« السابقةمتابعة »
in the pride and haughtiness of his mind, with his chariots and horsemen, pursuing the poor fugitives, expecting that he would overtake them-the sea before them and their enemies behind-and there it was that the Lord interfered for the perfect accomplishment of his purposes: "He caused the Red Sea to give way to his people, and his people to pass over as upon dry land, while their enemies that pursued them, they sank as lead in the mighty waters." Thus were the poor oppressed Israelites freed from their captivity, and delivered with a mighty hand and with an outstretched arm; and standing on the other shore, they might mark the fulfilment of our text, "There are many devices in a man's heart, nevertheless the counsel of the Lord, that shall stand."
Need I go further in the Old Testament history, my brethren, in the illustration of this striking truth? I would remind you of the case (because it is a most striking one, and because God hath spoken so expressly on the subject as it bears strikingly on our text), the case of the proud Assyrian king, who came up against Jerusalem in all the pride of his heart, determining to lay it waste and to bring the Jews captive, and make them tributary to him. He had no idea whatsoever but of the accomplishment of his own wicked devices: he had gone on conquering, and subdued nations great and mighty: he was the monarch of the then world, and he feared no power that could withstand him. But observe, that though his devices were such, when he came before the gates of Jerusalem, when he marched his proud army in array against them, thinking that the poor helpless inhabitants could not stand before him, then God interposed, frustrated the desires of man, and made the diviners mad, and turned their counsel into folly. An unseen visitation fell on one of the finest armies that perhaps ever came up against a city to destroy it. There came down an angel of the Lord, in the dead of midnight, and destroyed an hundred and eighty-five thousand of the very best of his army. Thus God turned him back by a way that he came not, put his hook in his nose, and sent him, and the army under his command, away from the accomplishment of his devices. Hear, my brethren, how God hath spoken on this very subject. Speaking of him, he says, "O Assyrian, the rod of mine anger, and the staff in their hand is mine indignation. I will send him against an hypocritical nation, and against the people of my wrath will I give him a charge, to take the spoil, and to take the prey, and to tread them down like the mire of the streets. Howbeit"-observe the language-"he meaneth not so, neither doth his heart think so; but it is in his heart to destroy and cut off nations not a few. For he saith, Are not my princes altogether kings? Is not Calno as Carchemish? is not Hamath as Arpad? is not Samaria as Damascus? As my hand hath found the kingdoms of the idols, and whose graven images did excel them of Jerusalem and of Samaria; shall I not, as I have done unto Samaria and her idols, so do to Jerusalem and her idols?" Here you listen to the proud language of the Assyrian tyrant. He had no conception whatever of any thing but the accomplishment of the devices of his own heart. God, however, declares the truth; and be it known to you all, for the Lord God declares it, he used this Assyrian as an instrument in his hand to punish his own people for their hypocritical conduct, their transgressions, and their sins. And this is the real reason; whensoever wicked people, designing men, are raised up among us, who seek to ruin and destroy all that is lovely and fair, we ought to trace
it back to the first cause, and ask, "Has not God a controversy with us; and is it not that they are permitted to go such lengths for the punishment of his people, and as instruments for the accomplishment of his purposes of love?" Here, therefore, again, in the case of the proud Assyrian monarch, we find the language of our text borne out in truth to the letter: "There are many devices in a man's heart; nevertheless the counsel of the Lord, that shall stand."
I pass on to another striking illustration of the same truth. When the measure of the iniquity of the Jews was accomplished, God determined to carry them captive into Babylon, where they were to sojourn the predicted period of their captivity, in order to be taught that the Lord is God, holy and gracious is he. And mark, my brethren, when the period of their captivity terminated, God, in the accomplishment of his own purposes, intended to bring them back to their own land; because, had the ten tribes never returned to their own land, what would have become of all the designs of God in the salvation of the world, and its wonderful accomplishment on Calvary? It was, therefore, necessary that they should return, in order that the whole of the purposes of God should be accomplished, and his whole word have to the very letter all its truth verified. God, therefore, intended this. How was it brought about? In a most singular way. One monarchy was broken by another monarchy, and there was raised up a prince, Cyrus by name, whom God had spoken of two hundred years before, precisely with the qualifications and talents, that mild and amiable character, and that extensive knowledge of human nature, that was to fit him, in the hand of God, as an instrument to bid his people return from their captivity, and go back to the land given to their forefathers, where they were to remain until the coming of the Prince of Peace. Here again, therefore, brethren, we are compelled to stand, and admire, and adore, and see how our text has been verified to the letter, that though" there are many devices in a man's heart, nevertheless the counsel of the Lord, that shall stand."
I come now, in further illustration of this truth, to a scene the most wondrous, as it was the most glorious, that had ever, or could ever, be seen in the universe of God. You will at once have your minds directed to the crucifixion of the Lord of life and glory. God, in the moment of man's transgression, gave a promise, that the seed of the woman should bruise the serpent's head. He had continued the world in being for four thousand years simply for the accomplishment of his purposes. The Babylonian, the Persian, the Grecian, and the Roman monarchies had successively arisen and destroyed each other all to make way for that monarchy which should never end; even His whose was the government, and the power, and the dominion, and the greatness. And, my brethren, mark how wondrously the whole was brought about. Even at the birth of our Immanuel Jesus, Herod had devices in his heart, for he sought to destroy the young child, fearing the safety of his own throne. And how did God interpose, in the most singular and striking way, to prevent that? Not until the very moment had arrived, fixed in the counsels of the great Eternal, when the sun should withdraw itself from the scene, and the very earth should be convulsed at the sight-not till the moment came, when Jesus was to hang, the expiring victim, and say, It is finished," was any device permitted to prosper that was against him: but when that moment came, then were the
devices, and the wicked intentions of designing men, permitted to be accomplished to their hearts' intent and desire.
Hear how God himself hath spoken concerning this: "Of a truth Lord against the holy child Jesus, whom thou hast anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles and the people of Israel, were gathered together, for to do whatsoever thy hand and thy counsel determined before be done." Here is the simple truth, my brethren: they were permitted to prosper; all the evil machinations of those evil men were permitted to have their full accomplishment; but it was simply the accomplishment of "the counsel of the Lord, that should stand." In eternity, my brethren, we shall look back on all secondary causes as under the influence and direction of the great First Cause: we shall be lost in wonder and admiration of that power which could accomplish, that wisdom that could devise, and that love that could bring about such things, to the praise and glory of his holy name.
I would instance one other fact, illustrative of the position of our text. At Christ's resurrection, you all remember how many devices existed in the minds of his enemies. They feared (and well they might, had they not seen nature tremble at the death of her Creator?) they feared that he might have the power he had spoken of; they feared the accomplishment of his own word, that he would rise again the third day. And, therefore, mark their devices! In their hearts they thought to secure him as well as they could secure a lifeless corpse. He must be put into a rock; there must be a large stone rolled to the door; there must be the royal signet appended thereto. That is not enough; there must be a guard of soldiers appointed to watch the sepulchre. Appointed to watch what? A poor, lifeless, inanimate corpse, to prevent its being taken away! See the devices and desires of these men's hearts. But lo, the morning came the purpose of God shall stand in spite of all the devices that are in men's hearts. An angel came down and rolled away the stone from the door of the sepulchre, and the guard fell back terrified. Here, again, have we a striking confirmation of the position of our text, "There are many devices in a man's heart: nevertheless the counsel of the Lord, that shall stand."
If time permitted, we might trace onward, from that moment to the present, in the history of the church of Christ, confirmation of the same precious truth. I might remind you of the case of the apostate emperor Julian, who thought he could frustrate the purposes of God, by preventing the prophecies of God from receiving their accomplishment; by destroying all those who call on the name of the Lord Jesus. His very letters, written and signed with his own royal hand, usually closed with the expression, "Crush the wretch!" If it had been possible for Satanic malice, and the devices of men's hearts, to have crushed the religion of Jesus and his people, it would have been accomplished by Julian. But mark, on one of the occasions that he went forth to "crush the wretch," he was compelled to confess that Jesus was Lord of lords, and King of kings; and to admit, in so many words, "there are many devices in a man's heart, nevertheless the counsel of the Lord, that shall stand;" for he received a mortal wound, and the blood flew out, and he cried out, looking up to him whom he had called "the wretch," "Thou hast conquered, O Galilean!"
Thus, brethren, throughout the whole history of the Church of Chrst, in all its martyrs and confessors, who have waded through their own blood to the crown of immortal glory, when the existence of the church could scarcely be discovered,
except when you traced her track with blood, and could only perceive her existence by the fires which were lighted up for the consuming of her followers, still this same precious truth has always been evident, that though "there are many devices in a man's heart; that nevertheless the counsel of the Lord, that shall stand."
I pass on to state briefly, THE GROUND ON WHICH WE rest assured of this. And this ground is, on the character and perfections of God, which are all pledged to see this "counsel of the Lord" carried into accomplishment. The sovereignty of God, the wisdom of God, and the eternity of God, these are the attributes that must of necessity see to the accomplishment of his counsel, and the overthrowing the devices of man's heart when opposed to his counsel. I have not time to pass through these attributes of Deity, as affording us ground of hope, that "Though there are many devices in a man's heart; nevertheless the counsel of the Lord, that shall stand." I will leave them to your own meditations. If God be the Sovereign of the world, who then can defeat his purpose? If he be infinite in power, what can prevent the accomplishment of his counsel? If God be the God of wisdom, there can be no mistake in the laying down of that counsel, nor can any thing possibly arise in after time that can interfere with the accomplishment of it. And here you see that the attributes of Deity go to assure us, on a ground of firm unshaken confidence, that "the counsel of the Lord, that shall stand."
We come, then, practically to apply our subject. And here, brethren, let us all learn submissively to adore the truly wise dispensations of our God. If we were left to ourselves we should infer, that it would be far better that truth should triumph and error be defeated, that virtue should be exalted and vice De depressed, that Satan should not continue to exercise the power which he does, that the moment should quickly arrive when the kingdom of the Lord shall be universally set up in every heart. It is natural for us thus to think; but, brethren, our ways are not as God's ways, our thoughts are not as God's thoughts. We may wonder why it is so and so at the present; we may wonder why the church has had to undergo so many severe persecutions: but we cease to wonder when we remember, that God is accomplishing all his own gracious plans and purposes; and that he will gain a rich revenue of praise, to his own grace and glory, in thus permitting for a time the ungodly to triumph, while truth seems to be defeated.
I will simply refer you again to the case of Pharaoh. Did not God get himself honour in the destruction of Pharaoh, more than he would if Pharaoh had simply obeyed the command in the first instance? God shewed his power and the protection which he could afford to his people, and how, in spite of every device, his counsel should stand. So again it was in the case of the three triumphant heroes in the burning fiery furnace. God, by permitting the proud tyrant to go that length, and cast them into the fire, thereby proved the power of his grace which could support them, and the omnipotence of his arm that could bear them up. And so, brethren, all the persecutions that the church has undergone, have tended to illustrate the grace of Jehovah, the power of his arm, and the mercy and long-suffering of his bosom. In eternity, when we shall see things clearly as they are, perhaps this will be one of the wondrou
lessons which shall be learned by us, and of which the more we learn, the more we shall adore.
And then let us learn, in every thing, as it respects ourselves or the church of Christ at large, this important lesson, to "be careful for nothing; but in every thing with prayer and thanksgiving let our requests be made known unto God." He will work, and who can stay his hand? O let us seek to be in the way of duty; to be doing what is clearly to the glory of God, and the wellbeing of our fellow-creatures: and then let us take joyfully whatsoever it may please him to lay upon us, assured that the time shall come, when, like gold purified in the fire, we shall come forth to the praise and glory of his grace. And then, dear brethren, for your consolation remember his precious promise, "We know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose." "All things," it matters not what-adversity as well as prosperity, persecution as well as success, the frown of the world as well as the smile of our friends: even the severest of all trials as well as the richest of all blessings, all shall "work together" and be active in the accomplishment of this one purpose, for "the good of them that love God."
And surely, brethren, all is hastening onward to the accomplishment of this object. Here is the Christian's foundation of hope, and here he can find a resting-place when the billows beat furiously against him; and he can rest assured that God will bring about the one purpose of his Saviour and his God. Even before the coming of Christ what were all the conflicts of the four great monarchies, the breaking them into smaller kingdoms, the setting up one kingdom and destroying another? And now that redemption is accomplished, what do kingdoms exist for? Even to gather God's people into that kingdom which shall never pass away, to the new heavens and the new earth wherein shall dwell righteousness; when there shall be one Lord and his name one, and when "the glory of the Lord shall cover the earth as the waters cover the sea." Good Lord, hasten it in thine own time !