"All things work together for good to those who love God." Romans 8:28
Observe the unity of operation. They "work together,"-not singly and separately, but conjointly-as adjunct causes and mutual helps. Therefore it is that we often mark a plurality of trial in the calamity which befalls the Christian. Seldom does affliction come solitary and alone; storm rises upon storm, cloud on cloud. One messenger of woe is quickly succeeded by another, burdened with tidings of yet heavier sorrow. Trace the wisdom, nor the wisdom only, but the love of your God, O child of suffering, in ordaining your path to heaven through "much tribulation," and in weaving around you many trials. Single and alone, the good they are charged to convey were but partially accomplished, and the evil they were designed to meet but imperfectly cured. It is the compounding of the ingredients in the recipe that constitutes its sanative power. Extract any one ingredient, and you impair the others, and destroy the whole. We may not understand the chemistry of the process; we do not see how one element acts upon the properties of the others, nor how by the combination of all the cure is effected. Yet, confiding in the skill of the compounder, and submitting our reason to our faith, we take the remedy, and receive the benefit. So with the Divine dispensations, they work, but "work together." How assuredly would the curative process of trial be impaired, if but one of the several sent were lacking! How would the adjustment, harmony, and symmetry of God's arrangement be destroyed, if one dark dispensation were lacking of, perhaps, the many which lower upon our horizon! It is the combination of sound, the harmony of many and often discordant notes, that constitute music. Oh, how imperfectly are we aware, not of the necessity of trial only, but of a plurality of trial, in order to wake from our lips the sweetest, loftiest anthem of praise and thanksgiving to God! Thus it is that the most deeply tried believers are the most skillful and the most melodious choristers in God's Church. They sing the sweetest on earth, and they sing the loudest in heaven, who are passing through, and who have come out of, "great tribulation." Then, Christian, count it all joy when you fall into diverse trials; do not be terrified if wave responds to wave-if cloud caps cloud-if storm rises on storm-if your Joseph has been taken, and now your Benjamin be demanded. The greater the accumulation of trial, the richer the freight it bears. Then it is that the interposition, the wisdom, and love of our God appear the most conspicuous and wonderful. Having delivered us out of six troubles, we see Him hastening to our rescue in the seventh. Then it is the experience of the sweet singer of Israel awakes an echo in our heart: "He sent from above, He took me, He drew me out of many waters."
And let us not forget that it is a present working. It says not that all things shall work together for good, though this is equally certain. But it says that all things do now work together for good. It is not a past, nor a future, but a present process. They are always working for good. The operation may be as invisible and noiseless as the leaven fomenting in the meal, and yet not less certain and effectual. The kingdom of God comes not into our souls with observation, nor does it grow in our souls with observation. And whether the good thus borne upon the raven-wing of trial, thus embosomed in the lowering cloud of some crushing providence, be immediate or remote, it matters little; sooner or later it will accomplish its benign and heaven-sent mission, and then trial will expand its dark pinions and fly away, and sorrow will roll up its somber drapery and disappear. The painful and inexplicable dispensations, which at the present moment may be thickening and deepening around your path, are but so many problems in God's government, which He is working out to their certain, satisfactory, and happy results.
"We know that all things work together for good." Romans 8:28
Safely may the apostle rest his appeal with us. We know it, because God has said it. We know it, because others have testified to it. Best of all, we know it, because we have experienced it ourselves. We can set our seal to the truth, that all things under the government of an infinitely great, all-wise, righteous, and beneficent Lord God, both in the world and in the Church, and in the history of each member of the Church, work together for good. What that good may be, the shape it may assume, the complexion it may wear, the end to which it may be subservient, we cannot tell. To our dim view it may appear an evil, but to God's far-seeing eye it is a positive good. His glory is secured by it, and that end accomplished, we are sure it must be good. Oh truth most divine! Oh words most consolatory! How many whose eye traces this page, it may be whose tears bedew it, whose sighs breathe over it, whose prayers hallow it, may be wading in deep waters, may be drinking bitter cups, and are ready to exclaim-"All these things are against me"! Oh no, beloved of God, all these things are for you! "The Lord sits upon the flood." "The voice of the Lord is upon the waters." "He makes the clouds His chariot." Be not then afraid. Calmly stay your faith on this divinely assured truth, that "all things work together for good to those who love God." Will it not be a good, if your present adversity results in the dethronement of some worshiped idol-in the endearing of Christ to your soul-in the closer conformity of your mind to God's image-in the purification of your heart-in your more thorough fitness for heaven? Will it not be a real good if it terminates in a revival of God's work within you-in stirring you up to more prayer-in enlarging your heart to all who love the same Savior-in stimulating you to increased activity for the conversion of sinners, for the diffusion of the truth, and for the glory of God? Oh yes! good, real good, permanent good must result from all the Divine dispensations in your history. Bitter repentance shall end in the experienced sweetness of Christ's love. The festering wound shall but elicit the healing balm. The overpowering burden shall but bring you to the tranquil rest. The storm shall but quicken your footsteps to the hiding-place. The north wind and the south wind shall breathe together over your garden, and the spices shall flow out. In a little while-oh, how soon!-you shall pass away from earth to heaven, and in its clearer, serener light shall read the truth,
"Often read with tears before,"
"All things work together for good to those who love God."
"Therefore, thus says the Lord God, Behold, I lay in Zion for a foundation a stone, a tried stone." Isaiah 28:16
Jesus is fitly compared to a "stone" for strength and durability. He is a "Savior, and a great one"-"mighty to save." "I have laid help upon one that is mighty." If it were probable that the fact of His Deity should be announced in a voice of thunder from the eternal throne, can we suppose it would be uttered in terms more decided and explicit than those which fell upon the ear of the exiled evangelist from the lips of Christ Himself? "I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the ending, says the Lord, who is, and who was, and who is to come, the Almighty." And what a needed truth is this! None but an almighty ransom could have saved from going down to the pit. Jesus is our ransom, and Jesus is the Almighty.
The Redeemer is not only a stone, but a "tried stone." The grand experiment has been made-the great test has been applied, and to answer all the ends for which the Lord God laid it in Zion, it has proved completely adequate. Never was a foundation tried as this. In the eternal purpose of redemption, Omnipotence tried it. In the Divine mind there existed no lurking suspicion, no embarrassing uncertainty as to the result. The Father knew all that this foundation was to sustain, and well He knew, too, that it was capable of sustaining all. Stupendous were the consequences. His own glory and the honor of His government were involved; the salvation of His elect was to be secured; death, with all its horrors, was to be abolished; life, with all its immortal, untold glories, was to be revealed; hell was to be closed, and heaven opened to all believers. With such momentous realities pending, with such mighty and glorious results at stake, the Eternal mind, in its purpose of grace and glory, would lay for a foundation a "tried stone." Blessed Emmanuel! how effulgently does Your glory beam from beneath Your prophetical veil! You are that "tried stone,"-tried by the Father, when He laid upon You all His people's sins and transgressions, bruised You, and put You to grief. Tried by the law, when it exacted and received from You Your utmost obedience to its precepts. Tried by Divine justice, when it kindled around You its fiercest flame, yet consumed You not. Tried by the Church, built upon You so securely that the gates of hell shall never prevail against her. Tried by poor sinners, who have brought their burdens of guilt to Your blood, and have found pardon and peace. Tried by believers, who have taken their trials to Your sympathy, their sorrows to Your love, their wounds to Your healing, their weakness to Your strength, their emptiness to Your fullness, their petitions to Your ear, and have never, never been disappointed. Oh yes, You are that "tried stone" to whom I would come moment by moment.
"A precious corner stone." Isaiah 28:16
Of whom does the prophet speak this but of Jesus, compared with whom nothing is precious? He alone is worthy of the term, who alone can smooth life's rugged path, sweeten life's bitter trials, lighten life's heavy burdens, and this by daily and hourly emanations of His own life, grace, and preciousness. Oh, how precious-what language can express?-is this precious stone to him who, conscious of his vileness, poverty, and nothingness, or with a spirit oppressed with deep trial, or bleeding from painful bereavement, wades to it through the billows, exclaiming, "When my heart is overwhelmed, lead me to the Rock that is higher than I." Precious in His all-atoning blood-precious in His all-justifying righteousness-precious in His infinite fullness-precious in every office that He fills, in every work that He performs, in every promise that He makes, is Christ to him who, finding all other foundations but as sliding sand, builds his hope of glory upon the incarnate God. "To you, therefore, who believe, He is precious."
A "corner stone," too, is our glorious Redeemer. The important position which this occupies in the spiritual building-its essential relation to the compactness, strength, and durability of the whole fabric-we fear, is not duly considered by many who are professedly "lively stones" in the "spiritual house." And yet how momentous and how holy is the instruction it conveys! The corner stone is that which unites the parts of the edifice; it is to the building what the key-stone is to the arch; it imparts unity, symmetry, and strength. The Lord Jesus has been the uniting stone of the Church in all ages. The saints of the Patriarchal, Levitical, and Christian Churches all meet and form, in Him, one glorious temple of the living God. "No more strangers and foreigners, but fellow-citizens with the saints, and of the household of God:" they are "built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief corner stone; in whom all the building fitly framed together, grows unto an holy temple in the Lord," and thus becomes "a habitation of God through the Spirit." That there are divisions in the Church of God, visible and painful-that the one body is sadly dismembered, the seamless robe rudely torn and disfigured, is a truth too glaring to conceal, and almost too painful and humiliating to acknowledge. Alas, that it should be! Oh, how much is the unity of the Church lost sight of in the din of religious controversy and in the heat of party zeal! How does brother look coldly upon brother, and minister glance suspiciously at minister, and church stand aloof from church! Ought this so to be? And to what may it in a great degree be traced? We believe to a forgetfulness of the truth that all true believers are "one in Christ Jesus;" that the blood of the Lamb is the bond of union of the saints; that He is the "corner stone," uniting all the parts of the one edifice; and that, if built upon Him, we are one with that Church, and that Church is one with Christ.
"A sure foundation." Isaiah 28:16
"A sure foundation" is the last quality of excellence specified of this precious Stone. As if, in so momentous a matter as the salvation of the soul, to remove all lingering doubt from the mind, to annihilate all imaginary and shadowy conceptions of Jesusl; Jehovah, the great Builder of the Church, declares the foundation thus laid to be a real and substantial one. Confidently here may the weary rest, and the sinner build his hope of heaven. All is sure. Sure that the word he credits is true-sure that the invitation that calls him is sincere-sure that the welcome extended to him is cordial. Sure, in coming to Jesus, of free forgiveness, of full justification, of complete and eternal acceptance with a reconciled God. Sure, that in renouncing all self-dependence, and building high his hope of glory on this foundation, he "shall not be ashamed nor confounded, world without end." All, too, is sure to the believer in the covenant of grace, of which Jesus is the Surety and Mediator. Every promise is sure-the full supply of all our need-the daily efficacy of the atoning blood-the answer to our prayers, though long delayed-the hope of being forever with Jesus-all, all is certain and sure, because based on Jesus, and springing from the heart of an unchangeable God, and confirmed by the oath of Him who has said, "Once have I sworn by my holiness that I will not lie unto David."
Precious Jesus! we have been contemplating Your glory as through a glass darkly. And yet we thank and adore You even for this glimpse. Dim and imperfect though it is, it has endeared You-unutterably endeared You-to our hearts. Oh! if this is Your glory beheld through a clouded medium, what will it be seen face to face! Soon, soon shall we gaze upon it. Then, Oh glorious King, we shall exclaim, "It was a true report that I heard of your acts and of your wisdom, and, behold, the half was not told me." Seeing that we look for such things, grant us grace, that being "diligent, we may be found of You in peace, without spot, and blameless." Send to us what You will, withhold from us what You will; only vouchsafe to us a "part in the first resurrection," and a seat at Your right hand when You come to Your kingdom. Low at Your feet we fall! Here may Your Spirit reveal to us more of Your glory! Oh, irradiate, sanctify, and cheer us with its beams! Behold, we cling to You! You are our Emmanuel, or portion, and our all. In darkness we repair to the fountain of Your light. In sorrow, we flee to the asylum of Your bosom. Oppressed, we come to the shelter of Your cross. Oh, take our hearts, and bind them closer and still closer to Yourself! Won by Your beauty and drawn by Your love, let there be a renewed surrender of our whole spirit, and soul, and body. Oh, claim a fresh possession of us. "Your statutes have been our songs in the house of our pilgrimage: You shall guide us with Your counsel, and afterward receive us to glory." Then shall we unite with the Hallelujah Chorus, and sing in strains of surpassing sweetness, gratitude, and love. "Thanks be unto God for His unspeakable gift!"
"Come unto me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest." Matthew 11:28
With what brightness does the truth appear, written with beams of heavenly light-Jesus, the Rest of the weary! "Come unto me." The Father has made His Son the resting-place of His Church. He Himself has vested His whole glory in Christ. He knew what Christ was capable of sustaining. He knew that as His fellow-one equal with Himself-He could with safety embark the honor of His government in the hands of His Son. He confided therein Himself! His government, and His Church-all in Christ. To this "tried stone" He would now bring His people. He found it strong enough for Himself, and He knows it to be strong enough for them, and with confidence He invites the weary to come and repose upon it. Jesus but echoes the heart of the Father when he says, "Come unto me-I will give you rest." Never did the tongue of Jesus utter words more learned, more eloquent, more persuasive. Just the word we need. By nature, we seek rest everywhere, and in everything, but in Jesus. We seek it in the sensual world, we seek it in the moral world, we seek it in the religious world-we find it not. We seek it in conviction, we seek it in ordinances, we seek it in doing the works of the law, and still it evades us. We go from place to place, from means to means, from minister to minister, and still the burden presses, and the guilt remains, and we find no rest. No; and never will we find it, until it is sought and found solely, wholly, exclusively, and entirely in Jesus. Rest for the sin-weary soul is only to be met with in Him who bore the curse for man's transgression. Here God rests, and here the sinner must rest. Here the Father rests, and here the child may rest. Jesus is the great burden-bearer, for God and for man. Listen again to the melody of His words: "Come unto me-I will give you rest." See, how He invites you, without one solitary condition. He makes no exception to your guilt and unworthiness. The word is, "Come unto me;" in other words, believe in me. To "come" is simply and only to believe. And oh! how can we fully set forth the "rest" to be found it Jesus? Let those testify who took their guilt to His blood, their vileness to His righteousness, their sins to His grace, their burdens to His arm, their sorrows to His heart. Let them tell how, in a moment, their sense of weariness fled, and rest, sweet, soothing rest to their soul succeeded. Are you, my reader, a sin-weary soul? Then, to you is this invitation addressed: "Come unto me-to me, a Savior whose willingness is equal to my ability. To me, who never rejected a single soul that sought salvation and heaven at my hands. Come unto me-I will give you rest."
"My grace is sufficient for you: for my strength is made perfect in weakness." 2 Corinthians 12:9
In the case of a tried believer, the rest that Jesus gives does not always imply the removal of the burden from where this sense of weariness proceeds. The burden is permitted to remain, and yet rest is experienced. Yes, it would appear from His procedure, that the very existence of the burden were essential to the experience of the rest. He withdraws not the trouble from us, nor us from the trouble; and still the repose we sighed for is given. Wonderful indeed! But how is it explained? That burden takes us to Jesus. It is but the cause of our simply going to Him. But for that sorrow, or that calamity, or that sickness, or that bereavement, we would have stayed away. The pressure compelled us to go. And how does He meet us! Does He open a way of escape from our difficulty, or does He immediately unbind our burden and set us free? No; better than this, He pours strength into our souls, and life into our spirits, and love into our hearts, and so we find rest. Thus are fulfilled in our experience the precious promises, "As your day, so shall your strength be." "My grace is sufficient for you."
The timing of the Lord's promised grace is no small unfolding of His love. Nor less an evidence of His complex person as God-man. How could He so time His supply of strength as to meet the exigency at its very crisis, did not His Deity make Him cognizant of the critical juncture in which His people were placed! And let it be mentioned that this operation is going on in every place and at every moment. And how could He meet that exigency, and speak a word in season to the weary, but as His humanity was touched with the feeling of the infirmity? It is by this process of experience that we are brought into close views of the glory of our incarnate God. When He speaks through the ministry of the word, or by the word itself, to the believer, wearied with conflict and with trial, it has been just at the moment that its sustaining and consoling power was most needed. The eye that neither slumbers nor sleeps was upon you. He knew in what furnace you were placed, and was there to temper the flame when it seemed the severest. He saw your frail bark struggling through the tempest, and He came to your rescue at the height of the storm. How has He proved this in seasons of difficulty and doubt! How often at a crisis, the most critical of your history, the Lord has appeared for you! Your need has been supplied, your doubt has been solved, and your perplexity has been guided; He has delivered your soul from death, your eyes from tears, and your feet from falling. A word by Jesus, spoken in due season, how good is it!
"For here have we no continuing city, but we seek one to come." Hebrews 13:14
The true believer in Jesus is a traveler. He is journeying to a city of habitation, to the mount of God-and, blessed be God, he will soon be there! The apostle Peter dedicates his pastoral letter to the "strangers scattered" abroad-the people of God dispersed over the face of the earth. Such is the Church of Christ. It is sometimes incorrectly called "the visible Church." The idea is unscriptural. Visible churches there may be, but a visible Church there is none. The saints of God are "strangers and pilgrims" scattered abroad. Here on earth they have no permanent abode, no certain resting-place. The Church is in the wilderness, journeying through it. The present is called the "time of our sojourning." We are but wayfarers at an inn, abiding only for a night. "Here we have no continuing city." We are strangers and sojourners, as all our fathers were. But this, beloved, is the reconciling, animating thought-we are journeying to the dwelling of God. We are on our way to the good land which the Lord our God has promised us; to the kingdom and the mansion which Jesus has gone to take possession of and to prepare for us. In a word-and this image is the climax of the blissful prospect-we are hastening to our "Father's house," the home of the whole family in heaven and in earth, the residence of Christ, the dwelling-place of God.
To this each believer in Jesus is journeying. The road is difficult, the desert is tedious-sometimes perilous from its smoothness, or painful from it roughness; its difficultness now wearying, its intricacy now embarrassing. But who will complain of the path that conducts him to his home? Who would yield to the sensation of fatigue, who is journeying to an eternal rest? Much of the disquietude and repining of spirit peculiar to the pilgrimage of the saints arises from the faint conceptions which the mind forms of the coming glory. We think too faintly and too seldom of heaven. The eye is bent downwards, and seldom do we "lift up our heads" in prospect of the "redemption that draws near."
And yet how much there is in the thought of glory, in the anticipation of heaven-its nature and associations-calculated to stimulate, to cheer, and to allure us onwards! It is the place where we shall be sinless; it is the residence where we shall see God; it is the mansion where we shall be housed with Christ; it is the home where we shall dwell with all the saints; it is the point at which are collecting all the holy of earth, some of whom have already left our embrace for its holier and happier regions, and whom we shall meet again. Why, then, should we be cast down because of the difficulty of the way, or for one moment lose sight of the glory that awaits us, or cease to strive for the fitness essential to its enjoyment? In a little while-oh, how short the journey!-and we shall be there. Then we shall realize, to their fullest extent, the beauty and the sweetness of the description so often read and pondered with tears of hope- "You have come to Mount Zion, to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to thousands of angels in joyful assembly. You have come to the assembly of God's firstborn children, whose names are written in heaven. You have come to God himself, who is the judge of all people. And you have come to the spirits of the redeemed in heaven who have now been made perfect. You have come to Jesus, the one who mediates the new covenant between God and people, and to the sprinkled blood, which graciously forgives instead of crying out for vengeance as the blood of Abel did." O my soul! will you not stretch every nerve, endure every privation, and relinquish every weight, thus to reach this glorious city of God?
"But my God shall supply all your needs, according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus." Philippians 4:19
For all the exigencies of the Christian journey God has amply provided. The Lord Jesus being the believer's "way," all nourishment for the pilgrimage of the saints is laid up in Him. All supply of wisdom for the perplexing way, of strength for the wearisome way, of grace for the perilous way, of sympathy for the trying way, is in Jesus. In Him has the Father laid up the provision for the wilderness journey. And what storehouses of nourishment-both testifying of Jesus-are the word of God and the covenant of grace! How full, how rich and ample the supply! All the soul-establishing doctrines, all the sanctifying precepts, and all the precious, comforting promises go to make up the nourishment for the wilderness journey. Sometimes the Lord brings us into the very heart of the wilderness, just to prove to us how easily and how readily He can provide a table for us even there. And when all other resources are exhausted, and all supply is cut off, and every spring of water is dried up, lo! He opens the eye of our faith to see what His heart of love has prepared.
Are you, dear reader, sitting down to weep like Hagar, or to die like Elijah, in the wilderness-desolate, weary, and exhausted? Oh, see what appropriate and ample nourishment your God and Father has provided for you. The Angel of the covenant touches you with the right hand of His love, and bids you rise and eat and drink, yes, to "drink abundantly." In the glorious gospel are "all manner of pleasant fruits, new and old," which the Lord has laid up for His people. "Go your way, eat your bread with joy, and drink your wine with a merry heart," for all this storehouse of nourishment, this table of provision, is for you. All the love that is in God's heart, all the grace that is in the Savior's nature, all the comfort that is in the Spirit's tenderness, all the sanctifying truths, free invitations, and precious promises which cluster in the Gospel of Christ, all are yours-the sacred nourishment provided for the your journey to the mount of God. Listen to the voice of Jesus, saying to you, as of old, "Come and dine."
"Wherefore he is able also to save to the uttermost, those who come unto God by him." Hebrews 7:25
What a witness is this to the power and readiness of Christ to save! And this is the testimony of the Holy Spirit to the blessed Son of God. But He does more than this. He brings home the record with power to the soul. He writes the testimony on the heart. He converts the believing soul itself into a witness that "Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners."
And what a gospel is this for a poor sinner! It speaks of pardon-of acceptance-of peace-of full redemption here, and unspeakable glory hereafter. It proclaims a Savior to the lost; a Redeemer to the captive; a Surety to the insolvent; a Physician to the sick; a Friend to the needy; an Advocate to the criminal;-all that a self-ruined, sin-accused, law-condemned, justice-threatened, broken-hearted sinner needs, this "glorious gospel of the blessed God" provides. It reveals to the self-ruined sinner One in whom is his help, Hosea 13:9. To the sin-accused, One who can take away all sin, 1 John 1:7. To the law-condemned, One who saves from all condemnation, Romans 8:1. To the justice-threatened, One who is a hiding-place from the wind, and a covert from the tempest, Isaiah 32:2. To the broken-hearted, One who binds up and heals, Isaiah 61:1. That One is-Jesus. O name ever dear, ever sweet, ever precious, ever fragrant, ever healing to the "poor in spirit"!
What a witness, then, is this which the Eternal Spirit bears for Jesus! He assures the believer that all he can possibly need is treasured up in Christ-that he has no cross but Christ can bear it-no sorrow but Christ can alleviate it-no corruption but Christ can subdue it-no guilt but Christ can remove it-no sin but Christ can pardon it-no need but Christ can supply it. Lift up your heads, you poor, you needy, you disconsolate! Lift up your heads and rejoice that Christ is all to you-all you need in this valley of tears-all you need in the deepest sorrow-all you need under the heaviest affliction-all you need in sickness-all you will need in the hour of death and in the day of judgment.
Yes, and Christ is in all too. He is in all you salvation-He is in all your mercies-He is in all your trials-He is in all your consolations, and in all your afflictions. What more can you want? What more do you desire? A Father who loves you as the apple of His eye-a full Savior to whom to go, moment by moment-and a blessed indwelling, sanctifying, comforting Spirit, to reveal all to you, and to give you Himself, as the "pledge of your inheritance, until the redemption of the purchased possession." "Happy is that people that is in such a case: yes, happy is that people whose God is the Lord."
"I am crucified with Christ; nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ lives in me." Galatians 2:20.
The life of Christ and the life of self cannot coexist in the same heart. If the one lives, the other dies. The sentence of death is written upon a man's self, when the Spirit of Christ enters his heart, and quickens his soul with the life of God. "I live," he exclaims, "yet not I." What a striking and beautiful example of this have we in the life and labors of the apostle Paul! Does he speak of his ministry?-what a renunciation of self appears! Lost in the greatness and grandeur of his theme, he exclaims-"We preach not ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord." Again-"Unto me who am less than the least of all saints, is this grace given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ." Does he refer to his office?-what self-crucifixion! "I magnify my office." In what way? Was it by vaunting proclamations of its grandeur and legitimacy, its Divine institution, or its solemn functions? Never! but he magnified his office by diminishing himself, and exalting his Master. He was nothing-aye, and even his office itself was comparatively nothing-that "Christ might be all in all." Does he speak of his gifts and labors? what absence of self! "I am the least of the apostles, that am not fit to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the Church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am; and His grace, which was bestowed upon me, was not in vain, but I labored more abundantly than they all: yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me." Such was the religion of Paul. His Christianity was a self-denying, self-crucifying, self-renouncing Christianity. "I live, yet not I. I labored more abundantly than they all, yet not I." Oh what a self-denying spirit was his!
But every truly spiritual man is a self-renouncing man. In the discipline of his own heart, beneath the cross of Jesus, and in the school of trial and temptation, he has been taught in some degree, that if he lives, it is not he that lives, but that it is Christ that lives in him. Upon all his own righteousness, his duties, and doings, he tramples as to the great matter of justification; while, as fruits of the Spirit, as evidences of faith, as pulsations of the inner spiritual life, as, in a word, tending to authenticate and advance his sanctification, he desires to be "careful to maintain good works," that God in all things might be glorified.
"But by the grace of God I am what I am: and his grace which was bestowed upon me was not in vain; but I labored more abundantly than they all: yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me." 1 Corinthians 15:10
We should be always careful to distinguish between the denial of self and the denial of the life of God within us. The most entire renunciation of ourselves, the most humiliating acknowledgment of our personal unworthiness, may harmonize with the strongest assurance and profession of Christ living in us. Self-denial does not necessarily involve grace-denial. It is the profoundest act of humility in a Christian man to acknowledge the grace of God in his soul. Never is there so real a crucifixion, never so entire a renunciation of self, as when the heart, in its lowly but deep and grateful throbbings, acknowledges its indebtedness to sovereign grace, and in the fervor of its adoring love, summons the whole Church to listen to its recital of the great things God has done for it-"Come and hear, all you that fear God, and I will declare what He has done for my soul." Oh yes! it is a self-denying life. Listen to Job-"I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes." Listen to Isaiah-"Woe is me! for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips: for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts." Listen to the penitent publican-"God be merciful to me a sinner!" Listen again to Paul-"I live, yet not I." Thus does a sense of sin, and a believing sight of Christ, lay the soul low before God in self-renunciation and self-abhorrence.
Judge your spiritual condition, dear reader, by this characteristic of the inner life. Is it yours? Has there been this renunciation of your sinful self and of your righteous self? Has the Spirit of God emptied you? has the grace of God humbled you? has the life of God crucified you? Are you as one in whom Christ lives, walking humbly with God! Oh, it is the essence of vital godliness, it is the very life of true religion. If Christ is living in you, you are a humble soul. Pride never existed in the heart of Christ. His whole life was one act of the profoundest self-abasement. In the truest and in the fullest sense of the emphatic declaration, "He humbled Himself." It is impossible, then, that He who was thus "meek and lowly in heart," can dwell in one whom "pride compasses as a chain." "I live, yet not I," are two states of the renewed soul, as inseparable as any cause and effect. A humble and a self-denying Christ dwells only with a humble and a self-denying soul. If your gifts inflate you, if your position exalts you, if your usefulness engenders pride, if the honor and distinction which God or man has placed upon you has turned you aside from the simplicity of your walk, and set you upon the work of self-seeking, self-advancing, so that you are not meek and gentle, child-like, and Christ-like in spirit, be sure of this-you are either not a partaker of the life of Christ, or else that life is at a low ebb in your soul. Which of the two, do you think, is your real state?
"I have glorified you on the earth: I have finished the work which you gave me to do. And now, O Father, glorify me with your own self, with the glory which I had with you before the world was." John 17:4-5
His work being finished, the great atonement made, and salvation eternally secured to all the covenant seed, it was fit that the Son of God should return back to glory. Heaven was His original and proper place. He was but a stranger and a sojourner here. His mission accomplished, earth, which had once attracted Him to its bosom, attracted Him no longer. As the field of His labors, and the scene of His humiliation, and the theater of His conflict, He had willingly bent His steps towards it. His labors now finished, His humiliation now passed, His battle now fought, and His victory won, He as readily hastened from all below. Oh, what stronger ties, what more powerful allurements, had earth than heaven for Jesus? All to Him had been toil and suffering, trial and sorrow. Wearisome had been His pilgrimage, laborious His life, humiliating its every scene, and painful its every incident. Creatures the best and the fondest had disappointed Him, sources of created good the most promising had failed Him, and the hour of His deepest necessity and woe found Him treading the wine-press alone, forsaken by man, deserted by God! An atmosphere of sin had enveloped Him on every side; forms of suffering and pollution each moment flitted before His eye, and sounds of blasphemy and woe fell at each step upon His ear. At whatever point He turned, He saw His Father's name dishonored, His Spirit grieved. His own dignity outraged, His teaching despised, His Gospel rejected, and His authority trampled under-foot, by men swearing allegiance to another and a rival sovereign.
What greater, sweeter, and holier attractions, then, had earth than heaven for Jesus? His resurrection from the dead was His preparative for glory. Leaving the garments of mortality in the forsaken tomb, He wrapped around Him the robe of immortality, and, poised upon the wing, awaited but the signal for His heavenly flight. All that now remained for Him to accomplish was to authenticate the fact of His risen life, place His Church in a position to receive the promised Spirit, breathe His parting blessing, and then ascend to glory. Heaven was His home, loved and longed for! How sweet to Him were its recollections! how hallowed its associations, heightened by their contrast with the scene from which He was now retiring! There, no curse; there, no sorrow; there, no suffering; there, no tears; there, no indignity, awaited Him. All was one expanse of glory, all one pavilion of happiness! Bright was the landscape stretched before His view; redolent the breezes, and soft the music that floated from its fields and bowers.
But far above all the glory suggested by the most splendid material imagery, rose, in spiritual and surpassing grandeur, the seat, the altar, and the throne which, as Prophet, Priest, and King, He sighed to occupy. A more perfect investiture of Him in these offices, a more complete establishment of His mediatorial dominion, awaited Him. All power in heaven and on earth was to be placed in His hands: and all things were to be put in subjection under Him; and all beings, from the loftiest angel in heaven to the lowest creature on earth, were to acknowledge His government, submit to His sovereignty, worship, and "crown Him Lord of all."
"And if any man sins, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous." 1 John 2:1
The work of our Lord as Priest was two-fold, atonement and intercession. The one He accomplished upon the cross, the other He now transacts upon the throne. "When He had by Himself purged our sins, He sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high." The high priest, under the law, after that he had slain the sacrifice, took the blood, and, passing within the veil, sprinkled it on the mercy-seat, so making intercession for the people. "The Holy Spirit this signifying, that the way into the holiest of all was not yet made manifest, while as the first tabernacle was yet standing." "But, Christ being come, an high priest of good things to come, by a greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this building; neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by His own blood, He entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us."
And what is He now doing? Presenting His own blood each moment before the mercy-seat on behalf of His redeemed people! "He ever lives to make intercession for us." Oh, do not forget this, dear saint of God! This is spoken for the comfort of the mourners in Zion-for those who, knowing the plague of their own hearts, and deploring its constant tendency to outbreak, are humbled in the dust with deep godly sorrow. Look up! Does sin plead loudly against you? the blood of Jesus pleads louder for you. Do your backslidings, and rebellions, and iniquities, committed against so much light and love, call for vengeance? the blood of Jesus "speaks better things." Does Satan stand at your right hand to accuse you? your Advocate stands at God's right hand to plead for you. All hail! you mourning souls! you that smite on the breast, you broken-hearted, you contrite ones! "who is he that condemns! It is Christ who died, yes rather, who is risen again; who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us."
Jesus is a glorious and a successful Advocate. He has never lost a cause entrusted to His advocacy, and never will. He pleads powerfully, He pleads eloquently, He pleads prevalently, because He pleads in behalf of a people unspeakably dear to His heart, for whom He "loved not His own life unto the death," and presses His suit, on the ground of His own most precious blood and accepted person, and with His father and their Father, His God and their God.
"This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him." 1 John 4:9
"God is love" was the great truth Jesus came to make known. Hence God's love is clearly a revelation to man, rather than a discovery by man. Divine love was the last perfection of Deity to baffle the research of human wisdom. Other attributes might be dimly traced in creation. Some faint glimmerings of God's wisdom, power, and goodness might be seen in the "things which are made;" but how God could love sinners, could redeem and save sinners, was a question to which nature's oracle returned no response. In the exercise of the vast powers with which his Creator has endowed him, man may discover everything, but this. He sweeps the firmament above him with his telescope, and a new constellation of surpassing glory arises before his view. He delves into the earth beneath him, and an ancient and long-lost city is untombed. He works a problem, and science develops some new and startling wonder. But there is one discovery he cannot make-one wonder surpassing all wonders, the most marvelous and stupendous, he cannot unravel. Nature, aiding him in all other researches, affords him no clue to this. The sunbeam paints it not upon the brilliant cloud; the glacier reflects it not from its dazzling brow; the valley's stream murmurs it not in its gentle music; it thunders not in the roar of ocean's billow; it sighs not in the evening's zephyr; it exhales not the opening flower; all nature is profoundly silent upon a theme so divine and strange, so vast and tender, as God's redeeming love to man.
But the Son, leaving the bosom of the Father, in which from eternity He had reposed, and which in the "fullness of time" He relinquished, has descended to our world to correct our apprehensions and to dislodge our doubts, to calm our fears, and to reassure our hopes with the certainty of the wondrous fact, that God is still mindful of man, and takes delight in man; that no revolt or alienation, no enmity or ingratitude, has turned away His heart from man; that He loves him still, and that loving, He "so loved him that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life." Thus did He come, His Father's representative, to declare Him to man. And as He wrought His brilliant miracles of stupendous power-thus attesting the fact of His Godhead; and as He pronounced His discourses of infinite wisdom-thus unlocking the treasures of His grace; and as He traveled all laden with our sins to the cross-thus unsealing the fountain of His compassion, He could say to all who challenged the Divinity of His mission, or who asked at His hands a vision of the Father, "He that has seen me has seen the Father,"-"I and my Father are one."
Behold the mission of the Savior to our world! He has come to uplift the veil, and reveal the heart of God-that heart all throbbing with a love as infinite as His nature, as deathless as His being. He came not to inspire, but to reveal, the love of God. The atonement did not originate, it expounded the Father's love-the love was already there. Sin had but clouded its existence; rebellion had but arrested its flow. Struggling and panting for a full, unrestrained expression, it could find no adequate outlet, no appropriate channel in its course to man, save in the surrender and sacrifice of its most costly and precious treasure. The Son of the Father must bleed and die, before the love of the Father could embrace its object. And now, O child of God, the veil is withdrawn, the thick cloud is blotted out, and your God stands before you all arrayed in ineffable love, His heart your divine pavilion, His bosom your sacred home. "The only-begotten Son who is in the bosom of the Father, He has declared Him."
"Only believe." Mark 5:36
Precious and significant are the words of Jesus, the very same words that He spoke when on earth. Did those lips, glowing with more than a seraph's hallowed touch-lips into which grace without measure was poured-ever breathe a sentence more touching, more simple, or more significant than this, "Only believe"? Originally addressed to an afflicted parent, who sought His compassion and His help in behalf of a little daughter lying at the point of death, they seem to be especially appropriate to every case of anxiety, of trial, and of need. Alas! how many such will scan this page-how many a sigh will breathe over it, how many a tear will moisten it, how many a mournful glance will light upon it! Be it so; there comes back a voice of sympathy responsive to each sad heart-not man, but Jesus speaks-"Only believe"-in other words, "only trust." What is faith, but trust? what is believing in Jesus, but trusting in Jesus? When Jesus says, "only believe me," He literally says, "only trust me." And what a natural, beautiful, soothing definition of the word faith is this!
Many a volume has been written to explain the nature and illustrate the operation of faith-the subject and the reader remaining as much mystified and perplexed as ever. But who can fail to comprehend the meaning of the good old Saxon word trust! All can understand what this means. When, therefore, Jesus says-as He does to every individual who reads these words-"only believe me," He literally says, "only trust me." Thus He spoke to the anxious father who besought Him to come and heal his child: "only believe-only trust my power, only trust my compassion, only trust my word; do not be afraid, only trust me." And thus He speaks to you, believer. Oh, for a heart to respond, "Speak, Lord, for your servant hears!"
Trust implies, on our part, mystery and ignorance, danger and helplessness. How wrapped in inscrutability, how shadowy and unreal, is all the future! As we attempt to penetrate the dark clouds, what strange forebodings steal over our spirits. Just at this juncture Jesus approaches, and with address most winning, and in accents most gentle, speaks these words, "Only believe-only trust me! Trust me, who knows the end from the beginning; trust me, who has all resources at my command; trust me, whose love never changes, whose wisdom never misleads, whose word never fails, whose eye never slumbers nor sleeps-only trust me!" Enough, my blessed Lord, my soul replies. I will sit myself down a loving child, a lowly disciple at Your feet, and, indistinct and dreary as my future path may be, will learn from You how and where I may trust You all my journey through.
"He who spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all; how shall he not with him also freely give us all things." Romans 8:32
How beautiful and conclusive the reasoning of the apostle! Arguing from the greater to the lesser, he proceeds to assure the believer of God's readiness freely to bestow all needful blessing. To this He stood pledged. The gift of His own Son, so freely and unreservedly bestowed, was the security and the channel of every other mercy. When God gave His Son, the reconciliation had not actually been effected, justice had received no satisfaction, and the broken law no repair. Thus "God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us." If then, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of His Son, much more, being reconciled, will He freely give us all things.
"All things!" How comprehensive and grant! "According as His Divine power has given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness," holding the security in the hand of faith, you may repair to your heavenly Father, and ask for all that you need. So to speak, God has bound Himself to withhold no good thing from you. He is pledged, and from that pledge He will never recede, to grant you all you need. What is your demand? Is it the Spirit to seal, to sanctify, to comfort you? Then draw near and ask the gift. "For if you who are evil know how to give good things to your children, how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him?" Is it pardon? Then ask it. He who provided the sacrifice for sin, will He not freely bestow the forgiveness of sin? Is it grace? Having given you the Reservoir of grace, is He not as willing and "able to make all grace abound toward you, that you, always having all sufficiency in all things, may abound to every good work"? Is it comfort? Having given you the "Consolation of Israel," will He not prove to you the "God of all comfort"? Is your necessity temporal? Are your circumstances adverse? Filled with forebodings of approaching difficulty, the cruse of oil and the barrel of meal wasting, are you anxious and fearful? Take your temporal need to God. What! will He bestow the higher blessings of grace, and withhold the inferior ones of providence? Never! And can you press to your believing heart the priceless, precious, unspeakable gift of His Son, and yet cherish in that heart the gloomy misgiving thought of God's unwillingness and inability to supply all you need?
"Freely give." God's gifts are both rich and gratuitous. He always bestows more, never less, than we ask. It would seem as though He could not open His hand to a poor comer, but it overflowed with a bounty worthy of Himself. Here are met all the objections to our coming which spring from our unworthiness, unfruitfulness, and unfaithfulness. Having nothing to pay, nothing in return is required. "Without money, and without price." Free as the sunlight-free as the balmy air-free as the mountain-stream-free as the heart of God can make it, is every blessing which He bestows. "He who spared not His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?"
"Those who live according to the sinful nature (the flesh) have their minds set on what that nature desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires." Romans 8:5
By this truth let us test the reality of our religious profession. In this light let us closely examine our Christian character and walk. What, reader, is the habitual and supreme bent of your mind? Is it that which is spiritual, or that which is carnal? Judge of your preparation for death, in the near view of its approaching solemnities. Decide upon your state for eternity, in the rapid progress of its deepening shadows. Ascertain the real state of your case for the judgment, in the certain arrival of its dread scrutiny. You have your mind either set upon the things of the flesh, or upon the things of the Spirit. You are either born again from above, or are groveling in things below. You are either holy, or you are unholy. You are for the Lord, or you are against Him. You are either Satan's slave or Christ's freeman. Which?
You inquire, "How may I know that I am of the Spirit?" We answer-by your producing the fruits of the Spirit. A broken heart for sin-a felt conviction of the hidden plague-a humble and a contrite spirit-an utter rejection of a human righteousness-a simple, believing reception of the Lord Jesus-and a breathing after Divine conformity, are evidences of a renewed and sanctified state. If these are yours in any degree, then you are of the Spirit.
But rest not here. Be exhorted to walk in the Spirit. Do not be satisfied with having the question decided in your favor-with just barely knowing that you have crossed the line that separates the regenerate from the unregenerate-death from life. Remain not where you are: go forward. Do not be content with a low standard. Compare not your church with other churches, nor yourself with other Christians; nor measure yourself by yourself. But fix your eye upon Christ; copy His example, imbibe His mind, and place yourself under the government of His Spirit. Strive to go forward! Endeavor to be always sowing to the Spirit. Be satisfied with the Lord's disposal of you. Study the divine art of contentment. Be convinced that what the Lord ordains is best. Covet but little of earthly good; and, as an old divine exhorts, "sail with a low gale." Lie low. The great secret of a holy and a happy life is contained in a small compass-walking humbly with God. In all failures in duty, in all shortcomings in practice, in all transactions with God, and in all dealings with man-remembering the innumerable traces of imperfection and sin found upon all you do-deal frequently, closely, with the atoning blood. "Wash and be clean."
"We are in him who is true, even in his Son Jesus Christ." 1 John 5:20
"I in them." Thus it is a mutual indwelling-Christ in us, and we in Christ. Here is our security. The believer is in Christ as Jacob was in the garment of the elder brother when Isaac kissed him, and he "smelled the smell of the clothing, and blessed him, and said, See, the smell of my son is as the smell of a field which the Lord has blessed." He is in Christ as the poor homicide was within the city of refuge, when pursued by the avenger of blood, but who could not overtake and slay. He is in Christ as Noah was enclosed within the ark, with the heavens darkening above him, and the waters heaving beneath him, yet with not a drop of the flood penetrating his vessel, nor a blast of the storm disturbing the serenity of his spirit.
How expressive are these Scriptural emblems of the perfect security of a believer in Christ! He is clothed with the garment of the Elder Brother, the righteousness of the Lord Jesus Christ, "which is unto all and upon all those who believe." On that garment the Father's hands are placed; in that robe the person of the believer is accepted; it is to God "as the smell of a field which the Lord has blessed:" the blessing of the heavenly birthright is his-and for him there is no condemnation. Pursued by the avenger of blood, the threatenings of a condemning law, he has reached the city of refuge, the Lord Jesus Christ. Fearful and trembling, yet believing and hoping, he has crossed the sacred threshold, and in an instant he is safe-and for him there is no condemnation. Fleeing from the gathering storm-"the wrath which is to come"-he has availed himself of the open door of the sacred ark-the crucified Savior-has entered, God shutting him in-and for him there is no condemnation.
Yes, Christ Jesus is our sanctuary, beneath whose shadow we are safe. Christ Jesus is our strong tower, within whose embattlements no avenger can threaten. Christ Jesus is our hiding-place from the wind, and covert from the tempest; and not one drop of "the wrath to come" can fall upon the soul that is in Him. Oh, how completely accepted, and how perfectly secure, the sinner who is in Christ Jesus! He feels he is saved on the basis of a law whose honor is vindicated; through the clemency of a righteous Sovereign, whose holiness is secured; and through the mercy of a gracious God, the glory of whose moral government is eternally and illustriously exhibited. And now is his head lifted up above his enemies round about him; for there is no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus. Reader, are you in Christ Jesus? Is this your condition?
"Except you repent, you shall all likewise perish." Luke 13:5
This was the doctrine which our Lord preached; and so did His apostles, when they declared, "God now commands all men everywhere to repent." No command, no duty, can be more distinctly, intelligently, and solemnly defined and urged than this. But the inquirer will ask, "What is repentance?" The reply is-it is that secret grace that lays the soul low before God-self loathed; sin abhorred, confessed, and forsaken. It is the abasement and humiliation of a man, because of the sinfulness of his nature and the sins of his life, before the holy, heart-searching Lord God. The more matured believer is wont to look upon a broken and contrite spirit, flowing from a sight of the cross, as the most precious fruit found in his soul. No moments to him are so hallowed, so solemn, or so sweet, as those spent in bathing the Savior's feet with tears.
There is indeed a bitterness in the grief which a sense of sin produces; and this, of all other bitterness, is the greatest. He knows, from experience, that it is an "evil thing and bitter, that he has forsaken the Lord his God." Nevertheless, there is a sweetness, an indescribable sweetness, which must be experienced to be understood, blended with the bitterness of a heart broken for sin, from a sight of the cross of the incarnate God. Oh, precious tears wept beneath that cross!
"For thus says the high and lofty One who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy; I dwell in the high and holy place, with him also that is of a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones." But how shall I portray the man who is of a contrite and humble spirit? He is one who truly knows the evil of sin, for he has felt it. He apprehends, in some degree, the holiness of God's character, and the spirituality of His law, for he has seen it. His views of himself have undergone a radical change. He no longer judges of himself as others judge of him. They exalt him; he abases himself. They approve; he condemns. And in that very thing for which they most extol him he is humbling himself in secret. While others are applauding actions, he is searching into motives; while they are extolling virtues, he is sifting principles; while they are weaving the garland for his brow, he, shut in alone with God, is covering himself with sackcloth and with ashes.
Oh precious fruit of a living branch of the true vine! Is it any wonder, then, that God should come and dwell with such a one, in whom is found something so good towards Him? Oh, no! He delights to see us in this posture-to mark a soul walking before Him in a conscious sense of its poverty; the eye drawing from the cross its most persuasive motives to a deep prostration of soul at His feet. Dear reader, to know what a sense of God's reconciling love is-to know how skillfully, tenderly, and effectually Jesus binds up and heals-your spirit must be wounded, and your heart must be broken for sin. Oh, it were worth an ocean of tears to experience the loving gentleness of Christ's hand in drying them. Has God ever said of you, as He said of Ahab, "See how he humbles himself before me?" Search and ascertain if this good fruit is found in your soul.
"Likewise the Spirit also helps our infirmities." Romans 8:26
The word here rendered "helps" properly means to take part with. It implies, not merely sympathy with, but a personal participation in our infirmity. The Spirit helps our infirmities by sharing them with us. Now take the general infirmities of the believer-infirmities which, unaided by another and a superior power, must crush and overwhelm-and trace the help thus afforded by the Spirit. We are taught to adore the love of the Father, from where each rill of mercy has its rise. We delight to dwell upon the love of the Son, through whose channel all redemption-blessing flows. And shall we overlook the love of the Holy Spirit? Shall we forget His comforts, His grace, His succourings? Forbid it, oh eternal and blessed Spirit! Your essential Deity-Your personal subsistence-Your tender love-Your Divine power-Your efficacious grace-Your sovereign mercy-Your infinite patience-Your exquisite sympathy-all demand our deepest love, and awake our loftiest praise.
But how is this sympathy of the Spirit expressed? Seeing the soul bound with an infirmity, all His compassion is awakened. Approaching, He takes hold of the burden. Constrained by a love which no thought can conceive, moved by a tenderness no tongue can describe, He advances, and places the power of His Godhead beneath the pressure-and thus He helps our infirmity. Do you doubt this? We summon you as a witness to its truth. Why are you not a ruin and a wreck? Why has not your infirmity long since dethroned reason, and annihilated faith, and extinguished hope, and clad all the future with the pall of despair? Why have you ridden serene and secure upon the crest of the billow, smiling calmly upon the dark and yawning surges dashing and foaming around you? Why have you, when your heart has been overwhelmed, found relief in a sigh, in a tear, in an uplifted glance, in one thought of God? Oh, it has been because the Spirit, all silent and invisible, was near to you, sympathizing, helping, bearing your infirmities. Because around you the power of His Deity was placed. And when you have staggered and turned pale, and have well near given up all for lost, resigning yourself to the broodings of despair, that Spirit has approached, all-loving and powerful, and helped, by sharing your infirmity. Some appropriate and precious promise has been sealed upon your heart-some clear and soothing view of Christ has been presented to your eye-some gentle whisper of love has breathed upon your ear-and you have been helped. The pressure has been lightened, the grief has been assuaged, the weakness has been strengthened, and you have risen superior to the infirmity that bowed you to the dust. Oh, it was the Spirit who helped you. Grieved, and wounded, and slighted a thousand times over though He has been, receiving at your hands the unkindest requital for the tenderest love, yet when your infirmity bowed you to the earth, and the sword entered your soul, He drew near, forgetting all your base ingratitude, and administered wine to your dejected spirit, and oil to your bleeding wound, and placed beneath you the encircling arms of His everlasting love.
"And the Holy Spirit helps us in our distress. For we don't even know what we should pray for, nor how we should pray. But the Holy Spirit prays for us with groanings that cannot be expressed in words." Romans 8:26
The Holy Spirit is here represented in the character of a pleader or advocate for the saints. To form a vivid conception of this truth, we have but to imagine an anxious and embarrassed client prosecuting some important suit, or, perchance, battling for his life in a court of justice. At his side stands his counselor, thoroughly acquainted with the nature of his case, and deeply versed in the bearings of the law. He is there to instruct his client how to shape his course, with what arguments to support, with what pleas to urge, with what words to clothe his suit. Such is the advocacy and such the aid of the Spirit in the matter of prayer. We stand in the presence of the Lord-it may be to deprecate a deserved punishment, or to plead for a needed blessing.
"We don't even know what we should pray for, nor how we should pray." How shall we order our cause before the Great Judge? With what feelings, with what language, with what arguments shall we unburden our heart, unveil our sorrow, confess our sin, and make known our request? How shall I overcome the remembrance of past ingratitude, and the conviction of present guilt, and the pressure of deep need, and the overwhelming sense of the Divine Majesty? How shall I wake the heart to feeling; rouse the dull, sluggish emotions of the soul; recall the truant affections; and