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was a nation even to that same time;" and if that time be now fast approaching-and there are many signs shewing that it is nigh-the church should deeply reflect, whether she will not need those gifts and powers, which in the days of prosperity have been forgotten, but which the day of adversity will shew the church ought never to have been without. “Men's hearts are now failing them for fear, and for looking after those things which are coming on the earth :" and Satan, it is declared in the word of God, will have power to perform signs, and wonders, and miracles; “so that, if it were possible, he would deceive the very elect.” How earnest then, how instant, should the disciples of Jesus be in their cries to the Lord for the speedy manifestation of those gifts of the Holy Spirit, by which a witness for Christ, the risen Head, shall be borne, not in word only, but in power ! That Spirit is as a fire in the bones, consuming the lusts of the flesh; and this is what is needed in preparing the bride for the coming of the Bridegroom. The preparation is holiness : each member of Christ's body must be holy: and there is an ample provision for this holiness in the Fountain of life, light, and purity,--even Christ, the risen Head of his body the church ;and when the body is completed in holiness, then the Lord will
Even so: come, Lord Jesus ! Catherine Hall, Cambridge.
MEATIN DUE SEASON.”
Matt. xxiv. 45. Every student of the Holy Scriptures must be aware, that, together with a beautiful harmony which unites the whole into one great revelation of God, there is a distinctness characterising the features of the several component parts, which enables man, under Divine grace, to embrace and comprehend, through a series of intelligible details, what would otherwise be far beyond the reach of his limited understanding. This distinctness, impressed by Wisdom itself upon these various portions, must be duly observed by all who would derive real instruction from the word of God: and it is not merely unprofitable, but exceedingly injurious, to make a general or indiscriminate use of those passages which have the stamp of limitation affixed to them by the Holy Spirit. Indeed, there is no excuse for that display of ingenuity which, by an elaborate interpretation, can convert any text into a ground of argument in favour of any one subject as well as another; seeing that the true light upon every question may be readily and infallibly obtained from that part where it is specially handled by the inspired writers. One of the greatest evils attendant upon this general application of specified portions of the Holy Scriptures, arises from the readiness with which mankind are ever found to apply the same to every one but themselves. Thus many valuable and powerful precepts lose their efficacy; the purpose for which they were written is defeated; and man, deceiving and deceived, casts away the important instruction so well adapted to meet his own case, and so much required for his own peculiar edification.
This backwardness in every one to take to himself that exhortation which by any possibility can be thrown on his neighbour, is so well known, and will be so readily acknowledged, that something is evidently required as a remedy against this system of stopping short the word of God : for the cause of any failure is not from the word being weak, but from the natural hardness of man's heart being additionally fenced about by the strong delusions of Satan, which renders ineffectual every attempt to bear the truth to this seat of sin. If it be asked, What can avail in such a case? I reply, The essential requisite, under God's blessing, is to give that particular interpretation and that pointed application to various parts of the word of life, which, being originally intended as their legitimate use, will carry a heartsearching power that cannot be evaded by those for whose special admonition they were written. Nothing but this will do; and the sooner this is done the better. We find the Sermon on the Mount embraces all, by an enumeration of particulars well calculated to reach the heart of every one : the Epistles are full of details from which none can escape: and experience tells us, that conviction does not arise from any one merely knowing that all mankind are sinners, but from experiencing that he especially is guilty before God, and needs a separate act of mercy towards himself. Again, it was when Peter plainly said to the people, “Ye denied the Holy One and the Just, and desired a murderer to be granted unto you, and killed the Prince of Life,” that
many of them which heard the word believed : and the number of the men was about five thousand ;”—a seal being thus given to the excellency of that preaching which contained these cutting truths. Upon the same principle it will be found, that the parables have each a direct reference to the distinct point our Lord was desirous of illustrating; and it arises from a want of knowledge on the subject, that various parables are supposed to be merely so many ways of setting forth the self-same thing; or that one parable should be conceived to allude to continuous circumstances spread over the face of time-perhaps, to events divers and unconnected.
It is under these impressions I feel desirous, by God's permission, of giving that explanation to an important passage in the Gospel of Matthew, with which I was forcibly struck a short time since, and which gave rise to the foregoing reflections. The passage I allude to, in the xxiv th chapter, deserves the most serious consideration. The words are those of our Lord : they are spoken in connection with the most awful and sublime of all events; and they bear with them a peculiar blessing for obedience to the duty enjoined, and a special denouncement against those found pursuing a contrary line of conduct. Therefore it concerns us greatly to obtain a correct apprehension of their real import. Upon a careful perusal, I think it will appear evident that the time and the individuals referred to are both limited—the one being a short, definite period; the other, a small, particular class of the community-so that any endeavour to give the passage a broad, indefinite application, destroys the true, and I might say the whole, meaning; and I am sure deprives men of the possibility of forming the most distant idea in what way the words can bear upon themselves. The xxivth and xxv th chapters in this Gospel contain those wonderful revelations given by Christ in reply to the questions of his disciples, “When shall these things be? And what shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world ?" And although the whole is highly important, yet a higher interest necessarily attaches to those parts which immediately refer to our own times. If we pass on to the 36th verse of chap. xxiv. we arrive, beyond dispute, at the great subject of the second advent: “But of that day and hour knoweth no man; no, not the angels of heaven; but my Father only," &c.: to which is added the gracious admonition (ver. 42), “Watch therefore....for in such an hour as ye think not the Son of Man cometh :” and in immediate connection follows that passage I feel desirous of now illustrating, and which I shall quote in full, placing those words in italics which appear to me to express its true purport.
“Who then is a faithful and wise servant, whom his lord hath made ruler over his household, to give them MEAT IN DUE SEASON ? Blessed is that servant, whom his lord, when he cometh, shall find so doing... Verily I say unto you, that he shall make him ruler over all his goods. But and if that evil servant shall say in his heart, My lord delayeth his coming; and shall begin to smite his fellow-servants, and to eat and drink with the drunken; the lord of that servant shall come in a day when he looketh not for him, and in an hour that he is not aware of, and shall cut him off, and appoint him his portion with the hypocrites [in Luke, unbelievers]: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”
Now, the time alluded to in these words, when men should specially attend to them, and diligently seek a knowledge of that duty to the performance of which is attached so noble a blessing, I consider to be, without doubt, set forth as immediately before the second advent; and thus I read, “Who then is a faithful and wise servant,” to refer to the preceding intimation of the unexpected nature of the Son of Man's coming, and in contradistinction to “ who now is a faithful,” &c. This is more clearly shewn forth in Luke xii., where in the parallel passage Peter asks, “ Lord, speakest thou this parable unto us, or even to all ?.... And the Lord said, Who then” (at that time), &c. ; which, with the expression “ Blessed is that servant” (not, Blessed are you), and the peculiar phraseology," I say unto you that he shall nake him ruler,” &c., would lead the disciples to infer that they were not especially concerned themselves. However this may be, the chronology of this preceptive passage is more clearly settled by these words, “ Blessed is that servant, whom his lord, when he cometh, shall find so doing;” and therefore, as it is unnecessary to say more on this head, it becomes our next consideration to ascertain who are the persons particularly alluded to, and what is that duty which, above all things, they ought to be acquainted with ? And may the Lord vouchsafe to keep us in the truth, and bless the endeavour to set forth this important portion of his word !
And, first, with regard to the persons alluded to, it appears to me that the servant whom his Lord hath made (or, as in Luke, shall make) ruler over his household, refers to none other than the minister or pastor placed over a flock, which, being thus brought under his spiritual care, are in a great measure dependent upon him for that food which nourisheth to eternal life; and I shall quote one or two passages of Scripture which, independent of the general tendency of the context, fully warrant the above conclusion. In the xxth chapter of this Gospel we find it recorded, “Whosoever will be great among you, let him be your minister" [in the original, a deacon, or a servant at tuble] ; "and whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant. In 1 Cor. iv. it is written ; “ Let a man so account of us as of the ministers of Christ, and stewards of the mysteries of God. Moreover, it is required in stewards” (the word used in the parallel passage in Luke) “ that a man be found faithful.” In John xxi. the words of Jesus were,
“ Simon ..lovest thou me ?.. Feed my sheep.” Acts xx. we read, " Take heed, therefore, unto yourselves, and to all the flock over which the Holy Ghost hath made
you overseers, to feed the church of God;" and further, in 1 Pet. iv., “ Feed the flock of God which is among you.” From these texts we find that the "servant,” called also the “ruler,' or "steward,” is one with the minister" (the deacon) and the
overseer,” or, in other words, the pastor or teacher; and it must be quite needless to quote more largely in justification of this interpretation of the passage before us.
It is therefore to these the Lord presents the exhortation, to give the household “meat in due season :" “ Blessed is that servant whom his Lord, when he cometh, shall find so doing.”. With respect to the word "household ” I may just remark, that the term is applied by Paul to the church; as in Gal. vi. he mentions the “household of faith,” and in Eph. ii. the “ household of God.”
But, secondly, What is that "meat in due season ” which it
is so imperative on ministers to dispense to the people--that duty which it so nearly concerns them to be found duly performing? In answering this inquiry, we find the way cleared before us in the knowledge that by the term “meat” we are to understand doctrine; more especially doctrine of importance, to strengthen and establish the children of God: and the great point which will lead us to the full understanding of the whole passage is, to ascertain that doctrine which the Lord declares he shall find his faithful servants delivering to his household when he cometh. We cannot doubt that something particular is intended by the phrase "meat in due season;" for, as the Gospel was sent into “all the world,” to“every creature," and the messenger should be instant in season and out of season,” every time was ever the right season to call upon men to repent, and believe in the Lord Jesus Christ. But this call is not meat; for Paul, after saying to the Corinthians, “I determined not to know any thing among you save Jesus Christ, and him crucified,” gives, as the reason,"I, brethren, could not speak unto you as unto spiritual, but as unto carnal, even as unto babes in Christ : I have fed you with milk, and not with meat ; for hitherto ye were not able to bear it, neither yet now are ye able.” “Howbeit,” he says,“ we speak wisdom among them that are perfect." —And here I cannot help remarking the wonderful difference between the language of Scripture and that used generally by the professing community. Paul styles the same body he calls carnal, “them that are sanctified in Christ Jesus; called to be saints;”“ brethren;" “the temple of God,” with “ the Spirit of God” dwelling in them. But now a man is unchristianized for a word ; and only those are brethren who can talk of their experience in a certain approved phraseology. Now, also, men are found actually to boast of not knowing any thing “save Jesus Christ, and him crucified ;" although this limited knowledge, this backwardness in spiritual things, is recorded to the reproach of the Corinthians, who, being carnal, could not be fed with “meat !” Therefore those who voluntarily continue in this carnal state, and who are so disposed to ridicule their brethren for striving after higher attainments, will do well to study these two chapters (1 Cor. ii. iii.), and remember that the Apostle was desirous of also teaching the “wisdom of God in a mystery, even the hidden wisdom, which God ordained before the world unto our glory;" which mystery he afterwards declares to be concerning the things “God hath prepared for them that love him," and which he says “God hath revealed unto us by the Spirit.” Men to whom these things are not revealed by the Spirit, and who cannot receive them, being “hitherto not able to bear it,” should rather mourn over their own weakness than rashly condemn others for trusting they “have received,” not the spirit of