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for now is arrived the period " for the manifestation of the sons of God.”
3. Again, they hear, they understand, they learn, (and wherefore learn but to repeat ?) the “ new song” sung by the heavenly minstrels before the throne of God. Does music charm? Does it now delight the willing soul? What then shall be those strains which hereafter, without danger, and without alloy, shall greet the ears of the redeemed ? From the God of harmony and from his harmonious creatures, what harmony shall then proceed,
“ Where the bright seraphim, in burning row,
Their loud uplifted angel-trumpets blow,
Touch their immortal harps of golden wires.”—Milton. 0 my soul, list thou to this celestial minstrelsy. Hearken to those choristers of heaven; list thou to this “ voice of harpers harping with their harps." Oh, catch some spark of their seraphic fire, and echo back their hymn of jubilee. Heaven-instructed, begin now thy songs in the house of thy pilgrimage.
4. And, once again, “ They follow the Lamb whithersoever he goeth." They have followed him through the wilderness, they now follow him in paradise, even through those delightful abodes which he has prepared for them. And, they follow him “whithersoever he goeth.” They shall never be parted from him more. Where he is, there shall they be. And, as nothing before separated them from his love, so nothing shall separate them from his presence. "Their privilege is to be attached to his person; and, through eternity, amidst scenes of untold glory and felicity, without fear of change or separation, they shall for ever behold his face !
II. Their POSITION, also, “before the throne,” demands our notice. They do not cower behind it; they have nothing to fear. Whilst on earth, they were delivered from that bondage, for “ perfect love casteth out fear, because fear hath torment. Slaves dread the lash of a master, but children rejoice in the love of a father. These “ walked with God” on earth, and they are now * before him " in heaven. Contrast their position with that of the rejected who are banished from the presence of the Lamb, for ever! Poor miserable beings! The heart sinks as we contemplate their doom.
III. Their CONDITION next claims attention,
1. They are pure as to doctrine. They have not defiled themselves with women, for they are virgins ;” that is, they have not corrupted themselves with false religion; they have not partaken of the Romish idolatry, or drunk of the wine cup of her fornication below, (ch. xvii.) They are pure from heretical pravity,-virgin souls, 'who whether in the bonds of holy earthly wedlock or not, have in the simplicity of the faith, and in the oneness of the real catholic church, been presented as “chaste virgins to Christ," and have consecrated their affections to him.
2. They are uncorrupt in speech. 66 In their mouth was found no guile.” Once they were deceiving and being deceived ; once they were the children of “ the father of lies, even of him who is a liar, and the father of it." But God, the “ God of truth,” called them to himself by the power
of his Spirit, and straightway they forsook all lying ways. They became followers of the truth; and now they for ever stand in that presence, into which “ whatsoever worketh abomination, and maketh a lie, cannot enter.”
3. They are, also, holy in life. “ They are without fault before the throne of God.” Justified from the guilt of sin by faith in the blood of Jesus, they are also cleansed from the defilement of sin by the sanctification of the Spirit of Jesus. They are members of that true church which “ Christ loved, and gave himself for; that he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word ; that he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish.”
IV. Observe, lastly, the RELATIONSHIP in which they stand to God. This is twofold. And it is this relationship which prepares
the way to all their blessedness. 1. They are redeemed or bought from among men. “ Not with corruptible things, as silver and gold; but with the precious blood of Christ.” Bought back to God are they by the blood of his dear Son. The costliness of the price shows the value of the purchase; whilst, at the same time, it is an encouragement to believers, leading them to the persuasion that God will not forsake the work of his own hands. There is force also in the expression “redeemed from among men,” showing the distinguishing favour of the Almighty in choosing out of the mass of mankind a 66 remnant” according to the good pleasure of his will, in whom he will be glorified. · 2. Again, they are “the firstfruits unto God and to the Lamb."
(1.) Separation is marked in this figure, and Christians are separated. Separated from the ruin of the world, by God's decree; from the way of the world, by God's power; from the guilt of the world, by Christ's death ; and from the pollution of the world, by God's Spirit. A peculiar people are they, in their beginning, continuance, and end; and peculiar they will be to all eternity. Blessed Jesus ! rengthen me with thein in a holy singularity to confess Thee; and do thou at the appointed time gather me with them in glory.
(2.) Devotion is also implied in first-fruits, for these were consecrated to God ; thus believers are devoted to him. They are not their own, but given up for his worship and service. Reader, remember this solemn truth, “ Ye are not your own!” Body, members, looks, actions, thoughts, imagination, abilities, family, station in society, time, substance all, all are his, and are only entrusted to thee to use to his glory. See that thou art faithful, and remember that the day of reckoning is at hand.
(3.) Excellence is also implied in this figure, as it likewise points to the hope of future and full harvest, the first-fruits being only an earnest of that which is after to be. The Jews, originally selected from among the nations, were an earnest of what God would do for the Gentile world, « kind of firstfruits of his creatures ” leading our attention to that great harvest, when “ all people shall fall down before him, all nations shall do him service.” Speed on, revolving years, and bring in the auspicious day when the earth shall, from all her varying tribes, yield a full harvest to Jesus our King. We see, yea, in ourselves, we prove the earnest, and we rejoice. But oh! what joy, when, in the fulness of the harvest, the scanty sheaves of the first-fruits shall be forgotten. Then shall we “ joy before thee, according to the joy in harvest, and as men rejoice when they divide the spoil.” Even SO,
in the same “ bundle of life” with Jesus, we have common interests, common hopes, common joys, with him. He has called us to his kingdom, and we earnestly desire its manifestation. “Even so, come, Lord Jesus.”
THE HAPPY SHEPHERD. M. DE RANCE, a distinguished Frenchman of the seventeenth century, having experienced some severe afflictions and disappointments, while yet ignorant of the only source of real consolation, sank into a deep and settled melancholy. In this
gloomy mood he wandered in the woods for hours together, regardless of the weather, and seemingly unconscious of every surrounding object.
On one of the brightest mornings in May he was wandering in his usual disconsolate manner amongst the wooded mountains that skirted his estate. Suddenly he came to a deep glen, which terminated in a narrow valley. It was covered with rich green herbage, and surrounded on all sides with thick woods. A flock was feeding at the bottom, and a clear brook watered it. Underneath the broad shade of a spreading oak sat an aged shepherd, who was attentively reading a book. His crook and pipe were lying on the bank near him, and his faithful dog was guarding his satchel at his feet. The abbé was much struck by his appearance. His locks were white with age, yet a venerable and cheerful benignity appeared in his countenance. His clothes were worn completely thread bare, and patched of different colours, but they were wonderfully neat and clean. His brow was furrowed by time; but as he lifted up his eyes from the book, they seemed almost to beam with the expression of heartfelt peace and innocency. Notwithstanding his mean garb, the Abbé de Rance involuntarily felt a degree of respect and kindness for the man: My good friend,” said he, with a tone of affectionate sympathy,
you seem very poor, and at a very advanced age ; can I render your latter days more comfortable?”
The old man looking at him steadfastly, but with the greatest benignity, replied, “ I humbly thank you, sir, for your kindness ; did I stand in need of it, I should most gratefully accept it; but blessed be God, his mercy and goodness have left nothing even to wish.”
Nothing to wish !” replied M. de Rance, who began to suspect his shepherd's garb to be a disguise, “ I shall suspect you of being a greater philosopher than any I know! Think again.”
“Sir," replied the shepherd mildly, “this little flock, which you see, I love as if it were my own, though it belongs to another. God has put it in my master's heart to show me more kindness than I deserve. I love to sit here and meditate on all the goodness and mercies of God to me in this life; and, above all, I love to read and meditate on his glorious promises for that which is to come. While I watch my sheep, I receive many a sweet lesson on the Good Shepherd's watchful care over me, and all of us. What can I wish, sir, more?”
“ But, my good man,” returned the abbé, “ did it never come into your head, that your master may change, or your flock may die? Should you not like to be independent, instead of trusting to uncertainties ?”
Sir,” replied the shepherd, “I look upon it that I do not depend on circumstances, but on the great and good God, who directs them. This it is that makes me happy, happy at heart. God in mercy enables me to lie down and sleep secure, on the immutable strength of that blessed word, 'All things work together for good to them that love God.' My reliance, being poor myself, is on the love of God. If I were ever so rich, I could not be more secure; for on what else, but on his will, can the most flourishing prospects depend for their stability ?"
The abbé felt some emotion at this observation ; he however smothered it, and said, “ Very few have your firmness of mind.”
Sir,” answered the man, you should rather say, few seek their strength from God.” Then steadily fixing his eye on M. de Rance, he added, “ Sir, it is not firmness of mind. I know misfortune as well as others; and I know, too, that where affliction comes close, no firmness of mind alone can, or will carry a man through. However strong a man may be, affliction may yet be stronger, unless his strength be in the strength of God. Again, sir, it is not firmness of mind, but it is a firm and heart-felt conviction, founded on Scripture, and experience of God's mercy in Christ. It is faith, and that faith itself is the gift of God.”
The man paused, then looking at M. de Rance with great interest, he added, “Sir, your kindness calls for my gratitude. Permit me to show it in the only way I can. Then I will add, that if
you do not yet know this gift, he calls you to it as much
I see by your countenance, that, though so young, you have known sorrow. Would to God you could read on mine, that, though at so advanced and infirm an age, I enjoy the blessings of peace. Yet though you are probably learned, whilst I am unlearned, I believe that the secret of true happiness is the same to all. Let me then show my gratitude, by telling you what the teaching of God and his word and providence, has taught me. I was not always blessed with the happiness I now enjoy. When I was young
I had a farm of my own; I had a wife whom I dearly loved, and I was blessed with sweet children. Yet with all these good things, I was never happy; for I knew not God, the supreme good.