"This people has a revolting and a rebellious heart; they are revolted and gone." Jeremiah 5:23
We look at a believer's lax practice, we mourn and weep over it, and we do well; we trace our own, and still deeper shame and confusion of face cover us: but we forget that the cause of our bitterest sorrow and humiliation should be the concealed principle of evil, from where springs this unholy practice. How few among the called of God are found confessing and mourning over the sin of their nature; the impure fountain from where the stream flows from, the unmortified root from where the branch originates, and from which both are fed and nourished. This is what God looks at- the sin of our fallen, unsanctified nature- and this is what we should look at, and mourn over. Indeed, true mortification of sin consists in a knowledge of our sinful nature; and its subjection to the power of divine grace. The reason why so few believers "through the Spirit mortify the deeds of the body" is, a forgetfulness that the work has to do first and mainly with the root of sin in the soul. "Make the tree good, and the fruit will also be good;" purify the fountain, and the streams will be pure. Oh, were there a deeper acquaintance with the hidden iniquity of our fallen nature- a more thorough learning of the truth, that "in our flesh there dwells no good thing,"- a more heart-felt humiliation on account of it, and more frequent confession of it before God- how much higher than they now are, would be the attainments in holiness of many believers! There is, then, in every child of God, the innate principle of departure. Notwithstanding the wonders of grace God has wrought for the soul- though He has elected, called, renewed, washed, and clothed the believer- yet if He did not check and bridle him in, he would depart, and that forever! -this unsanctified, unmortified principle would bear him away. Is there not in this aspect of our theme something truly heartbreaking?- the subject of God's kind and benevolent government, and yet to be always rebelling against the Sovereign; dwelling under a kind and loving Father's roof, and yet to be perpetually grieving Him and departing from Him; to have received so many costly proofs of His love, and yet rendering the most ungrateful returns- oh, it is enough to sink the soul in the deepest self-abasement before God. Reader, what has the Lord been to you? Come, witness for Him; has He ever been a wilderness to you, a dry and barren land? has there been anything in His dealings, in His conduct, in His way with you, why you should have turned your back upon Him? has there been any harshness in His rebukes, any unkind severity in His corrections, anything judicial and vindictive in His dealings? No, on the contrary, has He not been a fruitful garden, a pleasant land, a fountain of living waters to you? has He not blended kindness with all His rebukes, tenderness with all His chastisements, love with all His dealings, and has not His gentleness made you great? Then why have you departed from Him? What is there in God that you should leave Him, what in Jesus that you should wound Him, what in the blessed Spirit that you should grieve Him? Is not the cause of all your departure, declension, unkindness, unfruitfulness, in yourself, and in yourself alone? But if this has been your conduct towards God, not so has been His conduct towards you.
"I will not let you go, except you bless me." Genesis 32:26
It is the knowledge of his need that gives true eloquence to the petition of the beggar; a sense of destitution, of absolute poverty, of actual starvation, imparts energy to his plea, and perseverance in its attainment; his language is, "I must have bread, or I die." This is just what we want the child of God to feel: what is he but a pensioner on God's daily bounty? what resources has he within himself?- none whatever; and what is he without God?- poor indeed. Now, in proportion as he becomes acquainted with his real case, his utter destitution, he will besiege the throne of grace, and take no denial. He must know his needs, he must know what grace he is deficient in, what besetting sin clings to him, what infirmities encompass him, what portion of the Spirit's work is declining in his soul, where he is the weakest and the most exposed to the attacks of the enemy, and what he yet lacks to perfect him in all the will of God; let him examine himself honestly, and know his real condition. This will endear the throne of grace, will stir up the slumbering spirit of prayer, will supply him with errands to God, and give argument, energy, and perseverance to his suit. It was his deep and pressing sense of need that imparted such boldness and power to the wrestlings of Jacob. "I will not let You go, except You bless me;" and the Lord said, "Your name shall be called no more Jacob, but Israel; for as a prince have you power with God and with men, and have prevailed." Thus imitate the patriarch; begin the day with thinking over what you may possibly need before its close- whether any cross is anticipated, or any temptation is apprehended, or any danger to which you may be exposed; and then go and wrestle for the needed and the promised grace. Oh, it is a great mercy to have an errand that sends us to God; and when we remember what a full heart of love He has, what a readiness to hear, what promptness in all His answers, what entering into the minutest circumstance of a believer's history- how it chides the reluctance and rebukes the unbelief that we perpetually manifest in availing ourselves of this most costly, holy, and precious of all our privileges!
"Those who are whole have no need of the physician, but those who are sick: I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance." Mark 2:17
The Spirit glorifies Christ by revealing what Christ is to an emptied, lowly, penitent soul. And this He does by unfolding the great truth of the Bible- that Jesus died for sinners. Not for the righteous, not for the worthy, but for sinners, as sinners; for the unrighteous, for the unworthy, for the guilty, for the lost. Precious moment, when the Eternal Spirit, the great Glorifier of Jesus, brings this truth with power to the heart! "I had believed," exclaims the transported soul, "that Jesus died only for those who were worthy of so rich a sacrifice, of such immense love. I thought to bring some price of merit in my hands, some self-preparation, some previous fitness, something to render my case worthy of His notice, and to propitiate His kind regard. But now I see His salvation is for the vile, the poor, the penniless. I read that 'when we were without strength, Christ died for the ungodly,' that 'while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us,' that 'when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of His Son,' that 'it is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners,' that it is 'without money and without price,' that it is 'by grace we are saved,' and that it is 'of faith, that it might be by grace.'" This good news, these joyful tidings, this glorious message of free mercy for the vilest of the vile, believed, received, welcomed, in a moment the clouds all vanish, the fogs all disappear, the face of God beams in mild and softened luster, and, amid light and joy, gladness and praise, the jubilee of the soul is ushered in. Oh, what glory now encircles the Redeemer! That soul venturing upon Him with but the faith of reliance, traveling to Him in all weakness, and in the face of all opposition, brings more glory to His name than all the hallelujahs of the heavenly minstrelsy ever brought.
"Why are you so fearful? how is it that you have no faith?" Mark 4:40
The habitual, or even the occasional, doubtful apprehension indulged in of his interest in Christ will tend materially to the enfeebling and decay of a believer's faith; no cause can be more certain in its effects than this. If it be true that the exercise of faith develops its strength, it is equally true that the perpetual indulgence of doubtful apprehensions of pardon and acceptance must necessarily eat as a canker-worm at the root of faith. Every misgiving felt, every doubt cherished, every fear yielded to, every dark providence brooded over, tends to unhinge the soul from God, and dims its near and loving view of Jesus. To doubt the love, the wisdom, and the faithfulness of God, to doubt the perfection of the work of Christ, to doubt the operation of the Spirit on the heart, what can tend more to the weakening and decay of this precious and costly grace? Every time the soul sinks under the pressure of a doubt of its interest in Christ, the effect must be a weakening of the soul's view of the glory, perfection, and all-sufficiency of Christ's work. But imperfectly may the doubting Christian be aware what dishonor is done to Jesus, what reflection is cast upon His great work, by every unbelieving fear he cherishes. It is a secret wounding of Jesus, however the soul might shrink from such an inference; it is a lowering, an undervaluing of Christ's obedience and death- that glorious work of salvation with which the Father has declared Himself well pleased- that work with which divine justice has confessed itself satisfied- that work, on the basis of which every poor, convinced sinner is saved, and on the ground of which millions of redeemed and glorified spirits are now basking around the throne- that work, we say, is dishonored, undervalued, and slighted by every doubt and fear secretly harbored or openly expressed by a child of God. The moment a believer looks at his unworthiness more than at the righteousness of Christ- supposes that there is not a sufficiency of merit in Jesus to supply the absence of all merit in himself before God- what is it but a setting up his sinfulness and unworthiness above the infinite worth, fulness, and sufficiency of Christ's atonement and righteousness? There is much spurious humility among many of the dear saints of God. It is thought by some, that to be always doubting one's pardon and acceptance is the evidence of a humble spirit. It is, allow us to say, the mark of the very opposite of a lowly and humble mind. That is true humility that credits the testimony of God- that believes because He has spoken it- that rests in the blood and righteousness and all-sufficiency of Jesus, because He has declared that "whoever believes in Him shall be saved." This is genuine lowliness- the blessed product of the Eternal Spirit. To go to Jesus just as I am, a poor, lost, helpless sinner- to go without previous preparation- to go glorying in my weakness, infirmity, and poverty, that the free grace, and sovereign pleasure, and infinite merit of Christ might be seen in my full pardon, justification, and eternal glory. There is more of unmortified pride, of self-righteousness, of that principle that would make God a debtor to the creature, in the refusal of a soul fully to accept of Jesus, than is suspected. There is more real, profound humility in a simple, believing venture upon Christ, as a ruined sinner, taking Him as all its righteousness, all its pardon, all its glory, than it is possible for any mortal mind to fathom. Doubt is ever the offspring of pride, humility is ever the handmaid of faith.
"If we believe not, yet he abides faithful; he cannot deny himself." 2 Timothy 2:13
This is the only true and secure anchorage-ground for a poor soul, tossed amid the waves of doubt and perplexity- to know that God cannot alter His word; that it is impossible that He should lie; that were He to deviate from His infinite perfection, He would cease to be a perfect being, and consequently would cease to be God: to know, too, that He is faithful in the midst of the unfaithfulness and perpetual startings aside of His child- faithful in the depth of the deepest affliction- faithful when earthly hopes wither, and human cisterns are broken, and when the soul is led to exclaim, "His faithfulness has failed!"- Oh, what a spring to a tried and drooping faith is this view which God Himself has given of His own glorious and perfect character! It is no small triumph of faith to walk with God, when all is darkness with the soul, and there is no light; to feel amid the roaring of the waves that still He is faithful- that though He slay, yet the soul can trust Him; that though He were to take all else, away He would never remove Himself from His people. Oh glorious triumph of faith! "Who is among you that fears the Lord, that obeys the voice of his servant, that walks in darkness, and has no light? let him trust in the name of the Lord, and stay upon his God."
"You did run well; who did hinder you that you should not obey the truth?" Galatians 5:7
The apostle Paul, skillful to detect and faithful to reprove any declension in the faith or laxity in the practice of the early Churches, discovered in that of Galatia a departure from the purity of the truth, and a consequent carelessness in their walk. Grieved at the discovery, he addresses to them an affectionate and faithful Epistle, expressive of his astonishment and pain, and proposing a solemn and searching inquiry. "I marvel," he writes, "that you are so soon removed from Him that called you into the grace of Christ. How, after that you have known God, or rather are known of God, how turn you again to the weak and beggarly elements? I am afraid of you, lest I have bestowed upon you labor in vain. Where is the blessedness you spoke of? I stand in doubt of you. You did run well; who did hinder you?" To the reader conscious of secret declension in his soul, we propose the same searching and tender inquiry. You did run well; who hindered you?- what stumbling block has fallen in your way?- what has impeded your onward course?- what has enfeebled your faith, chilled your love, drawn your heart from Jesus, and lured you back to the weak and beggarly elements of a poor world? You set out fair; for a time you did run well; your zeal, and love, and humility gave promise of a useful life, of a glorious race, and of a successful competition for the prize; but something has hindered you. What is it? Is it the world, creature love, covetousness, ambition, presumptuous sin, unmortified corruption, the old leaven unpurged? Search it out. Rest not until it be discovered. Your declension is secret, perhaps the cause is secret- some spiritual duty secretly neglected, or some known sin secretly indulged. Search it out, and bring it to light. It must be a cause adequate to the production of effects so serious. You are not as you once were. Your soul has lost ground; the divine life has declined; the fruit of the Spirit has withered; the heart has lost its softness, the conscience its tenderness, the mind its lowliness, the throne of grace its sweetness, the cross of Jesus its attraction. Oh, how sad and melancholy the change that has passed over you! And have you not the consciousness of it in your soul? Where is the blessedness you spoke of? where is the sunlight countenance of a reconciled Father? where are the rich moments spent before the cross? the hallowed seasons of communion in the closet, shut in with God? where is the voice of the turtledove, the singing of birds, the green pastures where you did feed, the still waters on whose banks you did repose? Is it all gone? Is it winter with your soul? Ah! yes; your soul is made to feel that it is an evil and a bitter thing to depart from the living God.
"For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) dwells no good thing." Romans 7:18
The Lord will cause His people to know their total weakness and insufficiency to keep themselves, and that, too, not notionally, not theoretically, nor from what they hear, or from what they read, but from their own deep personal experience of the truth: yes, He is perpetually causing them to learn it. I do not allude merely to that blessed period when the Holy Spirit first lays His axe at the fabric of their self-righteousness- truly they first learn it then- but it is a truth they become growingly acquainted with; it is a lesson they are made daily to learn; and he becomes the most perfectly schooled in it, who watches most narrowly his own heart, is most observant of his own way, and deals most constantly and simply with the cross of Jesus. With regard to the way which the Lord adopts to bring them into the knowledge of it, it is various. Sometimes it is by bringing them into great straits and difficulties, hedging up their path with thorns, or paving it with flints. Sometimes it is in deep adversity after great prosperity, as in the case of Job, stripped of all, and laid in dust and ashes, in order to be brought to the conviction and the confession of deep and utter vileness. Sometimes it is in circumstances of absolute prosperity, when He gives the heart its desire, but sends leanness into the soul. Oh, how does this teach a godly man his own utter nothingness! Sometimes it is by permitting the messenger of Satan to buffet- sending and perpetuating some heavy, lingering, lacerating cross. Sometimes by the removal of some beloved prop, on which we too fondly and securely leaned- putting a worm at the root of our pleasant out-spreading gourd, drying up our refreshing spring, or leading us down deep into the valley of self-abasement and humiliation. But the great school in which we learn this painful yet needed and wholesome lesson, is in the body of sin which we daily bear about with us. It was here Paul learned his lesson, as the seventh chapter of his letter to the Church at Rome shows, and for which Epistle the saints of God will ever have reason to praise and adore the blessed and eternal Spirit. In this school and in this way did the great apostle of the Gentiles learn that the most holy, deeply taught, useful, privileged, and even inspired saint of God was in himself nothing but the most perfect weakness and sin. Do not be cast down, dear reader, if the Lord the Spirit is teaching you the same lesson in the same way; if He is now ploughing up the hidden evil, breaking up the fallow ground, discovering to you more of the evil principle of your heart, the iniquity of your fallen nature, and that, too, it may be, at a time of deep trial, of heavy, heart-breaking affliction. Ah! you are ready to exclaim, "All these things are against me. Am I a child of God ? Can I be a subject of grace, and at the same time be the subject of so much hidden evil, and of such deep, overwhelming trial? Is this the way He deals with His people?" Yes, dear believer, you are not solitary nor alone; for along this path all the covenant people of God are traveling to their better and brighter home. Here they become acquainted with their own weakness, their perpetual liability to fall; here they renounce their former thoughts of self-power and of self-keeping; and here, too, they learn more of Jesus as their strength, their all-sufficient keeper, more of Him as their "wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption." Cheer up, then, for the Lord your God is leading you on by a safe and a right way to bring you to a city of rest.
"That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perishes, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honor and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ." 1 Peter 1:7
The trial of faith is a test of its character; it is the furnace that tries the ore of what kind it is- it may be brass, or iron, or clay, or perhaps precious gold; but the crucible will test it. There is much that passes for real faith, which is no faith; there is much spurious, counterfeit metal; it is the trial that brings out its real character. The true character of Judas was not known until his covetousness was tempted; Simon Magus was not discovered to possess a spurious faith, until he thought to purchase the gift of God with money; Demas did not forsake the apostle, until the world drew him away. But true faith stands the trial; where there is a real work of grace in the heart, no tribulation, or persecution, or power of this world, will ever be able to expel it thence; but if all is chaff, the wind will scatter it; if all is but dross and tinsel, the fire will consume it. Let the humble and tried believer, then, thank God for every test that brings out the real character of his faith, and proves it to be "the faith of God's elect." God will test His own work in the gracious soul; every grace of His own Spirit he will at one time or another place in the crucible; but never will He remove His eye from off it; He will 'sit as a refiner,' and watch that not a grain of the precious metal is consumed; He will be with His child in all and every affliction; not for one moment will He leave him. Let gratitude rather than murmuring, joy rather than sorrow, attend every test which a loving and faithful Father brings to His own gracious work, "that the trial of your faith might be found unto praise and honor and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ."
"No man has seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he has declared him." John 1:18
Of the spirituality of the Divine nature we can form no just or definite conception. All our ideas of it must necessarily be unintelligible, vague, and shadowy. Referring to this impossibility, and in language of condescending adaptation to our sensible view of objects, Jesus says of His Father, "You have neither heard His voice at any time, nor seen His shape." Ignorant of this inspired truth, and yet with a quenchless thirst ever desiring such a conception of an infinite spirit as would afford a resting-place for the mind, an object on which faith could repose, and around which the affections could entwine, man has been beguiled into atheism and idolatry of the most debasing and fearful character. Framing his conceptions of spirit after his own low and depraved idea of matter, he has "changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and four footed beasts, and creeping things." But God has revealed Himself. He has stooped to our nature, and in the person of His incarnate Son has embodied the spirituality of His being, with all its divine and glorious attributes. All that we clearly, savingly know of God is just the measure of our acquaintance with this truth. Jesus brings God near. "You are near, O Lord." Oh, how near! "They shall call His name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us." The most stupendous, glorious truth which created mind ever grasped is involved in this wondrous declaration, "Emmanuel, God with us." With what glory does it invest the Bible! what a foundation does it lay for faith! what substance does it impart to salvation! and what a good hope does it place before the believing soul! God is with us in Christ, with us in the character of a reconciled Father, with us every step of our journey to heaven, with us to guide in perplexity, to soothe in sorrow, to comfort in bereavement, to rescue in danger, to shield in temptation, to provide in need, to support in death, and safely to conduct to glory. My soul! fall prostrate in the dust before the majesty of this amazing, this precious truth; adore the wisdom that has revealed it, and admire the grace that makes it yours!
"Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth." Colossians 3:2
How solemn and full of meaning are these words! To set the affections on heavenly things is to realize the ardent desire of the apostle, that he might "know Christ and the power of His resurrection." Oh, there is a mighty, elevating power in the resurrection of Christ! It is the great lever of a child of God, lifting him above earth, heavenward. To know that he is closely and inseparably one with the risen Head of the Church, is to be the subject of a continuous, quickening influence, which in spirit raises him from the dust and darkness and pollutions by which he is surrounded, fixing the affections with greater ardency of devotion and supreme attachment on things above. Oh, nothing will more sanctify and elevate our hearts, than to have them brought under the "power of Christ's resurrection." Following Him by faith, from the dust of earth to the glory of heaven, the affections will ascend with their Beloved. Where He is- the heart's most precious treasure- there it will be also. And oh, to have the heart with Christ in heaven, what an unspeakable mercy! And why should it not be? Has earth more that is attractive and lovely, holy and worthy of its affection, than heaven? Here, we are encircled by, and combat with, spirits of darkness and pollution, principalities and powers; there, is "an innumerable company of angels." Here, we are much separated from the Church of God; there, is the "general assembly and Church of the first-born," from whom nothing shall divide us. Here, the Divine presence is often withdrawn, and we are taunted and accused by our foes; there, is "God the Judge of all," whose presence will be our eternal glory, and who will "bring forth our righteousness as the light, and our judgment as the noon-day." Here, we often hang our heads in sorrow, at the imperfections we mark in the saints; there, are the "spirits of just men made perfect," "without fault before the throne." Here, we often lose sight of our beloved Lord; there, is "Jesus, the Mediator of the new covenant," never more to be veiled from our view. Oh, then, how much richer and more attractive is heaven than earth, to a renewed and holy mind, each moment growing richer and more attractive, by the accession to its happiness of those, the holy and loved ones of the earth, who have for a little while preceded us to that world of perfect bliss! Our treasure in glory, how rapidly it accumulates! Death, which impoverishes us here, by snatching from our embrace the objects of our love, by that same act augments our riches in heaven, into the full possession and enjoyment of which it will, in its appointed time, beneficently translate us. But the sweetest, the most powerful attraction of heaven, let us never forget, is, that Jesus is there. Ah! what would heaven be, were He absent? Could we, at this moment, rush into the fond embrace of the dearest of the glorified ones, and not meet the "Chief among ten thousand, the altogether lovely One," who on earth was more precious to our hearts than life itself, oh, how soon would its glory fade from our eye, and its music pall upon our ear! It would cease to be heaven without Christ. Even on earth His presence and His smile constitute the first dawnings of that better world. And he who lives most in the enjoyment of this- and oh, how much more may be enjoyed than we have the faintest conception of!- has most of the element of heaven in his soul. Aim, then, to cultivate heavenly affections, by a life of high communion with God.
"Being confident of this very thing, that he, which has begun a good work in you, will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ." Philippians 1:6
The doctrine of the Spirit's personal dignity affords a pledge that the work thus commenced shall be carried forward to a final and glorious completion. Because He is God, He will finish what He has begun. And let it not be forgotten, that the growth of the believer in the experience of the truth is as much the work of the eternal Spirit as was the first production of divine life in the soul. The dependence of the believer on the Spirit by no means ceases in conversion. There are after-stages along which it is his office to conduct the believing soul. Deeper views of sin's exceeding sinfulness- a more thorough knowledge of self, more enlarged discoveries of Christ- a more simple and habitual resting upon His finished work, increasing conformity to the Divine image- the daily victory over indwelling sin, and a constant fitting for the inheritance of the saints in light- all these works the one and the self-same Spirit, who first breathed into his soul the breath of spiritual life. Not a step can the believer advance without the Spirit- not a victory can he achieve without the Spirit- not a moment can he exist without the Spirit. As he needed Him at the first, so he needs Him all his journey through. And so he will have Him, until the soul passes over Jordan. To the last ebbing of life, the blessed Spirit will be his Teacher, his Comforter, and his Guide. To the last, He will testify of Jesus; to the last, He will apply the atoning blood; and to the very entrance of the happy saint into glory, the eternal Spirit of God- faithful, loving to the last- will be present to whisper words of pardon, assurance, and peace. Holy Spirit! build us up in the infinite dignity of Your person, and in the surpassing greatness and glory of Your work!
"In whom also, after that you believed, you were sealed with that Holy Spirit of promise." Ephesians 1:13
Although it is most true that the moment a sinner believes in Jesus he becomes actually an "heir of God, and a joint heir with Christ," and enters into the family as an adopted child, yet the clear and undoubted sense of this vast mercy may not be sealed upon his heart until after years. He may long have walked without the sweet sense of God's adopting love in his heart, and the frame of his spirit, and the language of his soul in prayer, has been more that of the "son of the bond-woman" than the "son of the free-woman;"he has known but little of the "free spirit,"- the spirit of an adopted child- and he has seldom gone to God as a kind, loving, tender, and faithful father. But now the Divine Sealer- the eternal Spirit of God- enters afresh, and impresses deeply upon his soul the unutterably sweet and abiding sense of his adoption. Oh, what an impression is then left upon his heart, when all his legal fears are calmed- when all his slavish moanings are hushed, all his bondage spirit is gone- and when, under the drawings of filial love, he approaches the throne of grace, and cries, "My Father!" and his Father responds, "My child! You shall call me, My Father; and shall not turn away from me!" The sealing of the Spirit does not always imply a rejoicing frame. It is not necessarily accompanied by great spiritual joy. While we cannot forget that it is the believer's privilege to be "always rejoicing," "rejoicing evermore," and that a state of spiritual joy is a holy as it is a happy state, yet we cannot suppose that the "sealed" are always in possession of this "fruit of the Spirit." It is perhaps more a state of rest in God- a state of holy quietude and peace, which, in many cases, seldom rises to that of joy. There is an unclouded hope, a firm and unshaken resting on the finished work, a humble reliance on the stability of the covenant and the immutability of God's love, which is never moved even when there is no sensible enjoyment, and when comfort seems to die. It is a state corresponding to that which David thus expresses- "Although my house do not be so with God; yet He has made with me an everlasting covenant, ordered in all things, and sure: for this is all my salvation, and all my desire, although He make it not to grow." Perhaps more akin to Job's frame of soul when he exclaimed, "Though He slay me, yet will I trust in Him." Sensible comforts may be withdrawn, joy maybe absent- the Sun of Righteousness casting but a faint twilight over the soul- and yet, such is the power of faith grasping the cross of Christ- such the firm resting of the soul upon the stability of the covenant- upon, what God is, and upon what He has promised- that, without one note of joy, or one ray of light, the believer can yet say, "I know in whom I have believed." And why, we ask, this strong and vigorous reliance?- why this buoying up of the soul in the absence of sensible comfort? We reply, because that soul has attained unto the sealing of the Spirit. This forms the great secret.
"The Holy Spirit of God, whereby you are sealed unto the day of redemption." Ephesians 4;30
The believer will never lose the sealing of the Spirit. The impression of God's pardoning love, made upon the heart by the Holy Spirit, is never entirely effaced. We do not say that there are no moments when the "consolations of God are small" with the believer- when he shall have no severe "fightings within, and fears without," when the experience of the Church shall be his, "I opened to my beloved; but my beloved had withdrawn himself, and was gone: my soul failed when he spoke: I sought him, but I could not find him; I called him, but he gave me no answer;"- all this he may experience, and still not lose the sealing of the Spirit. In the midst of it all, yes, in the lowest depth, there shall be the abiding conviction of an interest in God's love, which sustains, animates, and comforts. It will be seen, by reverting to the state of the Church above alluded to, that, although there was the consciousness of her beloved's withdrawment- though he was gone, and she sought him but could not find him, called him but he gave her no answer- yet not for one moment did she lose the impression that He was still her beloved. Here was the glorious triumph of faith, in the hour when all was loneliness, desolation, and joylessness. Here was the sealing of the Spirit which never left her, even though her "beloved had gone." And while not a beam of His beauty glanced upon her soul, nor a note of His voice fell upon her ear, she still could look up and exclaim, "I am my beloved's, and my beloved is mine." Oh mighty power of faith, that can anchor the soul firm on Jesus, in the darkest and wildest tempest! And this is but the sealing of the Spirit. It is the Holy Spirit so deeply impressing on the heart a sense of pardoning love- so firmly establishing it in the faithfulness of God- the finished work of Christ- the stability of the covenant, and the soul's adoption into the one family, that in the gloomiest hour, and under the most trying dispensation, there is that which keeps the soul steady to its center- Jehovah-Jesus. And even should his sun go down behind a mist, he has the sustaining assurance that it will rise upon another world, in peerless, cloudless splendor. O yes! the sealing of the Spirit is a permanent, abiding impression. It is "unto the day of redemption,"- the day when there shall be no more conflict, no more darkness, no more sin. It is not to the day of pardon- for he cannot be more entirely pardoned than he is; it is not to the day of acceptance- for he cannot be more fully accepted than now- no, it is to the glorious "day of redemption"- the day of complete emancipation, longed for by the sons of God, and even sighed for by the "whole creation:" "and not only they, but ourselves also, which have the first-fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body." Oh, shout for joy, you sealed of the Lord! You tried and afflicted, tossed with tempest, and not comforted- you who find the wilderness to be but a wilderness, a valley of tears- the way rougher and rougher, narrower and narrower- lift up your heads with joy, the hour of "your redemption draws near," and the "days of your mourning shall be ended." And this is your security- a faithful, covenant-keeping God, "who has also sealed us, and given the earnest of the Spirit in our hearts."
"And suddenly, when they had looked round about, they saw no man any more, save Jesus only with themselves." Mark 9:8
It is possible, my dear reader, that this page may be read by you at a period of painful and entire separation from all public engagements, ordinances, and privileges. The way which it has pleased God to take thus to set you aside may be painful and humbling. The inmate of a sick chamber, or curtained within the house of mourning, or removed far remote from the sanctuary of God and the fellowship of the saints, you are, perhaps, led to inquire, "Lord, why this?" He replies, "Come apart, and rest awhile." Oh the thoughtfulness, the discrimination, the tenderness of Jesus towards His people! He has set you apart from public, for private duties, from communion with others for communion with Himself. Ministers, friends, privileges are withdrawn, and you are- oh enviable state!- alone with Jesus. And now expect the richest and holiest blessing of your life! Is it sickness? Jesus will make all your bed in your sickness, and your experience shall be, "His left hand is under my head, and His right hand embraces me." Is it bereavement? Jesus will soothe your sorrow and sweeten your loneliness; for He loves to visit the house of mourning, and to accompany us to the grave, to weep with us there. Is it exile from the house of God, from the ordinances of the Church, from a pastor's care, from Christian fellowship? Still it is Jesus who speaks, "There will I be unto you as a little sanctuary." The very circumstances, new and peculiar as they are, in which you are placed, God can convert into new and peculiar mercies, yes, into the richest means of grace with which your soul was ever fed. The very void you feel, the very need you deplore, may be God's way of satiating you with His goodness. Ah! does not God see your grace in your very desire for grace? Does He not mark your sanctification in your very thirsting for holiness? And can He not turn that desire, and convert that thirst, into the very blessing itself? Truly He can, and often does. As one has remarked, God knows how to give the comfort of an ordinance in the desire of an ordinance. And He can now more than supply the absence of others by the presence of Himself. Oh, who can compute the blessings which now may flow into your soul from this season of exile and of solitude? Solitude! no, it is not solitude. Never were you less alone than now. You are alone with God, and He is infinitely better than health, wealth, friends, ministers, or sanctuary, for He is the substance and the sweetness of all. You have perhaps been laboring and watching for the souls of others; the Lord is now showing His tender care for your soul. And oh, if while thus alone with Jesus you are led more deeply to search out the plague of your own heart, and the love of His- to gather up the trailing garment- to burnish the rusted armor- to trim the glimmering lamp- and to cultivate a closer fellowship with your Father, how much soever you may mourn the necessity and the cause, you yet will not regret that the Lord has set you apart from others, that you might rest awhile in His blest embrace- alone with Jesus.
"The throne of grace." Hebrews 4:16
Forget not, dear reader, it is the throne of grace, to which you come in prayer. It is a throne, because God is a Sovereign. He will ever have the suppliant recognize this perfection of His nature. He hears and answers as a Sovereign. He hears whom He will, and answers what and when He will. There must be no dictation to God, no refusing to bow to His sovereignty, no rebelling against His will. If the answer be delayed, or God should seem to withhold it altogether, remember that "He gives no account of any of His matters," and that He has a right to answer or not to answer, as seems good in His sight. Glorious perfection of God, beaming from the mercy-seat! But it is also a throne of grace. And why? Because a God of grace sits upon it, and the scepter of grace is held out from it, and all the favors bestowed there are the blessings of grace. God has many thrones. There is the throne of creation, the throne of providence, the throne of justice, and the throne of redemption; but this is the throne of grace. Just the throne we need. We are the poor, the needy, the helpless, the vile, the sinful, the unworthy; we have nothing to bring but our deep wretchedness and poverty, nothing but our complaints, our miseries, our crosses, our groanings, our sighs, and tears. But it is the throne of grace. For just such is it erected. It is set up in a world of woe- in the midst of the wilderness- in the very land of the enemy- in the valley of tears, because it is the throne of grace. It is a God of grace who sits upon it, and all the blessings He dispenses from it are the bestowments of grace. Pardon, justification, adoption, peace, comfort, light, direction- all, all is of grace. No worth or worthiness in the creature draws it forth- no price he may bring purchases it- no tears, or complainings, or misery moves the heart of God to compassion- all is of grace. God is so full of compassion, and love, and mercy, He does not need to be stimulated to pour it forth. It gushes from His heart as from a full and overflowing fountain, and flows into the bosom of the poor, the lowly, the humble, and the contrite; enriching, comforting, and sanctifying their souls. Then, dear reader, whatever be your case, you may come. If it is a throne of grace, as it is, then why not you? Why stand afar off? If the poor, the penniless, the disconsolate, the guilty are welcome here- if this throne is crowded by such, why make yourself an exception? Why not come too? What is your case, what is your sorrow, what is your burden? Ah! perhaps you can disclose it to no earthly ear. You can tell it only to God. Then take it to Him. Let me tell you for your encouragement, God has His secret audience-chamber, where He will meet you alone, and where no eye shall see you, and no ear shall hear you, but His; where you may open all your heart, and disclose your real case, and pour all your secrets into His ear. Precious encouragement! It comes from those lips into which grace was poured. "You, when you pray, enter into your closet, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father which is in secret; and your Father which sees in secret shall reward you openly." Then, upon this promise, go to the throne of grace. Whatever be the need, temporal or spiritual, take it there. God loves your secrets. He delights in your confidence, and will honor the soul that thus honors Him.
"For we are saved by hope." Romans 8:24
The phrase, as employed by the apostle, does not imply the instrument by which we are saved, but the condition in which we are saved. The condition of the renewed creature is one of hope. Salvation by the atonement of Christ- faith, and not hope, being the instrument of its appropriation, is a complete and finished thing. We cannot give this truth a prominence too great, nor enforce it with an earnestness too intense. We cannot keep our eye too exclusively or too intently fixed on Jesus. All salvation is in Him- all salvation proceeds from Him- all salvation leads to Him, and for the assurance and comfort of our salvation we are to repose believingly and entirely on Him. Christ must be all; Christ the beginning- Christ the center - and Christ the end. Oh blessed truth to you who sigh and mourn over the unveiled abominations that crown and darken the chamber of imagery! Oh sweet truth to you who are sensible of your poverty, vileness, and insufficiency, and of the ten thousand flaws and failures of which, perhaps, no one is cognizant but God and your own soul! Oh, to turn and rest in Christ- a full Christ- a loving Christ- a tender Christ, whose heart's love never chills, from whose eye darts no reproof, from whose lips breathes no sentence of condemnation! But, as it regards the complete effects of this salvation in those who are saved, it is yet future. It is the "hope laid up for us in heaven." It would seem utterly incompatible with the present economy that the renewed creature should be in any other condition than one of hopeful expectation. The constitution towards which he tends, the holiness for which he looks, the bliss for which he pants, and the dignity to which he aspires, could not for a moment exist in the atmosphere by which he is here enveloped. His state must of necessity be one of hope, and that hope must of necessity link us with the distant and mysterious future. The idea, "saved by hope," is illustrated by the effects of Christian hope. It is that divine emotion which buoys up the soul amid the conflicts, the trials, and the vicissitudes of the present life. So that we are cheered and sustained, or "saved" from sinking amid the billows, by the hope of certain deliverance and a complete redemption. "In hope of eternal life, which God, who cannot lie, promised before the world began."
"Joint-heirs with Christ." Romans 8:17
This must be understood in a limited though still in a very enlarged sense. In its highest meaning- touching the essential Deity of our Lord- He is the heir of all things. All worlds and all souls are His. All things were created by and for Him. Heaven is His throne, and earth is His footstool. To participation in this heirship we cannot be admitted. Nor can there be any conjointure with Christ in the merit that purchased our redemption. Here again He is alone, no creature aiding the work, or dividing the glory. But, mediatorially, in consequence of the union subsisting between Christ and His people, they become heirs with Him in all the privileges and hopes appertaining to His kingdom. Our union to the Lord Jesus brings us into the possession of vast and untold blessings. On the basis of His atonement we build our claim. He merits all, and we possess all. All the blessings and glories of our present and reversionary inheritance flow to us through Christ. "In whom also we have obtained an inheritance." "If a son, then an heir of God through Christ." We cannot lay too great stress on this truth. We possess nothing- we receive nothing- we expect nothing, but through Christ. All is given to us in consideration of a righteousness which upholds and honors the Divine government. Jesus is the meritorious Recipient, and we receive only through Him. Alluding to our right to, and our possession of, our inheritance, the apostle traces both to the atonement of the Son of God- "And for this cause He is the Mediator of the New Testament, that by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions that were under the first testament, they which are called might receive the promise of eternal inheritance." Thus it is alone through the "fitness" imparted by Christ, the merit He substitutes in our behalf, and the righteousness He imputes to us, that we become "partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light." Blessed Redeemer! to what dignity and honor, to what privilege and blessing, to what hope and glory, our union with You has advanced us! We were fallen; and you have lifted us up; we were poor, and You have enriched us; we were naked, and You have clothed us; we were aliens, and You have made us children; we were bankrupts, and You have made us heirs: we lost all from fatal union with the first Adam; we receive all, and infinitely more, by our glorious union with You, the second Adam. Oh, for a heart to love You! Oh, for grace to glorify You! Be increasingly precious to us, and may we be increasingly devoted to You!
"You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the first and great commandment." Matthew 22:37-38
Love to God is spoken of in His word as forming the primary and grand requirement of the divine law. Now, it was both infinitely wise and good in God thus to present Himself the proper and lawful object of love. We say it was wise, because, had He placed the object of supreme affection lower than Himself, it had been to have elevated an inferior object above Himself. For whatever other object than God is loved with a sole and supreme affection, it is a deifying of that object, so that it, as God, sits in the temple of God, showing itself that it is God. It was good, because a lesser object of affection could never have met the desires and aspirations of an immortal mind. God has so constituted man, implanting in him such a capacity for happiness, and such boundless and immortal desires for its possession, as can find their full enjoyment only in infinity itself. He never designed that the intelligent and immortal creature should sip its bliss at a lower fountain than Himself. Then, it was infinitely wise and good in God that He should have presented Himself as the sole object of supreme love and worship to His intelligent creatures. His wisdom saw the necessity of having one center of supreme and adoring affection, and one object of supreme and spiritual worship, to angels and to men. His goodness suggested that that center and that object should be Himself, the perfection of infinite excellence, the fountain of infinite good. That, as from Him went forth all the streams of life to all creatures, it was but reasonable and just that to Him should return, and in Him should center, all the streams of love and obedience of all intelligent and immortal creatures: that, as He was the most intelligent, wise, glorious, and beneficent object in the universe, it was fit that the first, strongest, and purest love of the creature should soar towards and find its resting-place in Him. Love to God, then, forms the grand requirement and fundamental precept of the divine law. It is binding upon all intelligent beings. From it no consideration can release the creature. No plea of inability, no claim of inferior objects, no opposition of rival interest, can lessen the obligation of every creature that has breath to "love the Lord his God with all his heart, and with all his soul, and with all his mind." It grows out of the relation of the creature to God, as his Creator, moral Governor, and Preserver; and as being in Himself the only object of infinite excellence, wisdom, holiness, majesty, and grace. This obligation, too, to love God with supreme affection is binding upon the creature, irrespective of any advantage which may result to him from so loving God. It is most true that God has benevolently connected supreme happiness with supreme love, and has threatened supreme misery where supreme affection is withheld; yet, independent of any blessing that may accrue to the creature from its love to God, the infinite excellence of the Divine nature and the eternal relation in which He stands to the intelligent universe, render it irreversibly obligatory on every creature to love Him with a supreme, paramount, holy, and unreserved affection.
"Those who love God." Romans 8:28
Surely it is no small mercy belonging to the Church of Christ, that, composed as it is of all people and tongues, its members as "strangers scattered abroad," its essential unity deeply obscured, and its spiritual beauty sadly disfigured by the numerous divisions which mar and weaken the body of Christ, there yet is an identity of character in all, by which they are not only known to God, but are recognized by each other as members of the one family- "those who love God." Love to God, then, is the grand distinctive feature of the true Christian. The reverse marks all the unregenerate. Harmonious as their nature, their creed, their Church may be, no love to God is their binding assimilating feature, their broad distinctive character. But the saints are those who love God. Their creeds may differ in minor shades, their ecclesiastical relations may vary in outward forms- as rays of light, the remoter their distances from the center, the more widely they diverge from each other. Yet in this one particular there is an essential unity of character, and a perfect assimilation of spirit. They love one God and Father; and this truth- like those sundered rays of light returning to the sun, approximate to each other- forms the great assimilating principle by which all who hold the Head, and love the same Savior, are drawn to one center, and in which they all harmonize and unite. The regeneration through which they have passed has effected this great change. Once they were the children of wrath, even as others, at enmity with God. Ah! is not this a heart-affecting thought? But now they love Him. The Spirit has supplanted the old principle of enmity by the new principle of love. They love Him as revealed in Christ, and they love Him for the gift of the Revealer- the visible image of the invisible God. Who, as he has surveyed the glory and realized the preciousness of the Savior, has not felt in his bosom the kindling of a fervent love to Him who, when He had no greater gift, commended His love to us by the gift of His dear Son? They love Him, too, in His paternal character. Standing to them in so close and endearing a relation, they address Him as a Father- they confide in Him as a Father- they obey Him as a Father. The spirit of adoption takes captive their hearts, and they love God with a child's fervent, adoring, confiding affection. They love God, too, for all His conduct. It varies, but each variation awakens the deep and holy response of love. They love Him for the wisdom, the faithfulness, the holiness of His procedure; for what He withholds, as for what He grants; when He rebukes, as when He approves. For His frown- they know it to be a Father's frown; for His smile- they feel it to be a Father's smile. They love Him for the rod that disciplines, as for the scepter that governs- for the wound that bleeds, as for the balm that heals. There is nothing in God, and there is nothing from God, for which the saints do not love Him. Of one truth- the source of this feeling- let us not lose sight- "We love Him because He first loved us." Thus the motive of love to God as much springs from Him as the power to love Him.
"I am he that lives, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive for evermore." Revelation 1:18
Let the Christian reader fully believe this one truth- that Jesus is alive again, and it will afford to his soul greater confirmation of the veracity of God's character, of the truth of His word, and of the perfection and all-sufficiency of Christ's work, than all other truths beside. Is Jesus alive at the right hand of God?- then the debt is paid, and justice is satisfied. Is Jesus alive at the right hand of God?- then the Father is well pleased in the work of His Son, and He "rests in His love, and rejoices over His Church with singing." Is Jesus alive?- then every promise shall be fulfilled, and all the blessings of the everlasting covenant shall be freely bestowed, and I, a poor worthless sinner, yet resting upon His atoning work, shall live also. May the Holy Spirit lead you into the full belief- the belief of the heart as of the judgment- of this glorious truth. It is the keystone of the temple; press it as you will, the more you lean upon it, the stronger you will find it- the more you rest upon it, the firmer will grow your hope. Only receive it in simple faith; Jesus is alive- alive for you- all you need in this valley of tears is here; all your temporal mercies are secured to you here; all your spiritual blessings are laid up for you here. Such is the great charter, such the immense untold blessings it contains, that, come how you will, come when you will, and "ask what you will, it shall be granted to you by the Father," because Jesus is at His right hand. Well may we take up the dauntless challenge of the apostle, "Who is he that condemns? It is Christ that died; yes, rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us." Your salvation is complete, your heaven secure, and all victory, happiness, and glory bound up in this one great fact. Then may we not again exclaim with Paul, "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which, according to His abundant mercy, has begotten us again unto a lively hope, by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead."
"Is there no balm in Gilead? is there no physician there?" Jeremiah 8:22
There is! The physician is Jesus, the balm is His own most precious blood. He binds up the broken heart, He heals the wounded spirit. All the skill, all the efficacy, all the tenderness and crucial sympathy needed for the office meet and center in Him in the highest degree. Here then, disconsolate soul, bring your wounded heart. Bring it simply to Jesus. One touch of His hand will heal the wound. One whisper of His voice will hush the tempest. One drop of His blood will remove the guilt. Nothing but a faith's application to Him will do for your soul now. Your case is beyond the skill of all other physicians. Your wound is too deep for all other remedies. It is a question of life and death, heaven or hell. It is an emergency, a crisis, a turning point with you. Oh, how solemn, how eventful is this moment! Eternity seems suspended upon it. All the intelligences of the universe, good spirits and bad, seem gazing upon it with intense interest. Decide the question, by closing in immediately with Jesus. Submit to God. All things are ready. The blood is shed, the righteousness is finished, the feast is prepared, God stands ready to pardon, yes, He advances to meet you, His returning child, to fall upon your neck and embrace you, with the assurance of His full and free forgiveness. Let not the simplicity of the remedy keep you back. Many stumble at this. It is but a look of faith: "Look unto me, and be saved." It is but a touch, even though with a palsied hand "And as many as touched him were made whole." It is but a believing the broad declaration, "that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners." You are not called to believe that He came to save you; but that He saves sinners. Then if you inquire, "But will He save me? How do I know that if I come I shall meet a welcome?" Our reply is, only test Him. Settle not down with the conviction that you are too far gone, too vile, too guilty, too unworthy, until you have gone and tried Him. You know not how you wound Him, how you dishonor Him, and grieve the Spirit, by yielding to a doubt, yes, the shadow of a doubt, as to the willingness and the ability of Jesus to save you, until you have gone to Him believingly, and put His readiness and His skill to the test. Do not let the freeness of the remedy keep you away. This, too, is a stumbling-block to many. Its very freeness holds them back. But it is "without money, and without price." The simple meaning of this is, no worthiness on the part of the applicant, no merit of the creature, no tears, no convictions, no faith, is the ground on which the healing is bestowed. Oh no! It is all of grace- all of God's free gift, irrespective of any worth or worthiness in man. Your strong motive to come to Christ is your very sinfulness. The reason why you go to Him is that your heart is broken, and that He only, can bind it up; your spirit is wounded, and that He only can heal it; your conscience is burdened, and that He only can lighten it; your soul is lost, and that He only, can save it. And that is all you need to recommend you. It is enough for Christ that you are covered with guilt; that you have no plea that springs from yourself; that you have no money to bring in your hand, but have spent your all upon physicians, yet instead of getting better you only grow worse; that you have wasted your substance in riotous living, and now are insolvent; and that you really feel a drawing towards Him, a longing for Him- that you ask, you seek, you crave, you earnestly implore His compassion- that is enough for Him. His heart yearns, His love is moved, His hand is stretched out- come and welcome to Jesus, come.
"Bear you one another's burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ." Galatians 6:2
Thank God for an errand to Him. It may be you have felt no heart to pray for yourself- you have been sensible of no peculiar drawings to the throne for your own soul, but you halt gone in behalf of another; the burden, the trial, the affliction, or the immediate need of some member of God's family has pressed upon you, and you have taken his case to the Lord: you have borne him in your arms to the throne of grace, and, while interceding for your brother, the Lord has met you, and blessed your own soul. Perhaps you halt gone and prayed for the Church, for the peace of Jerusalem, for the prosperity of Zion, that the Lord would build up her waste places, and make her a joy and a praise in the whole earth- perhaps it has been to pray for your minister, that the Lord would teach him more deeply and experimentally, and anoint him more plenteously with the rich anointing and unction of the Holy Spirit- perhaps it has been to pray for Christian missions, and for laborious and self-denying missionaries, that the Lord would make them eminently successful in diffusing the knowledge of a precious Savior, and in calling in His people: and thus, while for others you have been besieging the throne of grace, and pouring out your heart before the Lord, the Lord Himself has drawn near to your own soul, and you have been made to experience the blessing that is ever the attendant and the reward of intercessory prayer. Then let every event, every circumstance, every providence be a voice urging you to prayer. If you have no needs, others have- take them to the Lord. If you are borne down by no cross, smitten by no affliction, or suffering from no need, others are- for them go and plead with your heavenly Father, and the petitions you send up to the mercy-seat on their behalf may return into your own bosom freighted with rich covenant blessings. The falls, the weaknesses, the declensions of others make them grounds for prayer. Thus, and thus only, can you expect to grow in grace, and grace to grow in you.
"Above all, taking the shield of faith, with which you shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked." Ephesians 6:16
Few of the children of God are ignorant, more or less, of Satan's devices. But few are exempt from the "fiery darts " of the adversary; our Lord Himself was not. Many, peculiar, and great are their temptations. They are often those which touch the very vitals of the gospel, which go to undermine the believer's faith in the fundamentals of Christianity, and which affect his own personal interest in the covenant of grace. Satan is the sworn enemy of the believer- his constant, unwearied foe. There is, too, a subtlety, a malignity, which does not mark not the other and numerous enemies of the soul. The Holy Spirit speaks of the "depths of Satan." There are "depths" in his malice, in his subtlety, in his sagacity, which many of the beloved of the Lord are made in some degree to fathom. The Lord may allow them to go down into those "depths," just to convince those who are there are depths in His wisdom, love, power, and grace, which can out-fathom the "depths of Satan." But what are some of the devices of the wicked one? What are some of his fiery darts? Sometimes he fills the mind of the believer with the most blasphemous and atheistical thoughts, threatening the utter destruction of his peace and confidence. Sometimes he takes advantage of periods of weakness, trial, and perplexity to stir up the corruptions of his nature, bringing the soul back as into captivity to the law of sin and death. Sometimes he suggests unbelieving doubts respecting his adoption, beguiling him into the belief that his professed conversion is all a delusion, that his religion is all hypocrisy, and that what he had thought was the work of grace is but the work of nature. But by far the greatest and most general controversy which Satan has with the saint of God is, to lead him to doubt the ability and the willingness of Christ to save a poor sinner. The anchor of his soul removed from this truth he is driven out upon a rough sea of doubt and anguish, and is at the mercy of every wind of doctrine and every billow of unbelief that may assail his storm-tossed bark. But in the midst of it all, where does the comfort and the victory of the tempted believer come from? From the promise which assures him that "when the enemy shall come in like a flood, the Spirit of the Lord shall lift up a standard against him." And what is the standard which the Spirit, the Comforter, lifts up to stem this flood? A dying, risen, ascended, exalted, and ever-living Savior. This is the standard that strikes terror into the foe; this is the gate that shuts out the flood. So the disciples proved. This is their testimony: "And the seventy returned again with joy, saying, Lord, even the devils are subject unto us through Your name." Immanuel is that name which puts to flight every spiritual foe. And the Comforter, which is the Holy Spirit, leads the tempted soul to this name, to shelter itself benea