"Search the scriptures; for in them you think you have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me." John 5:39
The word of God is full of Christ. He is the Sun of this divine system, the Fountain of its light and beauty. Every doctrine derives its substance from His person, every precept its force from His work, every promise its sweetness from His love. Is it not to be feared, that in the study of the Scriptures it is a much-forgotten truth, that they testify of Jesus? Are they not read, searched, and examined, with a mind too little intent upon adding to its wealth by an increased knowledge of His person, and character, and work? And thus it is we lower the character of the Bible. We may read it as a mere uninspired record; we may study it as a book of human literature. Its antiquity may interest us, its history may inform us, its philosophy may instruct us, its poetry may charm us; and thus, while skimming the surface of this Book of books, the glorious Christ, who is its substance, its subject, its sweetness, its worth- and but for whom there had been no Bible- has been deeply and darkly veiled from the eye. But it is the office of the blessed and eternal Spirit to unfold, and so to glorify, Jesus in the Word. All that we spiritually and savingly learn of Him, through this revealed medium, is by the sole teaching of the Holy Spirit, opening up this word to the mind. He shows how all the luminous lines of Scripture truth emanate from, return to, and center in, Christ- how all the doctrines set forth the glory of His person, how all the promises are written in His heart's blood, and how all the precepts are embodied in His life.
"Open you mine eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of your law." Psalm 119:18
To the question often earnestly propounded- "What is the best method of reading, so as to understand the Scriptures?" I would reply- Read them with the one desire and end of learning more of Christ, and with earnest prayer for the teaching of the Spirit, that Christ may be unfolded in the Word. With this simple method persevered in, you shall not fail to comprehend the mind of the Holy Spirit, in portions which previously may have been unintelligible and obscure. Restrict not yourself to fixed rules, or to human helps. Rely less upon dictionaries, and maps, and annotations. With singleness of aim, with a specific object of research, and with fervent prayer for the Holy Spirit's teaching, "you need not that any man teach you;" but collating Scripture with Scripture, "comparing spiritual things with spiritual," you may fearlessly enter upon the investigation of the greatest mysteries contained in the sacred volume, assured that the Savior, for whose glories and riches you search, will reveal Himself to your eye, "full of grace and truth." Precious Bible! so full of a precious Jesus! How do all its clouds and darkness melt into light and beauty, as He, the Sun of righteousness, rises in noontide glory upon its page! Search it, my reader, with a view of seeing and knowing more of your Redeemer, compared with whom nothing else is worth knowing or making known. Love your Bible, because it testifies of Jesus; because it unfolds a great Savior, an almighty Redeemer; because it reveals the glory of a sin-pardoning God, in the person of Jesus Christ. Aim to unravel Jesus in the types, to grasp Him amid the shadows, to trace Him through the predictions of the prophet, the records of the evangelist, and the letters of the apostles. All speak of, and all lead to, Jesus. "They are they which testify of me."
"If you then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sits on the right hand of God. Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth." Col. 3:1-2
To win heaven, the mind must become heavenly; and to be heavenly, it must habituate itself to heavenly things and heavenly pursuits. It is a law of our mental constitution, that the mind assimilates in its tone and habits of thought with the subject which most engrosses its study. Hence it is that we sometimes become men of one idea. Now the contemplation of divine and spiritual themes has a powerful tendency to spiritualize and sanctify the mind. It seems impossible to breathe a heavenly atmosphere, and not be heavenly; to study holy things, and not be holy; to admire the image of Christ, and not resemble Christ; to have frequent communion with Jesus upon the throne, and not catch some stray beam of His glory. And apart from Christ nothing is really pleasant and satisfying to the heavenly mind. Without Him, what a dreary, lonesome wilderness would this be! But with Christ in the heart, and the heart resting in Christ- He in the center of our souls, and our affections and desires centering on Him- the desert loses its solitude and its desolateness. To have the eye resting on Jesus- all our heart-springs in Him- the spirit in frequent excursions where He dwells in light and glory- to lean upon Him and converse with Him as though He were actually walking by our side, sitting at our table, associating with us in our callings- this, this is heavenly-mindedness. Such is the counter-attraction to the "things on the earth,"- the secularizing pursuits, the low-thoughted cares, the carnal enjoyments- which we so deeply need. And this powerful counteracting influence which we possess is a realization of our resurrection with Christ, and His enthronement in glory.
"Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith." Hebrews 12:2
Be careful of making a savior of faith. There is a danger, and it cannot be too vigilantly guarded against, of substituting the work of the Spirit for the work of Christ; this mistake it is that leads so many of God's saints to look within, instead of outside of themselves, for the evidences of their calling and acceptance; and thus, too, so many are kept, all their spiritual course, walking in a state of bondage and fear, the great question never fully and fairly settled; or, in other words, never quite sure of their sonship. The work of Christ is a great and finished work; it is so glorious that it can admit of no comparison, so complete that it can allow of no addition, and so essential that it can give place to no substitution. Precious as is the work of the Holy Spirit in the heart, and essential as it is to the salvation of the soul, yet he who places it where the work of Jesus ought only to be, deranges the order of the covenant, closes up the legitimate source of evidence, and will assuredly bring distress and uncertainty into his soul. "Righteousness, peace, and joy" are the fruit of a full belief in the Lord Jesus Christ, and he who looks for them away from the cross will meet with disappointment; but they are found in Jesus. He who looks away from himself, from his vileness, guiltiness, emptiness, and poverty, fully, and believingly unto Jesus, shall know what the forgiveness of sin is, and shall experience the love of God shed abroad in his heart. If, then, your faith is feeble and tried, do not be cast down. Faith does not save you; though it be an instrument of salvation, and, as such, is of vast importance, it is but the instrument. The finished work of Immanuel is the ground of your salvation, yes, it is your salvation itself. Then, make not a savior of your faith; despise it not if it is feeble, exult not in it if it is strong, trample not on it if it is small, deify it not if it is great: such are the extremes to which every believer is exposed. If your faith is feeble and sharply tried, it is no evidence that you are not a believer; but the evidence of your acceptance in the Beloved is to arise from Jesus alone; then let your constant motto be, "looking unto Jesus;" looking to Him just as you are; looking unto Him when faith is feeble; looking unto Him when faith is tried; looking unto Him when faith is declining; yes, looking unto Him when you fear you have no faith. Look up, tried and tempted soul! Jesus is the Author, the Sustainer, and He will become the Finisher of your faith. All you need is in Him; one glimpse, dim though it be, of His cross, one touch, trembling though it be, of His garment, will lift you from your lowest depths, lighten your heaviest burden, gild your darkest prospect, and when you arrive at Jordan's brink, will bear you safely through its swellings, and land you on the sunny and verdant shores of Canaan.
"The spirit is life because of righteousness." Romans 8:10.
What are we to understand by the term spirit? Our reply will at once exclude the idea of the Holy Spirit. Of the Third Person of the blessed Trinity it cannot be of whom the apostle speaks. The only remaining interpretation, then, is that which restricts its meaning to the spiritual and immortal part of the believer- the regenerated spirit of man, and not the regenerating Spirit of God. The cheering declaration, then, of the apostle is, that the spiritual and immortal part of our nature is recovered from the curse, renewed and quickened with a divine and heavenly life. If the body is dead because of sin, the spirit is life because of righteousness. The spirit is life- instinct with a new and deathless principle- because Christ is the righteousness of His people. On the broad basis of God's method of justification our spirit lives. In every point of view Christ is identified with our spiritual life. We live a life of justification by Christ- a life of holiness from Christ- a life of faith in Christ- and a life of immortality with Christ. Thus, in all its phases, "Christ is our life." Oh glorious truth! Welcome death- the spirit lives! Welcome the grave- the spirit is beyond it! Death! you can but touch the material fabric- the inner life towers above your reach, hid with Christ in God. Grave! you can but imprison the body- the soul is at home with Jesus. I live, not because of any righteousness which I have wrought, but because Christ is my righteousness. I live on account of the Righteous One- I live in the Righteous One- and I shall live forever with the Righteous One. Thus is the spirit life because of righteousness. Oh, what a glorious immortality unveils to the eye of faith! If through the gloomy portals of death the spirit of the believer must pass, in its transit to eternity, life attends it, and life awaits it, and life crowns it. Animated with a deathless existence, clothed with the robe of a new-born immortality, it bursts from its enthralment, and, smiling back upon death, speeds its way to glory, honor, and endless life. To this life let us look forward. From a life now experienced, let us live for a life so soon to be enjoyed. The body must die. But what of that? the spirit is life. And the life-inspired spirit will come back again, re-enter and re-animate the slumbering dust; and now, remodeled and spiritualized, it will be with Christ and all the saints in the new heaven and the new earth, wherein will dwell righteousness.
"Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need." Hebrews 4:16.
The throne of grace is for the needy. It is always a time of need with a child of God. "Without me," says Jesus, "you can do nothing." There is not a moment, but, if he knows his real state, he is in need of something. What a blessing, then, is the throne of grace! It is for the needy. It is for those who are in need- upon whom all other doors are closed, with whom all other resources have failed, who have nowhere else to look, nowhere else to fly. To such is the throne of grace always open. Is it a time of trial with you? then it is a time of need. Take your trial, whatever it be, simply to God. Do not brood over it. Do not cherish it. This will not make it sweeter, or more easy to be borne. But taking it to Jesus will. The very act of taking it will lighten it, and casting it upon His tenderness and sympathy will make it sweet. Is it a time of spiritual darkness with you? then it is a time of need. Take your darkness to the throne of grace, and "in His light" who sits upon it you "shall see light." Is it a time of adverse providences? then it is a time of need. And where can you go for guidance, for direction, for counsel, for light upon the intricacies of the way, but to the God of grace? Is it a time of temporal distress with you? then it is a time of need. Take your temporal cares and necessities to the Lord, for He who is the God of grace is also the God of providence. Thank the Lord for every errand that takes you to the throne of grace. Whatever it is that sends you to prayer, count it one of your choice blessings. It may be a heavy cross, a painful trial, a pressing need; it may be a broken cistern, a cold look, an unkind expression; yet, if it leads you to prayer, regard it as a mercy sent from God to your soul. Thank God for an errand to Him.
"Your will be done on earth, as it is heaven." Matthew 6:10.
The holy Leighton has remarked, that to say from the heart, "your will be done," constitutes the very essence of sanctification. There is much truth in this; more, perhaps, than strikes the mind at the first view. Before conversion, the will, the governing principle of the soul, is the seat of all opposition to God. It rises against God- His government, His law, His providence, His grace, His Son; yes, all that appertains to God, the unrenewed will of man is hostile to. Here lies the depth of man's unholiness. The will is against God; and so long as it refuses to obey Him, the creature must remain unholy. Now, it needs no lengthened argument to show that the will, being renewed by the Holy Spirit, and made to submit to God, in proportion to the degree of its submission must be the holiness of the believer. There could not be perfect holiness in heaven, were there the slightest preponderance of the will of the creature towards itself. The angels and "the spirits of just men made perfect," are supremely holy, because their wills are supremely swallowed up in the will of God. "Your will be done on earth, even as it is in heaven." The will of God is supremely obeyed in heaven, and in this consists the holiness and the felicity of its glorious inhabitants. Now, in exact proportion as God's will "is done on earth" by the believer, he drinks from the pure fountain of holiness; and as he is enabled, by the grace of Christ, in all things to look up to God with filial love, and to say, "not my will," O my Father, "but your, be done," he attains the very essence of sanctification.
"Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus." Philippians 2:5.
What is it to have "the mind that was in Christ"? We answer, it is to be ever aiming after the highest perfection of holiness. It is to have the eye of faith perpetually on Jesus as our model, studying Him closely as our great example, seeking conformity to Him in all things. It is to be regulated in all our conduct by His humble spirit. First, with regard to others, to choose the low place, to acknowledge God in, and to glorify Him for, the grace, gifts, and usefulness bestowed on other saints, and to exemplify in our social communion the self-denying, expansive benevolence of the Gospel, which enjoins the duty of not seeking paramountly our own interests, but to sacrifice all self-gratification, and even honor and advantage, if, by so doing, we may promote the happiness and welfare of others; thus it is to live, not for ourselves, but for God and our fellow men; for "no man lives to himself, and no man dies to himself;" in the spirit of Him, who, on the eve of returning to His glory, took a towel and girded Himself, and washed His disciples' feet, it is to serve the saints in the most lowly acts and offices. Second, it is to exemplify, with regard to ourselves, the same humble spirit which He breathed. It is to be little in our own eyes, to cherish a humble estimate of our gifts, attainments, usefulness, and station- to be meek, gentle, and submissive under rebuke and correction- to "seek not great things for ourselves,"- to court not human praise, watching our hearts with perpetual vigilance and jealousy, lest we thirst for the honor which comes from man, and not "the honor that comes from God only." It is to contribute to the necessities of saints without begrudging, to give to Christ's cause without ostentation, to do good in secret- to seek, in all our works of zeal, and benevolence, and charity, to hide ourselves, that self may be perpetually mortified- in a word, it is to hunger and thirst after righteousness, to be poor in spirit, lowly in mind, to walk humbly with God, and to live to, and labor for, and aim after, the glory of God in all things. This is to have the "mind which was also in Christ Jesus."
"God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself." 2 Cor. 5:19.
The great glory of our Immanuel is his essential glory. When our faith can firmly grasp the Deity of our adorable Lord- and on this precious doctrine may it never waver!- there is a corresponding confidence and repose of the mind in each particular of His sacrificial work. Then it is that we talk of Him as a Mediator, and love to view Him as the great Sin-bearer of His people. In vain do we admire His righteousness, or extol His death, if we look not upon Him in the glory which belongs to Him as essentially God. From this truth, as from a fountain of light, beams forth the glory, which sheds its soft halo around His atoning work. Oh, when, in the near view of death, memory summons back the past, and sin in battle array passes before the eye, and we think of the Lord God, the Holy One, into whose dreadful presence we are about to enter, how will every other support sink beneath us but this! And, as the Holy Spirit then glorifies Christ in His essential glory, testifying that the blood and righteousness- the soul's great trust- are of the incarnate God, we shall rise superior to fear, smile at death, and pass in peace and triumph to glory. Yes, reader, we shall be satisfied with nothing short of absolute Deity, when we come to die. And, in proportion as you find this great truth the substance of your life, you will experience it the support of your death.
"You are come . . . to the spirits of just men made perfect." Hebrews 12:22, 23.
That the saints will recognize and have communion with each other immediately on their entrance into glory is, we think, clear from these words of the apostle, when enumerating the privileges of the released believers. We indulge, therefore, the fond hope that, should death remove us before the coming of the Lord, we shall meet, know, and have delightful communion with our friends who departed this life in Jesus. But the recognition and the communion must necessarily do not be so perfect and full as when Christ shall appear, and the risen saints shall cluster together around the person and in the kingdom of their Lord; since neither we nor they have attained our state of full knowledge and capacity until that great event take place, and the "blessed hope" is realized. We argue the recognition of the saints from the fact of the perfection of knowledge to which the coming glory will advance us. Our dear Lord reminds His saints that they shall be equal to the angels. They know each other. It would seem impossible, living together for so many years, that they would not. If, then, the saints are equal to them at all, they must be in this sweet privilege. And is it reasonable to suppose that in all other respects our knowledge will be perfected, but in this one particular only? Shall we possess an element of mental power here, which we shall lose in a gradation towards perfection, and, consequently, shall not possess in a higher degree hereafter? Assuredly not. When, therefore, the dead in Christ shall rise at His coming, every intellectual faculty will be enlarged, and not only retaining all our former, but increasing the amount by a larger degree of additional knowledge, we shall "know even as we are known." The perfection of happiness, which glorification implies, involves this blessing. What a rich source of high and holy delight does the communion of saints supply, even in our present state! How it elevates, chastens, expands, and soothes the mind and heart, so much beclouded by care and chafed by sorrow! But heaven will perfect this bliss. Does it not heighten the beauty of the prospect, and strengthen the expectation of the scene?
"Them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him." 1 Thes. 4:14
Will it add nothing to the glory of that event, and to the happiness of that moment, when the Son of God descends, and, dissolving the soft slumbers of the holy dead, will reanimate each with its former occupant, that then we shall perfectly recognize those we once knew and loved, and renew the sweet communion, before imperfect and limited, but now complete and eternal? Dry, then, your tears, and cease to mourn, you saints of God. They are "not lost, but gone before." Their spirits live with Jesus. And when He comes, He will bring them with Him, and you shall see and know them with a cloudless sight and a perfect knowledge. The very eyes which once smiled upon you so kindly- the very tongue which spoke to you so comfortingly- the very hands which administered to you so skillfully- the very feet which traveled by your side so faithfully- the very bosom which pillowed you so tenderly- you shall meet again. "The coming of the Lord draws near," and those who "sleep in Jesus will God bring with Him." Let us "comfort one another with these words." And will it be no additional joy to meet and to know those eminent servants of the Lord whose histories and whose writings stimulated, instructed, and cheered us, shedding light and gladness on our way? Abraham, whose faith had animated us- David, whose experimental psalms had comforted us- Isaiah, whose visions of Jesus had gladdened us- Paul, whose doctrinal epistles had instructed us- John, whose letters of love had subdued us; to gaze upon the "Magdalene " sitting at Jesus' feet- upon the "beggar" reposing in Abraham's bosom- upon the "thief" with Christ in Paradise- oh! will not this add to the happiness of heaven? Will this be no joy, no bliss, no glory? Assuredly it will! At Christ's coming, will not His ministers, too, and those to whom their labors had been useful, meet, know, and rejoice in each other? The pastor and the flock, will there be no certain and permanent reunion? no sweet, and fond, and holy recognition? Shall their union in the Church below exceed, in its beauty and sweetness, their reunion in the Church above? Here it is necessarily mingled with much that is imperfect. Much concealment is connected with their united labors in the vineyard of Christ. They go forth weeping, bearing precious seed, and often are called to their rest before the fruit of their prayers, and tears, and toil appears. Here, too, seasons of sickness and of separation frequently transpire, enshrouding the spirit with gloom, and wringing the heart with anguish. And then, at last, death itself rudely breaks the tender bond, lays the standard-bearer low, leaving the affectionate flock to gaze with streaming eye upon the lessening spirit of their pastor as it ascends and towers away to glory. But the coming of Jesus, with all His saints, will restore this happy union, invest it with new and richer glory, and place it upon a permanent, yes, everlasting basis. "For what is our hope, or joy, or crown of rejoicing? Are not even you in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ at His coming? For you are our glory and joy." Yes, beloved, we shall know each other again, altered and glorified though we may be.
"Let me fall now into the hand of the Lord; for very great are his mercies: but let me not fall into the hand of man." 1 Chron. 21:13.
Well did the trembling king of Israel so exclaim, when with an air of tender faithfulness the prophet placed before him the choice of those evils which should mark his sin. Every point of light in which his decision can be viewed justifies both its wisdom and its holiness. It was wise: he knew that the Lord was his God; as such, He had long been wont to deal with him in transactions the most solemn and confiding, and thus, from knowledge and experience, he felt he could now safely trust in Him. It was holy: he saw that God was most righteous in punishing his sin, and that in meekly submitting to that punishment which came more immediately from the Lord, he was sympathizing with the equity of the divine government, and was upholding the character of the "Judge of all the earth" as "most upright. Guided by these considerations, he would rather fall into the hands of the Lord, uplifted though they were to scourge. Who has not made this prayer his own, and breathed it at the footstool of mercy? The "tender mercies of the wicked are cruel," but the severest corrections of our Father are love. To be smitten by God is infinitely better to the believer than to be blest by man. The creature's affection often brings with it a snare; and the honor which comes from man tends to nourish the corrupt principle of depraved self. But whatever, in the experience of a child of God, that may be which comes more directly from the Lord, it brings with it its concealed but its certain and often unutterable blessing. Oh, how safe are we in the Lord's hands! Though He frown, we yet may love. Though He scourge, we yet may cling. Though He slay, we yet may trust. "I will cause you to pass under the rod, and I will bring you into the bond of the covenant." With such an issue, welcome the discipline that leads to it. "Let me fall into the hand of the Lord; for very great are His mercies."
"O you of little faith, wherefore did you doubt?" Matthew 14:31.
Doubting faith is not doubtful faith. If the believer has not the faith of assurance, he may have the faith of reliance, and that will take him to heaven. All the doubts and fears that ever harassed a child of God cannot erase his name from the Lamb's book of life, nor take him out of the heart of God, nor shut him out of glory. "Unbelief," says Rutherford, "may perhaps tear the copies of the covenant which Christ has given you; but He still keeps the original in heaven with Himself. Your doubts and fears are no parts of the covenant; neither can they change Christ." "The doubts and fears of the elect," remarks another, "are overruled by almighty grace to their present and eternal good; as conducing to keep us humble at God's footstool, to endear the merits of Jesus, and to make us feel our weakness and dependence, and to render us watchful unto prayer." Did ever an unregenerate, lifeless soul entertain a doubt or fear of its spiritual condition? Never. Was it ever known anxiously and prayerfully to question or to reason about its eternal state? Never. Do I seek to strengthen your doubts? No; but I wish to strengthen your tried and doubting faith. I would tell you, for your encouragement, that the minutest particle of grace has eternal glory in it, even as the smallest seed virtually contains all that proceeds from it- the blade, the ear, and the full corn in the ear. Faint not, nor be discouraged in your trial of faith. There is not a sweeter way to heaven than along the path of free grace, paved with hard trials. It was the way which He trod who was "full of grace." Rich though He was in grace, yet see how deeply He was tried. Think not, then, that your sore trials are signs of a graceless state. Oh no! The most gracious saints have been the most tried saints. But do not rest here. There is still richer, surer comfort for you- even the fulness of grace that is in Jesus- grace, ever flowing, and yet ever full. Disclose to Him your doubts and fears. Tell Him you desire Him above all good. Plunge into the sea of His fulness; and He, who has created in your soul a thirst for grace, will assuredly and bountifully give you the grace for which you thirst.
"I will make an everlasting covenant with you, even the sure mercies of David." Isaiah 55. 3.
God had promised David that he would sit upon the throne of his fathers- that the kingdom of Israel, rent from Saul, should be transferred to his government. But the crown and the scepter thus promised loomed in the distance, almost enshrouded from view by dark intervening clouds. The promise seemed as a dead letter. The providence of God appeared to clash with and to contradict the promise of God. But, in the history of His Church, the providences of the divine government are not the exponents of the promises of the Divine Governor. It is not so much by what God does, as by what God has said, that He is to be judged. Christian mourner, in the divine promises you have an equal proprietorship. They are as much yours as they were David's, of whose "sure mercies" you are the possessor. These promises are exceedingly great and precious in their nature- they are personal and particular in their application- they are absolute and infallible in their fulfilment. Death may appear to be written upon the promise, and upon all the means leading to its accomplishment, but there is a life in the promise that cannot die. See how God wrote the sentence of death upon the promise, as in the case of the age of Abraham- the sterility of Sarah- the abduction of Joseph- the demand for Benjamin- the banishment of David; and yet, in all the instances, the word upon which God caused those waiting souls to hope was made good to the letter; and the promise that appeared dead rose again with a life, all the more vigorous and glorious from its long and gloomy entombment. It is the believer's mercy to know that he has to do with a Divine Promiser, whose faithfulness has been proved, and with a promise whose power has been tested. There is not a promise with which the Holy Spirit the Comforter seeks to support and console you, but has passed through the crucible, and has been "tried as silver is tried." "The word of the Lord is tried." And if it be a fearful sin to doubt what God has declared, it is a tenfold aggravation of that sin not to believe, when a thousand times over He has made good what He has promised, and when a great cloud of witnesses testify that He has never once falsified His word.
"Trust in the Lord with all your heart; and lean not unto your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct your paths." Proverbs 3:5-6
The constant exercise of prayer makes every burden light, and smooths every rugged step of a child of God: it is this only that keeps down his trials; not that he is ever exempt from them- no, it is "through much tribulation that he is to enter the kingdom;"- he is a disciple of the cross, his religion is that of the cross, he is a follower of Him who died upon the cross, and entire exemption from the cross he never expects until he passes to the possession of the crown. But he may pray down his crosses: prayer will lessen their number, and will mitigate their severity. The man whose walk is far from God, whose frame is cold, and worldly, and careless, if he be a true child of the covenant, one of the Lord's family, may expect crosses and trials to increase upon every step he advances towards the kingdom. Ah! little do many of the tried, afflicted, and constantly disappointed believers think how closely related are these very trials, and afflictions, and disappointments, to their restraining of prayer before God; every step seems attended with some new cross- every scheme is blasted by some adverse wind- every effort is foiled- disappointment follows disappointment, wave attends upon wave- nothing they attempt prospers, all they enter upon fails, and everything seems against them. Oh, could we pass behind the scene, what should we discover? a deserted throne of grace! Were we to divulge the secret, and place it in the form of a charge against the believer, what would it be? "You have restrained prayer before God!" The scheme was framed without prayer; the enterprise was entered upon without prayer; the effort was made without prayer- God has blown upon it, and all has come to nothing. No marvel- God was not consulted- the Lord was not acknowledged, His permission was not asked, His wisdom was not sought, His blessing was not craved; and so He blew upon it all! The precious injunction is- "In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths." Where this is honored, there is the divine blessing; where it is slighted, there is the divine curse.
"He shall glorify me." John 16:14.
One essential and important office of the Spirit is to glorify Christ. And how does He most glorify Christ, but by exalting His atoning work, giving to it the preeminence, the importance, and the glory it demands; leading the sinner, whom He has first convinced of sin, to accept of Jesus as a willing, an all-sufficient Savior; to cast away all trust in self, all reliance upon a covenant of works, which is but a covenant of death, and thus going entirely outside of himself, to take up his rest in the blood and righteousness of Immanuel, the God-man Mediator. Oh, what sweet, holy delight must it be to the Spirit of God when a poor sinner, in all his conscious nothingness, is led to build upon Jesus, the "tried stone, the precious corner-stone, the sure foundation!" Let the reader, then, imagine how grieving it must be to the Spirit, when there is any resting in His work in the soul, either for acceptance, or for comfort, or for peace, or for strength, or even for evidence of a state of grace, and not solely and entirely in the atoning work which Jesus has wrought out for the redemption of sinners. The work of the Spirit and the work of Christ, though they form parts of one glorious whole, are yet distinct, and to be distinguished in the economy, of grace and in the salvation of a sinner. It is the work of Jesus alone, His perfect obedience to the broken law of God, and His sacrificial death as a satisfaction to divine justice, that forms the ground of a sinner's acceptance with God- the source of his pardon, justification, and peace. The work of the Spirit is not to atone, but to reveal the atonement; not to obey, but to make known the obedience; not to pardon and justify, but to bring the convinced, awakened, penitent soul to receive the pardon, and embrace the justification already provided in the work of Jesus. Now, if there is any substitution of the Spirit's work for Christ's work- any undue, unauthorized leaning upon the work within, instead of the work outside of the believer, there is a dishonor done to Christ, and a consequent grieving of the Holy Spirit of God. It cannot be pleasing to the Spirit to find Himself a substitute for Christ; and yet this is the sin which so many are constantly falling into. If I look to convictions of sin within me, to any motion of the indwelling Spirit, to any part of His work, as the legitimate source of healing, of comfort, or of evidence, I turn my back upon Christ, I remove my eye from the cross, and slight His great atoning work; I make a Christ of the Spirit! I make a Savior of the Holy Spirit! I convert His work into an atoning work, and draw the evidence and the consolation of my pardon and acceptance from what He has done, and not from what Jesus has done! Oh, is not this, again we ask, dishonoring to Christ, and grieving to the Holy Spirit of God? Do not think that we undervalue the Spirit's work- great and precious is it. Viewed as a Quickener- as an Indweller- as a Sanctifier- as a Sealer- as a Witness- as a Comforter- as the Author of prayer- His person cannot be too ardently loved, nor can His work be too highly prized; but the love we bear Him, and the honor we give Him, must not be at the expense of the honor and glory and love due to the Lord Jesus Christ, whom it is His office and His delight to glorify. The crown of redemption must be placed upon the head of Jesus; He alone is worthy to wear it- He alone has a right to wear it. "You have redeemed us by Your blood," is the song they sing in glory; and "You shall wear the crown," should be the song echoed back from the redeemed on earth.
"And the same day Pilate and Herod were made friends together; for before they were at enmity between themselves." Luke 13:12.
How striking and solemn the instruction conveyed in this incident! Pilate and Herod, standing in the attitude of the deadliest hate to each other, are now made friends! And what strange but mighty power has thus suddenly subdued their animosity, and turned their hatred into love? What mystic chain has drawn and bound together these hostile rulers? Their mutual and deep enmity against Jesus! Believers in Christ! are the enemies of our glorious Redeemer, inspired by a natural and kindred feeling of hatred, induced to forget their private quarrels, and merge their differences in one common confederation to crush the Son of God, the object of their mutual hostility; and shall not the friends of the Redeemer, constrained by that divine principle of love which dwells in the hearts of all who are born of God, quench their heart-burnings, bury their antipathies, and draw more closely together in one holy, vigorous, and determined alliance to exalt the Son of God, the glorious and precious Object of their mutual affection? Oh, if Jesus is the bond of union to those who hate Him, how much more should He be the bond of union to those who love Him! Beneath His cross how should all unholy jealousy and bitterness, and wrath and anger, and clamor and all uncharitableness, be mourned over, confessed, abhorred, and renounced by the children of the one family; and how should all who love the Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity be unhesitatingly and cordially recognized as such, thus "endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace."
"I John, who also am your brother, and companion in tribulation, and in the kingdom and patience of Jesus Christ, was in the isle that is called Patmos, for the word of God, and for the testimony of Jesus Christ. I was in the Spirit on the Lord's day." Rev. 1:9-10.
Our adorable Immanuel frequently reveals the most brilliant beams of His glory in seasons of the most painful trial and deepest gloom. The dark providential dispensations of God often bring out in richer radiance the glories of His beloved Son, as the darkness of night reveals more distinctly and brightly the existence and beauty of the heavenly bodies. For the manifestation of this remarkable revelation of His risen glory to His servant, our Lord selects precisely such an occasion- an occasion which, to the eye of reason, would appear the most unfavorable and improbable; but to faith's eye, ranging beyond second causes, the most appropriate for such a revelation of Jesus. The emperor Domitian, though not released from his fearful responsibility for the act, was but the instrument of executing the eternal purpose of grace and love. God's hand was moving, and moving too, as it often does, in the "thick darkness." Exiled as John was by this Roman emperor to a desolate island of the Aegean Sea, "for the word of God, and for the testimony of Jesus Christ," the Redeemer was but preparing the way for the revelation of those visions of glory, than which, none more sublime or more precious ever broke upon the eye of mortal man. God was not only placing His beloved servant in a right posture to behold them, but was also most wisely and graciously training and disciplining His mind spiritually and humbly to receive them. But mark how this dark and trying incident was making for the good of this holy exile. Banished though he was from the saints, from society, and from all means of grace, man could not banish him from the presence of God; nor persecution separate him from the love of Christ. Patmos, to his view, became resplendent with the glory of a risen Savior- a reconciled God and Father was his Sanctuary- the Holy Spirit, the Comforter, overshadowed him- and the Lord's day, already so hallowed and precious to him in its association with the resurrection of the Lord, broke upon him with unwonted effulgence, sanctity, and joy. Oh, how richly favored was this beloved disciple! Great as had been his previous privileges- journeying with Christ, beholding His miracles, hanging on His lips, reposing on His bosom- yet never had he been so privileged- never had he learned so much of Jesus, nor had seen so much of His glory, nor had drunk so deeply of His love, nor had experienced so richly His unutterable tenderness, gentleness, and sympathy; and never had he spent such a Lord's day as now, the solitary in habitant of an isolated isle though he was. Oh, where is there a spot which Jesus cannot irradiate with His glory; where is there solitude which He cannot sweeten with His presence; where is there suffering, privation, and loss, which He cannot more than recompense by His sustaining grace and soothing love; and where is there a trembling and prostrate soul, which His "right hand" cannot lift up and soothe? This, then, was the occasion on which the Lord appeared in so glorious a form, with such soothing words and sublime revelations, to His beloved servant.
"And he led them out as far as to Bethany, and he lifted up his hands, and blessed them." Luke 24:50
Let us approach the spot where the Redeemer ascended. It was from Mount Olivet, near to Bethany; so that the two accounts of Christ's ascension recorded by Luke, the one in his Gospel, and the other in his Acts of the Apostles, 1:12, perfectly, agree. How full of great, and holy, and solemn, yes, awful, associations would be that spot to Jesus! It was no strange, unfamiliar, untrodden ground to Him. At the foot of that mount, from whose summit He entered into glory, He had been wont to resort with His disciples for holy meditation and prayer. There, too, His sufferings commenced. There He endured the fearful conflict, when His soul was "exceeding sorrowful, even unto death." It was there, prostrate in the dust, the cup of trembling in His hand, the sweat of blood falling to the ground, He thrice poured out His soul in that touching prayer- "O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless, not as I will, but as You will." Yes, it was from Mount Olivet, the scene of His deep mental agony, and near to Bethany (which signifies the house of affliction), our blessed Lord took His flight to His Father and His God, to enjoy His presence forever, and to drink deeply and eternally of the pleasures which are at His right hand. And so will it be with all His members. As if to heighten, by contrast with the sufferings of earth, the glories of heaven- as if to give a deeper melody to their song, and a richer sweetness to their joy, and a higher character to their ecstasy, and a profounder sense of the grace that brought them there, it often pleases the Lord that affliction, in various forms, should throw its deepest gloom around the path of the children of God, when just on the eve of translation to glory. And when, in anticipation of a smooth descent and a cloudless sunset, they have said, with Job, "I shall die in my nest," God their Father has seemed to have reserved the bitter dregs of affliction's cup for the dying lips; and, like Jacob, they have been constrained to anticipate that with sorrow their grey hairs will be brought down to the grave. Thus, through much tribulation they enter the kingdom; out of the house of affliction, and, as it were, from Mount Olivet, they ascend to Mount Zion, borne up as in a chariot of fire. Be it so; "He does all things well." Compared with the sufferings of Jesus, it is, in its heaviest form, but a "light affliction;" and measured with an eternity of bliss, in its longest duration, is but "for a moment."
"And it came to pass, while he blessed them, he was parted from them, and carried up into heaven." Luke 24:51
How touching and instructive was the parting interview! Oh, how worthy of Himself was this His final blessing! How harmonious with every previous act of His life was this its closing one! Blessing to the last, and while with outstretched hands that blessing was yet breathing from His lips, "received up into glory." Oh, how full of grace and love is our adorable Immanuel! What a heart of overflowing tenderness and blessing is His! Knowing this, knowing it from observation and from experience, supported by the innumerable proofs which crowd every page of the New Testament, is it not a marvel that we should seek our blessing from any other source than Jesus, or that we should breathe our sighs, or pour our sorrows, or repose our aching head, on any other bosom than His? Ah! our acquaintance with Him- our best, our dearest, our most loving Friend- is so limited, we walk with Him so coldly, we follow Him so distantly, we believe in Him so feebly; the greatest wonder is; that in the midst of all, His patience forbearance, tender and unchangeable love, towards us should still be so unwearied and so great. But who can describe the parting interview and the last blessing? Clustering around Him a lonely timid band, saddened as they must have been by the thought that they were about to separate forever on earth from Him whom they loved- as many of them afterwards proved- better than life itself- to whom they had been wont to look for guidance, on whom they had leaned for strength, and to the shelter of whose bosom they had fled in danger and in sorrow, they needed His blessing- they needed that which none but Jesus could give to them. They were oppressed, and He only could undertake for them. They were in sorrow, and He only could comfort them. They were tried and perplexed, and He only could sustain and counsel them. And what, may we suppose, would that blessing contain, which He now breathed over them? The richer anointing of the Spirit to fit them for their work- a larger measure of grace to shield them in temptation, and to uphold them in trial- increased light in the understanding respecting the spiritual nature of His kingdom, and the meaning of the Holy Scriptures of truth; and- what to them, at that moment, would be of unspeakable preciousness- a deeper discovery of His own pardoning love, a fuller assurance of their personal acceptance in Himself, and a richer bestowment of the "peace of God, which passes all understanding." Thus blessing, He was "parted from them, and carried up into heaven," to intercede for them there; and thus blessed, "they worshiped Him, and returned to Jerusalem with great joy," to spread the fragrance and to manifest the power of His name through all the world.
"It is I; do not be afraid." John 6:20.
Imagine yourself threading your way along a most difficult and perilous path, every step of which is attended with pain and jeopardy, and is taken with hesitancy and doubt. Unknown to you and unseen, there is one hovering each moment around you, checking each false step, and guiding each doubtful one; soothing each sorrow, and supplying each need. All is calm and silent. Not a sound is heard, not a movement is seen; and yet, to your amazement, just at the critical moment the needed support comes- you know not from where, you know not from whom. This is no picture of fancy. Are you a child of God, retracing your steps back to Paradise by an intricate and a perilous way? Jesus is near to you at each moment, unseen and often unknown. You have at times stood speechless with awe at the strange interposition, on your behalf, of providence and of grace. No visible sign betokened the source of your help. There was no echo of footfall at your side, nor flitting of shadow across your path. No law of nature was altered or suspended, the sun did not stand still, nor did the heavens open; and yet deliverance, strange and effectual deliverance, came at a moment most unexpected, yet most needed. It was Jesus, your Redeemer, your Brother, your Shepherd, and your Guide. He it was who, hovering round you, unknown and unobserved, kept you as the apple of His eye, and sheltered you in the hollow of His hand. It was He who armed you with courage for the fight, who poured strength into your spirit, and grace into your heart, when the full weight of calamity pressed upon them. Thus has He always been to His saints. The incident of the disciples in the storm presents a striking instance of this. Behold Him standing upon the shore, eyeing, with riveted gaze, the little boat as it struggled amid the sea. They were often invisible to human eye, but not a moment were they lost to His. Not even when in the mount alone in prayer, were they forgotten or unobserved. He beheld from thence their peril, He knew their fears, and He hastened to their support. Stepping from the shore, He approached them. Oh how majestic did His form now appear- walking like a man; and upon the water, like a God! They did not realize that it was Jesus, and were afraid. But their knowledge of Him was not necessary to their safety. It was enough that He knew them. And just as the storm was at its height, and their fears rose with their peril, He drew near and said, in His own gentle, soothing tone, unto them, "It is I; do not be afraid."
"One God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all." Ephesians 4:6.
All who? -the one Church of God. One covenant God and Father unites the one family in heaven and in earth. They are one in His choice, one in His purpose, one in His covenant, one in His heart. The same will chose them- the same affection loved them- the same decree predestinated them: they are one in Him. Blessed truth! "One God and Father." Behold them clustering together around the mercy-seat: they come from various parts of the world, they speak different languages, they express opposite feelings, they unfold needs and sorrows; yet listen! they all address Him as "Our Father." Every heart bows in love to Him, every heart is fixed in faith upon Him, and every tongue breathes the lofty, and endearing, and holy name of "Abba, Father." There, in the glowing light amid which the throne of mercy, stands, all sectarian feeling dies, all denominational distinction is lost, and Christians of every name meet, and embrace, and love as brethren. Holy thought! One God loves all, and protects all; one Father pities all, supplies all, bears with all, and, with an impartial affection, binds all together and alike in His heart.
"One Lord." Ephesians 4:5.
The Church is also one in the Son- "There is one Lord." The Lord Jesus is the one Head, as He is the one Foundation, of the Church. All believers are chosen in Christ, blessed in Christ, saved in Christ, preserved in Christ, and in Christ will be glorified. The work of Christ is the one resting-place of their souls. They rely for pardon upon the same blood, for acceptance upon the same righteousness, and for sanctification upon the same grace. One in Christ, all other differences and distinctions are merged and forgotten: "There is neither Jew nor Greek; there is neither bond nor free; there is neither male nor female for you are all one in Christ Jesus." Blessed truth! the "righteousness of God, which is unto all and upon all those who believe," imparts the same completeness to all believers in Christ. Upon the breastplate of the great High Priest, now within the veil, every, name is alike written- not a sectarian appellation dims the luster of the "Urim and the Thummin," in whose glowing light the names of all the saints are alike enshrined. What a uniting truth is this! Jesus is the one Head of life, light, and love, to all His saints. He carried the transgression of all- He bore the curse of all- He endured the hell of all- He pardons the sin of all- He supplies the need of all- He soothes the sorrows of all, and He lives and intercedes for all. To Him all alike repair, it is true, with different degrees of knowledge and of faith, and from different points; yet, to Jesus, as to one Savior, one Brother, one Lord, they all alike come. Oh! what a cementing principle is this! The body of Christ- the purchase of the same blood, loved with the same affection, and in heaven represented by the same Advocate, and soon, oh, how soon, to be "gloried together" with Him. What love, then, ought I to bear towards Him whom Jesus has so loved! How can I feel coldly, to, or look unkindly at, or speak uncharitably of, one whom Jesus has redeemed with the same precious blood, and whom He carries each moment in the same loving heart?
"By one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit." 1 Cor. 12:13.
The Church of God is equally one in the Holy Spirit. One Spirit regenerating all, fashioning all, teaching all, sealing all, comforting all, and dwelling in all. Degrees of grace and "diversities of gifts" there are, "but the same Spirit." That same Spirit making all believers partakers of the same divine nature, and then taking up his abode in each, must necessarily assimilate them in every essential quality, and feature, and attribute of the Christian character. Thus, the unity of the Church is an essential and a hidden unity. With all the differences of opinion, and the varieties of ceremonial, and the multiplicity of sects into which she is broken and divided, and which tend greatly to impair her strength, and shade her beauty, she is yet essentially and indivisibly one- her unity consisting, not in a uniformity of judgment, but better far than this, in the "unity of the Spirit." Thus, no individual believer can with truth say that he possesses the Spirit exclusively, boasting himself of what other saints have not; nor can any one section of the Christian Church lay claim to its being the only true Church, and that salvation is found only within its pale. These lofty pretensions, these exclusive claims, this vain-glory and uncharitableness, are all demolished by one lightning touch of truth, even by that blessed declaration, "For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body."
"The love of Christ constrains us." 2 Cor. 5:14.
Love is the great influential principle of the gospel. The religion of Jesus is preeminently a religion of motive: it excludes every compulsory principle; it arrays before the mind certain great and powerful motives with which it leads captive the understanding, the will, the affections, and enlists them all in the active service of Christ. Now the law of Christianity is not the law of coercion, but of love. This is the grand lever, the great influential motive, "the love of Christ constrains us." This was the apostle's declaration, and this his governing motive; and the constraining love of Christ is to be the governing motive, the influential principle, of every believer. Apart from the constraining influence of Christ's love in the heart, there cannot possibly be a willing, prompt, and holy obedience to His commandments. A conviction of duty and the influence of fear may sometimes urge forward the soul, but love can only prompt to a loving and holy obedience; and all obedience that springs from an inferior motive is not the obedience that the gospel of Jesus inculcates. The relation in which the believer stands to God, under the new covenant dispensation, is not that of a slave to his master, but of a child to its father. "And because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father." "Wherefore you are no more a servant (a slave), but a son." With this new and spiritual relation, we look for a new and spiritual motive, and we find it in that single but comprehensive word- Love. And thus has our Lord declared it: "If you love me, keep my commandments;" "If a man love me, he will keep my words;" and "he that loves me not, keeps not my sayings." It is, then, only where this love is shed abroad in the heart by the Holy Spirit that we may expect to find the fruit of obedience. Swayed by this divine principle, the believer labors not for life, but from life; not for acceptance, but from acceptance. A holy, self- denying, cross-bearing life, is not the drudgery of a slave, but the filial, loving obedience of a child; it springs from love to the person, and gratitude for the work of Jesus, and is the blessed effect of the spirit of adoption in the heart. Under the constraining influence of this principle, how easy becomes every cross for Jesus! how light every burden, and how pleasant every yoke! Duties become privileges, difficulties vanish, fears are quelled, shame is humbled, and delay is rebuked.
"It is good for me to draw near to God." Psalm 73:28.
The more any object is to us a source of sweet delight and contemplation, the more strongly do we desire its presence, and the more restless are we in its absence. The friend we love we want constantly at our side; the spirit goes out in longings for communion with him; his presence sweetens, his absence embitters every other joy. Precisely true is this of God. He who knows God, who with faith's eye has discovered some of His glory, and, by the power of the Spirit, has felt something of His love, will not be at a loss to distinguish between God's sensible presence and absence in the soul. Some professing people walk so much without communion, without fellowship, without daily, filial, and close communion with God; they are so immersed in the cares, and so lost in the fogs and mists of the world; the fine edge of their spiritual affection is so blunted, and their love so frozen by contact with worldly influences and occupations- and no less so with cold, formal professors- that the Sun of Righteousness may cease to shine upon their soul, and they not know it! God may cease to visit them, and His absence not be felt! He may cease to speak, and the stillness of His voice not awaken an emotion of alarm! Yes, a more strange thing would happen to them if the Lord were suddenly to break in upon their soul with a visit of love, than were He to leave them for weeks and months without any token of His presence. Reader, are you a professing child of God? Content not yourself to live thus; it is a poor, lifeless existence, unworthy of your profession, unworthy of Him whose name you do bear, and unworthy of the glorious destiny towards which you are looking. Thus may a believer test the character of his love. He in whose heart divine affection deepens, increases, and expands, finds God an object of increasing delight and desire, and communion with Him the most costly privilege on earth; he cannot live in the neglect of constant, secret, and close fellowship with his God, his best and most faithful friend.
"We walk by faith, not by sight." 2 Cor. 5:7.
This walk of faith takes in all the minute circumstances of every day's history; a walking every step by faith; a looking above trials, above necessities, above perplexities, above improbabilities and impossibilities, above all second causes; and, in the face of difficulties and discouragements, going forward, leaning upon God. If the Lord were to roll the Red Sea before us, and marshal the Egyptians behind us, and thus hemming us in on every side, should yet bid us advance, it would be the duty and the privilege of faith instantly to obey, believing that, before our feet touched the water, God, in our extremity, would divide the sea and take us dry-shod over it. This is the only holy and happy life of a believer; if he for a moment leaves this path and attempts to walk by sight, difficulties will throng around him, troubles will multiply, the smallest trials will become heavy crosses, temptations to depart from the simple and uptight walk will increase in number and power, the heart will sicken at disappointment, the Holy Spirit will be grieved, and God will be dishonored. Let this precious truth ever be before the mind, "We walk by faith, not by sight."
"The children of Manasseh could not drive out the inhabitants of those cities; but the Canaanites would dwell in the land." Joshua 17:12.
You will recollect that when the children of Israel took possession of Canaan, although they conquered its inhabitants and took supreme possession and government of the country, yet they could not entirely dispossess the former occupants of the soil. Now, what these Canaanites, these heathenish idolaters, were to the children of Israel, the natural corruptions of the heart are to the called children of God. After all that divine and sovereign mercy has done for the soul, though the inhabitants of the land have been conquered, and the heart has yielded to the power of omnipotent grace, and the "strong man armed" has been deposed, and Jesus has taken the throne, yet the Canaanites still dwell in the land, and we cannot expel them thence. These are the natural corruptions of our fallen nature, the evils of a heart that is but partially renewed, the heathenish lusts and passions and infirmities that formerly were the sole occupants of the soil, and still dwell there, and which we shall never, in the present state, entirely dispossess. But what did the children of Israel do to these Canaanites, whom they could not give out of the cities, but who would dwell in the land? We read in the 13th verse: "Yet it came to pass when the children of Israel were waxen strong, that they put the Canaanites to tribute; but did not utterly drive them out." Now this is what the children of God must do with the spiritual Canaanites that yet dwell in the renewed heart: they cannot be driven out, but they may be put to tribute; they cannot be entirely extirpated, yet they may be brought into complete subjection, and even made to contribute to the spiritual advance of the soul, and to the glory of God. Yes, even these very indwelling and powerful Canaanites, these strong corruptions that war and fight in the renewed soul, may be made subservient to the spiritual benefit of a child of God. Will it not be so, if they lead him to put no confidence in himself, to draw largely from the fulness of grace in Jesus, to repair often to the throne of mercy, to deal much and closely with the atoning blood, to cultivate a watchful, prayerful, tender spirit, and daily and hourly to rejoice in Christ Jesus, having no confidence in the flesh? Thus may the renewed soul- often led to exclaim, "O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?"- through a supply of the Spirit of Christ Jesus, and becoming more thoroughly versed in the are of the holy war, be able to turn the risings of his indwelling sins into occasions of more holy and humble walk with God.
"I know, O Lord, that your judgments are right, and that you in faithfulness have afflicted me." Psalm 119:75.
The mark of a vigorous love to God is when the soul justifies God in all His wise and gracious dealings with it; rebels not, murmurs not, repines not, but meekly and silently acquiesces in the dispensation, be it ever so trying. Divine love in the heart, deepening and expanding towards that God from where it springs, will, in the hour of trial, exclaim, "My God has smitten me, but He is my God still, faithful and loving. My Father has chastened me sorely, but He is my Father still, tender and kind. This trying dispensation originated in love, it speaks with the voice of love, it bears with it the message of love, and is sent to draw my heart closer and yet closer to the God of love, from whom it came." Dear reader, are you one of the Lord's afflicted ones? Happy are you if this is the holy and blessed result of His dealings with you. Happy if you hear the voice of love in the rod, winning your lonely and sorrowful heart to the God from whom it came. But when love to God has declined, the reverse of this is the state of a tried and afflicted believer; and hard thoughts of God in His dispensations may be regarded as an undeniable symptom of such declension.
"Having therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus." Hebrews 10:19.
In all true prayer great stress should be laid on the blood of Jesus; perhaps no evidence distinguishes a declension in the power and spirituality of prayer more strongly than an overlooking of this. Where the atoning blood is kept out of view, not recognized, not pleaded, not made the grand plea, there