Evening Thoughts or Daily Walking With God
by Octavius Winslow
Now if I do that I would not, it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me. - Romans 7:20
The entire testimony of God's word and the stories of all the saints recorded in its pages, go to confirm the doctrine of indwelling sin in a believer. The Lord has wisely, we must acknowledge, ordained it, that sin should yet remain in His people to the very last step of their journey; and for this He has graciously provided His word as a storehouse of promises, consolations, cautions, rebukes, admonitions, all referring to the indwelling sin of a believer. The covenant of grace-its sanctifying, strengthening, invigorating, animating provision, all was designed for this very state. Yes, the gift of Jesus-all His fullness of grace, wisdom, strength, and sympathy-His death, resurrection, ascension, and advocacy-all was given with an especial view to the pardon and subjection of sin in a child of God. Perfect holiness, entire sinlessness, is a state not attainable in this life. He who has settled down with the conviction that he has arrived at such a stage has great reason to suspect the soundness, or at least the depth, of his real knowledge of himself. He, indeed, must be but imperfectly acquainted with his own heart, who dreams of perfect sanctification on this side of glory. With all meekness and tenderness, I would earnestly exhort such an individual to review his position well-to bring his heart to the touchstone of God's word-to pray over the seventh chapter of the Epistle to the Romans, and to ascertain if there are not periods when the experience of an inspired apostle, once "caught up to the third heaven," will not apply to him-"I am carnal, sold under sin,"-the "sin that dwells in me." The writings and the preaching of men-mistaken views of truth-yes, I would add, even what was once a sincere and ardent desire for sanctification-either of these, or all combined, may have led to the adoption of such a notion as sinless perfection, the nature and tendency of which are to engender a spirit of human pride, self-trust, self-complacence; to throw the mind off its guard, and the heart off its prayerful vigilance, and thus render the man an easy prey to that subtle and ever-prowling enemy, of whose "devices" (and this is not the least one) no believer should be "ignorant."
Oh yes, sin, often deep and powerful, dwells in a child of God. It is the source of his greatest grief, the cause of his acutest sorrow. Remove this, and sorrow in the main would be a stranger to his breast. Go, ask yon weary, dejected, weeping believer the cause of his broken spirit-his sad countenance-his tears. "Is it," you inquire, "that you are poor in this world?" "No." "Is it that you are friendless?" "No." "Is it that worldly prosperity shines not upon you-your plans blasted-your circumstances trying-your prospects dark?" "No." "What is it, then, that grieves your spirit, clouds your countenance, and that causes those clasped hands and uplifted eyes?" "It is sin," the soul replies, "that dwells in me: sin is my burden-sin is my sorrow-sin is my grief-sin is my confession-sin is humiliation before my Father and God-rid of this, and the outward pressure would scarce be felt." Truly does the apostle say-and let the declaration never be read apart from its accompanying promise-"If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us. My little children, these things write I unto you, that you sin not. And if any man sin, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous."
And all things, whatsoever ye shall ask in prayer, believing, ye shall receive. - Matthew 21:22
Draw near, then, seeking soul, with boldness; not the boldness of a presumptuous, self-righteous man, but that of one chosen, called, pardoned, and justified. Draw near with the lowly boldness of a child-with the humble confidence of a son. Dear are you to your Father. Sweet is your voice to Him. Precious is your person, accepted in His Beloved. You can not come too boldly-you can not come too frequently-you can not come with too large requests. You are coming to a King, that King your Father that Father viewing you in His beloved Son. Oh, hang not back. Stand not afar off. He now holds out the golden scepter, and says, "Come near; what is your request? Come with your temporal want. Come with your spiritual need. Ask what you will, it shall be granted you. I have an open hand, and a large heart." Is it your desire-"Lord, I want more grace to glorify You. I want more simplicity of mind, and singleness of eye. I want a more holy, upright, honest walk. I want more meekness, patience, lowliness, submission. I want to know more of Jesus, to see more of His glory, to feel more of His preciousness, and to live more simply upon His fullness. I want more of the sanctifying, sealing, witnessing, and anointing influences of the Spirit"? Blessed, holy desires! It is the Spirit making intercession in you according to the will of God; and entering into the holiest by the blood of Jesus, the Lord will fulfill the desires of your heart, even to the half of kingdom.
Watch diligently against the least declension in the spirit of prayer. If there be declension here, there will also be declension in every part and department of the work of the Spirit in your soul. It is prayer that keeps every grace of the Spirit in active, holy, and healthy exercise. It is the stream, so to speak, that supplies refreshing vigor and nourishment to all the plants of grace. It is true, that the fountain-head of all spiritual life and "grace to help in time of need," is Christ; "for it pleased the Father that in Him should all fullness dwell." And Paul's encouragement to the Philippians was, "My God shall supply all your need, according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus." But the channel through which all grace comes is prayer-ardent, wrestling, importunate, believing prayer. Suffer this channel to be dry-permit any object to narrow or close it up-and the effect will be a withering and decay of the life of God in the soul.
Guard, then, against the slightest decline of prayer in the soul. If prayer-family prayer, social prayer, most of all, closet prayer, is declining with you, no further evidence is needed of your being in a backsliding state of mind. There may not yet have been the outward departure, but you are in the way to it-and nothing but a return to prayer will save you. Oh, what alarm, what fearfulness and trembling, should this thought occasion in a child of God, "I am on my way to an awful departure from God! Such is the state of my soul at this moment, such my present state of mind, such the loss of my spirituality, such the hold which the world has upon my affections, there is no length in sin to which I may not now go, there is no iniquity which I may not now commit. The breakers are full in view, any my poor weak vessel is heading to and rapidly nearing them." What can shield you from the commission of that sin? What can keep you from wounding Jesus afresh? What can preserve you from foundering and making shipwreck of your faith? But an immediate and fervent return to prayer. Prayer is your only safety. Prayer is for grace to help in your time of need. Prayer is for reviving grace, for quickening, restraining and sanctifying grace. Prayer is to keep us from falling, to hold us up in the slippery paths. Prayer is for the lowly mind, for the contrite spirit, for the broken heart, for the soft, and close, and humble walk with God.
But the God of all grace, who hath called us unto his eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after that ye have suffered a while, make you perfect, stablish, strengthen, settle [you]. - 1 Peter 5:10
There is a painful forgetfulness among many of the saints of God of the appointed path of believers through the world. It is forgotten that this path is to be one of tribulation; that so far from being a smooth, a flowery, and an easy path, it is rough, thorny, and difficult. The believer often expects all his heaven on earth. He forgets that whatever spiritual enjoyment there may be here, kindred in its nature to the joys of the glorified-and too much of this he cannot expect-yet the present is but the wilderness state of the church, and the life that now is, is but that of a pilgrimage and a sojourning. Kind was our Lord's admonition, "in the world you shall have tribulation:" and equally so that of the apostle, "we must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom." Affliction, in some of its many and varied forms, is the allotment of all the Lord's people. If we have it not, we lack the evidence of our true sonship; for the Father "scourges every son whom he receives." But whatever the trial or affliction is, the Holy Spirit is the Comforter. And how does He comfort the afflicted soul? In this way.
He unfolds the love of his God and Father in the trial. He shows the believer that his sorrow, so far from being the result of anger, is the fruit of love; that it comes from the heart of God, sent to draw the soul nearer to Himself, and to unfold the depths of His own grace and tenderness; that whom he "loves He chastens." And, oh, how immense the comfort that flows into a wounded spirit, when love-deep, unchangeable, covenant love-is seen in the hand that has stricken; when the affliction is traced to the covenant, and through the covenant, to the heart of a covenant God.
The Spirit comforts by revealing the end why the affliction is sent. He convinces the believer that the discipline, though painful, was yet needed; that the world was, perhaps, making inroads upon the soul, or creature love was shutting out Jesus; some indulged sin was, perhaps, crucifying Him afresh, or some known spiritual duty was neglected. The Comforter opens his ears to hear the voice of the rod, and Him who had appointed it. He begins to see why the Lord has smitten, why He has caused His rough wind and His east wind to blow; why He has blasted, why He has wounded. And now the Achan is discovered, cast out, and stoned. The heart, disciplined, returns from its wanderings, and, wounded, bleeding, suffering, seeks more earnestly than ever a wounded, bleeding, suffering Savior. Who can fully estimate the comfort which flows from the sanctified discipline of the covenant? When the end for which the trial was sent is accomplished, it may be in the discovery of some departure, in the removal of an obstruction to the growth of grace, of some object that obscured the glory of Jesus, and that suspended His visits of love to the soul, "Blessed discipline," he may exclaim, "that has wrought so much good-gentle chastisement, that has corrected so much evil-sweet medicine, that has produced so much health!"
Jesus saith unto her, Woman, why weepest thou? - John 20:15a
In unfolding the tenderness and sympathy of Jesus, the Spirit most effectually restores comfort to the tried, tempted, and afflicted soul. He testifies of Christ especially in the sympathy of His manhood. There can be no question that in His assumption of our nature Jesus had in view, as one important end, a closer affinity with the suffering state of His people, with regard to their more immediate comfort and support. The great end of His incarnation, we are well assured, was obedience to the law in its precept, and the suffering of its penalty. But connected with and resulting from this, is the channel that thus is open for the outflowings of that tenderness and sympathy of which the saints of God so constantly stand in need, and as constantly receive. Jesus is the "Brother born for adversity."-"It behooved Him to be made like unto His brethren, that He might be a merciful and faithful High Priest."-"In that He Himself has suffered, being tempted; He is able support those who are tempted."-"We have not an High Priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities, but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin."
Come, dear reader, what is your sorrow? Has the hand of death smitten? Is the beloved one removed? Has He taken away the desire of your eyes with a stroke? But who has done it? Jesus has done it; death was but His messenger. Your Jesus has done it. The Lord has taken away. And what has He removed?-your wife? Jesus has all the tenderness that ever your wife had. Hers was but a drop from the ocean that is in His heart. Is it your husband? Jesus is better to you than ten husbands. Is it your parent, your child, your friend, your all of earthly bliss? Is the cistern broken? Is the earthen vessel dashed to pieces? Are all your streams dry? Jesus is yet enough. He has not taken Himself from you, and never, never will. Take your bereaved, stricken, and bleeding heart to Him, and repose it upon His, once bereaved, stricken, and bleeding, too; for He knows how to bind up the broken heart, to heal the wounded spirit, and to comfort those that mourn.
What is your sorrow? Has health failed you? Has property forsaken you? Have friends turned against you? Are you tried in your circumstances? Perplexed in your path? Are providences thickening and darkening around you? Are you anticipating seasons of approaching trial? Are you walking in darkness, having no light? Go simply to Jesus. He is a door ever open. A tender, loving, faithful Friend, ever near. He is a Brother born for your adversity. His grace and sympathy are sufficient for you. The life you are called to live is that of faith-that of sense you have done with. You are now to walk by faith, and not by sight. This, then, is the great secret of a life of faith-to hang upon Jesus daily-to go to Him in every trial-to cast upon Him every burden-to take the infirmity, the corruption, the cross, as it rises, simply and immediately to Jesus. You are to set Christ before you as your Example to imitate; as your Fountain to wash in; as your Foundation to build upon; as your Fullness to draw from; as your tender, loving, and confiding Brother and Friend, to go to at all times and under all circumstances. To do this daily constitutes the life of faith. Oh to be enabled with Paul to say, "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, who loved me, and gave Himself for me." Oh holy, happy, heavenly life!-the life Jesus Himself lived when below; the life all the patriarchs and prophets, the apostles and martyrs, and the spirits of just men made perfect, once lived; and the life every true-born child of God is called and privileged to live, while yet a stranger and pilgrim on the earth.
Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life. - John 5:24
Let us consider what this condition does not imply. It does not include deliverance from the indwelling of sin, nor exemption from Divine correction, nor the absence of self-accusation; still less does it suppose that there is nothing for which the believer deserves to die. All this exists where yet no condemnation exists. The battle with indwelling evil is still waged, the loving chastisement of a Father is still experienced, the self-condemnation is still felt, and daily in the holiest life there is still transpiring that which, were God strict to mark iniquities, merits and would receive eternal woe; yet the declaration stands untouched and unimpeached-"No condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus."
The freedom of the believer is just what it is declared to be-entire exemption from condemnation. From all which that word of significant and solemn import implies he is, by his relation to Christ, delivered. Sin does not condemn him, the law does not condemn him, the curse does not condemn him, hell does not condemn him, and God does not condemn him. He is under no power from these, beneath whose accumulated and tremendous woe all others wither. The pardon of sin necessarily includes the negation of its condemnatory power. There being no sin legally alleged, there can be no condemnation justly pronounced. Now, by the sacrifice of Christ, all the sins of the church are entirely put away. He, the sinless Lamb of God, took them up and bore them away into a land of oblivion, where even the Divine mind fails to recall them. "How forcible are right words!" Listen to those which declare this wondrous fact. "I, even I, am He that blots out your transgressions for mine own sake, and will not remember your sins." "You have cast all my sins behind Your back." "Having forgiven you all trespasses." Their sins and iniquities will I remember no more." The revoking of the sentence of the law must equally annihilate its condemnatory force. The obedience and death of Christ met the claims of that law, both in its preceptive and punitive character. A single declaration of God's word throws a flood of light upon this truth: "Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us." The sentence of the law thus falling upon Surety, who was "made under the law, that He might redeem those who were under the law," there can be no condemnation from it to those who have taken shelter in Him. Thus, then, it is evident that both sin and the law are utterly powerless to condemn a believer in the Lord Jesus Christ.
The perfection of Christ's satisfaction supplies the meritorious and procuring cause of our condemnation. No legal obedience-no personal merit or worthiness of the sinner whatever-is taken into the account of His discharge. This exalted position can only be reached by an expedient that harmonizes with the attributes of God, and thus upholds, in undimmed luster, the majesty and honor of the Divine government. God will pardon sin, and justify the sinner, but it must be by a process supremely glorifying to Himself. How, then, could a creature-satisfaction, the most perfect that man, or the most peerless that angel could offer, secure this result? Impossible! But the case, strange and difficult though it is, is met, fully, adequately met, by the satisfaction of Jesus. The Son of God became the Son of man. He presents Himself to the Father in the character of the church's substitute. The Father, beholding in Him the Divinity that supplies the merit, and the humanity that yields the obedience and endures the suffering, accepts the Savior, and acquits the sinner. Hence the freedom of the believer from condemnation: "There is, therefore, now no condemnation." It is the existence of a present condition. It is the enjoyment of a present immunity. It is the simple belief of this fact that brings instant peace to the bosom. A present discharge from condemnation must produce a present joy. Christian! There is now no condemnation for you. Be yours, then, a present and a full joy.
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us [our] sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. - 1 John 1:9
Deal much and closely with the fullness of grace that is in Jesus. All this grace in Christ is for the sanctification of the believer. "It pleased the Father that in Him should all fullness dwell," for the necessities of His people; and what necessities so great and urgent as those which spring from indwelling sin? Take the corruption, whatever be its nature, directly and simply to Jesus: the very act of taking it to Him weakens its power; yes, it is half the victory. The blessed state of mind, the holy impulse that leads you to your closet, there to fall prostrate before the Lord in lowliness of spirit and brokenness of heart-the humble confession of sin, with the hand of faith on the head of Jesus, the atoning sacrifice-is a mighty achievement of the indwelling Spirit over the power of indwelling sin.
Learn to take the guilt as it comes, and the corruption as it rises, directly and simply to Jesus. Suffer not the guilt of sin to remain long upon the conscience. The moment there is the slightest consciousness of a wound received; take it to the blood of Christ. The moment a mist dims the eye of faith, so that you can not see clearly the smile of your Father's countenance; take it that instant to the blood of atonement. Let there be no distance between God and your soul. Sin separates. But sin immediately confessed, mourned over, and forsaken, brings God and the soul together in sweet, close, and holy fellowship. Oh the oneness of God and the believer, in a sin-pardoning Christ! Who can know it?-He only who has experienced it. To cherish, then, the abiding sense of this holy, loving oneness, the believer must live near the fountain. He must wash daily in the brazen laver that is without; then, entering within the veil, he may "draw near" the mercy-seat, and ask what he will of Him that dwells between the cherubims.
Thank God for the smallest victory gained. Praise Him for any evidence that sin has not entire dominion. Every fresh triumph achieved over some strong and easy-besetting infirmity is a glorious battle won. No victory that ever flushed the cheek of an Alexander or a Caesar may once be compared with his, who, in the grace that is in Christ Jesus, overcomes a single corruption. If "he that rules his spirit is better than he that takes a city," then, he who masters one corruption of his nature has more real glory than the greatest earthly conqueror that ever lived. Oh, how God is glorified-how Jesus is honored-how the Spirit is magnified, in the slaying of one spiritual enemy at the foot of the cross! Cheer up, precious soul! You have every encouragement to persevere in the great business of sanctification. True, it is a hard fight-true, it is a severe and painful contest-but the victory is yours! The "Captain of your salvation" has fought and conquered for you, and now sits upon His throne of glory, cheering you on, and supplying you with all needed strength for the warfare in which you are engaged. Then, "Fight the good fight of faith, be men of courage,"-"be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus,"-for you shall at length "overcome through the blood of the Lamb," and be "more than conquerors [triumphant] through Him that has loved us." Here, beneath the cross, would I breathe for you the desire and the prayer once offered by the apostle of the Gentiles, in behalf of the church of the Thessalonians: "And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus. Christ." Amen and amen.
For consider him that endured such contradiction of sinners against himself, lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds. - Hebrews 12:3
The assaults of the adversary contribute not a little to the sense of weariness which often prostrates a child of God. To be set up as a mark for Satan; the enemy smiting where sensibility is the keenest; assailing where weakness is the greatest; taking advantage of every new position and circumstance, especially of a season of trial, of a weak, nervous temperament, or of a time of sickness-distorting God's character, diverting the eye from Christ, and turning it in upon self-are among Satan's devices for casting down the soul of a dear believer. And then, there are the narrowness of the narrow way, the intricacies of the intricate way and the perils of the perilous way - all tending to jade and dispirit the soul. To walk in a path so narrow and yet so dangerous, that the white garment must needs be closely wrapped around; to occupy a post of duty so conspicuous, responsible, and difficult, as to fix every eye; some gazing with undue admiration, and others with keen and cold suspicion, ready to detect and to censure any slight irregularity-add not a little to the to toilsomeness of the way. Notice, also, the numerous and varied trials and afflictions which pave his pathway to heaven-his tenderest mercies often his acutest trials, his trials often weighing him to the earth-and you have the outline of a melancholy picture, of which he whose eye scans this page may be the original. Does it surprise, then, that from the lips of such a one the exclamation often rises, "Oh that I had wings like a dove! For then would I fly away, and be at rest. I would hasten my escape from the windy storm and tempest."
Remember, there will be a correspondence between the life of Christ in the soul, and the life which Christ lived when he tabernacled in the flesh. The indwelling of Christ in the believer is a kind of second incarnation of the Son of God. When Christ enters the heart of a poor sinner, He once more clothes Himself with our nature. The life which Christ lived in the days of His sojourn on earth was a life of sorrow, of conflict, of temptation, of desertion, of want, and of suffering in every form. Does He now live a different life in the believer? No; He is still tempted and deserted, in sorrow and in want, in humiliation and in suffering-in His people. What! Did you think that these fiery darts were leveled at you? Did you suppose that it was you who were deserted, that it was you who suffered, that it was you who were despised, that it was you who were trodden under foot? No, my brother, it was Christ dwelling in you. All the malignity of Satan, all the power of sin, and all the contempt of the world, are leveled, not against you, but against the Lord dwelling in you. Was it all death in your soul, all darkness, sinfulness, and worldliness, you would be an entire stranger to these exercises of the renewed man.
Behold the love and condescension of Jesus! That after all He endured in His own person, He should again submit Himself to the same in the persons of His saints; that He should, as it were, return, and tread again the path of suffering, of trial, of humiliation, in the life which each believer lives. Oh, how it speaks that love which passes knowledge! How completely is Christ one with His saints! And yet, how feebly and faintly do we believe this truth! How little do we recognize Christ in all that relates to us! And yet He is in all. He is in every providence that brightens or that darkens upon our path. "Christ is all, and in all."
And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth. - John 1:14
Before this Vessel of grace let us pause in adoring admiration of its greatness and its beauty. It is the "great mystery of godliness." Angels are summoned to adore it. "When He brings in the first-begotten into the world, He says, And let all the angels of God worship Him." It was the profoundest conception of God's wisdom, the masterpiece of His power, and worthy of their deepest homage. Such an unveiling of the glory of God they had never gazed upon before. In the countless glories with which He had enriched and garnished the universe, there was not its symbol, nor its type. All other wonders cease to astonish, and all other beauty fades, in comparison with this, the grandest, the peerless of all. As if fathoming the utmost depth of infinity, and collecting all its hidden treasures of wisdom and power, of grace and truth, God would seem to have concentrated and embodied, to have illustrated and displayed them all, in the person of His Incarnate Son, "God manifest in the flesh." In this was found to consist the fitness of Immanuel, as the covenant Head of grace to the church. The Divine and costly treasure, no longer confided to the guardianship and ministration of a weak, dependent creature, was deposited in the hands of incarnate Deity, One whom the Father knew, His "equal," His "fellow," made strong for Himself; and thus it was secured to His church, an inexhaustible and eternal supply.
But not in His Divine nature only did the fitness and beauty of our Lord, as the one Vessel of grace, appear. His human nature, so perfect, so sinless, so replenished, enriched, and sanctified with the in-being of the Holy Spirit, conspired to render Him "fairer than the children of men."-But in what did the chief excellence and beauty of our Lord's humanity consist? Was it the glory of human wisdom, of worldly grandeur, of secular power? No; not in these! It was that which the world the least esteems, and the most hates, which formed the rich endowment of our Lord's inferior nature-the grace which dwelt within Him. The world conferred no dignity upon Christ, save that of its deepest ridicule and its bitterest scorn. In His temporal estate, He preferred poverty to wealth, obscurity to distinction, insult to applause, suffering to ease, a cross to a throne. So indigent and neglected was He, though every spot of earth was His, and all creatures were feeding from His hand, He had no nightly shelter, and often no "daily bread." How affecting to those who love the Savior, and who owe all their temporal comforts to His deprivation, and all their glory to His abasement, are expressions like these-"Jesus hungered;" "Jesus said, I thirst;" "Jesus sighed deeply in His spirit." "Jesus groaned within Himself;" "Jesus wept" "The Son of man has not where to lay His head." Thus low did stoop the incarnate God!
But in the midst of all this poverty and humiliation, God did seem to say, "I will make Him, my Son, more glorious than angels, and fairer than the children of men. I will endow Him immeasurably with my Spirit, and I will replenish Him to the full with my grace. I will anoint Him with the oil of gladness above His fellows." When He appeared in the world, and the eye of the evangelist caught the vision, he exclaimed with wondering delight, "The glory of the only-begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth." How did all that He said and did, each word and action, betray the fullness of grace that dwelt within Him! The expressions that distilled from His lips were "gracious words;" the truths He thus taught were the doctrines of grace; the works He performed were the miracles of grace; the invitations He breathed were the promises of grace; the blessings He pronounced were the gifts of grace; in a word, the blood He shed, the righteousness He wrought, the redemption He accomplished, the salvation He proclaimed, the souls He rescued, and the kingdom He promised, were the outgushings, the overflowings, the achievements, the triumphs, and the rewards of grace.
Him hath God exalted with his right hand [to be] a Prince and a Saviour, for to give repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sins. - Acts 5:31
How glorious an object is this Savior, whom the gospel thus reveals! It is true His essential greatness, like the peace which He Himself gives, "passes all understanding;" yet, like that peace, He may be known, though He cannot be measured. "We may know experimentally," as Owen beautifully remarks, "that which we cannot know comprehensively; we may know that in its power and effect, which we cannot comprehend in its nature and depths. A weary person may receive refreshment from a spring, who cannot fathom the depth of the ocean from where it proceeds." That this is true of the "love of Christ, which passes knowledge," is equally true of the person of Christ Himself, whom "no man knows but the Father." Do not think that all His beauty is concealed. They, in whom it has pleased the Father to reveal His Son, "behold His glory;" they "see the King in His beauty;" the discovery of His excellence often captivates their soul, and the sense of His love often cheers their hearts; while in lively faith and joy they exclaim, "I am my Beloved's, and my Beloved is mine."
Take one more view of Him, who is the "chief among ten thousand." Look at His sinless yet real humanity; without a single taint, yet sympathizing with all the conditions of ours: afflicted in our afflictions; tempted in our temptations; infirm in our infirmities; grieved in our griefs; "wounded for our transgressions, bruised for our iniquities;" and now that He is in glory, still cherishing a brother's heart, bending down His ear to our petitions, ever standing near to catch our sighs, to dry our tears, to provide for our needs, to guide us by His counsel, and afterwards to receive us to glory. Oh what a Savior is Jesus Christ! Wonder not, my readers, that when He is known, all other beings are eclipsed; that when His beauty is seen, all other beauty fades; that when His love is felt, He becomes supremely enthroned in the affections; and that to know Him more is the one desire of the renewed mind, and to make Him more known is the one aim of the Christian life.
What glorious tidings, too, does the gospel announce! Take the doctrine of pardon, the very mention of which thrills the soul with gladness. Pardon through the blood-shedding of God's dear Son; for "all manner of sin," and for the chief of sinners! What myriads have gone to glory, exulting with their expiring breath in those melodious words, "the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin." Is there no music in this declaration, to the ear of a sin-burdened soul? And when the called children of God behold in that blood of Immanuel the sea which has drowned all their sins, the fountain which has cleansed all their guilt, the source of their reconciliation, the cause of their peace, and the ground of their access-is not the gospel a joyful sound to their ears? And yet how few live in the full enjoyment of this truth-"You will cast all my sins behind Your back." "You have forgiven all their iniquity." "I have blotted out as a cloud your transgression, and as a thick cloud your sins." Precious truth! Since God has spoken it, faith exclaims, "I believe it. On this I can live holily, and on this I can die happily."
Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God. - 1 John 4:7
It were as much a libel upon the religion of Jesus to represent it as destroying the instincts of our sympathetic nature, as it were a dim conception of the Divine power of that religion, to suppose that it does not increase, to an intensity and tenderness almost infinite, the depth and power of those instincts. It is generally admitted, that, compared with the Christian economy, the Old Dispensation was characterized by many essential and palpable features of terror and harshness and that those who lived under its sway would naturally imbibe the spirit of the economy to which they belonged. Yet, oppressive as appear to have been many of its laws, unfeeling many of its requirements, and harsh the spirit of its whole economy, we find in that dispensation some of the most real, tender, and touching exhibitions of sympathy springing from holy hearts, recorded in the Bible. Who, as he wanders amid the vine-clad but deserted hills of Palestine, with a heart of cultivated affections, and an ear attuned to plaintive sounds, does not regard it as the sacred home of sensibility-its valleys and its mountains still vocal with the sighings of sympathy and the lamentations of love? There would still seem to vibrate the touching tones of Jacob, pouring forth the tenderness of his soul, for his beloved Rachel, and for his darling son. There, too, would seem yet to linger the mournful requiem of David for the fallen sovereign whom he venerated, for the faithful friend whom he loved, and for the unhappy son whose untimely death he deplored. Could sympathy be portrayed in a picture more vivid, or embodied in words more heart-subduing, than this: "And the king was much moved, and went up to the chamber over the gate, and wept: and as he went, thus he said, O my son Absalom, my son, my son Absalom! Would God I had died for you, O Absalom, my son, my son!" Such is a recollection of Palestine. And who can thus think of that hallowed land, and not associate with it all that is elevating, grateful, and touching in sympathy!
But another and a more sympathetic economy has succeeded. Christianity is the embodiment, the incarnation of love. It not only inculcates, but it inspires, it not only enjoins, but it originates, the most refined sensibility of soul. Sympathy is no by-law of Christianity, it is the embodied essence of all its laws; and Christianity itself is the embalmed sympathies of Him, in whom dwelt bodily the fullness of Divine and Essential Love. If the ancient economy, with all its coldness, harshness, and severity, dedicated its temples and tuned its lyres, lent its holy oracles and consecrated the very scenes and scenery of nature, to the highest, noblest, and purest sympathies of the soul; surely the gospel will not frown or pour contempt upon the feelings, emotions, and breathings, which the law held precious and sacred. Oh no! The religion of Jesus is the religion of love. It is the school of the affections; and it is only here that they are fully developed, sanctified, and trained. To love man as man should be loved, God must be the first and supreme object of our love.
Wherefore the rather, brethren, give diligence to make your calling and election sure: for if ye do these things, ye shall never fall: For so an entrance shall be ministered unto you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. - 2 Peter 1:10-11
The doctrine of an assured belief of the pardon of sin, of acceptance in Christ, and of adoption into the family of God, has been, and yet is, regarded by many as an attainment never to be expected in the present life; and when it is expressed, it is viewed with a suspicion unfavorable to the character of the work. But this is contrary to the Divine word, and to the concurrent experience of millions who have lived and died in the full assurance of hope. The doctrine of assurance is a doctrine of undoubted revelation, implied and expressed. That it is enforced as a state of mind essential to the salvation of the believer, we cannot admit; but that it is insisted upon as essential to his comfortable and holy walk, and as greatly involving the glory of God, we must strenuously maintain. Else why these marked references to the doctrine? In Col. 2:1, 2, Paul expresses "great conflict" for the saints, that their "hearts might be comforted, being knit together in love, and unto all riches of the full assurance of understanding." In the Epistle to the Hebrews, 7:11, he says, "We desire that every one of you do show the same diligence to the full assurance of hope unto the end." In chap. 10:22, he exhorts them, "Let us draw near with a true heart, in full assurance of faith." And to crown all, the apostle Peter thus earnestly exhorts, "Why the rather, brethren, give diligence to make your calling and election sure." We trust no further proof from the sacred word is required to authenticate the doctrine. It is written as with a sunbeam, "The Spirit itself bears witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God."
It is the duty and the privilege of every believer diligently and prayerfully to seek the sealing of the Spirit. He rests short of his great privilege, if he slights or undervalues this blessing. Do not be satisfied with the faint impression, which you received in conversion. In other words, rest not content with a past experience. Many are satisfied with a mere hope that they once passed from death unto life, and with this feeble and, in many cases, doubtful evidence, they are content to pass all their days, and to go down to the grave. Ah, reader, if you are really converted, and your soul is in a healthy, growing, spiritual state, you will want more than this. And especially, too, if you are led into deeper self-knowledge-a more intimate acquaintance with the roughness of the rough way, the straitness of the strait path, you will want a present Christ to lean upon, and to live upon. Past experience will not do for you, save only as it confirms your soul in the faithfulness of God. "Forgetting those things that are behind," you will seek a present pardon, a present sense of acceptance; and the daily question, as you near your eternal home, will be, "how do I now stand with God?-is Jesus precious to my soul now?-is He my daily food?-what do I experience of daily visits from and to Him?-do I more and more see my own vileness, emptiness, and poverty, and His righteousness, grace, and fullness?-and should the summons now come, am I ready to depart and to be with Christ?" As you value a happy and a holy walk-as you would be jealous for the honor and glory of the Lord-as you wish to be the "salt of the earth," the "light of the world"-to be a savor of Christ in every place-oh, seek the sealing of the Spirit. Rest not short of it-reach after it-press towards it: it is your duty-oh that the duty may be your privilege; then shall you exclaim with an unfaltering tongue, "Abba; Father," "my Lord my God!"
If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children: how much more shall [your] heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him? - Luke 11:13
God has ordained that prayer should be the great channel through which His covenant blessings should flow into the soul. If it is your anxious desire to attain this sealing influence of the Spirit, I would quote for your direction a remark of that eminent servant of Christ, Dr. Goodwin, "Be sure of this," says he, "that before God ever communicates any good to a soul, He puts that soul in a state of holiness to receive it." To confirm and illustrate this thought, let me ask-what was the state of the apostles, when the Holy Spirit descended upon them in His witnessing, anointing, and sealing influences? It is described in these words-"These all continued with one accord in prayer and supplication, with the women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with His brethren," Acts 1:14. What is the important lesson thus taught us? That God would have His child in a waiting, seeking, supplicating posture; and in this holy state, prepared to receive the high attainment He is ready to bestow.
Do you earnestly desire the sealing of the Spirit? "Ask, and you shall receive; seek, and you shall find." As sure as you petition for it-sincerely, humbly, believingly-seeking it in the name of Jesus, through the cross of Christ, you shall have it. The Lord the Spirit is ready to impart it to you. It is the free gift of His love, without respect to any worth or worthiness on the part of the soul that receives it. It is a gift of grace-for the poor, the dependent, the unworthy-those that are little in their own eyes, and little in the eyes of others; and if this is your conscious state, then is it for you. And oh, the blessed results!-who can describe them? Sealed! How will all your legal fears and unbelieving doubts in a moment vanish away! your soul, so long fettered and imprisoned, shall now go free; the cross you have so long looked at, not daring to bow your shoulder to it, shall now be taken up with a cheerful mind; Christ's yoke, so long resisted, will now be easy, and His burden, so long refused, will now be light; and, with a heart enlarged with the love of Jesus, you will "run the way of His commandments," esteeming His precepts better than life. Prayer, importunate prayer, will bring the blessing we plead for into your soul. Seek it with your whole heart-seek it diligently, perseveringly. Seek it by day and by night-seek it in all the means of grace-in every way of God's appointment-especially seek it in the name of Jesus, as the purchased blessing of His atoning blood. "Ask what you will in my name," are His own encouraging words, "and it shall he granted unto you." Then ask for the sealing of the Spirit. Ask nothing less: more you do not want. Feel that you have not "attained," until you possess it-that you have not "apprehended that for which also you are apprehended of Christ Jesus," until you have "received the Holy Spirit" as a sealer.
…but be filled with the Spirit; - Ephesians 5:18
The possession of the Holy Spirit in the fullness of His grace contributes essentially to the constitution of the spiritual mind. The antagonist of carnality is the Spirit. "If we walk in the Spirit, we shall not fulfill the lusts of the flesh." As the Spirit of God, He is the author of all that is spiritual. As the Spirit of holiness, He maintains and carries forward the work of sanctification in the soul. He it is who forms, and He it is who leads forward, the spiritual mind. The large possession of the Spirit! Nothing can exceed the blessing. Without the Spirit of God, what is man? He is the mark of every fiery assault, the prey of every prowling foe-a magazine of corruption, around which a thousand sparks-sparks of his own kindling-fall. But possessing the Spirit; even in its most limited measure, what is man? A living soul-a holy being-a temple of God-an heir of glory. But suppose him possessing the Spirit in the plenitude of His grace, not partially, but "filled with the Spirit-what must be the invincibility of his might in the resistance of sin! What the potency of his shield in disarming the power of temptation! And what the eminence of his attainments in spiritual-mindedness, as a child of God! While others are girding for the conflict, or are adjusting their armor, he is covering himself with glory on the battle-field. While others are training for the race, he has well-near reached the goal. "Filled with the Spirit," he is filled with all the fruits of the Spirit. Faith is vigorous, hope is bright, and love is fervent. He is mighty in the "Spirit of power, and of love, and of a sound mind."
It was this possession of the Spirit in His fullness which gave to the apostles, who until then were so timid and unbelieving, such irresistible boldness and power on the day of Pentecost. Some in their hearing exclaimed, "These men are full of new wine." But the secret was, "They were all filled with the Holy Spirit." And the hearts of the great mass to whom they preached the crucified Savior bowed before the power of their preaching, "as the trees of the wood are moved with the wind." Oh seek to "be filled with the Spirit"! Then will your thirstings for God be deeper, your breathings after holiness more intense, your communion with your heavenly Father closer, and your faith in Jesus stronger. The indwelling of the Spirit is the root of all holiness; but the communication of the Spirit in the plenitude of His gracious, sanctifying, Christ-transforming influence, is the secret of an elevated tone of heavenly-mindedness. Would you repel some strong assault, or vanquish some powerful corruption, or throw off some clinging infirmity, and abide by the verdant banks and quiet waters of fellowship with the Father and with His Son Christ Jesus?-oh ask, and you shall receive, the fullness of the Spirit.
Beware of being guided by any other than the Spirit of God. The temptation is strong, and the tendency to yield to it equally so, of being biased in forming our theological views, and in modeling our Christian practice, by the profound research, the distinguished talents, the exalted piety, and admired example of men. But this must not be. It is inconsistent with the honor that belongs, and with the love that we owe, to the Spirit. A human must necessarily be a fallible guide; against the influence of whose doctrinal errors, and practical mistakes, no extent of learning, or depth of spirituality, or eminence of position on their part, can insure us. We are only safe, as we constantly and strictly follow our Divine and heavenly guide. Blessed and Eternal Spirit! To Your teaching would I bow my mind. To Your love would I yield my heart. To Your consolation would I carry my sorrows. To Your government would I resign my entire soul. "You shall guide me by Your counsel, and afterwards receive me to glory."
And the Lord shall deliver me from every evil work, and will preserve [me] unto his heavenly kingdom: to whom [be] glory for ever and ever. Amen. - 2 Timothy 4:18
Things temporary and transient, be they sad or of joyous, pleasant or painful; indwelling sin, temporary trial, occasional temptations, the momentary suspensions of God's realized love-none of these, or any other things present; shall separate from Christ. What human foresight can predict the future of the earthly history of the child of God? What human hand can uplift the veil that conceals the events that shall yet transpire in his history, before he reaches that perfect world where there will be no future, but one eternal present? Oh, what goodness hides it from our view! But be that future what it may-shady or sunny, stormy or serene-God will stand fast to His covenant with His church, and Christ to His union with His people. Things to come, be they more terrible than things that are past, or that are now, shall not touch their interest in the Lord's love.
No elevation to which He may advance them, no height of rank, or wealth, or honor, or influence, or usefulness, shall peril their place in His love. Thus it was the Lord advanced Moses, and David, and Joseph, and Gideon; but in their elevation to worldly distinction, power, and affluence, they were kept walking humbly with God-and this was the secret of their safety. "The Lord God is my strength, and He will make my feet like hinds' feet, and He will make me to walk in mine high places." From the loftiest height to the lowest depth of adversity, God can bring His servant, yet love him still with an unchanged and deathless affection. But no depth of soul-distress, no depth of poverty, or suffering, or humiliation, shall disturb the repose, or peril the security, of a believing soul in the love of God.
If there be any other thing or being in the wide universe that wears a threatening or unkindly aspect towards the Christian, Divine power shall restrain its force, saying to the proud waves, "Thus far shall you come, and no farther." And thus all the billows, amid which the ark has for ages been tossed, shall but bear it gently and triumphantly onward to the mount of God. On that mount, beloved, where now are gathering all who have the Father's name written on their foreheads, we too, through grace, shall stand, eternally extolling the Lamb, through Him who, because He died, there is for us no condemnation from Divine justice, and through Him who, because He lives, there is for us no separation from Divine love.
For the creature was made subject to vanity, not willingly, but by reason of him who hath subjected [the same] in hope, - Romans 8:20
The vanity here referred to is opposed to the state of glory in anticipation, and therefore expresses the condition of corruption and trial in the midst of which the renewed creature dwells, and to the assaults of which it is incessantly exposed. The world through which the Christian is passing to his rest may be emphatically called a state of vanity. How perpetually and forcibly are we reminded of the king of Israel's exclamation, "Vanity of vanities, all is vanity and vexation of spirit." "Surely every man walks in a vain show." His origin, the earth; his birth, degenerate; his rank, a bauble; his wealth, but glittering dust; his pomp, an empty pageant; his beauty, a fading flower; his pursuits, an infant's play; his honors, vexations of spirit; his joys, fleeting as a cloud; his life, transient as a vapor; his final home, a grave. Surely "man at his best state is altogether vanity." And what is his religion but vanity?-his native holiness, a vain conceit; his natural light, Egyptian darkness; his human wisdom, egregious folly; his religious forms, and rites, and duties, "a vain show in the flesh;" his most gorgeous righteousness, "filthy rags." In the impressive language of Scripture, of him it may be said, "That man's religion is vain." "Lord, what is man, that you take knowledge of him! Or the son of man, that you make account of him!"
Truly "vanity" is inscribed in legible characters on each created good. How, then, can the renewed creature escape its influence? He is "subject to vanity," Dazzled by its glare, captivated by its fascinations, ensnared by its promises, he is often the victim of its power. But it is not a voluntary subjection on the part of the renewed creature. "For the creature was made subject to vanity, not willingly." It is not with him a condition of choice. He loves it not, he prefers it not, and he glories not in it. From it he would sincerely be freed; beyond it he would gladly soar. "For we who are in this tabernacle do groan, being burdened." His prayer is, "Turn away mine eyes from beholding vanity; and quicken me in Your way." He pants for a holier and a happier state-a state more congenial with his renewed nature. Like the Israelites under the Egyptian bondage, he is a most unwilling servant, groaning beneath his galling yoke, and sighing for the glorious liberty of the children of God. Ah, yes! God has given you another will, O renewed creature! And your present subjection to this poor, vain world is an involuntary subjection of the divine nature within you. Why God should have subjected the renewed creature to vanity does not appear; we well know that He could have transferred us to heaven, the moment that He renewed us on earth. But may we not infer that in sending His people into the world, after He had called them by His grace, and; in a sense, taken them out of it-that in subjecting them for so many years to this state of vanity-He has best consulted His own glory and their good? The school of their heavenly teaching, the scene of their earthly toil, and the theater of their spiritual conflict they are kept in this world for a season; "made subject to vanity, not willingly, but by reason of Him who has subjected the same in hope."
I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called, - Ephesians 4:1
The calling here referred to is that inward, effectual calling of which the same apostle speaks in another place "Among whom are you also the called of Jesus Christ: to all that be in Rome, beloved of God, called to be saints." What a glorious vocation is this! To have heard the Holy Spirit's divine yet gentle voice in the deep recesses of the soul-to have felt the drawings of the Savior's love upon the heart-to have listened to a Father's persuasive assurance of a love that has forgotten all our enmity, forgiven all our rebellion, and that remembers only the kindness of our youth, and the love of our espousals-"called to be saints," God's holy ones-called to be sons, the Father's adopted ones-oh, this were a vocation worthy indeed of God, and demanding in return our supremest, deepest affection!
The principle, upon which this call proceeds, is said to be "according to His purpose." Thus it is a calling over which we have no control, either in originating or frustrating it, and therefore there is no ground of self-boasting. "In whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of Him who works all things after the counsel of His own will." It excludes all idea of merit on the part of the called. "Who has saved us, and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began." Oh, yield your heart to the full belief and holy influence of this truth. Does it clash with your creed?-then your creed is defective. Does it awaken the opposition of your heart? - Then your heart is not right. Are you really among the "called of God"?-then ascribe it to His eternal purpose, and believe that you have no ground of boasting, in the possession of a favor so distinguished, save in the sovereign will and most free grace of the most holy Lord God who has called you. Has this call reached you, my reader? Ministers have called you-the gospel has called you-providences have called you-conscience has called you-but has the Spirit called you with an inward and effectual vocation? Have you been called, spiritually called, from darkness to light-from death to life-from sin to holiness-from the world to Christ-from self to God? Examine your heart and ascertain. It is a matter of the greatest moment that you know that you are truly converted-that you are called of God. Has the thrilling, life-inspiring music of that call sounded and reverberated through all the chambers of your soul?
Are we called? Then let us heed the earnest entreaty of the apostle, in the words of our motto, "I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that you walk worthy of the vocation with which you are called." Let the lowliest and the highest vocation of life be dignified and sanctified by the heavenly calling. Wherever you are, and in whatever engaged, do not forget your high calling of God. You are called to be saints; called to a separation from the world; called to a holy, heavenly life; called to live for God, to labor for Christ; and soon will be called to be with the Lord forever!
…Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind. But why dost thou judge thy brother? or why dost thou set at nought thy brother? for we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ. Let us not therefore judge one another any more: but judge this rather, that no man put a stumblingblock or an occasion to fall in [his] brother's way. - Romans 14:5,10,13
The exercise of private judgment is the natural and inalienable right of every individual. Sanctified by the Spirit of God, it becomes a precious privilege of the believer. He prizes it more than riches, claims it as one of the immunities of his heavenly citizenship, and will surrender it only with life itself. Christian love will avoid infringing, in the least degree, upon this sacred right. I am bound by the law of love to concede to my brother, to its fullest extent, that which I claim for myself. I am moreover bound to believe him conscientious and honest in the views which hold, and that he maintains them in a reverence for the word, and in the exercise of the fear of God. He does not see eye to eye with me in every point of truth-our views of church government, of ordinances, and of some of the doctrines are not alike. And yet, discerning a perfect agreement as to the one great and only way of salvation-and still more, marking in him much of the lowly, loving spirit of his Master, with an earnest desire, in simplicity and godly sincerity, to serve Him-how can I cherish or manifest towards him any other than a feeling of brotherly love? God loves him, God bears with him; and Christ may see in him, despite of a creed less accurately balanced with the word of truth than mine, a walk more in harmony with the holy, self-denying, God-glorifying precepts of that truth. With orthodoxy less perfect, there may be a life more holy. With less illumination in the judgment, there may be more grace in the heart. How charitable in my interpretation, then, how loving in my spirit, how kind and gentle in my manner, should I be towards him! How jealous, too, ought I to be, of that independence of mind, in the exercise of which he may, notwithstanding, have arrived at conclusions opposite to my own.
Cherishing these feelings, Christians who differ in judgment, will be placed in a more favorable position for the understanding of each other's views, and for the united examination of the word of God. Diversity of judgment, through the infirmity of our fallen nature, is apt to beget alienation of feeling; and consequently, the development of truth is hindered. But where harmony of affection is cultivated, there will be a greater probability of arriving at more perfect agreement in sentiment, thus walking in accordance with apostle's rule-"I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you: but that you be perfectly joined together in the same mind, and in the same judgment."
But the salvation of the righteous [is] of the LORD: [he is] their strength in the time of trouble. And the LORD shall help them, and deliver them: he shall deliver them from the wicked, and save them, because they trust in him. - Psalm 37:39-40
Of all the consolations which flow into the soul of the afflicted believer, not the least is that he has a covenant God to go to in prayer. What can surpass this? What could supply its place? Nothing! In no way does God more effectually comfort those that are cast down, than by drawing them to Himself. For this He has instituted prayer, sprinkled the mercy-seat with the blood of His Son, and sends the sweet promise and grace of His Spirit, to invite and draw the disconsolate to Himself. "A Christian, when he is beaten out of all other comforts, has a God to run unto. He can wrestle, and strive with God by God's own strength, can make use of His own weapons, and plead with God by His own arguments. What a happy estate is this! Who would not be a Christian, if it were but for this, to have something to rely on when all things else fail?"
Approach, then, disconsolate soul! And pour out your sorrow to God in prayer. Your God is upon the throne of grace, and "waits that He may be gracious unto you." Then "you shall weep no more: He will be very gracious unto you at the voice of your cry; when He shall hear it, He will answer you." Why are you then cast down? "Trust in God, grace will be above nature, God above the devil, the Spirit above the flesh. Be strong in the Lord; the battle is His, and the victory ours beforehand. If we fought in our own cause and strength, and with our own weapons, it was something; but as we fight in the power of God, so are we kept by that mighty power through faith unto salvation. Corruptions are strong, but stronger is He that is in us than the corruption that is in us. Our corruptions are God's enemies as well as ours; and therefore in trusting to Him, and fighting, we may be sure He will take our part against them."
In each season of casting down, ascend your watch-tower in the full expectation of an especial blessing. This would seem to be the order God: "When men are cast down, then you shall say, there is lifting up." Expect great mercies through the medium of great trials; great comforts through great sorrows; deep sanctification from deep humiliation. All the trying dispensations of God in the histories of His people are preparatory to their greater grace. It was in this school the distinguished apostle of the Gentiles was taught the greatest and holiest lesson of life. Descending from the third heaven, all fragrant with its odors, and glowing with its light, he was plunged into the deepest humiliation, in order that he might be instructed more thoroughly in that truth, which he could not experimentally have learned even in paradise itself-the sufficiency of Christ's grace to sustain the believer the deepest trial. Tried believer! Suffering saint! Expect an especial blessing to your soul. If Lord has led you in by the north gate, he will lead you out by the south gate. Dark though the cloud may be, and painful the path, have patience in your affliction, and God will give you a happy issue out of all your troubles. And, oh, blessed result, if sin is embittered, if holiness is sweetened, if some tyrant corruption is mortified, if communion with God is quickened, if Jesus is endeared, if your Father in heaven is glorified! "Why are you cast down, O my soul? And why are you disquieted within me? Hope in God; for I shall yet praise Him, who is the health of my countenance, and my God."
In whom we have redemption through his blood, [even] the forgiveness of sins: - Colossians 1:14
The blood of Jesus is the life of our pardon and acceptance: "Whom God has set forth to be a propitiation through faith in His blood, to declare His righteousness for the remission of sins that are past through the forbearance of God-that is, the transgressions of the Old Testament saints; the life-giving blood of Jesus extending its pardoning efficacy back to the remotest period of time, and to the greatest sinner upon earth; even to him "by whom sin entered into the world, and death by sin-such is the vitality of the atoning blood of God's dear Son. And if the pardoning blood thus bore an antecedent virtue, has it less a present one? No! Listen to the life-inspiring words! "In whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according the riches of His grace." Once more, "The blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin. It has a present life, an immediate efficacy. The life of our pardon! Yes! The believing though trembling penitent sees all his sins cancelled, all his transgressions pardoned, through the precious blood of Jesus. Nothing but the life-blood of the incarnate God could possibly effect it. And when, after repeated backslidings, he returns again, with sincere and holy contrition, and bathes in it afresh, lo! The sense of pardon is renewed; and while he goes away to loathe himself, and abhor his sin, he yet can rejoice that the living blood of the Redeemer has put it entirely and forever away.
And what is the life of our acceptance but the blood of Immanuel? "Justified by His blood!" The robe that covers us is the righteousness of Him who is "the Lord our Righteousness;" who, when He had, had, by one act of perfect obedience to the law, woven the robe of our justification, bathed it in His own lifeblood, and folded it around His church, presenting her to His Father a "glorious church, not having spot, or any such thing." Not only is it the ground of our present acceptance, but the saints in heaven, "the spirits of just men made perfect," take their stand upon it. "Who are these," it is asked, "which are arrayed in white robes? And where came they?" The answer is, "These are they who came out of great tribulation, and have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. Therefore are they before the throne of God." Thus now, pleading the justifying blood of Jesus, the believing though distressed and trembling soul may stand before God, "accepted in the Beloved." Wondrous declaration! Blessed state! Rest not, reader, until you have attained it. No, you cannot rest, until you have received by faith the righteousness of Christ.
From where too, flows the life of spiritual joy? But from the life-giving blood of Immanuel? There can be no real joy, but in the experience of pardoned sin. The joy of the unpardoned soul is the joy of the condemned on his way to death-a mockery and a delusion. With all his sins upon him, with all his iniquities yet unforgiven, every step brings him nearer to the horrors of the second death; what, then, can he know of true joy? But when the blood of Jesus is sprinkled upon the heart and the sense of sin forgiven is sealed upon the conscience, then there is joy indeed - "joy unspeakable, and full of glory." From where, also, flows peace-sweet, holy, divine peace-but from the heart's blood of the Prince of Peace? There can be no true peace from God, where there does not exist perfect reconciliation with God. That is a false peace which springs not from a view of God pacified in Christ, God one with us in the atonement of His Son, "speaking peace by Jesus Christ." "The blood of sprinkling speaks better things than that of Abel," because it speaks peace.
In whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will: - Ephesians 1:11-12
The doctrine of predestination is well calculated to confirm and strengthen the true believer in the fact and certainty of his salvation through Christ. Feeling, as he does, the plague of his own heart, experiencing the preciousness of the Savior, looking up through the cross to God as his Father, exulting in a hope that makes not ashamed, and remembering that God the Eternal Spirit only renews those who are chosen by God the Father, and are redeemed by God the Son, this doctrine is found to be most comforting and confirming to his faith. The faintest lineaments of resemblance to God, and the feeblest breathing of the Spirit of adoption he discovers in his soul, is to him an indisputable evidence of his predestination to Divine sonship and holiness.
Another blessing accruing from the doctrine is the sweet and holy submission into which it brings the mind under all afflictive dispensations. Each step of his pilgrimage and each incident of his history, the believer sees appointed in the everlasting covenant of grace. He recognizes the discipline of the covenant to be as much a part of the original plan, as any positive mercy that it contains. That all the hairs of his head are numbered; that affliction comes not out of the earth, and therefore is not the result of accident or thence, but is in harmony with God's purposes of love; and that thus ordained and permitted, must work together for good-not the least blessing resulting from this truth is its tendency to promote personal godliness. The believer feels that God has "chosen us to salvation through sanctification and belief of the truth;" that He has "chosen us that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love;" that we are "His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God has before ordained that we should walk in them." Thus the believer desires to "give all diligence to make his calling and election sure," or undoubted, by walking in all the ordinances and commandments of the Lord blameless, and standing complete in all the will of God.
And what doctrine more emptying, humbling, and therefore sanctifying, than this? It lays the axe at the root of all human boasting. In the light of this truth, the most holy believer sees that there is no difference between him and the vilest sinner that crawls the earth, but what the mere grace of God has made. Such are some of the many blessings flowing to the Christian from this truth. The radiance which it reflects upon the entire history of the child of God, and the calm repose which it diffuses over the mind in all the perplexing, painful, and mysterious events of that history, can only be understood by those whose hearts have fully received the doctrine. Whatever betides him-inexplicable in its character, enshrouded in the deepest gloom, as may be the circumstance-the believer in this truth can "stand still," and, calmly surveying the scene, exclaim: "This also comes forth from the Lord of hosts, who is wonderful in counsel, and excellent in working. He who works all things after the counsel of His own will has done it, and I am satisfied that it is well done."
Thou art fairer than the children of men: grace is poured into thy lips: therefore God hath blessed thee for ever. - Psalm 45:2
…and no man knoweth the Son, but the Father;… - Matthew 11:27
These two passages of God's word convey to the mind the most forcible and exalted views of the personal excellence and dignity of the Lord Jesus. The first portrays His matchless beauty, the second His incomprehensible greatness. The Psalmist doubtless refers here to the perfection of His human excellence. As man, His beauty transcends the comeliest of human beings-"fairer than the children of men." Their beauty is mixed; His is pure. Theirs is derived; His is from Himself. Theirs decays; His is imperishable. His body prepared of God, His mind filled with all the wisdom, grace, and holiness of the Spirit-He stands forth the "bright and morning star," the perfect, peerless Son of man. Oh for an eye to see and admire His excellence! And not admire only, but to imitate. Oh for grace to lie at His feet, and learn of His meekness! To lean on His bosom, and drink of His love! To set the Lord always before us, never moving the eye from this perfect model, but ever aiming to transcribe its lineaments upon our daily life! Yes! "You are fairer than the children of men!" You altogether lovely One! And as I gaze upon Your perfection, passing from beauty to beauty, my admiration increases, and my love deepens; until, in the assurance of faith, and in the transport of joy, I exclaim, "This is my Beloved, and this is my Friend."
Respecting His superior nature, not less clear and emphatic is the declaration of His essential greatness: "No man knows the Son, but the Father." Surely these words are sufficient to remove all doubt as to His Deity. Were He only man, with what truth could it be affirmed of Him, that "no man knows the Son"? It is the property of an angel, that he understands the angelic nature; and of man, that he understands the human nature. It is the perfection of God, that He only understands the nature of God. Who, then, but the Infinite can measure the infinite greatness of the Son of God? The loftiest created imagination, the mightiest human intellect, the profoundest angelic research, falls infinitely short of what He is. The Father alone knows the Son, because He is of the same nature and mind with the Father. Beware of holding this doctrine lightly. A more important one-one more glorious or more precious-asks not the confidence of your faith. Hold it fast, even as the vessel in the storm clings to its anchor. This gone, the next mountain wave drives you upon the quicksand of doubt and perplexity, and then where are you? Consider how important must be that single truth, on which the value, the preciousness, and the efficacy of all other truths depend. Such a truth is the Godhead of Christ.
For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death. - Romans 8:2
The interpretation we propose for the adoption of the reader is that which regards the "law of the Spirit of life," as describing the gospel of Christ, frequently denominated a "law"-and emphatically so in this instance, because of the emancipation it confers from the Mosaic code, called the "law of sin and death," as by it the knowledge of sin, and through it death is threatened as the penalty of its transgression. But in what sense is the believer free from this deadly law? As a covenant he is free from it. The believer's union to Christ frees him from the condemnatory power of this law. He looks not to it for life; he rests not in it for hope; he renounces it as a saving covenant, and under the influence of another and a higher obligation-his union to Christ-he brings forth fruit unto God. Was ever liberty so glorious as this-a liberty associated with the most loving, cordial, and holy obedience? Not a single precept of that law, from whose covenant and curse he is released by this act of freedom, is compromised. All its precepts embodied and reflected in the life of Christ-whose life is the model of our own-appear infinitely more clear and resplendent than ever they appeared before. The obedience of the Lawgiver infinitely enhanced the luster of the law, presenting the most impressive illustration of its majesty and holiness that it could possibly receive.
The instrument to whose agency this exalted liberty is ascribed is the "law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus." The term law is forensic, though not infrequently used in God's word to designate the gospel of Christ; indicating it in the text, as the great instrument by which this freedom is obtained. The gospel is the law which reveals the way of salvation by Christ. It is the development of God's great expedient of saving man. It speaks of pardon and adoption, of acceptance and sanctification, as all flowing to the soul through faith in His dear Son. It represents God as extending His hand of mercy to the vilest sinner; welcoming the penitent wanderer back to His home, and once more taking the contrite rebel to His heart. It is also a quickening law-emphatically the "law of the Spirit of life." What numbers are seeking sanctification from the "law of sin," and life from the "law of death"! But the gospel speaks of life. Its doctrines-its precepts-its promises-its exhortations-its rebukes-its hopes-are all instinct with spiritual life, and come with quickening power to the soul. "The words that I speak unto you," says Jesus, "they are spirit and they are life." Oh, there is life in the gospel, because it is the "law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus." It testifies of "Christ who is our life." It declares that there is no spiritual life but in Him. And although "the letter kills," working alone, yet in the hands of the Spirit it gives life. Thus clothed with the energy of the Holy Spirit, the gospel proves a "savor of life unto life," to all who believe in it to the saving of the soul.
Believer; a holy, filial, joyful liberty is your birthright. It is the liberty of a pardoned and justified sinner; of a reconciled, adopted child; of one for whom there is "now no condemnation." Yet how few of God's people walk in the full enjoyment of this liberty! How few pray, and love, and confide, as adopted children! Oh, sons of God, rise to this your high and heavenly calling! Your freedom was purchased at a high price, undervalue it not. It is most holy - abuse it not. It binds you by the strongest obligations to yield yourselves unto God, as those that are alive from the dead. Be these the breathings of our soul: "Lord! My sweetest privilege is obedience to You; my highest freedom is wearing Your yoke and my greatest rest bearing Your burden. Oh, how love I Your law after the inward man! I delight to do Your will, O my God!"
Now our Lord Jesus Christ himself, and God, even our Father, which hath loved us, and hath given [us] everlasting consolation and good hope through grace, Comfort your hearts, and stablish you in every good word and work. - 2 Thessalonians 2:16-17
Upon the subject of comfort great stress is laid in the sacred word. It is clearly God's revealed will that His people should be comforted. The fullness of Christ, the exceeding great and precious promises of the word, the covenant of grace, and all the dealings of God, bear upon this one point, the comfort and consolation of the saints. A brief reference to the Divine word will convince us of this. This is the very character He Himself bears, and this is the blessed work He accomplishes. Thus, " Blessed [be] God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort; Who comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God." 2 Corinthians 1:3-4. Kindred to this, are those striking words in Isaiah 40:1: " Comfort ye, comfort ye my people, saith your God." This was God's command to the prophet. It was His declared will that His people should be comforted, even though they dwelt in Jerusalem, the city which was to witness the crucifixion of the Lord of life and glory. What an unfolding does this give us of Him who is the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our tribulation, and that, too, in every place!
To comfort the saints is one important end of the Scriptures: "Whatever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope." Romans 15:4. And thus the exhortation runs-"Comfort the feeble-minded." "Why comfort yourselves together, and edify one another, even as also you do." "Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air; and so shall we ever be with the Lord. Why comfort one another with these words." Thus has the Holy Spirit testified to this subject, and thus is it clear that it is the will, and it is in the heart, of God, that His people should be comforted.
The Spirit comforts the believer by unfolding to his eye the near prospect of the coming glory. Heaven is near at hand. It is but a step out of a poor, sinful, sorrow-stricken world, into the rest that remains for the people of God. It is but a moment, the twinkling of an eye, and we are absent from the body, and are present with the Lord. Then will the days of our mourning be ended, then sin will grieve no more-affliction will wound no more-sorrow will depress no more, and God will hide Himself no more. There will be the absence of all evil, and the presence of all good; and they who have come out of great tribulation, and have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb, shall take their stand before the throne of God, and shall "serve Him day and sight in His temple: and He that sits on the throne shall dwell among them. They shall hunger so more, neither thirst any more; neither shall the sun light on them, nor any heat. For the Lamb which is in the midst of the throne shall feed them, and shall lead them unto living fountains of waters: and God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes." Why, beloved in the Lord, let us comfort one another with these words, and with this prospect.
And my speech and my preaching [was] not with enticing words of man's wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power: That your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God. - 1 Corinthians 2:4-5
True wisdom has been defined as that power which accomplishes the greatest results by the simplest means. Then, here is wisdom! To save souls from eternal death, by the "foolishness of preaching," must be regarded as the highest point to which wisdom can soar. It is recorded of the apostles, that they "so spoke, that a great multitude, both of the Jews, and also of the Gentiles believed." They presented Christ so prominently-they divided truth so skillfully-they preached with such power, point, and simplicity, that "multitudes were added to the Lord." See with what contempt they looked down upon the unsanctified wisdom and lore of this world. Addressing the Corinthians, their great leader could say, "My speech and my preaching were not with enticing words of man's wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power." By the influence of his preaching, pagan altars were destroyed, senseless idols were abandoned, the Pantheon and the Lyceum were forsaken, and "a great company of the priests were obedient to the faith;" but it was not with the "wisdom of this world," in order that their "faith should not stand in the wisdom of man, but in the power of God."
And why may not the same results in the employment of the same means be ours? Preach we not the same gospel? Deal we not with the same intelligent and deathless minds? Draw we not our motives and our appeals from the same eternity? True, we possess neither the spirit of prophecy nor the gift of miracles. We need not. Nor did they in their grand work of converting men to God. They never, in a single instance; quickened a soul by the power of a miracle. The extraordinary gifts with which they were endowed were bestowed for another and a different purpose. The cases of our Lord and of His fore runner are strikingly in point. The ministry of Jesus, although attended by a succession of miracles the most brilliant and convincing, resulted in fewer conversions than the ministry of John, who did no miracle. To what divine agency, then, did the apostles themselves trace the extraordinary result of their preaching? To what, but the "demonstration of the Spirit"? Oh for tongues of fire to proclaim the glad tidings of the gospel! With such a Savior to make known-with such revelations to disclose-with such souls to save-with such results to expect-is it not marvelous that we should speak with any other?
The true preacher of the gospel, then, is so rightly to divide God's word, as not to confound truth with error-so discriminatingly to proclaim it, as to separate the precious from the vile- and so distinctly and prominently to hold up the cross of Christ, as to save immortal souls. The cross, the cross, must be the central exhibition of our ministry, to which every eye must be directed, and before which all the glory of man must fade. The Holy Spirit, too, must be more honored-His anointing more especially sought-His influence more earnestly insisted upon. Apart from this, no ministry, be its character in other respects what it may, has any real power. How poor a thing it is, distinguished only by its learning, genius, and eloquence; and destitute of the vital warmth, and impassioned earnestness, the soul-subduing and heart-awakening energy of the Holy Spirit! Weighed in the balance of the sanctuary, it is as light as air; estimated in view of the judgment, it is an awful mockery.
And that he might make known the riches of his glory on the vessels of mercy, which he had afore prepared unto glory, Even us, whom he hath called, not of the Jews only, but also of the Gentiles? - Romans 9:23-24
Let us for a moment transport our thoughts to the future. The future! Oh, how bright it is, and full of blessing, to the "vessels of mercy afore prepared unto glory"! The grace, ceasing on earth, is now succeeded by "an exceeding and eternal weight of glory." He who has tasted that the Lord is gracious shall assuredly see that the Lord is glorious. "How may we know," is often a trembling inquiry, "that our departed friends are with Jesus?" Were they partakers, in the most limited degree, of the grace of Jesus? Then, their safety is beyond all doubt. The grace which they possessed was the seedling, the germ, the first-fruits of glory. The light which illumined their souls was the twilight dawn of heaven. It was utterly impossible that germ could die, or that light could be extinguished. It was as imperishable and as immortal as God Himself. The weak grace battled with sin, and the feeble light struggled with darkness, but both conquered at last. There they are-"standing on the sea of glass," chanting the high praises of the grace that brought them there. Yonder they are-in the Father's house, in the Savior's mansions; they conflict no more; they weep no more; they hunger and thirst no more; for He who once gave them grace, now gives them glory. "Grace is glory militant, and glory is grace triumphant; grace is glory begun, glory is grace made perfect; grace is the first degree of glory, glory is the highest degree of grace."
Lift up your heads, you, gracious souls! Heaven is before you, and your full redemption draws near. "The Lord is at hand." His coming is near. That "blessed hope" of the church, His "glorious appearing," will soon be realized, bursting upon your soul in all its blissful splendor, and then you shall be perfectly like, and forever with, the Lord. But should you go to Him, before He returns to you-for if Jesus does not come for you, He will send for you-fear not to descend the dark valley, already trodden by your Lord and Savior. Dying grace is bound up in the covenant of grace; and Jesus, full of grace, to the last moment, will be there to dispense it to your need, His left hand under your head, and His right hand embracing you.
His aged saints are the especial objects of God's loving, tender, faithful care. Lean, in all the decrepitude of years, in all the weakness, pain, and tremulousness of advanced age, in all the fears, misgivings, and becloudings of life's close, upon this Divine rod and staff. Now that you are old and grey-headed, your God will not forsake you. Rest in the faithfulness of God, lean upon the finished work of Jesus, and hope on for the glory so soon to be revealed. Let your believing prayer be, "Cast me not off in the time of old age; forsake me not when my strength fails." And God's faithful answer will be, "Even to your old age I am He; and even to hoar hairs will I carry you."
…praying in the Holy Ghost, - Jude 20
A more holy and solemn engagement enlists not the thoughts, and feelings, and time of the believer, than the engagement of prayer. In proportion, then, to the spirituality of a duty, will be the keen sense of the opposition it meets from either the mental or physical frailties which encompass the Christian. The apostle Paul thus defines this infirmity-"We know not what we should pray for as we ought." How shall we describe it? With what feature shall we begin? There is first the difficulty which some feel in reference to the nature of prayer. Simple as prayer is, we see how even an apostle could be perplexed, for he includes himself in this general description of the saints. Three times did he urge a petition the granting of which would have proved a curse rather than a blessing. "What am I to pray for?" is the earnest inquiry of some. "Am I to limit my requests in petitioning for spiritual blessings, or may I include in my petitions blessings that are temporal?" "What is real prayer?" is the yet more earnest question of another. "I fear mine is not true prayer. May I characterize by such a holy and significant term the cold effusions of my closet, the feeble ejaculations of the wayside, the wandering devotions of the sanctuary, the moanings of a spirit wounded, the sighs of a heart oppressed, the upward glancings of a mind beclouded, the breathings of a soul whose spiritual exercises are at times so opposite and contradictory? Is this prayer?" Then there is the infirmity of the act of prayer. The vagrancy of thought-the coldness of affection-the intrusion of low cares-the consciousness of unreal petitions, of unfelt confessions, of undesired requests-the felt oppressiveness of a distasteful task, rather than the felt luxury of a precious privilege-the slovenliness of the performance-the little solemnity of mind-all mark the infirmity which attaches to this transcendently spiritual employment.
Then as to the mode of prayer; this also is felt to be a source of painful embarrassment by some. There are many Christians who find it difficult, if not impossible, to give expression to the heart's utterances, in what is termed free prayer. Compelled, through an infirmity they cannot conquer, to restrict themselves to a liturgical form of devotion, while others pour out their souls to God in unfettered breathings, in unrestricted communion, they are, at times, perplexed to know whether they are acquainted with the reality and power of true prayer. Thus many a saint of God, whose needs are not the less real, whose desires are not the less spiritual, and whose breathings are not the less fervent and divinely acceptable, may, through this his infirmity, be much cast down and discouraged. But who, whatever be his mode of prayer, is free from some clinging infirmity, interfering with the sanctity and power of this hallowed engagement? Who is not mournfully sensible, that of all his spiritual privileges, this, his highest, most sacred and solemn, is the most encompassed with, and marred and fettered by, the deep corruptions of his fallen and depraved nature? that after all his rigid observance of the duty, his many devotional engagements, public and private, there should yet be so little felt nearness to God, so little confidential communion-in a word, so little real prayer. Oh, how much prayerless prayer do we have to mourn over! How little brokenness of heart; how little sense of sin; how faint a taking hold of the atoning blood; how imperfect a realization of God's relation to us as a Father; how little faith in His promise to hear, in His ability to aid, in His readiness to bless us! Such are some of the infirmities associated with prayer, often suggesting the gospel petition, "Lord, teach us to pray."
Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us. - Romans 8:37
The apostle had enumerated certain things which, to the obscure eye of faith, and to the yet obscurer eye of sense, would appear to make against the best interests of the Christian, regarded either as evidences of a waning of Christ's love to him, or as calculated to produce such a result. He proposes an inquiry-"Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?"-and then proceeds to give the reply. That reply sets the question entirely at rest. He argues, that so far from the things which he enumerates shaking the constancy of Christ's love, periling the safety of the Christian, or shading the luster of His renown, they but developed the Savior's affection to him, more strongly confirmed the fact of his security, and entwined fresh and more verdant laurels around his brow. "No, in all these things we are more than conquerors."
"Through Him that loved us." Here is the great secret of our victory, the source of our triumph. Behold the mystery explained, how a weak, timid believer, often starting at his own shadow, is yet "more than a conqueror" over his many and mighty foes. To Christ who loved him, who gave Himself for him, who died in his stead, and lives to intercede on his behalf, the glory of the triumph is ascribed. And this is the song he chants: "Thanks be to God, which gives us the victory, through our Lord Jesus Christ." Through the conquest which He Himself obtained, through the grace which He imparts, through the strength which He inspires, through the intercession which he presents, in all our "tribulation and distress, and persecution, and famine, and nakedness, and peril, and sword," we are "more than conquerors." Accounted though we are as "sheep for the slaughter," yet our great Shepherd, Himself slain for the sheep, guides His flock, and has declared that no one shall pluck them out of His hand. We are more than conquerors, through His grace who loved us, in the very circumstances that threaten to overwhelm. Fear not, then, the darkest cloud, nor the proudest waves, nor the deepest needs-in these very things you shall, through Christ, prove triumphant. Nor shrink from the battle with the "last enemy." Death received a death-wound when Christ died. You face a conquered foe. He stands at your side a crownless king, and waving a broken scepter. Your death shall be another victory over the believer's last foe. Planting your foot of upon His prostrate neck, you shall spring into glory, more than a conqueror through Him that loved you. Thus entering heaven in triumph, you shall go to swell the ranks of the "noble army of martyrs"-those Christian heroes of whom it is recorded, "They overcame him by the blood of the Lamb."
Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become [as] sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal. And though I have [the gift of] prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed [the poor], and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing. - 1 Corinthians 13:1-3
There is no truth more distinctly uttered or more emphatically stated than this-the infinite superiority of love to gifts. And in pondering their relative position and value, let it be remembered, that the gifts which are here placed in competition with grace are the highest spiritual gifts. Thus does the apostle allude to them: "God has set some in the church, first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healing." Then follows the expressive declaration of our motto. In other words, "Though I were an apostle, having apostolic gifts; though I were a prophet, possessed of prophetic gifts; or though I were an angel, clothed with angelic gifts; yet, destitute of the grace of love, my religion were but as an empty sound, nothing worth." Is there in all this any undervaluing of the spiritual gifts which the great exalted Head of the church has bestowed upon His ministers? Far from it! The apostle speaks of the way of spiritual gifts as excellent, but existing alone, they cannot bring the soul to heaven. And love may exist apart from gifts; but where love is found, even alone, there is that most excellent grace, that will assuredly conduct its possessor to glory. "Grace embellished with gifts is the more beautiful; but gifts without grace are only a richer spoil for Satan."
And why this superiority of the grace of love? Why is it so excellent, so great, and so distinguished? Because God's love in the soul is a part of God Himself; for "God is love." It is as it were a drop of the essence of God falling into the heart of man. "He that dwells in love, dwells in God, and God in him." This grace of love is implanted in the soul at the period of its regeneration. The new creature is the restoration of the soul to God, the expulsion from the heart of the principle of enmity, and the flowing back of its affections to their original center. "Every one that loves is born of God." Is it again asked, why the love of His saints is so costly in God's eye? Because it is a small fraction of the infinite love which He bears towards them. Does God delight Himself in His love to His church? Has He set so high a value upon it, as to give His own Son to die for it? Then, wherever He meets with the smallest degree of that love, He must esteem it more lovely, more costly, and more rare, than all the most splendid gifts that ever adorned the soul. "We love Him because He first loved us."
Here, then, is that grace in the soul of man which more than all others assimilates him to God. It comes from God, it raises the soul to God, and it makes the soul like God. How encouraging, then, to know the value which the Lord puts upon our poor returns of love to Him! Of gifts we may have none, and even of love but little; yet of that little, who can unfold God's estimate of its preciousness! He looks upon it as a little picture of Himself. He sees in it a reflection-dim and imperfect indeed-of His own image. As He gazes upon it, He seems to say-"Your parts, my child, are humble, and your gifts are few; your knowledge is scanty, and your tongue is stammering; you can not speak for me, nor pray to me in public, by reason of the littleness of your attainments, and the greatness of your infirmity; but you do love me, my child, and in that love, which I behold, I see my nature, I see my heart, I see my image, I see myself; and that is more precious to me than all besides." Most costly to Him also are all your labors of love, your obedience of love, your sacrifices of love, your offerings of love, and your sufferings of love. Yes, whatever blade or bud, flower or fruit, grows upon the stem of love, it is most lovely, and precious, and fragrant to God.
But Christ being come an high priest of good things to come, by a greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this building; Neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by his own blood he entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption [for us]. - Hebrews 9:11-12
The work of intercession constituted an essential and a delightful part of the priestly office of our Lord Jesus. Not to atone only, but upon the ground of that atonement to base His office of advocate, and with the plea of that atonement to appear in the presence of God as an intercessor, equally entered into the engagements of Christ in behalf of His people. A moment's reference to the Levitical type will throw much light upon this part of the Savior's work. It will be recollected that the high priest, on the day of expiation, was to slay and to offer the sacrifice in the outer part of the tabernacle; after which he entered within the sanctuary, bearing in his hands the blood of atonement, and sprinkled it seven times upon and before the mercy-seat. He was then to bring a censer full of burning coals from off the altar, and his hands full of sweet incense beaten small, within the veil, and place it upon the fire before the Lord, "that the cloud of the incense might cover the mercy-seat." All this was beautifully typical of the atonement and intercession of Jesus, our great High Priest. The basis of our Lord's intercessory work is the great atonement of His own blood, with which He has fully met the claims of justice, paid to the law its extreme demands, and blotted out the handwriting that was against His people, in pronouncing their sins entirely and forever cancelled.
Upon His atonement Jesus takes His stand as an Intercessor in heaven, within which He has gone to sprinkle His blood upon the mercy-seat, and to present the incense of His infinite and precious merits. Having purged our sins, He is forever set down at the right hand of God, not in a state of inglorious ease, nor cold forgetfulness of His church on earth, but to plead as its Advocate, and to pray as its Intercessor each moment with the Father, pressing His suit on the ground of justice, and resting His petition on the basis of merit. "For Christ is not entered into the holy places made with hands, which are the figures of the true; but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us." "He ever lives to make intercession." Look up, O you of tried faith, and behold within the veil your Savior there, clothed in His sacerdotal robes, the great High Priest of heaven's temple, the glorious Advocate of heaven's chancery, representing His church, and for each individual as for the whole body, praying the Father that the weak and tried faith of His saints might not fail. This is no image of the imagination. This is no picture of the fancy. It is a blessed and glorious reality, that our once atoning and now risen and exalted Redeemer is in heaven, bearing the breastplate upon His heart, and the ephod upon His shoulder, in which each name is set of all the tribes of Israel. Yes, poor tried and suffering believer, your name is there, written not only in the Lamb's book of life, but written in the Lamb's heart of love. In approaching God in any spiritual service, why is it that your person is an object of His complacent delight? Because Jesus presents it. Why do your prayers, imperfectly framed and faintly breathed, come up before the altar with acceptance and power? Because Jesus is in heaven, and as your pleading Advocate separates your petition from all its flaws, and as your interceding Priest purifies it from all its sin, and presents it as a "golden vial full of odor" to His Father. And when in pensive sadness you have trodden your lonely path, the spirit chafed, the heart wounded, the world desolate, and a thousand images of terror and of gloom filling the vast void, oh little did you think that within that veil, so awfully mysterious to you, there stood One-your Friend and Brother, your Advocate and Priest-who knew your secret sorrow, and who at that moment was pouring out His full heart, His whole soul, in powerful and prevalent intercession, that your tried and wavering faith might not fail.
But when we are judged, we are chastened of the Lord, that we should not be condemned with the world. - 1 Corinthians 11:32
How great the dignity, and how precious the privilege, of chastened believers! They are the children of God. "Behold, what manner of love the Father has bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God!" Angels, bright, sinless angels, stand not so closely and endearingly related to God as they. Wonderful love of God! That He should not think it a dishonor to own them as His sons, and to call Himself their Father who by nature are the children of wrath, slaves to Satan, and the servants of sin. How great our dignity! Seek, Christian reader, to know it, to enjoy it, to live according to it. If there has been no sealing of your adoption upon the heart, give the Holy Spirit no rest until there is. If, in the holy, humble confidence of faith, there never has been an "Abba, Father," upon your lip-as one professing to be a child, and soon to be in eternity, it is time that there should be. Seek it earnestly, seek it importunately, seek it believingly, and you will have it. "You shall call me, my father." "If I then be a Father," says the same God, "where is mine honor?" Have you ever honored Him, loved Him, obeyed Him, and glorified Him as your Father? Bending over you, the Spirit of adoption waits to impress the sacred seal upon your heart. Loving you, the Father yearns to clasp you to His bosom, assuring you that you are His loved, pardoned, accepted child. As the loved, then, whom the Lord rebukes and chastens, let our carriage be that of children, even as His discipline is that of a Father. Let us receive the correction with meekness, and hear the voice of the Lord with reverence, since God is parental and loving in all His conduct towards His saints.
Nor let us fail to remember, for our comfort, that all the chastisements of the children of God are on this side of heaven. Not so with the ungodly. Sinner! Unconverted soul! You may laugh now, sport now, rejoice now, but remember-your chastisement is to come! Your condemnation is to come! Your stripes are to come! All your real woe is to come! It is coming now, it comes fast, it is near at hand, even at your door-for there is but a step between you and hell! Have you ever thought what it must be to lie down in eternal torment, what it must be to meet an angry God, to confront a despised Savior?-to take the fearful plunge, without one ray of hope, into a starless, sunless, hopeless eternity? Oh happy moment! if the Eternal Spirit so bless to your soul the perusal of this page, as to awaken you to a solemn, an honest, and earnest seeking of the Lord; to give up your procrastinations, your waiting for a more convenient season-your worldly excuses-your refuges of lies-the sparks of your own kindling in which you must lie down in sorrow-your dream of a future, a death-bed repentance; and, casting all aside, you hasten as a poor, lost, dying sinner to Christ, exclaiming, "I am a dying man! I want a Savior! I want the influence of the Holy Spirit to reveal that Savior, to lead me to that Savior, and to tell me that Savior is mine." But no future sorrow awaits the children of God beyond the grave. They are chastened now, that they may not be condemned hereafter. All to come is joy and gladness, is purity and bliss. "God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away."
Learn from this subject that you are not less the object of God's love, because He corrects you. The suspicion has, perhaps, pressed coldly and darkly upon your heart-"He cannot love me, and force this bitter cup to my lips." Hush, that murmur! Be still, that thought! And know, O chastened child, O daughter of sorrow, that "God is love;" and, because you are His loved child, His loving correction now makes you great. Then, in the words of your suffering Head, say, "The cup that my Father has given me, shall I not drink it?"