the Week of Proper 3 / Ordinary 8
Mornings and Evenings with Jesus
Her ways are ways of pleasantness, and all her paths are peace. - Proverbs 3:17.
HOW greatly is religion libelled! It is commonly represented as unfriendly to happiness, and at variance with every thing like pleasure; and nothing can be more injurious than such a representation, especially to the young. But nothing is more groundless than this charge; for, so far from religion making our pleasures less, it was designed to make them infinitely greater. And as it was thus designed, so it is adequate for this purpose also, and inspires us with everlasting consolation and good hope through grace, and enables us to rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory; for
“’Tis religion that can give
Sweetest pleasures while we live;
’Tis religion must supply
Solid comforts when we die.”
The God whom we serve is the God of all comfort, and he must be, surely, able to make a man truly happy; and is it therefore reasonable to suppose that he will suffer one who neglects and hates him to be happier than one who serves him? To realize that God is my Father, that heaven is my home, that all things are working together for my good, and that death will be to me the gate of life, must greatly tend to promote and increase my enjoyment of the beauties of nature, the bounties of Providence, and the intercourse of life.
How many, if appealed to, would tell us that they were strangers to real pleasure, so long as they continued strangers to Christ; but, since they have known him, their common mercies have been sweetened, their very sorrows have been blessed, and they prefer their own humble condition to all the glory and goodness of the world. They have found his service perfect freedom. His yoke has been easy and his burden light. If religion is a yoke, they daily bless God for the same; if it is a burden, it is the burden of wings to a bird, which enable it to rise and soar aloft and possess the skies; and if the Scriptures are allowed to decide, and they contain the judgment of the only wise and true God, and cannot be broken, do they not say, “My servants shall eat, but ye shall be hungry; behold, my servants shall drink, but ye shall be thirsty; behold, my servants shall rejoice, but ye shall be ashamed; behold, my servants shall sing for joy of heart, but ye shall cry for sorrow of heart”? and here the Wise Man declares that “her ways are ways of pleasantness, and all her paths are peace.”
That I might preach him among the heathen. - Galatians 1:16.
THE Apostle preached the gospel to the Gentiles long before he preached it to the Jews at all. “I am the Apostle of the Gentiles,” says he; “I magnify mine office.” The Jews in general, having been the peculiar people of God, were exceedingly jealous of the extension of these privileges to others. It has been supposed that, for the announcement of this, Isaiah was sawn asunder. The Apostle cites this as an instance of great moral heroism. Isaiah is very bold, and says, “I am sought of them that asked not for me; I am found of them that sought me not: I said, Behold me, behold me, unto a nation that was not called by name.” And even the minds of our Lord’s own immediate disciples were beclouded by this prejudice, and it required a miracle to deliver the Apostle Peter from this tendency.
But it was otherwise with this Hebrew of the Hebrews. Oh what a noble soul had he from the beginning! He rejoiced in proportion as the blessings of the gospel became common and general. “Would to God,” said he before Agrippa, “that all that hear me this day, were both almost, and altogether such as I am, except these bonds.” It delighted him to think his head would not sparkle alone, but that the heads of them also that love the Saviour’s appearing would be equally adorned with the same crown.
Thus it was God’s design that the Gentiles should become partakers of the promises of Christ by the gospel. While “without Christ” they had been “aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers to the covenant of promise, living without hope, and without God in the world;” enveloped in ignorance, darkness, idolatry, superstition, and every kind of vice and wretchedness. But it was predicted that “in his name should the Gentiles trust,” and to him should “the Gentiles seek.” Simeon was enabled to perceive this when he embraced the infant Saviour, and blessed God that he had seen his salvation, “which was prepared before the face of all people: a light to lighten the Gentiles,” as well as “the glory of his people Israel.” The Jews had despised them; considering themselves children, they always called them “dogs”-viewing themselves as “citizens,” they considered them only as “outcasts.”
But, says our Saviour, “Go ye out into the highways and hedges, and bring in the poor, and the maimed, and the halt, and the blind.” What goodness, yea, what abounding grace was here! It says to the most unworthy,
“Let not conscience make you linger,
Nor of fitness fondly dream.
Let us therefore be encouraged, when most sensible of our guilt and misery. Unto us, as well as unto these Gentiles, has been sent “the unsearchable riches of Christ.”