Evening Thoughts or Daily Walking With God
by Octavius Winslow
And the angel of the LORD appeared unto him in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush: and he looked, and, behold, the bush burned with fire, and the bush [was] not consumed. And Moses said, I will now turn aside, and see this great sight, why the bush is not burnt. And when the LORD saw that he turned aside to see, God called unto him out of the midst of the bush, and said, Moses, Moses. And he said, Here [am] I. And he said, Draw not nigh hither: put off thy shoes from off thy feet, for the place whereon thou standest [is] holy ground. Moreover he said, I [am] the God of thy father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob. And Moses hid his face; for he was afraid to look upon God. - Exodus 3:2-6
This type - a type it doubtless is-is radiant with the glory of Christ. It shadows forth Christ in the mysterious constitution of His complex person, and in the great work for the accomplishment of which he became so constituted.
The first point demanding our attention is the Divine manifestation. That Jehovah was here revealed - the evidence is most conclusive. When Moses turned aside to see the great sight, "God called unto him out of the midst of the bush." It was no mere vision that he saw, no hallucination of the mind had come over him; he could not be deceived as to the Divine Being in whose immediate and solemn presence he then stood. How awe-struck must have been his mind! How solemn his impressions! How sacred his thoughts! But if further proof were needed, the declaration of God Himself sets the question of the Divine appearance at rest-"I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob." No truth could be more clearly established.
But in which person of the sacred and adorable Three, it may be asked, did God thus appear? We have every scriptural reason to believe that it was JEHOVAH-JESUS; that it was a manifestation anticipative of His future appearance in the flesh, of the Godhead of Christ. Thus, then, the type sets forth the glory of the Divine person of our dear Lord. How solemn, and yet how delightful to the mind, and establishing to our faith, is the truth, that the same God who under the old dispensation, on so many occasions, in so many gracious and glorious ways, and in so many remarkable and undoubted instances, appeared to the ancient believers, is He who was born in Bethlehem, who lived a life of obedience to the law, and died an atoning death upon the cross; the Savior, the Surety of His people! What reality does it give to the salvation of the saints! Beloved, remember at all times, the same Jehovah who spoke from the midst of the flaming bush, and said, "I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob," speaks to you from the cross and in the Gospel, and says, "Come unto me, all you that labor and are heavy-laden, and I will give you rest." Oh "glorious Gospel of the blessed God!"
The second point of consideration in this remarkable type, as setting forth the glory of Immanuel, is the symbol in which He appeared. It is full of instruction. And what symbol did our Lord select in which to embody His Deity? Did He choose some tall cedar of Lebanon, or some majestic oak of the forest? No; but a bush-the most mean and insignificant, the most lowly and unsightly of all trees-was to enshrine the Godhead of Him whom the heaven of heavens cannot contain. And what is the truth it conveys? Oh, most glorious and precious. It points to the incarnate glory of the Son of God-the lowliness and lowliness of His nature. Referring again to the type, it will instantly appear that the unveiled, unclouded, and unembodied glory of Jehovah would have appalled and overwhelmed with its ineffable brightness the awe-stricken and astonished man of God. He could not have looked upon God and lived. "There shall no man see me and live," says the Lord. It was therefore proper, yes, it was merciful that all the manifestations of God to His people in the old dispensation should be through the medium of objects on which the eye could look without pain, and on which the mind could repose with out fear. Veiled in a cloud, or embodied in a bush, God could approach the creature with condescending grace, and reveal His mind; the creature could approach God with humble confidence, and open his heart. How kind and condescending in Jehovah to subdue and soften the splendor of His majesty, thus attempting it to the weak vision of mortal and sinful man!
But this was typical of that more wondrous and stupendous stoop of God in the new dispensation. All the subdued and obscure manifestations of the Godhead in the former economy were but the forecasting shadows of the great mystery of godliness then approaching; and possessed no glory, by reason of the glory that excels. But mark the condescending grace, the deep abasement, the infinite lowliness of the Son of God. When He purposed to appear in an inferior nature, what form of manifestation did He assume? Did He embody His Godhead in some tall archangel? Did He enshrine it in some glowing seraph? No! "For verily He took not on Him the nature of angels; but He took on Him the seed of Abraham." He lowered Himself to our mean and degraded nature-He selected our fallen, suffering, sorrowing, tempted humanity-He takes into union with Deity a creature, not of the highest rank and beauty, but a spirit dwelling in a temple of flesh; yes, not merely the inhabitant of the temple, but He unites Himself with the temple itself: for the "Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us;" and even this flesh not connected with its state of primeval glory, but associated with all the humbling, though sinless, infirmities of its fallen condition. Behold, too, the lowliness of Christ in the world's eye. In Him it sees no glory, and traces no beauty; His outward form of humiliation veils it from their view. He is to them but as a "root out of the dry ground, having no form nor loveliness."
And the angel of the LORD appeared unto him in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush: and he looked, and, behold, the bush burned with fire, and the bush [was] not consumed. - Exodus 3:2
There is yet another part of this significant type to be considered, equally important and rich in the view it conveys of the glory of Jesus in His work. "And he looked, and, behold, the bush burned with fire, and the bush was not consumed." The symbol of fire was expressive of the holiness and justice of God. It is thus frequently employed-"The Lord your God is a consuming fire." "And the sight of the glory of the Lord was like devouring fire." "Our God is a consuming fire." But that which formed the greatest wonder,-which riveted the eye, and attracted and enchained the feet of Moses to the spot, was the bush unconsumed. "And Moses said, I will NOW TURN aside, and see this great sight, why the bush is not burned."
But a more marvelous and stupendous spectacle meets us in the cross of Christ-Jesus enduring the fire of His Father's wrath; wrapped in the flame of His justice, and yet unconsumed! Let us turn aside from all inferior objects, and for a while contemplate this "great sight." It is indeed a great sight! The Son of God is bound upon the altar as a "burned-offering"-a sacrifice for sin. The fire of Divine justice descends to consume Him; holiness in fearful exercise heaps on its fuel, and the flame and the smoke ascend in one vast column before the throne of the Eternal, "an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling savor." But behold the astonishment! Jesus suffering, and yet rejoicing! Dying, and yet living! Consuming, and yet unconsumed! These prodigies marked the offering up of our great High Priest upon Calvary. The dark billows of sorrow rolled over the human soul of Christ, but the Godhead remained calm and peaceful, its tranquility unruffled by a wave of grief, its sunshine undimmed by a cloud of darkness. He thus passed through all these throbs, and throes, and agonies of death, descended into the grave, rose again, lived, and still lives, the Fountain of life to the created universe. Behold the GOD! Say you, He is a mere creature? Preposterous thought! Mad conception! Soul-destructive belief! Had He been less than Divine, suffering as He did for sin, the devouring fire would have consumed Him in its quenchless flame.
To a heart-broken sinner, how attractive and glorious is this spectacle of an almighty Redeemer, sustaining the wrath, and suffering the justice of God for transgression! Mourning soul! Turn aside, and behold yet again this "great sight." "Put off your shoes from off your feet, for the place whereon you stands is holy ground." Lay aside your fleshly reasoning, your carnal views of self-justification, self-salvation, and human power. Put off all your fleshly ideas of God, of His grace, and of His goodness; divest yourself of all your unbelieving and hard thoughts of His power, willingness, and readiness to save you. Thus prepared, approach-gaze-wonder-and adore! No one can stand on this holy ground, but he who stands on his own nothingness; none are welcome here but the poor, the empty, the bankrupt, and the vile. Are you all this? Is this your case? Then draw near! God will speak from amid the flame of the sacrifice, and say to you, "Fear not!"
Dear tried and suffering reader, do you resemble this burning bush? Are you in the fire, passing through the furnace? Does some strong temptation assail you - some sore trials oppress you - some deep sorrow wound you? He who dwelt in the bush dwells in you! And He, who kept the bush unconsumed amid the flame, will keep you! Let your greatest care and deepest solicitude be to "glorify God in the fires." Be more prayerful for sustaining and sanctifying grace, than for the removal of your trial. This will bring richer glory to God. Beseech your Father that the flame may not be extinguished until the alloy is consumed, and the tried gold has come forth reflecting more vividly from its surface the image of Jesus-your soul partaking more deeply of the Divine Holiness.
…Behold the Lamb of God! - John 1:36
In the deep study of the holiness of the law, and the strictness of Divine justice, what a suitable and glorious object for the alarmed and trembling spirit to look upon, is He who came to honor that law, and to satisfy that justice! Are you agitated by thoughts of the Divine holiness, and your own impurity? Do you tremble as you contemplate God's determination to punish sin, by no means clearing the guilty? Look unto Jesus, and let your trembling subside into the calmness with which His whisper stills the tempest. He has become "the end of the law for righteousness, to every one that believes." His atonement, while it vindicates the majesty of the Father's government, spreads its mighty shield around the Father's child, and thus protected, neither the thunder of the law nor the flaming sword of justice can reach him. Oh! the blessedness of looking, by faith, to Jesus, from the wrath and the condemnation justly due to our transgressions; to see all that wrath and condemnation borne by Him who wept and bled in the garden, who languished and died upon the tree; to see Jesus, with the keys of all authority and power suspended from His girdle, closing up our hell, and opening wide our heaven. In the season of solitude and sorrow, Christian reader, when thoughts of God's holiness mingle with views of your sinfulness and fears of Divine wrath blend with the consciousness of your just deserts, darkening that solitude, and embittering that sorrow, oh! turn and fix your believing eye upon the Divine, the suffering, the atoning Savior, and peace, composure, and joy will lull your trembling spirit to rest. You are not sick, nor in solitude, nor in sorrow, because there is wrath in God; for all that wrath was borne by your redeeming Surety. You are so-oh, that you could believe it!-because God is love. It must be, since Jesus so bore away the curse and the sin, that God now brims the cup He emptied with a love that passes knowledge. "My son, despise not the chastening of the Lord, neither be you weary of His correction: for whom the Lord loves He corrects, even as a father the son in whom he delights.
In every position of life, our privilege is to look unto Jesus. God can place us in no circumstances, be they humble or exalted, in which we may not repair to Christ for the wisdom and the strength, the grace and the consolation, those circumstances demand. It is our mercy to know that God adapts Himself to every position of His saints. He knows that in times of prosperity, the feet of His saints are apt to slide; and that in time of adversity, they are often pierced and wounded. Thus, in the smooth path, as in the rough, Jesus is to be the one object to which the eye is raised, and upon which it rests. If He exalts you, as He may do, to any post of distinction and responsibility, look unto Jesus, and study the self-annihilation and lowliness of His whole life. If He lays you low, as in His dealings with His people He often does, from the depth of your humiliation let your eye look unto Jesus, who reached a depth in His abasement infinitely beneath your own; and who can descend to your circumstances, and impart the grace that will enable you so to adapt yourself to them as to glorify Him in them. Thus you will know both how to abound, and how to suffer need.
In each season of affliction, to whom can we more appropriately look than to Jesus? He was preeminently the man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. If you would tell your grief to one who knew grief as none ever knew it-if you would disclose your sorrow to one who sorrowed as none ever sorrowed-then in your affliction turn from all creature sympathy and support, and look to Jesus: to a tenderer bosom, to a deeper love, to a more powerful arm, to a more sympathizing friend, you could not take your trial, your affliction, your sorrow. He is prepared to embosom Himself in your deepest grief, and to make your circumstances all His own. So completely and personally is He one with you, that nothing can affect you that does not instantly touch Him. Tender to Him are you as the apple of His eye. Your happiness, your reputation, your labors, your necessities, your discouragements, your despondencies, all pass beneath His unslumbering notice, and are the objects of His tenderest love and incessant care. If Jesus, then, is willing to come and make, as it were, His home in the very heart of your sorrow, surely you will not hesitate in repairing with your sorrow to His heart of love.
But none saith, Where [is] God my maker, who giveth songs in the night; - Job 35:10
Who but God could give songs in the night? No saint on earth, no angel in heaven, has power to tune our hearts to a single note of praise in the hour of their grief; no, nor could any creature above or below breathe a word of comfort, of hope, or of support, when heart and flesh were failing. Who but the incarnate God has power enough, or love enough, or sympathy enough, to come and embosom Himself in our very circumstances-to enter into the very heart of our sorrow-to go down into the deepest depth of our woe, and strike a chord there that, responding to His touch, shall send forth a more than angel's music? It is God who gives these songs. He is acquainted with your sorrows: He regards your night of weeping: He knows the way that you take. He may be lost to your view, but you cannot be lost to His. The darkness of your night-grief may veil Him from your eye, but the "darkness and the light are both alike to Him." Then repair to Him for your song. Ask Him so to sanctify your sorrow by His grace, and so to comfort it by His Spirit, and so to glorify Himself in your patient endurance of it, and so to make you to know the why of your trial, and your trial so to answer the mission on which it was sent, as will enable you to raise this note of praise-"You have turned for me my mourning into dancing: You have put off my sackcloth, and girded me with gladness; to the end that my glory may sing praise to You, and not be silent."
In giving you a throne of grace, God has given you a song, methinks, one of the sweetest ever sung in the house of our pilgrimage. To feel that we have a God who hears and answers prayer-who has done so in countless instances, and is prepared still to give us at all times an audience-oh! The unutterable blessings of this truth. Sing aloud then, you sorrowful saints; for great and precious is your privilege of communion with God. In the night of your every grief, and trial, and difficulty, do not forget that in your lowest frame you may sing this song-"Having boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way, I will draw near, and pour out my heart to God." Chant, then, His high praises as you pass along, that there is a place where you may disclose every need, repose every sorrow, deposit every burden, breathe every sigh, and lose yourself in communion with God-that place is the blood-besprinkled mercy-seat, of which God says, "There will I meet with you, and I will commune with you."
Ah! But perhaps you exclaim, "Would that I could sing! I can weep, and moan, and even trust, but I cannot rejoice." Yes, but there is One who can give even you, beloved, a song in the night. Place your harp in His hands, all broken and unstrung as it is, and He will repair and retune it; and then, breathing upon it His Spirit, and touching it with His own gentle hand, that heart, that was so sad and joyless, shall yet sing the high praises of its God. How much of God's greatness and glory in nature is concealed until the night reveals it! The sun is withdrawn, twilight disappears, and darkness robes the earth. Then appears the brilliant firmament, studded and glowing with myriads of constellations! Oh the indescribable wonder, the surpassing glory, of that scene! But it was the darkness that brought it all to view; thus is it in the Christian's life. How much of God would be unseen, how much of His glory concealed, how little should we know of Jesus, but for the night-season of mental darkness and of heart-sorrow. The sun that shone so cheeringly has set; the grey twilight that looked so pensively has disappeared; and just as the night of woe set in, filling you with trembling, with anxiety, and with fear, a scene of overpowering grandeur suddenly bursts upon the astonished eye of your faith. The glory of God, as your Father, has appeared-the character of Jesus, as a loving tender Brother, has unfolded-the Spirit, as a Comforter, has whispered-your interest in the great redemption has been revealed-and a new earth redolent with a thousand sweets, and a new heaven resplendent with countless suns, has floated before your view. It was the darkness of your night of sorrow that made visible all this wonder and all this glory; and but for that sorrow how little would you have known of it. "I will sing of mercy and of judgment: unto You, O Lord, will I sing."
Suffering, sorrowful believer! Pluck your harp from your willow, and, with the hand of faith and love, sweep it to the high praises of your God. Praise Him for Himself-praise Him for Jesus-praise Him for conversion-praise Him for joys-praise Him for sorrows-praise Him for chastenings-praise Him for the hope of glory-oh praise Him for all! Thus singing the Lord's song in a strange land, you will be learning to sing it in diviner sounds-
"With those just spirits that wear victorious palms,
Hymns devout, and holy psalms
"And they sing the song of Moses, the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb, saying, Great and marvelous are Your works, Lord God almighty; just and true are Your ways, O King of saints. Who shall not fear You, O Lord, and glorify Your name? For You only are holy: for all nations shall come and worship before You."
These things said Esaias, when he saw his glory, and spake of him. - John 12:41
It will be observed, that John affirms of Isaiah that he saw the glory of Christ. The glory of the Redeemer has ever been an object visible to the spiritual eye. What the evangelist here records of the prophet, he also avows of himself and his fellow-disciples. "And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory." Here is a point of vital moment, entering deeply into the very soul of experimental Christianity. May the Spirit of all truth give us a clear and solemn perception of it! If a man sees not the glory of Christ, we hesitate not to say of him, that with regard to all other spiritual objects he is totally blind-he is yet a stranger to the illuminating grace of the Holy Spirit. To see the Redeemer's glory, the eye must be spiritual; a spiritual object being only discerned by a spiritual organ. Hence the apostle prays in behalf of the Ephesian Christians, "That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give unto you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him: that the eyes of your understanding being enlightened." And enlightened by the Spirit of God, the believer beholds the glory of Jesus. Brought to see no glory in himself, yes, nothing but deformity in that on which the eye once so complacently rested, the glory of the Redeemer, as it is reflected in His person, in His atoning blood and justifying righteousness, His infinite fullness of grace to pardon and to sanctify, fills now the entire scope of his moral vision, and lifts his soul in admiring and adoring thoughts of the holiness and love of God!
More than this, such is its transforming influence, he comes to be a partaker, in a degree, of that very glory which has arrested his eye and ravished his heart. On him the glory of the Lord has shone, the Sun of Righteousness has risen-he rises from the dust, and shines arrayed in garments of light from Christ's reflecting light. A sight of Jesus assimilates the soul to His Spirit; a contemplation of His beauty transforms the believer more and more into "the child of the light;" and thus perpetually "looking unto Jesus," the path he treads kindles and glows with an increasing effulgence, until its luster expands into perfect cloudless day. "We all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image, from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord." The medium through which the spiritual eye beholds the glory of Christ is faith. It is a hidden glory until the Eternal Spirit imparts this mighty principle to the soul. The eye of reason cannot discern it-the eye of intellect and of sense cannot behold it-it remains a veiled thing, "dark with excessive brightness," until God the Holy Spirit utters His voice, "Let there be light." "Abraham," says Christ, "rejoiced to see my day; and he saw it, and was glad." At that remote period, how did he see it?-by faith. Through the long and dreary vista of advancing ages he saw the day dawning, the sun rising. By faith he beheld Jesus approaching. He saw His blood, His righteousness, and His own interest there, "and he was glad." Oh yes, a sight of Jesus by faith-be it distant and dim, be it shadowy and imperfect-fills the soul with ineffable gladness, lights up its onward way, sweetens its solitude, enlivens its loneliness, and soothes it amid its deepest sorrows.
Isaiah not only beheld the glory of Christ, but he also "spoke of it." He could not but speak of that which he saw and felt. And who can behold the glory of the Redeemer, and not speak of it? Who can see His beauty, and not extol it-who can taste His love, and not laud it? "Come," will be the invitation, "see a man who told me all things that ever I did: is not this the Christ?" The church of old, as her eye wandered over the beauties of her Lord, broke forth in expressions of wonder and praise; and, after particularizing and extolling these beauties, she then exclaims, as if all language were exhausted, "Yes, He is altogether lovely. This is my beloved, and this is my friend." "In His temple does every one speak of His glory." Yes, the saints of the Most High must speak of the King in His beauty. They are constrained to show forth His praise, and tell of His love and loveliness, who is to them more precious than the gold of Ophir; yes, dearer than life itself. The Pharisee may murmur, the worldling may scorn, and the cold-hearted professor may rebuke; yet, "if these should hold their peace," who have been redeemed by His most precious blood, and who are looking forward to His second appearing, as an event which shall conform them to His likeness, "the stones would immediately cry out."
And, having made peace through the blood of his cross, by him to reconcile all things unto himself; by him, [I say], whether [they be] things in earth, or things in heaven. And you, that were sometime alienated and enemies in [your] mind by wicked works, yet now hath he reconciled. - Colossians 1:20-21
Only trust the salvation of Christ-He would have us commence with what He has constituted the central truth of the gospel-the cross. God has made it the focus of His glory-for around no object do such wonders and glories gather as the cross of Christ-and He would have us make it the central fact of our faith. What a sure ground of trust for a poor sinner is here-the great and complete salvation of the Lord Jesus! Here God Himself rests; for He has confided all His glory to Christ, whom "He has made strong for Himself." And surely if the work of Jesus were sufficient to uphold the moral government and secure the eternal honor of God, there need be no demur, no hesitation on the part of the sinner, there to place his entire trust for forgiveness and acceptance. Sinner as you are, here is a salvation worthy of your confidence. "Christ died for the ungodly." "He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities." "Through His blood we have redemption, even the forgiveness of our sins." "By Him all that believe are justified." The great debt of Divine justice Christ has paid. His resurrection from the dead by the glory of the Father is His complete discharge, and now, "whoever will, may come and drink of the water of life freely." To each guilt-stricken, heart-broken, sorrow-burdened, weary sinner Jesus says, "Only trust me." Beloved reader, no partial trust must this be. Your foothold on every other foundation must give way-your grasp upon every other support must loosen-your clinging to duties, to works, to self, in every form, must yield-and your whole, implicit, sole trust for salvation must be in the one atonement which God has provided, in the one salvation which Christ has finished, in the only name given under heaven whereby we must be saved. "Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved."
Never was there before-nor has there been since-nor ever will be again-such ancient, marvelous, stupendous love as the love of Jesus. It is the astonishment of heaven, it is the wonder of angels, and, in their best, holiest, and most self-abased moments, it is the marvel of saints on earth, and will be, through eternity, their study and their praise. His condescending stoop to our nature-His descent from heaven's glory to earth's lowliness-His bearing our sins-His endurance of our curse-His suffering our penalty-His exhaustion of our bitter cup-His resurrection from the grave, and His ascent into heaven, are facts which speak, louder and sweeter than an angel's trumpet, the love of Christ to His church. "Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave Himself for it." But not only was Jesus the unveiler of His own heart, but He came to unveil the heart of God. He came, not to inspire the heart of God with affection for man, but to make known a love already and from eternity existing. He, who only knew the secret love of God's heart, came to reveal that love, its only revealer, and its most precious gift. Christ is God's love embodied-God's love speaking, God's love acting, God's love weeping, God's love dying, God's love inviting. Blessed truth, that he whose arms of faith embrace Christ, in and through Christ also embrace the Triune Jehovah. The Lord Jesus would have us trust His love when it wears the disguise of displeasure-when, changing its appearance and its tones, it looks and speaks threatening and unkind. What a harsh disguise did Joseph wear to his brethren; and yet beneath it there never heat a more loving, tender, or kinder heart than his. Such is our Jesus-the Brother who has saved us from famine and from death, and has done for us more than Joseph did for his brethren-has died for us. Let us trust this love. Trust it when veiled-trust it when it threatens to slay-trust it when it appears to frown-trust it when even we cannot trace it; still, oh, still let us trust in Jesus' love, when, to our dim sight, it would seem never to smile or speak to us again. The time may come, or the circumstances may arise, that shall put to the utmost test our confidence in the Savior's love. When it shall say to us, "Can you make this sacrifice-can you bear this cross for me?" oh, blessed if your heart can reply, "Lord, relying upon Your grace, trusting in Your love, I can-I will-I do!"
Holding faith, and a good conscience; which some having put away concerning faith have made shipwreck: - 1 Timothy 1:19
Faith is an essential part of the spiritual armor: "Above all, taking the shield of faith, with which you shall be able to quench the fiery darts of the wicked." Faith is also spoken of as the believer's breastplate: "But let us, who are of the day, be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith." There is not a moment, even the holiest, but we are exposed to the "fiery darts" of the adversary. The onset, too, is often at a moment when we least suspect its approach; seasons of peculiar nearness to God, of hallowed enjoyment-"for we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places"-are frequently selected as the occasion of attack. But, clad in this armor-the shield and the breastplate of faith-no weapon formed against us shall prosper; no "fiery dart" shall be quenched, and the enemy shall be put to flight. Faith in a crucified, risen, conquering, exalted Savior-faith in a present and ever-living Head-faith eyeing the crown glittering, and the palm waving in its view, is the faith that overcomes and triumphs. Faith, dealing constantly and simply with Jesus, flying to His atoning blood, drawing from His fullness, and at all times and under all circumstances looking unto Him, will ever bring a conflicting soul off more than conqueror. "This is the victory that overcomes the world, even our faith. Who is He that overcomes the world, but he that believes that Jesus is the Son of God?"
Faith is a purifying grace: "Purifying their hearts by faith." It is a principle holy in its nature and tendency: he is most holy who has most faith; he who has least faith is most exposed to the assaults of his inbred corruptions. If there is in any child of God a desire for Divine conformity, for more of the Spirit of Christ, more weanedness, and crucifixion, and daily dying, this should be his ceaseless prayer-"Lord, increase my faith." Faith in Jesus checks the power of sin, slays the hidden corruption, and enables the believer to "endure as seeing Him who is invisible."
Nothing, perhaps, more secretly and effectually militates against the vigor of a life of faith, than the power of unsubdued sin in the heart. Faith, as we have just seen, is a holy indwelling principle; it has its root in the renewed, sanctified heart; and its growth and fruitfulness depend much upon the progressive richness of the soil in which it is embedded: if the noxious weeds of the natural soil are allowed to grow and occupy the heart, and gain the ascendancy, this celestial plant will necessarily droop and decay. In order to form some conception of the utter incongruity of a life of faith with the existence and power of unmortified sin in the heart, we have but to imagine the case of a believer living in the practice of unsubdued sin. What is the real power of faith in him? Where is its strength? Where are its glorious achievements? We look for the fruit of faith-the lowly, humble, contrite spirit-the tender conscience-the traveling daily to the atoning blood-the living upon the grace that is in Christ Jesus-the carrying out of Christian principle-crucifixion to the world-patient submission to a life of suffering-meek resignation to a Father's discipline-a constant and vivid realization of eternal realities-we look for these fruits of faith, but we find them not. And why? Because there is the worm of unmortified sin feeding at the root; and, until that is slain, faith will always be sickly, unfruitful, and "ready to die."
A looking off of Christ will tend greatly to the weakening and unfruitfulness of faith. It is said, that the eaglet's eye becomes strong through the early discipline of the parent; placed in such a position when young, as to fix the gaze intently upon the sun, the power of vision gradually becomes so great, as to enable it in time to look at its meridian splendor without uneasiness, and to observe the remotest object without difficulty. The same spiritual discipline strengthens the eye of faith; the eye grows vigorous by looking much at the Sun of Righteousness. The more constantly it gazes upon Jesus, the stronger it grows; and the stronger it grows, the more glory it discovers in Him, the more beauty in His person, and perfection in His work. Thus strengthened, it can see things that are afar off-the promises of a covenant-keeping God, the hope of eternal life, the crown of glory; these it can look upon and almost touch. "Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen." O precious, costly grace of the Eternal Spirit! Who would not possess you? Who would not mortify everything that would wound, enfeeble, and cause you to decay in the soul?
And our hope of you [is] stedfast, knowing, that as ye are partakers of the sufferings, so [shall ye be] also of the consolation. - 2 Corinthians 1:7
Affliction and poverty are the distinctive features of the saints of God under the new dispensation; affluence and exemption from great suffering were probably those of the saints of the former economy. The character of the gospel economy is unique. It is the dispensation of suffering, the economy of the cross. The suffering of the old dispensation was more in type, and shadow, and symbol; that of the new is the great, the dark filling-up of the outline of the picture. The Son of God suffered-the Son of God died! And Christianity derives all its efficacy, and the Christian dispensation all its character, and the Christian all his glory, from this single, this wondrous fact.
Tracing affliction and suffering, whatever its nature, to God as the first great Cause, faith calmly acquiesces and says, "It is well." From nothing does the believer find it more difficult to disengage his mind, in the first blow of his affliction, than second causes. The reasoning of the bereaved sisters of Bethany finds its corresponding frame of mind in almost every similar case. "Lord, if you had been here, my brother had not died!" But with second causes the child of God has nothing to do. Second causes are all by the appointment and under the control of the First Cause. They are but the agents God employs, the means which He selects, to accomplish His own eternal purpose. "He Himself has done it," is the voice of His word, and faith responds, "It is well." Rise, then, above the circumstances of your calamity, and rest in the Lord, from whom your affliction proceeds.
Child of adversity! Can you say, "It is well," now that God may have taken from you health, friends, riches, earthly comforts, and creature supports? It must be well, since providence and not accident, God and not man, has done it. But weep not, do not be cast down, all is not gone. God is still your God and Father, Christ is still your Friend and Brother, the Spirit is still your Comforter and Guide, the covenant is still your inexhaustible supply, the promises are still left you, and all these losses and trials are working together for your good. God will not leave you in this time of adversity. In Him let your faith be filial, implicit, unwavering. If you honor Him, by trusting Him now, He will honor your trust by and by. Give yourself to prayer, you will find it a sweet outlet to your full and burdened heart; all will yet be well. Stand still, and let God solve His own deep problems; and you will then see how much infinite love, and wisdom, and faithfulness, and goodness was enfolded in this dark, distressing calamity.
Sick one! "It is well." Is it so, can it be? You doubtfully inquire. Yes, it is, and must be so, since He who loves you has permitted, no, has sent this sickness. His wisdom cannot err, His love cannot be unkind. God's ways are not as our ways, nor His thoughts as our thoughts. He works His purposes of mercy and love towards us in a way often directly opposite to all our anticipations and plans. This sickness may appear to you a heavy calamity; the result may prove an untold blessing. Sanctified by the Spirit's grace, that bed of suffering, that couch of weakness, those wearisome days, and long sleepless nights, shall teach you truth, and realize to you promises, and bring your soul so near to God, and so endear the Savior to your heart, as shall constrain you to exclaim, "Lord, it is well!" "Commune with your own heart upon your bed, and be still." "Let patience have her perfect work, lacking nothing." And suppose this should be unto death-will not that be well? What! Not to be released from a body of infirmity and sin? Not to go home, and take possession of your glorious inheritance! Not to go and see Christ in His glory, and be reunited to those who have gone before, and mingle with prophets, and apostles, and martyrs, and be as they are-perfected in holiness and love? Oh, yes! It will be far better to depart and be with Christ, if He sees fit. Tremble not to cross the flood. Our true Joshua has paved the path with precious stones-the doctrines, truths, and promises of His word-upon which your faith may plant its feet, and so to pass over dry-shod into the heavenly Canaan. The bitterness of death is passed, to all who believe in Jesus.
Saints of the Most High! Over these broken waters of a sinful, sorrowful, toilsome life we shall soon have passed, and standing upon the "sea of glass," with the harp of God in our hand, there shall be reflected from its tranquil bosom the glory, and there shall breathe from every string the praise, of our God in having done all things well. Oh, what harmony shall we then see in every discrepancy, what pardon, what tenderness, and love, and gentleness, and forethought in every stroke of His hand, and in every event of His providence! The mystery of God will be finished, and God will be all in all.
…having loved his own which were in the world, he loved them unto the end. - John 13:1
Dear reader, ever trust in the sympathy of Christ. The blessing of creature-sympathy we would not undervalue. The word of God does not. The Scriptures of truth enjoin and encourage it; yes, command it. "Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others." "If one member suffers, all the members suffer with it." We believe it to be no small evidence of grace, and to assimilate in no little degree with the mind that was also in Christ Jesus, to "weep with those that weep." And yet so enamored of it may we be, so look and cling to it, as to be insensible to the higher, purer, deeper sympathy of Christ. The power of human sympathy-like everything created-must necessarily be limited. A Christian brother or sister has so much personal trial, anxiety, and pressure of his own; the marvel is that a single chord of a heart, all whose strings are stretched to such tension on its own account, can emit a solitary note of real sympathy with our grief. Let us, then, be thankful to God for the smallest measure of true human sympathy. But there is no limit, no fathom, to the sympathy of Jesus. It is real, human, most tender, boundless, fathomless. It enters into all our sorrows, and, with a penetration and delicacy indescribable, it insinuates itself into all the shades and peculiarities of our sorrow. It even enters into our infirmities. Infirmities into which others cannot enter, and still more, with which we can ill bear ourselves, Jesus sympathizes with. Infirmities of temperament-infirmities of constitution-infirmities of habit-infirmities of education-infirmities of position-bodily, mental, and spiritual infirmities-there is One who enters deeply into all! He has borne them all-bears them still. Commiserating the feebleness of our nature-for it is still the robe He wears in heaven-He patiently bears with us, tenderly deals with us, and gently soothes, supports, and sustains us. "For we have not a High Priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin. Let us, therefore, come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need." In this sympathy Jesus would have us confide. And if upon your opening path there falls the forecasting shadow of some approaching sorrow-if the sky is lowering, and the surge is swelling-meet it by a renewed appeal to the anticipated compassion and intercession of Christ. JESUS!-what a plenitude of sympathy, tenderness, and grace is in that name! Run into it, and you shall be safe from the coming storm. And when the darkling sorrow comes-the rose-hue of health paling-blossoms falling-flowers withering-hope expiring-fame, fortune, friends, like the orient tints of evening, fading one by one away, remember that in JESUS you have a Brother born for your adversity, a Friend who loved you in eternity-loved you on the cross-loves you on the throne-and will love you unto the end. He will make the cloud His chariot-will walk upon your stormy waters-and will say, "Peace, be still!"
Go and proclaim these words toward the north, and say, Return, thou backsliding Israel, saith the LORD; [and] I will not cause mine anger to fall upon you: for I [am] merciful, saith the LORD, [and] I will not keep [anger] for ever. - Jeremiah 3:12
Where is the heart, deeply conscious of its backsliding, that can resist the power of language like this? Here is the warrant for your return-God's own free invitation! You need no more. What if Satan discourages, what if your sins plead against you, what if guilt, and unbelief, and shame combine to impede your way, if God says, "Return!"-that is sufficient for you. You need no more; if He is willing to receive you back, to pardon your sins, to forget your base ingratitude, to heal your backslidings, and restore your soul, you have the broad warrant to return, in the face of all opposition and discouragement. Yet again, the cheering invitation runs-"Only acknowledge your iniquity that you have transgressed against the Lord your God." "Turn, O backsliding children, says the Lord, for I am married unto you." "I will heal their backsliding, I will love them freely; for mine anger is turned away from him."
The character of God is such as encourages the return of a backsliding soul. In the invitations He has given, He urges them upon the ground of what He is: "Return, you backsliding Israel, says the Lord; and I will not cause mine anger to fall upon you: for I am merciful, says the Lord." Oh, touching, soul-subduing, heart-melting argument-"Return unto me, for I am merciful!" Merciful to receive you, merciful to pardon you, merciful to heal you. Oh, the boundless mercy of God in Christ towards a soul returning from its wanderings! Will not this draw you? Again: "I have blotted out as a thick cloud your transgressions, and as a cloud your sins; return unto me, for I have redeemed you." "Return, for I have blotted out your transgressions- return, for I have put away your sins: return, for I have redeemed you. The work is already done-the pardon has already gone forth-the backsliding has already been forgiven; then linger not, but return, for I have redeemed you." Here, on the broad basis of the Lord's free and full pardon, the wandering soul is urged to return. Truly may the apostle say, "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness."
Thus is the character of God, as a merciful, sin-pardoning God, held out in the word as a motive and an encouragement to return. This is just the view of God which you need. In yourself, you see everything to discourage, everything to forbid your return; but God comes forth, and vindicates His own gracious character, unfolds His own love, and, in accents most encouraging and persuasive, addresses Himself to His wandering child, and says, "Return, you backsliding Israel, for I am merciful."
In the parable of the prodigal son, we have the character of God towards a returning soul truly and beautifully drawn. The single point we would now advert to is the posture of the father on the approach of his child. What was that posture?-the most expressive of undiminished love, of yearning tenderness, of eagerness to welcome his return. Thus is it described: "And when he was a great way off, his father saw him, and had compassion, and ran, and fell on his neck, and kissed him." All this is God to you, dear returning soul! He is on the eager watch for your first movement towards Him; He is looking as with outstretched neck for the first sign of your soul's return, for the first sound of your footsteps, for the first relentings of your heart: yes, even more than this-or this were nothing-He sends His own Spirit to work that return in your soul, to break your heart, to rouse your slumbering spirit, to draw you, win you to His arms. This is your God-the God whom you have forsaken, from whose ways you have declined, but who in the very extremity of your departure has never withdrawn His eye of love one moment from you.
But those things, which God before had shewed by the mouth of all his prophets, that Christ should suffer, he hath so fulfilled. - Acts 3:18
Our adorable Lord was a sufferer-the Prince of sufferers-the Martyr of martyrs. None had ever suffered as He; no sorrow was ever like His sorrow. Scarcely had He touched the surface of our sin-accursed earth, before the cup of suffering was placed to His lips. The deep fountain of human woe, stirred to its very center, poured in upon His soul its turbid streams from every source and through every channel. Human malignity seized upon Him as its victim, and mingled the first draught that He tasted. Linked though He was by the strongest sympathies to our nature, descending though He had, to elevate, sanctify, and save him, man yet ranked himself among His first and deadliest foes. Oh that condescension and love to our race so profound should have met with a requital so base!
The necessity of Christ's sufferings is the chief point that arrests the mind in contemplating this subject. In His wayside conversation with the two disciples journeying to Emmaus, our Lord clearly and emphatically pronounced this characteristic of His passion-"Ought not Christ to have suffered?" The following considerations would seem to justify this plea of necessity.
The sufferings of Christ were necessary in order to accomplish the eternal purpose and counsel of God. To suppose that His sufferings were contingent, originating in the circumstances by which He was surrounded, is to take a very low and defective view of truth. But the light in which the Scripture presents the doctrine of a suffering Redeemer is that which gives the most exalted view of redemption, and reflects in the richest manner the glory of the Triune God. The truth we have now advanced, the apostle Peter embodies in his awakening discourse on the day of Pentecost, and which truth the Holy Spirit employed in the conversion of three thousand souls-"Him being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, you have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain." Our Lord Himself confirms this doctrine when he says, "The Son of man goes, as it was determined." Dear reader, behold the fountain-head, where arise all those precious streams of covenant mercy which flow into your soul-the electing love of God, which constrained Him to present His beloved Son as an atoning Lamb for the slaughter, from before the foundation of the world! Oh! That must be infinite love-vast love-costly love-unchangeable love-which had its existence in the heart of God towards you from all eternity. Oh, repair with humility and gladness to this holy and blessed truth. Welcome it joyfully to your heart as God's truth, from which you may not, you dare not turn, without robbing your soul of immense blessing, and incurring fearful responsibilities. And when by faith you stand beneath the cross, and gaze upon its glorious Sufferer, remember that in His death were fulfilled the eternal purpose and counsel of the Triune Jehovah; and that to predestination-rejected and hated as this truth is by some-you owe all that is dear and precious to you as a ransomed expectant of glory.
To fulfill the types and to make good the prophecies concerning Him, it was necessary that Jesus should suffer. The Levitical dispensation and the prophetical Scriptures point steadily to Jesus; they are replete with Christ crucified. He who reads and investigates them with his eye turned from Jesus will find himself borne along upon a rapid stream of prophetic annunciation he knows not where, and involved in a mass of ceremonial usages to him perfectly chaotic and unintelligible, "without form and void." But with the Spirit of God opening the spiritual eye, and moving upon the word, a flood of light is poured upon every page, and every page is seen to be rich with the history and effulgent with the glory of a suffering Messiah. Thus does our Lord assert this truth-"Think you that I cannot now pray to my Father, and He shall presently give me more than twelve legions of angels? But how then shall the Scriptures be fulfilled, that thus it must be?" Again, "But all this was done that the Scriptures of the prophets might be fulfilled." It was necessary, therefore, that Christ should humble Himself-should be a man of sorrows-should drink deep the cup of suffering, and should be lifted upon the cross, in order to authenticate the Divine mission of Moses, to establish the consistency of the Jewish dispensation, to vindicate the truth of the prophets, to fulfill the counsel of the Lord, and thus to verify His own most blessed word.
Endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. [There is] one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling; - Ephesians 4:3-4
The unity of the mystical church of God consists not in a unity of creed. A higher, a diviner, and more enduring principle united her than this. Ardently as it should be desired, and fervently as it should be prayed for, that the promised day of millennial blessedness might speedily come, when the "watchmen shall see eye to eye," when from every battlement in Zion the silver trumpets shall emit one sweet harmonious sound, yet, even then, not more essentially will the church of God be one than she is now. True, her unity will be more visible, her divisions will be healed, her bleeding wounds will be staunched, her internal conflicts will have ceased; "Ephraim shall not envy Judah, and Judah shall not vex Ephraim more;" and the harsh sounds of strife, now so loud and discordant, shall be lost in the sweet strains of peace and love floating from every lip; yet is the church at this moment essentially one and indivisible. Not, then, in a unity of creed or of ecclesiastical polity does the real unity of the church consist, but in the "unity of the Spirit"-unity sustained by the "bond of peace." She has been baptized, not into one form of church government, nor into one system of doctrinal truth, but "by one Spirit we are all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have all been made to drink of the same Spirit." The "one Spirit" regenerating all the children of God, fashioning alike their hearts, uniting them by a living faith to the Head, equally dwelling in, teaching and guiding, comforting and sanctifying them, demonstrates the perfect oneness of Christ's body. And thus, then, when an individual crosses our path in whom the Spirit of Jesus breathes, who betrays a union to the Head, and who speaks the language and bears the image of the Father, and a resemblance to the one family, be his climate and color, be his name and minor points of creed what they may, it becomes our solemn duty, as it is our great privilege, to extend to him the recognition, and to greet him with the tender and holy affection of the one brotherhood. In the Lord's eye he is a member of His body and he should be so in ours. And if, refusing to own the relationship, we withdraw the hand of Christian love, we render our own regeneration doubtful, we wound, and grieve, and deny the Spirit in him. It is written-yes, it is written by the pen of the Holy Spirit, "Whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ, is born of God: and every one that loves Him that begat, loves him also that is begotten of Him."
I would recur to what may be considered one of the most fruitful and painful causes of the defective Christian union which so much mars the beauty and impairs the moral power of the church of God in our day. I allude to the great distance from Christ which characterizes the spiritual walk of so many believers. The effect of this upon the operation of Christian love is obvious. A distance of spirit from the Head leads to distance in spirit from the members of the body. As with the beams of the sun, the farther they recede from their center, the wider are they separated from each other; so is it with the "children of the light." Each believer is a solar beam-an emanation from the Sun of Righteousness. The more remote he lives from Christ-the center of the soul-the wider will he be alienated in affection and in spirit from the members of Christ. His eye less simply and constantly looking unto Jesus, his sense of union to, and communion with, Him weakened, love waning, faith declining, there will, of necessity, be a lessening attachment to the church of Christ. But the converse, oh, how precious! The rays of light reflected back to the sun, meeting and rejoicing in their center, meet and rejoice in themselves. So with the saints! Drawn closer to Jesus-our wandering steps retraced-restored by those sanctifying unfoldings of the cross which the Spirit delights to impart, the eye of penitence and faith, swimming though it be in tears, once more turned on Christ, love rekindled in the heart-oh how will the affections, in their fondest and holiest power, go forth towards "all them who love our Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity!" His image will be their passport to our hearts; His name will secure their welcome to our homes.
…Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; - Ephesians 5:25
Our Lord Jesus Christ suffered most voluntarily. In this consisted greatly the perfection of His sacrifice. His penal death had proved of no atoning efficacy but for this willing obedience, and the Divine merit that was in it. It would have been unjust in justice to have inflicted punishment upon an innocent and unwilling person. The full and free concurrence of His own will was essential to the perfection of His sacrifice. Yes, had it not been most free, and acting in perfect harmony with His Father's consent, our sins could not have been imputed to, the punishment inflicted upon Him. Entering, then, most freely into a bond to cancel the mighty debt, it was righteous in God, it was just in justice, and it invested the throne of the eternal Jehovah with surpassing glory, to arrest, in default of the debtor, the Surety, and to exact from Him the uttermost payment.
And here, my reader, is the great point to which we are aiming to bring you-the wonderful love of Jesus in so willingly suffering, "The just for the unjust." Oh, how readily did He humble Himself, and become obedient unto death, even the death of the cross! "I delight to do your will, O my God: yes, your law is within my heart." "I have a baptism to be baptized with, and how am I straitened until it be accomplished!" "Who gave Himself for us." "Christ also has loved us, and has given Himself for us." This is the spring of all that He has done, for, "Christ has loved us." Constrained by this, He gave Himself as the Son of God, and as the Son of man-His soul and body, His life and death, yes, all that He possessed in heaven and on earth, He freely gave for us. What was there above or below-in His previous state of glory, or subsequent state of humiliation-that He retained? What part of the price did He withhold? When He could give no less-for all angels and all men would not have sufficed-and when He could give no more, He gave Himself. Ah! This made His "offering and sacrifice to God a sweet-smelling savor." And still it perfumes the oblation, and sends it up each moment fragrant and acceptable before the throne of the Holy One. Oh, surpassing love of Jesus! With the burden of sin-the fire of justice-the wrath of God-the ridicule of man-the malignity of devils-the sorrows of Gethsemane-the pains of Calvary, and the sea of His own blood, all, all in vivid prospect before Him, He yet went forward, loving not His own life unto the death, because He loved ours more. Oh, let your heart bend low before this amazing love. Yield to its sweet and attractive influence; let it draw you from yourself, from the creature, from all, to Him. Are you wounded? Does your heart bleed? Is your soul cast down within you? Is your spirit within you desolate? Still Jesus is love, is loving, and loves you. He has suffered and died for you; and, were it necessary, He would suffer and die for you yet again. Whatever blessing He sees good to take from you, Himself He will never take. Whatever stream of creature love He sees fit to dry, His own love will never fail. Oh, can that love fail-can it cease to yearn, and sympathize, and soothe, and support, which brought Jesus from heaven to earth to endure and suffer all this for us? Be still, then, lie passive and low-drink the cup, and let the surrender of your sin, your obedience, and yourself to Him be as willing and as entire as was the surrender of Himself for you. Then shall you, in a blessed degree, be "able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height, and know the love of Christ, which passes knowledge, filled with all the fullness of God."
Thy throne, O God, [is] for ever and ever: the sceptre of thy kingdom [is] a right sceptre. Thou lovest righteousness, and hatest wickedness: therefore God, thy God, hath anointed thee with the oil of gladness above thy fellows. - Psalm 45:6-7
The Divine anointing of the Lord Jesus Christ, constituting an important feature of His official glory, and opening a channel of the most costly blessing to the church, forms a distinct and sacred theme of the prophetical writings. "The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me." "And there shall come forth a rod out of the stem of Jesse, and a Branch shall grow out of his roots: and the Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him." This anointing was upon the Redeemer, in infinite richness and fragrance. "God gives not the Spirit by measure unto Him." As essentially Jehovah, He needed it not; but as the great High Priest, and the mediatorial head of His "church, which is His body, the fullness of Him that fills all in all," it was necessary that the anointing oil should be upon Him in its utmost plenitude. As one with Him, all the members alike participate. "It is like the precious ointment upon the head, that ran down upon the beard, even Aaron's beard: that went to the skirts of his garment;" even to the lowest believer. Ah! And he that lies the lowest, obtains the most of this "precious ointment," as it descends from Jesus; the hand of faith, that touches but the hem of His garment, receives from Him who was "anointed with the oil of gladness above his fellows." Dear reader, are you professedly one with Jesus and His saints? Then seek, oh, diligently seek, a large and still larger degree of this holy and fragrant anointing. Rest not short of it. Be not satisfied to proceed another step without it. Do not be content with a mere profession, having a name to live, yet lacking all the essential evidences of real life, while discovering many of the fearful attributes of actual death.
The possession of this anointing of the Holy Spirit will decide the momentous and perhaps, with you, doubtful question of your union with Christ. Men will take knowledge of you, that you have been with Jesus, and learned of Him. Your life will be a reflection, faint at best, yet a reflection of His holy life. You will bear some resemblance to the "altogether lovely" One; your spirit will breathe His meekness; your demeanor will be stamped with His gentleness; your whole conversation will be seasoned with His grace; all your "garments will smell of myrrh, and aloes, and cassia out of the ivory palaces;" an unction will pervade your prayers, a power irresistible will accompany your labors, and in every place you will be a sweet savor of Christ, blessed and a blessing.
Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. - Philippians 2:6-8
There could have been no restoration and no satisfaction to law and justice, but in the humiliation of the Son of God. The very necessity of the case demanded it. The Divine government had been dishonored-that dishonor could only be removed by the humiliation of one equal in dignity, holiness, and glory-even an infinite Being. The humiliation of every angel in heaven would not have effaced a single stain of its reproach, nor have restored a single beam of its glory. The law of God had been humbled-justice demanded, as a price of its reparation, the humiliation of the Lawgiver Himself. The incarnate God did humble Himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. Thus it was Jesus "restored that which He took not away." He restored holiness to the law-satisfaction to justice-dignity to the Divine government-honor to God, and happiness and immortality to man. "Then I restored that which I took not away." Oh, what stable foundation is thus laid for the full salvation of every believer!
The humiliation of the Redeemer opens a fountain of infinitely great and ever-glorious grace. Nothing could we have known of the glory of His person, nothing of the character of God, and all the things of His hidden love must have remained forever sealed, had He not so humbled Himself. His coming forth, invested not with the dazzling robes of His infinite Majesty, but wearing our degraded nature, descending to our state of deep abasement-yes, sinking infinitely deeper than we-throws open a treasury of grace as rich in its glory, and ample in its supply, as were the dark humiliation and deep poverty which made it ours. Here is glory springing from His abasement-it is the "glory of His grace;" "We beheld His glory, full of grace." This fullness of grace in Jesus includes all that a poor sinner needs, all that a necessitous believer requires, all that the glory of God demanded. Here is the grace of pardon in all its fullness-the grace of justification in all its fullness-the grace of sanctification in all its fullness-the grace of consolation in all its fullness-the grace of strength in all its fullness. "It pleased the Father, that in Him should all fullness dwell." Grace is poured into His lips, and gracious words proceed from His lips. Hearken! "Come unto me, all you that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest." Hearken again! "Him that comes unto me, I will in no wise cast out." Does He not bind up the broken heart? Does He not preach glad tidings to the meek? Does He not "satisfy the hungry soul, and satiate the weary soul with goodness"? Has He ever sent the poor empty away? Was He ever known to turn His back upon one humble comer drawing near, bowed with guilt, disconsolate with sorrow, oppressed with trial? Never! Never! Oh, it is with infinite delight - delight, the depth of which we can form no conception-that He welcomes poor sinners! He thinks of His own humiliation for sin-He remembers His own sorrows and tears, agonies and death, and throwing Himself, as it were, into the very center of a bosom storm-tossed with godly grief, He seeks to soothe and hush it to a calm. And how does He allay the tempest? He pours the oil of His own love upon the waves; He sprinkles the conscience with that blood which cleanses from all sin, and bids the soul go in peace. Dear reader, where least we should have expected it, Jesus is set before us the "door of hope," even in the deep valley of His humiliation. "I will give the valley of Achor for a door of hope." The gospel of this precious promise is found in the wondrous theme we are now contemplating-the humiliation of the incarnate God. To that humiliation we must sink; into that valley we must descend. Convinced of sin-separated from all self-reliance and creature trust-emptied, humbled, laid low in the dust before God, we shall then find Jesus to be the "door of hope" set open for us in the deep and dark valley of our poverty, hopelessness, vileness, and abasement. Just the Door we need is Jesus. A door to a Father's forgiving heart, a door to God's reconciled love; a door to the sweetest, closest, holiest fellowship and communion; a door into heaven itself; a door so wide, that the greatest sinner may enter-so free, that the penniless may come.
…and be not faithless, but believing. - John 20:27
When any grace of the Spirit is in a sickly and declining state, an effect so painful must originate in a cause that needs to be searched out: the great difficulty in a backsliding soul is to bring it to the spiritual and needed duty of self-scrutiny. But as the cure of any disease, or the correction of any evil, depends upon the knowledge of its cause, so does the revival of a declining believer closely connect itself with the discovery and removal of that which led to his declension. Declining believer! What is the cause of your weak faith? Why is this lovely, precious, and fruitful flower drooping, and ready to die? What has dimmed the eye, and paralyzed the hand, and enfeebled the walk of faith? Perhaps it is the neglect of prayer: you have lived, it may be, days, and weeks, and months, without communion with God; there have been no constant and precious visits to your closet; no wrestling with God; no fellowship with your Father. Marvel not, beloved that your faith languishes, droops, and fades. The great marvel is, that you have any faith at all; that it is not quite dead, plucked up by the root; and, but for the mighty power of God, and the constant intercession of Jesus at His right hand, it would long since have ceased to be. But what will revive it?-an immediate return to prayer; revisit your closet; seek your forsaken God. Oh how can faith be revived, and how can it grow, in the neglect of daily, secret, and wrestling prayer with God? The Eternal Spirit laying this upon your heart, showing you your awful neglect, and breathing into you afresh the spirit of grace and supplication, will impart a new and blessed impulse to faith.
Perhaps you have been misinterpreting the Lord's providential dealings with you; you have been indulging in unbelieving, unkind, unfilial views of your trials, bereavements, and disappointments: you have said, "Can I be a child, yet be afflicted thus? Can He love me, yet deal with me so?" Oh, that thought! Oh, that surmises! Could you have looked into the heart of your God when He sent that trial, caused that bereavement, blew upon that flower, and blasted that fair design, you would never have murmured more: so much love, so much tenderness, so much faithfulness, so much wisdom would you have seen, as to have laid your mouth silent in the dust before Him. Wonder not that, indulging in such misgivings, interpreting the covenant dealings of a God of love in such a light, your faith has received a wound. Nothing, perhaps, more tends to unhinge the soul from God, engenders distrust, hard thoughts, and rebellious feelings, than thus to doubt His loving-kindness and faithfulness in the discipline He is pleased to send. But faith, looking through the dark cloud, rising on the mountain wave, and anchoring itself on the Divine veracity and the unchangeable love of God, is sure to strengthen and increase by every storm that beats upon it.
Is it the enchantment of the world that has seized upon your faith? has it stolen upon you, beguiled you, caught you with its glitter, overwhelmed you with its crushing cares?-come out from it, and be separate; resign its hollow friendships, its temporizing policy, its carnal enjoyments, its fleshly wisdom, its sinful conformity. All these becloud the vision, and enfeeble the grasp of faith. Would you be "strong in faith, giving glory to God"?-then yield obedience to the voice which with an unearthly tongue exclaims to every professing child of God, "Do not be conformed to this world; but be you transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect will of God."
Is it the indulgence of unbelieving fears touching your interest in Christ? Yield them, and let the wind scatter them. There is no ground for the doubts and unbelief of a child of God; there may be much in himself to cast him down, but nothing in the truth which he professes to believe; there is nothing in the subject-matter of faith, nothing in Christ, nothing in the work of Christ, nothing in the word of God, calculated to beget a doubt or a fear in the heart of a poor sinner; on the contrary, everything to inspire confidence, strengthen faith, and encourage hope. Does his sin plead loud for his condemnation? The voice of Immanuel's blood pleads louder for his pardon. Does his own righteousness condemn?-the righteousness of Christ acquits. Thus there is nothing in Christ to engender an unbelieving doubt in a poor convinced sinner. Himself he may doubt-he may doubt his ability to save himself-he may doubt his power to make himself more worthy and acceptable-but never let him doubt that Christ is all that a poor, lost, convinced sinner needs. Let him not doubt that Jesus is the Friend of sinners, the Savior of sinners, and that He was never known to cast out one who in lowliness and brokenness of heart sought His compassionate grace. Oh seek, reader, more simple views of Jesus; clearer views of His great and finished work; take every doubt as it is suggested, every fear as it rises, to Him; and remember that whatever of vileness you discover in yourself that has a tendency to lay you low, there is everything in Jesus calculated to lift you from the ash-heap, and place you among the princes.
Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; - Colossians 3:16a
The diligent and prayerful reading of God's holy word is a great means of increasing and promoting spirituality of mind. This, we fear, is not an element in the Christianity of many. It defines a duty sadly and, to a great extent, totally neglected. The tendency of the age is to substitute the writings of man for the Book of God. Let them come but with the robe of religion gracefully thrown around them, and whether they assume the form of history, or story, or song, they are devoured by the professing multitude, who would deem their true spirituality unquestionable! But the Divine life of the soul is not to be fed and nourished by the profound discoveries of science, or the recondite axioms of philosophy, or the brilliant flowers of genius, or the dreams of a poetical imagination. It ascends to a higher and a diviner source; it aspires towards the nourishments of its native climate. The bread that comes down from heaven, and the water that flows, pure as crystal, from beneath the throne of God and the Lamb, can alone feed, and nourish, and refresh this hidden principle. Jesus is its sustenance; and the gospel, as it unfolds Him in His glory and grace, is the spiritual granary from where its daily food is drawn. To this it repairs, oftentimes pressed with hunger, or panting with thirst, weary and exhausted, drooping and faint, and it finds its doctrines and its precepts, its promises and its admonitions, its exhortations and revelations, a "a feast of fat things, a feast of wines on the lees; of fat things full of marrow, of wines on the lees well refined." And thus refreshed and satisfied, the grateful soul adoringly exclaims, "Your words were found, and I did eat them; and Your word was unto me the joy and rejoicing of my heart." Truly did Jesus testify, "Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except you eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink His blood, you have no life in you;" evidently and solemnly implying, that if there exists no appetite for spiritual food, there is lacking the great evidence of the life of God in the soul. A mere semblance of life, an informed judgment, a "fair show" of religion "in the flesh," can content itself with anything short of the spiritual aliment contained in God's word. But the Divine life of a quickened soul, while it disdains no auxiliary to its spiritual advance, can yet feed on nothing but Divine food. The "flesh and the blood of Immanuel can alone meet and satiate its hungering and thirsting. It is from heaven, and its supply must be heavenly; it is from God, and its nourishment must be Divine. Jesus, and Jesus alone, received into the heart, rested in, and lived upon by faith, is the food of a believing man. Nothing but Christ-"Christ all" in Himself, and Christ "in all," means "in all" ordinances, "in all" channels, "in all" seasons, sustains a soul whose "life is hid with Christ in God." Dear reader, do you see the importance and feel the solemnity of this truth? Oh, it is a great and solemn one! Except by faith you "eat the flesh and drink the blood of the Son of man, you have no life in you!" Nothing short of Christ-Christ's righteousness, Christ's atonement, Christ's flesh and blood, Christ in us, Christ without us, Christ risen, Christ alive at the right hand of God, yes, "Christ all and in all"-can meet the deep, immortal necessities of your soul. You need all that Christ is in the matter of pardon, and justification, and sanctification, and wisdom, and redemption. If anything less than Jesus had sufficed, if an expedient less magnificent, or if an expenditure less costly, had answered for God and man, then less would save you. But since the incarnate God alone is the Savior of a poor, lost sinner, see that you detract not from, or add to, this salvation by any works of human merit.
Be exhorted, then, to an intimate acquaintance with God's holy word, as supplying a powerful help to the progress of the soul in deep spirituality. And if your time for reading is limited, limit it to one book, and let that one book be-the BIBLE. Let it be the companion of your hours of solitude; the solace in your seasons of sorrow; the store-house in all your necessities; the man of your counsel in all your doubts and perplexities. Then will your blessed experience resemble that of the psalmist: "Your word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against You. This is my comfort in my affliction: for Your word has quickened me. Your word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path. I rejoice at Your word, as one that finds great spoil."
In the year that king Uzziah died I saw also the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up, and his train filled the temple. Above it stood the seraphims: each one had six wings; with twain he covered his face, and with twain he covered his feet, and with twain he did fly. And one cried unto another, and said, Holy, holy, holy, [is] the LORD of hosts: the whole earth [is] full of his glory. And the posts of the door moved at the voice of him that cried, and the house was filled with smoke. Then said I, Woe [is] me! for I am undone; because I [am] a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips: for mine eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts. - Isaiah 6:1-5
What an august revelation of the glory of Christ's Godhead was this which broke upon the view of the lowly prophet! How instructive is each particular of His beatific vision! Mark the profound humility of the seraphim-they veiled with their wings their faces and their feet. They were in the presence of Jesus. They saw the King in His beauty, and covered themselves.
But the effect of this view of our Lord's divine glory upon the mind of the prophet is still more impressive: "Then said I, Woe is me! For I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips…for mine eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts." What prostrated his soul thus low in the dust? What filled him with this self-abasement? What overwhelmed him with this keen sense of his vileness? Oh, it was the unclouded view he had of the essential glory of the Son of God! And thus will it ever be. The beaming forth of Christ's glory in the soul reveals its hidden evil; the knowledge of this evil lays the believer low before God with the confession, "I abhor myself. Woe is me! For I am undone." Beloved, let this truth be ever present to your mind that as we increasingly see glory in Christ, we shall increasingly see that there is no glory in ourselves. Jesus is the Sun which reveals the pollutions and defilements which are within. The chambers of abomination are all closed until Christ shines in upon the soul. Oh, then it is these deep-seated and long-veiled deformities are revealed; and we, no longer gazing with a complacent eye upon self, sink in the dust before God, overwhelmed with shame, and covered with confusion of face. Holy posture! Blessed spectacle!-a soul prostrate before the glory of the incarnate God! All high and lofty views of its own false glory annihilated by clear and close views of the true glory of Jesus. As when the sun appears, all the lesser lights vanish into darkness, so when Jesus rises in noontide glory upon the soul, all other glory retires, and He alone fixes the eye and fills the mind. "With twain they covered their faces, and with twain they covered their feet." Their own perfections and beauty were not to be seen in the presence of the glory of the Lord. How much more profound should be the humility and self-abasement of man! Have we covered ourselves-not with the pure wings of the holy cherubim, but with sackcloth and ashes before the Lord? Have we sought to veil-not our beauties, for beauty we have none-but our innumerable and flagrant deformities, even the "spots upon our feasts of charity," the sins of our best and holiest things; and, renouncing all self-glory, have we sunk, as into nothing before God? Oh, we are yet strangers to the vision of Christ's glory, if we have not. If the constellation of human gifts and attainments, distinctions and usefulness, on which unsanctified and unmortified self so delights to gaze, have not retired into oblivion, the Sun of Righteousness has yet to rise upon our souls with healing in His wings.
But now when Timotheus came from you unto us, and brought us good tidings of your faith and charity, and that ye have good remembrance of us always, desiring greatly to see us, as we also [to see] you: Therefore, brethren, we were comforted over you in all our affliction and distress by your faith: For now we live, if ye stand fast in the Lord. - 1 Thessalonians 3:6-8
Oh, it is a lovely and a holy sight, the strong attachment of a pastor and a church! Earth presents no spectacle of moral beauty surpassing it; and angels, bending from their thrones in heaven, must gaze upon it with new ecstasy and delight. We would not breathe a word, or pen a sentence, tending to mar the symmetry, or shade the beauty, or impair the strength of such a union. This only would we say to the church-receive your pastor reverently and gratefully, as the Lord's messenger, esteem him very highly in love for his work's sake; yet hold him infinitely subordinate to Christ, and with a loose and gentle grasp. If heavenly-minded, and the channel of blessing to your souls, he is the Lord's gift, and as such only is he to be regarded. All that he possesses, really valuable, is from Jesus-his gifts, his acquirements, his grace, his usefulness, his moral loveliness, and even those minor attractions of person and address, which, if possessed, may, without much holy caution, but strengthen the heart's idolatry, and shade the infinite loveliness of Christ, came from God, are the bestowments of His undeserved mercy, and were intended but to lead you up to Himself, the source from where they proceed. Then lend your ear and yield your heart to the needed exhortation, as it bears upon this point, "Set not your affection on things on the earth." Cherish a devout and grateful spirit for the precious and invaluable gift of a holy, affectionate, and useful minister; but rest not in him short of Jesus. Give to him his proper place in your affections and thoughts-a place infinitely beneath the adorable Son of God, God's "unspeakable gift." He is not his own, nor yours, but the Lord's. And He, whose he is and whom he serves, may, in the exercise of His infinite wisdom and sovereign will, and, I may add, tender love, suspend for awhile his labors, or transfer him to another section of the vineyard, or, which would be more painful, crumble the earthen, though beautiful, vessel to dust, and take the precious treasure it contained to Himself. Still, Christ is all, He is your all; and, as the chief Shepherd and Bishop of His church, He will never take Himself from her. The happy secret of retaining our mercies is to receive and enjoy Christ in them; to turn every blessing bestowed into an occasion of knowing, and loving, and enjoying more of Jesus, apart from whom, poor indeed were the most costly blessing. Blessed indeed would our blessings then be! Leading our affections up to God; giving us a deeper insight into a Father's love; laying us lower in the dust at His feet; filling the spirit with secret contrition and tender brokenness, the heart with adoring love, the mouth with grateful praise; endearing the channel through which it descends, and the mercy-seat at which it was sought and given; encouraged and stimulated by the gift, to devote person, time, influence, and property, more simply and unreservedly, to the glory of God; then should we keep a longer possession of our sanctified blessing, nor fear the thought, nor shrink from the prospect, of its removal; or, if removed, we should be quite satisfied to have God alone as our portion and our all.
…for the Holy Ghost was not yet [given]; because that Jesus was not yet glorified. - John 7:39
Our adorable Lord, as He approached the termination of His sojourn on earth, went more fully into the work of the Spirit, than at any former period of His ministry, laying especial stress on this truth, that His own personal residence on earth in permanent conjunction with the presence of the Spirit, was a union not to be expected by the church. Why such an arrangement might not have been made, we proceed not to inquire. Sufficient should be the answer to this, as to all questions involving the sovereignty of the Divine will-"Even so, Father, for so it seemed good in Your sight." But the promise to which He directed the eye of His disciples, and with which He sought to soothe their sorrow in the prospect of His personal withdrawment from the church, was the descent of the Holy Spirit in an enlarged degree, and in continuous outpouring to the end of the Christian dispensation. This event, dependent upon, and immediately to follow, that of His inauguration in His heavenly kingdom, is thus alluded to by our Lord-"Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is expedient for you that I go away; for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send Him unto you."
The descent of the Holy Spirit upon the church in His most enlarged degree, and for the highest and most gracious ends, rendered the glorification of the Head necessary and expedient. Holding in His hands, not only the keys of hell and of death, but of all the fullness of God, all the riches of the covenant, all the treasures of His Father, He could only dispense these blessings in His exalted state. As it was necessary in the case of Joseph-a personal type of our glorious Redeemer-that he should be exalted to the office of prime-minister in Egypt, in order to possess dignity, authority, and power to dispense the riches of Pharaoh, so was it expedient that the great Antitype should assume a mediatorial exaltation, with a view of scattering down mediatorial blessings upon His people. The delay of this event was the only barrier to the outpouring of the Spirit upon the church. "The Holy Spirit was not yet given, because that Jesus was not yet glorified." Now here, second to Himself, was the gift of gifts-the donation of the Holy Spirit, the greatest God could give, the richest man could receive-suspended upon the single fact of the Redeemer's ascension to glory. It would seem as if the baptism of the church by the Spirit was an event especially reserved to signalize the enthronement of the Son of God in His mediatorial kingdom. God would demonstrate how great was the glory of Jesus in heaven, how perfect was the reconciliation which He had effected between Himself and man, how spiritual was that kingdom which He was about to establish in the earth, the foundation of which His own hand had laid-and how full, and immense, and free were the blessings ready to be bestowed upon all who, in poverty of spirit, and sincerity of heart, and fervency of soul, should seek them, by opening the windows of heaven, and pouring down the Holy Spirit in all His converting, life-giving, sanctifying, and comforting grace. And oh, how must this Divine and Eternal Spirit-occupying as He did a personal existence in the glorious Trinity, possessing equal glory, honor, and love with the Father and the Son, as equally engaged in securing the salvation of a chosen people-how must He have rejoiced at the consummation of an event which permitted Him to give full vent to the overflowing fountain of His heart's grace and love over a church which He was about to renew, sanctify, and dwell in through eternity! "The love of the Spirit" pleaded eloquently for the exaltation of Jesus.
And thou saidst, I will surely do thee good, - Genesis 32:12
God, in the administration of His all-wise, all-righteous, all-beneficent government, has night seasons as well as day-seasons of darkness as well as seasons of light-and in both He must be contemplated, studied, and known. As the night reveals glories in the firmament, which the day concealed, so dark dispensations of Divine Providence bring to the believer's eye, as viewed through the telescope of faith, glories in the character and wonders in the government of Jehovah, which the milder and brighter displays of Himself had veiled from the eye. Oh, beloved, how scanty were our experience of God-how limited our knowledge of His love, wisdom, and power-how little should we know of Jesus, our best Friend, the Beloved of our souls, did we know Him only in mercy, and not also in judgment-were there no lowering skies, no night of weeping, no shady paths, no rough places, no cloud-tracings, no seasons of lonely sorrow, of pressing need, and of fierce temptation. "In the way of Your judgments, O Lord, have we waited for You; the desire of our soul is to Your name, and to the remembrance of You."
Nor should we overlook the full play and exercise of faith which occurrences, to us dark, discrepant, and mysterious, call into operation. Faith in God is the most precious, wondrous, and fruitful grace of the Holy Spirit in the renewed soul. Its worth is beyond all prices. Its possession is cheap at any cost. One saving view of Jesus-one dim vision of the cross-one believing touch of the Savior-a single grain of this priceless gold-millions of rubies were as nothing to it. Then were its exercise and trial good. And but for its trial how uncertain would it be! Were there no circumstances alarming in the aspect they assume-somber in the form they wear-rude in the voice they utter-events which threaten our happiness and well-being-which seem to dry our springs, wither our flowers, blight our fruits, and drape life's landscape in gloom-how limited would be the sphere of faith! It is the province of this mighty grace to pierce thick clouds, to scale high walls, to walk in the dark, to pass unhurt through fire, to smile at improbabilities, and to master impossibilities. As the mariner's compass guides the ship, coursing its way over the ocean, as truly and as safely in the starless night as in the meridian day, so faith-the needle of the soul-directs us safely, and points the believer in his right course homewards as truly, in the gloomiest as in the brightest hour. Oh, how little are we aware of the real blessings that flow to us through believing! God asks of us nothing but faith; for where there is faith in the Lord Jesus there is love-and where there is, love there is obedience-and where there is obedience there is happiness-and where there is happiness, the soul can even rejoice in tribulation, and sit and sing sweetly and merrily in adversity, like a bird amid the boughs whose green foliage the frost has nipped, and the autumnal blast has scattered.
It is God's sole prerogative to educe good from seeming evil-to order and overrule all events of an untoward nature, and of a threatening aspect, for the accomplishment of the most beneficent ends. This He is perpetually doing with reference to His saints. The Spirit of love broods over the chaotic waters, and life's dark landscape appears like a new-born existence. The curse is turned into a blessing-the discordant notes breathe the sweetest music. You marvel how this can be. What is impossible with man is more than possible with God. Often in your silent musings over some untoward event in your life, sad in its nature, and threatening in its look, have you asked, "What possible good can result from this? It seems utterly opposed to my interests, and hostile to my happiness. It appears an unmixed, unmitigated evil." Be still! Let not your heart fret against the Lord and against His dealings-all things in your history are for your good-and this calamity, this affliction, this loss, is among the "all things." The extraction of the curse from everything appertaining to the child of God converts everything into a blessing. Christ has so completely annihilated the curse by obedience, and has so entirely put away sin by suffering, nothing is left of real, positive evil, in the dealings of God with His church. Jesus, because His love was so great, did all, endured all, finished all; and it is not only in the heart of God, but it is in the power of God-a power exerted in alliance with every perfection of His being-to cause all events to conspire to promote our present and eternal happiness. I cannot see how God will work it, or when He will accomplish it, but assured that I am His pardoned, adopted child, I can calmly leave the issue of all things in my life with Him; confident that, however complicated may be the web of His providence, however hostile the attitude or discouraging the aspect of events, all, all under the government and overruling will of my Heavenly Father are working together for my good. The result, then, of this matter, my God, I leave with You.
"Your ways, O Lord, with wise design,
Are framed upon Your throne above,
And every dark and bending line
Meets in the center of Your love."
What is there of good we need, or of evil we dread, which God's heart will withhold, or His power cannot avert? Oh, it is in the heart of our covenant God to lavish every good upon us-to "withhold no good thing from those who walk uprightly." Lord, lead us into Your love-Your love infinite, Your love unfathomable, Your love hidden and changeless as Your nature!
For this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins. - Matthew 26:28
The atoning blood of Christ possesses a pardoning efficacy. Through this blood, God, the holy God-the God against whom you have sinned, and whose wrath you justly dread, can pardon all your sins, blot out all your transgressions, and take from you the terror of a guilty conscience. Oh what news is this! Do you doubt it? We know it is an amazing fact, that God should pardon sin, and that He should pardon it, too, through the blood of His dear Son, yet take His own word as a full confirmation of this stupendous fact, and doubt no more-"The blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin." Oh yes-blessed declaration! It cleanses us from all sin-"all manner of sin." We ask not how heavy the weight of guilt that rests upon you; we ask not how wide the territory over which your sins have extended; we inquire not how many their number, or how aggravated their nature, or how deep their dye; we meet you, just as you are, with God's own declaration, "the blood of Jesus Christ cleanses from all sin." Many there are who can testify to this truth. "Such were some of you," says the apostle, when writing to the Corinthian converts, who had been fornicators, idolaters, adulterers, effeminate, thieves, covetous, drunkards, revilers, extortioners; "such were some of you, but you are washed." In what had they washed?-where were they cleansed? They washed in the "fountain opened to the house of David, and the inhabitants of Jerusalem, for sin and uncleanness." To this fountain they came, guilty, vile, black as they were, and the blood of Jesus Christ cleansed them from all sin. Mourning soul, look up-the fountain yet is open, and open too for you. Satan will seek to close it-unbelief will seek to close it-yet it is ever running, ever overflowing, ever free. Thousands have plunged in it, and emerged washed, sanctified, and saved. To this fountain David, and Manasseh, and Saul, and Peter, and Mary Magdalene, and the dying thief, and millions more, came, washed, and were saved; and yet it has lost nothing of its sin-pardoning, sin-cleansing efficacy-sovereign and free as ever! Oh say not that you are too vile, say not that you are too unworthy! You may stand afar from its brink, looking at your unfitness, looking at your poverty, but listen while we declare that, led as you have been by the Holy Spirit to feel your vileness, for just such this precious blood was shed, this costly fountain was opened.
This "blood of the new testament" is peace-speaking blood. It not only procured peace, but when applied by the Holy Spirit to the conscience, it produces peace-it gives peace to the soul. It imparts a sense of reconciliation: it removes all slavish fear of God, all dread of condemnation, and enables the soul to look up to God, not as "a consuming fire," but as a reconciled God-a God in covenant. Precious peace-speaking blood, flowing from the "Prince of Peace!" Applied to your heart, penitent reader, riven asunder as it may be with godly sorrow, it shall be as a balm to the wound. Sprinkled on your conscience, burdened as it is with a sense of guilt, you shall have "beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness."
It is through simply believing that the blood of Christ thus seals pardon and peace upon the conscience. Do not forget this. "Only believe," is all that is required; and this faith is the free gift of God. And what is faith? "It is looking unto Jesus;" it is simply going out of yourself, and taking up your rest in the finished work of the Lord Jesus Christ-this is faith. Christ has said, that "He saves to the uttermost all that come unto God by Him;" that He died for sinners, and that He saves sinners as sinners: the Holy Spirit working faith in the heart, lifting the eye off the wound, and fixing it on the Lamb of God, pardon and peace flow like a river in the soul. Oh, stay not then from the gospel-feast, because you are poor, penniless, and unworthy. See the provision, how full! See the invitation, how free! See the guests-the poor, the maimed, the lame, the blind! Come then to Jesus just as you are. We stake our all on the assertion, that He will welcome you, that He will save you. There is too much efficacy in His blood, too much compassion in His heart for poor sinners, to reject you, suing at His feet for mercy. Then look up, believer, and you shall be saved; and all heaven will resound with hallelujahs over a sinner saved by grace!
In a little wrath I hid my face from thee for a moment; but with everlasting kindness will I have mercy on thee, saith the LORD thy Redeemer. - Isaiah 54:8
Many are the seasons of spiritual darkness, and sensible withdrawments of God's presence, through which the believer is often called to pass. Seasons, during which his hope seems to have perished; and God, as he believes, has forgotten to be gracious; seasons, during which he cannot look up as a pardoned sinner, as a justified soul, as an adopted child, and say, "Abba, Father!" All is midnight gloom to his soul. And while God seems to have withdrawn, Satan instantly appears. Taking advantage of the momentary absence of the Lord, for let it be remembered, it is not an actual and eternal withdrawment-he levels his fiery darts-suggests hard thoughts of God-tempts the soul to believe the past has been but a deception, and that the future will develop nothing but darkness and despair. Satan, that constant and subtle foe, frequently seizes, too, upon periods of the believer's history, when the providences of God are dark and mysterious-when the path, along which the weary pilgrim is pressing, is rough and intricate, or, it may be, when he sees not a spot before him, the way is obstructed, and he is ready to exclaim with Job, "He has fenced up my way that I cannot pass, and he has set darkness in my paths." Or with Jeremiah, "He has hedged me about that I cannot get out." Let it not then be forgotten by the soul that walks in darkness and has no light, that the providential dealings of a covenant God and Father, which now are depressing the spirits, stirring up unbelief, and casting a shade over every prospect, may be seized upon by its great enemy, and be appropriated to an occasion of deep and sore temptation. It was thus he dealt with our blessed Lord, who was in all points tempted as His people, yet without sin. And if the Head thus was tempted, so will be, the member-if the Lord, so the disciple. And for this very end was our blessed Lord thus tempted, that He might enter sympathetically into all the circumstances of His tried and suffering people-"For in that He Himself has suffered being tempted, He is able to support those who are tempted."
But a momentary sense of God's withdrawment from the believer affects not his actual security in the atoning blood; this nothing can disturb. The safety of a child of God hinges not upon a frame or a feeling, the ever-varying and fitful pulses of a believing soul. Oh no! The covenant rests upon a surer basis than this; the child of the covenant is sealed with a better hope and promise. He may change, but his covenant God never; his feelings may vary, but his Father's love never veers: He loved him from all eternity, and that love extends to all eternity. As God never loved His child for anything He saw, or should see, in that child; so His love never changes for all the fickleness, sinfulness, and unworthiness, He daily and hourly discovers. Oh where would the soul fly but for this truth? When it takes into account the sins, the follies, the departures, the flaws of but one week-yes, when it reviews the history of but one day, and sees enough sin in a single thought to sink it to eternal and just perdition-but for an unchangeable God, to what consolation would it resort?
Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him. - Romans 5:9
What forms the great security of the believer? What, but the atoning blood? This, and this only. The Father, beholding His child in His beloved Son, washed and clothed, pardoned and justified, can "rest in His love, and joy over Him with singing." The atonement guarantees his eternal safety. What formed the security of Noah and his family, when the deluge of God's wrath descended upon an ungodly world?-the ark in which God had shut him in. What formed the security of the children of Israel in Egypt, when the destroying angel passed through the camp, waving in his hand the weapon of death?-the blood of the paschal lamb, sprinkled on the lintel and door-posts of their dwellings; and where this sacred sign was seen, into that house he dared not enter, but passed on to do the work of death where no blood was found. Exactly what the ark was to Noah, and the blood of the lamb was to the children of Israel, is the atoning blood of Christ to the believing soul. It forms his eternal security. Reader, is that blood applied to you? Are you washed in it? Is it upon you at this moment? Precious blood! Precious Savior who shed it! Precious faith that leads to it! How it washes away all sin-how it lightens the conscience of its burden-heals the heart of its wound-dispels the mist, and brings down the unclouded sunshine of God's reconciled countenance in the soul! Oh, adore the love and admire the grace that opened the fountain, and led you to bathe, all guilty, polluted, and helpless as you were, beneath its cleansing stream! and with Cowper let us sing,
"E'er since by faith I saw the stream
Your flowing wounds supply,
Redeeming love has been my theme,
And shall be until I die."
Surely the Christian will ever strive to live near this fountain-the only spot where his soul shall flourish. As the gentle flower which blooms unseen by the side of some veiled spring is, from the constant moisture it receives, always beautiful and fragrant, so is that believing soul the most fruitful, holy, spiritual, and devoted, who daily dwells by the side, yes, in the "fountain opened for sin and uncleanness." We see not how a child of God can be fruitful otherwise. A sweet and abiding consciousness of pardon and acceptance is essential to spiritual fruitfulness. The great impelling motive to all gospel obedience is the love of Christ in the heart. David acknowledged this principle when he prayed, "I will run the way of Your commandments, when You shall enlarge my heart." The apostle admits it when he says, "the love of Christ constrains us." In order to walk as an obedient child, to bear the daily cross, to delight in the precepts as in the doctrines of God's truth, the atoning blood must be realized. How easy and how sweet will then become the commandments of the Lord: duties will be viewed as privileges, and the yoke felt to be no yoke, and the cross to be no cross.
No believer can advance in the divine life, wage a daily war with the innumerable foes that oppose him, and be fruitful in every good work, who is perpetually in search of evidence of his adoption. We need all our time, all our energies, all our means, in order to vanquish the spiritual Philistines who obstruct our way to the heavenly Canaan: we have none to send in search of evidences, lest while they have gone the Bridegroom comes. Oh, then, to know that all is right; the thick cloud blotted out-the soul wrapped in the robe of righteousness-ready to enter in to the marriage supper of the Lamb. To die will be quite enough; to face and grapple with the king of terrors will be sufficient employment for the spirit struggling to be free: no time, no strength, no energy then to search for evidences. Let not the professor of Christ leave the "sealing" of his pardon and acceptance to that fearful hour; but let him earnestly seek it now, that when he comes to die he may have nothing to do but to die; and that will be quite enough.
And he said to [them] all, If any [man] will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: but whosoever will lose his life for my sake, the same shall save it. - Luke 9:23-24
The life of our adorable Lord was a life of continuous trial. From the moment He entered our world He became leagued with suffering; He identified Himself with it in its almost endless forms. He seemed to have been born with a tear in His eye, with a shade of sadness on His brow. He was prophesied as "a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief." And, from the moment He touched the horizon of our earth, from that moment His sufferings commenced. Not a smile lighted up His benign countenance from the time of His advent to His departure. He came not to indulge in a life of tranquility and repose; He came not to quaff the cup of earthly or of Divine sweets-for even this last was denied Him in the hour of His lingering agony on the cross. He came to suffer-He came to bear the curse-He came to drain the deep cup of wrath, to weep, to bleed, to die. Our Savior was a cross-bearing Savior: our Lord was a suffering Lord. And was it to be expected that they who had linked their destinies with His, who had avowed themselves His disciples and followers, should walk in a path diverse from their Lord's? He Himself speaks of the incongruity of such a division of interests: "The disciple is not above his Master, nor the servant above his Lord. It is enough for the disciple that he be as his Master, and the servant as his Lord." There can be no true following of Christ as our example, if we lose sight of Him as a suffering Christ-a cross-bearing Savior. There must be fellowship with Him in His sufferings. In order to enter fully and sympathetically into the afflictions of His people, He stooped to a body of suffering: in like manner, in order to have sympathy with Christ in His sorrows, we must, in some degree tread the path He trod. Here is one reason why He ordained, that along this rugged path His saints should all journey. They must be like their Lord; they are one with Him: and this oneness can only exist where there is mutual sympathy. The church must be a cross-bearing church; it must be an afflicted church. Its great and glorious Head sought not, and found not, repose here: this was not His rest. He turned His back upon the pleasures, the riches, the luxuries, and even the common comforts of this world, preferring a life of obscurity, penury, and suffering. His very submission seemed to impart dignity to suffering, elevation to poverty, and to invest with an air of holy sanctity a life of obscurity, need, and trial.
We have seen, then, that our blessed Lord sanctified, by His own submission, a life of suffering; and that all His followers, if they would resemble Him, must have fellowship with Him in His sufferings. The apostle Paul seems to regard this in the light of a privilege. "For unto you," he says, "it is given in behalf of Christ, not only to believe on Him, but also to suffer for His sake." It seems, too, to be regarded as a part of their calling. "For even hereunto were you called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps." Happy will be that afflicted child of God, who is led to view his Father's discipline in the light of a privilege. To drink of the cup that Christ drank of-to bear any part of the cross that He bore-to tread in any measure the path that He trod, is a privilege indeed. This is a distinction which angels have never attained. They know not the honor of suffering with Christ, of being made conformable to His death. It is peculiar to the believer in Jesus-it is his privilege, his calling.
Jesus said unto him, If thou wilt be perfect, go [and] sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come [and] follow me. But when the young man heard that saying, he went away sorrowful: for he had great possessions. - Matthew 19:21-22
There cannot, perhaps, be a position, however peculiar and difficult, in which the believer may be placed, but he will find that Jesus, either by precept or example, has defined the path in which he should walk. The subject of this meditation pointedly and solemnly addresses itself to the rich. Circumstanced as you are by the providence of God, you have need closely and prayerfully to ascertain how, in your situation, Jesus walked. One of the peculiar snares to which your station exposes you is high-mindedness, and consequent self-trust and complacency. But here the Lord Jesus presents Himself as your example. He, too, was rich; creating all things, He possessed all things. The Creator of all worlds, all worlds were at His command. Yet, amazing truth! In the days of His humiliation, He was as though He possessed not-"Though He was rich, yet for our sakes He became poor." In view of such an illustrious pattern, what is your duty? Simple and obvious! You are in a degree to become poor, by devoting your substance to the glory of God. To amass wealth, for the purpose of hoarding it, is contrary to the spirit of the gospel, and is opposed to the teaching and example of Christ. It is a sin, an awful, a soul-periling sin. Your property is a talent, for which, as a steward, you are as certainly and as solemnly accountable to God as for any other. It is, perhaps, the one talent that He has given you. What if you bury it in covetousness and parsimony, or in a prodigal expenditure and self-indulgence, refusing to relax your grasp of it to promote His cause and truth, who became poor to enrich us, how will you meet His scrutiny and His glance when the judgment is set, and He demands an account of your stewardship? Nor is it a small, though perhaps a solitary talent. Bestowed upon but few, the obligation becomes the greater to consecrate it unreservedly to the Lord. And how can you withhold it in view of the claims which crowd upon you on either hand? What! Are you at a loss for a channel through which your benevolence might flow? Are you inquiring, "How shall I devote my property to God? In what way may this, my one talent, best answer the end for which it is bestowed?" Cast your eye around you-surely you cannot long hesitate. Survey the map of Christian missions-is there no part of Christ's kingdom languishing through an inadequacy of pecuniary support? Is there no important enterprise impeded in its course of benevolence by the lack of funds? No useful society discouraged and crippled through the narrowness and insufficiency of its resources? Is there no important sphere of labor in your vicinity neglected, no spot in the moral wilderness entirely untilled, because the means to supply an effective agency have been lacking? Is there no faithful, hard-working minister of Christ within your knowledge and your reach, combating with straitened circumstances, oppressed by poverty, and toiling amid lonely care, embarrassment, and anxiety, studiously and delicately screened from human eye, which it is in your power to alleviate and remove? Is there no widow's heart you could make to sing for joy? No orphan, whose tears you could dry? No saint of God tried by sickness, or need, or imprisonment, from whose spirit you could lift the burden, and from whose heart you could chase the sorrow, and from whose feet you could strike the fetter? Surely a world of need, and woe, and suffering is before you, nor need you yield to a moment's hesitation in selecting the object around which your charity should entwine.
Here, then, is your example. Jesus became poor, lived poor, and died poor. Dare you die a rich man-an affluent professor? I beseech you ponder this question. If your Lord has left you an example that you should follow His steps, then you are called upon to become poor, to live poor, even to die poor for Him. Especially are you exhorted to rejoice in that, by the grace of God, you are made low. That in the midst of so much calculated to nourish the pride and lofty independence of the natural heart, you have been made to know your deep spiritual poverty, and as a sinner have been brought to the feet of Jesus. By that grace only can you be kept low. Here is your only security. Here wealth invests its possessor with no real power or greatness. It confers no moral or intellectual glory. It insures not against the inroad of evil. It throws around no shield. It may impart a measure of artificial importance, authority, and influence in the world's estimation; beyond this, what is it? Unsanctified by Divine grace, it entails upon its unhappy possessor an innumerable train of evils. As a Christian man, then, exposed to the snares of even a moderate degree of worldly prosperity, your only security is in drawing largely from the "exceeding riches of Christ's grace;" your true wealth is in the fear of God ruling in your heart, in the love of Christ constraining you to "lie low in a low place;" to bear the cross daily; to walk closely, obediently, and humbly with God; employing the property with which He has entrusted you as a faithful steward; your eye ever "looking unto Jesus" as your pattern. You "know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ"-the rich, the amazing, the sovereign, the free grace of Jesus, to which you owe all that is precious and glorious in the prospect of eternity-let this grace, then, accomplish its perfect work in you, by leading you to glory only in Jesus, to yield yourself supremely to His service, and to regard the worldly wealth God has conferred upon you as valuable only as it promotes His kingdom, truth, and glory, who "though rich, for your sakes became poor, that you, through His poverty, might be made rich."
Be merciful unto me, O God, be merciful unto me: for my soul trusteth in thee: yea, in the shadow of thy wings will I make my refuge, until [these] calamities be overpast. I will cry unto God most high; unto God that performeth [all things] for me. - Psalm 57:1-2
The exercise of faith strengthens, as the neglect to exercise, weakens it. It is the constant play of the arm that brings out its muscular power in all its fullness; were that arm allowed to hang by its own side, still and motionless, how soon would its sinews contract, and its energy waste away! So it is with faith, the right arm of a believer's strength; the more it is exercised, the mightier it becomes; neglect to use it, allow it to remain inert and inoperative, and the effect will be a withering up of its power. Now when gloomy providences, and sharp trials and temptations, thicken around a poor believing soul, then is it the time for faith to put on its strength, and come forth to the battle. God never places His child in any difficulties, or throws upon him any cross, but it is a call to exercise faith; and if the opportunity of its exercise passes away without improvement, the effect will be a weakening of the principle, and a feeble putting forth of its power in the succeeding trial. Do not forget, that the more faith is brought into play, the more it increases; the more it is exercised, the stronger it becomes.
Some of the choicest mercies of the covenant brought into the experience of the believer, come by a travail of faith: it maybe a tedious and a painful process; faith may be long and sharply tried, yet the blessings it will bring forth will more than repay for all the weeping, and suffering, and crying, it has occasioned. Do not be surprised, then, at any severe trial of faith; be sure that when it is thus tried, God is about to bring your soul into the possession of some great and perhaps hitherto unexperienced mercy. It may be a travail of faith for spiritual blessing; and the result may be a deepening of the work in your heart, increase of spirituality, more weanedness from creature-trust, and more child-like leaning upon the Lord; more simple, close, and sanctifying knowledge of the Lord Jesus. Or, it may be a travail of faith for temporal mercy, for the supply of some need, the rescue from some embarrassment, the deliverance out of some peculiar and trying difficulty; but whatever the character of the trial of faith be, the issue is always certain and glorious. The Lord may bring His child into difficult and strait paths, He may hedge him about with thorns so that he cannot get out, but it is only to draw the soul more simply to repose in Himself; that, in the extremity, when no creature would or could help, when refuge failed, and no man cared for his soul, that then faith should go out and rest itself in Him who never disowns His own work, but always honors the feeblest exhibition, and turns His ear to the faintest cry. "Out of the depths have I cried unto You, O Lord. Lord, hear my voice; let Your ears be attentive to the voice of my supplication." "In my distress I called upon the Lord, and cried unto my God: He heard my voice out of His temple, and my cry came before Him, even into His ears." "O magnify the Lord with me, and let us exalt His name together. I sought the Lord, and He heard me, and delivered me from all my fears." "This poor man cried, and the Lord heard him; and saved him out of all his troubles." Here was the severe travail of faith, and here we see the blessed result. Thus true is God's word, which declares that "weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning."
The trial of faith is a test of its degree. We know not what faith we possess, until the Lord calls it into exercise; we may be greatly deceived as to its nature and degree; to walk upon the stormy water may be thought by us an easy thing; to witness for Christ, no hard matter: but the Lord brings our faith to the test. He bids us come to Him upon the water, and then we begin to sink; He suffers us to be assailed by our enemies, and we shrink from the cross; He puts our faith to the trial, and then we learn how little we possess.
But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honour; - Hebrews 2:9
There was an honoring, but not a glorifying of our humanity, when the Son of God assumed it. Its union with the Deity-its fullness of the Spirit-its spotless holiness-its deep knowledge of, and intimate fellowship with, God-conspired to invest it with a dignity and honor such as no creature had ever before, or ever shall again attain. But not until its ascension into heaven was it glorified. Oh, through what humiliation did it pass, what indignity did it endure, when below! What sinless weaknesses, imperfections, and frailties clung to it! It hungered, it thirsted, it labored, it sorrowed, it wept, it suffered, it bled, it died! "The poor man's scorn, the rich man's ridicule," what indignities did it endure! It was scourged, it was bruised, it was mocked, it was smitten, it was spit upon, it was nailed to the tree, it was pierced, it was slain! Oh, what eye, but that of faith, can, through all this degradation, behold the person of the incarnate God?
But now "we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels, for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honor." Even after His resurrection, it must be acknowledged that a change, approximating to that state of glory, had already passed over Him. So spiritualized was He, that even His disciples, when they saw Him, knew Him not. What, then, must be the glory that encircles Him now that He has passed within His kingdom, and is exalted at the right hand of God, "far above all heavens, that He might fill all things"! John, during his banishment at Patmos, was favored with a view of His glorified humanity, and thus describes its dazzling appearance-"I saw seven golden candlesticks; and in the midst of the seven candlesticks one like unto the Son of man, clothed with a garment down to the foot, and girt about the breasts with a golden girdle. His head and His hairs were white like wool, as white as snow; and His eyes were as a flame of fire, and His feet like unto fine brass, as if they burned in a furnace; and His voice as the sound of many waters. And He had in His right hand seven stars; and out of His mouth went a sharp two-edged sword; and His countenance was as the sun shines in his strength. And when I saw Him, I fell at His feet as dead. And He laid His right hand upon me, saying unto me, Fear not; I am the first and the last: I am He that lives, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive for evermore, Amen; and have the keys of hell and of death." Sublime description of the "glory and honor" which now crown the exalted humanity of our adorable Redeemer! Did the awe-stricken and prostrate evangelist entertain any doubt of the glorious person who thus appeared to him? That doubt must all have vanished the moment he felt the "right hand" of Jesus laid upon Him, and heard His own familiar voice saying unto him, "Fear not." Oh, what a tangible evidence and what a near view did he now have of the exalted and glorified humanity of his Lord! At that instant he saw Him to be divine, and he felt Him to be human!
Yes! The very tabernacle of flesh in which He dwelt, the identical robe of humanity that He wore, He carried up with Him into heaven, and sat down with it upon the throne. There it is, highly exalted. There it is, above angels, and higher than saints, in close affinity and eternal union with the Godhead. There it is, bathing itself in the "fullness of joy," and drinking deeply of the satisfying "pleasures" which are at God's "right hand for evermore." Oh, what must be the holy delight which the human soul of Jesus now experiences! Sin presses upon it no more; sorrow beclouds it no more; the hidings of God's face distress it no more; infirmity clings to it no more: it exults in the beams of God's unveiled glory, and it swims in the ocean of His ineffable love. If the vision upon Mount Tabor was so glorious-if the splendors there encircling that form which yet had not passed through the scenes of the crucifixion, the resurrection, and the ascension, were so overpowering-if the attractions of that spot were so great, and the ecstasy of that moment was so ravishing-what, oh, what must be the glory, the joy, the bliss of heaven, where we shall no longer see Him "through a glass darkly," but "as He is," and "face to face"!
For if the blood of bulls and of goats, and the ashes of an heifer sprinkling the unclean, sanctifieth to the purifying of the flesh: How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God? - Hebrews 9:13-14
But for a crucified Savior, there could be no possible return to God; in no other way could He, consistently with the holiness and rectitude of the Divine government, with what He owes to Himself as a just and holy God, receive a poor, wandering, returning sinner. Mere repentance and humiliation for and confession of sin could entitle the soul to no act of pardon. The obedience and death of the Lord Jesus laid the foundation and opened the way for the exercise of this great and sovereign act of grace. The cross of Jesus displays the most awful exhibition of God's hatred of sin, and at the same time the most august manifestation of His readiness to pardon it. Pardon, full and free, is written out in every drop of blood that is seen, is proclaimed in every groan that is heard, and shines in the very prodigy of mercy that closes the solemn scene upon the cross. Oh blessed door of return, open and never shut to the wanderer from God! How glorious, how free, how accessible! Here the sinful, the vile, the guilty, the unworthy, the poor, the penniless may come. Here, too, the weary spirit may bring its burden, the broken spirit its sorrow, the guilty spirit its sin, the backsliding spirit its wandering. All are welcome here. The death of Jesus was the opening and the emptying of the full heart of God; it was the outgushing of that ocean of infinite mercy that heaved, and panted, and longed for an outlet; it was God showing how He could love a poor guilty sinner. What more could He have done than this? What stronger proof, what richer gift, what costlier boon could He have given in attestation of that love? Now, it is the simple belief of this that brings the tide of joy down into the soul; it is faith's view of this that dissolves the adamant, rends asunder the flinty rock, smites down the pyramid of self-righteousness, lays the rebellious will in the dust, and enfolds the repenting, believing soul in the very arms of free, rich, and sovereign love. Here, too, the believer is led to trace the sin of his backsliding in its darkest lines, and to mourn over it with his bitterest tears-
"Then beneath the cross adoring,
Sin does like itself appear;
When the wounds of Christ exploring,
I can read my pardon there."
If the Lord has restored your soul, dear reader, remember why He has done it-to make you hate your sins. He hates them, and He will make you to hate them too; and this He does by pardoning them, by sprinkling the atoning blood upon the conscience, and by restoring unto you the joys of His salvation. And never is sin so sincerely hated, never is it so deeply deplored, so bitterly mourned over, and so utterly forsaken, as when He speaks to the heart, and says, "Your sins are forgiven you, go in peace." As though He did say, "I have blotted out your transgressions, I have healed your backslidings, I have restored your soul; that you may remember and be confounded, and never open your mouth any more because of your shame, when I am pacified toward you for all that you have done, says the Lord God."
If your heavenly Father has restored your soul, not only has He done it from the spring of His own unchangeable love, but that which has prevailed with Him was the power of the sweet incense of the Redeemer's blood before the mercy-seat. Moment by moment does this fragrant cloud go up, bearing as it ascends all the circumstances of all the Israel of God. There is not only the blood already sprinkled on the mercy-seat, which has satisfied Divine justice, but there is the constant pleading of the blood, by Jesus, the Priest, before the throne. Oh precious thought, oh comforting, encouraging truth, for a soul retreading its steps back to God! Of its own it has nothing to plead but its folly, its ingratitude, its wretchedness, and its sin; but faith can lay its trembling hand upon this blessed truth-faith can observe Jesus clothed in His priestly garments, standing between the soul and God, spreading forth His hands, and pleading on behalf of the returning believer the merits of His own precious obedience and death. And thus encouraged, he may draw near and touch the scepter: "If any man sin, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous." "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.
Then said Jesus to those Jews which believed on him, If ye continue in my word, [then] are ye my disciples indeed; And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free. - John 8:31-32
In proportion to a believer's simple, filial, and close walk with God, will be his deep and spiritual discoveries of truth. "If any man will do His will, he shall know of the doctrine whether it be of God." The more steadily he walks in God's light, the clearer will he see the light. The nearer he lives to the Sun of Righteousness, the more entirely will he be flooded with its glory, and the more vividly will he reflect its brightness. The more simply and entirely the believing soul lives on Christ, the more enlarged, experimental, and practical will be his ideas of all truth. The central fact of the Bible is, Christ crucified. From this, as their center, all the lines of truth diverge, and to this, as by a common attraction, they all again return. To know Christ, then-to know Him as dwelling in the heart by His own Spirit -is to have traversed the great circle of spiritual truth. What is His own testimony? "He that has seen me, has seen the Father." "I am the Father's great revelation. I have come to make Him known. To unveil His attributes, to illustrate His law, to pour forth the ocean fullness of His love, and to erect one common platform on which may meet in holy fellowship God and the sinner-the two extremes of being. Learn of me; I am the way, the truth, and the life."
Not only will a spiritual perception of the beauty and fitness of the truth be the result of a close and filial communion with God, but the assurance that God's word is truth, and not fiction, will increase. And to be thoroughly established in this is no small attainment. To know that God's word is true-to cherish no doubt or hesitancy-to give Him full credit for all that He has said-to repose by simple faith upon the promise, and on the faithfulness of Him that has promised-is a blessing earnestly to be sought, and, when found, diligently to be kept.
To quote the striking words of the apostle, "He that believes on the Son of God has the witness in himself." He has the inward witness to the truth. He needs no outward demonstration. He is in possession of a sort of evidence to the truth of God's word which scepticism cannot shake, because it cannot reach it. He may not be able to define the precise nature of his evidence; his reply to the unbelieving objector is, "It must be felt to be known, it must be experienced to be understood. This evidence is not the result of a labored process of thought. I arrived not at it by mathematical reasoning. I was convinced by the Eternal Spirit of sin, fled to Christ, ventured my all upon Him, and now I know of a surety that God's blessed word is truth." And not more completely was his sophistry confuted, who attempted to disprove the doctrine of motion, by his opponent immediately rising and walking, than a humble, spiritual, though unlettered believer may thus put to silence the foolishness and ignorance of men. Their sophistry he may not be able to detect, their assertions he may not be able to disprove, yet by a walk holy and close with God he may demonstrate to the unbelieving universe that Jehovah's word is true.
Christian professor! are you one of Christ's true disciples, following Him closely, or are you walking at a distance from Him? A distant walk will as certainly bring darkness into the soul, with its painful attendants-unbelief-loss of evidence-hard thoughts of God-slavish fear-as if an individual were to close every inlet of a habitation to the rays of the sun, and sit down amid the gloom and obscurity with which He has enshrouded Himself. There is no true spiritual light but that which beams from the Sun of Righteousness, and to this every inlet of the soul must be open. To enjoy this light, then, a believer must dwell near the Sun-he must live close to Christ; he must live the life of daily faith upon Him-he must look away from himself to Jesus-he must walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing-he must be found prayerful and diligent in the means; while, rising above them, he draws all his life, light, and peace from the God of the means. Oh, what losers are they who walk as Peter walked-at a distance from their Lord; what seasons of endearing communion-what tokens of love-what visits of mercy they rob themselves of! What losers are they who neglect the means of grace-closet prayer-church fellowship-the communion of saints-the blessed ordinances of baptism and the Lord's supper-these channels, through which a covenant God conveys such untold blessings into the soul of His dear child; for "The secret of the Lord is with those who fear Him;" and to fear Him is not to dread Him as a slave, but as a child to walk in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless. "Oh, send out Your light and Your truth; let them lead me, let them bring me unto Your holy hill and to Your tabernacles. Then will I go unto the altar of God, unto God my exceeding joy: yes, upon the harp will I praise You, O God, my God."