Jonah 1:6
What meanest thou, O sleeper? arise, call upon thy God, if so be that God will think upon us, that we perish not. The incident referred to in the text is this - Jonah was sent to Nineveh on a mission of mercy, sent to warn the corrupt population of their impending doom, and to call them to immediate repentance. The Divine message was not to the prophet's mind; he was displeased, and instead of going direct to Nineveh, he went down to Joppa, and found a ship going to Tarshish. He paid the fare, embarked, and hasted away. While on the deep a terrible tempest arose. "The Lord sent out a great wind into the sea, and there was a mighty tempest in the sea, so that the ship was like to be broken." As the tempest raged Jonah was asleep, "fast asleep." So the shipmaster came to him and said unto him, "What meanest thou, O sleeper?" etc. Moral indifferentism is the curse of the world. Three practical appeals to the morally indifferent are suggested.

I. JONAH WAS IN IMMINENT PERIL. So are you. It is said that the ship was "like to be broken." The perils of shipwreck have often been graphically depicted; but they surpass the conceptions of all but those who have struggled in their ghastly horrors. But what are the perils of material shipwreck to the perils of a corrupt and disobedient soul? To have the body buried in the depths of the ocean is a trifle compared with the burial of the soul under the black, booming billows of moral depravity and guilt. The buried body becomes unconscious of its position, and sleeps itself into the calm bosom of its mother nature; but the soul becomes burningly conscious of its terrible situation, and struggles in vain to rise from the abyss. What is hell? I know not. I want no rolling thunders of Divine vengeance, no material fires burning on forever, to impress me with its awfulness. A soul buried in the black ocean of its own depravity, with a conscience intensely alive to its hopeless condition, struggling in vain to release itself, is the hell of all hells. Careless sinner, you are in danger of this hell! Your moral circumstances will soon be changed, a tempest is brooding, it increases with every sin. Every star in your heavens will soon be extinguished, and the sea on which you are now gliding along will be lashed into fury and will engulf you in ruin.

II. JONAH WAS UNCONSCIOUS OF HIS PERIL. So are you. Whilst the tempest was raging and the vessel ready to sink, he was "last asleep." Carless sinner, you are unconscious of your danger! You say to yourself, "Peace, peace," when there is no peace. If you were aware of your position, you would give no sleep to your eyes, no slumber to your eyelids.

1. Jonah's unconsciousness was foolish. So is yours. How unwise was the prophet to sleep under such circumstances! He should have been on deck, alert, all ear and eye, and with hands ready to grapple with the emergencies of the terrible hour. But your folly is greater, inasmuch as your peril is more tremendous.

2. Jonah's unconsciousness was wicked. So is yours. For the sake of his companions on board, he ought not to have been "fast asleep;" it indicated a shameful lack of interest in his fellow men. Your indifferentism is wicked. You ought to be spiritually alive and awake, not only for your own sake, but also for the sake of those around you who are in similar peril.

III. JONAH HAD A MESSENGER TO WARN HIM OF HIS PERIL. So have you. "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." There are certain points of analogy between this "shipmaster" and the godly ministers that are warning you.

1. He believed in the existence and power of God. So do they. "Call upon thy God, if so be that God will think upon us" Great dangers seldom fail to strike the idea of God into the hearts of men, whatever their creed or character. This man believed, not only that a God existed, but that that God had raised a tempest, and had the power to subdue it. The Christly men that warn you every Sunday from the pulpits also believe in this God.

2. He believed in the efficacy of human prayer. So do they. The shipmaster said to Jonah, "Call upon thy God." Whatsoever speculative scientists may say about prayer, one thing is clear - that it is an instinct of the soul, not a mere doctrine of the Bible; it is a law of nature, not a mere ceremony of religion. What soul does not pray when in conscious contact with overwhelming dangers? Your ministers believe in prayer; they pray for you, and urge you to pray for yourselves.

3. He believed it to be his duty to sound the warning. So do they. What right had he to interfere with the sleeping prophet, to break his slumber, and to summon him to prayer? The instincts of nature authorized him, nay, bound him to do so. Your ministers have a right to warn you; they are bound to warn you. They are commanded to "cry aloud, to lift up their voice like a trumpet," Do you say, when godly men speak to you about your moral condition, "What business have they to interfere? My soul is my own; if I choose to throw it away, what matters it to them?" It does matter to them. You are not your own, you are not an isolated unit, you are a member of the spiritual universe; you have, therefore, no right to be dishonest, corrupt, ungodly, and throw your soul away. You were made to serve the universe, not to curse it; you cannot sin without injuring others, Every true man is bound to protest against your conduct, and to demand from you, in the name of God and this universe, an immediate reformation.

CONCLUSION. The following fact, recorded in the 'Biblical Treasury,' is worthy of note as an illustration: "A traveller who was pursuing his journey on the Scotch coast, was thoughtlessly induced to take the road by the sands as the most agreeable. This road, which was safe only at low tides, lay on the beach, between the sea and the lofty cliffs which bound the coast. Pleased with the view of the inrolling waves on the one hand and the abrupt and precipitous rocks on the other, he loitered on the way, unmindful of the sea which was gradually encroaching upon the intervening sands. A man, observing from the lofty cliffs the danger he was incurring, benevolently descended, and arresting his attention by a loud halloa, warned him not to proceed. 'If you pass this spot, you will lose your last chance of escape. The tides are rising. They have already covered the road you have passed, and they are near the foot of the cliffs before you; and by this ascent alone you can escape.' The traveller disregarded the warning. He felt sure he could make the turn in the coast in good time; and, leaving his volunteer guide, he went more rapidly on his way. Soon, however, he discovered the real danger of his position. His onward journey was arrested by the sea; he turned in haste, but to his amazement he found that the rising waters had cut off his retreat. He looked up to the cliffs; but they were inaccesible. The waters were already at his feet. He sought higher ground, but was soon driven off. His last refuge was a projecting rock; but the relentless waters rose higher and higher; they reached him; they rose to his neck; he uttered a despairing shriek for help, but no help was near, as he bad neglected his last opportunity for escape. The sea closed over. It was the closing in upon him of the night of death." - D.T.

So the shipmaster came to him.
The shipmaster was a good workman. The spirit and manner in which he went about his work deserve our imitation. He was intensely in earnest. At any risk he wished to arouse this slumbering passenger to a sense of duty. Death was staring them in the face, and he was anxious that every person on board should be doing something to assist the ship, or to save his life. Seek to imitate —

I. HIS EARNEST SOLICITUDE. When we remember that millions of our fellow-men are actually slumbering on the very verge of perdition, the first desire of every Christian heart should be to awaken them out of sleep. The conversion of men to God is the ultimate and immediate aim of all truly Christian effort. If we fail in this we fail altogether. This is the spirit of the age. In business, politics, and science, men may be as fanatical as they please, and society will applaud their zeal; while in any undertaking which is strictly Christian and spiritual, an ordinary amount of earnestness will not be tolerated.

II. HIS RATIONAL APPEAL. "What meanest thou, O sleeper?" Give us a reason for this strange conduct. This inquiry is equally appropriate and rational as applied to unconverted men. In reference to a matter of such importance we cannot do rational men the injustice to suppose that this subject has not received their most earnest attention. The fact may be, that though there is so much nominal belief in the world, there is also, even amongst ordinary Gospel hearers, a wide spread spirit of scepticism.

III. HIS SIMPLE EXHORTATION. "Arise, and call upon thy God." Straightforward, honest, manly, and emphatic, the man came right to the point, and discharged his soul. Such a man as a Gospel preacher would be sure of success. Let us aim at the heart. Let our theme be the Gospel. This earnest sea-captain is an example for every Christian professor.

(W. H. Burton.)

Jonah behaved at once like a very presumptuous and a very ignorant man. Jonah's slumbers were unaffected by the danger, and unbroken by the noise above and around. The shipmaster, seeing that he was quite unconscious of his peril, and might probably be engulphed in the yawning abyss below them, before ever he knew that there was danger, came near and aroused him. The shipmaster had no very accurate ideas of Jonah's God, of His character, grace, mercy, long-suffering, or providence. Yet in the darkness of heathenism he had not absolutely lost sight of every glimpse of the truth. Amidst all the obscurity and ignorance in which they were involved many a heathen retained the knowledge that a power there certainly is that made heaven and earth, and all things therein;. and that in evils which mock the weakness of human devices, the only probable road to safety is in appeal to that invisible Being, who certainly has the power, and may have the will, to save to the uttermost.

(W. H. Marriott.)

If Jonah had been told one year before that a heathen sea-captain would ever awaken him to a sense of danger, he would have scoffed at the idea; but here it is done. So now, men in strangest ways are aroused from spiritual stupor. A profane man is brought to conviction by the shocking blasphemy of a comrade. A man attending chinch, and hearing a sermon from the text, "The ox knoweth his owner," etc., goes home unimpressed, but crossing his barn-yard, an ox comes up and licks his hand, and he says: "There it is now — 'the ox knoweth his owner, and the ass his master's crib,' but I do not know God." The careless remark of a teamster has led a man to thoughtfulness and heaven. The child's remark, "Father, they have prayers at uncle's house, — why don't we have them?" has brought salvation to the dwelling.

(T. De Witt Talmage.)

By strangest way and in most unexpected manner men are awakened. The gardener of the Countess of Huntingdon was convicted of sin by hearing the countess on the opposite side of the wall talk about Jesus. John Hardoak was aroused by a dream, in which he saw the last day, and the Judge sitting, and heard his own name called with terrible emphasis — "John Hardoak, come to judgment!" The Lord has a thousand ways of waking up Jonah.

(T. De Witt Talmage.)

To the end the Lord may discover the guilty man, and cause of this tempest, as he made the mariners sensible themselves, so the shipmaster is set on work to awaken Jonah, to try his interest with his God (whom they knew not yet to be the true God), if possibly He had more power or goodwill to such as worshipped Him than theirs had. Which is the first step to His discovery. Doctrine —

1. A child of God may sometimes miscarry, so far through infirmity, negligence, and temptation, that even a pagan, by nature's light, may see him reproveable and blameworthy, for so is Jonah reproved by the shipmaster.

2. It is deeply censurable and absurd, even to nature's eye, to be secure in trouble.

3. Variety of false gods hold men in suspense and uncertainty. Therefore every "man having cried unto his God," yet they are not settled, but will have Jonah to essay his God, if He be better than the rest.

4. Nature's light will acknowledge that He who is the true God hath power to deliver in most extreme dangers; for in this great tempest they assert it, — "If God think on us, we will not perish."

5. Howsoever in a calm day, nature conceit and boast of merit, yet in a strait, natural men are forced to have their recourse only to the favour of God. For this pagan shipmaster hath no ground of hope that they shall not perish, but in God's thinking (or being bright and shining, as the word also signifies, that is, looking favourably) on them.

(George Hutcheson.)

Arise, call upon thy God.
These were the words of the shipmaster to Jonah, and they present to us the strange anomaly of the reckless seaman upbraiding with impiety the prophet of the Lord. Jonah could not at that hour have possessed a conscience void of offence. At that time he was flying in the face of God, disobeying His Word, betraying His trust, and he could not have thought of Him without dread. He could not have dared to bend the knee to Him in prayer without conscience flying, like a scorpion, in his face. Was it the conflict of his feelings which overpowered him, and nature sunk exhausted under the dreadful struggle? Or was it that Jonah had succeeded in silencing the remonstrances of conscience? Only by way of accommodation can this passage be improved.

1. Apply it to the careless and ungodly. Thousands are rushing onward in the broad way which leadeth to destruction. Many a man, in the midst of the most awful realities of life, is locked up in fancied security, and not a pang, not a misgiving, not an apprehension is entertained. Well may it be said to such, "Awaken, thou that sleepest."

2. Apply to the backslider. Those who once knew the Lord, and who, remembering the blessedness of knowing Him, have nevertheless fallen from their stead fastness; who, by sin, have inflicted a deadly wound upon their souls. They may be, like Jonah, sleeping, insensible to the perils around them. But the words admit of a more extended application. They come, in a greater or less degree, pointed to us all. It seems to say to us all, "watch and pray, arise and be doing."

(Dennis Kofly, M. A.)

Notice the character of Jonah's sleep. It could not have been the sleep of innocence and confidence. Jesus Christ slept in the calm confidence of a mighty faith which knew that the elements were powerless to injure the Holy One of God. Jonah slept to escape from himself. He had already fled from the presence of God, but he could not escape from the sound of God's voice in his conscience. May we not see in this sleep of Jonah a type of the condition of many souls? As with him, so with us. God has given us a work to do for Him. But the work grows distasteful; so we gradually slacken our efforts, and perhaps at last abandon them altogether; and then try to escape from the presence of the Lord We lull ourselves more effectually to sleep by the expressed intention of making our peace with God at some far distant time, when we are less distracted by the world's claims upon us. But what are such intentions save as the dreams of an unhealthy sleep? Every landmark of our lives which tells us that another stage is reached, and our journey is so much nearer the close, is in point of fact as the voice of that heathen sailor who roused the sleeping prophet. It is no new or striking thing to say, that the time and manner of your death is uncertain. We need to take homo to ourselves the common-places of religion before we can actually realise them. How can we dare to continue to live in such a state as we dare not die in?

(F. R. H. H. Noyes, D. D.)

The prophet, jealous, as some think, for the honour of Israel, and unwilling that the Gentiles should partake of the benefits of prophecy; or fearing that, as others imagine, notwithstanding all the denunciations he might utter against them, the merciful God might still spare them, and thus tarnish the veracity of his predictions, — subjecting him, moreover, to the ignominy of being despised and punished as an impostor; or apprehensive, as is the opinion of a third class, of the perils to which this journey and message were likely to expose him, refused obedience to God's authority. What could the prophet mean by attempting to flee from the presence of the Lord? Possibly Jonah thought that by removing from Judea the special place of Divine revelations, he would remove from that presence of the Deity which was peculiar to it. During his passage he does not appear to have thought of the folly or sinfulness of his conduct. He fell fast asleep. Did not this splenetic seer know that it is in vain for a man to contend with his Maker?

1. It must be obvious to every one that this impassioned inquiry into the conduct of the sleeper speaks it to be fraught with extreme folly. Man is placed under the regimen of a moral and an equitable administration, in which God deals with him as a rational creature. A door of hope is set before us. The awful consequences of refusing to accept God's mode of deliverance are fully displayed. Now, does the sleeper act the part of a wise man; to remain locked in the embraces of a most sluggish inaction, when affairs of such moment are to be decided? Surely no frenzy is half so desperate as this! The sleeper's conduct is fraught with extreme folly.

2. This awakening salutation intimates that the sleeper's conduct is full of danger. See the appalling and perilous position of this ship. Far more appalling and perilous is your condition, O ye spiritual slumberers. You are embarked on the ocean of Divine wrath. The vessel to which you have committed yourselves is frail and shattered, yet an ark of safety has all along attended you, but you will not be at the trouble of accepting its aid. By neglecting the great salvation, your peril is increased a thousand-fold. Jonah's condition in the ship gives but a faint idea of the danger you every moment run while without Christ, and "without God in the world."

3. The earnestness of the interrogatory imports that now is the proper time to awake. It should be a rule with every man who wishes to regulate his conduct wisely, to put off nothing till to-morrow which is necessary to be done to-day. The present time is always the best, and, what is more, it is all that we can call our own. The circumstances of this case demand that you decide instantly.

4. The vehemence of this call tells us, that the business for which the sleeper is called to awake is of the utmost importance, and well deserves his attention. Inconceivably greater than Jonah's is the business to which we now solicit your attention. By nature you are lost and undone; but we now announce to you a message of peace and reconciliation with God. We tell you of a Saviour. Will you, through the pride of your heart, banish from your mind that deep and mysterious project? Will you, through the listlessness of your inaction, discard, as not deserving your serious contemplation, that unrivalled event which filled the world with wonders?

5. The question here put to the sleeper may also be viewed as the language of reproof and astonishment. These sailors were heathen, yet in time of strain they called on their God. The one man who professed to fear the God of heaven remains fast asleep, makes no attempt to call upon his God.

(W. Nisbet.)

Like all who endeavour to frustrate the designs, evade the commands, or flee from the presence of God, Jonah found his hopes miserably disappointed. The address of the shipmaster to the slumbering prophet is equally applicable to those who are yet in their unregenerate state.

1. Like the prophet, you are exposed to the storm of Divine wrath, which every moment pursues and threatens to overwhelm you.

2. The inspired writers employ various figurative expressions to describe the situation and character of impenitent sinners. Persons of this description are represented sometimes as foolish, mad, or infatuated; sometimes as blind and senseless; sometimes as dead in trespasses and sins; and sometimes as slumbering or asleep.

(1)Sleep is a state of insensibility.

(2)Sleep is a state of dreams and delusions.Apply to unawakened sinners, and then to those whom God has been pleased to awaken.

(E. Payson, D. D.)

The circumstances connected with this message of the prophet are very striking. We may trace a parallel between those circumstances and man as we now find him. Every man, from the least to the greatest, is charged with a mission from God; every man comes into the world charged with this one great business, the bringing glory to God; and every man who goes forth, in the exercise of the faculties which God has given him, influenced and regulated by Almighty grace, fulfils his mission. But the greater part of mankind shrink from it; they flee (as it were) from the presence of the Lord; they go forth from the round of duty in which He places them, and seek to escape. Every soul who is not fulfilling his mission will sooner or later be convinced how fearful a thing it is, as well as vain, to seek to depart from God, and to neglect the one great business of life. The subject suggests one aspect of the unconverted man, — he is in a state of deep sleep. All his faculties whereby he might glorify God are inactive, or if employed at all, are employed unwisely and unfitly. He slumbers in sinful indulgence. There is an absorbing power in this; it holds the heart fast, it subdues the whole being, and brings it into entire subjection. He slumbers in spiritual feeling. What should be done in this case? Two things. "Arise." "Call upon thy God." To every slumberer in sinful indulgence and spiritual ignorance we say, "Arise." Awaken to serious thought. Respond to the call of the Divine Spirit. Call upon God with all the lowliness of humiliation, and in the exercise of a simple faith, of a faith which He will give, of a faith which is even now tendered. And let me remind you that every day spent in the dangerous slumber of sinful indulgence and spiritual ignorance increases the difficulty of your awakening.

(George Fisk, LL. D.)

Three practical appeals to the morally indifferent are suggested.

I. JONAH WAS IN IMMINENT PERIL; SO ARE YOU. What are the perils of the material shipwreck to the perils of a corrupt and disobedient soul?

II. Jonah was UNCONSCIOUS OF HIS PERIL; SO ARE YOU. You say to yourself, "Peace, peace, when there is no peace." If you were aware of your position, you would give no sleep to your eyes, no slumber to your eyelids.

1. Jonah's unconsciousness was foolish; so is yours. How unwise was the prophet to sleep under such circumstances; he should have been on deck, alert, all ear and eye, and with hands ready to grapple with the emergencies of the terrible hour.

2. Jonah's unconsciousness was wicked; so is yours. For the sake of his companions on board he ought not to have been fast asleep it indicated a shameful lack of interest in his fellow-men. Your indifferentism is wicked. You ought to be spiritually alive and awake, not only for your own sake, but also for those around you who are in similar peril.

III. JONAH HAD A MESSENGER TO WARN HIM OF HIS PERIL; SO HAVE YOU. There are certain points of analogy between this "shipmaster" and the godly ministers that are warning you.

1. He believed in the existence and power of God; so do they. "Call upon thy God, if so be that God will think upon us."

2. He believed in the efficacy of human prayer; so do they. What soul does not pray when in conscious contact with overwhelming dangers? Your ministers believe in prayer; they pray for you, and urge you to pray for yourselves.

3. He believed it to be his duty to sound the warning; so do they. Your ministers have a right to warn you; they are bound to warn you. They are commanded to "cry aloud, to lift up their voices like a trumpet." Do you say, when godly men speak to you about your moral condition, What business have they to interfere? My soul is my own; if I choose to throw it away, what matters it to them? It does matter to them. You are not your own, you are not an isolated unit, you are a member of the spiritual universe; you have therefore no right to be dishonest, corrupt, ungodly, and throw your soul away. You were made to serve the universe, not to curse it; you cannot sin without injuring others.


Observe the goodness and mercy of God. He would not punish without a warning, and affording opportunity to forsake their sin and turn unto Him. Jonah was to warn Nineveh, but instead of obeying he fled, hoping to hide himself from the eye of the Almighty. Consider Jonah as representing the state of the great bulk of mankind, the state of every unconverted sinner.

I. THE EXPOSTULATION. "What meanest thou, O sleeper?" Sleep implies a state —

1. Of insensibility. Jonah has no sense and feeling of his desperate condition. Sinners are dreaming, they are fast asleep.

2. Of insecurity. No one is more defenceless than he who is asleep. He is exposed to every danger, without anything wherewith to shield him. Just such is the state of the case with every impenitent sinner.

3. Of inactivity. Notwithstanding all the evils to which Jonah is exposed, he makes not one effort to escape. He is fast asleep. So is it with the souls of the unregenerate.

4. Of inability. What can a man that is asleep do to preserve himself, to save his property, or protect his life? The sinner cannot rescue himself from danger.

II. THE ADVICE. Open thine eyes, and see thy danger. Look, and behold the remedy. "Call upon thy God." Prayer is a haven to a shipwrecked mariner; an anchor to them that are sinking in the waves; a staff to the limbs that totter; a mine of jewels to the poor; a security to the rich; a healer of diseases, and a guardian of health; prayer at once secures the continuance of our blessings, and dissipates the cloud of our calamities.

III. THE. ENCOURAGEMENT. "If so be that God will think upon us that we perish not." It may be that God will hear us. At least we can try. Such was the encouragement which the shipmaster held out. We can add more to this. Our God can and will hear and answer prayer. He is "thy God." Address —

1. The careless sinner.

2. Those who are beginning to awake to a sense of their awful condition.

3. Those who have complied with the advice given.

(Robert Simpson, M. A.)

A young lady was carried to the hospital of St. Lazare in a sleep that had continued for a week. All the chemical and medical appliances had been used, and yet she slumbered. There was an expert among these French doctors that awoke her. The last resource! On the cones of the eyes that have dropped into insensibility is light. He focussed into the eyeball of the sleeper the rays of the sun. Hardly had the concentrated ray touched the eyeball when she awoke. Is it in sight of this physical principle that Paul uttered without knowing it, or is it not a marvellous testimony to God's Holy Spirit and His guiding when he says that the last resource for the slumber, even of death, is Christ's light,? When Christ shines into your soul you can't slumber.

(John Robertson.)

I know a shoal upon which I have seen several vessels come to ruin, but upon which I have never seen the remains of any two ships at the same time. It has been remarked that as long as the mast of a sunken wreck was to be seen above the water, another vessel was never known to strike on that bank. But it is seldom that that place is without its mournful beacon. As one ship thus becomes a beacon to another, so, in the voyage of life, one man's faults and failings should become warnings to all the rest. God has given us many such beacons by the way; for the very fails and weaknesses of His people are made to subserve our highest good. The rock of disobedience, upon which Jonah split, is one of the most dangerous. Some who have grounded thus have managed to get off again into deep water, but it has always done them permanent injury, and has maimed them for the rest of the voyage. Jonah never did much after this misfortune. We see in Jonah a type of many round us, both in the Church and in the world.

I. INDOLENCE IN THE MIDST OF ACTIVITY. "He lay." Ease — rest — to be down in the sides of the ship, fast asleep in the bunks of formality and carnal ease, is the fullest realisation of the ordinary professor's dreams. Respectable Jonahs are the curse of our churches.

II. UNCONCERN IN THE MIDST OF DANGER. Men sleep on the very verge of eternal ruin. How is it possible to describe the sad condition of those who "will not" be aroused by all the Gospel admonitions which from time to time they hear?

III. DETECTION IN THE MIDST OF FLIGHT. Jonah little dreamed, when he was fleeing from the presence of the Lord, that the Lord was marking his every step. God knows us through all our disguises. We must all "appear before the judgment-seat of Christ," and He who is to be your Judge has watched all your doings right throughout.

(W. H. Burton.)

1. That apprehensions of the displeasure and vengeance of God, on account of sin, are apt to arise in all ingenuous minds in times of very threatening and impending danger.

2. That notwithstanding there is a just foundation laid in the human mind, for apprehensions of this sort, in a state of distress, or great danger, yet many of those who are most criminal and guilty are, in such a situation, quite unaffected and secure.

3. That a sense of the displeasure of God, manifested in present or apparently approaching calamities, would naturally excite and urge men to devotion, humiliation, and repentance.

(J. Orr, D. D.)

Jonah is justly no favourite with us, though conspicuously a prophet of the Lord. Hardly one prophet's name is pronounced with so little respect. He was a real saint, with too much of the remaining elements of a sinner. His conduct on receiving his commission does appear very strange. We must accept his own explanation, given in chapter 4., which seems to amount to this, — he felt in danger of being disgraced as a prophet, the denunciation being to be uttered in positive, not conditional, terms. How abominably considerations of self may interfere with obedience to God! The purpose of his voyage betrays a most unworthy conception of the Divine Being, whatever was exactly the prophet's notion. He may have been under the influence of a notion, that God maintained a peculiar jurisdiction over Judea, and a less absolute one beyond; though he knew that it must extend, with awful authority at least to Nineveh. He may have thought that, if he went far enough away, God would do without him, and appoint some other agent. He slept, but it is not wise to sleep in guilt. The God that is disobeyed on land can make the sea avenge Him. There is no situation more pitiable than that of a religious man who has disabled himself to take the benefit of his religion. Jonah's associates had various gods, but they could all pray earnestly .to their objects of adoration. He could not; he who knew the real Lord of the land and the ocean. There must soon have been manifested some peculiarity of circumstances in the storm, indicating that it was of a nature extraordinary and judicial. The mariners referred it to the avenging power to point out the criminal by "casting lots." There follows the decision of the lot, a Series of questions and expostulations. Jonah's answers were perfectly explicit. The honesty he showed made the mariners think it best to inquire of himself what they should do to him. His ready, explicit answer and self-devotement, no doubt, made them much more reluctant to do what he directed them, it would strike them as generous and heroic. They rowed hard. But the necessity became imperative at length. Jonah was sacrificed, but he was a willing sacrifice. Think of the prophet in his living tomb. The "belly of hell," that is, the grave. Short of death, is it possible to conceive so strange a transition of state and feelings? By degrees the amazing fact that he did really live, and continue to live, would bring him to the distinct sense of a miraculous and protective Providence over him. Every moment would add strength to his impression of the Divine presence, and he came at length to a state of thought and faith and hope capable of prayer. What is given as the prophet's prayer is doubtless the brief recollection, afterwards recorded' of the kind of thoughts which had filled his mind during his dark sojourn, with the addition of some pious and grateful sentiments caused by the review. The final result of these mental exercises no doubt was a full consent of his will, that He who had sent him hither should send him anywhere else He pleased, even to Nineveh. Our Lord declares all this to be a type of Him. We may trace the analogy in the being consigned to the deep, and to the grave, in order that others might be saved; — the duration of time the same in the dark retirement; — the coming to light and life again, for the reformation of mankind. (Hercules was fabled to have had the same three days in a fish.) We follow Jonah to Nineveh, and there leave him, It does not appear that he showed any "signs and wonders." There was a speedy humiliation and repentance, to which God graciously responded, but at which Jonah was angry.

(John Foster.)

(taken with Matthew 8:24): — Our Lord has taught us to associate His name with that of Jonah. Christ taught us how to find high teachings in that which is outwardly mean and insignificant. We may be permitted to observe an incidental resemblance between them, which appears to be fruitful of suggestion. There is a study for us here, in this sleep of Jonah and this sleep of Christ.

1. The physical conditions of human life are the same in all cases, — in the case of the good and of the bad. There is one law which makes sleep a necessity for all. In both these cases the immediate cause of sleep was bodily weariness and exhaustion. One had toiled in glad fulfilment of a ministry of love and sorrow; the other had angrily refused to obey the voice of the Lord. But both slept. Thus we see the check which the universal and mysterious law of sleep puts upon every form of human activity. This limitation of bodily energy puts its restraint on human wickedness. It enforces a perpetually recurring pause in the activities of the sinful, the thoughtless, the worldly. But we sometimes cry that the activities of the noble and the good should thus be stopped. Alas! that these must lay aside so often and so soon their toils, their consecrated tasks, their questionings, their search for truth. In discouragement and distress the Christian man at times longs for some exemption from the general law. But we may take heart again when we see Christ asleep. He sleeps, and His work stands still.

2. There are instances of peril in which physical causes conduce to the absence of alarm, both in the case of good men and bad. Jonah, fast asleep, was as untroubled by the threatening fury of the storm as Christ Himself. Sometimes the vigour and robustness of a man's bodily constitution contribute largely to indifference to dangers, which, if he regarded them, might fill him with dismay. Here is a physical cause largely helping to make a man altogether indifferent to the awful peril of irreligion. Often, when the time to die comes, the avenues of the soul seem to close up; the powers of expression fail; the whole man sinks into a lethargy and unconsciousness, in which he finally passes away. It is so with the good and bad, the prepared and unprepared.

3. This sleep of Jonah and sleep of Christ are indicative of two widely different spiritual conditions and processes issuing in strikingly similar results. We do not wonder that Christ should calmly resign Himself to sleep without apprehension or consciousness of peril. He knew that He was in the Father's hands. But how could Jonah sleep, whatever his weariness, in the very act of such unfaithfulness to God? In both instances the spiritual condition may have contributed to the soundness of the sleep and the consequent unconsciousness of danger. With what thought Jonah went to sleep we are not told. In proportion to the success which Jonah had in quieting conscience would be the ease with which he would drop off to sleep and the probable soundness of his slumber. There was no uneasiness at the heart of Christ, and so He slept. There was not uneasiness enough at the heart of Jonah to keep him awake, and so he slept also. Misery comes to men in gusts; it is not the permanent condition of life's atmosphere to any one. If a man refuse to be a Christian it by no means follows that he will live in a state of perpetual excitement and alarm. We almost wonder how it is that God lets men thus sleep on. It is not God's plan to compel men to His service. He never so speaks that we may not refuse to answer. He never so compels us to attend that we may not settle ourselves to sleep again. But the time of awaking comes. In most Christian congregations it may be there are some who are suffering from the pangs of an awakened conscience. For such Christ waits with infinite compassion and concern. But the probability is that the condition of the majority of those who habitually listen to Christian preaching is like that of the ten virgins, of whom Christ speaks in His parable. "While the bridegroom tarried, they all slumbered and slept." We slumber and sleep. Is it because we are finding our rest in reconciliation with God, or because we have dismissed the thought of God, and comforted ourselves with an opiate?

(Thomas Stephenson.)

Call upon thy God.
1. How natural it is to mankind to fly to God and to call upon Him in seasons of distress. If nature, dark and doubtful, and trembling with a sense of guilt, can yet fly to the Almighty and call upon Him, shall we, who are enlightened by grace, be careless and indifferent about this high privilege of drawing near to God in prayer? Shall we, as long as we can find any earthly satisfaction and enjoyment, give them the preference to God; think much of them, and little or never of Him? Who that has a real concern for his own welfare and happiness will not perpetually call upon God?

2. The folly of contending with God. He sent the prophet one way; but because this prophet liked not the errand that he was charged with, he endeavoured to go quite a contrary way. The folly of such an attempt we are all ready to acknowledge; but are all, who would not hesitate or doubt to pass sentence upon Jonah, free from this very folly? Jonah disobeyed an express order of God; and in doing so somehow satisfied himself that an all-discerning Eye would not see perverseness in him, nor an almighty Hand reach him in his flight. Do not thousands practise the same deceit upon themselves?

3. Conscience hath its power and authority and terrors derived from God; with which it will surround the sinner in the day of trouble, forcing him to confess and acknowledge his guilt.

4. These terrors of conscience, if they seize the sinner in due time, are most blessed and desirable. For the most unhappy of all conditions is security in sin, without any feeling or apprehensions of danger from it. But an humble and contrite heart, confessing its unworthiness, bewailing its sins, fully sensible of its own inability to rid itself of this burden, is in the fit and only fit disposition to return to God: such a soul is not far from salvation. 5, The Almighty, who bringeth good out of evil, ordained that Jonah should set forth a type or sign of the burial and resurrection of Christ.

(T. Townson, D. D.)

The pilot not only rebuked the prophet, he had a proposal to make to him. "Arise, call upon thy God." And he backs his proposal by a reason, a motive, an expectation of benefit. "If so be that God will think upon us, that we perish not." All this, as coming from a heathen, is peculiarly instructive. The two great truths conveyed are these.

1. That in man's inmost nature, originally and radically, there are certain principles of religion most strong and ineradicable.

2. That these, without the guidance of revelation and faith, are altogether insufficient as guides in his real relation to God. Man's natural helplessness, and his natural conscience, necessarily imply a capacity for religion and a certain religiousness, appertaining, of necessity, to human nature, and developed, in peculiar strength, even in heathen worship. In the progress of modern civilisation man may emancipate himself from the solemn awe with which the heathen contemplate the powers of nature, but if he rise not to a holy veneration of the one Supreme Author of nature, as a revealed and reconciled God, it is very questionable whether he does not become in some respects a more shallow and trifling being than the worshipper of idols. We might very easily maintain and prove the assertion, that godless men, in the days and in the state of society in which we live, are more thoroughly irreligious than the heathen are: that covetousness, which is idolatry, is more contemptible than the worship of stocks and stones. Two facts conspire to make man naturally and necessarily a religious being.

1. His observation of the powers of nature.

2. His experience of the powers of conscience.

I. WHAT CAN NATURAL RELIGION DO FOR US? What is it that reason, unenlightened by the Word and Spirit of God, can do towards furnishing man with a religion?

1. It may tell us that there is a God, that God is one. The existence and the unity of God may be proved by reason. These heathen mariners had many gods. Jonah, they took for granted, would have a God too. The whole herd of inferior deities whom the heathen worshipped were only so many sectional representatives of a portion of the powers believed to reside in a God, to whom might fairly be given, even by reason, the lofty designation, "God over all." The wisdom, power, and goodness which man sees to be requisite for creating, preserving, and controlling the visible universe, are felt to be unbounded, infinite. One such Infinite Being is felt to be necessary to account for things as they are. But not more than one is felt to be necessary. Indeed, more than one such Infinite Being, possessing all knowledge and power, is felt to be impossible. The same result follows from our connection with the moral world. Conscience tells of a Ruler and Judge, but only of one.

2. Reason, fairly interpreted, assures us that this God is a Being capable of intercourse with His creatures. The creation of an intelligent Being is manifestly the work of a Being who Himself is intelligent. Hence reason itself demonstrates the possibility of a revelation from God, and of the possibility and efficacy of prayer.


1. Reason knows that God exists, but it does not know God. We need revelation to make us acquainted with Him. You never really know any person merely by discovering his intellectual or scientific abilities. You never do know a neighbour save by knowing his moral character and his heart.

2. Reason tells us that prayer is possible, yea reasonable, but revelation alone puts us in possession of the terms on which God actually hears prayer, — puts us in a condition actually to pray. Reason, therefore, without revelation, is sure fatally to err; and whether in ancient paganisms or in modern rationalisms, which are heathenisms, or in popery, or in nominal, formal Christianity, the error at bottom is identically one and the same.

(Hugh Martin, M. A.)

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