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II. What JACOB PROMISES TO God,- Then shall the LORD be my
One, to whom we must ascribe all we are, and all we have.
To whom we must dedicate all our powers of soul and body, and whom we must serve with them all.
On whom we must wholly depend, for the supply of all our. wants.
In whom we must seek and find our happiness, here, and hereafter.
From whom we must expect our final oondition, and reward.
Let me inquire, are there not many of you who are very differently disposed from Jacob ?
You have not God with you, his favour and presence, and care not that he is absent. You do not value his guidance and protection, but lean to your own understanding, and trust in an arm of flesh. You are not content to be provided only with food and raiment. You are content to stay here for ever, and think not about your Father's house.
Those of you who can adopt the desires of the Patriarch, and bound your wishes by the same measures, shall have, and must take, the LORD for your God.
MAN'S LIFE ON EARTH A PILGRIMAGE.
Gen. xlvii. 9.
The days of the years of my pilgrimage are a hundred and thirty
years : few and evil have the days of the years of my life been, and have not attained unto the days of the years of the life of my fathers, in the days of their pilgrimage.
Perhaps there are no parts of Holy Writ in which we find ourselves more interested, than in those that respect the ancient
Patriarchs. They were venerable men; men of extraordinary wisdom and grace, and who obtained great influence and respect, in the age in which they lived. Their story also is wonderful, and most admirably told by Moses. It is all instructive, and some parts are remarkably affecting ; particularly those which relate to Jacob and his son Joseph, who are the principal subjects of that part of the history, from which I take my text. We find these venerable men, on this occasion, standing before Pharaoh, one of the greatest kings then
upon the earth; and the conversation that passed between them is highly instructive and interesting, although according to the simplicity of that early age of the world. (Read, and explain from the beginning of the chapter.)
I. THAT THE LIFE OF MAN UPON EARTH IS A PILGRIMAGE.
Thus it is termed by Jacob here, and also by others of the ancient worthies. (1 Chron. xxix. 15, Psal. xxxix. 12, cxix. 19, Heb. xi. 13.) Consider the reason of this. A man is properly termed a pilgrim or sojourner, who is not in his own house, but only in lodgings, or in a tent; not in his own country, but in a strange land ; and not among his own people, but a strange people. This is the case, especially, with the people of God while on earth.
The soul is in the body as in a house not its own; in a hired house, in lodgings, in a tent, a frail and moveable fabric. The body is forfeited and due to death and corruption, and the soul's time of abode in it is very short :
“ Life's little stage is a small eminence,
Lamenting, or lamented, all our lot!” While on earth, we are not in our own country. This earth is the Lord's, and only lent us; (Lev. xxv. 23 ;) or, if given at first to Adam and his posterity for a place of habitation, has been forfeited by sin, and is soon taken from us, and we are to be put out of possession. Nay, it is due to the general burning. (2 Pet. iii. 7.)
The people of God here are not among their own people, but among a strange people; not citizens of heaven, but heirs of hell.
Like pilgrims, we brought nothing into the world, possess nothing in it, and can carry nothing out of it.
We are continually upon our journey to the other world, and are passing hastily through this, which is only like an inn upon the road, where we ought but to seek refreshment. And yet,
“ This wretched inn, where we scarce stay to bait,
We call our dwelling place;
We call one step a race." Like pilgrims, while here we are exposed to many wants, hardships, dangers, and afflictions, and to much contempt and ill usage.
II, THAT MAN'S DAYS IN THIS PILGRIMAGE-STATE ARE FEW AND EYIL.
First, Few-Compared with Gop's eternity, (Psa. xc. 1-12,) with the life of the ante-diluvians ; -- Few in themselves, a handbreadth, a shadow. (Psal. xxxix. 4, 5, Job xiv. 1, 2.)
By life's passing breath blown up from earth,
Secondly, Evil-Being uncertain ; not to be depended on for one moment.
Being vain ; (Psalm xxxix. 5, 6;) with respect to the generality, answering no valuable end, for God's glory, their own good, or the good of others.-Being sinful; every day, hour, and moment tinctured in the best, were it not for the atonement of Christ, and in most, deeply died with sin.-And being miserable; through labour and toil, care and fear, disappointments and losses, ingratitude of friends, disobedience of children, and the untoward humours and passions of those around us; and through pain and sickness in ourselves, or those dear to us, corrupt passions, a consciousness of guilt, and foreboding fears of wrath.
III. THE CAUSE OF THIS, AND WHETHER AND HOW FAR THE
EVIL ADMITS OF A CURE.
It is not consistent with the wisdom, power, and goodness of God to have formed man originally in this state.
The fall of man is the cause. (Rom. v. 12.)
“ Man's first disobedience, and the fruit
Many make their days fewer than they otherwise would be, through intemperance, and more evil many ways.
But as we fell in the first, we may rise in the second Adam, and obtain deliverance from a great part of this evil. We will instance in the evils above mentioned, beginning with the last.
Does our misery arise from a consciousness of guilt, and fears of future wrath ? An interest in Christ, and justification, obtained by repentance towards God, and faith in him, remove these, and bring peace, and a hope of immortality. Are corrupt passions the causes of our misery? Regeneration and sanctification subdue, give us the mastery over, and even remove these, and free us from the misery they occasion. Are pain and sickness the sources of our misery? A confidence that all things work for our good, because we love God, and, as an effect thereof, resignation to the divine will, alleviate these, and support the soul under them. Is the ingratitude of friends, or the disobedience of children, or the ill-usage of any, the causes of our misery? Doing good to our friends or others, ont of a principle of love to God, and looking for no recompense from man, will put an end to all uneasiness on that head, and, however men treat us, we shall not be disappointed, nor lose our reward. Are disappointments and losses sources of trouble ? The being dead to earthly things will enable us to receive them without much concern or distress. Are cares and fears the causes of our misery? A persuasion that we are the children of God, that our heavenly Father will take care of us, and a dependence on him for all we want, will free us from these. Do we complain of labour and toil ? Temperance, frugality, and contentment with our lot, will cut off much unnecessary toil and labour, and alleviate what remains. Are the sinfulness, vanity, and uncertainty of our days, evils ? True religion will, in a great degree, remedy these. By possessing it, we shall. be holy, useful, and secure of living till our work is done, and as long as will be for our good. Are we unhappy because our days are few, and our life a pilgrimage ? Although we have here no continuing city, yet we seck and shall find one to come, where our days will be everlasting.
Is this a pilgrimage state? Then why should we be so much attached to, or affected with any thing here? a country where we are pilgrims ?
Are our days few? Then let us make haste, for we have a great work to do.
Are they evil? Then why are we in love with them? Why unwilling to go where days are evil no more?
Has God provided a cure? Then, let us take care we do not reject it.
NOT FOLLOWING A MULTITUDE.
Exod. xxiii. 2.
Thou shalt not follow a multitude to do evil.
The fatal influence of bad example is acknowledged by all. Some, who deny the original depravity of human nature, attribute all the sin and wickedness in the world to it. This is carrying the matter too far; for, in that case, one might ask, how came there to be any bad example set at first? And why are not people as ready to follow good example, when placed before them, as bad? which daily matter of fact shows they are not. But, certainly, its influence is great, and greater through the corruption of our nature; just as the danger from fire is greater to those who have gunpowder in their houses.
It is scarcely necessary to say, that the disorder of the times calls loudly for admonition on this subject. The words contain a general rule for our conduct, at all times, and in all cases whatsoever, though they are applied in the context to a particular case.
I. THE PROPER MEANING OF THIS CAUTION.
The Hebrew is only, to evil, and may be read, a multitude of evil persons.” We
e are not required to distinguish ourselves from evil-doers in any thing they do as men; as in feeding and clothing our bodies, being sensible of the calamities of life, taking care of our families and affairs, &c.
We need not act contrary to the generality in matters political ; and may concur with them, in all which tends to the welfare of states and kingdoms. Good Christians will be good subjects.
The text does not forbid our falling in with the sentiments of bad men, on some points of religion.
Nor does it forbid our complying with their prevailing humours and prejudices in lesser things, when this will not interfere with more important matters.
But it forbids our complying with them in any thing sinful, or, that appears so to us; for we owe more to the authority of God, and the dictates of conscience, than to any, or all the men in the world. See the context; and instance in the sins of omission and