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But the Lord seeth not as man seeth. Man looketh at the outward appearance, but God looketh at the heart. That which is highly esteemed amongst men, is abomination in the sight of God.
Like Mary, I too am privileged to sit at Jesus' feet ; for when I read the Holy Scriptures, I read the word of Jesus. When I hear the Gospel faithfully preached, I hear the Gospel of Jesus. With what reverence then should I listen to the words of eternal truth : with what delight should I receive the glad tidings of salvation, proclaimed by him who came down from heaven to seek and to save that which was lost; and who hath graciously declared, that all who look unto him, who come unto him, who receive him, and believe in his name, shall not perish but have everlasting life.
Lord, give me faith, and hope, and love, that all my affections may be fixed upon thee; and my whole life devoted to thy glory. But alas ! how often do I resemble Martha ? Daily do I need her salutary reproof.
The various occupations and businesses of life; the multiplied cares and anxieties about earthly things; nay, even the very labours required in actively conducting religious institutions, have a tendency, without great watchfulness and prayer, to weary the spirits ; to clog the wheels of the mind in its ascent heavenward; and to render us unfit for that tranquil, spiritual posture of soul in which Mary was found, when she sat at her Saviour's feet.
To be actively employed, is good for the Christian; whilst a too great seclusion unfits the mind for general usefulness. There is, however, a happy combination of activity and retirement, which at once strengthens the mind, and preserves its spirituality from decay.
The characters presented to our view in the Holy
Scriptures are drawn by the unerring pencil of truth. There we see man as he really is, both in his best and worst estate. The excellencies of the saints are recorded with remarkable conciseness ; whilst their defects and falls are dwelt upon with awful particularity. The reason seems to be apparent ; to humble the natural pride of man; and to demonstrate, that he who glorieth, must glory in the Lord.
The Bible tells us the unwelcome truth, that “ Man in his best estate is altogether vanity ;” that “there is not a just man' upon earth, who liveth and sinneth not.” “It is absurd then, to expect perfection ; but not unreasonable to expect consistency.”
Whilst I labour to promote the spread of the Gospel through the benighted regions of the earth, I must beware lest I neglect to cultivate, by close communion with Jesus, the work of grace in my own soul. When, like Martha, I find my mind cumbered with much serving; when I begin to feel an increasing distraction of thought, and a growing unfitness for
spiritual meditation ; then let me betake myself with | redoubled frequency to Mary's happy station.
- At the feet of Jesus, I am permitted to ask for every blessing. In secret fervour of spirit, I may there implore that all-sufficient grace, which is so freely promised to all who sincerely seek the heavenly treasure.
Lord, enable me to cultivate diligence with devotion; to employ my humble powers in thy service, both in the active range of Christian benevolence ; and in the passive exercise of self-denying resignation. Mould my will to thine. Let holy love be the ever-moving spring of all my actions; that whatsoever I do in word or deed, I may do all with a view to thy glory, and the spiritual good of a perishing world.
Descend, blest Spirit, in my heart,
Dispel the darkness of the mind;
0! may I walk with holy fear,
Descend, blest Spirit, from above,
LVII. ON THE CHARACTER OF THE BEREANS.
The character and conduct of the Berean Jews, as recorded in the 17th chapter of Acts, is very instructive.
As pride and prejudice shut out the light of truth, so humility and candour prepare the way for its admission.
These Bereans were more noble than those of Thessalonica. They were persons of a more ingenuous spirit. They did not resort to the base refuge of ridicule and persecution. They possessed a more elevated mind. Knowing the importance of the apostles' doctrine if true, they judged it, not only expedient, but due to the greatness of their message, to receive the Word. They admitted them into their Synagogue, and with all readiness of mind, with a cheerful disposition of heart, listened to their preaching.
Having thus permitted the light to shine upon them, they did not, like the Thessalonians, immediately expel it, by driving the holy messengers of mercy out of their city ; but they proceeded to search the Scriptures. They brought the doctrine of the apostles to the test of God's holy word. This they did not superficially, but carefully; they searched the Scriptures.” They dug deep into the sacred mine. This they did, not occasionally, but constantly : “ they searched the Scriptures daily;" with unwearied assiduity, like those who were in earnest to discover the pure gold of divine truth. This they did, not critically, but sincerely; not to cavil with the apostles' doctrine by finding out objections against it; but to see whether those things were 'so;" whether they were so revealed in the Scriptures, as the apostles declared them to be.
The effect of this ready reception of the word, of this daily searching of the Scriptures, was, that they believed. The Holy Spirit graciously guided their inquiring minds into all truth, so that they heartily embraced the word of salvation. " If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine whether it be of God.”
This blessing was not confined to a few. It is said, “ many of them believed ;” also, “ of honourable women which were Greeks, and of men, not a few.” What a bright example, and what an encouragement is here held out to us.
Many of the Jews of Thessalonica no doubt acted like these Bereans; for we read, in the 4th verse, - a great multitude believed.” And in that city the Apostle planted a church which shone exceedingly bright in faith and love. 'The carnal mind in every place is enmity against
God. Even in Berea the unbelieving Jews which came from Thessalonica stirred up the people, so that it was found needful to send away Paul.
What a striking picture the word of God gives us of the human heart. We see man under all circumstances an enemy of God. Whether he live in ruder or more polished times, the heart, till renewed by grace, is the seat of sin. Whether he be enveloped in ignorance, or enlightened by science, he naturally hates the pure and holy light of evangelical truth.
The sensual shuns its purifying, the self-righteous its humbling, tendency. All, without exception, love darkness rather than light, because their deeds are evil.
Yet, God hath never left himself without witness. In every age he has had a seed to serve him, who are counted to the Lord for a generation. Neither hath he ever left his people without sufficient evidence, whereby to prove the truth of his own revealed will respecting them. Among the many facts which may be adduced to prove the divine inspiration of the Bible, the two following may perhaps deserve some notice.
First—as it respects the Old Testament.
It is well known that the Jews were never either a philosophical, or a literary people. There are no works amongst their ancient uninspired authors which can lay any claim to genius. Yet the books of their Prophets surpass all the celebrated writers of antiquity. What heathen poet, however laurelled by admiring ages, can exceed the sublimity of their conceptions, the grandeur of their descriptions, and the exquisite taste and beauty of their imagery, when describing the glorious majesty, and unsullied purity of the ONE, ONLY TRUE GOD;-the works of his hands-the ways of his providence-and the wonders of his love.