Jon_2:7-9. When my soul fainted within me I remembered the Lord: and my prayer came in unto thee, into thine holy temple. They that observe lying vanities forsake their own mercy. But I will sacrifice unto thee with the voice of thanksgiving; I will pay that that I have vowed. Salvation is of the Lord.
TO take a retrospect of our feelings, under circumstances of peculiar trial, is exceedingly beneficial. There are times when we realize in our minds truths which at other seasons have had no weight, and produced on us no effect. Thus Jonah, after his deliverance from the belly of the fish, called to mind, and transmitted for our good, the reflections which occupied his soul in that peculiarly awful situation, and in the near prospect of death. He here records,
The mercy vouchsafed—
This was such as never was vouchsafed to any other man, either before or since—
[The history you well know. But there are some points which we must particularly notice on this occasion. He was delivered, you know, from the belly of a fish. But mark the time when this mercy was vouchsafed to him: it was when he was in the very act of rebellion against God — — — Mark also the means: it was by a miraculous influence of God upon the fish, directing it to go to the sea-shore, and to vomit him forth upon the dry land. The occasion also must especially be noticed: it was in answer to a prayer offered from the bottom of the sea: “When Jonah’s soul fainted within him, he remembered the Lord: and his prayer came in unto God, even into his holy temple.”]
Though we have never been in a situation like his, have not we also wonderful mercies to recount?
[We have all of us, more or less, been in situations of danger, either by sickness or by accident, when we were in a state most unprepared to meet our God; and when, if we had been taken into the eternal world, we must have for ever perished in our sins. On some such occasion, perhaps, we have reflected on our state, and felt our need of mercy, and cried unto our God, and obtained mercy at his hands: and here we are living witnesses for God, that “he desireth not the death of a sinner, but rather that he turn from his wickedness and live” — — —]
Let us pass on to consider,
The conviction wrought—
Jonah had known, before, the folly of idolatry, and the wisdom of relying wholly upon God. But now he felt this in a way that he had not done before. Now too he felt, that to flee from the presence of God, as he had done, and to decline the service of his God, and to seek happiness in a way of disobedience to God, was folly in the extreme; and that the only way to be truly happy, was to serve, and honour, and obey the Lord.
And were not such our convictions, also, in the prospect of death?
[None of us need be told that the creature is but a broken cistern; and that “to forsake the fountain of living waters for cisterns of our own formation, is a great evil [Note: Jer_2:13.];.” But, whilst we acknowledge this as a speculative truth, who feels it practically, so as to act upon it, and to have his life regulated in accordance with it? In a time of health, we see perhaps what is right, but do it not; nor have in our souls any fixed purpose to carry into effect the dictates of our mind and judgment. But in the near approach of death these truths assume a reality and importance which we never discerned before. Once, perhaps, we could laugh at them, as the dreams of enthusiasm, and the peculiarities of a sect: but in that solemn hour when we are expecting to be summoned into the immediate presence of our God, we bitterly regret that we have given so little weight to these considerations; and we then are convinced, indeed, that “in observing and following lying vanities we have madly forsaken our own mercies.” The convict that is about to perish by the hand of the public executioner, however obdurate he has been in times past, feels this; and the public feel it for him. Would to God that, in our time of health and prosperity, we all felt it for ourselves!]
The result of that conviction we shall see in,
The determination formed—
Now would the prophet henceforth praise his God: and, having made vows to God in the hour of his extremity, he would now pay them; and be a living witness for God, that “salvation is of the Lord” for every soul that will seek it, however deep his guilt, or however desperate his condition.
These are the determinations, Brethren, which I desire you, in dependence upon God’s help, to form—
[Look to the mercies vouchsafed to you in the hour of your necessity, when you cried unto the Lord: look at your deliverance from death and hell: look at a resurrection vouchsafed to you, from death to life, from misery to peace, from hell to heaven; a resurrection like unto that of Jonah; or rather like to that which was typified by it, the resurrection of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ: and then tell me, whether you should not “sacrifice unto the Lord with the voice of thanksgiving,” and your every word be praise — — — Call to mind, also, the vows which you made in the hour of trouble; how you would live henceforth, not unto yourselves, but to your God; and not for time only, but for eternity. Now, beware that you forget not the resolutions then formed. Beg of God that they may not, as is too generally the case, vanish as the early dew that passeth away. They are all recorded in the book of God’s remembrance; and if violated by you, in return for all the mercies vouchsafed unto you, they will fearfully aggravate your eternal condemnation — — — Now, too, be living witnesses for God, for the encouragement of others. Shew to others what a salvation you have found, and found in your lowest extremity, in answer to the prayer of faith. Who can tell what a blessing you may he to those around you? Doubtless the mercy vouchsafed to Jonah was, under God, the salvation of all that great and populous city to which he preached. His miraculous deliverance gave, so to speak, an irresistible energy to his word; insomuch that all, from the king on the throne to the lowest of the populace, instantly turned in penitential sorrow to the Lord. So you, when you can say to others, “What my eyes have seen, and ears have heard, and hands have handled, of the word of life, the same declare I unto you,” may he instrumental to the honouring of God your Saviour, and to the saving of many souls alive.]
On a review of this subject, see,
How wonderful are the ways of God!
[Who would have thought to what even the rebellion of Jonah should lead; and how the punishing of that should lead to the salvation of his soul, and of the souls of many others? Truly, “God’s ways are in the great deep, and his footsteps are not known.” But from all this we may learn never to despond; but rather, however desperate our condition may be, to say, “Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him” — — —]
How marvellous is the efficacy of converting grace!
[See what a change is wrought in Jonah; though, indeed, far less than might have been expected. But to change our rebellious hearts into a frame of obediential love and gratitude; and to renew us in our inner man, so as to make us as lights in a dark world; this is, and must be, the effect of true conversion. See then, brethren, that ye offer unto God the sacrifice of praise continually; and especially for your redemption from all the penal effects of sin, through the blood and righteousness of our Lord Jesus Christ. See, too, that you live to God as his redeemed people, in holiness and righteousness before him all the days of your life; and that you labour, in every possible way, to commend to others the salvation which you yourselves have found — — —]