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I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the Lord, thoughts of peace, and not of evil. — Jer. 29 : li. ONE of the most marked features of the religion of the Bible is the light in which it represents the Divine Being. Paganism represents Him as a stock or stone, carved into the similitude of a man, or a bird, or a four-footed beast, or a creeping thing, without intelligence, and even without life. Some, under the pretence of exalting His majesty and greatness, represent Him as occupied only in certain great creative and conserving acts, and not at all concerning himself with the little affairs of human life or destiny. Men are prone to conclude either that there is no God, or that He knows nothing about our behavior in this world, or that He is wholly indifferent to what we do, or say, or think. But the holy Book assures us that He is an infinite and living Intelligence, who is with everything that He has made, not only as an unconcerned spectator, but as a loving Father, in sympathy with His creatures, consulting each one's good, and so 397
398 GRACIOUS THOUGHTS. minute in His attentions as to keep count of the
very hairs of our heads. So far from retiring from His works to dwell apart in the secrecy of His own unapproachable Godhead, uncaring for such, worlds as ours or such beings as we, there is nothing done, nor said, nor thought, nor felt by man but He knows it, and notes it, and thinks of it, and orders His dealings with reference to it. God does think of its. This He himself affirms in the text. The same is also attested in Nature, which is one vast volume of divine thoughts, in every one of which, if rightly read, we find marks and tokens that we have been thought of, and that our interests are not unconsidered. In the very framework of the heavens above us ; in the adjustment of the sizes, spheres, and motions of the planets and stars; and in the arrangement of the relations of the celestial orbs to the world which we inhabit, references to us, as well as to other beings, can easily be traced. This mysterious ocean of air which envelops the earth, at the bottom of which we live, in all its currents, changes, adaptations, and never-ceasing operations, — the mighty sea of waters, in their varied distribution and multiform offices, — the mountains and rocks, and lands and streams, — the trees, and fruits, and flowers, — the night and day, the rains and dews, — the seasons and laws of seedtime and harvest, — the beasts of the field and the birds of the air, — the links of kindred and the ties of home, — the relations of the elements, the course of things, and the constituents, pursuits, and very
TWELFTH SUNDAY AFTER TRINITY. 399 burdens of life, — a// are freighted with evidences in every part of the great machinery of creation that God has thought of us, and never ceases to
have a very particular regard to us. "Many," says the Psalmist, "many, O Lord my God, are thy wonderful works which Thou hast done, and Thy thoughts which are to usward: they cannot be reckoned up in order unto Thee. They are more than can be numbered." And God'' s tJioiigJits to iisivard are all benevolent^ — " thoughts of peace and not of evil." This we do not always realize. There is so much disappointment, disaster, affliction, trial, and suffering that we are often doubtful and misgiving. We are in a constant war of good and evil, which surges first one way and then another. If we have peace one day, we are disturbed the next. There is not a rose but in plucking it we are pricked with its thorns. Hence we are often hurried into very mistaken estimates of the economy under which we are placed. Trouble comes or adversity overtakes us, and we conclude that God is thinking of us other thoughts than thoughts of peace. When Jacob finds Joseph gone and Benjamin about to be taken, he says, "All these things are against me. " But it is not so. Even these adversities are connected with "thoughts of peace and not of evil." Joseph is taken just that he might be the instrument of saving Jacob and all his house, and that the promises might not fail. When Israel was pursued by Pharoah, and the strong warriors of Egypt were pressing upon
400 GRACIOUS THOUGHTS. their rear, while the mountains hemmed them in on either side, and the Red Sea was in their front, they felt as if God had led them there just to destroy them. But it was not so. It was to destroy
their adversaries and to vouchsafe to them the sublimer salvation. When they were in the wilderness, without food or water, and ready to perish of hunger and thirst, they supposed in their anguish that God meant to do them evil, — that His thoughts toward them were bitter. But they were nevertheless "thoughts of peace," — the preliminaries of marvellous miracles to save them at the last, and to fill them and all the after-church of God with joy. When David was being driven about in the mountains as a fugitive from the powers which thirsted for his blood he thought God had ' ' forgotten to be gracious. ' ' But it was a mistake, as he himself afterward acknowledged, and was glad that he had been aflflicted. The same mistake is frequently made by penitents. When the Spirit enters the heart, and makes it feel its guiltiness before God, and distresses it on account of its sins, and makes it fear the wrath it has deserved, it can hardly think otherwise than that the Almighty's thoughts are thoughts of resentment and severity. But it is quite the contrary. The men of Nineveh, in sackcloth and ashes, were thinking that God was about to destroy them in the very hour that His thoughts toward them were peace. When the prodigal resolved to return to the parent he had wronged he was busy thinking how he should
TWELFTH SUNDAY AFTER TRINITY. 4OI placate that parent's wrath, and taxed all his disturbed and distressed wits to make out a speech of confession and self-abasement to modify the supposed anger of his father. But that father meanwhile was only thinking how he might welcome the returning sinner, and day by day was
on the house-top looking for him and making ready in his heart for his joyous reception. And so, O conscience-stricken one, terrified and alarmed at your sinfulness and neglect of your Maker: you wonder how He can be otherwise than angry with you. You doubt if there can be any mercy for you. But while you are thus wrestling with your guilt and the imagined wrath of God, His thoughts abound in mercy and pardoning love. You are thinking Him harsh, unwilling to forgive, and requiring to be pleaded with and bribed by sacrifices and good works; whereas He is full of joy at your willingness to accept His forgiveness, and cherishes toward you only "thoughts of peace." So in Christian experience and life. You repent, and yet feel that your penitence is not worthy to be called repentance; that everything about it is so poor and superficial as to look more like mockery than reality. You love God, and often have great comfort in thinking of Him; but it is so faint and feeble, as compared with the warmth of affection and interest toward other objects, that you feel as if God could not accept such a cold and unworthy devotion. You are so dissatisfied with yourself, and ashamed, and full 26
402 GRACIOUS THOUGHTS. of lamentation, that you think God cannot think of you with favor. But if you are really humble and sincere in your sense of your unworthiness, God knows your heart and sees your struggles of spirit, and might make it otherwise if He would.
But He sees that it is better for you to be led through these depths and conflicts, to try you, and prove you, and develop in you the better fitness to appreciate and enjoy His mercies at the end. So too in the performance of religious duty. One says, " I go into my closet; and kneel before God in secret; I try to pray to Him; but it seems only like a waste of time. My mind wanders to the ends of the earth; and I come forth feeling that it would have been better if I had not made the attempt." Another says, "I went to His house with sincere desire to worship with His people, and to commune with my Maker; but so many cares and trifles came into my thoughts that I cannot see how God can be otherwise than angry with me." But, my dear Christian friend, God knew what took you to your closet; and He knew what thoughts brought you up to His house, and what thoughts interfered with the perfection of your devotions, just as He knew the lamentations of David for not being permitted to build the temple which he had projected. But as David was not rejected because he could not do all that he desired, so neither are you because you cannot pray and worship as you would like. God said to David, " TJ1021 didst tvell that it was in thv
TWELFTH SUNDAY AFTER TRINITY. 4O3 hearty The poor widow, when she saw the rich people of the congregation putting their large sums of money into the treasury, doubtless felt very meanly of her mites, and lamented that she had no more to give. But the Saviour did not think her little offering mean. It was all she had; and because it was all she had, Jesus said
it was more than all that those rich ones out of their abundance had given. No, no; we are not required to do as ive ivoiild like^ but simply as zve can. And with all our deficiencies and disabilities, God's thoughts toward us are "thoughts of peace, and not of evil. ' ' And so in other instances. The answers to our prayers are often so delayed that we think they are wholly unacceptable. The Cyro-Phoenician woman goes to the Saviour for her suffering daughter, and He does not seem to hear her. And when she finally gets a reply, it looks like a complete repulse. But, is she therefore to conclude that He is harsh, unfeeling, or angry, and unwilling to grant her request? What a misrepresentation this would have been of the real facts. Ivoving thoughts and overflowing beneficence underlay even that seeming repulse. It was only the better to prove her earnestness, to call forth more evidently her wondrous faith, that He might bless her the more and instruct His disciples the better. Sometimes we are called to part with the chief joy of our hearts. The disciples were told that He wliom they had taken to be their Redeemer was
404 GRACIOUS THOUGHTS. to leave tliem. Were they therefore to conclude that they were to be left comfortless, with all their great hopes destroyed ? So they might have reasoned, and so they were disposed to reason. But it was a great mistake. His thoughts toward them were " thoughts of peace, and not of evil." He was only going to send another Comforter, to prepare a place for them, to come again and take
them to himself, that where He is they might be also. In the ordinary course of nature it is appointed unto men once to die. We think how the light of this world is to fade from our vision, and our hearts cease to beat, and the warm blood chill and stagnate in our veins, and our bodies be lowered into the grave and buried out of sight. We see this occurring every day, and many friends being carried off. It cuts deep into the soul, and we imagine all sorts of sorrowful and hard things. We wonder what God can be thinking, and whither His redeeming love has gone, that He should leave even His own accepted children to such bereaving sorrows or so sad a doom. But it is not evil that He is thinking. He means it well. He would wean us from the things of earth to those of a better world. He would purge ofif our dross. He would discipline us for heaven, and draw us thither, that we might have the better destiny. In what seems the worst still His thoughts are beneficent, — ^'¦thoughts of peace^ and not of evil. ' ' The fond parent is sore distressed to see the
TWELFTH SUNDAY AFTER TRINITY. 405 dear child taken, and thinks it only evil and hard. Why could not this valued treasure have been left? Why should this afflictive vacancy have been created ? And why should this great sorrow have been sent upon a circle so peaceful and happy? Dear friends, there was good in it, and only good. In the Alpine regions, when the shepherd finds
that the pastures for his flock are failing from the valleys below, he takes some lamb in his arms, and carries it up to the hills above, that the rest of the flock may follow and find plenty for their preservation and comfort. And so the great Shepherd in heaven. He comes and takes some precious lamb in His arms, and carries it up into the eternal hills, that the rest of the flock may be drawn thither for their everlasting good. His thoughts are ' ' thoughts of peace, and not of evil." 1. 68 FREE BOOKS http://www.scribd.com/doc/21800308/Free-Christian-Books 2. ALL WRITINGS http://www.scribd.com/glennpease/documents?page=1000
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