Evening Thoughts or Daily Walking With God
by Octavius Winslow
For he saith to Moses, I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion. - Romans 9:15
There is a sovereignty in all the works and dealings of God. If it be asked, what God's own definition of His sovereignty is, we refer the inquirer to His words, "I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy." Here is the Sovereign! How like Himself He speaks! He carries forward His gracious purposes of infinite wisdom and love-chooses or rejects-reveals or withholds, "working all things after the counsel of His own will," and "giving no account," either to angels or to men, "of any of His matters." We will not expand this part of the subject, by citing the numerous examples of this truth which abound in the Scriptures. We would urge the reader to examine the cases of Jacob and Esau-the Publican and Pharisee-Saul of Tarsus and the men who journeyed with him-the two thieves upon the cross-and mark, if the sovereignty of the Divine choice, and the operation of the Eternal Spirit, are not written out in their histories as with a sunbeam.
Is the reader a child of God? Then we will not confine him to the word of Divine truth. We summon him as a witness to the sovereignty of the blessed Spirit's operation. "You are my witnesses," says God. Who and what made you to differ? You have been taken out of your family, your kindred, your friends, your companions. From this circle you alone have been selected, called, and made a child of grace, an heir of glory. The others, where are they? Still dead in trespasses and sin. Where are they? Living in the world, and to the world-lovers of pleasure, lovers of self, lovers of sin, hating God, rejecting Christ, and warring against the Spirit speaking to them in the word, through providences, and by the conscience. Where are they? Bursting through every restraint, and bending their footsteps down to the doom of the lost. Where are they? Gone, many of them, into eternity-past the confines of mercy, "in hell lifting up their eyes, being in torments." And what are you? A sinner saved by grace-a sinner chosen and called, pardoned and justified, washed and clothed, adopted and sanctified-brought to the foot of the cross, constrained to welcome Jesus, to take up His cross, and to follow Him. Oh the electing love of God! Oh the distinguishing grace of Jesus! Oh the sovereign operation of the Eternal Spirit! "Who are you, O man, that replies against God?" Bow down to the sovereignty of His will-silently wonder, and adore Him who says, "Be still, and know that I am God."
Has my reader hitherto found this doctrine a "hard saying"? Has he been prone to cavil at it, or passed it by? I would with all meekness and affection urge him seriously, candidly, and prayerfully to examine it by the light of the Divine word-to cavil not at it, lest he be found to "fight against God;"-to pass it not by, lest he "grieve the Spirit," and rob his own soul of an inestimable blessing. Oh precious truth! It stains the pride of human merit-it lays the axe at the root of self-it humbles and abases-it empties and lays "low in a low place," and ascribes all the praise, honor, and glory, might, majesty, and dominion of the new creation in the soul to the Triune God.
So then [it is] not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that sheweth mercy. - Romans 9:16
Intimately connected with the sovereignty, is the free grace of the Spirit's operation. No worthiness of the creature allures Him to the sinner's breast. What worthiness can be supposed to exist-what merit in an adjudged criminal-an outlawed rebel-a poor insolvent-one whose mind is enmity, whose heart is swelling with treason against God, His government, and His Son-one who owes ten thousand talents, and has "nothing to pay"? None whatever. And that the Eternal Spirit should enter the heart of such an one-convincing of sin-subduing the hatred-breaking down the rebellion-leading to Jesus, and sealing pardon and peace upon the conscience-oh! What but free grace-unmerited mercy-sovereign love, could thus have constrained Him? In exercising his sovereignty in conversion, let none suppose that that which decides Him in the selection of His subject is anything more worthy, or more lowly He discovers in one than in another. Oh no! He often selects the poorest, the vilest, the most depraved and fallen, as if utterly to explode all idea of human merit, and to reflect in its richest luster the free grace of His heart.
Behold, then, the grace of the blessed Spirit's operation, He comes-He knocks-He unbars-He enters, and creates all things new, irrespective of any merit of the creature, if merit that may be called, which is so wretched and poor, that language fails adequately to describe it. Oh the riches of His grace! How it is magnified-how it is illustrated-how it shines in the calling of a poor sinner! "Lord, what did you see in me," exclaims the convinced soul, "that moved You with compassion, that drew You to my breast, and that constrained You to make me Your temple?" Nothing, on my part, but poverty, wretchedness, and misery-on Your part, nothing but love, sovereignty, and unmerited favor." Reader, turn not from this glorious feature of the blessed Spirit's operation; it glorifies God, while it humbles man-it exalts Jesus on the ruins of the creature.
Poor in spirit, blessed are you! You are rich in your poverty-you are exalted in your lowliness. All the love that is in God-all the grace that is in Jesus-and all the tenderness that is in the Spirit, all, all is for you. Lift up your head, then, and let your heart sing for gladness. Though poor, though nothing, though despised, though worthless in your own eyes-ah! and in the eyes of the vaunting Pharisee-yet for you Jehovah pours out all the treasures of His grace-gave His well-beloved Son, and sent His blessed Spirit. "All things are yours" you poor in spirit, you broken in heart-"all things are yours." How vast the compass of your blessings! "All things are yours; for you are Christ's, and Christ is God's." Oh, could you know how dear you are to the heart of God-could you know with what tenderness Jesus yearns over you-how the blessed Spirit delights to make you His dwelling-place, you would rejoice in that you are made low. "For thus says the high and lofty One that inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy, I dwell in the high and holy place, with him also that is of a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones."
I will never forget thy precepts: for with them thou hast quickened me. - Psalm 119:93
It is no small attainment to arrive at the full belief of the heart in the truth of the Divine record. I speak not now of the historical credence which an enlightened judgment may yield-I speak of a higher faith than this. Nor do I confine myself to that entire assent of the mind, and trembling belief of the heart, upon the grounds of which the soul may have ventured an humble reliance upon Christ, although this is no small attainment; but I allude to that firm, unmoved, and immoveable belief of the truth, which is often an after-work-a work of time and of deep experience, before the heart becomes thoroughly schooled in it. Let me not be supposed to undervalue the smallest degree of faith. To believe that God's word is true, and on the strength of that belief to be willing to renounce all other dependence, and to rest simply and implicitly upon its revealed plan of salvation, is a blessed attainment-an attainment only to be realized by the power of the Holy Spirit; but, to know it from a deep experience of its sanctifying power, from the heartfelt preciousness and fulfilment of its promises, from its sustaining and soothing influence in sorrow, its all-sufficient light in darkness and perplexity-to be brought to trust the naked promise because God has spoken it-to believe, and to go forward, because he has said it, is a still higher step in faith's ladder, and a more illustrious display of the grace and power of the Spirit.
It is an unspeakable mercy to be well grounded in the belief of the truth. Let those speak who have thus been blessedly taught. Let them testify that God's word was, when they first believed, as a sealed book, compared with what it now is-that since they have advanced in the Divine life, led and instructed by the Spirit of truth, it has opened to their minds with all the light and freshness of a new revelation; doctrines, once mysterious, are now beautifully lucid-promises, once unfelt, are now sweetly consolatory-precepts, once insipid, are now powerfully persuasive. And to what is this maturity in the full belief of the truth to be ascribed? We unhesitatingly reply, the witness of the Spirit-the Holy Spirit deepening His work in the heart, teaching the soul more experimentally, and guiding it more fully into all truth-in a word, bringing the truth to the mind with a more realizing and convincing power.
Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin; for his seed remaineth in him: and he cannot sin, because he is born of God. - 1 John 3:9
These words have received two interpretations, both of which we believe are equally true. The more general one is, that he who is born of God does not willingly sin, having "put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness," he cannot sin with the full consent and concurrence of the will. He hates it, he fights against it, he resists it. But it may be inquired, is not all sin an act of the will? We reply, not the renewed will. The apostle speaks of two wills in a believer, or rather, the same will under two opposite influences. Thus, Romans 7:15: " For that which I do I allow not: for what I would, that do I not; but what I hate, that do I." Verse19: " For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do." Few will question that Paul here speaks of himself as a regenerate man. And yet he refers to two antagonist principles dwelling in him-the one on the side of holiness, the other on the side of sin. "What I hate, that I do." No man can possibly hate sin, unless he is "born of the Spirit." "The fear of the Lord is to hate evil." And still he says, "what I hate," the sin that is so abhorrent to me-"that I do." Is there volition in the act? True philosophy demands that we reply, "Yes." Every sin must be voluntary; if not so, it cannot be sin. Is there the concurrence and consent of the renewed will in the act? True grace demands that we reply, "No." "For what I hate,"-there is the mark of the regenerate man-"that do I,"-there is the act of the will under the influence of indwelling sin.
But there is another and a stronger interpretation of which the passage is susceptible. It is this-He that is born of God, as such, sins not at all-there is in him a regenerate soul, an indwelling, living principle of grace and holiness, whose natural and constant bias is to holiness. "He" (the new man) "cannot sin, because he is born of God." "He cannot sin;"- Why? "Because his seed remains in him;" And what is that seed? "Incorruptible" - "Being born again, not of corruptible seed but of incorruptible." In accordance with Christ's own words, "That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit." It is spiritual, holy, "from above," "the Divine nature,"-it "cannot sin, because it is born of God."
Again, we beg the reader to mark this great evidence of regeneration. "Whoever is born of God does not commit sin." He does not commit it with the total, absolute, and complete assent and concurrence of the renewed will. He does not give himself over to sin "with greediness." He "would do good." He hates sin. Grace reigns, not sin. Sin dwells in him, but does not govern-it has power, but does not rule-it torments, but does not reign with a continued, unbroken supremacy; in accordance with the promise, "sin shall not have dominion over you." It may for a moment triumph, as it did in David, in Solomon, in Peter, and in a host of other eminently holy men; yet still the promise is verified, as we see in the restorings of the blessed Spirit in their spirit and conduct, in their humblings and confessions, and their holy and upright walk with God in after-years. Reader, have you ever been made sensible of the inward plague? What do you know of the warfare within-of "the flesh lusting against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh"? Your honest reply will decide the great question, whether you are born of God.
For the law made nothing perfect, but the bringing in of a better hope [did]; by the which we draw nigh unto God. - Hebrews 7:19
The Holy Spirit teaches the believer to plead the atoning blood of Christ. He puts this great and prevailing argument in his mouth; and when sin seems a mountain, when unbelief would suppress the aspiration, and a deep consciousness of unworthiness would cause the soul to "stand afar of ," He opens to his view this precious and encouraging truth, the prevalency of the blood of Jesus with God on behalf of His people. In a moment, the mountain is leveled, unbelief is checked, and the soul, unfettered and unrestrained, draws near to God, yes, to the bosom of its Father. What a view does this give us of the love of the Spirit, as the Author of prayer! Who has not experienced it who is not yet a stranger to the blessed exercise of communion with God? How often has guilt caused the head to hang down, and the sense of utter vileness and worthlessness has covered the soul with shame, and even the very destitution has kept back the believer, just as the penury, the wretched covering, the loathsomeness of the poor beggar have kept him from the door-then does the blessed Spirit, in the plenitude of His grace and tenderness, unfold Jesus to the soul, as being all that it needs to give it full, and free, and near access to God. He removes the eye from self, and fixes and fastens it upon the blood that pleads louder for mercy than all his sins can plead for condemnation; he brings, too, the righteousness near, which so clothes and covers the soul, as fits it to appear in the presence of the King of kings, not merely with acceptance, but with delight. Beholding him thus washed and clothed, God rests in his love, and rejoices over him with singing.
Nor must we overlook the understanding which subsists between God the Father and the Spirit. The Father, the searcher of hearts, knows the mind of the Spirit. He understands the desire and the meaning of the Spirit in the souls of His saints. He understands the "groanings which cannot be uttered." He can interpret their sighs, yes; He can read the meaning of their very desires. And, when feeling has been too deep for utterance, and thought too intent for expression, when the soul could but groan out its needs and requests, then has God understood the mind of the Spirit. Oh the inconceivable preciousness of a throne of grace! To have a God to go to, who knows the mind of the Spirit-a God who can interpret the groan, and read the language of desire-to have promise upon promise bidding the soul draw near; and when, from the fullness of the heart, the mouth has been dumb, and from the poverty of language, thought could not be expressed-that then, God, who searches the hearts, and knows what is the mind of the Spirit, should say, "Never did you, my child, pray to me as you did then-never was your voice so sweet, so powerful, so persuasive, never were you so eloquent as when my Spirit made intercession for you with groanings which you could not utter." It was, perhaps, your last resource; refuge failed you, no man cared for your soul; friends failed you, your heart failed you, all forsook you and fled; and, in your extremity, you did betake yourself to God, and He failed you not. You did find the throne of grace accessible; you did see a God of grace upon it, and the sweet incense of the Redeemer's precious merits going up; and you did draw near, and sigh, and groan, and breathe out your needs, and did say, "It is good for me to draw near to God." Yes! "He knows the mind of the Spirit." The secret desire for Jesus, the longing for Divine conformity, the hidden mourning over the existence and power of indwelling sin, the feeblest rising of the heart to God, the first sigh of the humble and contrite spirit, all are known to God. Oh, let this encourage you, dear reader, when you feel you cannot pray by reason of the weakness of the flesh or the depth of your feeling; if the Spirit is interceding in you, your heavenly Father knows the mind of the Spirit, and not a sigh or a groan can escape His notice.
For the Father himself loveth you, because ye have loved me, and have believed that I came out from God. - John 16:27
There is in us a secret tendency to partiality in our estimate of the cost of redemption. There is a proneness to keep out of sight the interest which the Father took in the salvation of His Church; and to look upon the work of the Son as though it originated and purchased all the love, the benevolence, and the allurings which God the Father is represented as manifesting towards His revolted but recovered family. You have studied but imperfectly the wonders of redemption-have but partially seen its glories-with shallow line have fathomed its depth-and with feeble pinion have soared to its height, if you have not been accustomed to associate the Father's purpose of grace and love with every step which the Son took in working out the recovery of a lost Church. So used are we to fix our admiring and adoring gaze upon the incarnate Son-so used to attach our exclusive affections around Him who for us "loved not His life unto the death," as to come short of the stupendous and animating truth, that all the love, grace, and wisdom, which appear so conspicuous and so resplendent in salvation, have their fountain-head in the heart of God the Father!
May we not trace to the holding of this partial view, those hard and injurious thoughts of His character, and those crude and gloomy interpretations of His government, which so many of us bear towards Him? And was it not this contracted and shadowy conception of the Father, which Jesus so pointedly, yet so gently, rebuked in His disciples, "If you had known me, you should have known my Father also: and from henceforth you know Him, and have seen Him." To this, His incredulous disciple still objected, "Lord, show us the Father, and it suffices us." Jesus says unto him, "Have I been so long time with you, and yet have you not known me, Philip? He that has seen me, has seen the Father; and how say you then, Show us the Father?" What further testimony and what more conclusive proof, need we? "He that has seen me, has seen the Father." Do we see the glory of Jesus beaming through the attempted concealment of His humanity?-it is the glory of the Father shining. Do we follow Jesus in His walks of mercy, and behold Him lavishing the exuberance of His tenderness and sympathy, upon the objects of misery and want, who thronged His way?-strange though it may seem, yet, in those displays of love, in those meltings of compassion, in that voice of mercy, and in those tears of sympathy, we see and hear the Father Himself. Do we contemplate the love of Jesus, laboring, suffering, dying?-we see the Father's love in equal vastness, strength, and intensity. He that has thus seen the Son, path seen the Father also.
And we have seen and do testify that the Father sent the Son [to be] the Saviour of the world. - 1 John 4:14
Would we breathe a syllable, or pen a line, tending to lessen your attachment to the Son? God forbid! Rather would we heighten your love, and elevate it to a standard never reached before. We claim for Christ your highest admiration and your supremest affection; and unhesitatingly declare that there is not an object in the universe so worthy of them as He. But we are jealous of the Father's glory; and we wish to guide you through the channel to the Fountain from where it flows-even the eternal purpose, the everlasting love, the covenant mercy of God the Father. Here is the grand secret revealed, of God so loving the world. His love originated the salvation of His Church-the salvation of the Church did not originate His love. Do not think, then, that the work of Jesus was the procuring cause of God's love to sinners! Oh no! You do Him sore injustice and wrong if so you interpret His affection. He loved the Church long before He tore His Son from His bosom to die for it. There was the love, thirsting, panting, and longing for an outlet, and only finding it through the riven heart of Jesus. Oh! To see that every step which Jesus took to work out our redemption from the curse was in perfect harmony with the purpose, the mind, and the heart of the Father! He could, with all truth, say, as He travailed in soul, "I and my Father are one." "I do always those things which please Him." "The Father that dwells in me, He does the work." "I am in the Father, and the Father in me."
Behold, then, the Fountain of living waters! The infinite, the eternal, and inexhaustible Fountain-the Father's love! Do you now marvel at redemption? Do you now wonder at His unspeakable gift? The mystery is explained in the Father's love. "In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent His only-begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him." "Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us, and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins."
Learn, dear Christian reader, to include the Father in the affections that cluster around the Son. Eternally welled in His infinite heart was the love which constrained Him not to spare His own Son that He might spare you. Give to Him an equal place in your thoughts, your affections, your worship, and your service. Blend Him with every view which you take of Jesus. Associate His love who gave with every hallowed remembrance of His love that was given. And when you see the heart of the Son impaled upon the Roman's spear, think that it "pleased Jehovah to bruise Him, and to put Him to grief," for the love which He bore the Church.
But as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation; Because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy. - 1 Peter 1:15-16
If this motive to sanctification came clothed with such solemnity and power, and was so felt by the Jewish Church, what should be its authority and influence with the Church as it now exists! The increased power and solemnity of this motive is drawn from the more resplendent exhibition of God's holiness in the cross of Christ. With no such development of the Divine purity, as an argument to sanctification, were the saints of the Old Testament favored. But we possess it; so that if we continue in sin, after we have believed, we are "without excuse," and God is "clear when He judges." Here, in the cross, is God's grand demonstration of His holiness. Here has He, as it were, unveiled His great perfections, and shown what a sin-hating, holiness-loving God He is. What! Could He not pass by His dear Son-did He give Him up to the "shame and the spitting,"-did He not withhold His "darling from the potter of the dog,"-did justice sheathe its sword in the heart of Jesus-did it smite the Shepherd? And why all this? The answer comes from Calvary, "I, the Lord, am a holy God." And then follows the precept-oh how touching!-"Be you holy, for I am holy." See how the justice of God (and what is the justice of God but His holiness in exercise?) revealed itself as a "consuming fire" on Calvary. Our dear Lord was "a whole burned-offering" for His people; and the fire that descended and consumed the sacrifice was the holiness of God in active and fearful process. Here, then, springs the solemn necessity for sanctification in the believer. The God he loves is holy-his Father is holy, and He has written out that holiness, in awful letters, in the cross of His well-beloved Son. "Be you holy, for I am holy." We must study God in Christ. There we see His holiness, justice, wisdom, grace, truth, love, and mercy, all unfolded in their richest glory and most benevolent exercise.
The necessity for sanctification also springs from the work of Christ. The Lord Jesus became incarnate and died as much for the sanctification as for the pardon and justification of His Church; as much for her deliverance from the indwelling power of sin as from the condemnatory power of sin. His work had been but partial and incomplete, had no provision been made for the holiness of the believer. But He came not only to blot out sin, but to rend asunder its chain-not only to remove its curse, but to break its scepter. The believer in Jesus may be but imperfectly aware how closely associated his sanctification is with the obedience and death of Christ. Yes, that the very death of Christ for sin out of him, is the death of sin in him-that no inroads are made upon the dominion of indwelling sin, no conquests obtained, no flesh crucified, no easy-besetting sin laid aside, save only as the believer hangs daily upon the cross. Observe how the Holy Spirit connects the two-the death of Christ and the holiness of the believer "And for their sakes," says Jesus, "I sanctify myself, that they also might be sanctified through the truth." As their High Priest to atone and purify, He set Himself apart as a holy sacrifice to the Lord God for the Church's sake: "For their sakes I sanctify myself," or set apart myself. Oh, what a motive to holiness is this! Saint of God! Can you resist it?
But we are bound to give thanks alway to God for you, brethren beloved of the Lord, because God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth: - 2 Thessalonians 2:13
The work of sanctification is preeminently the product of the Spirit. He is the great Sanctifier of the soul. The implantation of the germ of holiness in regeneration is of Him. For let it still be borne in mind, that a renewed soul has within him the "incorruptible seed" of holiness; and although its growth, in many instances, may be slow, and scarcely perceptible; though, during a long period of his journey, the believer may be the subject of strong corruptions and clinging infirmities, which in a degree act like frosts upon the tender scion, checking its advance to maturity, yet the seed is there, and indwelling sin cannot destroy it, the frosts cannot kill it; it is "incorruptible," cannot be corrupted; and in process of time, under the tender and faithful culture of the Eternal Spirit, it shall deepen and expand its roots, and put forth its branches and its boughs, and then shall appear the fruit, "first the blade, then the ear, after that the full corn in the ear;" varying in its degree of fruitfulness among the saints, "in some twenty, some sixty, some an hundredfold," but in all, of the same nature, and the product of the same Spirit.
It has been the constant effort of Satan to divert men from the great point we are now considering. In two ways he has proved successful - first, in setting them upon the work of mortification of sin before regeneration; and second, in setting them upon the same work after conversion, in their own strength. With regard to the first, sanctification is not the antecedent work of an unbeliever: although it is awfully true that "without holiness no man shall see the Lord," yet the attainment of holiness is an utter impossibility so long as the heart remains a stranger to the regenerating operation of the Holy Spirit. Repentance and faith are the first duties in the order of time, with an unconverted man. And with regard to the second effort of Satan to deceive the soul, equally ruinous is it to all true mortification of sin. No child of God can accomplish this mighty work in his own strength. Here lies the secret, be assured, of all our failure and disappointment in the work. Forgetting that he who would prove victorious in this warfare must first learn the lesson of his own weakness and insufficiency, and, thus schooled, must go forth in the strength that is in Christ Jesus, and in the "power of His might," girt with the shield of faith, the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit-forgetting this important truth, we march to the overthrow of our giant corruptions in our own fancied wisdom and power; and the result always has been, and with the same means ever will be, our complete discomfiture. Oh! When shall we learn that we are nothing, that we have "no might," and that our feeblest enemy will triumph if his subjection be attempted in our own insufficiency?
The Holy Spirit is the efficient cause of all holiness in the believer. If we look into the prophecy of Ezekiel, we find clear intimations of the promise of the Spirit to this effect. There God unfolds what may be regarded as the foundation of all sanctification-the removal of the stony heart, the implantation of a new spirit. "I will give them one heart, and I will put a new spirit within you." "A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you." Let us see the doctrine as more clearly unfolded in the writings of the apostles. "And such were some of you but you are sanctified, but you are justified, in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God." "Elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through sanctification of the Spirit." We are far from excluding the Father and the Son from any part in this great work-we believe they are deeply interested in it, as the Divine word shows: "them that are sanctified by God the Father," Jude 1. "Them that are sanctified in Christ Jesus," 1 Corinthians 1:2. But the Holy Spirit is the special and immediate Agent to whom the work of sanctifying the believer is assigned.
Then drew near unto him all the publicans and sinners for to hear him. And the Pharisees and scribes murmured, saying, This man receiveth sinners, and eateth with them. - Luke 15:1-2
Never was there a tongue like Christ's-so learned, so eloquent, and so skilled. "Never man spoke like this man." Greece and Rome, in their "high and palmy state," never exhibited such philosophy as He taught, such erudition as He displayed, or such eloquence as He breathed. Had He so chosen it, He could have placed Himself al the head of a school of His own, and with a beck might have allured to His feet all the poets and the philosophers of His day, proud to own Him as their Master. But no! The wisdom and the eloquence of this world possessed no charm for Jesus. He drew the learning and the melting power with which He spoke from a higher, even a heavenly, source. His was Divine philosophy; His was the eloquence of God! "The Lord Jehovah has given me the tongue of the learned."
And to whom did He consecrate this learning, this wisdom, and this eloquence? To the very objects whom the proud philosophers and the doctors of His day despised and neglected-even the weary. What a field was here for the exercise of His skill, and for the play of His benevolence! How fully would he demonstrate that He truly possessed the "tongue of the learned"! If to interest the feelings of the exhausted-if to enchain the attention of the weary-if to concentrate upon one subject the powers of a mind jaded and burdened-if to awaken music from a heart whose chords were broken and unstrung, mark the loftiest reach of eloquence, then His was eloquence unsurpassed-for all this He did. The beings whom He sought out, and drew around Him, were the burdened, the bowed, the disconsolate, the poor, the friendless, the helpless, the ignorant, the weary. He loved to lavish upon such the fullness of His benevolent heart, and to exert upon such the skill of His wonder-working power. Earth's weary sons repaired to His out-stretched arms for shelter, and the world's ignorant and despised clustered around His feet, to be taught and blessed. Sinners of every character, and the disconsolate of every grade, attracted by His renown, pressed upon Him from every side. "This man receives sinners," was the character and the mission by which He was known. It was new and strange. Uttered by the lip of the proud and disdainful Pharisee, it was an epithet of reproach, and an expression of ridicule. But upon the ear of the poor and wretched outcast, the sons and daughters of sorrow, ignorance, and woe, it fell sweeter than the music of the spheres. It passed from lip to lip, it echoed from shore to shore-"This man receives sinners." It found its way into the abodes of misery and want; it penetrated the dungeon of the prisoner and the cell of the maniac; and it kindled a celestial light in the solitary dwelling of the widow and the orphan, the unpitied and the friendless. Thus received its accomplishment the prophecy that predicted Him as the "Plant of renown," whom Jehovah would raise up. Thousands came, faint, weary, and sad, and sat down beneath His shadow; and thousands more since then have pressed to their wounded hearts the balsam that exuded from His bleeding body, and have been healed.
And Jesus was left alone, and the woman standing in the midst. - John 8:9
What an object was here, befitting the Savior's sympathy and power! Do you think, reader, that from it His pure and gentle spirit shrunk? Would He feel terrified or polluted by so close a proximity to an object of guilt and wretchedness? Ah, no! Come, you vaunting philanthropists of poetry and romance, who dissolve over a fiction, and petrify at a reality-come, you who have your tears for imaginary woe, and recoil from contact with true misery-who deem it pollution to take kindly the hand of a poor wanderer, exclaiming, "Stand by yourself, come not near to me; for I am holier than you!"-come you, and learn what true philanthropy and sensibility mean. Our Lord's was no mawkish, sentimental humanity, standing aloof from the fallen and the despised, and attracting to itself only the virtuous and the worthy. It was a humanity that identified itself with our fall, and with all its consequent miseries. Itself pure, it yet took our impurity; itself happy, it yet took our sicknesses and our sorrows. He came as the Savior, and sinners were the objects of His love and compassion. He was a man, and to nothing that was human, but its essential taint, was he a stranger. He even carried our sins, as a crushing weight, upon that sinless frame; and that heart, to which sorrow was unknown, became "acquainted with grief."
Oh, it is wondrous to see how closely the Son of God linked Himself with fallen, suffering man. Touch what chord you may of the human heart, and there comes up from the depths of His an instantaneous and harmonious response. With what effect would some of these hidden springs of feeling in the human soul of Jesus now be touched! He would remember, as His eye fell upon this trembling object of His sympathy, that He Himself was born of a woman, amid her perils and her pangs. He would remember, too, that there still was one who bore to Him the endearing appellation of mother, and that yet others stood to Him in the sweet relation of sisters, and all that was tender in His heart would be moved. Looking at her humiliation, and thinking of His own, pity would melt His heart; and while listening to the voice of her clamorous accusers, with the garden of Gethsemane and Calvary full in view, her sin would stir to its center the deep fountain of His mercy. Then was fulfilled the Messianic prediction of the Psalmist, "He shall deliver the needy when he cries: the poor also, and him that has no helper; for He shall stand at the right hand of the poor, to save him from those who condemn his soul."
And the servant of the Lord must not strive; but be gentle unto all [men], apt to teach, patient, - 2 Timothy 2:24
One exercise of Christian love will be its endeavor to avoid all occasions of offence. These, through the many and fast-clinging infirmities of the saints of God, will often occur. But they are to be avoided, and, in the exercise of that love which proves our Christian character, they will be avoided. The child of God will desire to "keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace." Whatever tends to weaken that bond he will endeavor to lay aside. Whatever He may discover in his communion with the saints calculated to wound, to distress, to alienate, to offend, either in his manner or in his spirit, the healthy exercise of holy love will constrain him to overcome. He will avoid "giving offence." He will be modest in the expression of his own opinion, respectful and deferential towards the opinion of others. He will avoid that recklessness of spirit which, under the cover of faithfulness, cares not to estimate consequences; but which, pursuing its heedless way, often crushes beneath its rough-shod heel the finest feelings of the human heart; saying and doing what it pleases, regardless of the wounds which, all the while, it is deeply and, irreparably inflicting. How sedulous, too, will he be to avoid anything like a dictatorial manner in enunciating his judgment, and all hard words and strong expressions in differing from authorities of equal, perhaps of greater, weight than his own. Oh! were this divine affection but more deeply lodged in the hearts of all those who "profess and call themselves Christians," what courtesy of manner-what grace of deportment-what tender regard of each other's feelings-what kindness in word and in action-what carefulness to avoid inflicting even a momentary pain-what putting away, as becomes saints, all wrath, anger, evil speaking, and malice-and what constant remembrance of His solemn words who said, "Whoever shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better that a mill-stone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depths of the sea," would each believer exhibit! Lord, fill our souls more and more with this lovely grace of love!
Especially in Church communion will the grace of forbearance be called in requisition. When the providence of God has thrown together a community of individuals, composed of a great variety of character, of mind, and of constitutional temperament, although each grade may be more or less modified by the renewing of the Spirit, there will still be a broad field for the passive exercise of love. In a Church, necessarily imperfect, there may exist many things, in which taste as well as judgment will be found at fault, calculated to engender a feeling of dislike, and even of disgust, in a mind refined and delicate. But here Christian forbearance must be exercised. They are the infirmities of the weak of Christ's flock, and they who are stronger in grace should kindly and patiently bear them. In pursuing a different course, we may wound some of the most gracious, humble, and prayerful saints of God. We may be but little aware with what frequent and deep humiliation in secret their conscious failings may overwhelm them. And we ought to bear in mind, that if we sometimes might wish to see in them less that was rough in speech, abrupt and forward in manner, and fault-finding in disposition, they may detect in us a loftiness of spirit, a coldness of demeanor, and an apparent haughtiness of carriage, which may be an equal trial to them, demanding the exercise on their part of the same grace of forbearance towards us. How watchful, how tender, how kind, then, should we be, ever standing with the broad mantle of charity in our hands, prepared to cast it over the failings of a Christian brother, the moment it meets the eye!
Thou hast ascended on high, thou hast led captivity captive: - Psalm 68:18
As a victorious King, our Lord is now enthroned in glory. He went back to heaven as a Conqueror over sin, hell, and death. Never did a Roman victor return from the battle-field, bearing such spoil; or amid such glory and acclamation, as that with which Jesus reentered His kingdom. The Captain of our salvation had gotten Him the victory over every foe of His Church. He met and battled, single-handed and alone, the combined hosts of His enemies and hers. And although He fell in the conflict, He yet won the battle. He conquered by submitting to conquest; He overcame in being overcome. He slew death in being slain by death. Want you a confirmation to your belief in the essential Deity of your Lord? Behold it, beloved. Where will you turn to the record of a battle so strange, between combatants so opposite, and attended by results so wondrous? That, in the greatest weakness, our Lord should demonstrate His greatest strength; that, by a decided defeat, He should prove the victor; and that in succumbing to the power and dominion of death, He should be the death of Death-oh, how truly Divine does He appear!
Believer in Jesus! The King, whose banner waves over you, has fought and won all your battles. One with Him, every believer is victorious. Treading in his Lord's footsteps, he overcomes, even as Christ overcame. It is impossible but that the weakest believer must obtain the victory in the severe conflict which he is waging with the foe. He may at times be foiled, embarrassed, and overcome, but he will ultimately triumph. The battle may go against us, but not the war. Faith, realizing its union with the Lord, obtains the victory. And never does the believer go forth to face the enemy in the name of Jesus, but with the disciples he may exclaim, "Lord, even the devils are subject unto us through Your name." Come, you faint and exhausted warriors! Refresh your spirits and renew your strength with this precious truth-your Captain is victorious! He who lives for you upon the throne, He who dwells in you by His Spirit, is He who rose to glory with your every foe chained in defeat and humiliation to His chariot, carrying "captivity captive." Do you still hesitate to believe so great a truth? Hark how His angelic escort heralded His approach to glory. "Lift up your heads, O, you gates; and be you lift up, you everlasting doors; and the King of glory shall come in. Who is this King of glory? The Lord strong and mighty, the Lord mighty in battle."
Then [cometh] the end, when he shall have delivered up the kingdom to God, even the Father; when he shall have put down all rule and all authority and power. For he must reign, till he hath put all enemies under his feet. - 1 Corinthians 15:24-25
Our Lord, although a victorious, is not a triumphant King. Nor will He be, until He comes the second time to receive His kingdom, and to reign in undisputed and universal supremacy in the bosom of a gathered Church, and over a subdued and renovated world. He will then appear "more than a conqueror,"-even triumphant. He is represented as having, "after He had offered one sacrifice for sins, forever sat down on the right hand of God; from henceforth expecting until his enemies be made his footstool." What are we to gather from this statement? Much that is deeply and gloriously significant. It describes the Redeemer in the interval between the victory and the triumph-the victory which signalized His past humiliation, and the triumph which will aggrandize His coming glory. It defines His position of repose and His attitude of expectation. It is impossible not to perceive, in these remarkable words, a reference to another and a final conflict-the issue of that conflict being the crowning act of His glory.
Are His enemies yet His footstool? Are all things yet subdued under Him? Is the world subdued? Is sin subdued? Is Antichrist subdued? Are the powers of darkness subdued? Is Death subdued? No! But they shall be. At what time? When Christ "shall appear the second time without sin,"-or a sin-offering, and therefore no more as a Priest who is to die; "unto salvation"-and therefore as a King who is to reign. "For He must reign, until He has put all enemies under His feet." Then, then will our Lord appear as a triumphant King to your eye. Picture the scene! Every foe now falls before Him. Death, the last enemy, is destroyed. All His enemies are "consumed with the spirit of His mouth"-the universal diffusion of His gospel-"and with the brightness of His coming"-the kingly power of His advent. All antichrists retire-their imposture exposed, their pretensions confounded-and Christ remains in triumph. All earthly kingdoms are dissolved-their dominion destroyed, and their glory passed away-and the kingdom of Messiah fills the world. All principalities and powers lay down their sovereignty at His feet, and Immanuel triumphantly reigns, having on his vesture and on his thigh a name written-"King of kings, and Lord of lords."
Let us be glad and rejoice, and give honour to him: for the marriage of the Lamb is come, and his wife hath made herself ready. - Revelation 19:7
"Behold, the Bridegroom comes!" Jesus sustains no relation to His Church more expressive than this. From all eternity He betrothed her to Himself, and forever. He asked her at the hands of her Father, and the Father gave her to Him. He entered into a covenant that she should be His. The conditions of that covenant were great, but not too great for His love to undertake. They were that He should assume her nature, discharge her legal obligations, endure her punishment, repair her ruin, and bring her to glory. He undertook all, and He accomplished all-because He loved her. The love of Jesus to His Church is the love of the most tender husband. It is single, constant, affectionate, matchless, and wonderful. He sympathizes with her, nourishes her, provides for her, clothes her, watches over, and indulges her with the most intimate and endearing communion. "Christ also loved the Church, and gave Himself for it; that He might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, that He might present it to Himself a glorious Church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish." Reader, know you what this union with Jesus is? Apart from its experience, pride not yourself upon any other union. The dearest, choicest ties of human affection are but as brittle glass. They are easily broken, and soon destroyed. No union, but that which is with Jesus, and in Jesus, extends beyond the grave. He must share in every tie of creature love, if it be holy and permanent. Do not think that the union of holy hearts is dissolved by death. Oh no!-death does not sever, death unites the sanctified. The bonds of the holy are beyond his ruthless power to break. The love which the image of Jesus, reflected in His people, inspires, is as deathless as the love of Jesus Himself; it is as immortal as their own redeemed, transformed, and glorified nature. But the Lord Jesus will come in the clouds of heaven, and this will be the occasion of His public espousal of His Church. Her present union to Him is secret and unknown-invisible to the world, and often concealed to herself. But He will appear, openly and visibly to take her to Himself; and before His Father and the holy angels He will solemnize her eternal union. Oh what a time of splendor and of rejoicing will that be! Arrayed in His nuptial robes, Jesus will descend to make her His own; and she, "prepared as a bride adorned for her husband," will go forth to meet Him. Then will be heard the song of angels, "Let us be glad and rejoice, and give honor to Him; for the marriage of the Lamb is come, and His wife has made herself ready." Yes! "Blessed are they which are called unto the marriage supper of the Lamb." May the writer and the reader, through grace, sit down together there!
How can ye believe, which receive honour one of another, and seek not the honour that [cometh] from God only? - John 5:44
The life of the renewed soul, springing from the indwelling of Christ by the Spirit, includes the crucifixion of self in us. "I live, yet not I." What a depth of meaning is contained in these words! We may not in this life be able fully to measure its depth, but we may in some degree fathom it. There is not-indeed there cannot be-a more sure evidence of the life of Christ in the soul, than the mortifying of that carnal, corrupt self-boasting that is within us. For its utter annihilation, in this present time-state, we do not plead. This would be to look for that which the word of God nowhere warrants. But we insist upon its mortification; we plead for its subjection to Christ. Who has not detected in his heart its insidious working? If the Lord has given us a little success in our work, or put upon us a little more honor than another, or has imparted to us a degree more of gift or grace, oh what fools do we often make of ourselves in consequence! We profess to speak of what He has done-of the progress of His work-of the operation of His grace, when, alas! What burning of incense often is there to that hideous idol self! Thus we offer "strange fire" upon the altar.
But the most gracious soul is the most self-denying, self-crucifying, self-annihilating soul. "I live, yet not I. I believe, and am comforted-yet not I. I pray, and am answered-yet not I. I preach, and sinners are converted-yet not I. I labor, and good is done-yet not I. I fight, and overcome-yet not I, but Christ in me." Beloved, the renewed life in us will be ever striving for the mastery of self in us. Self is ever seeking to take the glory from Jesus. This is one cause of the weakness of our faith. "How can you believe," says the Savior, "which receive honor one of another, and seek not the honor which comes from God only?" "We know but little of God," remarks an eminently holy man, "if we do not sicken when we hear our own praise." And if we have kept the glory of God in view, rather than our own, remember, it is the gift of God, the work of His Spirit, which has gained a victory over self, through faith in Christ. Oh that the life of Christ within us may more and more manifest itself as a self-denying, self-mortifying, self-annihilating life-willing to be a fool for Christ, yes, to be nothing, that Christ may wear the crown.
In all their affliction he was afflicted,… - Isaiah 63:9
Here is open the true and blessed source of comfort, in the hour and the circumstance of sorrow. The Lord's people are a tried people-Jesus was a tried Savior. The Lord's people are an afflicted people-Jesus drank deep of its bitter cup. The Lord's people are a sorrowing family-Jesus was a "man of sorrows and acquainted with grief." He brought Himself down to a level with the circumstances of His people. He completely identified Himself with them. We are not however to suppose that in every peculiarity of trial there is an identity with our dear Lord. There are trials growing out of peculiar circumstances and relations in life, to which He was a stranger. But Jesus took upon Him pure humanity in its suffering form, was deeply acquainted with sorrow as sorrow; and from these two circumstances, became fitted in all points to support, to sustain, and to sympathize with His afflicted, sorrowing people, whatever the cause of that affliction or sorrow was. It is enough for us that He was "bone of our bone, and flesh of our flesh." It is enough for us that His heart was composed of all the tenderness, sympathy, and gentleness of our nature, and that, too, freed from everything growing out of the infirmity of sin, that could weaken, and impair, and blunt His sensibilities. It is enough for us that sorrow was no stranger to His heart, that affliction had deeply furrowed His soul, and that grief had left its traces upon every line of His countenance. What more do we require? What more can we ask? Our nature?-He took it. Our sicknesses?-He bore them. Our sorrows?-He felt them. Our crosses?-He carried them. Our sins?-He pardoned them. He went before His suffering people; trod out the path; left His foot-print; and now invites them to walk in no way, to sustain no sorrow, to bear no burden, and to drink no cup, in which He has not Himself gone before. It is enough for Him that you are a child of grief, that sorrow is the bitter cup you are drinking. He asks no more. A chord is in a moment touched in His heart, which vibrates to that touched in yours, whether its note be a pleasing or mournful one. For let it be ever remembered that Jesus has sympathy for the joys, as for the sorrows, of His people. He rejoices with those that rejoice, and He weeps with those that weep.
But how does Jesus sympathize? Not in the sense in which some may suppose-that when we weep He actually weeps, and that when we suffer He actually suffers. This may at one time have been so, but we no more know Christ in the flesh, as He was once known. Ah! There was a period when "Jesus wept"! There was a period when His heart was wrung with anguish, and when His body agonized in pain. That period is no more. There yet is a sense, and an important one, in which Jesus feels sympathy. When the believer suffers, the tenderness of Jesus is drawn forth. His sustaining strength, His sanctifying grace, His comforting love, are all unfolded in the experience of His child, while passing through the furnace. The Son of God is with him in the flames. Jesus of Nazareth is walking with him on the billows. He has the heart of Christ. And this is sympathy-this is fellowship-this is to be one with Christ Jesus.
For this God [is] our God for ever and ever: he will be our guide [even] unto death. - Psalm 48:14
The natural man is a god to himself. Yes, he has his gods many. Whether it be self-righteousness, self-gratification, the world, wealth, family, in whatever form it appears, "other lords have dominion over him," to the exclusion of the one true and living God. The nature of the human mind is such, that it must love and worship some object supremely. In his state of innocence, Jehovah was the one and supreme object of the creature's love and adoration. Seduced from that state of simple and supreme affection by the tempter's promise, that if they ate of the fruit, forbidden of God, "they should be as gods," in one moment, they threw off their allegiance to Jehovah; renounced Him as the object of their supreme love, the center of their holiest affections, and became gods to themselves. The temple was ruined, the altar was thrown down, the pure flame was extinguished; God departed, and "other lords" entered and took possession of the soul. But what a change does grace produce! It repairs the temple, rebuilds the altar, rekindles the flame, and brings God back to man! God in Christ is now the supreme object of his love, his adoration, and his worship. The idol self has been cast down, self-righteousness renounced, self-exaltation crucified. A stronger than it has entered, cast out the usurper, and, "creating all things new," has resumed His rightful supremacy. The affections, released from their false deity, and renewed by the Spirit, now turn to, and take up their rest in, God. God in Christ! How glorious does He now appear! Never did the soul see in Him such beauty, such excellence, such blessedness as it now sees. All other glory fades and dies before the surpassing glory of His character, His attributes, His government, and His law. God in Christ is viewed as reconciled now; enmity ceases; hatred has passed away; opposition grounds its weapons; hard thoughts of His law, and treason thoughts of His government, subside; love kindles in the soul, and in one precious Christ, the one Mediator, God and the sinner meet, embrace, and blend. Truly they become one. God says, "You are mine." The soul responds, "You are my God. Other lords have had dominion over me, but henceforth You only will I serve, You only will I love. My soul follows hard after You; Your right hand upholds me."
God in Christ is his Father now. "I will arise and go unto my Father," is the first motion of a renewed soul. "Father, I have sinned against You," is the first confession rising from the broken heart. The Father hastens to meet and embrace his child, and clasping him to his bosom exclaims, "This my son was dead, and is alive again." Reconciled, he now looks up to Him truly as his father. "You shall call me My Father; and shall not turn away from me." Does God speak? It is the voice of a Father he hears. Does God chasten and rebuke? It is from his Father he feels. Are his hopes disappointed, his plans crossed, his cisterns broken, his gourds withered? "My Father has done it all," he exclaims. Blessed spirit of adoption! Sweet pledge and evidence are you of the new creature.
God in Christ is now the object of confidence and trust. Trust in a reconciled God and Father was no mark and portion of his unrenewed state. It was then trust in self, in its imagined wisdom and strength and goodness. It was then trust in the arm of flesh, in second causes. Now the soul trusts in God; trusts him at all times and under all circumstances; trusts Him in the darkest hour, under the gloomiest dispensation; trusts Him when His providences look dark and lowering, and God seems to hide Himself; yes, trusts Him "though he slay." Oh, how safe he feels in God's hands and under His government now! His soul, his body, his family, his business, his cares, they are completely surrendered, and God is all in all. Reader, this is to be born again.
I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever; [Even] the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you. - John 14:16-17
God has never revoked this gift. He has never removed His Spirit from the Church-He is still her Divine, personal, and abiding Resident. All that we spiritually know of ourselves-all that we know of God, and of Jesus, and His word, we owe to the teaching of the Holy Spirit; and all the real light, sanctification, strength, and comfort, we are made to possess on our way to glory, we must ascribe to Him. To be richly anointed with the Spirit is to be led into all truth; and to be filled with the Spirit is to be filled with love to God and man. To plead for the bestowment of that which God has already so fully and graciously given, seems to mark an unbelief in, and an overlooking of, the mercy, as ungrateful to the Giver as it is dishonoring to the gift.
But for a larger degree of His reviving, anointing, and sanctifying influences we do most earnestly plead. The Spirit, though the ever-blessed and abiding occupant of the Church of Christ and of the individual believer, may not always be manifestly present. The prayerless, unholy, and trifling walk of a believer will cause Him to withdraw His sensible presence. The coldness, formality, worldliness, and divisions of a church will compel Him to withhold the plentiful rain or the gentle dew of His precious influence. He may be so disowned, dishonored, wounded, and grieved, as to retire within the curtains of His secret glory, leaving for a while the scene of worldliness and strife to the curse and the reproach of barrenness. All we want is a richer and more enlarged degree of the reviving, sealing, and witnessing influence of the Holy Spirit. This will sanctify and bless the learning, the wealth, and the influence, now so rich an endowment of Christ's redeemed Church; and without which, that learning, wealth, and influence will but weaken her true power, impede her onward progress, and beget in her a spirit of human trust and vain-glory. This, too, will consume in its holy fire the unhallowed spirit of jealousy and party strife, now the canker-worm of the one body; and without asking for the compromise of truth, will yet, in the love it shall enkindle, so cement the hearts of the brotherhood, and so throw around them the girdle of a heaven-born and uniting charity, as will establish an evidence of the truth of Christianity-the last that Christ will give-which all its enemies shall not be able to gainsay or resist. Descend, holy and blessed Spirit, upon all Your churches, Your ministers, and Your people! Descend You upon Jew and Gentile; everywhere and among all people manifest Your glory, until the Church scattered up and down the earth shall acknowledge, receive, and welcome You, her ever-blessed and ever-abiding Indweller, Sanctifier, and Comforter!
According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love: - Ephesians 1:4
The very election of the believer to eternal life provides for and secures his holiness. There could possibly be no holiness without election, because election provides the means of its attainment. Thus clearly does the Spirit of truth unfold it in our motto, and in 2 Thessalonians 2:13, "But we are bound to give thanks alway to God for you, brethren beloved of the Lord, because God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth:" Let us be clearly understood. On the ground of no foreseen holiness in the creature, did God thus purpose to save him; but seeing the indispensable necessity of sanctification in order to eternal glory-the impossibility of the one without the other-He chose us in Christ "that we should be holy."
Let not the Christian reader turn away from, or treat lightly, this precious revealed truth of God's word-an election of a people unto holiness here and glory hereafter. The prejudice of education-early modes of thought-a preconceived system-and more than all besides, the neglect of a close and prayerful investigation of God's word for himself, may lead to the rejection of the doctrine. But He who first cavils, and then renounces it, without a thorough and prayerful sifting of its scriptural claims to belief, stands on solemn ground, and assumes a fearful attitude. What God has revealed. "that call not you common." What He has commanded, that turn not from, lest you be found to have turned from God Himself. Why it has so pleased the Lord to choose a people, it is not our province to inquire, nor, we believe, would it be for our happiness to know. We attempt not to explain the doctrine, much less to account for it. We simply, and we trust scripturally, state it, leaving God to vindicate and bless it. He is the best defender and apologist of His own sacred truth. "Secret things belong unto the Lord our God: but those things which are revealed belong unto us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law." The secret thing in the doctrine of election is, why God has done it-the thing which is revealed is, that He has done it. Let us not, then, seek to be wise above what is written, though it is our duty, as an acute writer has remarked, to be wise up to what is written; leaving the more perfect knowledge of the things that are now seen as "through a glass darkly" to that period of perfect illumination when we shall "know, even as we are known." But thus much we know, that it is the eternal purpose of God, revealed and provided for in the covenant of grace, that all who are chosen, called, and justified, shall, with a view to their being glorified, be "partakers of his holiness." Heaven is a holy place, its inhabitants are a holy people, and He whose glory fills the temple is a holy God. Behold, then, the provision God has made for the sanctification of the believer in the everlasting covenant of grace. The foundation is laid in the death of Christ, it commences in the effectual calling of the Spirit-and by all the precious assurances of grace, and wisdom, and strength, provided in the covenant, it is carried forward to a glorious completion.
Also, thou son of man, [shall it] not [be] in the day when I take from them their strength, the joy of their glory, the desire of their eyes, and that whereupon they set their minds, their sons and their daughters, [That] he that escapeth in that day shall come unto thee, to cause [thee] to hear [it] with [thine] ears? - Ezekiel 24:25-26
What is the history of creature idolatry, but a mournful record of beautiful and inviting cisterns of happiness, which, nevertheless, God has destroyed? This is a wide and an affecting circle. We enter it cautiously; we allude to it feelingly and tenderly. We touch the subject with a pen that has often sought (though in much feebleness it is acknowledged), to comfort the mourner, and to lift the pressure from the bowed spirit. We enter the domestic circle-oh! What beautiful cisterns of creature good, broken and empty, meet us here! The affectionate husband, the fond wife, the devoted parent, the pleasant child, the faithful friend, laid low in death. They were lovely cisterns, and the heart loved to drink from them its bliss. But lo! God has smitten, and they are broken, and the sweet waters have passed away! Was there not a worshiping of the creature, rather than the Creator? Was not the object deified? Was not the attachment idolatrous? Did not the loved one occupy Christ's place in the heart? Ah! The wound, the void, the desolateness, the lonely grief of that heart, but too truly tell who was enthroned upon its strongest and its best affections.
Turn every loss of creature-good into an occasion of greater nearness to Christ. The dearest and loveliest creature is but a cistern-an inferior and contracted good. If it contains any sweetness, the Lord put it there. If it is a medium of any blessing to your soul, Jesus made it so. But do not forget, beloved, it is only a cistern. And what more? Shall I wound you if I say it? Tenderly do I speak-and if, instead of leading you to, it draws you from, the Fountain, in unerring wisdom, in tender mercy, and in faithful love, the Lord will break it, that you might learn, that while no creature can be a substitute for Him, He Himself can be a substitute for all creatures. Thus His friendship, His love, and His presence are frequently the sweetest, and the most fully enjoyed, when He has taken all things else away. Jesus loves you far too much to allow another, however dear, to eclipse and rival Him. "The day of the Lord will be upon all pleasant pictures," and then the poor, imperfect copy will retire, and give place to the divine and glorious Original; and God in Christ will be all in all.
Not by might, nor by power, but by my spirit, saith the LORD of hosts. - Zechariah 4:6
What a mystery is the operation of the Holy Spirit in the soul! That a work so renewing, so gracious, and so holy, should ever transpire in the heart of a poor sinner, is itself a wonder. What a marvelous view of the power, nor less of the grace, of God does it present! Every step in the mighty process awakens new amazement. The first conviction of sin that saddens the heart-the first beam of light that illuminates the mind-the first touch of faith that heals the soul, possesses more that is truly wonderful than the most sublime mystery, or the profoundest secret, in nature. There is more of God in it; and the more of God, the more of wonder; and the more of wonder we see in His work and operations, the more readily should reason assent, and the more profoundly should faith adore. The mystery of grace is illustrated by the mystery of nature. "The wind blows where it wills, and you hear the sound thereof, but can not tell where it comes, and where it goes: so is every one that is born of the Spirit." I saw one but as yesterday, living without God, in total neglect of his soul's salvation. The solemn eternity to which he was hastening gave him not a moment's serious concern. His heart was filled with pharisaical pride, worldly ambition, and covetous desires. Self was his god-the only deity he worshiped; the world was his paradise-the only heaven he desired. Today I see him the subject of deep and powerful emotion, a humble suppliant, in the spirit of self-abasement, pleading for mercy as the chief of sinners. What a change has come over him! How in a moment have old things passed away, and all things become new! And he who but as yesterday was dwelling among the tombs, himself dead in trespasses and sins, today is sitting as a lowly disciple and an adoring worshiper at the feet of Jesus. Where this wondrous transformation-this new creation? Oh, it was the Spirit of God who wrought it, and the work is marvelous in our eyes.
Nor does the sustaining and the carrying forward of this work of grace in the soul unfold less of the wonderful power of God the Holy Spirit. When we take into consideration the mass which the little leaven of grace has to transform-the extent of that revolted territory which the new kingdom has to subjugate to itself-then the sustaining and the perfecting of this work is one continued miracle of wonder. To see one strong in conscious weakness-maintaining his position in the face of much opposition-buoyed up amid billows of sorrow-growing in grace in the midst of circumstances the most unfavorable-witnessing for God and His truth at the loss of family affection and long-endeared friendship-is a spectacle that must fill the mind with adoring thoughts of the love and faithfulness and power of that divine Spirit whose work it is.
I have fought a good fight, I have finished [my] course, I have kept the faith: - 2 Timothy 4:7
We are here invited to contemplate the Christian in the character of a conqueror. The battle consists of a moral conflict with inward and outward enemies, all leagued in terrible force against the soul. To this is added-what, indeed, was most peculiar to the early Church-a war of external suffering, in which penury, persecution, and martyrdom constituted the dark and essential elements. Now it will be instructive to observe in what way Christ provides for the holy warrior's passage through this fiery contest. It will be perceived that it is not by flight, but by battle; not by retreat, but by advance; not by shunning, but by facing the foe. The Captain of their salvation might have withdrawn His people from the field, and conducted them to heaven, without the hazard of a conflict. But not so. He will lead them to glory, but it shall be by the path of glory. They shall carve their way to the crown by the achievements of the sword. They shall have privations, and distress, and suffering, of every kind; yet while beneath the pressure, and in the very heat of the battle, victory shall crown their arms, and a glorious triumph shall heighten the splendor of their victory. And what spiritual eye does not clearly see, that in conducting His people across the battle-field, the Lord wins to Himself more renown than though He had led them to their eternal rest with entire exemption from conflict and distress?
But in what sense are we conquerors? Just in that sense in which the Holy Spirit obtains the victory. It is not the believer himself who conquers; it is the Divine Spirit within the believer. No movement is seen, no tactics are observed, no war-cry is heard, and yet there is passing within the soul a more important warfare, and there is secured a more brilliant victory, than ever the pen of the historian recorded. In the first place, there is the conquest of faith. Where do the annals of war present such a succession of victories so brilliant, achieved by a weapon so single and simple, as is recorded in the eleventh chapter of the Epistle to the Hebrews? And what was the grace that won those spiritual and glorious victories? It was the grace of faith! "This is the victory that overcomes the world, even your faith." Faith in the truth of God's word faith in the veracity of God's character-faith in the might, and skill, and wisdom of our Commander and Leader-faith, eyeing the prize, gives the victory to the Christian combatant, and secures the glory to the Captain of his salvation. Then there is the triumph of patience. "That you do not be slothful, but followers of them who through faith and patience inherit the promises." "And so, after he had patiently endured, He obtained the promise." Oh, is it no real victory of the Holy Spirit in the believer, when beneath the pressure of great affliction, passing through a discipline the most painful and humiliating, the suffering Christian is enabled to cry, "Though He slay me, yet will I trust in him"? "The cup which my Father has given me, shall I not drink it"? "Not my will, but your, be done"? Suffering child of God, "let patience have her perfect work, that you may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing." And then there is the conquest of joy. "Having received the word in much affliction, with joy of the Holy Spirit." "My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into diverse temptations," or trials. Why is trial an occasion of joy? Because it is the triumph of the Holy Spirit in the soul. And does not Christ say, "You shall be sorrowful, but your sorrow shall be turned into joy"? Who but Jesus can turn our sorrow into joy?-not only assuaging our griefs, alleviating our sufferings, and tempering the furnace-flame, but actually making our deepest, darkest sorrows the occasion of the deepest gladness, praise, and thanksgiving. Oh, yes! It is a glorious victory of the Holy Spirit, the Comforter, in the soul, when it can enable the believer to adopt the words of the suffering apostle, "I am filled with comfort, I am exceedingly joyful in all our tribulation." Suffering reader! Jesus knows how to turn your sorrow into joy. Confide your grief to Him, and He will cause it sweetly to sing.
For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal [must] put on immortality. - 1 Corinthians 15:53
Our present existence is one of deep humiliation and certain decay. In the strong and emphatic language of Scripture, this physical structure, which we adorn with so much care, and which others so extravagantly admire, is described as a "vile body," as "corruption," as "mortal.'' Has the fact with many-perhaps, my reader, with you-become so common-place as to have changed its character, from one of the most affecting and humbling, to one the existence and contemplation of which awakens in the mind no deep and serious reflection? Have you grown so familiar with disease, and become so conversant with death-the inanimate clay, the shroud, the coffin, the hearse, the grave-those sad emblems of our mortality, as to feel sensible of no solemn emotions when the Holy Spirit brings the fact before the mind? Is it with you a light matter to die? Ah! Death is no trifle; and he will find it so who knows not Him who is the "Resurrection and the Life."
But, display the Stoic and act the philosopher as you may, give place to mirth and hilarity and thoughtlessness as you will, in all your vivacity, your pomp and power, you are mortal, and must die. "Dust you are, and unto dust shall you return." You shall "say to corruption, You are my father; and to the worm, You are my mother and any sister." To this humiliating end all are tending: and although some of our race move to the tomb in greater state and luxury than others, yet "The grave is my house" is the affecting exclamation of all. There the rich and the poor meet together-Dives and Lazarus side by side. "There the wicked cease from troubling, and the weary are at rest." Yet how few feel the solemnity and admit the force of this truth! How few pause to consider, that this body which they now pamper with such studied luxuriousness, and adorn with such refinement of taste, will before long need no clothing but the winding-sheet, no house but the coffin, and no home but the grave! And that so changed will be the countenance, once lined with beauty and radiant with thought-and so decayed the body, once so graceful and athletic-that those who regarded it with the fondest love, and even worshiped it with the deepest devotion, will be the first to exclaim, "Bury my dead out of my sight." Oh, how dire the humiliation of our present existence! "The body is dead because of sin." But there glows around the grave of the believer in Jesus the halo of a blessed hope. "He that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies." No pomp or circumstance may attend him to the tomb, no marble monument may rear its chiseled form to record his virtues, to perpetuate his name, or mark the spot where his ashes repose. Those ashes the ocean's cave may contain; his only tombstone the crested billows; his only requiem, chanted to the wild sea-bird, the solemn music of the waves as they dash and die upon the shore-but He sleeps in Jesus, and slumbering thus, his flesh rests in hope of a glorious resurrection and a blissful immortality. What a new and impressive character does Christianity give to the entire scene of the believer's departure out of this world to go unto the Father! To the eye of sense, the outer door of the tomb appears hideous and for bidding. The deadly nightshade and the overshadowing ivy entwine darkly and thickly over its dismal arch, while the trail of the worm and the time-gathered mold upon its bars deepen the air of its repulsiveness. But viewed by faith, how changed that tomb! As seen by its piercing eye, it is all radiant around, and all refulgent within. The Redeemer has been there, touching and gilding all with life and glory. And when the inner door opens upon heaven, what a scene of grandeur bursts upon the spirit's view! Glory, streaming from above, bathes it in its celestial beams, and lights its pathway to the skies. This is the tomb of a believer in Jesus. No; it is no longer a tomb-it is a triumphal arch, all radiant and garlanded, through which the spiritual conqueror, laden with the spoils off his last victory, passes, amid the acclaim of angels and the welcomings of kindred spirits, to his crown and his rest.
I will sing of mercy and judgment: unto thee, O LORD, will I sing. - Psalm 101:1
How shall we enumerate all the blessings which result from the chastening of love? We might tell how prayer is quickened, how pride is abased, how weanedness is attained, how charity is increased, how character is formed, how meditation and solitude are sweetened, how Christ is endeared, and how God is glorified. It will be recollected, that in the ark of the covenant there was "Aaron's rod that budded." Our glorious covenant of grace has, too, its rod-its budding, its blossoming rod-and precious is the nature and rich the variety of the fruit which it bears. But in that ancient ark there was also the "pot of manna.'' "Mercy and judgment," bitter and sweet, light and shade, are blended in the covenant dealings of God with His people. The rod and the pot of manna go together. If the one is bitter, the other is sweet. God will never send the rod unaccompanied with the manna. Jesus, exhibited in the word, and unfolded by the Spirit, in the sweet sympathy of His nature, in the tenderness of His heart, as the "Brother born for adversity," is the manna-sustaining and strengthening the believer, passing under the covenant-rod of God. Thus, if afflictions be grievous, the fruit they bear is gracious.
In the history of the Jewish Church there is yet another type, beautifully illustrative of God's dealings with the chastened Christian. I allude to the pillar, which guided the pilgrimage of the Church in the wilderness. By night it was a pillar of fire, and by day it was a pillar of cloud. The darkest night of weeping that can possibly enshroud the child of God has its bright light-its alleviation, its promise, its guiding. And in the most prosperous period in the Christian's experience, it is ordered by unerring wisdom and infinite love that there should be some counter-dispensation of trial, to preserve the just balance of the soul. It has been well remarked, that "Things never go so well with God's children, but they have still something to groan under; nor so ill, but they have still some comfort to be thankful for."
I would have you, then, my reader, not overlook the truth, that the covenant of grace has made provision for everything in the life of a child of God, especially for the life of suffering. It strews the richest blessings and the most profusely upon the chequered path-the path inlaid with stones of various colors, and yet each one most needful and most precious. "Oh you afflicted, tossed with tempest, and not comforted, behold I will lay your stones with fair colors, and lay your foundations with sapphires." It is true that the covenant has anticipated as much the perilous season of prosperity, as the dark hour of adversity; but it always supposes the way to glory to be one of trial and of danger. A heavenly-minded man will learn to look upon the earthly distinction and wealth which the world, so lavish sometimes of its favors, may confer upon him, as a trial and a snare, to one desirous of bearing the cross daily after his crucified Lord; and yet for this specific form of danger the covenant of grace amply provides. Be satisfied, my reader, with any station your God may assign you; believing that for every station in which He places His child, there is the grace peculiar to its exigencies treasured up for him in the everlasting covenant.
Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you: But rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ's sufferings; - 1 Peter 4:12-13
If, dear reader, you are in possession of real faith, even in the smallest degree, expect its conflict and its trial. It is truly remarked by the holy Leighton, that God never had but one Son without sin, and never one without suffering. The existence of faith seems necessarily to imply the endurance of suffering-not because of any intrinsic defect in faith, but in consequence of the impurity of the heart in which that faith is lodged; its perpetual admixture with the alloy of a mind but partially renewed, its constant contact with the objects and scenes of sense and of earth, render trial as essential to the purification of faith, as the flail to the pure wheat, and as the crucible to the precious metal.
The trials and temptations, therefore, with which God visits His people, are designed as tests of faith. Without them we should lack some of the strongest evidences of experimental Christianity. Who would wish the stubble and the chaff to render doubtful the existence of the true grain, or the tin and the dross to obscure the luster of the fine gold? Welcome, then, every trial and test of your faith. Welcome whatever stamps its reality, increases its strength, and heightens its luster. Nor be surprised that this, above all the graces of the Holy Spirit, should be a mark for the great enemy of God. As faith is the grace which most glorifies God, which brings the greatest degree of joy and peace into the soul, and which constitutes its mightiest shield in the conflict, it becomes an especial object of Satan's malignant attack. The most Christ-exalting, God-honoring, and sanctifying of all the Spirit's graces must not expect to escape his fearful assaults. If this "gold" was "tried in the fire" in the sinless person of Jesus, is there not a greater necessity that in our fallen and corrupt nature it should be subjected to a second process of trial? It was tried in the Head, to show that it was real gold; it is tried in the members, to separate it from the alloy with which t becomes mixed in its contact with our hearts. In the one case, the trial was to stamp its divine nature; in the other case, the trial is to purify it from the human nature. Thus are we honored to suffer, in some small degree, as our Lord and Master suffered. Therefore, beloved, "rejoice, inasmuch as you are partakers of Christ's sufferings, that when His glory shall be revealed, you may be glad also with exceeding joy."
…who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us. - Romans 8:34
The exaltation of Jesus in heaven is associated with the dearest interests of His people on earth. Joseph was forgotten when Pharaoh lifted up the head of the chief butler. But our Lord, amid the honors and splendors to which God has highly exalted him, still remembers his brethren in bonds, and makes intercession for them. How expressive is the type of our Lord's present engagement on behalf of His people. "And he (Aaron) shall take a censer full of burning coals of fire from of the altar before the Lord, and his hands full of sweet incense beaten small, and bring it within the veil: and he shall put the incense upon the fire before the Lord, that the cloud of the incense may cover the mercy-seat that is upon the testimony." The passing of Aaron into the holy of holies was the shadowing forth of our Lord's entrance into heaven. The blood sprinkled at the mercy-seat was the presentation of the great Atonement within the veil. And the incense overshadowing with its fragrant cloud the mercy-seat, thus touched with blood, was the figure of the ceaseless intercession of our great High Priest in the holiest. "For Christ is not entered into the holy places made with hands, which are the figures of the true: but into heaven itself now to appear in the presence of God for us."
It is an individual, an anticipative, and a present intercession. It embraces all the personal needs of each believer, it precedes each temptation and each trial, and at the moment that the sympathy and the prayers of the Savior are the most called for, and are felt to be the most soothing, it bears the saint and his sorrow on its bosom before the throne. Just at a crisis of his history, at a juncture, perhaps, the most critical in his history, the heart, oppressed with its emotions, cannot breathe a prayer-Jesus is remembering him, sympathizing with him, and interceding for him. Oh, who can fully describe the blessings that flow through the intercession of the Son of God? The love, the sympathy, the forethought, the carefulness, the minute interest in all our concerns, are blessings beyond description.
Tried, tempted believer! Jesus makes intercession for you; your case is not unknown to Him. Your sorrow is not hidden from Him. Your name is on His heart; your burden is on His shoulder; and because He not only has prayed for you, but prays for you now, your faith shall not fail. Your great accuser may stand at your right hand to condemn you, but your great Advocate is at the right hand of God to plead for you. And greater is He that is for you, than all that are against you. The mediatorial work of Christ shuts every mouth, meets every accusation, and ignores every indictment that can be brought against those for whom He died, rose again, ascended up on high, and makes intercession.
He hath filled the hungry with good things; and the rich he hath sent empty away. - Luke 1:53
Beware of placing any limit whatever to the grace of Jesus. Be your circumstances what they may; remember that "God is able to make all grace abound towards you; that you always, having all sufficiency in all things, may abound to every good work." Make no allowance for sin, frame no excuses for inactivity, shrink from no cross, be disheartened by no difficulty, give place to no temptation, yield to no excessive grief; for Jesus has spoken it, and He now speaks it to you, "My grace is sufficient for you." Since, then, the grace of Jesus is illimitable, take with you in your journeying to the one Source of supply a vessel of large capacity that you may receive abundantly. Remember that, as a believer in the Lord Jesus, "All things are for your sake, that the abundant grace might, through the thanksgiving of many, redound to the glory of God." Let your life be a perpetual traveling to this grace. Do not be satisfied with what you have already received. Go, again and yet again, to this Divine Fountain, taking every corruption as it is developed, every sin as it is felt, every sorrow as it rises, to Jesus; remembering for your encouragement, that though you have received much, yet "He gives more grace," and is prepared to give you much more than you have yet received.
Rejoice that the emptiness of the vessel is no plea against the filling of the vessel. If the Spirit of God has made you "poor in spirit," has wrought in you a "hungering and thirsting for righteousness," betake yourself to the grace of Jesus. The full vessel He needs not, nor does the full vessel want Him. He invites, He draws, and He receives none save the empty. He will have all the honor of our salvation. He will magnify His grace in the creature's nothingness. Your emptiness shall eternally glorify His fullness. With the example and the words before me of him who styled himself the 'chief of sinners,' I hesitate not to encourage the greatest sinner to come to Christ. "Who was before a blasphemer, and a persecutor, and injurious: but I obtained mercy... And the grace of our Lord was exceeding abundant with faith and love which are in Christ Jesus. This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief." Truly might he exclaim, "By the grace of God I am what I am." Beware then, I beseech you, of going to Christ for salvation in any other character than as an empty sinner. Had the vessels been brought other than empty, to receive the miraculous oil, they would have been refused, filled though they had been with ambrosia itself. Nothing should mingle with the oil. Nothing should shade the luster of the miracle. And so is it with the grace of Jesus. Brilliant genius, profound erudition, costly benevolence, and the purest ethics of natural religion, avail nothing in the matter of the soul's salvation. These are the ambrosia, of which the vessel must be emptied before it comes to Christ. It must all be laid aside as constituting a plea of acceptance. The only plea admissible with Christ is that without His grace you perish forever. "Lord, save, or I perish."
For what nation [is there so] great, who [hath] God [so] nigh unto them, as the LORD our God [is] in all [things that] we call upon him [for]? - Deuteronomy 4:7
Are you not ready to exclaim, "What a glorious privilege is prayer?" Ah, yes! And you may add, "What mighty power, too, it possesses!" The power of a holy wrestler with God approaches the nearest to an act of omnipotence of any display of finite might whatever. Angelic mightiness must be weakness itself in comparison. What eloquence in that one word 'Father,' lisped in believing prayer! Demosthenes and Cicero, in the glory of their eloquence, never surpassed, no, never equaled it. It is breathed-and heaven's door expands; it is uttered again-and the heart of God flies open. With such a key in the hands of faith, which may at any moment unlock the treasury of God, as prayer, why do we not oftener use it! Oh that the Spirit of God might stir us up to more earnest prayer!-teaching us to enshrine everything, to pervade and saturate everything, in the heart and with the spirit of humble, importunate, believing prayer. What real and immense gainers should we be, did we "in everything, by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let our requests be made known unto God." "For what nation is there so great, who has God so near unto them, as the Lord our God is in all things that we call upon Him for?"
In a word, my Christian reader, "have faith in God" at all times, and in all things. This is the utmost that He asks at your hands-no unreasonable or impossible requirement. Would Jesus have limited you to this single duty, making your whole happiness for both worlds dependent upon it, were it so? Never! Relinquishing your own wisdom, resting from your own toil, and ceasing from man, God would have you now cast yourself upon Him in simple faith for all things. You have had faith in the creature, and it has disappointed you; in earthly good, and it has faded away; in your own heart, and it has deceived you. Now, have faith in God! Call upon Him in your trouble, try Him in your trial, trust Him in your need, and see if He will not honor the faith that honors Him. "Have faith in God,"-words of Jesus, oh how sweet! Spoken to allure your chafed and weary spirit to its Divine and blessed rest. Press the kind message to your grateful heart, responding, in a strain of blended praise and prayer, "Lord, I believe; help You my unbelief."
By this grace you may be assimilated with the Divine will, may be transformed into the Divine image, may be trained for active toil or for passive endurance. Limit not a Divine blessing so inexhaustible in its resources, and so free in its bestowment; but out of the Savior's fullness receive grace for grace, that in all things "the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in Him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ."
And he said unto them, Come ye yourselves apart into a desert place, and rest a while: - Mark 6:31a
Suffer me, dear reader, to urge upon you the daily and diligent cultivation of that Christianity which derives its freshness, its vigor, and its radiance, from much hidden communion with Jesus. We plead not for the religion of the recluse. A monkish Christianity is not the Christianity of the Bible. When God, in the exercise of His sovereign grace, converts a man, He converts him, not for himself only, but also for others. He converts him, not for the Church alone, but also for the world. He is to be a monument, whose inscription all may read-a city whose beauty all may admire-a burning and a shining light, in whose radiance all may rejoice. He is to live and labor, and, if need be, die for others. But we plead for more of that Christianity which is often alone with God: which withdraws at periods from the fatigue of labor and the din of strife, to renew its strength, and to replenish its resources, in a secret waiting upon the Lord. Christians must be more alone with Jesus. In the midst of what a whirlpool of excitement and of turmoil do numbers live! How few withdraw from domestic and public enjoyments-the calls of business, the duties of committees, of secretaryships, and of agencies-to hold communion alone with God! This must not be. The institutions which they serve, the calling at which they toil, the families for whom they labor, would be the gainers, rather than the losers, by their occasional sequesterment from the world, to be alone with God. And were our Lord still upon the earth, contemplating their incessant action, their little devotional retirement, and consequent leanness of spirit, would He not be constrained to address them as He once tenderly did His jaded and exhausted disciples, "Come you yourselves apart into a desert place, and rest awhile." He would allure them from others to Himself.
Do not be surprised at any way which the Lord may take to bring your weary soul to rest in Himself. It is not always in the crowd that He speaks most tenderly to the heart. More frequently He leads His people out, and takes them apart by Himself alone. It is often in the privacy of separation and retirement, when the soul is curtained within his pavilion, that the greatest and the sweetest nearness to Jesus are experienced. "Behold, I will allure her into the wilderness, and speak comfortably to her,"-(margin, speak friendly to her heart). Has the Lord been leading you about-severing this tie, and breaking up that repose; disappointing you here, and thwarting you there? Amazed, you have asked, "Lord, why this?" And the only reply has been the comfort which He has spoken to your weary, desolate heart. Thus does He make good in your experience His own exceeding great and precious promise-"I have satiated the weary soul, and I have replenished every sorrowful soul."
For the LORD taketh pleasure in his people: he will beautify the meek with salvation. - Psalm 149:4
Yes, God delights in the people of His love. They are precious, inconceivably precious, to His heart. He keeps them as the apple of His eye. Their people in their own view may be vile, polluted, worthless; but seen by Him in Jesus, He can, and He does, say to each one, "You are all fair, my love; I see no spot in you." Resting in Jesus, the Son of His love, He rests in His people, the objects of His love. He may afflict and chasten, rebuke and try them, or permit them to be severely assailed; He may even hide His face from them for a little moment, and speak harshly to them, like Joseph to his brethren; He may disturb their resting-places, and scatter their creature-mercies to the winds-nevertheless, you saints of God, "The Lord your God in the midst of you is mighty; He will save, He will rejoice over you with joy; He will rest in His love, He will joy over you with singing." Nor will He be satisfied until He has gathered them all around Him within His house in heaven-Jesus presenting to Him the whole body, "a glorious Church," exclaiming, "Behold I and the children whom You have given me." Then, and not until then, will the joy of the Lord over His Church be full. Then, and not until then, will His rest in the people of His love be complete.
God delights in the manifestation of His love. Even in our fallen state, with our impaired affections clinging to us, like the green ivy around a splendid ruin, we can understand something of this feeling. If love exists, where is the heart that can conceal the affection? It must, in some mode or other, express the sentiment it feels. If revealed only to God, the heart must unburden itself of its hidden, trembling emotion. But how delightful is the expression of affection! The parent feels it when he presses his little one to his fond heart; the mother, when she clasps her infant to her thrilling bosom; the friend, when he communes with his friend. But if this principle is so strong, and its expression so delightful, in such a nature as ours, all of whose affections are so sinful and selfish, what must it be in God! Conceive, if it is possible, what must be the holy delight of God's heart in lavishing its affection upon His people; what must be the joy of Christ when He comes and manifests Himself to His saints, as He does not unto the world. A benevolent mind delights in the exercise of benevolence. God is infinitely so. Infinite, therefore, must be the satisfaction of His heart, intense the delight of His soul, when He sheds abroad His love in the hearts of His people, when he draws near in the day that they call upon Him, and manifests Himself as a loving, tender, faithful Father. "You meet him that rejoices and works righteousness, those that remember You in Your ways." Since then the Father delights to unlock the springs of His love, and to fill the heart to overflowing, take your poor, timid, doubting heart, and place it beneath those springs, that it may be perfect in love-and perfected in love, all slavish fear will be expelled.