Behold the eternal security of the weakest believer in Jesus. The act of justification, once passed under the great seal of the resurrection of Christ, God can never revoke without denying Himself. Here is our safety. Here is the ground of our dauntless challenge, "Who shall lay anything to the charge of God's elect? It is God who justifies." What can I need more? What more can I ask? If God, the God of spotless purity, the God of inflexible righteousness, justifies me, "who is he that condemns? " Sin may condemn, but it is God that justifies! The law may alarm, but it is God that justifies! Satan may accuse, but it is God that justifies! Death may terrify, but it is God that justifies! "If GOD is for us, who can be against us?" Who will dare condemn the soul whom He justifies? How gloriously will this truth shine forth in the great day of judgment! Every accuser will then be dumb. Every tongue will then be silent. Nothing shall be laid to the charge of God's elect. GOD Himself shall pronounce them fully, and forever justified: "And those He justifies, He also glorifies."
"Who went about doing good." Acts 10:38.
Earnestly would I endeavor to impress upon the reader what Henry Martyn beautifully terms "the pleasure of doing good." Next to direct communion with God, the loftiest and purest source of enjoyment opened to us on earth is found in the expression of human sympathy, in the exercise of Christian benevolence. No selfish pleasure ever brought to the heart the peace, the joy, the happiness which one solitary act of kindness to another did. God is happy in the exercise of His boundless love. Angels are happy in the discharge of their beneficent mission, and man is happy as his affections and sympathies travel forth in quest of objects upon which they may repose. Oh! the luxury of effacing one sorrow from the heart, one shadow from the brow, one tear from the eye. It is in this living for the good of others, especially in seeking their spiritual and eternal happiness, we have found a most powerful means of advancing vital godliness in our own souls. The religion of many of the Lord's people is sickly and feeble, cold and gloomy, just because it is so selfish. Would they be more vigorous in their souls? Would they make greater progress in the divine life? Would they combat more successfully the many doubts and fears that assail them? Would they have a happier, sunnier religion, walking more fully in the light of the Lord's countenance? Then let them be up and doing in their Lord's vineyard. Let them seek the conversion of lost sinners, the comforting of poor saints, the betterment of human misery in some of its many forms, thus, like their Master, going about doing good, and then would be fulfilled in their souls' happy experience the precious promise: "You come to the help of those who gladly do right, who remember your ways."
"There remains, then, a rest for the people of God." Hebrews 4:9.
Not yet come to the heavenly rest, we still are approaching it, and, oh ecstatic thought! we shall reach it at last. Everything in our present course reminds us that we are nearing home, as the seaweed washed from the rocks, and as the land-birds venturing from their bowers and floating by the vessel, are indices to the voyager that he is nearing his port. Are you bereaved? Weep not! earth has one tie the less, and heaven has one tie more. Are you impoverished of earthly substance? Grieve not! your imperishable treasure is in heaven. Are you sailing over dark and stormy waters? Fear not! the rising flood but lifts your ark the higher and nearer the mount of perfect safety and endless rest. Are you battling with disease, conscious that life is ebbing and eternity is nearing? Tremble not! there is light and music in your lone and shaded chamber- the dawn and the chimings of your heavenly home. "I am going home! Transporting thought!- True, I leave an earthly one, all so sweet and attractive, but I exchange it for a heavenly one infinitely brighter, more sacred and precious. I am going to Jesus- to the Church Triumphant- to Apostles, Prophets, and Martyrs- to the dear ones who line the shore on the other side, prepared to welcome me there. Death, from which I have so often recoiled, is but the triumphal arch- oh, how bright a risen Christ has made it! -through which I pass into 'my Father's house.'"
"Who his own self bore our sins in his own body on the tree," or, to the tree. 1 Peter 2:24.
Blessed announcement! Not the less hateful, nor hated, is the sin because it is forgiven and entirely blotted out. Oh no! Let the Lord touch your heart, Christian reader, with a sense of His pardoning love, with the assurance of His forgiveness, and you will go and hate, and mortify, and forsake it, more resolutely and effectually than ever. And must the Son of God become the Son of man, that those who are by nature children of wrath, might become the sons of God! Must God, the eternal God, the high and lofty One, stoop so low as to become incarnate, and that for sinners; for me, a poor worthless sinner! To save me from eternal woe, must the Son of Man suffer, agonize, and die; die in my stead, die for my sins, die an accursed death! Ah! Lord, what must sin be, what must my sin be! How little have I thought of it, how little have I mourned for it, still less have I hated it as I ought to have hated it! Lord, how vile, how unutterably vile I am! Oh hated sin! Do You forgive it, Father of my mercies? This only makes it more hateful still. Never, never, can I forgive myself.
"Without Me you can do nothing." John 15:5.
Oh, that the Church of Christ, and each individual member, would but realize this truth; that simpler, closer, more experimental views of Jesus would essentially strengthen the tone of inward spirituality and comfort! The great secret of all comfort in seasons of affliction is to take the affliction, as it comes, simply to Christ; and the great secret of all holiness is to take the corruption, as it rises, simply to Christ. It is this living upon Christ for all he needs, this going to Christ under all circumstances, and at all seasons, which forms the happy and holy life of a child of God. There is no other path for him to walk in. The moment he turns from Christ he becomes like a vessel loosed from its moorings, and driven at the mercy of the winds from billow to billow. Christ must be all in all to him; friends, domestic comforts, Church privileges, ordinances, means of grace, nothing must suffice for Jesus. And why does the Lord so frequently discipline the soul? Why remove friends, why blight domestic comforts, why rob us of Church privileges, why close up the ordinances, and write death upon the means of grace? Oh, why? but to open a way through which He Himself might enter the believer, and convince that lonely, bereaved, and desolate heart that He is a substitute for everything, while nothing shall ever be a substitute for Him. He will have the supreme affection of His saints; they shall find their all in Him; and to this end He sends afflictions, crosses, and disappointments, but to wean them from their idols and draw them to Himself.
"Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God." John 3:3.
Regeneration is a work standing alone and distinct from all the other operations of the Divine Spirit. It is to be carefully distinguished from conversion, adoption, justification, and sanctification; and yet must be regarded as forming the basis and the spring-head of them all. For instance, there can be no conversion without a principle of life in the soul; for conversion is the exercise of a spiritual power implanted in man. There can be no sense of adoption, apart from a renewed nature; for adoption confers the privilege only, not the nature of sons. There can be no comforting sense of acceptance in the Beloved, until the mind has passed from death unto life; nor can there be the smallest advance in a conformity of the will and of the affections to the image of God, while there is lacking in the soul the very root of holiness. Faith is a purifying grace, but faith is only found in the heart "created anew in Christ Jesus." There must necessarily be the spiritual renewal of the whole man, before the soul can pass into an adopted, justified, and sanctified state. Reader, ponder seriously this solemn truth.
"When He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth." John 16:13.
New and enlarged views of the Holy Spirit mark a regenerate mind. Having received the Holy Spirit as a quickener, he feels the need of Him now as a teacher, a sanctifier, a comforter, and a sealer. As a teacher, discovering to him more of the hidden evil of the heart, more knowledge of God, of His word, and of His Son. As a sanctifier, carrying forward the work of grace in the soul, impressing more deeply on the heart the Divine image, and bringing every thought and feeling and word into sweet, holy, and filial obedience to the law of Jesus. As a comforter, leading him, in the hour of his deep trial, to Christ; comforting, by unfolding the sympathy and tenderness of Jesus, and the exceeding preciousness and peculiar fitness of the many promises with which the word of truth abounds for the consolation of the Lord's afflicted. As a sealer, impressing upon his heart the sense of pardon, acceptance, and adoption; and entering himself as the "earnest of the inheritance, until the redemption of the purchased possession." Oh! what exalted views does he now have of the blessed and eternal Spirit- of His personal glory, His work, His offices, His influences, His love, tenderness, and faithfulness! The ear is open to the softest whisper of His voice; the heart expands to the gentlest impression of His sealing, sanctifying influence. Remembering that He is "a temple of the Holy Spirit," he desires so to walk- lowly, softly, watchfully, and prayerfully. Avoiding everything that would "grieve the Spirit," resigning every known sin that would dishonor and cause Him to withdraw, the one single aim of his life is to walk so as to please God, that "God in all things may be glorified."
"He will rest in his love." Zephaniah 3:17.
The marginal reading of the passage is exceedingly beautiful and expressive: "He will be silent because of His love." Divine wrath is silent, because love has hushed it. Divine justice is silent, because love has satisfied it. Sin is silent, because love has condemned it. Satan is silent, because love has vanquished him. God's love has silenced every voice but its own. When an accusation was brought against a poor sinner in the presence of Jesus, and He was called upon to judge in the case, it is recorded that He "stooped down, and with His finger wrote on the ground, as though He heard them not." He was silent, because of His love! And have we no accusers? Ah, yes! many and just. Conscience accuses, and Satan accuses, and sin accuses, and the world accuses, but Jesus does not accuse; He is silent, because of His love. They condemn loudly, fiercely, justly, but He never condemns. "And again he stooped down and wrote on the ground." Still not a word of condemnation breathed from His lips. He had been wronged, He had been sinned against, His own holy law had been broken, and the witnesses, many and malignant, are there to testify in truth against the sinner- but Jesus is silent, and silent in His love.
"This sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God, that the Son of God might be glorified thereby." John 11:4
The season of sickness is the schooling of the soul. More of God is unfolded then, and more of his truth is learned, than perhaps in any other circumstances. Oh, how the character, and the perfections, and the government of God become unfolded to his mind by the teachings of the Spirit of truth! His dim views are cleared, his crude ideas are ripened, his erroneous ideas are rectified; he contemplates God in another light, and truth through another medium. But the sweetest effect of all is the personal appropriation of God to his own soul. He can now say, "This God is my God, and is my Father, and is my portion forever,"- words of assurance hitherto strange to his lips. The promises of God were never realized as so precious, the doctrines of grace were never felt to be so establishing, and the precepts were never seen to be so obligatory and so sanctifying as now; blessed results of a hallowed possession of the season of sickness! And what a pruning of this living branch has taken place! What weanedness from the engrossing claims of the earthly calling, from an undue attachment to created good, from the creature, from the world, and what is the greatest weanedness of all, from the wedded idol, self! What humility of mind, what meekness of spirit, and self-renunciation follow! He entered that chamber as a proud man; he leaves it as a little child. He went into it with much of the spirit of a grasping, covetous, worldly-minded professor; he emerges from it with the world under his feet: "Consecration to Christ and Holiness to God", written upon his substance, and engraved upon his brow. He has been near to eternity! He has been looking within the veil! He has been reading his own heart! He has been dealing with Christ! He has seen and felt how solemn a thing it was to approach the gate of death, to enter the presence of God- and from that dreadful point of vision, he has contemplated the world, and life, and human responsibility, as they are; and he has come back like a spirit from another sphere, clothed with all the solemnities of eternity- to live now as one soon in reality to be there. Truly, his sickness was "for the glory of God, that the Son of God might be gloried thereby."
"He ever lives to make intercession for them." Hebrews 7:25
How sweet and consolatory to the believer is this view of our exalted Immanuel in the hour of bereavement- when confined to his chamber of solitude, or languishing upon his bed of "pining sickness"! Too deeply absorbed in sorrow, it may be, to give utterance to his anguished spirit in prayer- his bodily frame so weakened by disease, and racked by pain, as to render the mind unfit for close and connected spiritual thought- oh, how sweet is then the intercession of Jesus, to know that, in the hour of the soul's extremity, when human sympathy and power are exhausted, "Jesus has entered into heaven, now to appear in the presence of God" for His suffering child! And, when all utterance has failed on earth- and the heart is broken- and the lips are sealed, then to look up and see our elder Brother- the Brother born for our adversity- the exalted High Priest, waving the golden censer before the throne, while the cloud of His atoning merit goes up before the mercy-seat, bearing as it ascends the person, the name, the circumstances, and the needs of the sufferer below. Precious gospel, that opens to the eye of faith so sweet a prospect as this! When you cannot think of Him, afflicted soul, He is thinking of you- when you cannot pray to Him, He is praying for you, for "He ever lives to make intercession."
"Every one that does righteousness is born of him." 1 John 2:29.
Negative holiness- the abstaining from outward sins- does not always describe a regenerate soul; associated with this there must be the positive evidence- "Every one that does righteousness is born of him." Where there is life, there is action, motion, energy. The life of a regenerate man is a life of the highest activity. The principles that influence him are divine and heavenly; their tendency is to holy action. The more we resemble Christ "in righteousness and true holiness," the stronger the evidence to ourselves and to others that we are born again. We possess, professedly, and, if not self-deceived, actually, the life of Christ. That life is holy in its tendency and vigorous in its acting. The renewed soul longs for holiness. He pants for divine conformity. He rests not in the mere longing; he arises and labors for the blessing; he "works out his salvation with fear and trembling." He prayerfully and diligently uses the means the Lord of sanctification has given him for the attainment of holiness; he is active in his pursuit of the blessing.
"Whom He did foreknow, He also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of His Son." Romans 8:29.
Here is the glorious pattern of a child of God. Sanctification is a conformity to the image and the example of Christ. The more the believer is growing like Jesus, the more he is growing in holiness. And, on the contrary, the less resemblance there is to Christ in his principles, in the habit of his mind, in his spirit, temper, daily walk, yes, in every action and in every look, the less is he advancing in the great work of holiness. Oh, how many who profess His dear name, and who are expecting to be with Him forever, never pause to consider what resemblance they bear to Him now! And were they to deal faithfully, with conscience in the much- neglected duty of self-examination; were they to bring themselves to this great standard, how far below it would they be found to have come! How much in their principles, in their governing motives, in their temper, spirit, and daily conduct- how much in their walk in the world, in their deportment in the Church, and in their more concealed conduct in their families, would be discovered that was unlike Christ! How much that was "from beneath," how little that was "from above,"- how much of the "image of the earthly," how little of the "image of the heavenly!" But look at the image of our dear Lord- how lowly, how holy it is! Look at His poverty of spirit- lowliness of heart- humility of deportment- tenderness- forgiveness of injuries- self-denial- prayerfulness- zeal for His Father's glory- yearnings for the salvation of men. Oh to be like Jesus! to grow up into Him in all things! this is to "walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing." This is to realize "the will of God, even our sanctification." Let it not then be forgotten, that an advancing believer is one growing in a resemblance and conformity to the image and example of Christ.
"The wind blows where it wills, and you hear the sound thereof, but cannot tell where it comes, and where it goes: so is every one that is born of the Spirit." John 3:8.
Mark how striking is the figure. The wind bids defiance to man's governing power. It is as sovereign in its influence as it is irresistible in its strength. We cannot command it, nor can we control it. It is alike out of our power to summon it, as it is to soothe it. It comes, we know not where; it goes, we know not where. "So is every one that is born of the Spirit." We do not say that the Spirit is not resisted- He is resisted, strongly and perseveringly. But He is not overpowered. All the enmity and carnality of the heart rises in direct opposition to Him; but, when bent upon a mission of love, when, in accordance with the eternal purpose, He comes to save, not all the powers on earth or in hell can effectually resist Him. Like the mighty force, He bears down all opposition, sweeps away every barrier, overcomes every difficulty, and the sinner, "made willing in the day of His power," is brought to the feet of Jesus, there meekly and gratefully to sit, "clothed, and in his right mind." Who can withstand the power of the Spirit? Whether He speaks in the "still small voice" of tender, persuasive love, or whether He comes in the "mighty rushing wind" of deep and overwhelming conviction, His influence is quenchless, His power is irresistible. He effectually works in those who believe. But His operation is as sovereign as it is mighty. He comes to whom He will; He comes when He will; He comes in the mode He will. He blows where He wills; we hear the sound, we see the effects; but how He works, why He works, and why in a particular way He works, He reveals not to mortals. Even so, O blessed and eternal Spirit, for so it seems good in Your sight.
"Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins." 1 John 4:10.
"Herein is love!" as though John would say, "and nowhere else but here!" That God should punish the innocent for the guilty- that He should exact the blood of His Son to cancel the guilt of His rebels- that He should lay an infinite weight of wrath on His soul, in order to lay an infinite weight of love on ours- that He should sacrifice His life of priceless value for ours- worthless, forfeited, and doomed- that He should not only give His Son, but should bruise Him, put Him to grief, afflict Him, should make His soul an offerinq for sin- that the 'Lord of Glory' should become a 'man of sorrows', the Lord of Life should die, and the Heir of all things should be "as him that serves." Oh depth of love unfathomable! Oh height of love unsearchable! Oh length and breadth of love unmeasurable! Oh love of God, which passes knowledge!
"He that spared not His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with him also freely give us all things?" Romans 8:32.
Look at the cross; behold His precious Gift transfixed to it, and that by His own hand, and for your sins. Then look at your present circumstances, survey your needs, your trials, your chastisements, your bereavements, your heart-sickening, heartbreaking tribulations, and know that God still is love. If He had love strong enough, deep enough, to give you Jesus- to tear Him, as it were, from His bosom, and to transfix Him on yonder accursed tree for your iniquities- has He not love enough to bow His ear to your cry, and His heart to your sorrow? Will He not rescue you from this difficulty, deliver you out of this trouble, shield you in this temptation, supply this need, and support, succour, and comfort you in this grief? Oh yes, He will! doubt it not! The cross of Calvary is a standing pledge- standing until sin and guilt, need and woe, shall be known no more- that God, who "spared not His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, will with Him also freely give us all things" necessary to our good, and promotive of His glory.
"I am not alone, because the Father is with Me." John 16:32.
Oh, what words are these! Who can harm you now? What can befall you? When and where can you be alone, if your heavenly Father is with you? He is with you on the ocean; He is with you on the land. He is with you in your exile; He is with you at home. Friends may forsake, and kindred may die, and circumstances may change- but "my Father is with me!" may, still be your solace and your boast. And, oh, to realize the presence of that Father- to walk with God in the absorbing consciousness of His loving eye never removed, of His solemn presence never withdrawn, of His encircling arm never untwined- welcome the solitude, welcome the loneliness, welcome the sorrow, cheered, and sweetened, and sanctified by such a realization as this! "I am not alone, because the Father is with Me."
"Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints." Psalm 116:15.
It is solemnly true that there is a "time to die." Ah! affecting thought- a "time to die!" A time when this mortal conflict will be over- when this heart will cease to feel, alike insensible to joy or sorrow- when this head will ache and these eyes will weep no more- best and holiest of all- a time "when this corruptible shall put on incorruption, and this mortal shall put on immortality," and we shall "see Christ as He is, and be like Him." If this be so, then, O Christian, why this anxious, trembling fear? Your time of death, with all its attendant circumstances, is in the Lord's hand. All is appointed and arranged by Him who loves you, and who redeemed you- infinite goodness, wisdom, and faithfulness consulting your highest happiness in each circumstance of your departure. The final sickness cannot come, the "last enemy" cannot strike, until He bids it. All is in His hand. Then calmly, confidingly, leave life's closing scene with Him. You cannot die away from Jesus. Whether your spirit wings its flight at home or abroad, amid strangers or friends, by a lingering process or by a sudden stroke, in brightness or in gloom, Jesus will be with you; and, upheld by His grace, and cheered with His presence, you shall triumphantly exclaim, "Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for you are with me: your rod and your staff, they comfort me," bearing your dying testimony to the faithfulness of God, and the preciousness of His promises. My time to die is in Your hand, O Lord, and there I calmly leave it.
"Looking unto Jesus." Hebrews 12:2.
If Jesus is especially glorified in the faith of His people, let yours be a life of faith in all its minute detail. Live upon Him for spiritual supplies; live upon Him for temporal supplies. Go to Him in dark providences, that you may be kept from sinking: go to Him in bright providences, that you may be kept from falling. Go to Him when the path is rough, that you may walk in it contentedly: go to Him when the path is smooth, that you may walk in it surely. Let your daily history be a traveling to Jesus empty, and a coming from Jesus filled. Keep the truth constantly and prominently before your eye, "The just shall live by faith." If this be so, do not expect that God will ever permit you to live by sight. Bend your whole soul submissively to Him in this matter. Let His will and yours be one. If, in the course of your wilderness journeyings, He has brought you into a great difficulty, yes, to the very margin of the sea, still, at His bidding, "go forward," though it be into that sea. Trust Him to cleave asunder its waters, making a dry passage for your feet, and causing those very waves that threatened to engulf you, now to prove as a cloud canopying you above, and as walls of strength fencing you in on every side.
"You know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that, though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, that you through His poverty might be rich." 2 Corinthians 8:9.
How little do we associate our most costly mercies, and even those which we are accustomed to esteem of a more ordinary character (although every mercy is infinitely great), with the abasement of our Lord! How seldom do we trace our happy moments, and hallowed joys, and high delights, and sacred scenes, and precious privileges, to this dark part of His eventful history! And yet all flow to us through this very channel, and, but for this, would never have been ours. When the ocean of His goodness rolls in upon me, wave on wave- when I feel the cheering warmth of creature smiles beaming sweetly and fondly- when I review, one by one, my personal, domestic, and relative mercies- when even the cup of cold water, presented by the hand of Christian kindness, moistens my lips, what is the thought that forces itself upon my mind? "All this springs from the deepest humiliation of my adorable Christ!" And when I ascend into the higher region of grace, and survey the blessings so richly and so freely bestowed- a rebel subdued- a criminal pardoned- a child adopted- a royal priest anointed- union with Christ- covenant relationship with God- access within the Holy of Holies- conformity to the Divine image- still more deeply am I overwhelmed with the thought, "all this proceeds from the infinite abasement of the incarnate God!" And when yet higher still I ascend, and, passing from grace to glory, contemplate the heaven of bliss that awaits me- in one moment absent from a body of sin, and present with the Lord- away from a world, beautiful though it is, because God has made it, yet the throne of Satan, the empire of sin, the scene of sorrow, pollution, suffering, and death; and eternally shut in with God, where all is joy, and all is holiness- made perfectly holy, and, consequently, perfectly happy, to sin no more, to sorrow no more, to weep no more, to wander no more, to fall no more- oh, how full of glory then becomes the humiliation of my incarnate Lord! Beloved, when God exalts you, remember it is because your Savior was abased. When your cup is sweet, remember it is because His cup was bitter. When you press your mercy fondly and closely to your heart, remember it is because He pressed His heart to the spear. And when your eye of faith and hope looks forward to the coming glory, oh, do not forget that, because He endured your hell, you shall enjoy His heaven!
"You have not as yet come to the rest and to the inheritance which the Lord your God gives you." Deuteronomy 12:9.
It is a richly instructive and deeply sanctifying thought- the futurity of the heavenly rest. When told that we are not as yet come to the rest and to the inheritance which the Lord our God gives us, we are gently reminded that we have each one a niche in life to occupy, a sphere to fill, a mission to perform. The idea of personal responsibility, of individual influence, and of untiring action, instantly starts up before the mind. "Not yet in heaven- then for what am I here? Surely it is for an object in harmony with my intellectual and spiritual being, and worthy of Him who still detains me on earth. It must be that I have something to do, or something to endure, for Christ- an active or a passive part to fill. Lord, what will You have me to do or suffer for You?" Oh, there is a fathomless depth of divine wisdom in the arrangement that keeps us so long out of heaven. The world needs us, and we need the world. It needs us to illumine and sanctify it; we need it as the field of our conflict, and as the school of our graces. We need the world, not as a hermit's cell, but as a vast theater, where before angels and men our Christianity is developed in the achievements of prayer, in the triumphs of faith, in the labors of love, and in the endurance of suffering.
"If so be that we suffer with Him." Romans 8:17.
Not as He suffered. Oh, no! there is no curse, no wrath, no hell in the cup of sorrow which we drink. All these ingredients composed His bitter draught. Yet He suffers with us, and permits our afflictions to be called the "afflictions of Christ." He is with you on that bed of sickness; He is with you on that couch of languishing; He is with you in that darkened room; He kneels with you at that coffin; and He weeps with you by the side of that sepulcher. Oh, may it not reconcile us to all the suffering we have ever endured, or may yet be called to endure, to feel the perfect oneness, the presence, the sympathy, the succourings of such a Savior? Who would wish to shun the shame of His cross, the scorn of His name, the lowliness of His kingdom, the self-denial of His religion, allied in the tenderest sympathy at every step with this illustrious Martyr- this Prince of sufferers- this Brother born for adversity?
"And this is the confidence that we have in Him, that, if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us: and if we know that He hear us, whatever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we desired of Him." 1 John 5:14, 15.
When we draw near to God, and ask for more love, more zeal, an increase of faith, a reviving of God's work within us, more resemblance to Christ, the subjection of some enemy, the mortification of some evil, the subduing of some iniquity, the pardon of some guilt, more of the spirit of adoption, the sprinkling of the atoning blood, the sweet sense of acceptance, we know and are assured that we ask for those things which are according to the will of God, and which it is in the heart of God fully and freely to bestow. There need be no backwardness here- there need be no restraint here- there may be no misgiving here. The believer may, when pleading for such blessings, spreading out such needs before the Lord, with "boldness enter into the holiest, by the blood of Jesus." He may draw near to God, not standing afar off, but, in the spirit of a child, drawing near to God, he may come with large requests, large desires, hopeful expectations; he may open his mouth wide, because he asks those things which it is glorifying to God to give, which glorify Him when given, and which we know, from His own word, are according to His blessed will to bestow. Oh, the unspeakable encouragement of going to God with a request which we feel assured it is in His heart and according to His will freely to grant!
"For this thing I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me." 2 Corinthians 12:8.
When Paul prayed for the removal of the thorn in the flesh, he asked that of God which betrayed a lack of judgment in his estimate of the thing which he petitioned for. Who would have suspected this in the apostle of the Gentiles? But the Lord knew best what was for the good of His dear servant. He saw that, on account of the peculiar revelations that were given him in his visit to glory, the discipline of the covenant was needed to keep him low in the dust. And, when His child petitioned thrice for the removal of the thorn in the flesh, he for a moment overlooked, in the painful nature of the discipline, its needed influence to keep him "walking humbly with God." So that we see even an inspired apostle may ask those things of God, which He may see fit to refuse. We may frequently expect some trial, something to keep us low before God, after a season of peculiar nearness to Him, a manifestation of His loving-kindness to our souls. There is a proneness to rest in self-complacency after close communion with God, that the gentle hand of our Father is needed to screen us from ourselves. It was so with Paul- why may it not be with us? In withholding, however, the thing we ask of Him, we may be assured of this, that He will grant us a perfect equivalent. The Lord saw fit to deny the request of the apostle; but He granted him an equivalent- yes, more than an equivalent, to that which He denied him- He gave him His all-supporting grace. "My grace is suffcient for you." Beloved reader, have you long asked for the removal of some secret, heavy, painful cross? Perhaps you are yet urging your request, and yet the Lord seems not to answer you. And why? Because the request may not be in itself wise. Were He now to remove that cross, He may, in taking away the cross, close up a channel of mercy which you would never cease to regret. Oh, what secret and immense blessing may that painful cross be the means of conveying into your soul!
"For I am the Lord, I change not; therefore you sons of Jacob are not consumed." Malachi 3:6.
It is no small attainment to be built up in the faithfulness of God. This forms a stable foundation of comfort for the believing soul. Mutability marks everything outside of God. Look into the Church, into the world, into our families, ourselves, what innumerable changes do we see on every hand! A week, one short day, what alterations does it produce! Yet, in the midst of it all, to repose calmly on the unchangeableness, the faithfulness of God. To know that no alterations of time, no earthly changes, affect His faithfulness to His people. And more than this- no changes in them- no unfaithfulness of theirs, causes the slightest change in God. Once a Father, ever a Father; once a Friend, ever a Friend. His providences may change, His heart cannot. He is a God of unchangeable love. The promise He has given, He will fulfil; the covenant He has made, He will observe; the word that has gone out of His mouth, He will not alter. "He cannot deny Himself." Peace then, tried believer! Are you passing now through the deep waters? Who kept you from sinking when wading through the last? Who brought you through the last fire? Who supported you under the last cross? Who delivered you out of the last temptation? Was it not God, your covenant God- your faithful, unchangeable God? This God, then, is your God now, and your God forever and ever, and He will be your guide even unto death.
"Rest in the Lord, and wait patiently for Him." Psalm 37:7.
It is just this simple, patient waiting upon God in all our straits that certainly and effectually issues in our deliverance. In all circumstances of faith's trial, of prayer's delay, of hope deferred, the most proper and graceful posture of the soul- that which insures the largest revenue of blessing to us and of glory to God- is a patient waiting on the Lord. Although our impatience will not cause God to break His covenant, nor violate His oath, yet a patient waiting will bring down larger and richer blessings. The moral discipline of patience is most costly. It keeps the soul humble, believing, prayerful. The mercy in which it results is all the more prized and precious from the long season of hopeful expectation. It is possible to receive a return too speedily. In our eagerness to grasp the mercy with one hand, we may lose our hold on faith and prayer and God with the other. A patient waiting the Lord's time and mode of appearing in our behalf will tend to check all unworthy and unwise expedients and attempts at self-rescue. An immediate deliverance may be purchased at a price too costly. Its present taste may be sweet, but afterwards it may be bitter- God embittering the blessing that was not sought with a single eye to His glory. God's time, though it tarry, and God's deliverance, though delayed, when it comes proves always to have been the best: " My soul, wait only upon God, for my expectation is from him."
"Go, and sin no more." John 8:11.
See how Christ manifests His abhorrence of the sin, while He throws His shield of mercy around the sinner. The Lord does not justify the sinner's transgression, though He justifies the sinner's person. In the great matter of salvation, justification and sanctification, pardon and holiness, are essentially and inseparably united. When the Lord Jesus dismisses a sinner with a sense of acquittal in his conscience, it is ever accompanied with that most affecting of all exhortations, "Sin no more." And as he passes out from the presence of Jesus, pardoned, justified, saved, the Savior's tender, soul-subduing words from that moment seem to vibrate upon his ear every step of his onward way. "Go, admire, and publish abroad the glory of that grace that has done such great things for you. Go, and spread His fame, and with your latest breath dwell upon His name, who, when sin and Satan and conscience accused you, and would have consigned you to eternal woe- then appeared your Friend, your Advocate, and your Savior. Go, and when tempted to wound afresh the bosom that sheltered you, remember Me; from Gethsemane, from Calvary, and from the hallowed spot where I spoke to you, I condemn you not. Go, and sin no more."
"With You is the fountain of life." Psalm 36:9.
What a fountain of life is Jesus! The dead, on whose ear falls the sound of His voice, live. There is grace in Christ- quickening, regenerating, life-giving grace; and to whomsoever that grace is imparted, he that was lying cold and inanimate in the valley begins to move, to live, to breathe, and to arise. One touch of Christ, a whisper of His voice, a breath of His Spirit, begets a life in the soul that never dies. What a fountain of life is Jesus! Think of its superabundance . There is a fulness of life in Christ. The grace that is welled in Jesus is as infinite in its source, as it is divine in its nature. An uncreated fulness, it must possess an inexhaustible overabundance. Had the Father deposited this life-giving grace in all the angels in heaven, it had long since been exhausted. Think of the myriads, thirsting for holiness and for happiness, who have knelt and slaked their thirst at this fountain- think of the myriads who have here filled their empty vessels, and have gone away with joy and hope springing high in their minds. Think of the myriads whose sins His blood has washed, whose souls His righteousness has clad, whose corruptions His grace has subdued, and whose sorrows His love has comforted. Think of the iniquities which He has pardoned; of the backslidings which He has healed; of the grief which He has removed; of the tears which He has dried; of the souls which He has saved. Think of the myriads once drinking from the stream below, but who are now drinking from the fountain head in glory. And yet is this fountain as full as ever! Not one hair's breadth has it sunk. Jesus is as full of pardoning grace for the guilty, and of justifying grace for the vile, and of sanctifying grace for the unworthy, as ever. He is full enough to meet the needs of every poor, thirsty, panting soul who ventures near. Oh, what a precious truth is this! Precious, indeed, to him who feels his own insufficiency, poverty, and need. What, reader, is your need? what your sorrow? what your trial? what your infirmity? what your burden? Whatever it may be, repair with it to this fountain of living water, and despair not of a gracious welcome and of an adequate supply. It is a fountain, and a living fountain. It needs no persuasion to flow, for it flows spontaneously; and wherever it flows there is life.
"I will give unto him that is athirst of the fountain of the water of life freely." Revelation 21:6.
The grace that is in Christ Jesus must, from its very nature, be unpurchasable. It implies absolute poverty in the creature, and infinite affluence in God. Could it, by any possibility, be purchased, it would cease to be what it now is, the "grace of God." Because it is so great, so rich, and infinite, God has made it as free as the sun, the light, and the air. Nothing can procure it. Tears cannot- convictions cannot- faith cannot- obedience cannot- prayer cannot- yes, not even can the most costly work of God's Spirit in the soul procure a drop of this "living water." God gives it, and He gives it, as the word implies, freely. This is its glory- it is an unpurchasable and a freely bestowed gift. Upon no other terms is it granted. Consequently, no condition of human character, and no case of human guilt, is excluded. The vilest of the vile, the poor insolvent sinner, the needy, the wretched, the penniless; the voice of free grace welcomes to the "living waters." What has kept you so long from this fountain? You have thirsted, and panted, and desired; but still your soul has not been replenished. You have, perhaps, long been seeking the Lord, asking the way, and desiring salvation. Why have you not found Him? You have borne the heavy burden of sin, month after month and year after year, knowing nothing of a sense of pardon, of acceptance, of adoption, of rest. And why? Because you have stumbled at the freeness of the gift. You have expected to receive it as a saint, not seeing that God will only give it to you as a sinner. But hear the word of the Lord: "By grace are you saved;" "Redeemed without money;" "Nothing to pay;" "Whoever will, let him take of the water of life freely." Oh! receive into your heart this truth, and you will be happy. All creation will seem to smile upon you- the heavens will smile- the earth will smile- yes, God himself will smile. Dropping its chain, your emancipated soul will spring into the glorious liberty of the sons of God. What sovereignty, sweetness, and glory will now appear in the very act that forgives all, forgets all, and which introduces you into a new world, redolent of joy and delight!
"God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble." Psalm 46:1.
It is one of the most blessed truths of the covenant of grace, that the God of the covenant is a very present help in every time of trouble. Loving His people as He does, dwelling in them by His Spirit, their people and circumstances continually before Him in the person and the intercession of His dear Son, how can He possibly lose sight of them for a single moment? They may, and they often do, lose sight of Him. They, do not, alas! set the Lord always before their face. They do not train and discipline themselves to see Him in every event, circumstance, and incident of life. They are not clear-sighted to recognize, nor prompt to acknowledge, Him in every providence that darkens or lightens upon their way. Were they but right-minded, they, would exclaim of every good and of every evil as it came, "The Lord is in this!" But they are never for an instant out of His heart, out of His thoughts, out of His hands, or out of His eye. How near to them, too, is the Holy Spirit! Dwelling in and overshadowing them, He is at their side to guide, to uphold, and to cheer; bringing to their memory a precious promise, or writing upon their heart an animating truth, or opening before their eye some endearing glimpse of Jesus, just at the moment it was needed. What a happy, what a favored people are the Lord's! "Happy is he that has the God of Jacob for his help, whose hope is in the Lord his God. Happy is that people that is in such a case: yes, happy is that people whose God is the Lord."