Evening Thoughts or Daily Walking With God
by Octavius Winslow
The law of the LORD [is] perfect, converting the soul: - Psalm 19:7
Emanating from a Being infinitely perfect in every moral perfection, it follows as a natural sequence from this truth, that the law, designed to be a transcript of what God is-a copy of Himself-must be in every respect a most perfect law. How could it be otherwise? Is it rational to suppose that a Being of infinite holiness, wisdom, and goodness would form a rule for the government of moral creatures, that would fail to place before their eye the loftiest standard of excellence, and that should not demand and secure their supreme obedience and happiness? It follows, then, that the law being essentially and perfectly holy, all its requirements must be equally so. It cannot change, nor compromise, nor soften down either the nature or the outline or the enforcement of a single enactment. It demands of every creature the profoundest homage, the most implicit obedience, and the most perfect love. In requiring this, the creature shall have no ground for impeaching the Divine goodness. He shall have no reason for alleging of God that He is harsh and austere. As if fearful of perplexing the mind with a multitude of enactments, our Lord has presented one precept of the law, the perfect keeping of which resolves itself into a virtual fulfillment of all-"Jesus said unto him, You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the first and great commandment."
Who but an infinitely wise Lawgiver could have embodied all the requisitions of an extended code in a single one? What an unfolding of the wisdom of God is here! In securing to Himself the supreme love of His creatures, He wins a willing obedience to every precept of His law. Such is the all-commanding, all-constraining power of love to God! Employing no other than this gentle and persuasive motive, God asks your intellect-your time-your service-your rank-your substance-your person-your life-your all. In demanding this complete surrender, His law stands forth, in view of all created intelligences, as a rule worthy of Him from whom it emanates. Oh yes! It is a most righteous law.
But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, [even] the hidden [wisdom], which God ordained before the world unto our glory: - 1 Corinthians 2:7
There is much of deep mystery in revelation. God, considered both in Him and in His operations, is a mystery stretching far beyond the most sublime power of finite reason. "Can you by searching find out God? Can you find out the Almighty unto perfection?" and of His operations may we not exclaim with the inspired penman, "Lo! These are parts of His ways; but how little a portion is heard of Him!" Christ, too, is the great "mystery of godliness." Whether His complex person is regarded-the union of the Divine and human natures in one-or whether we look at His work-His obedience and death constituting a full atonement to Divine justice in behalf of the sins of His people-it must be acknowledged a depth too profound for human thought adequately to fathom. What can poor finite reason accomplish here? What beams can its feeble, flickering light cast upon this world of mystery? And if ever it stands forth invested in its own native impotence, it is when it sits in judgment upon the doctrines and facts of revelation, discarding or retaining such only as are intelligible to its dwarfish capacity. "Which things," says the apostle, "the angels desire to look into." Mark his expressions! He represented not these celestial beings of purity and intellect as scaling the heights and diving into the depths of redemption's mystery, but "which things the angels desire"-scarcely dare-but "desire to look into." And yet for a fallen and un-renewed mind to sit in judgment upon God's truth can only be exceeded in its temerity by the depravity which prompts it.
If the truth of God, in its doctrines and facts, is a mystery incomprehensible to un-renewed reason, what shall we say of the truth as experienced in the heart? If reason cannot understand the vast framework of truth, how can it comprehend the secret power by which it operates? The very fact, that to be understood it must be experienced, accounts for the difficulty. The transforming operation of the Holy Spirit upon the mind-giving it a new bias, new inclinations, turning its darkness into light, and kindling its enmity into love; the life of God in the soul, creating the man anew in Christ Jesus-that life which is hidden, ever productive of a holy life that is seen-its hopes and its fears, its defeats and its triumphs-the causes which operate to deaden it, and the spiritual nourishment by which it is supported-all, all is incomprehensible to human reason. Truly "the world knows us not."
The cause of this incapacity of reason, in its natural state, to comprehend spiritual and experimental truth is its corruption and perversion by sin. Sin has impaired our mental faculties-enslaved, clouded, and debased our reason. We open God's word, and it declares that since the fall the nature of man has been corrupt, and his reason blind; his understanding darkened, and his heart, the seat of his affections, polluted: "having the understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart." The natural man, while in that state, so far from being able to explore the wide domain of spiritual truth, hates and flees from it when proposed to his consideration, "receiving not the things of the Spirit of God, they being foolishness unto him." This being the state of man, God's word consequently declares it necessary that, before spiritual truth can be understood, he should be "transformed by the renewing of his mind;" that he should be restored to that sound mind, and enlightened understanding, and spiritual discernment, with which his nature was endowed when it came originally from the hand of God; in a word, that he should be born again, created anew in Christ Jesus; that old things should pass away, and that all things should become new. Then, and then only, will he be able to understand the "truth of God in a mystery."
But they had heard only, That he which persecuted us in times past now preacheth the faith which once he destroyed. And they glorified God in me. - Galatians 1:23-24
In the conversion of His people - their translation from nature to grace - the Redeemer is glorified. This is the first step to a manifest glorifying of Christ in His called saints. Conversion is the commencement of an endless revenue of glory to Christ. To behold a poor sinner living a life of practical enmity to God, hatred to Jesus, rebellion against the Divine government, and willful and determined hostility to the one glorious plan of salvation-perhaps a blasphemer, a persecutor, and injurious-now changed, now conquered, now sitting at the feet of Jesus, "clothed and in his right mind," oh, is there no glory thus brought to the grace of Christ Jesus? To see him translated out of darkness into God's marvelous light, emancipated from the power of sin and Satan, and made the Lord's free-man-the rebellious will conquered, the hard heart subdued, the proud spirit humbled, the hatred turned into love, and the long roving mind now finding its center of rest and fountain of happiness in a reconciled God-oh! Is there no crown of glory placed on the head of Jesus in all this? Say, you angelic spirits, bending over the mercy-seat in deep contemplation of its awful mysteries of incarnate grace and dying love-whose eyes glisten with new effulgence, and whose bosoms expand with new joy, over one sinner that repents-do you see no glory deepening around the Son of God, as each vessel of mercy is called in, emptied of self, and filled with Jesus? Oh, how are the power, the wisdom, the grace, the love of the Redeemer glorified, and God through Him, by every new accession thus made to the number of the redeemed! Aim to be instrumental of bringing one soul to receive the Lord Jesus as all its salvation, and you bring more glory to His name than were a thousand worlds like this to start into being at your fiat. "Those who be wise shall shine as the brightness of the firmament; and those who turn many to righteousness as the stars forever and ever."
In what a solemn and responsible position is every believer placed! "You are my witnesses, says the Lord." "I have created him for my glory." "You are my servant, O Israel, in whom I will be glorified." Then how "very jealous for the Lord of hosts" should we be! How vigilant, lest in any degree, or in any way, we withhold from Christ the glory due unto Him! There are many ways by which we may be betrayed into this grievous sin-a careless walk-unmortified sin-self-indulgence-a light and volatile spirit-a neglect of means-a distant walk with God-coldness of love towards the saints; but especially mixing up with, and indulging in, a sinful conformity to the world-its fashions, its pleasures, its literature, its religion! Christian reader, put the question fairly, honestly, and closely to your conscience-"Do I bring glory to Christ? Is my Redeemer magnified in me before the world and the church?" Oh, aim for a high standard! Do not be an ordinary Christian. "Herein is my Father glorified, that you bear much fruit; so shall you be my disciples." Thank God for the little, but, oh, aim for the "much fruit"-strong faith, ardent love, self-consuming zeal, unreserved obedience, holy, entire, and supreme surrender. Come, drawn by grace, constrained by love, attracted by the glory and the preciousness of Jesus-come now to that one "altar which sanctifies both the giver and the gift;" and as you lay yourself upon it, body, soul, and spirit, exclaim with the apostle, "Christ shall be magnified in my body, whether it be by life or by death." The solemn vow is taken! The holy surrender is made! It is seen, it is heard, and it is ratified in heaven! May you be so strengthened from above, "that the name of our Lord Jesus Christ may be glorified in you and you in Him, according to the grace of God and the Lord Jesus Christ."
But now is Christ risen from the dead, [and] become the firstfruits of them that slept. - 1 Corinthians 15:20
The resurrection of Christ is the pledge and earnest of the glorious resurrection of the believer. This great event-the crowning bliss of the church-has long been as a star of hope, on which the eye of faith has loved to gaze. Who does not recognize the doctrine of the resurrection, and trace the yearning of his soul for this glorious event, in the expressive and touching words of Job?-"There is hope of a tree, if it be cut down, that it will sprout again, and that the tender branch thereof will not cease. Though the root thereof waxes old in the earth, and the stock thereof dies in the ground; yet through the scent of water it will bud, and bring forth boughs like a plant." How strikingly and beautifully significant is this figure of the resurrection! His faith grafted upon the doctrine, see how his heart longed for the arrival of the event-"Oh that You would hide me in the grave, that You would keep me secret, until Your wrath be past; that You would appoint me a set time, and remember me! If a man dies, shall he live again? All the days of my appointed time" (not the appointed time of his death, as some interpret it, but of his resurrection, for this is the event he is now anticipating); "will I wait until my change come. You shall call"-oh! How sweetly will fall the sound of the archangel's trumpet upon the ear of those who sleep in Jesus!-"You shall call, and I will answer: You will have a desire to the work of Your hands." But, if possible, in terms yet more distinct and glowing, the holy patriarch announces his faith in this doctrine, and expresses his ardent longing for this event-"I know that my Redeemer lives, and that He shall stand at the latter day upon the earth: and though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God; whom I shall see for myself, and mine eyes shall behold, and not another; though my reins be consumed within me."
The hope to which the resurrection of the Lord has begotten the believer is termed by the apostle a "lively," or, as it may be rendered, a "living hope." Its life springs from the resurrection-life of Christ, just as the same glorious event imparts quickening to the whole Christian economy. "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which, according to His abundant mercy, has begotten us again unto a lively hope, by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead." Thus the believer, and he alone, can adopt the language of his Lord, as he resigns his body to the dust-and oh! Let it be the epitaph of all who sleep in Jesus-"MY FLESH ALSO SHALL REST IN HOPE." A living hope, based upon the resurrection of Jesus, smoothes his suffering pathway to the tomb; hope dissipates its gloom, and kindles within its somber recesses an immortal radiance; and hope-the beacon of the sepulcher-throws its bright beams across the dark waters of eternity, revealing in all its glory an "inheritance incorruptible and undefiled, and that fades not away." Observe how closely the two events-the resurrection of Jesus, and that of the believer-are interwoven one with the other. "Now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the first-fruits of those who slept." "Every man in his own order: Christ the firstfruits; afterwards they that are Christ's at His coming." What was the meaning of the first sheaf, which, under the law, was commanded to be presented before the Lord in His temple? Was it not to be considered as an earnest, a pledge, and a pattern of the future harvest, ripening for the sickle? So was the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. In like manner He burst from the grave, the "first-fruits," the earnest, the pledge, and the pattern of a future and a glorious harvest. As surely as He rose, so surely shall all His people rise. As certainly as the first golden sheaf has been presented in the temple, and waved before the throne of God, as certainly shall the "blade, the ear, and the full corn in the ear" be sickled in and gathered home, "and not the least grain fall upon the earth." "For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with Him."
…yet made we not our prayer before the LORD our God, that we might turn from our iniquities, and understand thy truth. Therefore hath the LORD watched upon the evil, and brought it upon us: for the LORD our God [is] righteous in all his works which he doeth:… - Daniel 9:13-14
All backsliding has its commencement in the neglect of prayer: it may date its beginning at the throne of grace. The restraining of prayer before God was the first step in departure; and the first step taken, and not immediately retraced, was quickly succeeded by others. Reader, do you tremble at the possibility of ever becoming a backslider? Do you dread the thought of wounding Jesus, then restrain not prayer before God; vigilantly guard against the first symptom of declension in this holy exercise, or if that symptom has already appeared, haste you to the dear Physician, who alone has power to arrest its progress, and heal your soul.
A distant walk from God will super-induce distant thoughts of God, and this is no light consequence of the soul's declension in the spirit and habit of prayer. If the simple axiom be true, that the more intimate we become with any object, the better we are prepared to judge of its nature and properties, we may apply it with peculiar appropriateness to our acquaintance with God. The encouraging invitation of His word is, "Acquaint now yourself with God, and be at peace." Now, it is this acquaintance with God that brings us into the knowledge of His character as a holy, loving, and faithful God; and it is this knowledge of His character that begets love and confidence in the soul towards Him. The more we know of God, the more we love Him: the more we try Him, the more we confide in Him. Let the spiritual reader, then, conceive what dire effects must result from a distant walk with God. When He appears in His corrective dealings, how will those dealings be interpreted in the distant walk of the soul? As of a covenant God? As of a loving Father? No, far from it! They will receive a harsh and unkind interpretation, and this will neutralize their effect: for in order to reap the proper fruit of the Lord's dealings with the soul, it is necessary that they should be viewed in the light of His faithfulness and love. The moment they are otherwise interpreted, the soul starts off from God, and wraps itself up in gloomy and repulsive views of His character, and government, and dealings. But this will assuredly follow from a distant walk. Oh guard against a declension in prayer; let there be no distance between God and your soul!
Do not forget that the season of trial and of bereavement is often the sanctified occasion of a revival of prayer in the soul. The Lord has marked your wanderings; He has had His eye upon the declension of your soul. That voice, always so pleasant to His ear, has ceased to call upon Him; and now He would recover you; He would hear that voice again, and how will He effect it? He causes you to "pass under the rod," sends some sore trial, lays on you some weighty cross, brings trouble and sorrow into your soul, and then you cry unto Him, and do besiege the mercy-seat. Oh how eagerly is God sought, how attractive and how precious does the throne of grace become, when the soul is thus led into deep waters of trial! No longer silent, no longer dumb, the believer calls upon God, pleads with "strong crying and tears," wrestles and agonizes, and thus the slumbering spirit of prayer is stirred up and revived in the soul. Oh sweet affliction, oh precious discipline, that brings back the wandering soul to a closer and a holier walk with God!
Again we exhort the believer-guard against the least declension in prayer; let the first unfavorable symptom that appears alarm you, go to the Lord in your worst frames; stay not from Him until you get a good one. Satan's grand argument to keep a soul from prayer is-"Go not with that cold and insensible frame; go not with that hard and sinful heart; stay until you are more fit to approach God!" and listening to this specious reasoning, many poor, distressed, burdened, longing souls have been kept from the throne of grace, and consequently from all comfort and consolation. But the gospel says-"Go in your very worst frames;" Christ says-"Come just as you are;" and every promise and every example but encourages the soul to repair to the cross, whatever be its frame or condition.
Many [are] the afflictions of the righteous: but the LORD delivereth him out of them all. - Psalm 34:19
How many and diversified are the peculiar trying circumstances of God's dear family! Each heart has its own sorrow-each soul bears its own cross; but Jesus is enough for all-He has sympathy for each and all His suffering people. Are you suffering from pining sickness? Are your days wearisome, and your nights sleepless, from the inroads of disease? Then there is sympathy in Christ for you: for it is written, "Himself took our infirmities, and bore our sicknesses." He remembers that you are but dust-and we doubt not, His blessed body knew what languid days and sleepless nights were. Oh, then, think of Jesus. That disease that wastes - that pain that racks - that debility that unnerves you, Jesus knows full and sympathetically. True, He is now beyond all physical feelings, yet His tender heart sympathizes still.
Are you suffering from temporal poverty? Are sources on which you depended broken up? Friends on whom you have leaned removed? Does want stare you in the face? And are you at a loss to know from where the next supply may come? Even here, my brother, even here, my sister, can Jesus sympathize with you. He, like you, and like the greater part of His people, was poor in this world's goods. No home sheltered, no daily-spread table provided for Him; He was a poor, homeless, houseless, friendless wanderer. The foxes had holes, and the birds had nests, but Jesus had not where to lay His blessed head-that head that ached and bled for you. Take your poverty to Him-take your needs to Him. Let the principle of faith now be exercised. Has He died for your soul-has He pardoned your sins-has He given you Himself, then will He not with Himself freely give you all things necessary for your temporal comfort, while yet a pilgrim upon earth? Take your poverty and your want simply and directly to Jesus; He has an ear to hear your cry, a heart to sympathize with your case, and a hand to supply all your need. Then again we say, take your needs simply and directly to Christ.
Has death entered your domestic circle, plucking from it some precious and valued member? Has He put lover and friend far from you, leaving the heart to weep in silence and sadness over the wreck of hopes that were so bright, and over the rupture of ties that were so tender? Oh, there is sympathy in Christ for this! Jesus knew what it was to weep over the grave of buried love-of friendship interred; He knew what it was to have affection's ties broken, leaving the heart wounded and bleeding. He can enter into your sorrow, bereaved reader; yes, even into yours. See Him at the tomb of Lazarus-see Him weep-"behold how He loved him." What! Do you repair to the grave of the dear departed one to weep and Jesus not sympathize with you? Let not unbelief close up this last remaining source of consolation-the tender sympathy of Christ. He can enter into those tears of yours: the heart's desolateness, loneliness, and disappointment are not unknown and unnoticed by our blessed Immanuel. And why has the Lord dealt thus with you? Why has He torn the idol from its temple? Why has He emptied the heart, and left it thus lonely and desolate? Oh why, but to prepare that temple for Himself; why, but to pour into its emptiness the full tide of His own precious love and sympathy. For this, beloved, has He been, and, it may be, is now dealing with you. That heart belongs to Him-He bought it at a costly price; it belongs to Him-He vanquished it by the omnipotence of His Spirit; it belongs to Him-He sealed it with His precious blood. And He would have you know this, too, by deep and sweet experience. He would have you know how He has loved you, and loves you still; He would have you know that you are His-His by eternal election-His by gift-by purchase-by conquest-by a covenant that all your departures, all your unfaithfulness, all your unworthiness, all the changing scenes through which you pass, shall never and can never alter. All this it is His will you should experience. Then bow with submission to the discipline; as a weaned child, sit you at His feet, adopting His own blessed words, "Not my will, but Your be done."
But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. - Romans 5:8
From what other and higher source could the atonement have proceeded, if not from the very heart of God? And from His heart it did proceed. And not more freely does the sun pour forth its streams of light, and not more freely does the air fan with its refreshing influence, and not more freely does the ocean-billow heave, than the atonement flows from the heart of God! "God is love;" and the seat of that love is His heart. Towards a sinner standing in the righteousness of His Son, that heart is love, and nothing but love. Not an unkind thought lodging there; not a repulsive feeling dwelling there; all is love, and love of the most tender character. Yes, we dare affirm that towards His chosen people there never has been, and there never will be, one thought of unkindness, of anger, of rebuke in the heart of God: from eternity it has been love, through time it is love, and on through eternity to come it will be love. What! Are not their afflictions, their chastisements, the rough and thorny path they tread, proofs of God's displeasure? What! Is that individual loved of God, whom I see yonder bearing that heavy and daily cross; against whom billow after billow dashes, to whom messenger after messenger is sent; whose gourds are withered in a night, and whose fountains are all broken in a day; who is poor, feeble, and dependent; what! Is that individual beloved of God? Go and ask that afflicted saint; go and ask that cross-bearing disciple; go and ask that son and daughter of disease and penury; and they will tell you, their Father's dealings with them are the most costly proofs of His love: that instead of unkindness in that cross, there was love; instead of harshness in that rebuke, there was tenderness; and that when He withered that gourd, and broke up that cistern, and removed that earthly prop, it was but to pour the tide of His own love in the heart, and satiate the soul with His goodness. Oh, dear cross! Oh, sweet affliction! Thus to open the heart of God; thus to bring God near to the soul, and the soul near to God.
Let it not be forgotten that the atonement had its origin in the heart of God; it follows, then, that it must be free. Does the sun need bribing in order to shine? Does the wind need persuasion in order to blow? Does the ocean-wave need argument in order to roll? Is the sunlight purchased? Is the air purchased? Is the water that flows from the fountain purchased? Not less free is the love of God, gushing from His heart, and flowing down through the channel of the cross of Christ, to a poor repenting, believing sinner, without works, without merit, without money, without price, without a previous fitness. Convictions do not merit it; repentances do not merit it; tears do not merit it; faith does not merit it. Pardon to the chief of sinners-forgiveness to the vilest of the vile-the blotting out of sins of the deepest dye-the justification and acceptance of the most unworthy-all, free as the heart of God can make it. The hungry and the thirsty, the poor and the penniless, the weary and the heavy-laden, may come to the gospel provision, for the heart of God bids them welcome.
The objects contemplated in the special and gracious design of the atonement establish its perfect freeness beyond all questions. Who are they? Are they spoken of as the worthy, the righteous, the deserving, the rich, and the noble? The very reverse! They are sinners, ungodly, unworthy. "When we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly." And see how our blessed Lord confirms this statement: "I am not come to call the righteous (that is, the self-righteous-those who were righteous in their own estimation, and despised others), but sinners to repentance." And who did He save when upon earth? Were they the worthy or the most unworthy? Were they the righteous or sinners? Take the case of Saul of Tarsus. His own description of his previous character will certainly be believed: "which was before a blasphemer, and a persecutor, and injurious." And yet he "obtained mercy:" and why? "That in me Jesus Christ might show forth all longsuffering, for a pattern to them who should hereafter believe on Him to life everlasting." If Saul of Tarsus, then, obtained mercy-obtained it as a sinner of the deepest dye-obtained it fully, freely, aside from all human merit-penitent reader, so may you.
But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness. - Romans 4:5
Faith has to do with the understanding and the heart. A man must know his lost and ruined condition before he will accept of Christ; and how can he know this, without a spiritually enlightened mind? What a surprising change now passes over the man! He is brought, by the mighty power of the Holy Spirit, to knowledge of himself. One beam of light, one touch of the Spirit, has altered all his views of himself, has placed him in a new aspect; all big thoughts, his affections, his desires, are diverted into another and an opposite channel; his fond views of his own righteousness have fled like a dream, his high thoughts are humbled, his lofty looks are brought low, and, as a broken-hearted sinner, he takes his place in the dust before God. Oh wondrous, oh blessed change! To see the Pharisee take the place, and to hear him utter the cry, of the Publican-"God be merciful to me a sinner!"-to hear him exclaim, "I am lost, self-ruined, deserving eternal wrath; and of sinners the vilest and the chief." And now the work and exercise of faith commences; the same blessed Spirit that convinced of sin presents to the soul a Savior crucified for the lost-unfolds a salvation full and free for the most worthless-reveals a fountain that "cleanses from all sin," and holds up to view a righteousness that "justifies from all things." And all that He sets the poor convinced sinner upon doing to avail himself of this is simply to believe. To the momentous question, "What shall I do to be saved?" this is the only reply-"Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and you shall be saved." The anxious soul eagerly exclaims-"Have I then nothing to do but to believe?-have I no great work to accomplish, no price to bring, no worthiness to plead?-may I come just as I am, without merit, without self-preparation, without money, with all my vileness and nothingness?" Still the reply is, "Only believe." "Then, Lord, I do believe," exclaims the soul in a transport of joy; "help my unbelief." This, reader, is faith-faith, that wondrous grace, that mighty act of which you have heard so much, upon which so many volumes have been written, and so many sermons have been preached; it is the simple rolling of a wounded, bleeding heart upon a wounded, bleeding Savior; it is the simple reception of the amazing truth, that Jesus died for the ungodly-died for sinners-died for the poor, the vile, the bankrupt; that He invites and welcomes to His bosom all poor, convinced, heavy-laden sinners. The heart, believing this wondrous announcement, going out of all other dependencies and resting only in this-receiving it, welcoming it, rejoicing in it, in a moment, all, all is peace. Do not forget, Reader, which faith is but to believe with all the heart that Jesus died for sinners; and the full belief of this one fact will bring peace to the most anxious and sin-troubled soul.
…that thou mayest know how thou oughtest to behave thyself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth. - 1 Timothy 3:15
God has been graciously pleased to appoint His church the great conservator of His truth, and His truth the especial medium of sanctification to His church; there is a close and beautiful relation between the two. The church may be compared to the golden lamp which contains the sacred oil, which, in its turn, feeds the flame of its light and holiness. The church is to guard with a jealous and vigilant eye the purity of the truth, while the truth is to beautify and sanctify the ark which preserves it. Thus there is a close relation, and a reciprocal influence, between the church of Christ and the truth of God.
Every individual believer in Jesus is himself a subject, and therefore a witness, of the truth; he has been quickened, called, renewed, and partially sanctified through the instrumentality of God's revealed truth: "Of His own will begat He us with the word of truth." "For the truth's sake which dwells in us." "You are my witnesses, says the Lord." Here is unfolded one of the most solemn and affecting truths touching the character and individual responsibility of a child of God. He is a subject of truth, he is a repository of the truth, and he is a witness for the truth; yes, he is the only living witness to the truth which God has on earth. The world he lives in is a dark, polluted, God-blaspheming, Christ-denying, truth-despising world. The saints, who have been called out of it according to His eternal purpose and love, and by His sovereign, distinguishing, and free grace, are the only lights and the only salt in the midst of this moral darkness and corruption. Here and there a light glimmers, irradiating the gloomy sphere in which it moves; here and there a spot of verdure appears, relieving the arid and barren desolation by which it is surrounded. These are the saints of the Most High, the witnesses of the Divine character, the omnipotent power, and the holy tendency, of God's blessed truth. Let the saints of God, then, solemnly weigh this affecting fact, that though the written word and the accompanying Spirit are God's witnesses in the world, yet they are the only living exemplification of the power of the truth, and, as such, are earnestly exhorted to be "blameless and harmless, the sons of God without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom you shine as lights in the world." Let them be careful to maintain good works, and so walk in all the holiness of the truth they profess; let them see that by no carelessness of deportment, by no want of integrity, by no worldly conformity, yes, by no inconsistency whatever, they bring a slur upon the holy doctrines they avowedly maintain and love; but let them show that, with the truth in their judgments, they possess grace in the heart, and unspotted holiness in the life.
…for our backslidings are many; we have sinned against thee. - Jeremiah 14:7
All spiritual declension in the true believer necessarily implies the actual possession of grace. We must not lose sight of this truth. Never, in the lowest condition of the believer, does Christ deny His own work in the soul. "You have a little strength," are His heart-melting words to the backsliding church in Sardis. Oh, what a gracious, patience Savior is ours! But let us briefly trace this melancholy state to some of its causes that we may be better able to point out its appropriate remedy.
The first cause undoubtedly is the unguarded state of the soul. A Christian living in the daily neglect of self-examination must not marvel if, at a certain period of his religious course, he finds himself trembling upon the brink of gloomy despondency, his evidences gone, his hope obscured, and all the past of his Christian profession appearing to his view as a fearful delusion. But here let me suggest the cure. Examine before God the real state of your soul. Ascertain where you have lost ground. Retrace your way. Look honestly and fairly at your condition. Discouraging and repelling as it may appear, look it fully in the face, and lay it open before God exactly as it is, in the spirit and language of the Psalmist: "Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me, and know my thoughts; and see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting."
The grieving of the Spirit of God is a most fruitful cause of spiritual relapse. We have yet much to learn of our entire dependence upon the Holy Spirit and of our eternal obligation to Him for all the blessings of which He is the author and the conveyancer. What themes for grateful contemplation to the spiritual mind are the love of the Spirit-the faithfulness of the Spirit-the tenderness of the Spirit-the patience of the Spirit! And yet in the long catalogue of the believer's backslidings, not the least is his grieving this Holy Spirit of God. But there is a remedy. Seek that Spirit whom you have driven from your presence; implore His return: beseech Him for Jesus' sake to revisit you, to breathe His reviving influence as of old upon your soul. Then will return the happy days of former years, the sweet seasons of your early history, and you shall "sing as in the days of your youth, and as in the day when you came up out of the land of Egypt."
"Return, O holy Dove, return,
Sweet messenger of rest;
I hate the sins that made You mourn,
And drove You from my breast."
Distance from the cross contributes greatly to a state of spiritual declension. Retiring from beneath its shelter and its shade, you have left the region of safety, light, and peace, and, wandering over the mountains of sin, worldliness and unbelief - have lost yourself amid their darkness, solitude and gloom. Turning away from the cross of Jesus, you have lost the view you once had of a sin-pardoning, reconciled Father; and judging of Him now by His providences and not by His promises, and contemplating Him through the gloomy medium of a conscience unsprinkled with the blood of Christ, you are disposed to impeach the wisdom, the faithfulness, and the love of all His conduct towards you. But listen to the remedy. Yield yourself afresh to the attractions of the cross. Return, return to it again. No burning cherubim or flaming sword guards its avenue. The atoning blood there shed has opened the way of the sinner's approach, and the interceding High Priest in heaven keeps it open for every repentant prodigal. Return to the true cross. Come and sit down beneath its grateful shade. Poor, weary wanderer! There is life and power, peace and repose, for you still in the cross of Christ. Mercy speaks from it, God smiles in it, Jesus stands by it, and the Holy Spirit, hovering above it, is prepared to reveal it to you afresh, in all its healing, restoring power.
…He was led as a sheep to the slaughter; and like a lamb dumb before his shearer, so opened he not his mouth: In his humiliation his judgment was taken away: and who shall declare his generation? for his life is taken from the earth. - Acts 8:32-33
In the person of the Son of God, the two extremes of being-the infinite and the finite-meet in strange and mysterious, but close and eternal union. The Divine came down to the human-Deity humbled itself to humanity. This was humiliation indeed! It was not the creature descending in the scale of creation, but it was the Creator stooping to the creature. "God was manifest in the flesh." "He humbled Himself." Oh, it is an amazing truth! So infinitely great was He, He could thus stoop without compromising His dignity, or lessening His glory.
But, if possible, a step lower did He seem to descend. Thus in prophetic language did he announce it: "I am a worm and no man." What astounding words are these! Here was the God-man sinking, as it were, in the depths of abasement and humiliation below the human. "I am a worm, and no man!" In the lowliness which marked His external appearance, in the estimation in which He was held by men, in the contemptuous treatment which He received from His enemies, the trampling of His glory in the dust, and the crushing of His person on the cross, would seem in His own view to have robbed Him, not only of His glory as God, but even to have divested Him of His dignity as man! "I am a worm, and no man!" Oh, here is glory-glory surpassing all imagination, all thought, all power of utterance! He who bent His footsteps along this flinty path, He who sunk thus low, was Jehovah, the "mighty God, the everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace." Wonder, O heavens, and be astonished, O earth! Lowliness and majesty, humiliation and glory, how strangely were they blended in You, O incarnate God!
The assumption of our nature, in its depressed and bruised condition, constituted no small feature in the abasement of the Son of God. That, in the strong language of the Holy Spirit, He was "holy, harmless, undefiled, and separate from sinners," is a truth we cannot too distinctly affirm, or too earnestly maintain. The least misgiving touching the perfect sinlessness of the human nature of our Lord tends to weaken the confidence of faith in the atonement, and so to enshroud in darkness the hope of the soul. As a single leak must have sunk the ark beneath the waves, so the existence of the slightest taint of sin in Jesus would have opened an inlet through which the dark billows of Divine wrath would have rolled, plunging both Himself and the church He sustained in eternal woe. But that "holy thing" that was begotten of the Holy Spirit knew not the least moral taint. He "knew no sin," He was the sacrificial "Lamb without spot." And because He presented to the Divine requirement a holy, unblemished, and perfect obedience and satisfaction, we who believe are "made the righteousness of God in Him."
But His taking up into subsistence with His own our nature in its fallen condition, comprehends the sinless infirmities and weaknesses with which it was identified and encompassed. When I see my Lord and Master bowed with grief and enduring privation, when I behold Him making the needs and sorrows and sufferings of others His own, what do I learn but that He was truly a "man of sorrows and acquainted with grief"? Is there any spectacle more affecting, than thus to behold the Incarnate God entering personally and sympathetically into all the humiliations of my poor, bruised, vile nature, and yet remaining untouched, untainted by its sin?-taking my weaknesses, bearing my sicknesses, sorrowing when I sorrow, weeping when I weep, touched with the feeling of my infirmities, in all points tempted like as I am.
Then spake Jesus again unto them, saying, I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life. - John 8:12
Are you, my Reader, a searcher of this life? Are you breathing for it, panting after it, seeking it? Then be it known to you, that He who inspired that desire is Himself the life for which you seek. That heaving of your heart, that yearning of your spirit, that "feeling after God, if haply you may find Him," is the first gentle pulsation of a life that shall never die. Feeble and fluctuating, faint and fluttering, as its throbbings may be, it is yet the life of God, the life of Christ, the life of glory in your soul. It is the seedling, the germ of immortal flower; it is the sunshine dawn of an eternal day. The announcement with which we meet your case-and it is the only one that can meet it-is, "THIS MAN RECEIVES SINNERS." Oh joyful tidings! Oh blessed words! Yes, he receives sinners-the vilest-the meanest-the most despised! It was for this He relinquished the abodes of heavenly purity and bliss, to mingle amid the sinful and humiliating scenes of earth. For this He quitted His Father's bosom for a cross. For this He lived and labored, suffered and died. "He receives sinners!" He receives them of every name and condition-of every stature and character and climate. There is no limit to His ability to pardon, as there is none to the sufficiency of His atonement, or to the melting pity of His heart. Flee, then, to Jesus the crucified. To Him repair with your sins, as scarlet and as crimson, and His blood will wash you whiter than snow. What though they may be as clouds for darkness, or as the sand on the sea-shore for multitude; His grace can take them all away. Come with the accusations and tortures of a guilty conscience, come with the sorrow and relentings of a broken heart, come with the grief of the backslider, and with the confession of the prodigal; Jesus still meets you with the hope-inspiring words-"Him that comes unto me, I will in no wise cast out." Then, "return unto the Lord, and He will have mercy upon you; and to our God, for He will abundantly pardon!"
Who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation… - 1 Peter 1:5
This salvation takes in all the circumstances of a child of God. It is not only a salvation from wrath to come-that were an immeasurable act of grace-but it is a present salvation, anticipating and providing for every exigency of the life that now is, including deliverance from all evil, help in all trouble; comfort in all sorrow, the supply of all want, and through all conflicts, assaults, and difficulties, perfect safety and final triumph. The present and certain security of the believer is provided for in the covenant of grace, made sure in Jesus the covenant Head, and revealed in the glorious covenant plan of salvation. May the Holy Spirit unfold to us this great and consoling truth, that in the midst of all their weakness, waywardness, and tendency to wander, the Lord is the keeper of His people, and that they whom He keeps are well and eternally kept.
The Lord could not in truth be said to be the keeper of His people, if there were anything of self-power in the believer, any ability to keep himself-if he were not weakness, all weakness, and nothing but weakness. Of this the believer needs to be perpetually put in remembrance. The principle of self-confidence is the natural product of the human heart; the great characteristic of our apostate race is a desire to live, and think, and act independently of God. What is the great citadel, to the overthrow of which Divine grace first directs its power? What is the first step it takes in the subjection of the sinner to God? What, but the breaking down of this lofty, towering, independent conceit of himself, so natural to man, and so abhorrent to God? Now, let it be remembered, that Divine and sovereign grace undertakes not the extraction of the root of this depraved principle from the heart of its subjects. The root remains to the very close of life's pilgrimage; though in a measure weakened, subdued, mortified, still it remains; demanding the most rigid watchfulness, connected with ceaseless prayer, lest it should spring upward, to the destruction of his soul's prosperity, the grieving of the Spirit, and the dishonoring of God. Oh how much the tender, faithful discipline of a covenant God may have the subjection and mortification of this hateful principle for its blessed end, who can tell? We shall never fully know until we reach our Father's house, where the dark and, to us, mysterious dealings of that loving Father with us here below shall unfold themselves in light and glory, elevating the soul in love and praise!
What an affecting confirmation do the histories of some of the most eminent of God's saints afford to this most important truth, that the creature, left to itself, is perfect weakness! If the angels in their purity, if Adam in his state of innocence, fell in consequence of being left, in the sovereign will of God, to their own keeping, what may we expect from a fallen, sinful, imperfect creature, even though renewed? Do we look into God's blessed word, and read what is there declared, touching the power of a renewed creature to keep itself? How affecting, and at the same time conclusive, these declarations are: "Having no might;" "Without strength;" "Weak through the flesh;" "Out of weakness were made strong"! Could language more forcibly set forth the utter weakness of a child of God? And what are their own acknowledgments? "The Lord is the strength of my life;" "Hold You me up, and I shall be safe;" "Hold up my goings in Your paths, that my footsteps slip not;" "Yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me;" "By the grace of God I am what I am." And what are the examples? Look at the intemperance of Noah, the unbelief of Abraham, the adultery and murder of David, the idolatry of Solomon, the self-righteousness of Job, the impatience of Moses, the self-confidence and trimming, temporizing policy of Peter. Solemn are these lessons of the creature's nothingness; affecting these examples of his perfect weakness!
But why speak of others? Let the reader, if he is a professing child of God, pause and survey the past of his own life. What marks of perfect weakness may he discover, what evidences of his own fickleness, folly, immature judgment, may he trace, what outbreakings of deep iniquity, what disclosures of hidden corruption, what startling symptoms of the most awful departure and apostasy from God, does the review present! And, this, too, let it be remembered, is the history of a believer in Jesus, a renewed child of God, a partaker of the Divine nature, an expectant of eternal glory! Holy and blessed are they who, relinquishing all their fond conceit of self-power and self-keeping, shall pray, and cease not to pray, "Lord, hold You me up, and I shall be safe!" "Let him that thinks he stands, take heed lest he fall."
Being filled with the fruits of righteousness, which are by Jesus Christ, unto the glory and praise of God. - Philippians 1:11
There is a perpetual proneness to seek our fruitfulness from anything save a close, spiritual, and constant dealing with the cross of Jesus: but as well might we expect the earth to clothe itself with verdure, or the tree to blossom, and the blossom ripen into fruit, without the sun's genial warmth, as to look for fruitfulness in a regenerate soul, without a constant dealing with the Lord Jesus Christ; for just what the sun is to the kingdom of nature, Jesus the Sun of righteousness is to the kingdom of grace-the blessed source of all its verdure, fragrance, and fruitfulness. Then, let all your expectations be centered here. No real good can come to you, no healing to your spirit, no fruitfulness to your soul, from a perpetual living upon convictions of sin, legal fears, or transient joys; the Divine life can derive no nourishment from these. But live upon the atoning blood of Jesus-here is the fatness of your soul found; this it is that heals the wound, wins the heart, and hushes to repose every fear of condemnation; this it is that enables a poor sinner to look full at God, feeling that justice, holiness, truth, and every Divine perfection are on his side. It is the blood of Jesus, applied by the Spirit, that moistens each fiber of the root of holiness in the soul, and is productive of its fruitfulness; this it is that sends the warm current of life through every part of the regenerate man, quickening the pulse of love, and imparting a healthy and vigorous power to every act of obedience. And when the spiritual seasons change-for it is not always spring-time with the soul of a child of God-when the summer's sun withers, or the autumnal blast scatters the leaves, and winter's fiercer storm beats upon the smitten bough, the blood and righteousness of Christ, lived upon, loved, and cherished, will yet sustain the Divine life in the soul, and in due season the spring blossom and the summer fruit shall again appear, proving that the Divine life of a believer is "hid with Christ in God." Then shall be said of you, as was said of the church by her Beloved: "The winter is past, and the rain is over and gone; the flowers appear on the earth, the time of the singing of birds is come, and the voice of the turtle is heard in our land. The fig-tree puts forth her green figs, and the vines with the tender grape give a good smell. Arise, my love, my fair one, and come away." Then let your heart respond, "Awake, O north wind, and come, you south, blow upon my garden, that the spices thereof may flow out."
Let the believer be aware how he despises what little fruitfulness the Lord the Spirit may have given him: there is danger of this. But, dear reader, it is a mercy for you to know that the Lord does not regard your estimate of a fruitful state; else, were the Lord to judge and condemn us as we do ourselves; were He to despise His own work as we too frequently do, it would indeed go hard with us. But He does not: that which we have often thought unworthy of His notice, He has looked down upon with the greatest complacency and delight. See, then, that you despise not what the Lord has wrought for you. Any desire of the heart for Christ, any secret brokenness, any godly sorrow over indwelling sin, any feeble going out of self and leaning on Jesus, is the gracious work of the Holy Spirit in the soul, and must not be undervalued or unacknowledged. A truly humbled view of self is one of the most precious fruits of the Spirit; it indicates more real fruitfulness, perhaps, than any other state of mind. That ear of corn which is the most full of grain hangs the lowest; that bough which is the most heavily laden with fruit bends the nearest to the ground. It is no unequivocal mark of great spiritual fruitfulness in a believer, when tenderness of conscience, contrition of spirit, low thoughts of self and high thoughts of Jesus, marks the state of his soul. "Who has despised the day of small things?" Not Jesus!
He looketh upon men, and [if any] say, I have sinned, and perverted [that which was] right, and it profited me not; He will deliver his soul from going into the pit, and his life shall see the light. - Job 33:27-28
Let the child of God be encouraged to take all his sins to his heavenly Father. Have you sinned? Have you taken a single step in departure from God? Is there the slightest consciousness of guilt? Go at once to the throne of grace; stay not until you find some secret place for confession-stay not until you are alone; lift up your heart at once to God, and confess your sin with the hand of faith upon the great, atoning Sacrifice. Open all your heart to Him. Do not be afraid of a full and honest confession. Shrink not from unfolding its most secret recesses-lay all bare before His eyes. Do you think He will turn from the exposure? Do you think He will close His ear against your breathings? Oh no! Listen to His own encouraging, persuasive declarations-"Go and proclaim these words towards the north, and say, 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; and I will not keep anger forever. Only acknowledge your iniquity that you have transgressed against the Lord your God." "I will heal their backsliding; I will love them freely; for mine anger is turned away from him." Oh, what words are these! Does the eye of the poor backslider fall on this page? And as he now reads of God's readiness to pardon-of God's willingness to receive back the repenting prodigal-of His yearning after His wandering child-feels his heart melted, his soul subdued, and, struck with that amazing declaration, "Only acknowledge your iniquity," would dare creep down at His feet, and weep, and mourn, and confess. Oh! Is there one such now reading this page? Then return, my brother, return! God-the God against whom you have sinned-says, "Return." Your Father - the Father from whom you have wandered-is looking out for the first return of your soul, for the first kindling of godly sorrow, for the first confession of sin. God has not turned His back upon you, though you have turned your back upon Him. God has not forgotten to be gracious, though you have forgotten to be faithful. "I remember you"-is His own touching language-"the kindness of your youth, the love of your espousals." Oh! then, come back; this moment, come back; the fountain is still open-Jesus is still the same-the blessed and eternal Spirit, loving and faithful as ever-God ready for pardon: take up, then, the language of the prodigal and say, "I will arise and go to my Father, and will say unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven and in Your sight, and am no more worthy to be called Your son." "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness."
The blessings that result from a strict observance of daily confession of sin are rich and varied. We would from the many specify two. The conscience retains its tender susceptibility of guilt. Just as a breath will tarnish a mirror highly polished, so will the slightest aberration of the heart from God-the smallest sin-leave its impression upon a conscience in the habit of a daily unburdening itself in confession, and of a daily washing in the fountain. Going thus to God, and acknowledging iniquity over the head of Immanuel-pleading the atoning blood-the conscience retains its tenderness, and sin, all sin, is viewed as that which God hates, and the soul abhors.
This habit, too, keeps, so to speak, a clear account between God and the believer. Sins daily and hourly committed are not forgotten; they fade not from the mind, and therefore they need not the correcting rod to recall them to remembrance. For let us not forget, God will eventually bring our sins to remembrance; "He will call to remembrance the iniquity." David had forgotten his sin against God, and his treacherous conduct to Uriah, until God sent the prophet Nathan to bring his iniquity to remembrance. A daily confession, then, of sin, a daily washing in the fountain, will preserve the believer from many and, perhaps, deep afflictions. This was David's testimony-"I acknowledged my sin unto You, and mine iniquity have I not hid. I said, I will confess my transgression unto the Lord, and You forgave the iniquity of my sin."
By faith Abraham, when he was called to go out into a place which he should after receive for an inheritance, obeyed; and he went out, not knowing whither he went. - Hebrews 11:8
The entire spiritual life of a child of God is a life of faith-God has so ordained it; and to bring him into the full and blessed experience of it - is the end of all His parental dealings with him. If we desire to see our way every step of our homeward path, we must abandon the more difficult though more blessed ascent of faith; it is impossible to walk by sight and by faith at the same time-the two paths run in opposite directions. If the Lord were to reveal the why and the why of all His dealings-if we were only to advance as we saw the spot on which we were to place our foot, or only to go out as we knew the place where we were going-it then were no longer a life of faith that we lived, but of sight. We shall have exchanged the life which glorifies, for the life which dishonors God. When God, about to deliver the Israelites from the power of Pharaoh, commanded them to advance, it was before He revealed the way by which He was about to rescue them. The Red Sea rolled its deep and frowning waves at their feet; they saw not a spot of dry ground on which they could tread; and yet this was the command to Moses- "Speak unto the children of Israel that they go forward." They were to "walk by faith, not by sight." It had been no exercise of faith in God, no confidence in His promise, no resting in His faithfulness, and no "magnifying of His word above all His name," had they waited until the waters cleaved asunder, and a dry passage opened to their view. But, like the patriarchs, they "staggered not at the promise of God through unbelief; but were strong in faith, giving glory to God." Have little to do with sense, if you would have much to do with faith. Expect not always to see the way. God may call you to go out into a place, not making known to you where you go; but it is your duty, like Abraham, to obey. All that you have to do is to go forward, leaving all consequences and results to God: it is enough for you that the Lord by this providence says, "Go forward!" This is all you may hear; it is your duty instantly to respond, "Lord, I go at Your bidding; bid me come to You, though it be upon the stormy water."
"Having begun in the Spirit," the believer is not to be "made perfect in the flesh;" having commenced his divine life in faith, in faith he is to walk every step of his journey homewards. The moment a poor sinner has touched the hem of Christ's garment, feeble though this act of faith be, it is yet the commencement of this high and holy life of faith; even from that moment the believing soul professes to have done with a life of sense-with second causes-and to have entered upon a glorious life of faith in Christ. It is no forced application to him of the apostle's declaration: "I am crucified with Christ; nevertheless I live, yet not I, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh, I live by the faith of the Son of God."
These words spake Jesus, and lifted up his eyes to heaven, and said, Father, the hour is come; glorify thy Son, that thy Son also may glorify thee: As thou hast given him power over all flesh, that he should give eternal life to as many as thou hast given him. - John 17:1-2
The certain glorification with Jesus of every believer is a truth as much involving the honor of God, as it does the present comfort and future happiness of the church. The opposite sentiment-the possibility of a child of God falling short of eternal glory (a doctrine, let it be observed, at total variance with the entire Scriptures of truth), by unhinging the soul from God, and throwing it back completely upon itself, must necessarily lead to low and dishonoring views of the Divine character; while it begets in the mind a spirit of bondage, and a sense of the most painful apprehension, both equally inimical to a healthy and fruitful Christianity. But the most solemn, I may say awful, light in which the doctrine of the believer's final insecurity presents itself is, that it casts a thick veil over the glory of Immanuel. It touches every perfection of his being. Oh could the dear saints of God, thus tossed in the troubled sea of doubt, and thus agitated with a "fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation," but be brought to see how the Jesus whom they love is wounded, dishonored, and shorn of His glory by this unscriptural tenet, would they not unhesitatingly renounce it as leading to a result so fearful? Can that, I earnestly ask, be a doctrine of Divine revelation, which tends in the slightest degree to shade the glory of Christ? If one of those given to Him of His Father-one whose sins He carried, whose curse He bore, whose soul He has renewed by the grace of His Spirit-were permitted finally and eternally to perish, where would be His glory? Where the glory of His truth? Where the glory of His power? Where the glory of His love? Where the glory of His work? Gone! Every perfection of His Divine being would be impeached, and every beam of His Divine glory would be tarnished.
But all shall be brought safely to heaven. Hark, how distinctly and authoritatively He pleads for this, their crowning blessing, when on the eve of His mysterious passion, and about to spring from His cross to His throne. "Father, I will that they also whom You have given me be with me where I am; that they may behold my glory." Sublime prayer!-comprehensive and tender petition! How did the Head long to have with Him, where He was, each member of His body! Having had fellowship with Him in His humiliation, it was His desire that they should have fellowship with Him in His glory. And this He asks not as a gift, but claims as a right. In virtue of His covenant engagement with the Father, His full satisfaction to Divine justice, His perfect obedience to the Divine law, His finished redemption of His people, He reverently bows at the mercy-seat, and pours out His full soul, and unburdens His loving heart, in the most sublime petition that ever ascended from mortal lip: "Father, I will that they also whom You have given me be with me where I am." And mark the reason why-"that they may behold my glory." Consummation of glory!-overflowing cup of bliss!-height of perfect holiness! Was it the parting charge of Joseph to His brethren-"You shall tell my father of all my glory in Egypt, and of all that you have seen; and you shall haste and bring down my father here"? Our Joseph, with love infinitely more intense, desires that all His brethren be brought to heaven, that they may behold His glory there-the glory of His unveiled Deity-the glory of His glorified humanity-and the glory to which, as Mediator, His Father has advanced Him.
But not as the offence, so also [is] the free gift. For if through the offence of one many be dead, much more the grace of God, and the gift by grace, [which is] by one man, Jesus Christ, hath abounded unto many. - Romans 5:15
From the want of clear and spiritual views of the freeness of the atonement, the perfectly unconditional bestowment of the blessings of pardon and justification, many are kept, even among those "called to be saints," from entering fully into the liberty and peace of the gospel. They have been convinced of their need of Christ; they have been made to hunger and thirst for pardon and acceptance; they have been brought, it may be, through a deep "law-work of the soul," to stand as on the very borders of the land that flows with milk and honey; but looking more to themselves, and less to Christ-lingering on its margin, while the river flows so richly and so freely at their feet, waiting for some condition to be performed, some fitness to be experienced, or some price to bring-they are kept back from those rich and untold blessings which a closing in with Jesus the Savior of sinners would assuredly bring into their possession.
Where will be found more distinct and glorious views of the atonement-its nature, design, and freeness-than are found in the Old Testament writings? This is the testimony to the perfect freeness of the gift: "Ho! Every one that thirsts, come you to the waters; and he that has no money, come you, buy and eat; yes, come, buy wine and milk, without money and without price." Behold the freeness of the rich and inestimable blessing! "Without money, without price." The simple meaning of which is-without worthiness, without fitness, without condition. So that the most unworthy, the most vile, the most penniless, may come and drink water freely out of the wells of salvation. This is the language of God by the mouth of His prophets. What a gospel then is here revealed! How full the supply! How free the gift! And if this was the language of God under the obscure exhibition of the gospel, what must be His free welcome to poor sinners under the full meridian glory of the gospel? Now that Christ has come, and the atonement has been made, and the fountain has been opened, and the invitation has gone out, can we suppose that the blessing of pardon will be less freely bestowed? Again-"The Spirit of the Lord is upon me; because the Lord has anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek: He has sent me to bind up the broken-hearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound." Mark the expressions as descriptive of the characters to whom our blessed Lord came-"broken-hearted"-"captives"-"those who are bound." Where was the worthiness here? What price with which to purchase their redemption had these "broken-hearted," these "captives," these "bound"? See, then, how the glorious atonement received its stamp of freeness, even under the legal dispensation. Come, we now to the clearer revelations of the new dispensation.
Take those remarkable words-"And when they had nothing to pay, he frankly forgave them both." Oh sweet expression! "Nothing to pay"! Entirely bankrupt! Poor, wretched, penniless, bereft of all-nothing to pay, and yet frankly forgiven; that is, fully, freely, cordially forgiven-forgiven with all the heart of God. But one other passage is adduced- "And the Spirit and the bride say, Come. And let him that hears say, Come. And let him that is athirst come. And whoever will, let him take the water of life freely." See how the word of God closes with the proclamation of a free-grace salvation. The last words that linger in sweet vibration on the ear, as the blessed canon of Scripture closes, are, "the water of life freely"!
But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope. - 1 Thessalonians 4:13
It is a magnificent and expressive image this by which Christianity presents to the bereaved mind the departure of brethren in Christ. They are not dead, they are asleep. The question instantly arises - What is it which, in the experience of the believer, has so materially changed the aspect of death? What is it that invests this solemn, this fearful crisis of our being with so softened and mitigated a character? What is it that throws around the pillow of the expiring saint an air of repose so sacred, so peaceful, and serene? The ATONEMENT of the Son of God alone supplies the answer. The influence of His death and the power of His resurrection have changed, in the case of all believers in Christ, the entire character and aspect of death. The Savior, by dying, conquered death. Plucking his pale crown from his brow, hurling him from his towering throne, snapping in twain his proud scepter, and with His own blood washing away the venom of his dart! Lo! Death is no more the "king of terrors" to those who believe. Entering within his gloomy palace-there slumbering awhile-then returning victorious the "Resurrection and the Life"-henceforward to the Christian to depart is not to die, but-to sleep!
And what is that sleep? No unconsciousness of the soul is it! No intermediate state of dreamy insensibility-of cold, silent torpidity of spirit, waiting the voice of the archangel and the trumpet of God to dissolve its slumber. The believer sleeps; but it is the sleep of the body, and not of the soul. "Absent from the body," in the full, unclouded, unimpaired consciousness, intelligence, and joyousness of the spirit, he is "present with the Lord." Death to him is but a change of place; not of state. As the natural sleep of the body is not the extinction, nor even the momentary suspension, of the soul's intellectual faculties-for who has not experienced that some of the profoundest thoughts and most sublime soarings of the imagination have been those which have played around the pillow of midnight slumber, like gleams of summer lightning upon the lurid night?-so, in like manner, when death has sealed in profound unconsciousness the material senses, the immaterial and the immortal is expatiating amid the glories and the wonders of the spiritual world, as it springs from star to star and from sun to sun-and thus sleep becomes the gentle and expressive emblem of the Christian's death. They "sleep in Jesus," who is the "Resurrection and the Life;" how, then, can it be possible that the soul is unconscious, since it is in union-personal, changeless union-with Him who, in His office as Mediator, has said, "Because I live, you shall live also"?
The death-sleep of the believer is a season of complete bodily and mental repose. How precious is this prospect to the child of God! Lighting up even the grim visage of the last foe with a smile of pleasantness! We naturally attach the idea of rest to sleep. What a rest remains even in the grave for the people of God! "There the wicked cease from troubling, and there the weary be at rest." Who so wearied as the believer in Jesus? With him the world is a toilsome desert-life a scene of conflict and of trial-the travel to heaven a pilgrimage arduous, self-denying, and lonely. We have to contend with principalities and powers, to conflict with foes visible and invisible, to subdue indwelling sin, and repel outward temptation. Then there are the "many afflictions" which belong to the "righteous," the trials peculiar and sore with which the Lord in love tries His people. In the midst of all this, and superadded as an element of weariness yet more potent, there is often the drooping of faith, the chill of love, the obscured evidences, the beclouded hope, the withdrawal of the Divine presence, the suspension of the sensible comforts and consolations of the Holy Spirit; all conspiring to make this a weary land. Thus the soul of the believer is frequently cast down within him because of the way. But "the sleep of a laboring man is sweet;" and such is the sleep in Jesus of the believer, the Christian laborer. In view of this truth, how chastened and cheered should be our sorrow when visiting the graves of the holy dead. Not a wavelet disturbs their calm repose. No painful sufferings, no convulsive throes, no affrighting dreams; no mental wanderings, no confused sounds, no fantastic fancies disturb their peaceful slumber. The world is rushing on, as before, in turmoil, sin, and conflict-the war-cry, the martial music, the sigh of sorrow, and the wail of agony are heard-but not a spent echo mars their placid rest. The body reposes in the tomb, the soul in the Paradise of God, and over their graves is heard a voice, saying, "Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord from henceforth; yes, says the Spirit, that they may rest from their labors; and their works do follow them."
Though he were a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered; And being made perfect, he became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him; - Hebrews 5:8-9
The basis or cause of the completeness of Christ's atonement arises from the infinite dignity of His person: His Godhead forms the basis of His perfect work. It was this that gave perfection to His obedience, and virtue to His atonement: it was this that made the blood He shed efficacious in the pardon of sin, and the righteousness He wrought out complete in the justification of the soul. His entire work would have been wanting but for His Godhead. No created Savior could have given full satisfaction to an infinite law, broken by man, and calling aloud for vengeance. Obedience was required in every respect equal in glory and dignity to the law that was violated. The rights of the Divine government must be maintained, the purity of the Divine nature must be guarded, and the honor of the Divine law must be vindicated. To accomplish this, God Himself must become flesh; and to carry this fully out, the incarnate God must die! Oh, depth of wisdom and of grace! Oh, love infinite, love rich, love free! Love
"Not to be thought on, but with tides of joy;
Not to be mentioned, but with shouts of praise."
The pardon of a believer's sins is an entire pardon. It is the full pardon of all his sins. It was no pardon to him if it were not an entire pardon. If it were but a partial blotting out of the thick cloud-if it were but a partial canceling of the bond-if it were but a forgiveness of some sins only, then the gospel were no glad tidings to his soul. The law of God had brought him in guilty of an entire violation. The justice of God demands a satisfaction equal to the enormity of the sins committed, and of the guilt incurred. The Holy Spirit has convinced him of his utter helplessness, his entire bankruptcy. What rapture would kindle in his bosom at the announcement of a partial atonement-of a half Savior-of a part payment of the debt? Not one throb of joyous sensation would it produce. On the contrary, this very mockery of his woe would but deepen the anguish of his spirit. But go to the soul, weary and heavy-laden with sin, mourning over its vileness, its helplessness, and proclaim the Gospel. Tell him that the atonement which Jesus offered on Calvary was a full satisfaction for his sins;-that all his sins were borne and blotted out in that awful moment;-that the bond which Divine justice held against the sinner was fully cancelled by the obedience and sufferings of Christ, and that, appeased and satisfied, God was "ready to pardon." How beautiful will be the feet that convey to him tidings so transporting as this! And are not these statements perfectly accordant with the declarations of God's own word? Let us ascertain. What was the ark symbolical of, alluded to by the apostle, in the ninth chapter of his Epistle to the Hebrews, which contained the manna, Aaron's rod, and the tables of the covenant, over which stood the cherubim of glory shadowing the mercy-seat? What, but the entire covering of sin? For, as the covering of the ark did hide the law and testimony, so did the Lord Jesus Christ hide the sins of His chosen, covenant people-not from the eye of God's omniscience, but from the eye of the law. They stand legally acquitted. So entire was the work of Jesus, so infinite and satisfactory His obedience, the law of God pronounces them acquitted, and can never bring them into condemnation. "There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus; who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit." "Who is he that condemns? It is Christ that died, yes rather, that is risen again who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us."
…wherefore say my people, We are lords; we will come no more unto thee? Can a maid forget her ornaments, [or] a bride her attire? yet my people have forgotten me days without number. - Jeremiah 2:31-32
When God becomes less an object of fervent desire, holy delight, and frequent contemplation, we may suspect a declension of Divine love in the soul. Our spiritual views of God, and our spiritual and constant delight in Him, will be materially affected by the state of our spiritual love. If there is coldness in the affections, if the mind grows earthly, carnal, and selfish, dark and gloomy shadows will gather round the character and the glory of God. He will become less an object of supreme attachment, unmingled delight, adoring contemplation, and filial trust. The moment the supreme love of Adam to God declined, the instant that it swerved from its proper and lawful center, he shunned converse with God, and sought to embower himself from the presence of the Divine glory. Conscious of a change in his affections-sensible of a divided heart, of subjection to a rival interest-and knowing that God was no longer the object of his supreme love, nor the fountain of his pure delight, nor the blessed and only source of his bliss-he rushed from His presence as from an object of terror, and sought concealment in Eden's bowers. That God whose presence was once so glorious, whose converse was so holy, whose voice was so sweet, became as a strange God to the rebellious and conscience-stricken creature, and, "absence from You is best," was written in dark letters upon his guilty brow.
And where is this difference? Was God less glorious in Himself? Was He less holy, less loving, less faithful, or less the fountain of supreme bliss? Far from it, God had undergone no change. It is the perfection of a perfect Being that He is unchangeable, that He can never act contrary to His own nature, but must ever be, in all that He does, in harmony with Himself. The change was in the creature. Adam had left his first love, had transferred his affections to another and an inferior object; and, conscious that he had ceased to love God, he would sincerely have veiled himself from His presence, and have excluded himself from His communion. It is even so in the experience of a believer, conscious of a declension in his love to God. There is a hiding from His presence; there are misty views of His character, misinterpretations of His dealings, and a lessening of holy desire for Him: but where the heart is right in its affections, warm in its love, fixed in its desires, God is glorious in His perfections, and communion with Him the highest bliss on earth. This was David's experience-"O God, You are my God; early will I seek You: my soul thirsts for You, my flesh longs for You in a dry and thirsty land where no water is; to see Your power and Your glory, so as I have seen You in the sanctuary. Because Your loving-kindness is better than life, my lips shall praise You."
Not only in the declension of Divine love in the soul, does God become less an object of adoring contemplation and desire, but there is less filial approach to Him. The sweet confidence and simple trust of the child is lost, the soul no longer rushes into His bosom with all the lowly yet fond yearnings of an adopted son, but lingers at a distance; or, if it attempts to approach, does so with the trembling and the restraint of a slave. The tender, loving, child-like spirit that marked the walk of the believer in the days of his espousals-when no object was so glorious to him as God, no being so loved as his heavenly Father, no spot so sacred as the throne of communion, no theme so sweet as his free-grace adoption-has in a great degree departed; and distrust, and legal fears, and bondage of spirit have succeeded it. All these sad effects may be traced to the declension of filial love in the soul of the believer towards God.
For it is sanctified by the word of God and prayer. - 1 Timothy 4:5
It is the natural tendency of Divine truth, when received into the heart, to produce holiness. The design of the whole plan of redemption was to secure the highest holiness and happiness of the creature; and when the gospel comes with the power of God unto the salvation of the soul, this end is preeminently secured. The renewed man is a pardoned man; the pardoned man becomes a holy man; and the holy man is a happy man. Look, then, at God's word, and trace the tendency of every doctrine, precept, promise, and threatening, and mark the holy influence of each. Take the doctrine of God's everlasting love to His people, as seen in their election to eternal life. How holy is the tendency of this truth! "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ; according as He has chosen us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love." Let not my reader turn from this glorious doctrine, because he may find it irreconcilable with others that he may hold, or because the mists of prejudice may long have veiled it from his mind; it is a revealed doctrine, and therefore to be fully received; it is a holy doctrine, and therefore to be ardently loved. Received in the heart by the teaching of the Holy Spirit, it lays the pride of man in the dust, knocking from beneath the soul all ground for self-glorying, and expands the mind with the most exalted views of the glory, grace, and love of Jehovah. He who receives the doctrine of electing love in his heart by the power of the Spirit bears about with him the material of a holy walk; its tendency is to humble, abase, and sanctify the man.
Thus holy, too, is the revealed doctrine of God's free, sovereign, and distinguishing grace. The tendency of this truth is most sanctifying: for a man to feel that God alone has made him to differ from another-that what he has, he has received-that by the free, distinguishing grace of God he is what he is-is a truth, when experienced in the heart, surely of the most holy influence. How it lays the axe at the root of self! How it stains the pride of human glory, and hushes the whispers of vain boasting! It lays the renewed sinner where he ought ever to lie, in the dust; and places the crown, where it alone ought to shine, bright and glorious, upon the head of sovereign mercy. "Lord, why me? I was far from You by wicked works; I was the least of my Father's house, and, of all, the most unworthy and unlikely object of Your love and yet Your mercy sought me-Your grace selected me out of all the rest, and made me a miracle of its omnipotent power. Lord, to what can I refer this, but to Your mere mercy, Your sovereign and free grace, entirely apart from all worth or worthiness that You did see in me? Take, therefore, my body, soul, and spirit, and let them be, in time and through eternity, a holy temple to Your glory."
All the precepts, too, are on the side of holiness. "If you love me, keep my commandments;" "Be you holy, for I am holy;" "Come out of the world and be you separate, and touch not the unclean thing."' "God has not called us unto uncleanness, but unto holiness;" "That you might walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing, being fruitful in every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of God." Holy precepts! May the eternal Spirit engrave them deep upon our hearts.
Not less sanctifying in their tendency are the "exceeding great and precious promises" which the word of truth contains. "Having, therefore these promises, dearly beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God."
Thus holy and sanctifying are the nature and the effect of Divine truth. It is in its nature and properties most holy; it comes from a holy God and whenever and wherever it is received in the heart, as the good and incorruptible seed of the kingdom, it produces that which is in accordance with its own nature - HOLINESS. As is the tree, so are the fruits; as is the cause, so are the effects. It brings down and lays low the high thoughts of man, by revealing to him the character of God; it convinces him of his deep guilt and awful condemnation, by exhibiting the Divine law; it unfolds to him God's hatred of sin, His justice in punishing and His mercy in pardoning it, by unfolding to his view the cross of Christ; and taking entire possession of the soul, it implants new principles, supplies new motives, gives a new end, begets new joys, and inspires new hopes-in a word, diffuses itself through the whole moral man, changes it into the same image, and transforms it into "an habitation of God through the Spirit."
Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works;… - Revelation 2:5
Let the backsliding believer be brought to this first step. "Remember from where you are fallen"-revert to your past history, your former spiritual state-remember your first sorrow for sin, the first joy of its pardon-remember the spring-tide of your first love-how precious Jesus was, how glorious was His person, how sweet was His cross, how fragrant was His name, how rich was His grace-remember how dear to you was the throne of grace, how frequently you resorted to it, regarding it of all spots on earth the most blessed-remember how, under the anointing of adopting love, you walked with God as with a Father-how filial, how close, how holy was your communion with Him-remember the seasons of refreshing in the sanctuary, in the social meeting, in the closet; how your soul did seem to dwell on the sunny sides of glory, and you longed for the wings of a dove that you might fly to your Lord; remember how, publicly and before many witnesses, you put off sin and put on Christ, and; turning your back upon the world, took your place among the followers of the Lamb-remember how holy, and circumspect, and spotless your walk, how tender was your conscience, how guileless was your spirit, how humble and lovely your whole deportment. But what and where are you now? Oh, remember from where you are fallen! Think from what a high profession, from what an elevated walk, from what holy employments, from what hallowed joys, from what sweet delights, and from what pleasant ways have you declined!
But in the exhortation given to the backsliding church at Ephesus, there is yet another instruction equally applicable to the case of all wanderers from the Lord: "Repent, and do the first works." How can a departing soul return without repentance? By what other avenue can the prodigal reach his Father's heart? Repentance implies the existence and conviction of sin. Ah! Is it no sin, beloved reader, to have turned your back upon God? Is it no sin to have lost your first love, to have backslidden from Jesus, to have transferred your affections from Him to the world, or to the creature, or to yourself? Is it no sin to go no more with the Shepherd, and to follow no more the footsteps of the flock, and to feed no more in the green pastures, or repose by the side of the still waters? Oh yes! it is a sin of peculiar magnitude; it is a sin against God in the character of a loving Father, against Jesus in the character of a tender Redeemer, against the Holy Spirit in the character of a faithful Indweller and a Sanctifier; it is a sin against the most precious experience of His grace, against the most melting exhibitions of His love, and against the most tender proofs of His covenant faithfulness.
Repent, then, of this your sin. Think how you have wounded Jesus afresh, and repent; think how you have requited your Father's love, and repent; think how you have grieved the Spirit, and repent. Humble yourself in dust and ashes before the cross and through that cross look up again to your forgiving God and Father. The sweet promise is, "They shall look upon Him whom they have pierced, and shall mourn for Him as one mourns for his only son."
…[and] my tongue shall sing aloud of thy righteousness. - Psalm 51:14
If we cannot sing of Jesus and of His love in the night of our pilgrimage, of what, of whom, then, can we sing? As all music has its ground-work - its elementary principles, so has the music of the believing soul. Jesus is the basis. He who knows nothing experimentally of Jesus has never learned to sing the Lord's song. But the believer, when he contemplates Jesus in His person dignity, glory, and beauty-when he regards Him as God's equal-when he views Him as the Father's gift-as the great depository of all the fullness of God, can sing, in the dark night of his conscious sinfulness, of a foundation upon which he may securely build for eternity. And when too, he studies the work of Jesus, what material for a song is gathered here! when he contemplates Christ as "made of God unto him wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption;" when he views the atoning blood and righteousness which present him moment by moment before God, washed from every stain, and justified from every sin, even now he can sing the first notes of the song they chaunt in higher strains above: "Unto Him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in His own blood, and has made us kings and priests unto God and His Father; to Him be glory and dominion, forever and ever. Amen." Oh! Yes, Jesus is the key-note-Jesus is the ground-work of the believer's song.
Is it a season of heart ploughing, of breaking up of the fallow ground, of deeper discovery of the concealed plague? Still to turn the eye of faith on Jesus, and contemplate the efficacy of His blood to remove all sin, and the power of His grace to subdue all iniquity, oh, what music in the sad heart does that sight of Him create! "My soul does magnify the Lord, and my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior."
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 blessedness of this truth! Sing aloud, then, you sorrowful saints, for great and precious is your privilege of communion with God. In the time 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." Chaunt, then, His high praises as you pass along, that there is a place where you may disclose every want, repose every sorrow, deposit every burden, breathe every sigh, and lose yourself in communion with God; that place is the blood-besprinkled mercy-seat, on which God says, "There will I meet with you, and I will commune with you."
So also Christ glorified not himself to be made an high priest; but he that said unto him, Thou art my Son, to day have I begotten thee. - Hebrews 5:5
The Atonement of Christ is of infinite value and efficacy. If Christ were a mere creature, if He claimed no higher dignity than Gabriel, or one of the prophets or apostles, then His atonement, as it regards the satisfaction of Divine justice, the honoring of the law, the pardon of sin, the peace of the conscience, and the salvation of the soul, would possess no intrinsic efficacy whatever. It would be but the atonement of a finite being - a being that possessing no superior merit to those in whose behalf the atonement was made. We state it, then, broadly and unequivocally, that the entire glory, dignity, value, and efficacy of Christ's precious blood which He shed for sin rests entirely upon the Deity of His person. If the Deity of Christ sinks, the atonement of Christ sinks with it; if the one stands, so stands the other. How strong are the words of Paul, addressed to the Ephesian elders: "Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock over which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to feed the church of God which He has purchased with His own blood." How conclusive is this testimony! The blood that purchased the church was Divine. It was indeed the blood of Christ's humanity-for His human nature alone could suffer, bleed, and die-yet deriving all its glory, value, and efficacy from the union of the human with the Divine nature. It was the blood of the God-man, Jehovah Jesus-no inferior blood could have sufficed. The law which Adam, our federal head, broke, before it could release the sinner from its penalty, demanded a sacrifice infinitely holy, and infinitely great: one equal with the Father-the dignity of whose person would impart infinite merit to His work, and the infinite merit of whose work would fully sustain its honor and its purity. All this was found in the person of Christ. In His complex person He was eminently fitted for the mighty work. As God, He obeyed the precepts and maintained the honor of the law; as man, He bore its curse and endured its penalty. It was the blending as into one these two natures; the bringing together these extremes of being, the finite and the infinite, which shed such resplendent luster on His atonement, which stamped such worth and efficacy on His blood. Dear Reader, treat not this subject lightly, deem it not a useless speculation! It is of the deepest moment. If the blood of Christ possesses not infinite merit, infinite worth, it could never be efficacious in washing away the guilt of sin, or in removing the dread of condemnation. When you come to die, this, of all truths, if you are an experimental believer, will be the most precious and sustaining. In that solemn hour, when the curtain that conceals the future parts, and eternity lets down upon the view the full blaze of its awful realities-in that hour, when all false dependencies will crumble beneath you, and sin's long catalogue passes in review before you-oh, then to know that the Savior on whom you depend is God in your nature-that the blood in which you have washed has in it all the efficacy and value of Deity-this, this will be the alone plank that will buoy up the soul in that awful moment, and at that fearful crisis. Oh precious truth this, for a poor believing soul to rest upon! We wonder not that, fast anchored on this truth, amid circumstances the most appalling, death in view; wearing even its most terrific aspect, the believer in Jesus can survey the scene with composure, and quietly yield his spirit into the hands of Him who redeemed it.
That in the ages to come he might shew the exceeding riches of his grace in [his] kindness toward us through Christ Jesus. For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: [it is] the gift of God: - Ephesians 2:7-8
It was no little kindness in our God, that as one saving object, and one alone, was to engage the attention and fix the eye of the soul, through time and through eternity, that object should be of surpassing excellence and of peerless beauty. That He should be, not the sweetest seraph or the loveliest angel in heaven, but His own Son, the "brightness of His glory, the express image of His person." God delights in the beautiful; all true beauty emanates from Him; "He has made all things beautiful." How worthy of Himself, then; that in providing a Savior for fallen man, bidding him fix the eye of faith supremely and exclusively upon Him, that Savior should unite in Himself all Divine and all human beauty; that He should be the "chief among ten thousand, the altogether lovely." Adore the name, oh! Praise the love of God, for this. In looking to Jesus for salvation, we include each Divine Person of the glorious Trinity. We cannot look unto Jesus without seeing the Father, for Christ is the revelation of the Father. "He that has seen me," says Christ "has seen the Father." Nor can we contemplate Jesus exclusive of the Holy Spirit, because it is the Spirit alone who imparts the spiritual eye that sees Jesus. Thus, in the believing and saving view a poor sinner has of Jesus, he beholds, in the object of his sight, a revelation of each separate Person of the ever blessed Trinity, engaged in devising and accomplishing his eternal salvation. Oh! What a display of infinite love and wisdom is here, that in our salvation one object should arrest the eye, and that the object should embody an equal revelation of the Father, who gave Jesus, and of the Holy Spirit of truth, who leads to Jesus, and that that object should be the loveliest being in the universe. God has deposited all fullness in Christ that we might in all need repair to Christ. "Looking unto Jesus," for our standing before God-for the grace that upholds and preserves us unto eternal life-for the supply of the Spirit that sanctifies the heart, and meets us for the heavenly glory-for each day's need, for each moment's support-in a word, "looking unto Jesus," for everything. Thus has God simplified our life of faith in His dear Son. Severing us from all other sources, alluring us away from all other dependencies, and weaning us from all self-confidence, He would shut us up to Christ above, that Christ might be all and in all.
For the weakness of faith's eye remember that Christ has suitably provided. His care of, and His tenderness towards, those whose grace is limited, whose experience is feeble, whose knowledge is defective, whose faith is small, are exquisite. He has promised to "anoint the eye with eye-salve, that it may see," and that it may see more clearly. Repair to Him, then, with your case, and seek the fresh application of this divine unguent. Be cautious of limiting the reality of your sight to the nearness or distinctness of the object. The most distant and dim view of Jesus by faith is as real and saving as if that view were with the strength of an eagle's eye. A well-known example in Jewish history affords an apposite illustration: the wounded Israelite was simply commanded to look to the brazen serpent. Nothing was said of the clearness of his vision or the distinctness of his view; no exception was made to the dimness of his sight. His eye might possibly be blurred, the phantoms of a diseased imagination might float before it, intercepting his view; no, more, it might already be glazing and fixing in death! Yet, even under these circumstances, and at that moment, if he but obeyed the Divine command, and looked towards, simply towards, the elevated serpent, distant and beclouded as it was, he was immediately and effectually healed. Thus is it with the operation of faith. Let your eye, in obedience to the gospel's command, be but simply raised and fastened upon Jesus, far removed as may be the glorious object; and dim as may be the blessed vision, yet then "looking unto Jesus," you shall be fully and eternally saved: "Being justified freely by His grace, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus: whom God has set forth to be a propitiation through faith in His blood."
…the LORD gave, and the LORD hath taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD. - Job 1:21
Bereaved Christian, God has smitten, and the stroke has fallen heavily. The blessing you thought you could the least spare, and would be the last to leave you, God your Father has taken. Why has He done this? To show you what He can be in your extremity. It may be difficult for faith, in the first moments of your calamity, to see how it can be well to be thus afflicted; but be still and wait the issue. Banish from your mind every hard thought of God, stifle in your breast every rebellious feeling, suppress upon your lip every repining word, and bow meekly, submissively, mutely, to the sovereign, righteous will of your Father. The blessings, like spring flowers blooming on the grave over which you weep, that will grow out of this affliction, will prove that God never loved you more deeply, was never more intent upon advancing your best interests, never thought more of you, nor cared more for you, than at the moment when His hand laid your loved one low. Receive the testimony of one who has tasted, ay, has drunk deeply, of the same cup of grief which your Father God now mingles for you. Let us drink it without a murmur. It is our Father's cup. As a father pities his children, so does He pity us even while He mingles and presents the draught. It is bitter, but not the bitterness of the curse; it is dark, but not the frown of anger; the cup is brimmed, but not a drop of wrath is there! Oh, wondrous faith that can look upon the beautiful stem broken; the lovely, promising flower, just unfolding its perfection, smitten; the toils and hopes of years, and in a moment, extinguished, and yet can say-"It is well!" Go, now, you precious treasure! God will have my heart, Christ would not I should be satisfied with His gift of love, but that I should be satisfied with His love without the gift. "You only are my portion, O Lord." The world looks dreary, life has lost a charm, the heart is smitten and withered like grass, some of its dearest earthly affections have gone down into the tomb, but He who recalled the blessing is greater and dearer than the blessing, and is Himself just the same as when He gave it. Jesus would be glorified by our resting in, and cleaving to, Him as our portion, even when the flowers of earthly beauty and the yet more precious fruits of spiritual comfort and consolation wither and depart. Satan would suggest that we have sinned away our blessings and forfeited our comforts, and that therefore the Lord is now hiding His face from us, and in anger shutting up His tender mercies. But this is not really so; He is hiding the flowers, but not Himself. In love to them, He is transferring them to His garden in heaven; and in love to us, He thus seeks to draw us nearer to His heart. He would have us knock at His door, and ask for a fresh cluster. We cherish our blessings, and rest in our comforts, and live upon our frames and feelings, and lose sight of and forget Him. He removes those who we might be always coming to Him for more. Oh, matchless love of Jesus!
But the place where the clearest view is taken of the present unfathomable dispensations of God, and where their unfolding light and unveiling glory wake the sweetest, loudest response to this truth-"He has done all things well"-is heaven. The glorified saint has closed his pilgrimage; life's dark shadows have melted into endless light; he now looks back upon the desert he traversed, upon the path he trod, and as in the full blaze of glory each page unfolds of his wondrous history, testifying to some new recorded instance of the loving-kindness and faithfulness of God, the grace, compassion, and sympathy of Jesus, the full heart exclaims-"He has done all things well." The past dealings of God with him in providence now appear most illustrious to the glorified mind. The machinery of Divine government, which here seemed so complex and inexplicable, now appears in all its harmony and beauty. Its mysteries are all unraveled, its problems are all solved, its events are all explained, and the promise of the Master has received its utmost fulfillment, "What I do you know not now but you shall know hereafter." That dispensation that was enshrouded in such mystery; that event that flung so dark a shadow on the path; that affliction that seemed so conflicting with all our ideas of God's infinite wisdom, truth, and love; that stroke that crushed us to the earth-all now appears but parts of a perfect whole; and every providence in his past history, as it now passes in review, bathed in the liquid light of glory, swells the anthem - "HE HAS DONE ALL THINGS WELL!"
For God hath not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ, - 1 Thessalonians 5:9
Salvation is God's greatest work; in nothing has He so manifested forth His glory as in this. He embarked all His infinite resources, and staked all His Divine honor, in the accomplishment of this work so dear to His heart-the salvation of His church. The universe is full of His beauty, but myriads of worlds, on a scale infinitely more vast and magnificent than this, could give no such idea of God as the salvation of a single sinner. Salvation required the revelation and the harmony of all the Divine perfections. Creation affords only a partial view of God. It displays His natural but not His moral attributes. It portrays His wisdom, His goodness, His power; but it gives no idea of His holiness, His justice, His truth, His love. It is but the alphabet, the shadow of God. These are parts of His ways, and how little of Him is known! But in the person of Immanuel, in the cross of Christ, in the finished work of redemption, God appears in full-orbed majesty. And when the believing soul surveys this wondrous expedient of reconciling all the interests of heaven, of uniting all the perfection of Jehovah in the salvation of sinners by the blood of the cross-"Mercy and truth meeting together, righteousness and peace kissing each other"-it exclaims in full satisfaction with the salvation of God-"Oh the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God!"
The anxious question of an awakened soul, as it bears its weight of sin to the cross, is, "Is the salvation of the Lord Jesus a work commensurate with my case? Will it meet my individual condition as a sinner? May I, in a deep conviction of my guiltiness, venture my soul upon Jesus? Am I warranted, without a work of my own, apart from all my merit or my demerit, to believe in Christ and indulge the hope that I shall be saved?" The Bible, in brief but emphatic sentences, answers these inquiries. "Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and you shall be saved." "Him that comes unto me I will in no wise cast out." "By grace are you saved." "If by grace, then it is no more of works." "You are complete in Him." The Holy Spirit giving the inquirer a possession of these declarations, working the faith that receives the Lord Jesus into the heart, the believing soul is enabled to say, "I see that it is a salvation for sinners-for the vilest, the poorest, the most unworthy. I came to Christ, and was received; I believed in Him, rested in Him, and I am saved. Christ is mine, His salvation is mine, His promises are mine, His advocacy is mine, His heaven is mine."
Dear Reader, is your soul saved? Are you converted by the Spirit of God? Everything else in comparison is but as the bubble that floats down the stream. This busy life will soon cease; its last thought, and care, and anxiety will yield to the great, the solemn realities of eternity. Are you ready for the result? Are you in a state of pardon, of justification, of peace with God through Christ? How is it with your soul? Will it be well with you in death, well with you after death, well with you at the judgment-seat of Christ? Have you come to the Lord Jesus as a Savior-to His blood for cleansing, to His righteousness for acceptance, to His cross for shelter, to Himself for rest? Have you fled as a sinner to Jesus as the Savior? Look these questions, I beseech you, fairly, fully in the face, and answer them in your own conscience, and as in view of that dread tribunal at whose bar you will soon be cited. What if you should prosper in temporal and be lean in spiritual?! What if you should pamper the body, and starve the soul! What if you should gain the world-its riches, its honors, its pleasures-and be yourself through eternity a castaway! To die in your sins, to die without union to Christ, to die un-reconciled to God, tremendous will be the consequences; so dire will be your condition, so fearful and interminable your sufferings from the wrath of a holy and righteous God, it would have been good for you never to have been born. The unrighteous will be "punished with everlasting destruction, from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of His power."
But there is hope! Does this page meet the eye of a penitent mourner-one whose heart is smitten with godly grief for sin? Be it known you that the sacrifice of a broken heart and of a contrite spirit God will not despise. Despise it! Oh, no! It is the precious, holy fruit of His Spirit in your soul, and in His eye it is too holy, too costly and too dear to be despised. Bring to Him that broken heart and Jesus will bind it up, heal and fill it with joy, and peace, and hope. It was His mission to receive and save sinners-it is His office to receive and save sinners-it is His delight and glory to receive and save sinners; and if you will but approach Him, exactly as you are, He will receive and save you.
For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures: - 1 Corinthians 15:3-4
What are some of the great truths confirmed by the resurrection of Jesus, and in the belief of which the believer is built up, by this glorious and life-inspiring doctrine? They are many and vast. Indeed, it would not be too much to affirm of the entire system of Divine truth, that it depended mainly for its evidence upon the single fact of Christ's resurrection from the dead. In the first place, it establishes the Bible to be the revelation of God. If the types which shadowed forth, and the prophecies which predicted, the resurrection of the Lord, received not their substance and their fulfillment in the accomplishment of that fact, then the Scriptures were not true, the types were meaningless, and the predictions were false. For thus do they unite in setting forth this glorious and precious truth! First, as it regards the types. What was the receiving back of Isaac after he had been laid upon the altar, and the knife rose to slay him but the shadowing forth of Christ's resurrection? As the binding of him upon the wood prefigured the sacrificial death of Christ, so the unbinding of him from altar and his surrender to his father the third day from the time that he received the command to sacrifice him, prefigured the risen life of Christ. Significant type! Radiant with the glory of a Jesus! In the one part we see Him dying, the other part we see Him rising. The one shadows forth His atoning sacrifice, the other His risen glory. And here did the mind of Abraham rest. His towering faith rose above the type; he looked beyond the shadow. His soul embraced a crucified and a risen Lord. Strong in the exercise of a prospective faith, he beheld before him as vividly, and he reposed in as firmly, a dying and a living Redeemer, as did John when the sweet voice broke upon his ear, "I am He that lives and was dead." "By faith Abraham, when was tried, offered up Isaac…Accounting that God was able to raise him up even from the dead; from where also he received him in a figure."
The type of the slain and the living goat embodies in vivid outline the same essential doctrine. Aaron was commanded to kill the goat of the offering, and bring his blood within the veil. But upon the head of the live goat he was to place both his hands, and confess over him all the iniquities of the children of Israel, and then to send him away by the hand of a fit man into the wilderness. "And he shall let go the goat in the wilderness." Our adorable Lord was the glorious substance of this expressive type. Both parts met and were realized in Him. "He was delivered for our offences, and rose again for our justification."
The prophetic Scriptures are equally as explicit in setting forth the resurrection of Christ. "My flesh also shall rest in hope. For You will not leave my soul in hell, neither will You suffer Your Holy One to see corruption." "You are my Son, this day have I begotten You." "I will make an everlasting covenant with you, even the sure mercies of David." Now mark how these portions of the prophetic Scriptures are quoted by the apostle Paul, and strictly applied by him to the resurrection of Christ. Acts 13: "But God raised Him from the dead: and He was seen many days of those who came up with Him from Galilee to Jerusalem, who are His witnesses unto the people. And we declare unto you glad tidings, how that the promise which was made unto the fathers, God has fulfilled the same unto us, their children, in that He raised up Jesus again; as it is also written in the second Psalm, You are my Son, this day have I begotten you. And as concerning that He raised Him up from the dead, now no more to return to corruption, He said this wise, I will give you the sure mercies of David. Why He says also in another Psalm, You shall not suffer Your Holy One to see corruption. For David, after he had served his own generation by the will of God, fell on sleep, was laid unto his fathers, and saw corruption; but He, whom God raised again, saw no corruption." How brightly does the doctrine of a risen Savior shine throughout this remarkable portion of God's holy word! Truly the life of Jesus is the life of the Scriptures. Again, "Your dead men shall live, together with my dead body shall they arise." "I know that my Redeemer lives." Thus does the resurrection of Christ from the dead confirm the truth of God's holy word. The types find their substance and the prophets their fulfillment, in Him who was emphatically the "plague of death, and the destruction of the grave."
What think ye of Christ? - Matthew 22:42
Reader, what do you think of Christ? Do you see beauty, surpassing beauty, in Immanuel? Has His glory broken upon your view?-has it beamed in upon your mind? Has a sight of Jesus, seen by faith, cast you in the dust, exclaiming, "I have heard of You by the hearing of the ear: but now mine eye sees You; why I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes"? Your honest reply to these searching questions will decide the nature and the ground of your present hope for eternity. On the confines of that eternity you are now standing. Solemn consideration! It is of infinite moment, then, that your views of the Son of God should be thoroughly examined, sifted, and compared with the inspired word. A crown now lowered on your brow, a kingdom stretched at your feet, a world gained and grasped, were as infant's baubles, compared with the tremendous interests involved in the question, "What think you of Christ?" And what do you think of Him? Is He all your salvation and all your desire? Have you laid sinful self and righteous self beneath His cross? And in all your poverty, nakedness, and vileness, have you received Him as made of God unto you "wisdom and righteousness, sanctification and redemption"? Does His glory dim all other glory; and does His beauty eclipse all other beauty in your eye? Can you point to Him and say, in the humble confidence of faith and joy of love, "This is my Beloved, and this is my Friend"? Eternal God! But for the righteousness of Your Son, I sink in all my pollution! But for the atoning blood of Immanuel, I perish in all my guilt! Holy Father, look not on me but behold my shield. Look upon the face of Your anointed! and when Your glory passes by-the glory of Your majesty, Your holiness, and Your justice-then put me in the cleft of the rock, and cover me with Your hand while You pass by.
Cultivate frequent and devout contemplations of Christ and of His glory. Immense will be the benefit accruing to your soul. The mind, thus preoccupied, filled, and expanded, will be enabled to present a stronger resistance to the ever-advancing and insidious encroachments of the world without. No place will be found for vain thoughts, and any desire or time for carnal enjoyments. Oh, how crucifying and sanctifying are clear views of the glory of Immanuel! How emptying, humbling, and abasing! With the patriarch we then exclaim, "I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes." And with the prophet, "Woe is me! For I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips. Mine eyes have seen the King." And with the apostle, "God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world." Oh, then, aim to get your mind filled with enlarged and yet expanding views of the glory of Christ. Let it, in all the discoveries it affords of the Divine mind and majesty, be the one subject of your thoughts, the one theme of your conversation. Place no limit to your knowledge of Christ. Ever consider that you have but read the preface to the volume, you have but touched the margin of the sea; stretching far away beyond you, are undiscovered beauties, and precious views, and sparkling glories, each encouraging your advance, inviting your research, and asking the homage of your faith, the tribute of your love, and the dedication of your life. Go forward, then! The glories that yet must be revealed to you in a growing knowledge of Jesus, what imagination can conceive, what pen can describe them! "You shall see greater things than these," is the promise that bids you advance. Jesus stands ready to unveil all the beauties of His person, and admit you into the very arcana of His love. There not a chamber of His heart that He will not throw open to you; not a blessing that He will not bestow upon you; not a glory that He will not show to you. You shall see greater things than you have yet seen-greater depths of sin in your fallen nature shall be revealed-deeper sense of the cleansing efficacy of the atoning blood shall be felt-clearer views of your acceptance in the Beloved-greater discoveries of God's love-and greater depths of grace and glory in Jesus shall be enjoyed. Your "peace shall flow like a river, and your righteousness as the waves of sea." Sorrow shall wound you less deeply; affliction shall press you less heavily; tribulation shall affect you less keenly: all this, and infinitely more, will result from your deeper knowledge of Jesus. Ah, wonder not that the apostle exclaimed, "Doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord. That I may know Him, and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being made conformable unto His death." "Then shall we know, if we follow on to know the Lord."
And the LORD said, I have surely seen the affliction of my people which [are] in Egypt, and have heard their cry by reason of their taskmasters; for I know their sorrows; And I am come down to deliver them out of the hand of the Egyptians, and to bring them up out of that land unto a good land and a large, unto a land flowing with milk and honey;… - Exodus 3:7-8
But a greater work, a mightier and more glorious deliverance, did our Almighty Redeemer come down to effect. To this the Spirit of Christ which was in the prophet Isaiah testified: "The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me; because the Lord has anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek; He has sent me to bind up the broken-hearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound." The Lord saw from heaven the affliction of His chosen people which were in Egypt-the land of spiritual darkness, bondage, and oppression: He heard their cry by reason of their hard task-masters; He knew their sorrows, and He came down to deliver and to bring them out of that land into a good land-a large place-a land truly flowing with milk and honey. Oh, from what a land of gloom, from what an iron furnace, and from what a hard oppressor, has Jesus delivered His people! He has rescued them from a state of nature, and brought them into a state of grace-from ignorance of God, of Christ, and of themselves, in which the fall had involved them-from the guilt of sin, and the condemnation of the law-from the captivity and tyranny of Satan, and from their hard and oppressive servitude. And, oh, into what a land of rest, blessedness, and plenty has He brought them! Into covenant relationship with God, as His adopted children-into a state of pardon and acceptance-into the enjoyment of His love and presence; to know God as their reconciled Father-to know their oneness with Jesus their exalted Head, and their union with the body as its members-to a state of most holy and blessed liberty, as chosen, called, and adopted saints. Into the experience of all these blessings has a greater than Moses brought us. "When the fullness of the time was come, God sent forth His Son, made of a woman, made under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons." Let then, "give thanks unto the Father, which has made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light: who has delivered us from the power of darkness, and has translated us into the kingdom of His dear Son," "even Jesus, which delivered us from the wrath to come."
And how shall we set forth the love of our Redeemer-the deep and precious love of Christ? Persuasion did not induce Him to undertake our redemption. Compulsion did not bring Him to the cross. His own love constrained Him. Love for His church, His bride, bore Him on its soft wings, from the highest throne in glory to the deepest abasement on earth. How forcibly and touchingly was His love depicted in His bearing, when on the eve of suffering!-"Jesus, therefore, knowing all things that should come upon Him, went forth." He not only knew that death awaited Him, but with equal prescience He knew all the circumstances of ignominy with which that death would be attended. The storm, the outskirts of which had already touched Him, was now thickening and darkening, each moment concentrating its elements of destruction, and preparing for the tremendous outburst. Yet He went forth, as if eager to meet its central horrors, not with the fame-panting spirit of Achilles, when he hastened to the Trojan war, knowing that he should fall there; but with the irresistible power and constraint of His own love, which would have nerved Him for a thousand deaths, had His Father's law demanded, and the salvation of His church required it. "Christ also has loved us, and has given Himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God, of a sweet-smelling savor. Truly Jesus, our Great Deliverer, is counted worthy of more glory than Moses.