Dr. Alexander MacEwan
O GOD, our fathers’ God, make
Thyself known to us this day as the God of Zion. In Thy courts
may we seek Thyself and find Thee there. Bless Thy day to us,
so that in its sacred services we may have spiritual communion
with Thee as the Father of our spirits. In Thy holy word may we
hear Thy voice speaking to us, and may our psalms and hymns of
praise help us to rise in spirit to that blessed world where our
great High Priest now is, and where we humbly hope one day
through His grace to be. We present our petitions to Thy
throne, in and through Him as our advocate with the Father.
HYMN, or PSALM xxxvi. 5-9.
from these narrow scenes of night
Unbounded glories rise,
And realms of infinite delight
Unknown to mortal eyes.
distant land! could mortal eyes
But half its joys explore,
How would our spirits long to rise,
And dwell on earth no more!
the heavenly prospect fire
Our hearts with ardent love,
Till wings of faith and strong desire
Bear every thought above.
Prepare us, Lord, by grace divine,
For thy bright courts on high;
Then bid our spirits rise and join
The chorus of the sky.
EXODUS XVIII. 5-7, 13-27.
AND Jethro, Moses’
father-in-law, came with his sons and his wife unto Moses into
the wilderness, where he encamped at the mount of God: 6. And he
said unto Moses, I thy father-in-law Jethro am come unto thee,
and thy wife, and her two sons with her. 7. And Moses went out
to meet his father-in-law and did obeisance, and kissed him; and
they asked each other of their welfare: and they came into the
tent. 13. And it came to pass on the morrow, that Moses sat to
judge the people: and the people stood by Moses from the morning
unto the evening. 14. And when Moses’ father-in-law saw all that
he did to the people, he said, What is this thing that thou
doest to the people? why sittest
Thou thyself along, and all
the people stand by thee from morning unto even? 15. And Moses
said unto his father-in-law, Because the people come unto me to
enquire of God. 16. When they have a matter, they come unto me,
and I judge between one and another, and I do make them know the
statutes of God and his laws. 17. And Moses’ father-in-law said
unto him, The thing that thou doest is not good. 18. Thou wilt
surely wear away, both thou and this people that is with thee:
for this thing is too heavy for thee; thou art not able to
perform it thyself alone. 19. Hearken now unto my voice, I will
give thee counsel, and God shall be with thee: Be thou for the
people to God-ward, that thou mayest bring the causes unto God:
20. And thou shalt teach them ordinances and laws, and shalt
shew them the way wherein they must walk, and the work that they
must do. 21. Moreover, thou shalt provide out of all the people
able men, such as fear God, men of truth, hating covetousness;
and place such over them, to be rulers of thousands, and rulers
of hundreds, rulers of fifties, and rulers of tens. 22. And let
them judge the people at all seasons: and it shall be, that
every great matter they shall judge: so shall it be easier for
thyself, and they shall bear the burden with thee. 13. If thou
shalt do this thing, and God command thee so, then thou shalt be
able to endure, and all this people shall also go to their place
in peace. So Moses hearkened to the voice of his father-in-law,
and did all that he had said. 25. And Moses chose able men out
of all Israel, and made them heads over the people, rulers of
thousands, rulers of hundreds, rulers of fifties, and rulers of
tens. 26. And they judged the people at all seasons: the hard
causes thy brought unto Moses, but every small matter they
judged themselves. 27. And Moses let his father-in-law depart;
and he went his way into his own land.
O LORD, we adore thee as our
Creator, Preserver, and Redeemer. Thou hast made Thyself known
to us in the works which Thou hast made, and which proclaim
Thine eternal power and Godhead. We see Thy presence in our
lives, which are full of the proofs of Thy loving care. In Thy
blessed Son, our Saviour, we behold the full glory of Thy grace,
and can speak to Thee as the God and Father of our Lord Jesus
Christ, and as our God and Father in Him. We ask Thy help while
we try to address our petitions to Thy throne. We feel we are
unworthy of this privilege, and but for Thy mercy we could not
draw near to Thee. We are unable in any way to engage in Thy
service, as we should do, and ask that Thou wouldst give us of
Thine own wherewith to serve Thee.
Accept our thanks for
the revelation of Thyself which Thou hast given to us in Thine
own word. We desire to trace there the evidences of Thy wisdom,
faithfulness, and love. Thou hast been true to all Thy
promises, even when these have exceeded our highest
expectations. May we learn to judge of Thee, not by ourselves,
but as Thou art made known to us by the testimony of Thy truth.
Unveil to us Thy glorious character as the Scriptures proclaim
it to us, and not only with our minds but in our hearts may we
now Thee as the Lord our God. Aid us in trusting Thee as the
Omniscient Jehovah. May we not shrink back in unbelief from
Thine all-seeing eyes. May we learn to repose confidence in Thy
word, which tells us that Thy compassion is as infinite as Thy
knowledge. When our faith is tried, and our penitence flows
forth, may we be able to say, “Yea, Lord, Thou knowest all
things: Thou knowest that we love Thee.”
Guide us by Thy
wisdom. Teach us to lean on it, and not on our own
understanding. Keep us from going astray from Thy precepts.
May our course ever be in that way whose fruit is unto holiness,
and the end of which is everlasting life. We pray Thee to bless
all Thy people. Be with those in every place who seek to serve
Thee in the gospel of Thy Son. Especially we commend to Thy
care those who minister to men in the things of God. May their
labours enjoy Thy blessing and conduce to the spread of Thy
glory. Be kind to all sick and infirm persons. Draw nigh to
those that are of a broken spirit. Lead those who seek Thee in
a plain path; and may those that love Thy salvation say
continually, “The Lord be magnified.”
The grace of God be
with our spirits. Our souls thirst for Thee, the living God.
When shall we appear before Thee in Zion? Fit us for Thy
service on earth and Thy presence in heaven. It is only through
Thee that we can hope to come to Thee. With Thee is the
fountain of life, and in Thy light we shall see light.
Blot out all our sins. Accept,
sanctify, and deliver us from evil; for Thine is the kingdom and
the power, and the glory. Amen.
CHURCH IN THE HOUSE.
RIGHTEOUS God, help us, as Thy children in
Jesus Christ, like Him to love Thee with heart, soul, and
strength, and our neighbour as ourselves. May the same mind of
love which was in Christ be also in us, so that we, in the
possession and practice of love, may fulfil Thy law, and be
followers of God as dear children. Amen.
PARAPHRASE LI. 4-7.
know, that when the soul, uncloth’d,
Shall from this body fly,
’Twill animate a purer frame
With life that cannot die.
are the hopes that cheer the just;
These hopes their God hath giv’n;
His Spirit is the earnest now,
And seals their souls for heav’n.
walk by faith of joys to come,
Faith grounded on his word;
But while this body is our home,
We mourn an absent Lord.
faith rejoices to believe,
We long and pant to see;
We would be absent from the flesh,
And present, Lord! with thee.
PRESERVE me, O God: for in
thee do I put my trust. 2. O my soul, thou hast said unto the
Lord, Thou art my Lord: my goodness extendeth not to thee; 3.
But to the saints that are in the earth, and to the excellent,
in whom is all my delight. 4. Their sorrows shall be multiplied
that hasten after another god: their drink-offerings of blood
will I not offer, nor take up their names into my lips. 5. The
Lord is the portion of mine inheritance and of my cup: thou
maintainest my lot. 6. The lines are fallen unto me in pleasant
places; yea, I have a goodly heritage. 7. I will bless the Lord,
who hath given me counsel; my reins also instruct me in the
night-seasons. 8. I have set the Lord always before me: because
he is at my right hand, I shall not be moved. 9. Therefore my
heart is glad, and my glory rejoiceth; my flesh also shall rest
in hope: 10. For thou wilt not leave my soul in hell; neither
wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption. 11. Thou wilt
shew me the path of life: in thy presence is fulness of joy: at
thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore.
THEN verily the first covenant
had also ordinances of divine service, and a worldly sanctuary.
2. For there was a tabernacle made; the first, wherein was the
candlestick, and the table, and the shew-bread; which is called
the Sanctuary. 3. And after the second vail, the tabernacle
which is called the Holiest of all; 4. Which had the golden
censer, and the ark of the covenant overlaid round about with
gold, wherein was the golden pot that had manna, and Aaron’s rod
that budded, and the tables of the covenant; 5. And over it the
cherubims of glory shadowing the mercy-seat; of which we cannot
now speak particularly. 6. Now when these things were thus
ordained, the priests went always into the first tabernacle,
accomplishing the service of God. 7. But into the second went
the high priest alone once every year, not without blood, which
he offered for himself, and for the errors of the people: 8. The
Holy Ghost this signifying, that the way into the holiest of all
was not yet made manifest, while as the first tabernacle was yet
standing. 9. Which was a figure for the time then present, in
which were offered both gifts and sacrifices, that could not
make him that did the service perfect, as pertaining to the
conscience; 10. Which stood only in meats and drinks, and divers
washings, and carnal ordinances, imposed on them until the time
of reformation. 11. But Christ being come an high priest of good
things to come, by a greater and more perfect tabernacle, not
made with hands, that is to say, not of this building; 12.
Neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by his own blood,
he entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal
redemption for us. 13. For if the blood of bulls and of goats,
and the ashes of an heifer sprinkling the unclean, sanctifieth
to the purifying of the flesh; 14. How much more shall the blood
of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself
without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works, to
serve the living God? 15. And for this cause he is the mediator
of the new testament, that by means of death, for the redemption
of the transgressions that were under the first testament, they
which are called might receive the promise of eternal
inheritance. 16. For where a testament is, there must also of
necessity be the death of the testator. 17. For a testament is
of force after men are dead: otherwise it is of no strength at
all while the testator liveth. 18. Whereupon neither the first
testament was dedicated without blood. 19. For when Moses had
spoken every precept to all the people according to the law, he
took the blood of calves and of goats, with water, and scarlet
wool, and hyssop, and sprinkled both the book and all the
people, 20. Saying, This is the blood of the testament which God
hath enjoined unto you. 21. Moreover, he sprinkled likewise with
blood both the tabernacle, and all the vessels of the ministry.
22. And almost all things are by the law purged with blood; and
without shedding of blood is no remission. 23. It was therefore
necessary that the patterns of things in the heavens should be
purified with these; but the heavenly things themselves with
better sacrifices than these. 24. For Christ is not entered into
the holy places made with hands, which are the figures of the
true; but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of
God for us, &c.
“WITHIN THE VAIL.” --Heb. vi. 19.
THERE is no vail in the
Christian church. Christ took it away by His precious death,
and when He died, “the vail of the temple was rent in twain.”
Here, however, the inspired writer speaks of another vail,
within which Christ entered. This can be no other place than
heaven, into which Jesus the Son of God has passed, as our great
high priest. He went in once for all, and now, our text tells
us, He is “within the vail.” “Within the vail!” These are great
and awful words! Think of what they mean. “Within the vail!”
This is an arrangement of words that does not perhaps arrest us
at first, but let us once catch their meaning, and we cannot
help repeating them. In the busy street as in the silent
chamber, in the crowded church and by the grave’s mouth, these
are the words which we cannot utter without emotion: “Within the
shall take the text as a brief description of heaven, and try to
show that there are good reasons why that better world should be
thus spoken of. It reminds us --
I. That entrance
into heaven is effected by the death of Christ.
The place of the vail
in the worship of the Old Testament church is made plain by its
position, both in the tabernacle and the temple. It hung
between the Holy of Holies, in which were kept all the sacred
symbols of God’s special presence with His people, and the holy
place. Made in a peculiar and carefully prescribed way, it
could be turned aside only once a year, and by the high priest
alone. As he lifted up its awful folds, and stepped solemnly
within the vail, he had to take incense and the blood of
sacrifices with him, to sprinkle upon the mercy-seat, lest he
died. Outside and far off the mass of the people stood
awe-stricken and silent; all that was heard was the echo of the
high priest’s feet, or the tinkling of the bells upon his
garments, as he moved to and fro in the discharge of his high
duties. What could betoken more strikingly than this
impressive order, the exclusion of men from the fellowship of
God, and the terrible chasm between them and the Holy One which
their sins had caused? Hence, too, the need for this being done
away by the gospel. The writer of this letter tells us,
accordingly, of a new and living way into the holiest by the
blood of Jesus, and he adds, that it was consecrated for us
“through the vail,” that is to say, His flesh. In other words,
the completed sacrifice of our Lord Jesus on Calvary was
accepted by God, the obstacles which stood in the way of man’s
communion with his Maker were removed, the vail of the temple
was torn asunder, and we may all now come boldly to the throne
of grace. “The holiest” which is spoken of here is not
confined to heaven. It denotes the manifested presence of the
Most High everywhere. That is holy ground where God is seen and
honoured, and we may draw near to it with all boldness by the
blood of Jesus. On the other hand, however, all holy places on
earth are but the shadows of heaven. It is there that the pure
and perfect worship of Jehovah is presented, and of it the Holy
of Holies in the ancient temple was only an apt emblem. Our
admission into its blessedness is the result of our redemption
to God by the blood of Christ, and this is unquestionably a
prominent idea in the name given to heaven as “within the vail.”
Separation from God and exclusion from heaven are the fruits of
sin, for “the wages of sin is death.” Restoration to God and
entrance into heaven are effected by the death of Christ, for
“the gift of God is eternal life,” and this life is in His Son.
When He died He said, “It is finished,” and then He entered for
us as a forerunner “within the vail.” Without that death of His
for us on earth, there could have been no life for us with Him
in heaven. Its sacred threshold was shut against us by a thick
vail, which no hands could lift but those that were pierced for
us by the nails. They are hands “mighty to save,” but their
might comes from the strange fact that they were stretched out
for us bleeding on the bitter cross. These are mysterious
sayings, but they are often and plainly uttered in God’s holy
word. They relate to a mystery as unfathomable as their own --
man’s sin against God. Over against it they set up the wonder
of wonders, in God’s sovereign mercy and reconciling grace
through that crucified Jesus, at the sight of whom faith
exclaims, “Great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifest
in the flesh.” Let us look, then, at this truth in its relation
to the sinner’s entrance into heaven. His Lord has entered
heaven before him, wearing his nature, and as the elder brother
of the family. In the flesh -- that is to say, as a man -- he
has gone within the vail. Taking possession of the heavenly
places, He has thrown them open to all for whom they are
prepared. That preparation of them has been made in virtue of
what He has paid for it. His obedience and sufferings --the
rending of His flesh -- that is the ground on which sinful men
may go to heaven. With their feet resting on this sure
foundation, they can advance undismayed into the very presence
of God, for they have a great high priest passed into the
heavens. Thus it is, farther, that the nearer they get to the
vail the more clearly they see Jesus within it. It seems at
times to be lifted up for them before they pass through it, that
they may behold the King in His beauty. From the sight they get
of Him they draw courage for the last battle with death, and
their desires grow more ardent to be absent from the body, that
they may be present with the Lord. Their words bespeak their
trust, and their hope shines through their countenance, as in
the case of him whose face was seen as it had been the face of
an angel, and whose transfigured beauty before he was within the
vail Scripture thus explains, that “he looked up steadfastedly
into heaven, and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the
right hand of God.”
Heaven is spoken of as
within the vail, because
II. What separates
us from Heaven is so slight, and may be so suddenly removed.
It seems to be
significant that between us and the better world there should be
only a vail. It is so thin and slight, that it hardly needs any
hand to raise it. The breath of the passing wind makes it
tremble; and when it comes laden with the air of the grave, it
forces it aside, and the spirit of man, which a moment before
was with us, is away from us for ever, “within the vail.” That
vail is the curtain of time, woven by a divine hand, to be an
almost transparent medium to separate this world from the world
to come. Thin though it be, it is sufficient for its purpose.
Nor is it without its resemblance to the old vail which hung
before the Holy of Holies. Like it, it is of many colours,
blue, purple, and scarlet. It has, likewise, curious handiwork
all over it, not unlike the “fine twined linen of curious
work.” It also bears to be supported strongly and yet
beautifully, as it was on its four pillars of shittim-wood,
overlaid with gold. Nay, it admits of being made glorious by
the tokens of God’s presence resting on it, for it is never made
aright unless there can be the cherubim upon it. Such then, is
this vail which God has made. It hangs everywhere before our
eyes. What but this is nature, and history, and the world, and
life, and love itself? The blue of the sky, the sun’s golden
rays, the heart’s varied experiences, they are all God’s vail,
intercepting the view of His full glory, and yet with such
traces of that glory shining through as help us to aspire after
a clearer and fuller vision of it.
Meanwhile the vail is
marked by mystery. We are continually endeavouring to
understand it, but are constrained to own that we know it only
in part. Its revelations we can do little more than guess at;
and indeed they would be unintelligible, but for the light which
falls upon them from the more sure word of prophecy. It is
through that glass alone that we can read the writing on the
vail, so that with open face we may behold there the glory of
the Lord. Even with this help we cannot comprehend the
principle on which the vail is thrown open before those who have
to pass within it. Each day brings a summons for some to leave
time and become familiar with eternity. So soon as the message
is delivered it must be obeyed; and those who get it rise up at
once, because the Master is come and calleth for them. An
ingenious writer speaks of the postman Time going his rounds,
and bearing from house to house his burden of letters. He knows
nothing of them but the address. He may not read their
contents, and no one may but the man to whom they are sent; but
any morning there may put into the hands of any of us this fatal
missive. We may not boast ourselves of to-morrow, since we know
not what a day shall bring forth. Now, it is evidently in mercy
that God has constructed the vail of time so mysteriously. If
we knew it better, such knowledge would be too great for us.
Were we told the hour when the vail should be lifted up to
separate our friends from us or us from them, we could not enjoy
their society. That fixed hour of parting would be heard
ringing its knell of woe through all our hours of joy. Let us
not murmur, then, though our friends are suddenly snatched from
our arms and borne away within the vail. There is love, as well
as wisdom, in the manner of their removal from us. This world
is like a great workshop, and we who are but visitors in it are
apt to get confused amid the crash of the machinery and the
noise of the looms. The Master, however, knows all about the
webs He has to weave, which shall be of the darker, and which
shall be of the brighter threads. He knows the lights and the
shades alike -- how to begin His work, and when to cut it short
-- so that whenever we are tempted to raise our voice against
His ways of working, we may hear His own voice speaking to us
these words of warning, “Be still, and know that I am God.” The
great lesson we have to lay to heart is preparation for passing
within the vail ourselves. Let us look at the time and life as
given to us for the purpose of being spent in the service of
God, and to make us meet for heaven. The vail they form should
be so looked at and used by us, that through means of it we
shall be getting ready for things unseen and eternal. Let us
try in some degree to enter into the spirit of the poet, when
speaking of it he says: --
“O could I see as in truth they be,
The glories of heaven that encompass me;
I should lightly hold the tissued fold
Of that marvellous curtain of blue and gold.
Soon the whole, like a parched scroll,
Shall before my amazed sight unroll,
And without a screen at one burst be seen
The Presence wherein I have ever been.”
spoken of as within the vail, because
Lastly, It hides from our view much which we long to
Behind the vail in the
temple of the Jews were all the precious symbols of their faith
and worship. The golden censer, the ark of the covenant,
Aaron’s rod, the tables of the covenant, the cherubim of glory
overshadowing the mercy-seat -- these were all within the vail.
With these divine emblems only one representative man was
brought into contact, the type of Him who is our high priest for
ever, the ascended Intercessor at God’s right hand. If we pass
from the actual case to the spiritual reality, we see that
heaven contains much which at present is hidden from our gaze as
by a vail, but which we are sure to become acquainted with so
soon as we pass within the vail ourselves. The subjects which
this idea suggests are very numerous, and we can only select two
or three leading aspects of them. Let us select --
The influence of the Saviour’s presence. -- There can be no
doubt that this is a chief element in the life of heaven. Even
on earth Christian principle just means faith in Christ. The
more distinctly He is seen, the stronger and firmer is the hold
which the believer has of spiritual and everlasting life. Hence
it is that so much stress is to be laid on the use of the
various means of grace, which are in fact the hem of our high
priest’s garment, so that the virtue which comes out of them is
all derived from Him. Even it, alas! often grows stiff and cold
in our hands, and then the living connection between the hand of
faith and Christ’s person and work is lost. Within the vail
that connection shall be cemented never to be again broken, and
all who follow the Forerunner into heaven shall know what it is
to be like Him, because they see Him as He is. The very sight
of the Lord Jesus must exert a transforming influence on the
natures of those who have learnt to know and love Him. To be
with Him is equivalent to being like Him, just as it is
impossible to enjoy the sun’s rays and yet be in darkness. The
Lamb who is in the midst of the throne is the light of heaven.
He is the spring of spiritual life to all its inhabitants, as
well as the source of all their blessedness, for of that city
which is without a sun we are told, not only that the glory of
God doth lighten it, but that the Lamb is the light thereof.
Even here we have at times such views of Christ as help us to
apprehend this truth in part, but they are so imperfect as to
prompt a desire to understand it better -- a desire which shall
be fully gratified only when, being absent from the body, we
shall be present with the Lord.
Again, the vail hides from our view
The conditions of a sinless state. -- Our best experience in
the worship of God here is that of those who can only venture to
approach Him with a sacrifice in their hands. We are, it is
true, all priests to God now, with one great high priest over
the house of God. Our hearts tell us, that although we have
access into the holiest of all, we are still unholy as we draw
nigh to God. It is our hope, but not our attainment, to be in a
sinless state. We long for the period when we too shall pass
within the vail, and be holy as those who are holy there; when
there shall be no impurity in our motives, and no imperfection
in our service, when we shall be at home in the unsullied purity
of heaven; and when, looking in upon our sinless hearts, we
shall see only the spotless holiness of God reflected from their
untroubled depths. We should not be impatient of the blessed
bondage of earthly ties and human love, and yet we cannot but
feel how hard it is to bear the one and cherish the other
without soiling the worship which the heart owes to God. We
would not cast them off, but we would fain put on above them the
fine linen, clean and white, which is the righteousness of
saints. What would we not give to belong to that great
multitude that stand before the throne and before the Lamb,
singing the song of salvation, with white robes, and with palms
in their hands! Only in our best moments here does this
condition of things stand out to our view as a living reality.
The curtain of the present for the most part hides it from our
eyes. When it is lifted up, and we step into the invisible
kingdom of Christ beyond the grave, we shall realize what it is
to live knowing the truth without being condemned by it; seeing
what is right and still evermore cleaving to it; near to God,
but not afraid of Him; in the possession of the blessedness of
the pure in heart who see God.
Finally, the vail hides from our view
The imperishable and perfect happiness of our departed Christian
advantages in this respect, as compared with those of just men
of old, are indeed great. Their high priest went within the
vail, and he came back alive; but he died at last as other men
died, and he gave no sign. Our great high priest went within
the vail by the dark passage of death, but when He came back it
was to die no more, and to rise to heaven to receive to Himself
there all who live and die in Him. Them that sleep in Jesus God
brings with Him. Yet, simple as all this seems to be, it
requires deep and earnest faith to rest in its simplicity.
Indeed faith must summon hope to her aid, as an anchor of the
soul sure and steadfast, and entering into that within the vail.
That those who were so lately living by our side are living
somewhere, though their bodies lie in the cold grave; that they
are conscious and happy, though their voice to us is silenced,
and they are far away from those they loved so well and by whom
they are so much beloved; that they have no cares to distract
and no sorrows to grieve them now, though lately they had so
much to make them anxious, and were torn from our arms amidst
lamentations and woe -- all this we believe of the dead in
Christ; but, ah! how hard it is to make faith here what it
should be -- the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of
things not seen! Within the vail! They are there; but how the
poor lonely heart of the mourner presses against that vail, like
some imprisoned bird that beats its wings and breast against the
cage in its vain attempts to join its lost companions in the
distant sky. The bereaved are made to feel that in their
imperfect faith they cannot reach so far as they fain would;
that those they have loved and lost are indeed severed from them
by more than land or sea; and that their utmost attainment is to
say with David of his child, “I shall go to him, but he shall
not return to me.” What then, shall it be at last, when we,
too, pass within the vail? When we find our beloved ones all
safe and all at rest? When again we shall feel ourselves near
those from whom we once thought we could never live apart, and
when we awake from this life’s troubled frightsome dreams to the
inconceivable and unending blessedness that is within the vail?
How it shall be with us and them then, how they shall look and
what they shall say, let us not try too anxiously and pryingly
to learn. Heaven is our home, but there is a vail hiding it
from our view. Let us not seek to strip it of its mystery. Let
us not play childishly with its awful folds. They are to be
looked at, and not handled; and if we behold them with trustful
eyes, our hearts shall bow submissive to His will, which makes
heaven to all who are on earth a world “within the vail.”
these suggestions of those striking words before us, let us hear
them bidding us beware --
First, of the vail that is on the heart.
apostle describes some who have vailed hearts when they read the
Scriptures. They are those whose minds are blinded, and who
are under such a thick covering of unbelief and prejudices, that
they will not look to Christ at all. We are exposed to this
danger too. The truth about the Lord Jesus is set before us,
and if we will not receive it we judge ourselves unworthy of
eternal life. Ah! there is no vail so dreadful as that of the
unbelieving heart. It sees no love in God, no truth in His
promises, no grace in His Son, no ground for faith, no hope of
heaven. Surely, of all sins this is the most inexcusable, to
close our eyes against the clear full light of the blessed
gospel-day. Let us be persuaded to look to Him whom that light
reveals, and turning to the Lord the vail shall be taken away.
us be encouraged, in fine,
To acquire the habit of looking within the vail.
It is there we can alone see
that which shall make us happy. Some are seemingly happy
without it. Their life is prosperous, and their cup is full.
Their happiness, however, is insecure, and it is often seen to
be like the prophet’s gourd, which came up in a night, and
perished in a night. In all such cases, when that happens to
men which makes them say, “It is better for me to die than to
live,” God, their great Teacher, wants them to learn this lesson
of looking within the vail. Do our hearts despond under our
many trials and amidst the thick mists of this worldly state?
let us think of the church as it is within the vail. Does a
strong wind beat upon our house, break down its supports, and
dash its darling idols to the ground? Let us long the more for
the reunited hearts and the inseparable friendships within the
vail. In sorrow itself there is no sin, but only in the sorrow
with the downward look. Over sorrow, when it looks within the
vail, death itself has no power. It may take from our eyes the
visible form of the objects of our love, but from our souls it
cannot take away that love which is given to us for ever, and
which shall one day find freest scope in a higher sphere. “It
is but a little while when this thin vail of clouds hanging its
darkness between us and that region of brightness shall break
away, and our God shall put to shame all our weeping, giving us
back our lost, clad in heaven’s own garb, and beaming in all the
light and health of that happiness and glory in which they have
been kept, and nursed, and nourished.” --Alexander MacEwan, D.
SOMETHING MORE OF HOW JOSEPH’S DREAMS CAME TRUE.
THE sore famine still
continued. The stock of corn in Jacob’s household began to get
low. So one day he said to his sons, You must go down to Egypt
again, and buy some food. His sons were quite willing to go.
But there was one great difficulty. Joseph had told them that,
when they came back, they were to bring Benjamin with them.
Benjamin was his full brother, the child of his mother Rachel,
as well as of his father Jaob. Now when Reuben, Judah, and the
others came back from their first visit to Egypt, and told how
the lord of the country wanted to see their youngest brother
next time, their father broke out into a cry of distress, and
said he would not let Benjamin go. He said that his brother was
dead, and he only was left of his mother Rachel’s sons, and if
any mischief were to happen to him, his own gray hairs would be
brought down with grief to the grave. When Jacob, therefore,
bade his sons go down to Egypt again, there was this great
difficulty to be got over. He could not bear the thought of
letting Benjamin go with them, and he even blamed them for
letting the ruler of Egypt know that they had another brother.
At last, however, Judah, having reasoned with his father, and
promised to take every care of Benjamin, got him to yield, and
he sent them all away with wise advice and earnest prayer. I am
sure it must have been a sad and anxious time to Jacob while
they were away. Only his heart was subdued now, and, I think,
he was waiting on the Lord.
So ten brothers of
Joseph came before him a second time. Another, you recollect,
was in confinement in Egypt. When Joseph saw Benjamin with the
rest he told his steward to bring them all to his house to
dinner. The steward took them away from the public office to
Joseph’s private house, without telling them, at first, why he
did it. This made them very much afraid indeed. They thought
they were to be found fault with for not paying for the corn
they brought the first time: for Joseph, on sending them away,
had told his servant to put their money into their sacks without
their knowing it, and when they found it out they did not know
what to make of it. So now they thought they were to be taken
to task about it. But when they spoke to the steward, and told
him how their money had been put in their sacks they did not
know how, and that they had brought it back along with more for
more corn, he made light of it, and said he had got their money
the first time all right. Then he behaved very kindly to them,
and at mid-day they were all brought in to dine with Joseph.
Joseph did every thing to put them at their ease, and yet
managed to keep them from discovering who he was, although at
first when he saw Benjamin, he had to go away to another room to
weep. During dinner he paid them all attention, sending them
meat from his own table, but he was especially kind to
Benjamin. All the while, however, not even Benjamin knew him.
Next morning Joseph told his steward to give them the corn they
wanted, putting back their money as before, and putting also a
particular silver cup into Benjamin’s sack. The steward did all
this, and the eleven (for Simeon was with them now) left the
city, very happy indeed. They had not gone far, however, before
they saw the steward of Joseph coming after them, and when he
came up to them he taxed them roundly with stealing his lord’s
cup -- a special cup that was of great value to him. They were
astonished to hear this, and said if any thing belonging to his
lord could be found with them, they all deserved to be made
slaves, and the one that had been the thief should die. You may
judge then of their wonder and distress, when taking down their
sacks one by one, they came at last to Benjamin’s, and opened it
to find the very cup in the mouth of it. They had not a word to
say, but were torn with grief. With rent clothes and sore
hearts they went away back into the town. Judah was saddest of
all, thinking of his promise to his father to take care of
Benjamin, and bring him safe home. So when Joseph proposed to
keep Benjamin as his slave, Judah went near to him, and made
such a touching speech, asking to be kept in his youngest
brother’s stead, for fear of killing his father with grief, that
Joseph was not able to stand it any longer. So he told every
body to leave the room, except his brothers; and then, with loud
weeping, he told them who he was. He said, I am Joseph -- is my
father really living yet? At first his brothers could not
believe him; they stood quite bewildered, but he talked with
them about what had happened to him after they sold him, and how
God made him lord of Egypt. He said to them not to be vexed
about their conduct to him, for it was God that meant to use him
for the saving of many lives. At last they came to believe him,
and there was such embracing, and tears of joy, as had never
been known. In a short time the news spread, and were carried
to the king, and he was delighted to hear that Joseph’s brethren
had come. So he sent to say that Joseph should ask them to
leave Canaan and come down to Egypt and stay there. This was
what Joseph intended for he longed very much to see his father,
and be near him again. Away, therefore, he sent his brethren,
and told them to make haste and bring his father down. He sent
provisions with them for the journey, and waggons for his father
and the women and children to ride in. And then, I can well
believe, he counted the days till they could return.
Jacob was waiting
anxiously for their coming back from Egypt, to see if Benjamin
was with them, and Simeon, and to hear how they had sped. You
may be sure he was very glad when he saw them all coming; but
when they met him, and said, Joseph is yet living, and it is he
who is lord of all Egypt, and who has been selling us corn, the
old man’s heart grew sick within him. He could not believe
them, and thought they were but mocking him, and bringing up his
great sorrow afresh; but they went over the whole story to him,
and told him how Joseph wanted him to go down to Egypt and end
his days there, and had sent carriages to fetch him. He came
then to see that they were telling the truth, and his spirit
revived, and looking at the carriages, he said, Say no more; I
will go and see my son before I die.
They had a bustling
time of it for a little, making ready to go to Egypt. But they
were soon on their road; and when they had got as far as Beer-sheba,
Jacob offered sacrifices to the God that had been so good to
him. No doubt he asked God to be with him, now that he was
going into a strange land. And God spoke to him in a dream, and
told him not to fear. So next day Jacob went gladly on his
way. At length the company came near to Egypt, and Judah went
to tell Joseph. Immediately Joseph rode out in his grand
chariot, and went to meet his father. When the father and son
met, it was a sight to see. They fell on each other’s necks,
and wept a long time; and Jacob said, I can die now, for I have
seen my child’s face, whom I have mourned so long as dead. He
lived, however, a good many years after that, and Joseph had the
duty of taking care of him in his old age, and of standing
beside him when at last he gave up the ghost, after bidding his
sons carry him up and bury him along with his fathers in the
Such was the way in which the boy’s
strange dreams were brought to pass.
QUESTIONS ON THE BIBLE STORY.
1. Do you remember the name which
Benjamin’s mother gave him, and for what reason?
2. Can you find a text where a good
man advises to wait on the Lord in trouble, and repeats his
advice, as if he could give no other so good?
3. Do you remember a feast, given by a
brother to brothers, that ended in blood?
4. Who was it that showed special
attention to a guest, by setting a particular portion of meat
5. Can you find a text to show that
Joseph got the best revenge on his brethren by doing them
6. Can you give instances of persons
weeping on each other’s necks -- 1, Of two brothers meeting; 2,
Of two friends parting; 3, Of a number of friends parting?
7. In what other case, greater than
even Joseph’s, did men mean to kill, while God meant to save
8. Can you name two cases where people
could not believe good news for very joy and wonder?
CONSULT, if necessary, for answers to the
above -- Gen. xxxv.; Ps. xxvii.; 2 Sam. xiii.; 1 Sam. ix; Rom.
xii.; Gen. xxxiii., 1 Sam. xx., Acts iii.; Luke xxiv. and Acts
QUESTIONS ON THE BIBLE LESSON.
1. What was the
occasion of the first dissatisfaction which arose in the church
2. What did the
apostles recommend with a view to put an end to the murmuring?
3. What were the
special gifts or qualifications required in those who should be
set over the services of the church referred to?
4. Who is the Author
of all spiritual gifts?
LORD, Thou art a God that doest wonders. Thou hast thine own
strange, but wise and beautiful ways, of bringing Thy purposes
to pass. Thou dost often make the wrath of man to praise Thee,
and out of evil Thou bringest good. We give Thee thanks,
especially, that Thou didst design mercy for the world in the
death of Thy son, although he was taken and crucified and slain
by wicked hands. We praise Thee that after he was delivered
unto death, Thou has raised him again, and set him at Thine own
right hand. We would bow the knee to Him. We pray to be fed,
and guided, and cared for by Him. We would serve Him all our
days on earth, and dwell with Him for ever. O Lord, grant us
this, for His name’s sake. Amen.
ALMIGHTY God! We lift up our eyes to Thee, who art the fountain
of life, Thyself the living one. Thou givest life to those who
look to Thee! Help us, by Thy Holy Spirit, to seek thy face.
Shine upon us with the light of Thy truth, and bring us in Thine
own way, home to Thyself, that we may dwell for ever in the
light of thy countenance, though Jesus Chist our Lord. Amen.
HYMN, or Psalm xix. 7-11.
O FOR the wings of faith to rise
Within the vail, and see
The saints above, how great their joys,
How bright their glories be!
Once they were mourning here below,
And wet their couch with tears;
They wrestled hard, as we do now,
With sins, and doubts, and fears.
We ask them whence their vict’ry came
they, with united breath,
Ascribe their conquests to the Lamb,
Their triumph to His death.
They mark’d the footsteps that He trod;
His zeal inspir’d their breast;
And foll’wing their Incarnate God,
Possess the promis’d rest.
glorious Leader claims our praise
For His own pattern giv’n,
While the bright Cloud of Witnesses
Shows the same path to heav’n.
ACTS VI. 1-7.
in those days, when the number of the disciples was multiplied,
there arose a murmuring of the Grecians against the Hebrews,
because their widows were neglected in the daily ministration.
2. Then the twelve called the multitude of the disciples unto
them, and said, It is not reason that we should leave the word
of God, and serve tables. 3. Wherefore, brethren, look ye out
among you seven men of honest report, full of the Holy Ghost and
wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business. 4. But we will
give ourselves continually to prayer, and to the ministry of the
word. 5. And the saying pleased the whole multitude: and they
chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Ghost, and
Philip, and Prochorus, and Nicanor, and Timon, and Parmenas, and
Nicolas a proselyte of Antioch; 6. Whom they set before the
apostles: and when they had prayed, they laid their hands on
them. 7. And the word of God increased; and the number of the
disciples multiplied in Jerusalem greatly: and a great company
of the priests were obedient to the faith.
1 CORINTHIANS XII. 1-11.
NOW concerning spiritual
gifts, brethren, I would not have you ignorant. 2. Ye know that
ye were Gentiles, carried away unto these dumb idols, even as ye
were led. 3. Wherefore I give you to understand, that no man
speaking by the Spirit of God calleth Jesus accursed; and that
no man can say that Jesus is the Lord, but by the Holy Ghost. 4.
Now there are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit, &c.
FATHER of all mercies, we come
into Thy presence as Thine unworthy children. We own that we
are unworthy of Thy kindness. We have gone astray from Thee and
from Thy ways. Hadst thou left us to ourselves, we should have
been alike without help and without hope. Blessed be Thy name!
Thou didst raise up a Saviour for us. In everlasting love Thou
didst take pity on us, and didst send forth Thy well-beloved Son
to be our Redeemer from sin and death. For Thy great gift of
Him for our salvation, we give thee humble, hearty thanks. We
lay hold of Thee as our strength, because Thou hast let us know
Thee as the Lord our Saviour. We confess our exceeding
sinfulness in lightly esteeming the Rock of our Salvation. Give
us, we pray, a deeper sense of our own necessities, a clearer
view of the infinite excellencies of the Lord Jesus Christ, and
a more earnest desire to cleave to Him and to Him only, as all
our salvation and all our desire. Be graciously pleased to make
us like Christ as our blessed example. Take away from us the
selfishness and the self-seeking which mar our resemblance to
our Lord. Form in us the mind which was also in Him. May the
words which He has spoken to us be spirit and life to our
souls. Help us to look to Jesus habitually, that our likeness
to Him may grow, and men may take knowledge of us that we have
been with Him. Keep us from being unduly cast down by the
consciousness of our slow progress in the Christian life. May
we learn to hold on in the good work and way of the Lord.
Enable us to follow our Master by faith into the heavenly
world. Looking within the vail, may we see Him as the
Forerunner there; and seeking to be admitted into the fulness of
His joy hereafter, may we be found here walking in His
We give Thee thanks
and praise for Thy goodness to Thy servants who have already
finished their course and kept the faith. We rejoice to think
of them as delivered from sin, and conquerors over death. May
we be followers of them, as they were followers of Christ, so
that at last we too may be joined to their blessed fellowship
above. Comfort all mourners as they lament the loss of friends
who have been taken away from the present evil world. Be the
father of the fatherless and the widow’s judge. Send Thy
strengthening Spirit into all hearts that are even now in the
bitterness of sorrow. When we suffer from the rod of Thy
chastisements, may we remember that it is in our Father’s hands,
and as obedient children may we accept its inflictions with
trustful and unmurmuring hearts. Draw near to those who are in
pain or sickness; aid them in bearing their trials, and in
preparing for what may still be in store for them; make Thy
grace sufficient for them, and perfect Thy strength in their
Make us all ready for
our latter end. We bless Thee that there is a rest which
remains for Thy people. May we even now enter into it, that
when we pass within the vail we may be received into its full
blessedness. Give us such firm, clear faith in our adorable
Redeemer, that we shall feel assured of our safety in His
hands. May we abide in Him, and then we know He will never
leave, never forsake us. O that we may be assured, on good
grounds, that He is our shield and buckler in this world; and
when we go into the world beyond the grave, may it be our joyful
experience that neither death nor life, nor any other creature
is able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ
Jesus our Lord. Hear our prayers, good Lord, and give us a
gracious answer to them, for Thine own mercies’ sake. Amen.
MORNING AND EVENING MEDITATIONS.
Thou shalt not
avenge, nor bear any grudge against the children of thy people,
but thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself: I am the Lord.
And if a stranger
sojourn with thee in your land, ye shall not vex him.
But the stranger that
dwelleth with you shall be unto you as one born among you, and
thou shalt love him as thyself; for ye were strangers in the
land of Egypt.
A new commandment I
give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you,
that ye also love one another.
Lev. xix. 18, 33, 34. John xiii. 34.
But I say unto
you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to
them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use
you, and persecute you;
That ye may be the
children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his
sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the
just and on the unjust.
For if ye love them
which love you, what reward have ye? do not even the publicans
Be ye therefore
perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.
Matt. v. 44, 45, 46, 48.
Let love be without dissimulation.
Abhor that which is evil; cleave to that which is good.
Recompense to no man evil for
evil. Provide things honest in the sight of all men.
If it be possible, as much as lieth in
you, live peaceably with all men.
Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves,
but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance
is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord.
Therefore if thine enemy hunger, feed
him; if he thirst, give him drink: for in so doing thou shalt
heap coals of fire on his head.
Be not overcome of evil, but overcome
evil with good.
xii. 9,17, 18, 19, 20, 21.
Bless them which
persecute you: bless, and curse not.
Rejoice with them
that do rejoice, and weep with them that weep.
Be of the same mind
one toward another. Mind not high things, but condescend to men
of low estate. Be not wise in your own conceits.
For this, Thou shalt
not commit adultery, Thou shalt not kill, Thou shalt not covet;
and if there be any other commandment, it is briefly
comprehended in this saying, namely, Thou shalt love thy
neighbour as thyself.
Love worketh no ill
to his neighbour: therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.
Rom. xii. 14, 15, 16. Rom. xiii. 9, 10.
And let us consider one another to
provoke unto love and to good works:
Honour all men. Love the
brotherhood. Fear God. Honour the king.
Servants, be subject to your masters
with all fear; not only to the good and gentle, but also to the
For this is thank-worthy, if a man for
conscience toward God endure grief, suffering wrongfully.
For what glory is it, if, when ye be
buffeted for your faults, ye shall take it patiently? but if,
when ye do well, and suffer for it, ye take it patiently, this
is acceptable with God.
x. 24. 1 Pet. ii. 17, 18, 19, 20.
For even hereunto were ye called:
because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that
ye should follow his steps:
Who did no sin, neither was
guile found in his mouth:
Who, when he was reviled, reviled not
again; when he suffered, he threatened not; but committed
himself to him that judgeth righteously:
Who his own self bare our sins in his
own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live
unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed.
Pet. ii. 21, 22, 23, 24.
He that covereth a transgression
A man that hath friends must shew
himself friendly; and there is a friend that sticketh closer
than a brother.
But the fruit of the Spirit is love,
joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith,
Meekness, temperance: against such
there is no law.
And they that are Christ’s have
crucified the flesh, with the affections and lusts.
If we live in the Spirit, let us also
walk in the Spirit.
Let us not be desirous of vain-glory,
provoking one another, envying one another.
Prov. xvii. 9. Prov. xviii.
24. Gal. v. 22, 23, 24, 25, 26.
And the Lord make you to increase
and abound in love one toward another, and toward all men, even
as we do toward you.
I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord,
beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are
With all lowliness and meekness, with
long-suffering, forbearing one another in love;
Endeavouring to keep the unity of the
Spirit in the bond of peace.
Thes. iii. 12. Eph. iv. 1, 2, 3.
If there be therefore any
consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship
of the Spirit, if any bowels and mercies,
Fulfil ye my joy, that ye be
likeminded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one
Let nothing be done through strife or
vain-glory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem the other
better than themselves.
Look not every man on his own things,
but every man also on the things of others.
ii. 1, 2, 3, 4.
Let this mind be in you, which was
also in Christ Jesus.
Hereby perceive we the love of
God, because he laid down his life for us: and we ought to lay
down our lives for the brethren.
But whoso hath this world’s good, and
seeth his brother have need, and shutteth up his bowels of
compassion from him, how dwelleth the love of God in him?
And if ye salute your brethren only,
what do ye more than others? do not even the publicans so?
ii. 5. 1 John iii. 16, 17. Matt. v. 47.
By this shall all men know that ye
are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.
Finally, be ye all of one mind,
having compassion one of another; love as brethren, be pitiful,
Not rendering evil for evil, or
railing for railing: but contrariwise blessing; knowing that ye
are thereunto called, that ye should inherit a blessing.
For he that will love life, and see
good days, let him refrain his tongue from evil, and his lips
that they speak no guile:
Let him eschew evil, and do good; let
him seek peace, and ensue it.
xiii. 35. 1 Peter iii. 8, 9, 10, 11.
My little children, let us not love
in word, neither in tongue; but in deed and in truth.
And hereby we know that we are of the
truth, and shall assure our hearts before him.
For if our heart condemn us, God is
greater than our heart, and knoweth all things.
Beloved, if our heart condemn us not,
then have we confidence toward God.
And whatsoever we ask, we receive of
him, because we keep his commandments, and do those things that
are pleasing in his sight.
And this is his commandment, that we
should believe on the name of his Son Jesus Christ, and love one
another, as he gave us commandment.
1 John iii. 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23.
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