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can enter into the furnace for Christ's sake, and look for bis promised presence therein—and learn to glorify his Great Name, what have we to fear? We may fear ease and self indulgence: we may fear worldly pleasure and wealth: a sense of our weakness will teach us how much we ought to fear that which is so suited to our corruptions : but, not a hair of the head shall perish, of those who suffer for his Name! Christ
will sit as a refiner; and, when he puts us into the fire, we should say to him, " This trial, this fire, is thy servant. Command it to purify, and let my bonds be burnt thereby. Command it to burn up my lusts, my corruptions; and to set my soul at liberty.”
Let us learn, then, brethren, to stand in the spirit of these men; in the same spirit of dependence which they manifested : and, instead of fearing the trial, let us remember the awful consequences of the alternative.
IV. We may learn, once more, from this passage, that, when God sends to a man that support which he promises in the furnace of affliction, that man becomes à WITNESS for God :-an invaluable beacon, as it were, to a benighted world.
These men gave their testimony, doubtless, for their God: but there was something to be done. The most effectual sermon is sometimes preached by a providence. A minister may, with much pains, make his point as plain as possible; yet men will feel unconcerned, till God speaks by a fact: and then they seem like persons just awakened.
Such was the case before us. Whatever these men had to say, it made no impression ; but when the king saw the fact, 'he rose up in haste, was astonished, and spake to his counsellors :'
-men in utter darkness and ignorance, like himself, until this blaze of light burst on their consciences.
Oh, that men, who are so forward to preach to the world, would preach in wisdom! Let them fight the
good fight of faith, and lay hold on eternal life.' Oh, that they would walk as the children of God through their trials !—That they would support their Christian Character, and demonstrate the reality of religion : then would they preach effectually; and show the holy support which they receive, as a light in a dark world.
Experienced Christians have told me, that they were not so much convinced by a preacher, or a book, as by a fact; that they marked, and kept their eye on some humble, upright, pious Christian; living above the world, while greatly tried in it; and demonstrating that he was an overcomer of the world, by the princigrace
within him. Brethren! if you are called into the furnace of affliction, above all take care with whom you walk there, and how you walk.
you enter the furnace in your own strength, much more from fanaticism or obstinacy, you may suffer, and even be burnt up there: but, if you enter in a holy fear, to glorify God and to avoid sin, to be a light in a dark world, depending on divine promises, then will you enter according to the will of God, and you will overcome.
The Christian will honour God, and he will be honoured by God.
Remember, too, that, wherever you walk, whether in the fire or out of the fire, many are looking on. Our steps are marked; and we are not only looked on by this world, but by other worlds. • We are come to an innumerable company of angels.' The Christian has spectators in heaven, earth, and hell ; beholding how far he plays the man to the glory of his God.
Let us, therefore, see our journey through this world laid down in the conduct of these men. On their bodies the fire had no power: they lost 'not a hair of their heads :' even the smell of fire had not passed on them :' their bonds only were burnt: their God was honoured: they were taken to court, and their enemies were confounded.
But I am speaking to some who will not suffer for Christ: who will sooner bow down to the idol :- who will not set their faces like a flint, but will seek the honour that cometh from men: who know nothing of this principle of loyalty to Christ : who do not call him Master: who do not ask their hearts, “What will Christ have me to do, now that he is gone ?” — He, that confesseth me not,' saith the Saviour, 'before men ; him will I not confess, when I come in the glory of my Father.' If He is to be believed, who is the faithful and true witness,' who has seen the whole of the invisible world, and whom alone we can safely trust for an account of it. He says, that if we pass not through the furnace of trial for his sake, we must pass into a 'lake of fire and brimstone, which is the second death.' No comforter will there be to walk with you in that fire! No friend can there approach us more; nor can a wicked relation, without increasing the terrors of that forlorn abode! I beseech you, therefore, before that shall become your unhappy state, to think of these things: and may God command his blessing upon what has been said, that it may effectually awaken you!
SIGNS OF TRUE WISDOM.
MATT. II. 1, 2,
Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, in the days of
Herod the King, behold, there came Wise Men from the East to Jerusalem, saying, where is he that is born King of the Jews? For
we have seen his Star in the East, and are come to worship him. It would be but trifling with your attention and wasting your time, to spend it in considering who these Magi were—whence they came-or what was the nature of this star. There is no more to be known on these subjects from this passage, than what appears on the
, face of it. Our grand concern is the moral instruction to be derived from this history.
The conduct of these wise men suggests to us some marks of illumination or true wisdom, wherever it is afforded to the mind of man.
A truly wise man is a very different character from a worldly wise man. A worldly wise man may satisfy himself and others with the extent of his knowledge, the discoveries which he has made in human science, and the comprehensive view which he takes of public affairs : or he may take his walk among the stars, and measure their distances and relations : he
be called the illumination of the day, in the department which he occupies. But I would ask this grand question : Does he stand related to no world but this ?Has he a soul to be saved ?- Is he a sinner ?-Has he
a remedy for his guilt and misery? Has he any thing to set his foot on at death, when called into another world ? Nothing of all this! Then what wis.
dom is his? He is but as a child provided a child is equipped for a day's amusement, it thinks nothing of the morrow!
Let us, then, consider the MARKS OF TRUE WISDOM, as they appear in the conduct of these men.
1. True Wisdom will teach a man to SEEK AN INFALLIBLE GUIDE, in this dark and dangerous world.
The wise man will follow the light of his dispensation. He knows that he has questions to ask, which God alone can answer. He cannot so much as know the object of his worship, till God teach him : for 'who, by searching, can find out God? Who can find out the Almighty to perfection ? Who can tell what it is fit for God to do with his creature, or how that creature may safely appear before him?
The Wise Men had but the light of a star ; but they doubtless knew that it was a light which God provided. They had a tradition, probably, that a star should arise to direct them to the Messiah. Balaam's prophecy might give rise to such tradition : but what particular knowledge they had of this star we are not informed ; but it is sufficient for us to know that they had that knowledge.
II. True Wisdom will FOLLOW SUCH A GUIDE, whenever it appears.
The object to which such a guide leads may be at a great distance. Many impediments may be in the way: many objections may be found : puzzling questions may arise : it may be, at best, but star-light; but it is the only light afforded.
Let us learn thus to use our Bibles :-not to search for objections not to try what questions may be started—not to examine what misconstructions may arise. Have you any other light ? Are you not involved in total darkness, if that light be extinguished ? True wisdom will follow star-light, when it has not that of the sun : it will be guided by true light, wherever that can be found.