Charles Simeon's Devotional Commentaries




Jonah 1:6.

KJV. "So the shipmaster came to him, and said unto him, What meanest thou, O sleeper? arise, call upon thy God, if so be that God will think upon us, that we perish not."

NIV. " The captain went to him and said, "How can you sleep? Get up and call on your god! Maybe he will take notice of us, and we will not perish."

Perhaps in all the sacred records there is not to be found a more strange and inconsistent character than the Prophet Jonah. That he was on the whole a godly man, we have every reason to believe; but his spirit was on many occasions so contrary to what we might have expected to find in a prophet of the Lord, that, if we did not know from our own hearts what is in man, we would not have conceived it possible that such contrarieties could be combined in the same character.

The very first we hear of him, is that he so conducted himself as to bring upon himself a severe and just rebuke from a heathen mariner. Having received from God a commission to go to Nineveh, the capital of the Assyrian empire, and there to proclaim the indignation of God against them for their impieties—he fled to Joppa, and from thence took ship for Tarshish; hoping that he would thus avoid the necessity that was laid upon him of delivering a message so replete with pain to them, and of danger to himself.

But the Lord sent a storm to arrest him in his impious course; and so violent was the storm, that all hope of saving the ship by human efforts was taken away, and no resource remained to the mariners but prayer to God. While all the crew were crying to the gods which they worshiped, Jonah was indifferent and unconcerned, and had fallen fast asleep in the sides of the ship. In this situation he was when the ship-master came to him, and administered the reproof which we have just heard.

I. Let us consider this reproof as addressed to Jonah.

The occasion of the reproof you have already heard in few words. But there are two things which call for more particular attention:

1. The state of Jonah at that time.

How can we account for his being so lethargic in the midst of such imminent danger? One would have supposed that he, a prophet of the Lord, would have improved that occasion for the benefit of the mariners, (as the Apostle Paul did afterwards, in similar circumstances,) and that he would have employed himself in directing the poor ignorant heathen to Jehovah, as the true and only source of all good.

Or if, from the low state of his piety at that time, we might conceive him to be indisposed for such a holy exercise; and that, when in an act of rebellion himself, he would be ill-fitted for the office of calling others to repentance—we would at least expect him to be alarmed with a sense of his own guilt and danger, and to be begging God for forgiveness.

Yet, behold! Of all the ship's company, he alone is unconcerned; and makes that, which was to all others a season of terror and dismay, an occasion for laying himself down quietly to sleep. That Peter was sleeping quietly on the night preceding his expected martyrdom, we do not wonder; because he was suffering for righteousness' sake, and knew that death would be to him the gate of Heaven. But we wonder that Jonah was able to close his eyes in sleep, when death was apparently so near at hand; and he must know, that, if he died, he would be cut off in the very act of willful transgression!

But his insensibility at that time shows us, in a very striking manner, the true effects of sin.

Sin hardens the heart.

Sin stupefies the conscience.

Sin turns a man into a brute who has no concern for his soul.

Sin renders the soul indifferent to all that concerns its eternal welfare.

Paul tells us this, "Take heed," says he, "lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin, Hebrews 3:13." He speaks also of our "conscience being seared by it, as with a hot iron;" and of our being made "past feeling." Thus it was with Jonah at this time.

In the same way, all who are acquainted with their own hearts, will see that this stupidity of his was the proper effect of his willful transgression. Repentance takes away the heart of stone, and substitutes a heart of flesh. Sin, in proportion as it is indulged, turns the heart of flesh to stone!

2. The opinions contained in the reproof.

We are amazed to hear such opinions proceed from the mouth of a heathen mariner; but we are convinced that there are much stronger notices of truth remaining in the heart of fallen man, than is commonly supposed. There was not indeed in these people any distinct knowledge of Jehovah; but there was a belief in a superintending God of Providence, who ordered everything according to his own sovereign will, and was able to interpose effectually in behalf of those who sought him. Yes, moreover, that even though we sought him only in our extremity, there still was reason to hope that he would hear our cry, and grant to us the desired deliverance.

What God the ship-master had an eye to, we do not know; but supposing him, though under some mistaken name, to be looking to Jehovah—his views are precisely such as were avowed and inculcated by the Prophet Joel, when he said, "Rend your heart, and turn unto the Lord your God; for who knows if he will return and repent, and leave a blessing behind him! Joel 2:13-14."

This we consider as encouraging to those who go forth to convert the heathen; we consider it as showing, that, however obscured by superstition, there are in the minds and consciences of the most ignorant heathen some relics of truth, which, if duly improved by an instructor, will greatly facilitate the admission of other truths, which can be known only through the medium of a special revelation.

The existence and attributes of a Supreme Being are here acknowledged; and the duty of his intelligent creatures to call upon him is also declared; and whoever diligently improves these more obvious truths, ordinarily will be gradually guided into all truth.

But when we behold a prophet of the Lord, who should have been a teacher of others, himself thus reproved by a heathen mariner, we blush for him; and blush also for ourselves, well knowing, how much we ourselves need to have these truths impressed more forcibly on our own minds, and how rarely they operate on us to the extent that they did on those uninstructed mariners!

II. Let us consider this reproof as applicable to ourselves.

We are not indeed altogether in the situation of Jonah; yet we approximate more nearly to it than may at first sight be imagined.

We are all in some degree sleeping in the midst of danger!

God has given to us, as he did to Jonah, a work to do; and it is a work which we do not naturally desire; we are averse to engage in it; there are some considerations operating in our minds to deter us from it; we think it may expose us to difficulties, which we would gladly avoid; and subject us to troubles, which we care not to encounter.

Hence we "flee from the presence of the Lord;" and are glad to go any where, and engage in anything, that may afford us an excuse for our willful neglect. In this state the curse of God follows us wherever we may go, his judgments hang over us, and "his wrath abides upon us!" The children of disobedience, wherever they are, are objects of God's heavy displeasure.

Yet, while under these circumstances, what is the state of our minds?

Are we striving like the mariners, to obtain mercy at his hands?

Are we not rather, for the most part, like Jonah, sunk down into a deep sleep? Yes! This is the case with the generality altogether; with the better part of us, in great measure; and with the best among us, in some degree.

Behold the generality, how careless are they and indifferent, though on the brink and precipice of eternity! Even the more considerate part have no such activity and earnestness as the occasion calls for. Where is there one among us, who does not fluctuate in his zeal for God, and sometimes, like the wise virgins, give way to slumbering and sleeping, when we should be watching for the coming of our Lord?

To all then may the reproof in our text be well administered.

What are you doing, O sleeper, whoever you are? Are you not in danger? Search the sacred records; and see, whether the wrath of God is not revealed against all the children of disobedience? What if you are insensible of this danger? Are you therefore the more safe? Was Jonah's life the less in jeopardy because he was unconscious of his peril? Neither then is your ruin a whit the less certain, because you are not conscious of your exposure to it!

Is there any way for your escape, but that of crying mightily to God for mercy? No other way is provided; all your own efforts will be as ineffectual as the mariner's labor was. You must betake yourself to prayer; for none but an omnipotent arm can save you.

There is no deliverance from your sin and guilt, but through the blood and righteousness of our Lord Jesus Christ.

There is acceptance with the Father, but through his beloved Son.

There is no other name given under Heaven whereby you can be saved, but the name of Jesus Christ.

Once more. Is there not abundant encouragement to pray? Look at the promises contained in Holy Writ; see how "exceeding great and precious they are;" and then say whether you have any reason to despond. Had you but a perhaps in your favor, it were a sufficient reason for all possible earnestness and prayer. That was all the hope which these mariners had. But you have the strongest assurances, of a "God who cannot lie," that you "shall not seek his face in vain," but that "whatever you shall ask in his Son's name shall be done for you."

What are you doing, O sleeper? What excuse can you offer for your unreasonable conduct? Are you dreaming of future opportunities to call upon God, when, for anything you know, your ship may sink the next instant, and your soul may be plunged into the depths of Hell!

"Arise," I say, "and call upon your God," and lose not another moment in a concern of such infinite importance.

In the mean time, use all the means that you can for yourself. "Cast out all that you have" in the world—rather than allow it to sink you into perdition! If you had all the wealth of the universe, it would be a poor compensation for the loss of your immortal soul!

Nor let it be thought that I speak to those only who are determined rebels against God. No! If there is a Jonah here; a professor of godliness, who is in a state of departure from his God, I would more especially address him. Know, O unhappy fugitive, that God will not let you pass unpunished; on the contrary, he will the rather follow you with some tremendous storm, and send you into the depths of Hell (if I may so speak) in this world, to deliver you from perdition in the world to come.

"Awake then from your slumber, that Christ may give you light." Surely "it is high time for you to awake out of sleep, for now is our salvation nearer than when we believed." Professors, "let us not sleep as do others; but let us watch, and be sober."

With the exception of the terror with which they were agitated, the state of the heathen mariners should be ours; nor should we cease from our pleadings, until we are brought in safety to our desired haven. We must not give occasion for that sarcastic reflection, "In trouble have they visited you; they poured out a prayer when your chastening was upon them." No; we must pray without ceasing; we must "pray and not faint;" and then we may be assured, that, whatever storms or difficulties we have to contend with, "our labor shall not be in vain in the Lord." Only let us think upon God, and God will most tenderly "think on us;" he will maintain towards us "thoughts of good, and not of evil, to give us an expected end."





Jonah 2:6.

KJV. "Yet have you brought up my life from corruption, O Lord my God."

NIV. "To the roots of the mountains I sank down; the earth beneath barred me in forever. But you brought my life up from the pit, O LORD my God."

It is of the highest importance to have seasons of recollection for the more solemn investigation of the state of our souls. Not a day should be closed without serious reflections on our conduct through the day. On particular occasions it would be well to commit them to writing, with a view to our future humiliation or encouragement.

Jonah's example in this respect is worthy of imitation. Having received from God a commission to denounce his judgments against Nineveh, and being afraid, that, after all, God would exercise mercy towards them, and make him appear a false prophet, he declined the office that had been assigned to him, and endeavored to "flee from the presence of the Lord." But a storm overtook him; and he was cast into the sea, and swallowed by a fish; and then, being preserved alive in that extraordinary situation, he thought on his ways, and cried unto his God for mercy.

After his deliverance, he called to remembrance the exercises of his mind during his perilous confinement; and recorded them, for the benefit of the Church to the end of time. He tells us that at first he began to despair; conceiving that "the Lord had cast him out of his sight." But, knowing that nothing was impossible with God, he directed his eyes towards Heaven, and prayed. His prayer was heard, and the desired mercy was given to him. This he acknowledges in the words before us; in which we have,

I. An instructive history.

Every part of this history is replete with instruction. Other parts of Holy Writ inform us of the frailties and sins of God's people, and exhibit Noah, Lot, David, Peter, and others, in very humiliating conditions. But there is a peculiarity in the character of Jonah that distinguishes him from all others, and gives us a deep insight into the human heart. We cannot however stop to enter minutely into his character, or into the diversified lessons which his history would teach us. We shall confine ourselves to two observations, which are of a general nature and of universal importance:

1. Rebellion against God will surely bring upon us his heavy displeasure.

Jonah might think lightly perhaps of the sin he had committed, when refusing to execute the commission he had received; and he certainly was unmindful of the danger he had brought upon himself, even while all who sailed with him in the ship were in the utmost terror.

But God was visiting him for his iniquity; and, in order to the discovery of it, suggested to the minds of the mariners to ascertain, by a lot, who the guilty person was, for whose sake the storm was raised. The lot fell on Jonah; and he, being impeached thus by God himself, confessed his crime; and prescribed, as the only means of pacifying God, that he himself should be cast into the sea. Thus did vengeance overtake him.

And shall we sin with impunity? What though we think light of our sins, and sleep in security when we should be praying to our God; does God estimate sin by our standard? or is danger at all more remote, because we do not see it? Of this we may be assured, that "evil will hunt the wicked man, to overthrow him;" and, however long we may elude its pursuit, it will seize upon us at last, as its legitimate prey! The declaration of God to every impenitent person is, "Be sure your sin will find you out!"

2. Whatever effects of his displeasure we may now feel, the prayer of penitence and faith will deliver us from them.

A more desperate condition than that of Jonah cannot well be conceived See his description of it in verses 2, 3, 5. Yet from thence was he brought by the efficacy of fervent prayer in verses 2, 4, 7. Be it so then; we have sinned against the Lord in a very grievous manner; and we are at this moment under his chastising hand; still "Has the Lord forgotten to be gracious? Has he in anger shut up his tender mercies?" No! the Lord is merciful and gracious; and, if only we have a heart to pray, we need not doubt but that he has an ear to hear. Were we at the bottom of the sea—yet if we were able to look unto his holy Temple, we should not look in vain. We might not be delivered with respect to the body; but the soul should find acceptance at God's hands, and be made a monument of his sparing mercy.

We dwell the less on the historical view of Jonah's deliverance, because we wish you to notice it more particularly as,

II. A glorious type.

We are always cautious of exceeding the bounds of truth and soberness in the explanation of types. On this account we altogether omit, what some have laid a stress upon, the idea of Christ's offering up himself a sacrifice to God for the purpose of averting his wrath from us. And we would be inclined to limit the typical import of this history to the resurrection of Christ, if he himself had not given us a more extended view of it. But, in the place where he speaks of Jonah as being "a sign" to the people, he calls him "the Prophet Jonah," and mentions the remarkable success of his ministrations, Matthew 12:38-41.

We are induced therefore to consider the whole of this history as designating the ministry of Jesus:

1. In its temporary suspension.

The casting of Jonah into the sea, and his being swallowed by a fish, effectually, as it should seem, put an end to his mission. Whatever gracious intentions God had formed respecting the Ninevites, they were now, to all appearance, frustrated; so that, unless God should send to them by some other prophet—his judgments would come upon them without warning, and without a remedy.

Such was also the distressful, and apparently irremediable, state, to which the world was reduced by the death of Christ. His enemies triumphed when they saw him dead upon the cross, and committed to the silent tomb. His friends and followers then concluded, that they had been mistaken in their expectations, and that the redemption of Israel which they had looked for at his hands was a hopeless phantom Luke 24:21. To guard them against this erroneous conclusion, our blessed Lord expressly told his disciples, that "he should be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth."

2. Its speedy restoration.

After three days, Jonah was, by God's overruling providence, vomited up in safety upon dry land; and his commission to preach unto the Ninevites was renewed.

In the same way, by the resurrection of Christ were the hopes of a ruined world revived. Not only was the ministry of our Lord himself renewed, but all his Apostles also received afresh their commission to preach the Gospel to every creature. Could the Ninevites have foreseen the effect of Jonah's deliverance, how would their hearts have leaped for joy! And well may all the nations of the earth rejoice in the tidings of a risen Savior, through whom repentance and remission of sins are preached, and by whom the most abandoned of sinners may be brought to God.

3. Its ultimate success.

Wonderful indeed was the effect of Jonah's ministrations! and we may well suppose that the relation of his miraculous preservation and deliverance contributed in no small degree to the success of his mission. The people of Nineveh would necessarily conclude, that he was sent by God, and that the denunciations delivered by him would be fulfilled.

In the same way, was not this the effect of Christ's resurrection? The very point which all the Apostles most insisted on, was this, "they preached Jesus and the Resurrection;" they preached, "that he died according to the Scriptures, and rose again the third day according to the Scriptures." From hence the inference was clear that Jesus was the promised Messiah, the Savior of the world; and so rapidly did this truth prevail, that in one day there were three thousand souls converted to him; and, in a very short space of time, the whole Roman empire was filled with his acknowledged followers.

We may learn from hence,

1. On what a firm basis our religion stands.

The sign which above all others our blessed Lord laid the greatest stress upon, was his fulfilling of this type. Though he gave innumerable proofs of his divine mission—yet it was to this chiefly, yes, to this only, that he referred the confirmed sceptics. He said, in fact, "I shall die, and rise again the third day without seeing corruption, and shall live for evermore, to perfect the work assigned me. If I rise on the third day, then you will know that I am the Messiah; if I do not, I am contented that you shall account me an impostor."

Now, brethren, you know the means which his enemies used to prevent any collusion among his disciples; yes, and how incredulous his disciples themselves were; and consequently, you are sure that he did indeed rise, and that all which God has spoken by him, or of him, is true; it is true that the impenitent and unbelieving shall perish; but that "all who believe in him shall be justified from all things."

2. What has been done for every believer.

Though Jonah stands alone in his particular line of experience, there is not a believer whose soul has not been in as perilous a condition as Jonah himself was at the bottom of the sea; nor one who has not obtained deliverance by the very same means, humiliation and prayer. The experience of David was not unlike Jonah's, Psalm 40:1-3; and that of the Church of old is painted in expressions precisely similar to those in the chapter before us, Lamentations 3:54-58.

Happy, happy they, who have obtained mercy of the Lord, and can thus attest the efficacy of believing prayer! Do not let your feelings, brethren, be forgotten; but get them written in the tablet of your hearts; and let your acknowledgments be suited to the mercies given unto you.

3. What the Lord will do for all who call upon him.

Our blessed Savior, by dying for our offences and rising again for our justification, has procured for us whatever we stand in need of. Even in the denunciations of God's wrath there is an implied promise of mercy, if we repent and turn to God. However great therefore our guilt may be, or however imminent our danger, let us remember that "with the Lord there is mercy, and with him is plenteous redemption."

Let us remember, that "Jesus is exalted to give repentance and remission of sins;" and that, though we were as much "in the belly of Hell" as a living creature can be, our cry should come before him into his holy temple, and "he would bring up our souls out of the pit of corruption;" "after two days he would revive us; in the third day he would raise us up, and we would live in his sight, Hosea 6:1-2."




Jonah 2:7-9.

KJV. "When my soul fainted within me I remembered the Lord; and my prayer came in unto you, into your holy temple. They that observe lying vanities forsake their own mercy. But I will sacrifice unto you with the voice of thanksgiving; I will pay that that I have vowed. Salvation is of the Lord."

NIV. "When my life was ebbing away, I remembered you, LORD, and my prayer rose to you, to your holy temple. "Those who cling to worthless idols forfeit the grace that could be theirs. But I, with a song of thanksgiving, will sacrifice to you. What I have vowed I will make good. Salvation comes from 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,

I. The mercy given.

This was such as never was given 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 given 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 forever 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 desires not the death of a sinner, but rather that he turns from his wickedness and live".

Let us pass on to consider,

II. 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 honor, 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! Jeremiah 2:13." But, while 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,

III. The determination formed.

Now the prophet would 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 given 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 given 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 Savior 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 passes away. They are all recorded in the book of God's remembrance; and if violated by you, in return for all the mercies given unto you, they will fearfully aggravate your eternal condemnation.

Now, too, be living witnesses for God, for the encouragement of others. Show 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 be to those around you? Doubtless the mercy given 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 I declare unto you," may be instrumental to the honoring of God your Savior, and to the saving of many souls alive.

On a review of this subject, see,

1. 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!"

2. How marvelous 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 you 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 labor, in every possible way, to commend to others the salvation which you yourselves have found.




Jonah 3:8-10.

KJV. "Let man and beast be covered with sackcloth; and cry mightily unto God; yes, let them turn every one from his evil way, and from the violence that is in their hands. Who can tell if God will turn and repent, and turn away from his fierce anger, that we perish not? And God saw their works, that they turned from their evil way; and God repented of the evil, that he had said that he would do unto them; and he did it not.

NIV. "Jonah 3:8-10 But let man and beast be covered with sackcloth. Let everyone call urgently on God. Let them give up their evil ways and their violence. Who knows? God may yet relent and with compassion turn from his fierce anger so that we will not perish." When God saw what they did and how they turned from their evil ways, he had compassion and did not bring upon them the destruction he had threatened."

Men of profane minds pour contempt on national fasts, under an idea that they can be of no use for averting of national judgments. But in my text there is abundant proof that God will hear the prayers of the contrite, and be gracious to them at the voice of their cry.

Nineveh, the capital of the Assyrian empire, was an exceeding large city, so large, that it would occupy a man three days to walk round it and through its principal streets. The wickedness of it was great; and God, having determined that in the space of forty days he would involve it, with all its inhabitants, in destruction, he sent his servant Jonah to advertise them of their impending ruin. The prophet had proceeded but one day's journey into the city, and behold, all ranks of people, from the highest to the lowest, having heard his message, trembled at God's displeasure, and united in humbling themselves before him, if perhaps they might prevail upon him to "turn from his fierce anger." The success of their efforts leads me to set before you the conduct of the Ninevites,

I. As a record for our instruction.

Though addressed by a perfect stranger who belonged to a despised nation, the people believed his testimony, delivered to them as it was in Jehovah's name; and, though they were heathens, unused to acknowledge the one true God, they set themselves to implore mercy at his hands, and to deprecate his threatened judgments. The king and his nobles proclaimed a fast; in the observance of which all his subjects cordially concurred; and so intent were they on a due observance of the day, that all put on sackcloth from the least of them to the greatest, and even the king himself "laid aside his royal robes, and clothed himself in sackcloth, and sat in ashes;" nor did any of them so much as "eat bread or drink water" the whole day. Even the herds and the flocks were kept without any species of food or refreshment, that by their privations they might participate in the general grief, and by their moanings produce on the minds of the penitents an increased effect.

To their fasting they added prayer; yes, "they cried mightily unto God." They were not content with formal unmeaning acknowledgments. They bewailed their guilt; they saw how deeply they had merited the Divine displeasure; and they strove by earnest supplications to ward off from themselves the judgments which the avenging Deity was about to inflict upon them. The sincerity of their repentance they manifested by an instantaneous reformation of their lives; all of them turning from their besetting sins, and engaging to consecrate themselves to Jehovah as a holy and obedient people. How many of them maintained their steadfastness we know not; but from the mercy given to them in answer to their prayers, we are led to hope that many became true servants of the living God.

Thus, at all events, they sought for mercy; and thus they obtained the deliverance they implored.

Now then let me call your attention to their conduct,

II. As a pattern for your imitation.

Sorry am I to say, that there is occasion for the same humiliation on your part, as you have seen in them.

Here the particular occasion (war, pestilence, famine, or whatever it be) should be set forth; And this I am authorized to declare, that, whatever the second causes may have been, the evil itself is from the Lord; for, "Is there evil in the city, and the Lord has not dune it Amos 3:6;?" Yes, it is a chastisement from God on account of our sins; and I call upon you not only to "believe" this, but to "hear the rod, and him who has appointed it." If we will not view the hand of God in these dispensations, we can have no hope that they shall be exchanged for mercies; but to acknowledge him in them will be the best preparation for the reception of mercies from him, and the most certain prelude to his bestowment of them.

I must add, too, that your humiliation must resemble theirs.

In a season of affliction fasting is highly proper. We see all the most eminent saints in Scripture having recourse to this under the pressure of any heavy calamity; and, in the history before us, we behold the king, and his nobles, together with all the inhabitants of a populous city, approaching the Divine Majesty with this expression of their grief and penitence. This is a fit pattern for us at this time.

But with fasting we must engage in fervent prayer. Luke-warm petitions will never find acceptance with God. We must "cry mightily unto the Lord, even with strong crying and tears," if we would obtain from him the deliverance which we so greatly need.

And, to prove the sincerity of our hearts, we must turn, everyone of us, from our besetting sins to newness of life. No fasting will be of any avail without this; no, nor will prayer be heard without it. If our humiliation be not accompanied with this, God will say to us, as to his people of old, "Is it such a fast that I have chosen? a day for a man to afflict his soul? Is it to bow down his head as a bulrush, and to spread sackcloth and ashes under him? Will you call this a fast and an acceptable day to the Lord? Is not this the fast that I have chosen? to loose the bands of wickedness Isaiah 58:5-6;?" Search out then the peculiar evils which you are most accustomed to commit, and cast them off even though they be dear to you as a right hand or a right eye; and then may we hope that God will be gracious to us at the voice of our cry, and turn away from his fierce anger with which he has visited our guilty land.

If you will not thus turn unto the Lord, your guilt will be greatly aggravated.

Who were the people to whom this warning was delivered? Heathens. By whom were they addressed? A perfect stranger. What hope was held out to them of averting the threatened judgments? None at all. Not so much as a constructive promise was given them by any exhortation to repent. All the encouragement they felt was derived from a mere surmise, "Who Can Tell, whether God will turn from his fierce anger, that we perish not?" On the mere presumption that the exercise of mercy towards them was possible, they, at the very first announcement of God's displeasure, turned to him, as it were, with their whole hearts; and thus obtained mercy. But you, brethren, are the professed servants of God, and followers of Christ. And you have been warned ten thousand times, and that too by those whom you yourselves acknowledge as appointed of God, to watch for your souls. You have had exceeding great and precious promises also set before you, with most assured declarations from God, that no one of you shall ever seek his face in vain. Say then, whether these Ninevites will not rise up in judgment to condemn you at the last day, if you dissemble with God on this occasion, as too many of us through the whole land, it is to be feared, are doing? Look at our king and his nobles, and at his subjects throughout the empire, and say, Whether there be any resemblance between our humiliation, and that which we have noticed in these penitent heathens? In them it was produced at the very first instant; but we have been warned ten thousand times in vain. Oh! could we but see any measure of the penitence among us that was evinced by them, I should have no fear but that the judgments under which we labor should be removed, or sanctified to our greater good.

In the case before us, God, in reversing the sentence denounced against that city, might appear weak, or mutable, or unworthy to be feared; and, at all events his prophet would appear to them as a deceiver. But He was more careful of their welfare than of his own honor, or of his servant's reputation; and having produced a change in the people, he instantly changed his dispensations towards them. Not that the change was in him; it was in them only; for the removal of his threatened judgments was rather an execution, than a reversal, of his own decrees, which from eternity have been to pardon the penitent, and to bless the contrite. But in your ease there is no such obstacle in his way; for he has told you, that if you confess your sins, he will not only forgive them, but display and magnify his own faithfulness and justice in that very dispensation towards you 1 John 1:9.

To obtain national mercies, our repentance must be national; but if there be but one among us that truly turns to God, he shall surely obtain mercy for his own soul, and be a monument of God's pardoning love to all eternity.

Let me however hope, that this occasion shall not he lost upon the nation at large; but that our fasting shall be sincere, our prayers fervent, our reformation radical, and our success complete.




Jonah 4:2.

KJV. "I knew that you are a gracious God, and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness, and repent you of the evil."

NIV. "I knew that you are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love, a God who relents from sending calamity!"

In the parable of the Prodigal Son, we read of as hateful a character as can well be imagined; it is that of the elder brother, who, instead of uniting with his family in rejoicing over the recovery of the younger brother from his evil ways, took occasion, from his father's parental tenderness, to reproach him for partiality and unkindness. "But he answered his father: Look! All these years I've been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends! Luke 15:29-30."

But a far worse character is portrayed in the history before us. Indeed, it is scarcely credible that any person of common humanity, and still less that of a godly man, should be capable of acting as Jonah did; even reproaching God to his face for the exercise of his mercy towards a repenting people, and making his very anticipation of that mercy a ground and an excuse for his own willful disobedience!

But, beyond all doubt, the history of Jonah records a literal fact, without any exaggeration or poetic embellishment; he did, as he informs us, "know God to be a merciful God;" and he made God's very mercy a ground of wrathful indignation, and of acrimonious complaint.

The acknowledgment here made, will lead me to set before you:

I. The mercy of God, as delineated by Jonah.

1. Jonah "knew" God to be a merciful God, from the description which God himself had given of his own character.

In answer to the prayer of Moses, God had made his glory to pass before him; and had proclaimed his name, as "The Lord, the Lord God, merciful and gracious, patient, and abundant in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity, transgression, and sin, and who will by no means clear the guilty, Exodus 34:6-7." Here, for one single expression relating to his justice, there is a vast accumulation of rich and diversified terms to convey to our minds a just idea of God's mercy—all showing, that "judgment is a strange act," to which he is utterly averse; but that mercy is the attribute, in the exercise of which is all his delight, Isaiah 28:21. Micah 7:18.

2. Jonah "knew" God to be a merciful God, from the marvelous display which had been made of it throughout the whole of God's dealings with his people in all ages.

Scarcely had the people been brought out of Egypt, before they made a golden calf, and worshiped it as the author of their deliverance. This greatly incensed God; and determined him to cut them off, and to raise up to himself another people from his servant Moses. But at the intercession of Moses, he forgave them, and "relented of the evil which he had thought to do unto them, Exodus 32:9-14."

In the same way, throughout all their stay in the wilderness, and in all their rebellions after their establishment in Canaan, he manifested the same compassion towards them; as David informs us, "Many times did he deliver them; but they provoked him with their counsels, and were brought low for their iniquity. Nevertheless, he regarded their affliction when he heard their cry; and he remembered for them his covenant, and repented according to the multitude of his tender mercies, Psalm 106:43-45;"

Well, therefore, might Jonah say, "He knew God to be a merciful God!" The very existence of his nation, after such long-continued and aggravated offences, being an ample proof of it.

But my chief object is, to open to you the mercy of God.

II. The mercy of God, as illustrated in the history before us.

1. View God's mercy, in the preservation of Jonah himself.

God commanded Jonah to go to Nineveh, and to proclaim to them his determination to destroy the inhabitants thereof for their iniquities; and to inform them, at the same time, that the judgment should be executed within the short space of forty days. Jonah, averse to execute the commission, fled from the presence of the Lord, and took a ship in order to go to Tarshish, Jonah 1:3.

Commentators have invented I know not how many apologies for Jonah; for instance, that he was actuated by a jealousy for the honor of his own nation; for Nineveh, being a city of Gentiles, he thought that the going to prophesy to them would be to transfer to them an honor due to Israel alone. Others suppose that he was impelled rather by fear; since, to deliver so awful a prophecy, could not but involve him in great danger.

But the real ground of his disobedience was, that which he himself acknowledges, "He knew God to be a merciful God;" and he was afraid that the people would repent; and that God, on account of their repentance, would forbear to execute his threatened judgment upon them; and that thus he himself would, eventually, be made to appear a false prophet, verse 2.

While he was going to Tarshish, he was overtaken with a storm, which reduced the ship to such extreme danger, that all the mariners betook themselves to prayer, as their only refuge.

The thought occurring to their minds, that possibly the storm might have been sent as a punishment of some great offence, they drew lots, in order that they might find out the offender; and the lot falling upon Jonah, he confessed his sin, and counseled them to cast him overboard, as the only means of pacifying the offended Deity, and of saving their own lives.

Thus did judgment overtake Jonah, precisely as it had overtaken Achan in the camp of Joshua; and, like Achan, he might well have been summoned into the presence of his God. But behold! God had prepared a great fish to swallow him up, not for his destruction, but preservation; for he preserved him alive three days and three nights in the fish's belly; and caused the fish to carry him to the shore nearest to Nineveh, and to cast him on shore without any injury to his body. Yes, and with unspeakable benefit accruing to his soul; nay, more; his offended God not only spared him thus, but made Jonah in this way, one of the most eminent types of Christ that ever existed in the world.

Now, if Jonah knew before that God was merciful, how fully must he have known it now! Here was a mercy so extraordinary in its kind, so blessed in its results, and so marvelous, as being given to him in the midst of his most impious rebellion, that it may well be adduced as one of the most astonishing displays of mercy that have ever been given to man from the foundation of the world.

2. View God's mercy, in the sparing of the whole city of Nineveh.

The inhabitants of that immense city, the capital of the Assyrian empire, had filled up the measure of their iniquities, Jonah 1:2. But on the very first announcement of the impending judgments, they fasted and mourned, and cried mightily to God for mercy, Jonah 3:4-8. They had heard from Jonah nothing but the simple declaration, that in forty days the whole city should be overthrown. No hope of pardon had been held out to them; no idea had been suggested that repentance, however deep or universal, would be of any avail. But they said, "Who knows? God may yet relent and with compassion turn from his fierce anger so that we will not perish! Jonah 3:9."

And upon this mere presumption they ventured to cry for mercy. And behold, how graciously God listened to their prayers, "When God saw what they did and how they turned from their evil ways, he had compassion and did not bring upon them the destruction he had threatened! Jonah 3:10." This was the very outcome that Jonah had anticipated. What an encouragement does it afford to every living man, to humble himself for his iniquities, and to implore mercy at the hands of this gracious God!

But that to which I desire chiefly to direct your attention, is God's mercy,

3. View God's mercy, in the enduring with such inconceivable forbearance the expostulations and remonstrances of this impious man.

This act of mercy towards Nineveh, so far from exciting joy and gratitude in the bosom of Jonah, filled him only with anger! Yes, with such ungovernable anger, that he broke forth into reproaches against God himself, on account of it. While he was in the whale's belly, he had repented; but now all his repentance had vanished, and he even vindicated before God the rebellion of which he had been guilty; and pleaded his anticipation of this very outcome, as a justification of it, "He prayed to the LORD: O LORD, is this not what I said when I was still at home? That is why I was so quick to flee to Tarshish. I knew that you are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love, a God who relents from sending calamity." He even went further, and "prayed to God to take away his life;" for that, since he must appear to that people as a false prophet, "It would have been better for him to die than to live! verse 3."

How astonishing was it, that God did not strike him dead upon the spot! All the mercy that had been given to himself, Jonah had quite forgotten. It was nothing now that he had been preserved alive in the belly of the whale, and been cast uninjured upon the dry land. No, his honor was assailed; and every consideration of gratitude for his own mercies, and of compassion for above a million souls that had been spared, was swallowed up in the apprehension that he should suffer in his credit, by reason of the revocation of God's threatened judgments.

Behold how God deals with this daring transgressor! He calmly asks him, "Have you any right to be angry? verse 4."

And when the sullen rebel goes out of the city, and sits down in earnest hope that he shall see the whole city destroyed, God takes yet further means to convince Jonah that his anger was unreasonable, and his complaint unmerited. Truly, Jonah, you have given occasion for such a display of God's mercy as you yourself could not previously have conceived to be within the reach of possibility, or to be consistent with the other attributes of God!

O, brethren, let us see in this history:

1. What monuments of mercy we ourselves are!

Who among us has not rebelled against the commands of God; and betaken himself to any place, any company, any employment, rather than fulfill the duties to which he was averse?

Who among us has not betrayed a sad indifference to the welfare of his fellow-creatures; seeking his own ease, his own interests, his own honor, when he should have been laboring rather for the salvation of those to whom he might have gained access for their good?

Who has not grievously overlooked, or with base ingratitude forgotten, the deliverances that have been given to him, even from diseases or accidents that have been fatal to others, and that might have had a fatal outcome with him also?

Yes, who has not been unmindful even of that wonderful redemption which God has given to us, through the death and resurrection of his only dear Son?

I may add, too, who among us, when crossed in any particular object that has affected his interest, and especially his honor, has not been so vexed as to murmur, if not directly against God—yet indirectly, being irritated against those who were the means and instruments which he employed in the dispensation that we complained of? Possibly, under some grievous trial, where our pride has been wounded, we have even wished ourselves dead—when, alas! we were far from being in a state to appear before God.

Yet, notwithstanding all our provocations, here we are still on mercy's ground, when we might well have been made monuments of God's righteous displeasure! Truly, then, we may say to God, "I know that you are a gracious God, and merciful; yes, I myself am a living witness that you are slow to anger, and He prayed to the LORD: O LORD, is this not what I said when I was still at home? That is why I was so quick to flee to Tarshish. I knew that you are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love, a God who relents from sending calamity!"

Yes, my dear brethren, flagrant beyond conception as was the impiety of Jonah—we are not the people to throw a stone at him! Every one of us having indulged too much of the same spirit as he, and trodden too much in his steps. We should rather take occasion, from what we have seen in him, to humble ourselves before God; and, from the mercies given to him—to adore our God for the mercies given unto ourselves!

2. What encouragement we have to return unto our God.

If there were a mere perhaps only that we might obtain mercy from God—that alone would be a sufficient encouragement to humble ourselves before God. So the Prophet Joel, using the very words of my text, informs us in Joel 2:12-14, "Even now," declares the LORD, "return to me with all your heart, with fasting and weeping and mourning. Rend your heart and not your garments. Return to the LORD your God, for he is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love, and he relents from sending calamity. Who knows? He may turn and have pity and leave behind a blessing—grain offerings and drink offerings for the LORD your God!"

Are there, then, among us those who are altogether ignorant of God, like the heathen Ninevites? I say: Humble yourselves before God, and you shall find mercy at his hands, especially if you seek it in the name of his only dear Son Jesus Christ!

Is there any professor of godliness, who, like the Prophet Jonah, has given way to sin, and grievously dishonored his holy profession? To such a one would I say: Abase yourself before God in dust and ashes. We are not, indeed, told that Jonah repented, and was forgiven; but we have reason to hope that this was the case, from his being called "the servant of God, 2 Kings 14:25." And if Jonah was forgiven—then who has any reason to despair? Methinks I see one even in as vile a spirit as Jonah; and yet I hear God addressing him in these tender terms, "How can I give you up, Ephraim? How can I hand you over, Israel? How can I treat you like Admah? How can I make you like Zeboiim? My heart is changed within me; all my compassion is aroused. I will not carry out my fierce anger, nor will I turn and devastate Ephraim. For I am God, and not man—the Holy One among you. I will not come in wrath! Hosea 11:8-9."

Indeed, indeed, brethren, it will be your own fault, if any of you perish. "God has no pleasure in the death of any sinner; but that he turn from his wickedness and live." I beseech you all, therefore, whatever guilt you may have contracted, never to flee from God in despondency, but to go to him, in an assured hope that he is still as gracious as ever; and that, however abundant have been his mercies in the days of old—they shall be renewed to you the very instant that you cry to him in the name of Jesus, who "was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification!"




Jonah 4:5-9.

KJV. "So Jonah went out of the city, and sat on the east side of the city, and there made him a booth, and sat under it in the shadow, until he might see what would become of the city. And the Lord God prepared a gourd, and made it to come up over Jonah, that it might be a shadow over his head, to deliver him from his grief. So Jonah was exceeding glad of the gourd. But God prepared a worm, when the morning rose the next day, and it smote the gourd that it withered. And it came to pass, when the sun did arise, that God prepared a vehement east wind; and the sun beat upon the head of Jonah, that he fainted, and wished in himself to die, and said, It is better for me to die than to live. And God said to Jonah, Do you well to be angry for the gourd? And he said, I do well to be angry, even unto death."

NIV. "Jonah went out and sat down at a place east of the city. There he made himself a shelter, sat in its shade and waited to see what would happen to the city. Then the LORD God provided a vine and made it grow up over Jonah to give shade for his head to ease his discomfort, and Jonah was very happy about the vine. But at dawn the next day God provided a worm, which chewed the vine so that it withered. When the sun rose, God provided a scorching east wind, and the sun blazed on Jonah's head so that he grew faint. He wanted to die, and said, "It would be better for me to die than to live." But God said to Jonah, "Do you have a right to be angry about the vine?" "I do," he said. "I am angry enough to die."

Whether we look into the sacred volume or to the world around us, we are almost at a loss to say which is the greater: the depravity of man, or the tender mercy of our God.

In the brief history which we have of the Prophet Jonah, they are both exhibited to our view in the most striking colors. Had Jonah been a professed heathen, we should have wondered less at his impiety; but being an Israelite, yes, a prophet of the Most High God also, and, we would fondly hope, a godly man upon the whole—we are amazed at the very extraordinary wickedness which Jonah manifested—and no less at the astonishing forbearance exercised by Almighty God towards him.

In the former part of his history we have an account of his declining to execute the commission which God had given him to preach to the Ninevites, and, notwithstanding that rebellious conduct, his preservation in the belly of a fish.

In the passage which we have now read, we see his perverseness carried to an extent that seems absolutely incredible, and God's condescension to him keeping pace with his enormities.

It relates his conduct in reference to a gourd which God had caused to spring up over him, and which withered within a few hours after it had comforted him with its refreshing shade. That we may place the matter in a clear point of view, we shall notice,

I. Jonah's inordinate joy at the acquisition of the gourd.

He was at this time in a most deplorable state of mind.

He had preached to the Ninevites, and his word had been attended with such power, that the whole city repented, and turned to the Lord with weeping and with mourning and with fasting. This, instead of exciting gratitude in the heart of Jonah, filled him only with rage; because he thought that God, in consideration of their penitence, would show mercy to them, and that, in consequence of the judgments with which he had threatened them, not being executed upon them, he himself should appear an impostor.

It was of small importance that there were above a million of souls in the city; the destruction of them was of no moment in his eyes, in comparison with his own honor; he hoped therefore that God would at least inflict some signal judgment upon them, sufficient to attest the truth of his threats, and to support his credit as a true prophet.

With the hope of seeing his wishes realized, he made a booth on the outside of the city, and "sat there to see what would become of the city."

Then it was that God caused a gourd to spring up suddenly, and cover the booth.

What amazing condescension! How much rather might we have expected that God would have sent a lion to destroy him, as he had before done to a disobedient prophet! But instead of visiting his iniquity as it deserved, God consulted only his comfort; yes, this very man, who was so "exceedingly displeased with God's mercy to the Ninevites, that he could not endure his life, and begged of God to strike him dead; this very man, I say, was such an object of God's attention, as to have a gourd raised up over his head "to deliver him from his grief." It would seem as if there was a contest between God and him—he striving to exhaust the patience of Jehovah, and Jehovah striving to overcome by love the obstinacy and obduracy of his heart.

In the acquisition of this gourd, Jonah exceedingly rejoiced.

Had we been told that he was exceedingly thankful to his God, we should have been ready to applaud his gratitude. But he did not see God's hand in the mercy given to him; it was his own comfort only that he cared about; and in the gift alone did he rejoice, forgetful of the Giver.

The idea of a million of souls being saved from perishing in their sins gave him no pleasure; but the being more effectually screened from the heat of the sun himself, made him "exceedingly glad." Had his mind been at all in a right state, his own comfort and convenience would have been swallowed up in thankfulness for the preservation of so many souls, and for having been made the honored instrument of their deliverance. But love for ourselves, and indifference about others, always bear a vast disproportion to each other in the mind of man; and their connection with each other was never more strongly seen than on this occasion.

His inordinate joy at the acquisition of the gourd was more than equaled by,

II. Jonah's intemperate sorrow at the loss of the gourd.

God, seeing the ingratitude of Jonah, withdrew the gift soon after it had been bestowed.

God prepared a worm, which smote the gourd, so that it withered as suddenly as it had grown up! And where is there any gourd without a worm at the root of it? Our comforts may continue for a longer season than Jonah's; but there is in every creature-comfort, a tendency to decay; and our most optimistic expectations are usually followed by the most bitter disappointments.

Indeed God has wisely and graciously ordained, that abiding happiness shall not be found in anything but Him alone; and the withdrawment of Jonah's gourd was in reality a greater blessing than its continuance would have been; since the gourd could only impart a transient comfort to his body; whereas the removal of it tended to humble and improve his soul.

But the impatient spirit of Jonah only raged and complained the more.

As soon as the heat became oppressive to him, Jonah renewed his former wish for death; and, when reproved by God for his impiety, he vindicated himself in the very presence of his God, and declared, that "he did well to be angry, even unto death!"

Who could conceive that such impiety as this should exist in the heart of any man, but especially of one who had received such signal mercies as he, and been so honored as an instrument of good to others? But hereby God did indeed show, that the excellency of the power was of him alone, and that he can work by whomever he will.

It seems strange too, that, when God appealed to his conscience, an enlightened man could possibly be so blinded by passion as to give judgment in his own favor in such a case. But man has neither reason nor conscience, when biased by his own lusts; and his very appeals to God can be little more depended on than the testimony of a man who is deliberately deceitful.

But this we may observe in general, that the more there is of unhallowed boldness in any man's confidence—the more it is to be suspected; and the more ready a man is to wish himself dead and commit suicide—the more unfit he is for death and judgment.

Thus far our attention has been almost exclusively turned to Jonah; but that we may bring the matter home more directly to our own business and bosoms, we would suggest a reflection or two, arising out of the subject:

1. What selfishness there is in the heart of man!

One would be ready to account this record a libel upon human nature, if we did not know assuredly that it is a true history, without any exaggeration or mistake. It appears incredible that such inhumanity should exist in the heart of man, as that he should wish for the destruction of a million souls—only that his own word might be verified; and that he should be so vexed by his disappointment, as to wish for death and pray to God to terminate his life.

Nor would one conceive it possible that a temporary inconvenience, which had in fact originated solely in his own absurd and impious conduct, should so irritate and inflame his mind as to make him insult his almighty and all-gracious Reprover to his very face!

We know little of ourselves if we do not recognize much of our own character in that of Jonah. We have had reported to us, time after time, the calamities of others and have felt no more than if the most trifling occurrences had been related. Or if we have felt at all, it has been only for a moment, and the tale has soon become of no more importance to us, than a trifling event that happened before Noah's flood.

But on the other hand, if anything has arisen to thwart our own interests or inclinations, though it has been of less consequence than Jonah's gourd, we have laid it to heart and been so irritated or grieved by it, that our very sleep has gone from us! Particularly if anything has occurred that was likely to lower our reputation in the world. How keenly have we felt it, so as almost to be weary even of life! Or if anything wherein we promised ourselves much happiness has been withdrawn from us. as wife or child—how little have we been able to say. "The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord!" Alas! we have more resembled Jonah, than Job; our every thought has been swallowed up in self; and neither God nor man have been regarded by us, any farther than they might subserve our selfish and carnal ends. Let us then in Jonah, see our own character as in a looking-glass, and let this view of it humble us in the dust.

2. What mercy is there in the heart of God!

This is the improvement which God himself makes of the subject. Jonah had complained of God for exercising mercy towards the repentant Ninevites; and God vindicates himself against the accusations of Jonah. In doing this, he touches with exquisite tenderness the sin of Jonah; and represents him not as actuated by selfishness and impiety, but as merely "having pity on the gourd."

What a beautiful example does this afford us, who ought to extenuate, rather than to aggravate, the faults of our bitterest enemies! God's argument on the occasion is this: 'If you have had pity on a poor worthless gourd, for which you never labored, and in which you have only a slight and transient interest—then how much more am I justified in having pity on a million human beings, 120 thousand of whom could not tell their right hand from their left hand, and on multitudes of cattle also, which must have been involved in any calamity inflicted on that large city!'

This argument is similar to one used in Hebrews 9:13, 14, and says in effect, 'If you were right in pitying a thing of no value, how much more am I in sparing what is of more value than ten thousand worlds!' This argument, especially as addressed to the self-justifying Jonah, was unanswerable; and the truth contained in it is consolatory to every man.

God is a God of infinite mercy; he may, he will, spare all who truly repent. Whatever judgments he has denounced against sin and sinners, the execution of them depends solely on the sinners themselves; if they repent, sooner shall God cease to exist, than cease to exercise mercy towards them. Let this encourage transgressors of every class; let it encourage the abandoned to repent; and those who profess godliness to repent also; for all need this consoling truth, that "God wills not the death of any sinner, but rather that he turn from his wickedness and live." Know then, both from his dealings with the Ninevites, and his forbearance towards his perverse prophet—that He is abundant in goodness and truth, and that where sin has abounded, his grace shall much more abound!