Manual The Book of Jonah in four Oriental languages

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Contents:
  1. Hebrew Bible
  2. Catalog Record: The book of Jonah in four Semitic versions | HathiTrust Digital Library
  3. Jonah, Book of

The boldness with which a prophet in Israel could rebuke and reprove their wild rebellions against God, and their gross violence among themselves, must have sprung in all cases from a prior and conclusive triumph over the fear of death. And, indeed, with regard to every true Christian, is not this one of those things in which he will find his character making progress, if indeed he be thriving in spiritual prosperity at all, viz. Inevitably, in such a case, it is for the sake of others, and not his own, that this man will care for living long on the earth.

If to such considerations as these we add the fact that this holy man of God had a very difficult office to discharge among that portion of the tribes that soonest and most deeply revolted from God and righteousness, and among whom, therefore, like all who had that lot assigned them, Jonah must have found himself almost continually uncomfortable, and altogether and continually destitute of sympathy, we have probably said more than enough in the way of showing that the dread of losing life was not the motive which prompted the inexcusable act of fleeing from the presence of the Lord.

Shall we say, then, thirdly, that astonishment and perplexity as to being sent to the Gentiles operated on his mind, and led him to refuse a mission to the heathen? We have already spoken at length on the singular relations, in the development of the history of redemption, subsisting between Israel and the Gentile world. Indeed, it must have been a severe trial to his confidence in God to be appointed a preacher to those whom all along he had understood to be in the meantime given over of the Lord.

That seemed generally understood—yea, conclusively settled. It seemed a settled point that the heathen were, for the time being, abandoned; that on them the prophetic office had no bearing. It remains, therefore, that we now state—and we can at present do little more than state—the real cause.

Jonah himself, in the utmost possible candour, has disclosed it and recorded it; and there is not the slightest reason to imagine the existence or operation of any other cause. Though we cannot at present open up very fully what is implied in this singular and artless confession, or the precise nature of the sin thus disclosed, we may not fancy that we have made little or no advance in considering the character of this most wonderful man. We see not a little into the marvellous power of Divine grace in him, when we see that the gigantic obstacles and difficulties of his mission did not, and never would have hindered him; that the fear of death was not a fear to which he was in any degree a slave; and that even the perplexities which, in so unspeakably more favourable circumstances, all but drove an enlightened apostle from his propriety and duty, even in the gospel age and in the fulness of Pentecostal times, had no weight to stagger the noble heart of this much misunderstood servant of God.

To do that, it needed a deeper difficulty than ordinary minds need. It needed more subtle and more spiritual temptation than the grosser cast of minds are even capable of feeling. Little credit as he may get, his God gave him credit for being moved to disobedience by no such commonplace motive as the dread of difficulties, the love of life, or the mystery of the relation of Jew and Gentile. He could appeal to God that another motive than any of these was at work in his sorely tried spirit.

The Lord exonerated him from the charge of everything mean, sordid, and of the kind that sways the worldly, and even oftentimes the more unrefined and low-toned Christian spirit. Godly men especially lie open to have misconstructions put, and wrong judgments passed, upon their conduct.

If we heard their private prayers, we might get the true explanation of what may seem otherwise inexplicable. We do overhear a prayer of Jonah when his spirit was overwhelmed within him—when his soul was too agitated to speak anything but the bursting, burning truth. Were it not for that prayer and the explanation it affords, all manner of false motives might have been heaped upon the misjudged character of this most noble prophet.

We learn from his communion with God—what the ever-blessed God did not for a moment cast doubt upon, for He is very gracious, and owneth all sincerity even where it may be sadly struggling to assert and keep its ground—we learn from his secret communion with God, as it is recorded by the spirit of inspiration, that not even hindrances of the most painful, powerful, perplexing character, did, or would have, induced him to be disobedient to the heavenly command.

We have said that none but a soul of high-toned spiritual dutifulness would have been open to the risk of being perplexed by the idea that suggested itself to Jonah. Holy zeal for the honour of God in a very singular crisis and movement of His government; great fear lest, sparing Nineveh after the unmitigated threatening, God might be regarded as a changeable God; fear, not at all for himself, but fear lest his God might be misjudged; these things weighed with his anxious heart, as on none but a regenerated heart could they practically have weighed at all.

Unquestioning obedience to God is, therefore, most emphatically taught in this passage. Leave all things to Him. Let His word of command be enough for thy duty—His word of promise enough for thy faith. Whatsoever more thou shalt in any case seek shall turn out thy thorn and thy trouble. But the word of the Lord is very pure: therefore let His servants love it Ps. Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin; and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death.

Do not err, my beloved brethren. Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning. JONAH was afraid lest, the inhabitants of Nineveh repenting, and the Lord remitting the punishment threatened, the God of the Jews might be regarded as a changeable God.

Inconsistency and inconstancy are charges which a sensitive man can scarcely with equanimity bear. When I therefore was thus minded, did I use lightness?

Hebrew Bible

But as an honourable man repels such a charge as directed against himself, how much more must a faithful servant of the Lord indignantly repel such a charge against his King and his God. For if such a thing can be said of God, there is an eternal end of all constancy everywhere. God forbid: for how then shall God judge the world? God forbid: for where then were any everlasting rock or stay? But why should he not allow the Lord to protect His own character in His own way?

When he took counsel with flesh and blood, when he conferred with his own carnal wisdom, he forsook the first principle of piety,—subjection to the call and word and will of God. He did not need to be less concerned for the honour of God. Therein he did well; therein his soul was far more upright within him than in the case of multitudes who think it quite an easy thing to discuss his character and pronounce upon his sin. Nobly did he exhibit, even in and by his error, the deep desire that glowed within him to see his God rightly understood and rightly honoured.

Contrast, for instance, as to the principle involved, the faith of Abraham in offering up Isaac, with the unbelief of Jonah in fleeing to Tarshish. How will they distinguish between this surrender which in unquestioning confidence and duty I make of my beloved one, and the bloody and accursed murders wherewith they stain the service and propitiate the favour of their unholy and abominable deities?

If they arose and attempted to arrest his obedience, he warred against them with spiritual weapons. Against hope he believed in hope.

Jonah: The World’s Greatest Fish Story (Jonah)

He continued to believe that what God had promised He was able to perform—that He was able to raise up Isaac again from the dead, from which, indeed, he received him in a figure—and that He was able to justify His own character and procedure in the eyes of the Canaanites and of all the world, in His own time and in His own way. Casting down, therefore, all reasonings, all thoughts, all imaginations, and mastering them all in faith, Abraham calmly went to Mount Moriah.

Jonah fell by unbelief under their power; they mastered him, and ruled and drove him hard. Jonah fled to Tarshish. He too may be said to have seen the day of Christ afar off—but to have been exceedingly filled, not with gladness, but with agony. On the side of its love, Abraham saw it and was glad. And in the first place, observe, that though Jonah was not moved to disobey God originally by fear, alarm, or cowardice; though it was under the force of a more subtle and spiritual motive than these—one having in it apparently more of holiness and godly zeal; yet no sooner is he, through his disobedience, in a false position, than fears and alarms get the mastery over him.

He is evidently in the attitude of a man who has lost his self-possession. He betakes himself to flight. But he has no sooner formed it than the brave man is a coward immediately. He flees in terror. He is in haste to find a hiding-place. And this teaches us that, though it may be from a comparatively higher and purer class of motives that we may be induced to disobey the Lord, no sooner are we committed to an act or course of disobedience, than motives far less high and far less pure, may immediately assert a most humiliating mastery over us.

It matters not under what influence you take up the position of a rebel; you may have been omnipotent against your meaner enemies before; but you are weak as a child against them now. Principles of action too pitiful and paltry—nay, too mean and base—to have had any chance of securing your concurrence once, will present themselves now, in the hour of your revolt, claiming kindred with you, claiming control over you, with an insolence that may fill you with bitterness, but which it may now defy you to repress. The enemy at first may have needed to draw upon his more subtle devices, in order to waylay, deceive, delude, disarm you; but once you are disarmed, he can dispense with any peculiarly refined style of dealing.

Coarser method now will suffice. Angels of light may have been required, as his messengers, to dazzle and mislead you from the narrow way into paths of disobedience: but once there, fiends or evils of ruder form may manage you; motives of impure and gross enough description may suffice to move you, now that you are at any rate within the meshes of his net. Cowardice may not have induced you; nay, such may have been the stuff of which your disposition, and especially as moulded anew by grace, is made, that cowardice never would have prevailed to cause you to refuse the mission to Nineveh; motives far deeper and more subtle, much more akin to godliness and zeal, it may have been needful to ply upon you, ere you were induced to adopt the sinful determination; but once adopted—your God now clearly and consciously disobeyed, and your God therefore consciously and entirely distrusted, as distrust grows assuredly out of disobedience—you are at once the coward now.

The holy and sensitive spirit of a friend of God, enjoying actual experience, and living in present habits of friendship with Him, recoiled directly from every such suggestion or assault. But did the enemy deal more subtly with you? Did he speak of your friendship with God as now very stedfastly secured? Did he whisper that the constant, scrupulous, watchful, self-denying self-jealousy, needed in the earlier stages of your Christian walk, were not so necessary now?

Did he speak of the great difficulty of judging precisely and exactly where the limits of worldliness terminate and those of godliness begin? Did he point out a sort of middle land, as it seemed to be, between the Church and the world—the children of God, and the children of the wicked one—a sort of neutral ground on which, without resigning their special character, both alike might meet and dwell, or at least mutually visit and compliment each other, in something, if not more like unity, at least less like bigotry and religious narrowness? Your solemn views of the dreadful condition of worldly, unconverted men, lying in the snare of the devil and beneath the wrath of God, were gradually worn down.

Catalog Record: The book of Jonah in four Semitic versions | HathiTrust Digital Library

Slowly at first, and step by step—perhaps under semblance of wishing to commend religion to some whose society you loved, whose souls you really cared for—expecting thereby to bring them all the more easily round to yours? Let this, then, be our first lesson. We may disobey God from subtle and spiritual holy-like motives; but we no sooner yield than the coarsest may too sadly overmaster us.

The angel of light may be needed to betray us into sin. No alarms prevailed with Jonah to disobey his King. But disobedient Jonah is easily alarmed. He flees in haste and terror. Being in the way of disobedience, helps to disobedience meet him. A very terrible consideration! One that is always solemn and always seasonable. Beyond all question, if you are on the paths of sin, on the broad road, which, if you be not turned aside from it, lands you ultimately in everlasting ruin—beyond all question, in that path, in that road, you will find means and opportunities, help and facilities to sin.

Yes; it is a terrible truth that the sinner will usually find provided, as it were, to his hand, the implements and opportunities which a heart set to do evil will easily transform into helps to sin. Doubtless this must be so in a state of probation such as that under which in this world we are placed. Omnipotence, indeed, might work so as that, when passion sways and rules the transgressor, every help to evil should, as it were, retire before his footsteps and elude his grasp. Miracle might snatch the weapon of murder beyond the reach of the hand of revenge.

Miracle might draw a cloud of obscuration between the eye of lust and the object on which it feeds its secret and unhallowed fire. Miracle might make the atmosphere refuse to carry the sound of words when the hoary blasphemer essays to innoculate youth with his profanity. Miracle might so arrange as that Jonah, seeking to flee to Tarshish, shall find no ship bound for Tarshish.

Nay, it is conceivable that God might institute a kind of government and providence among men, in which these things should form not miraculous and astonishing exceptions, but the very style and staple of the system. But it would be a wholly new system proceeding on new principles, making void and setting aside altogether our present probationary condition.

To a state of probation—a state in which God suspends the immediately observed retribution, delays the instant and exact measuring out of justice till a day when the great drama shall be wound up and all outstanding cases settled—to such a state in which the sinner gets space or scope, time and opportunity, to prove his rebellion or repentance, time and opportunity to return and be reconciled, or to disclose thoroughly of what manner of spirit he is, so that justice in the ultimate judgment may be easily and clearly vindicated; to such a state it seems essential that the sinner should find, if he seek, the means of prolonging his rebellion to its aim of embodying the spirit of rebellion in its actions.

To snatch away from him, as no doubt God could do if He chose, the incentive to his lust, the weapon of his wrath, the vehicle of his flight, were for God to cease dealing with him as one under probation. But God will not thus interfere to make completion of a sinful purpose impossible. And can you complain of this? Can you reasonably complain?

Would you wish this probation to end? Would you wish swift and sudden wrath to fall, as in every case where probation unimproved terminates, the wrath then swiftly falls at last? Would you wish it to fall immediately? Do you wish your probation ended? Will you quarrel with God for so ruling in His providence that what is essential to a state of probation—essential, therefore, to your deriving the benefit of a state of probation—falls to your lot? He will keep them from the evil that is in the world; and the very events which the wickedness of the wicked transforms into helps of sin, the righteous shall find the Lord disposing into hindrances.

In the path of his duty the facilities for success are found beautifully placed around him. Consider, then, your position in the world. You walk, while here, in the midst of means, temptations, facilities to evil, innumerable. A heart at enmity to God will certainly, in one form or another, close with and accept these inducements to sin.

It is by these means that the god of this world blinds, snares, and rules the ungodly. This verse reads a solemn lesson as to the intense determination with which the evil heart of unbelief will, when scope is given to its reasonings, depart from the living God. It is hardly possible to conceive of a firmer, a more dogged, determined, resolved purpose of transgression than is indicated in the words which describe the flight of Jonah. Step after step the disobedient prophet takes in consummation of his purpose—and each following fast on the back of its predecessor, without repentance and, as it would almost seem, without reflection.

These words are like relentless, consecutive, fast-falling blows, under which his whole character as an obedient man of God is beaten to death and trampled under the foot of Satan. You may think you gain your end; but the Lord has you in His hand, and never more so than precisely when you think you have succeeded. You may resolve to disobey; you may rise up and flee; you may find your way to Joppa; you may find the ship ready there; you may find the mariners make no objection to your company, and are ready to receive the fare.

You may crown all, and think the day is gained, when you go down into the ship. How successful has your scheme been! Not a single step in it has misgiven. The whole project thrives. The last move has been all that you could wish it to be. Yes; but that last move is your move into the very prison in which God holds you now under lock and key, and will hold you, till He either cast you out for execution, or bring you to repentance.

THE Lord now begins to deal with Jonah with the view of bringing him to repentance and obedience. He has permitted him to carry out his project of fleeing from the shores of the sacred land. He has quietly left him to succeed so far, that he thinks his plan is now safely on foot. He has not interfered to baffle any one of the successive steps he has had to take in putting his design into execution.

Jonah has been allowed thoroughly to show all his desire, and thoroughly to prosecute all his design. And now, when the utmost success he could have wished has crowned his efforts, immediately the Lord interposes to show their futility. For the Lord can afford to wait. You may trespass against Him, and pass on apparently unpunished, the Lord apparently uncognizant. But the path along which you pass has the punishment lining both sides of it, and looming dark at some surely fixed point farther on.

In combination with your envious brothers you may succeed in quietly selling Joseph into the hands of Ishmaelites, and there may be no word of him and your offence against him for many days. God has many an agent whom He may commission in pursuit. He may therefore make no haste in putting any of them under commission; and you may have enormously the start of your pursuer.

But the fire, or the tempest, or the water, or the pestilence, when once under the command of the Most High, calmly and surely hunt down the fugitive, and bring him resistlessly to the bar. There is no art that can elude or baffle the messengers of Him who is the Judge of the quick and the dead. There is no blinding them; there is no bribing them. There is no loophole of escape. All things are naked and open unto the eyes of Him with whom we have to do; and all the powers and elements of nature are in His hand, to prosecute His controversies and to serve His purposes.

Flight from Him is futile, useless, and in vain. Oh, what praise is due to that blessed Mediator, through whom flight to God is possible, yea, blessed! Seek no hiding-place from God. Let God himself be your hiding-place. Ultimately Jonah also learnt to adopt this more excellent way; but not till he had been taught by the discipline of sore and stern experience. The Lawgiver administers them.

He has arranged a series of causes and elements, and placed them in various adaptations towards one another. But He supports, maintains, controls, and moves them at His own pleasure. Praise Him, ye heavens of heavens, and ye waters that be above the heavens. Let them praise the name of the Lord: for He commanded, and they were created. He hath also established them for ever and ever: He hath made a decree which shall not pass. Such is the doctrine of Scripture concerning the elements and laws of nature. They are distinguished, indeed, by permanence of properties and constancy of operation.

Their regularity is unbroken, save when miracle has occasionally intervened. Their movements are calculable, or at least fit subject for calculation. The order and regularity with which events fall out, surely does not go to invalidate the truth, that it is by divine superintendence, appointment, and control that they do so. It only shows in addition that the Being who arranges and guides all, is a God, not of confusion, but of order.

The Scriptures, in speaking of natural events, are remarkable for the unfaltering and continual ascription of them to God. For He commandeth and raiseth the stormy wind, which lifteth up the waves thereof. They mount up to the heaven; they go down again to the depths: their soul is melted because of trouble. Then they cry unto the Lord in their trouble, and He bringeth them out of their distresses.

He maketh the storm a calm, so that the waves thereof are still. Then are they glad because they be quiet; so he bringeth them unto their desired haven. Oh that men would praise the Lord for His goodness, and for his wonderful works to the children of men! Throughout that splendid ode, the hand of the Lord in sending forth and recalling the winds, and conducting the whole terrific drama of the storm from first to last, is sedulously and sustainedly acknowledged.

This is a peculiarity distinguishing the Scriptures. In them, justice is ever done to the Supreme Being; and in a measure, by all those, and by none else than those, who have drank into the spirit of the Scriptures. Believers must be conscious of this, as forming part of the great change which they have undergone in being turned from darkness to light. Formerly they had no pleasure in retaining God in their remembrance; they had no disposition to observe His hand and work in creation and providence.

They took no delight in generously doing Him the justice of attributing the stores of plenty wherewith the world is replenished to His bounteous liberality; nor in reverentially owning His voice in the tempest and the thunder, or His hand in the bolts of lightning, or the stormy wind fulfilling His command. Their thoughts of God, indeed, may at one time have been little better than as of some abstract, impersonal, infinite terror, hanging like a pall of death on their spirit.

A living God, capable of entering into fellowship with them, and striving to bring them into fellowship with Him, may not have been in all their thoughts. There are few surer signs of a change of heart and feelings towards God than a strong disposition to trace with delight the working of His hand and the evidence of His presence in the works of creation and providence. There is at such times a deep feeling almost of impatience at the present necessity of walking by faith—of having to be content with fellowship conducted only by faith.

But in this trying life of faith it is delightful to read in the heavens, stretched out with their glittering hosts of mighty mansions: or in the urgent ascending journey of the morning sun, scattering with his glory the shades of darkness; or in the mighty roll of the billows, when they rise to assert their utmost majesty, as if each in turn were king of the ocean realm; or in the voice of thunder, that breaketh the cedars of Lebanon; or in the lightning flash, seeming to create out of darkness, and bury with utmost speed again, the scenery on which, from heaven above, it glanceth forth its rapid glory:—in all these it is delightful to a child of God to read the working and the hand of the Father who has promised to bless and to protect him.

Another very interesting and important point is raised in reading this verse. The storm is sent forth to pursue, arrest, and punish Jonah, but it implicates in his punishment multitudes, doubtless—multitudes who had neither share nor knowledge of his guilt. Certainly it implicates all that sail with him; and many other vessels, in all probability, were exposed to the same tempest. Now, God can easily vindicate His righteousness in involving many in the chastisement of Jonah; but Jonah cannot escape the responsibility and guilt of having been the occasion of injury to others.

No doubt the storm was primarily designed to prosecute His quarrel with Jonah. It was appointed for him,—for him so specially and expressly, so that, save for him, we have no reason to believe it would have been sent out at all. And as a pursuer to arrest the flight of a disobedient subject, the commission given to it is manifestly and wholly righteous. And hence, though not conspirators with Jonah in his particular sin, these mariners, with the multitude of their own sins, and with these very idolatries of theirs which they insult the living God with on this occasion itself Jonah —were sufficiently obnoxious to be overtaken and involved in this tempest, as well as the guilty prophet.

No doubt the leading aim—the immediate Divine design—of this particular storm was to arrest and chastise a particular offender. But all were offenders. And while pursuing one special end, God might combine with it various subsidiary purposes, and in connection with His leading one He might gain them also. The iniquities of the sailors were not unduly punished by this affliction coming upon them, though, so far as appears, it would not have come upon them save for Jonah. Ten thousand purposes is the Lord daily prosecuting by the measures of His providence. One purpose, for the time, may rise into a position of prominence and importance that seems to us to cast all others into the shade.

Yet while that one alone, from its palpable and forcible prominence in our view, may concentrate and engross all our attention, it neither engrosses the Divine attention, nor deranges the Divine designs. The subsidiary and subordinate ends are advancing under the Divine control with a regularity never interfered with, and with a wisdom past searching out. But this consideration, while it vindicates the justice of God, affords no relief for the compunctions of Jonah.

Jonah cannot vindicate himself from the charge of being the guilty means of involving others in the Divine displeasure, and bringing down upon them a most afflictive dispensation. For while God—continually meting out to sinners, while they are on earth, more or less largely from a free fund of patience, which, though ever righteously administered, is at the disposal of His mere mercy and forbearance—can easily justify Himself, if at any time He diminish the measure which he deals forth from that fund, always finding sufficient reason in the offences against Himself which He thus calls into reckoning; yet Jonah, when he stands in between these mariners and the amount of Divine patience which, save for him, they would have enjoyed, can never justify himself herein, inasmuch as he cannot plead their offences against him as God can,—for they had never injured Jonah,—and even though they had, he is not to be acknowledged as the judge by whom providential dispensations and punishments are to be meted out to them.

They, indeed, have no right to lay the blame on him, as if they were innocent. But Jonah himself must take all the blame because he is guilty. They are not innocent; God in thus dealing with them is righteous. God is righteous in visiting upon them transgressions of their own, and in punishing them in this particular way, namely, by sending among them a man whose very presence and company involve a storm, and exposure to death by means of it. But Jonah is not innocent of the distress entailed on the mariners, because he carries about with him a disobedience which God is righteously avenging upon him in a way that must inevitably involve multitudes besides himself.

Thus may a calamity fall righteously upon a whole family for the sake of one guilty member; and in the grief of none of them is God unrighteous, while yet, in a sense, the whole guilt lies on one. The father of a household may so offend the Lord, as that the adequate punishment of his provocation shall not alight solely on his person, but may involve all his house. Assuredly not. In our different families, we may, without taking heed to it, be the guilty instruments of deeply injuring those we are bound, and may be anxious to benefit.

For, our individual provocations may be provoking the Lord to limit the temporal prosperity, and still more the spiritual blessing, which otherwise He might bestow upon them. His righteousness in so dealing with them He can easily demonstrate. But our guilt in leading Him so to deal with them He can demonstrate as easily. He can prove that He is just. But how can we avoid the blame of temporally and spiritually injuring those to whom we ought rather to be the instruments and channels of good?

He vindicates Himself on grounds which cannot be pleaded by us, for they do not pertain to us. He vindicates Himself on the ground that the pains and penalties from His hand, brought through us no others, are the righteous punishment of their own offences against Him, or are the beneficial chastisements through means of which He designs ultimately to crown them with benefits which in no other way could He have conferred, or in no other way so well.

We, on the other hand, have had no righteous quarrel to prosecute, and have been seeking to confer no ultimate good.

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With us lies the naked evil—the unalleviated guilt; and if there be aught of generous feeling remaining, it will, when we awake to face the facts, sting us to the quick with deep compunction and remorse. Let it not be forgotten that in this way a single individual may be a source of calamity to multitudes; and that this may result the more surely and extensively as that individual is more closely connected with the cause and kingdom of the Lord.

Because of a single private member of a congregation, God, in visiting his provocations with the punishment deserved, chastising his sensuality, or pride, or covetousness, or passion, may involve in much spiritual leanness and unprofitableness all his fellow worshippers. Society is constituted by Divine ordination into a body politic; and the Church, by eternal covenant, and by every fundamental principle of its nature and estate, is a body spiritual. It is one body. No member can isolate himself. If he could, he would thereby destroy himself. And whether one member suffer, all the members suffer with it; or one member be honoured, all the members rejoice with it.

Now ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular. And God hath set some in the Church—first, apostles; secondarily, prophets; thirdly, teachers: after that, miracles; then gifts of healing, helps, governments, diversities of tongues. Are all apostles? Have all the gifts of healing? But covet earnestly the best gifts. Though I speak with the tongues of men and angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass or a tinkling cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing.

And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing. Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil; rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth; beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.

IN last chapter we were engaged in considering the prophet, not only as overtaken with punishment himself, but as a source of calamity to others. The Lord our God in such a case can easily clear Himself, but He will not hold us guiltless. If the man is reprobated who, knowingly bearing in his body a most virulent and infectious disease, ultroneously mingles with society on all hands, and extends the plague to multitudes, why is it that in moral and spiritual things the same sharp and righteous judgment is not pronounced?

But one backsliding saint may destroy even more good, and originate even more evil.


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For, on the one hand, God pursues with much sharpness and severity His erring people. He can let His enemies alone; but He must, in very love, chastise and correct His sons,—even at the risk of judgment that may swiftly involve many around them, and, it may be, terminate to many their day of grace and probation. A sinner, therefore, in your home or household, may not so swiftly nor sorely be dealt with as a backsliding and rebellious son. What a thought is this! How impressively ought it to tell upon the hearts of believers! And with what watchfulness and jealousy ought it to inspire them!

How different with Paul, in the prosecution of his ministry, from Jonah in fleeing from his! Are you, to others, a source of deliverance, or a source of danger? Is your company and neighbourhood dangerous, because you are provoking the forth-flash of the bolt of anger? Or is it truly to be desired? Let us proceed with the narrative. In the verse now before us, the fifth verse, the immediate conduct of the mariners is described—and the immediate conduct of Jonah,—under the storm. Sailors are not speedily alarmed. They are proverbially brave and bold. But when even the crew themselves on this occasion were alarmed, we gather that the tempest was unusually terrific.

God, indeed, employed no miracle in raising this storm; but having a special purpose to serve by it, He stamped upon it a special terror, that His power and will might be the more readily recognised as engaged in it. When we provoke a controversy with God, and constrain Him to send after us a prosecutor or pursuer, He can easily confer on His agent some mark of majesty or terror,—some insignia of special power,—some resistless tone or token, whereby we may be baffled in attempting to hide from ourselves the source of his commission.

The Lord, the great Judge and Lawgiver, can clothe His officers with somewhat of His own delegated attributes, and compel us to recognise them as sent by Him. For there is in the bosom of every man by nature the conviction that there is a God; that there are at least superior beings, if not One Supreme. There is wrought into the inmost frame of our minds a conviction that we are dependent creatures; not our own masters, not gods unto ourselves.

The consciousness of sin—and sin is just an attempt to be gods unto ourselves—is itself sufficient to testify to us of a God. Were our effort to be independent a calm, simple, strengthening thing, the proof might fail. But no man can consider his own feelings without being convinced that the attempt to be his own lord and master, to do just as he pleases, to be in subjection to no lord over his inmost will, to walk in the light of his own eyes—the attempt, in short, to be his own ruler, or his own god, is really a revolt against the deepest convictions in his soul; that it carries with it anything but rest, calmness, strength, and satisfaction; that, on the contrary, it has in it all the marks of a struggle, of an unsuccessful struggle; that he remains still restless, unsatisfied, struggling—struggling still in vain.

The stronger his will is, the more is he doomed to feel that he cannot assert its supremacy; and circumstances outwardly conspire to aid the inward conviction. There is a power controlling all things, and not to be controlled by us. The will of man must break or bend; it cannot possibly reign supreme. The very restlessness—the very impatience of restraint or contradiction—which men so often exhibit against the allotments of Providence, is a confession that they feel themselves in the grasp of a power mightier than their own.

Whether we bend in submission, meek and patient, or resist and defy, we are alike owning a superior power. We are constituted so as that we cannot help doing so. You can write a book review and share your experiences.

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