« السابقةمتابعة »
and calling her no longer his daughter, but the mistress of his fate. Though inwardly torn with filial affection, she could offer him no other comfort than to desire him to acquiesce in the divine disposal. Three days before the spectacles at which she and the other Christians were to be put to death, she bore another child. On the day before the shows, Satur said, with much animation, to the crowd of people who went from curiosity to see them, "Observe well our faces, that ye may know them at the day of judgment." On the fatal day, the martyrs advanced with firmness, and Perpetua sang, as already victorious. They were first scourged, and then exposed to wild beasts; and then the people insisted on having the martyrs brought forward into the midst of the amphitheatre, that they might have the pleasure of seeing them die. Some of them rose up and went forward of their own accord: others received the last blow without speaking or stirring. Perpetua was despatched by a gladiator, and thus, with the rest, slept in Jesus.*
But, not to dwell on so extreme cases-does it not still happen that the greatest difficulties in the way of those who wish to come out from the world, and to be faithful to the Saviour, arise, not from strangers and avowed enemies, but from those of their own house-from their own nearest connexions? Are there not still divisions in many families, some being feelingly alive, and others dead to the importance of eternal things? Let me conclude, then, with pressing those considerations on the consciences of all of you who live together in households.
As members of families, does not this announcement of our Lord's address you in language at once awakening and tender? Are any of you now ready to say, "You speak of divisions being occasioned in families by the gospel-of some relations opposing others because of their piety-of five in one house being divided, three against two, and two against three; but it is not so in our family, there are no such divisions among us, none of us trouble the rest, we are all of one mind?"—To such we would say, Consider well whence this uniformity arises. Is it the result of your being all one in Christ Jesus, or of your being all one in sin? Is it the peace of believing? or, is it the peace of indifference? Is it the sameness of enlightened, or is it the indiscrimination of blinded minds? Is it the communion of saints? or, is it the conspiracy of sinners? Is it the tranquillity of sancti
fied life and heavenly hope? or, is it the stillness of insensibility, of desolation, and of death? Is it that you are all converted, or all unconverted? Consider well; and if you have reason to conclude unfavourably, then your forbearance with each other, and your peace with the world, are no just causes of congratulation, for there is every reason to believe that you would have been equally unmolested from without, and equally well pleased with each other within, had you lived when open persecution for the name of Christ was raging in its utmost fury. But think how sad a thing it is, for a whole family with the name of Christians, to be, as to all spiritual and saving blessings, no better than heathens! Remember that the Lord threatens to 66 pour out his fury," as 66 upon the heathen," so also "upon the families that call not upon his name.” Let the single circumstance, that none of you have ever suspected that you are wrong, convince you that you are all wrong together; and now at last, begin to "ask the way to Zion with your faces thitherward, saying, Come and let us join ourselves to the Lord in a perpetual covenant, that shall not be forgotten."
With regard to those cases in which a part of the family are brought under the influence of the gospel, there will be in them, without doubt, in some degree, the division in question. But let the more indifferent members beware of being guilty of anything that may be justly considered as partaking of the nature of persecution. Instead of being offended with them, and opposing, or discouraging them, let them be thankful that any of their family have been brought to God-let them know that the ark, which still, as in the days of Obed-edom, brings a blessing with it, is in their house; and whether they be superiors or inferiors, let them be so humble and so wise, as to follow where any of their dear friends have been enabled thus nobly to lead the way. It is best known to yourselves whether any of you have, in word or deed, behaved unkindly to any of your family, and have been as thorns in their sides, because of their surpassing yourselves in piety; that is best known to yourselves; but if any of you are conscious of any thing of this kind, I beseech you no longer to oppose the work of God, and give uneasiness to those whose fondest wish is your everlasting happiness. Let just compunction now touch you. Let the full play of your affections go forth towards those who are so well deserving of your love, and seek to follow them, in so far as they are following Christ.
If, as is probable, some of you who love the Lord, and desire to follow him fully, are connected with those who jeer you on that account, or, at least, endeavour to keep you back, you will require a degree of prudence, good temper, and faithfulness, which you can only expect to get from the Lord by prayer. Let none persuade you that faithfulness to Christ can be undutifulness to your relations, or inconsistent with the affection which is due to them; for, what better proof can you give of your regard to them, than continuing to conduct yourselves in that exemplary way, in which alone you can ever be of any service, under God, in bringing them to attend to the things which belong to their peace? At all events, and whatever they may do, it is necessary for you to be faithful. "Hearken, O daughter, and consider, and incline thine ear: forget also thine own people and thy father's house. So shall the King greatly desire thy beauty; for he is thy Lord, and worship thou him." If you love father or mother, son or daughter, husband or wife, brother or sister, more than Christ, so as to keep you back from following him, you are not worthy of him. Be faithful, and do not despair of winning over those of your friends who are yet holding out against him. "What knowest thou, O wife, whether thou shalt save thy husband? or how knowest thou, O man, whether thou shalt save thy wife?"
Finally, How happy the family of which all the members are living together in love and peace, and in the obedience of the truth, and encouraging each other in the way to heaven, and whose separate and joint prayers and praises ascend to the throne of grace! "Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together, in" godly "unity!" It is like "the precious ointment," which, poured on the head of Aaron, descended to the skirts of his garIt is " as the dew of Hermon, and as the dew that descended upon the mountains of Zion: for there the Lord commandeth the blessing, even life for evermore." Amen.
LUKE XII. 54-59.
"And he said also to the people, When ye see a cloud rise out of the west, straightway ye say, There cometh a shower; and so it is. 55. And when ye see the south wind blow, ye say, There will be heat; and it cometh to pass. 56. Ye hypocrites, ye can discern the face of the sky and of the earth; but how is it that ye do not discern this time? 57. Yea, and why even of yourselves judge ye not what is right? 58. When thou goest with thine adversary to the magistrate, as thou art in the way, give diligence that thou mayest be delivered from him; lest he hale thee to the judge, and the judge deliver thee to the officer, and the officer cast thee into prison. 59. I tell thee, thou shalt not depart thence, till thou hast paid the very last mite."
In what is stated in these verses, our Lord is still continuing his discourse at the door of the Pharisee's house, where he had dined; and he is addressing himself to the great multitude who were there gathered together. He had just before been speaking of the many divisions to which the gospel of peace would give occasion, because of the depravity, perversity, and obstinacy of fallen men: and he stated that that fire of contention was already kindling. In this connexion, he, in the first four of the verses now read, gives a particular instance of that perversity, namely, that many who were so acute in judging of natural appearances should be so very dull in their comprehension of spiritual matters, and in perceiving the proofs of his Messiahship.
"And he said also to the people, When ye see a cloud rise out of the west, straightway ye say, There cometh a shower; and so it is. And when ye see the south wind blow, ye say, There will be heat; and it cometh to pass." All pretensions to foretell the future history of nations, or individuals, from the stars, or to foretell the weather, or any thing else, by supernatural wisdom, are not only absurd but impious, and severely condemned in the Word of God, and therefore, ought neither to be put forth, nor encouraged, by Christians. Thus saith the Lord to Babylon, "Stand now with thine enchantments, and with the multitude of thy sorceries,
wherein thou hast laboured from thy youth: if so be thou shalt be able to profit, if so be thou mayest prevail. Thou art wearied in the multitude of thy counsels. Let now the astrologers, the star-gazers, the monthly prognosticators, stand up and save thee from these things that shall come upon thee. Behold, they shall be as stubble: the fire shall burn them, they shall not deliver themselves from the power of the flame." This does not, however, hinder men from forming some opinion, at times, of the weather that may be expected from appearances which are more or less obvious. It is true that man does not know, or fully understand, "the balancings of the clouds." But in cases in which second causes are seen to have already begun to work, we may often be able to form a correct opinion of what is to follow, especially when past experience of the result in similar circumstances justifies the expectation; and this is not presumption, but the exercise of judgment and common sense. In a country situated like ours, the weather is proverbially unsteady, and, therefore, to us, very uncertain. In some parts of the world, however, it is less so; nay, particular kinds of weather may there be calculated on as almost certainly to occur after certain appearances, and at certain seasons of the year. It is obvious, too, that the indications of the weather by clouds and the direction of the wind, require to be differently interpreted according as the places where the observers reside are situated in respect of seas, continents, and mountains, and therefore, that modes of judging, which are correct in one place, may be erroneous in another. The way of judging of the weather, for example, from the direction of the wind, in our own island, is, generally speaking, just the opposite on the eastern coast, from what it is on the western. "Cold cometh out of the north," says Elihu, and so say we, being on this side of the line; but on the other side, cold cometh out of the south.
With regard to the signs of the weather here mentioned, their general correctness is obvious. The Mediterranean Sea lay to the west of the land of Judea, and, of course, clouds rising in that direction, and carried from it by the wind, would generally bring "a shower," or rather, heavy rain, as the word might be rendered. This finds an illustration in the following passage in the First Book of Kings xviii. 41. Elijah, the prophet, said to Ahab, the king, in a time of dreadful drought and famine, "Get thee up, eat, and drink; for there is a sound of abundance of rain. So Ahab went