPROACHING
JEREMIAH XXX. 21.-For who is this that engaged his heart to
approach unto me? saith the Lord. In this chapter is contained an illustrious prophecy of the restoration of the ancient Israelites to their own land: first, from their captivity in Babylon, whither a part of the nation were already, and the remainder were shortly to be removed; next, from their long captivity and dispersion through all the countries of the earth, which has now subsisted for near eighteen hundred years. As a standing record of the faithfulness of God to his promises, as well as his infallible foreknowledge of all events, the prophet is commanded to commit to writing all the words which God had spoken to him during the whole time he had exercised the prophetic office.
Those who had presumed to speak in the name of the Lord, without being commissioned, had flattered the people with the assurances that the residue of the people should not be carried into Babylon, and that the part of the nation which were already sent thither should speedily be restored to their native country. In opposition to these false suggestions, Jeremiah was commanded to send a message to the captives in Babylon, saying, “ Build ye houses in Babylon, and dwell in them; and plant gardens, and eat the fruit