'Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his.' Romans 8:9
THE Spirit of Christ is the great convincer of sin. 'He shall convince the world of sin.' Have you thus received Him? Has He discovered to you the moral leprosy of your nature, the exceeding sinfulness of sin? Do you know anything of the conflict of which the apostle speaks in the seventh chapter of this Epistle to the Romans-the law of the mind in battle with the law of the members? And has this discovery led you to self-condemnation, to self-renunciation, to lay your mouth in the dust before God? If this be so, then the Spirit of Christ is a Spirit of conviction in you, and by this you may know that you are Christ's.
The Spirit of Christ leads to Christ. He is to the sinner what John was to the Messiah-He goes before as the Forerunner of the Lord's salvation. He prepares the way, and heralds the coming of Jesus into the soul. This was one specific object for which He was sent, and which entered essentially into His mission-to lead men to Christ. Has He led you to Christ? Can you say, 'Christ is made unto me wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption'? What do you think of Christ? Is His blood precious? Does His righteousness give you peace? Does His grace subdue your sins? Do you in sorrow travel to His sympathy, in weakness take hold of His strength, in perplexity seek His counsel, in all your steps acknowledge and wait for Him? Is Christ thus all in all to you? Then you have the Spirit of Christ. This we venture to assert for your encouragement. You may resort to Christ, and there may be no sensible apprehension, no realizing touch, no manifested presence; yet, if your heart goes out after Jesus, if your spirit travels alone to Him, praying for His sympathy, panting for His grace, thirsting for His love, and you are led to say, 'Lord, the desire of my heart is to Your name, and to the remembrance of You; I seem not to see You, to touch You, to apprehend You; yet I come, and I find a heaven in coming; and for ten thousand worlds I dare not, I could not, stay away'-then, dear reader, you have the Spirit of Christ, and are Christ's. Not only does the Spirit lead to Christ, but He also conforms those thus led to the image of Christ. He guides us to Christ, not for consolation and instruction only, but also for assimilation. If we are humble, we have the Spirit of Christ-for He was humble. If we are meek, we have the Spirit of Christ-for He was meek. If we believe, we have the Spirit of Christ-for He lived a life of faith. If we love God, we have the Spirit of Christ-for He was the incarnation of love. If we are holy, we have the Spirit of Christ-for He was without sin. If we are obedient, meek, and self-denying in suffering, silent in provocation, submissive in chastisement, patient in tribulation, and rejoicing in hope, then have we the Spirit of Christ, for He was all this. Thus the possession of this immense, this indispensable blessing, comprises two grand things-first, to become the subject of an actual and permanent in-being of the Spirit; and second, to be assimilated in character and disposition to the Savior. And while it is most certain, that if the first-mentioned blessing is attained, the second follows, yet it is to the second we are to look as the fruit and evidence of the first. The question, 'Am I Christ's?' hinges upon the answer to the question, 'Have I the Spirit of Christ?'
'If you endure chastening, God deals with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the Father chastens not?' Hebrews 12:7
AS our chastenings are marks of our sonship, equally so are our consolations. The kindly view the Spirit gives of our Father's dispensations-the meek submission of the will, the cordial acquiescence of the heart, and the entire surrender of the soul to God, which He creates, supplies us with indisputable ground for drawing a conclusion favorable to the reality of our being the children of God. There is a depth of sympathy and a degree of tenderness in God's comforts, which could only flow from the heart of a father-that Father, God Himself. 'As a father pities his children, so the Lord pities those who fear Him.' Sweet to know that the correction and the consolation, the wounding and the healing, flow from the same heart, come from the same hand, and bears each a message of love and a token of sonship. Is the God of all comfort sustaining, soothing, and quieting your oppressed, chafed, and sorrowful heart? Oh, it is the Spirit's witness to your adoption. Bending to your grief, and associating Himself with every circumstance of your sorrow, He seeks to seal on your softened heart the deeper, clearer impress of your filial interest in God's love. And oh, if this overwhelming bereavement-if this crushing stroke-if the bitterness and gloom of this hour, be the occasion of the Spirit's gentle, gracious lifting you from the region of doubt and distress, as to your sonship, into the serene sunlight of your Father's love, so that you shall question, and doubt, and deny no more your acceptance in the Beloved, and your adoption into His family, will you not kiss the rod, and love the hand, and bless the heart that has smitten? Do not forget that the inward seal of adoption is testified by the outward seal of sanctification, and that if the Spirit of Christ is in your heart, the fruits of the Spirit will be exhibited in your life. Then, thus meek, and gently, and lowly, like the Savior, separated from the world, that you live not, and joy not, as the world does-in the secret chamber of your soul you shall often hear the voice of God, saying, 'I will be a Father unto you, and you shall be my sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty.'
'Sanctify them through your truth: your word is truth.' John 17:17
'HOW may I know,' is the anxious inquiry of many, 'that sin is being mortified in me?' We reply-by a weakening of its power. When Christ subdues our iniquities, He does not eradicate them, but weakens the strength of their root. The principle of sin remains, but it is impaired. See it in the case of Peter. Before he fell, his easily besetting sin was self-confidence: 'Although all shall be offended, yet will not I.' Behold him after his recovery, taking the low place at the feet of Jesus, and at the feet of the disciples too, meekly saying, 'Lord, You know all things; You know that I love You.' No more self-vaunting, no more self-confidence: his sin was mortified through the Spirit, and he became as another man. Thus often the very outbreak of our sins may become the occasion of their deeper discovery and their more thorough subjection. Nor let us overlook the power of the truth, by the instrumentality of which the Spirit mortifies sin in us: 'Sanctify them through Your truth.' The truth as it is in Jesus, revealed more clearly to the mind, and impressed more deeply on the heart, transforms the soul into its own divine and holy nature. Our spiritual and experimental acquaintance, therefore, with the truth-with Him who is essential truth-will be the measure of the Spirit's mortification of sin in our hearts. Is the Lord Jesus becoming increasingly precious to your soul? Are you growing in poverty of spirit, in a deeper sense of your vileness, weakness, and unworthiness? Is pride more abased, and self more crucified, and God's glory more simply sought? Does the heart more quickly shrink from sin, and is the conscience more sensitive to the touch of guilt, and do confession and cleansing become a more frequent habit? Are you growing in more love to all the saints-to those, who, though they adopt not your entire creed, yet love and serve your Lord and Master? If so, then you may be assured the Spirit is mortifying sin in you. But oh, look from everything to Christ. Look not within for sanctification; look up for it from Christ. He is as much our 'sanctification' as He is our 'righteousness.' Your evidences, your comfort, your hope, do not spring from your fruitfulness, your mortification, or anything within you; but solely and entirely from the Lord Jesus Christ. 'Looking unto Jesus' by faith, is like removing the covering and opening the windows of a conservatory, to admit more freely the sun, beneath whose light and warmth the flowers and fruits expand and mature. Withdraw the veil that conceals the Sun of Righteousness, and let Him shine in upon your soul, and the mortification of all sin will follow, and the fruits of all holiness will abound.
'But of him are you in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom.' 1 Corinthians 1:30
TO survey the effects of this manifold wisdom on individual character will exalt our views of Christ as the wisdom of God. To see a man 'becoming a fool that he may be wise'-his reason bowing to revelation-his knowledge and attainments laid beneath the cross-his own righteousness surrendered-'counting all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus the Lord'-and as a little child receiving the kingdom of God; oh, how glorious does appear in this the wisdom of God, the light of which shines in Jesus' face! Behold how determined is the Father, in every step of His grace, to humble the creature, and to exalt, magnify, and crown his co-equal Son, Lord of all!
We see Jesus the mediatorial Head of all wisdom and counsel to the Church. 'It pleased the Father that in Him should all fullness dwell.' 'In whom,' says the same apostle, 'are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.' He is the 'Wonderful Counselor,' of whom it was thus prophesied, 'the spirit of the Lord shall rest upon Him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the Lord.' O divine and precious truth! unutterably precious to a soul having no resources adequate to the great purposes of knowing self, Christ, and God; of salvation, sanctification, and guidance.
Reader, are you wanting the 'wisdom that is profitable to direct' you at this moment? Acquaint now yourself with Jesus, in whom all the treasures of this wisdom are hid. What is His language to you? The same which Moses, the great legislator, spoke to the people of Israel: 'The cause that is too hard for you, bring it unto me, and I will hear it.' What a cheering invitation is this! A greater than Moses speaks it, and speaks it to you. You find your case baffling to human wisdom, too difficult for the acutest skill of man-take it, then, to Jesus. How sweetly He speaks-'bring it unto me.' One simple exercise of faith upon His word will remove all that is difficult, make simple make simple all that is complex, and lucid all that is dark in your case. With Him nothing is impossible. To Him all is transparent. Knowing the end from the beginning, there can be nothing unforeseen in it to His mind; by His prescience all is known, and by His wisdom all is provided for. His precious promise is, 'I will bring the blind by a way that they knew not: I will lead them in a path that they have not known. I will make darkness light before them, and crooked things straight. These things will I do unto them, and not forsake them.' Thus is Jesus 'made of God unto us wisdom,' that all our perplexities may be guided, and all our doubts may be solved, and all our steps may be directed, by one on whom the anointing of the 'spirit of wisdom and understanding' rests 'without measure;' and who, from experience, is able to lead, having trod every step before us. 'And when he puts forth His own sheep, he goes before them, and the sheep follow Him.' 'If any man lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that gives to all men liberally:' let him repair to Christ, whom God has set up from everlasting, 'to the intent that now unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places might be known by the Church the manifold wisdom of God.'
'For Christ is not entered into the holy places made with hands, which are the figures of the true; but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us.' Hebrews 9:24
IS it a privilege to be borne upon the affectionate and believing prayers of a Christian friend? Ah, yes! precious channels of heavenly blessing are the intercessions of the Lord's people on our behalf. But there is a Friend still closer to the Fountain of mercy, still nearer and dearer to the Father, than your dearest earthly friend; it is Jesus, 'who ever lives to make intercession for them who come unto God by Him.' Oh, how precious is that declaration upon which in any assault, or trial, or perplexity, you may calmly and confidently repose: 'I have prayed for you'! Yes, when from confusion of thought, or pain of body, or burning fever, you can not pray for yourself, and no friend is near to be your mouth to God, then there is one, the Friend of friends, the ever-skillful Advocate and never-weary Intercessor-no invocating saint, nor interceding angel-but the Son of God himself, who appears in the presence of God moment by moment for you. Oh, keep, then, the eye of your faith immovably fixed upon Christ's intercession; He intercedes for weak faith, for tried faith, for tempted faith-yes, for him who thinks he has no faith. There is not a believer who is not borne upon His heart, and whose prayers and needs are not presented in His ceaseless intercession. When you deem yourself neglected and forgotten, a praying Savior in heaven is thinking of you. When you are tried and cast down, tempted and stumble, the interceding High Priest at that moment enters within the holiest, to ask on your behalf strength, consolation, and upholding grace. And when sin has wounded, when guilt distresses, and unbelief beclouds, who is it that stands in the breach, that makes intercession, that removes the darkness, and brings back the smile of a forgiving Father?-the Lord Jesus, the interceding Savior. Oh, look up, tried and assaulted believer! you have a Friend at court, an Advocate in the chancery of heaven, an Intercessor curtained within the holiest of holies, transacting all your concerns, and through whom you may have access to God with boldness.
'Verily I say unto you, Among those who are born of women there has not risen a greater than John the Baptist: notwithstanding he that is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.' Matthew 11:11
IF there are degrees of glory-and we see no reason to question the fact-we believe that those degrees will be graduated, not by the strength or capacity of the intellect, but according to the measure and standard of holiness which the believer attained in this life. If glory is the perfection of grace, then it follows, that proportioned to the degree of grace here will be the degree of glory hereafter. If the great and grand perfection of God be His holiness, then the more clearly I approximate to that holiness, the more deeply must I partake of the glory of God, and the higher must be my degree of glory. It is acquaintance with, and conformity to, God's moral, and not His intellectual being, that will constitute the highest source of our happiness in heaven. That our enlarged intellectual capacity will be a vast inlet to expanded views of God we do not dispute; but it will be the conformity of our moral nature to His that will constitute and augment our perceptions of glory. Were we asked to pass through the Church of God, and from its various communions select the individual whom we should regard as the richest heir of glory, whose degree of happiness would, perhaps, transcend that of the glorified philosopher, we should, it may be, find him the inmate of some obscure hut, dwelling amid lonely poverty, sickness, and neglect; yet holding communion with God, so filial, so endearing, and so close, as to present to our eye his soul's uplifted and soaring pinions, 'as the wings of a dove covered with silver, and her feathers with yellow gold.' We should go to him whose heart thus breathing after holiness, whose spirit thus imbibing more and more of the mind of Christ, who in this lowly and suffering school was learning more deeply of God, and what God is, and who thus was gathering around him the beams of that glory whose unclouded visions were so soon to burst upon his view; and we would unhesitatingly point to him as the man whose degree of glory will be transcendently great-grace enriching and encircling him with more glory than gift. Do you, my reader, desire to be a star of the first magnitude and luster in heaven? then aim after a high degree of grace on earth. The nearer your present walk with God, the nearer will be your future proximity to God. The closer your resemblance to Christ, the deeper your holiness, the more spiritual and heavenly-minded you become on earth, be assured of this, the higher and the more resplendent will be your glory in heaven. As the ungodly man is treasuring up wrath against the day of wrath, and is growing more and more meet for hell; so the godly man is laying up glory against the day of glory, and is growing more and more meet for heaven. We need not speculate and surmise about the future. Let the child of God be careful as to his degrees towards fitness for glory, and he may calmly and safely leave his degrees of glory to the period when that glory shall be revealed.
'God has not cast away his people which he foreknew.' Romans 11:2
IN this place the word 'foreknew' assumes a particular and explicit meaning. In its wider and more general application it must be regarded as referring not simply to the Divine prescience, but more especially to the Divine prearrangement. For God to foreknow is, in the strict meaning of the phrase, for God to foreordain. There are no guesses, or conjectures, or contingencies with God as to the future. Not only does He know all, but He has fixed, and appointed, and ordered 'all things after the counsel of His own will.' In this view there exists not a creature, and there transpires not an event, which was not as real and palpable to the Divine mind from eternity as it is at the present moment. Indeed, it would seem that there were no future with God. An Eternal Being, there can be nothing prospective in His on-looking. There must be an eternity of perception, and constitution, and presence; and the mightiest feature of His character-that which conveys to a finite mind the most vivid conception of His grandeur and greatness-is the simultaneousness of all succession and variety and events to His eye. 'He is of one mind; and who can turn Him?' But the word 'foreknew,' as it occurs in the text, adds to this yet another, a more definite, and to the saints, a more precious signification. The foreknowledge here spoken of, it will be observed, is limited to a particular class of people, who are said to be 'conformed to the image of God's Son.' Now this cannot, with truth, be predicated of all creatures. The term, therefore, assumes a particular and impressive signification. It includes the everlasting love of God to, and His most free choice of, His people to be His especial and peculiar treasure. We find some examples of this: 'God has not cast away His people which He foreknew.' Here the word is expressive of the two ideas of love and choice. Again, 'Who verily was foreordained (Greek, foreknown) before the foundation of the world.' 'Him being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God.' Clearly, then, we are justified in interpreting the phrase as expressive of God's especial choice of, and His intelligent love to, His Church-His own peculiar people. It is a foreknowledge of choice-of love-of eternal grace and faithfulness.
'He also did predestinate.' Romans 8:29
THIS word admits of but one natural signification. Predestination, in its lowest sense, is understood to mean the exclusive agency of God in producing every event. But it includes more than this: it takes in God's predeterminate appointment and fore-arrangement of a thing beforehand, according to His divine and supreme will. The Greek is so rendered: 'For to do whatever Your hand and Your counsel determined beforehand to be done.' Again, 'Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will.' It is here affirmed of God, that the same prearrangement and predetermination which men in general are agreed to ascribe to Him in the government of matter, extends equally, and with yet stronger force, to the concerns of His moral administration. It would seem impossible to form any correct idea of God, disassociated from the idea of predestination. And yet how marvelously difficult is it to win the mind to a full, unwavering acquiescence in a truth which, in a different application, is received with unquestioning readiness! And what is there in the application of this law of the Divine government to the world of matter, which is not equally reasonable and fit in its application to the world of mind? If it is necessary and proper in the material, why should it not be equally, or more so, in the spiritual empire? If God is allowed the full exercise of a sovereignty in the one, why should He be excluded from an unlimited sovereignty in the other? Surely it were even more worthy of Him that He should prearrange, predetermine, and supremely rule in the concerns of a world over which His more dignified and glorious empire extends, than that in the inferior world of matter He should fix a constellation in the heavens, guide the gyrations of a bird in the air, direct the falling of an autumnal leaf in the pathless desert, or convey the seed, borne upon the wind, to the spot in which it should grow. Surely if no fortuitous ordering is admitted in the one case, on infinitely stronger grounds it should be excluded from the other. Upon no other basis could Divine foreknowledge and providence take their stand than upon this. Disconnected from the will and purpose of God, there could be nothing certain as to the future; and consequently there could be nothing certainly foreknown. And were not Providence to regulate and control people, things, and events-every dispensation in fact-by the same preconstructed plan, it would follow that God would be exposed to a thousand contingencies unforeseen, or else that He acts ignorantly, or contrary to His will. What, then, is predestination but God's determining will?
Now all this will apply with augmented beauty and force to the idea of a predestinated Church. How clearly is this doctrine revealed! 'According as He has chosen us in Him before the foundation of the world.' 'Whose names are written in the book of life, from the foundation of the world.' 'Elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father.' 'Who has saved us, and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began.' What an accumulation of evidence in proof of a single doctrine of Scripture! Who but the most prejudiced can resist, or the most skeptical deny, its overwhelming force? Oh, to receive it as the word of God! To admit it, not because reason can understand, or man can explain it-for all truth flowing from an infinite source must necessarily transcend a finite mind-but because we find it in God's holy word. Predestination must be a Divine verity, since it stands essentially connected with our conformity to the Divine image.
'To be conformed to the image of his Son.' Romans 8:29
NO standard short of this will meet the case. How conspicuous appears the wisdom and how glorious the goodness of God in this-that in making us holy, the model or standard of that holiness should be Deity itself! God would make us holy, and in doing so He would make us like Himself. But with what pencil-dipped though it were in heaven's brightest hues-can we portray the image of Jesus? The perfection of our Lord was the perfection of holiness. His Deity, essential holiness; His humanity without sin, the impersonation of holiness; all that He was, and said, and did, was as coruscations of holiness emanating from the Fountain of essential purity, and kindling their dazzling and undying radiance around each step He trod. How lovely, too, His character! How holy the thoughts He breathed, how pure the words He spoke, how humble the spirit He exemplified, how tender and sympathizing the outgoings of His compassion and love to man! 'The chief among ten thousand, the altogether lovely.' Such is the believer's model. To this he is predestinated to be conformed. And is not this predestination in its highest form? Would it seem possible for God to have preordained us to a greater blessing, to have chosen us to a higher distinction? In choosing us in Christ before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy, He has advanced us to the loftiest degree of honor and happiness to which a creature can be promoted-assimilation to His own moral image. And this forms the highest ambition of the believer. To transcribe those beauteous lineaments which, in such perfect harmony and lovely expression, blended and shone in the life of Jesus, is the great study of all His true disciples. But in what does this conformity consist? The first feature is a conformity of nature. And this is reciprocal. The Son of God, by an act of divine power, became human; the saints of God, by an act of sovereign grace, become divine. 'Partakers of the Divine nature.' This harmony of nature forms the basis of all conformity. Thus grafted into Christ, we grow up into Him in all holy resemblance. The meekness, the holiness, the patience, the self-denial, the zeal, the love, traceable-faint and imperfect indeed-in us are transfers of Christ's faultless lineaments to our renewed soul. Thus the mind that was in Him is in some measure in us. And in our moral conflict, battling as we do with sin and Satan and the world, we come to know a little of fellowship with His sufferings, and conformity to His death. We are here supplied with a test of Christian character. It is an anxious question with many professors of Christ, 'How may I arrive at a correct conclusion that I am among the predestinated of God?-that I am included in His purpose of grace and love?-that I have an interest in the Lord's salvation?' The passage under consideration supplies the answer-conformity to the image of God's Son. Nothing short of this can justify the belief that we are saved. No evidence less strong can authenticate the fact of our predestination. The determination of God to save men is not so fixed as to save them be their character what it may. Christ's work is a salvation from sin, not in sin. 'According as He has chosen us in Him, before the foundation of the word, that we should be holy.' In other words, that we should be conformed to the Divine image. That we should be like Christ-like Christ in His Divine nature-like Christ in the purity of His human nature-like Christ in the humility He exemplified, in the self-denial He practiced, in the heavenly life He lived; in a word, in all that this expressive sentence comprehends-'conformed to the image of His Son.' And as we grow day by day more holy, more spiritually-minded, more closely resembling Jesus, we are placing the truth of our predestination to eternal life in a clearer, stronger light, and consequently the fact of our salvation beyond a misgiving and a doubt. In view of this precious truth, what spiritual heart will not breathe the prayer, 'O Lord! I cannot be satisfied merely to profess and call myself Your. I want more of the power of vital religion in my soul. I pant for Your image. My deepest grief springs from the discovery of the little real resemblance which I bear to a model so peerless, so divine-that I exemplify so little of Your patience in suffering; Your meekness in opposition; Your forgiving spirit in injury; Your gentleness in reproving; Your firmness in temptation; Your singleness of eye in all that I do. Oh, transfer Yourself wholly to me.'
'That he might be the firstborn among many brethren.' Romans 8:29
THE Son of God sustains to us the relation of the Elder Brother. He is emphatically the 'Firstborn.' In another place we read, 'Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, He also Himself likewise took part of the same.' He is the 'Brother born for adversity.' Our relation to Him as our Brother is evidenced by our conformity to Him as our model. We have no valid claim to relationship which springs not from a resemblance to His image. The features may be indistinctly visible, yet one line of holiness, one true lineament, drawn upon the heart by the Holy Spirit, proves our fraternal relationship to Him the 'Firstborn.' And how large the brotherhood!-'many brethren.' What the relative proportion of the Church is to the world-how many will be saved-is a question speculative and profitless. But this we know-the number will be vast, countless. The one family of God is composed of 'many brethren.' They are not all of the same judgment in all matters, but they are all of the same spirit. The unity of the family of God is not ecclesiastical nor geographical, it is spiritual and essential. It is the 'unity of the Spirit.' Begotten of one Father, in the nature of the Elder Brother, and through the regenerating grace of the one Spirit, all the saints of God constitute one church, one family, one brotherhood-essentially and indivisibly one. Nor is this relationship difficult to recognize. Take an illustration. Two brethren in the Lord of widely different sections of the Church, and of much dissonance of sentiment on some points of truth, meet and converse together. Each wonders that, with the Word of God in his hand, the other should not read it as he reads it, and interpret it as he interprets it. But they drop the points of difference, and take up the points of agreement. They speak of Christ-the Christ who loves them both, and whom they both love. They talk of the one Master whom they serve; of their common labors and infirmities, trials and temptations, discouragements, failures, and success; they talk of the heaven where they are journeying; of their Father's house, in which they will dwell together for ever; they kneel in prayer; they cast themselves before the cross; the oil of gladness anoints them; their hearts are broken, their spirits are humbled, their souls are blended; they rise, and feel more deeply and more strongly than ever, that they both belong to the same family, are both of the 'many brethren,' of whom the Son of God is the 'Firstborn,' the Elder Brother. Oh, blessed unity! What perfect harmony of creed, what strict conformity of ritual, what sameness of denominational relation, is for a moment to be compared with this? Have you, my reader, this evidence that you belong to the 'many brethren'?
'But God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world.' Galatians 6:14
CONFORMITY to the death of Christ can only be obtained by close, individual, realizing views of the cross. It is in the cross sin is seen in its exceeding sinfulness. It is in the cross the holiness of God shines with such ineffable luster. This is the sun that throws its light upon these two great objects-the holiness of God, the sinfulness of the sinner. Veil this sun, remove the cross, blot out the Atonement, and all our knowledge of holiness and sin vanishes into distant and shadowy views. Faith, dealing much and closely with the cross of Christ, will invariable produce in the soul conformity to His death. This was the great desire of the apostle: 'That I may know Him, and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being made conformable unto His death.' This was the noble prayer of this holy man. He desired crucifixion with Christ; a crucifixion to sin, to indwelling sin, to sin in its every shape-to sin in principle, sin in temper, sin in worldly conformity, sin in conversation, sin in thought, yes, sin in the very glance of the eye. He desired not only a crucifixion of sin, of one particular sin, but of all sin; not only the sin that most easily beset him, the sin that he daily saw and felt, and mourned over, but the sin that no eye saw but God's-the sin of the indwelling principle; the root of all sin-the sin of his nature. This is to have fellowship with Christ in His sufferings. Jesus suffered as much for the subduing of the indwelling principle of sin, as for the pardon of the outbreakings of that sin in the daily practice. Have we fellowship with Him in these sufferings? There must be a crucifixion of the indwelling power of sin. To illustrate the idea: if the root be allowed to strengthen and expand, and take a deeper and firmer grasp, what more can we expect than that the tree will shoot upward and branch out on either hand? To cut off the outward branches is not the proper method to stay the growth of the tree: the root must be uncovered, and the axe laid to it. Outward sins may be cut off, and even honestly confessed and mourned over, while the concealed principle, the root of the sin, is overlooked, neglected, and suffered to gather strength and expansion.
That the inherent evil of a believer will ever, in his present existence, be entirely eradicated, we do not assert. To expect this would be to expect what God's Word has not declared; but that it may be greatly subdued and conquered, its power weakened and mortified, this the Word of God leads us to hope for and aim after. How is this to be attained? Faith dealing frequently and closely with Christ-the atoning blood upon the conscience-the 'fountain opened' daily resorted to-the believer sitting constantly at the foot of the cross, gazing upon it with an eye of steady, unwavering faith-'looking unto Jesus.' In this posture sin, all sin-the sin of the heart, the sin of the practice-is mourned over, wept over, confessed, mortified, crucified. Let the reader again be reminded that all true crucifixion of sin springs from the cross of Christ.
'Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.' Matthew 5:3
CULTIVATE above all spiritual conditions, most assiduously, prayerfully, earnestly, and fervently, poverty of spirit. Rest not short of it. This is the legitimate fruit and the only safe evidence of our union to Christ and the indwelling of the Spirit in our hearts. Nothing can suffice for it. Splendid talent, versatile gifts, profound erudition, gorgeous eloquence, and even extensive usefulness, are wretched substitutes for poverty of spirit. They may dazzle the eye, and please the ear, delight the taste, and awake the applause of man, but, dissociated from humiliation of mind, God sees no glory in them. What says He? 'To this man'-to him only, to him exclusively-'will I look, even to him that is poor and of a contrite spirit, and trembles at my word.' We may think highly of gifts, but let us learn their comparative value and true place from the words of our Lord, spoken in reference to John: 'Verily I say unto you, Among them which are born of women, there has not risen a greater than John the Baptist: 'notwithstanding he that is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.' Behold the true position which Christ assigns to distinction of office, of place, and of gifts-subordinate to lowliness of spirit. This is their proper rank; and he who elevates them above profound self-abasement, deep lowliness of spirit, sins against God, impeaches His wisdom, and denies the truth of His word. But how shall we adequately describe this blessed state? How draw the portrait of the man that is 'poor, and of a contrite spirit'? Look at him as he appears in his own apprehension and judgment-'the chief of sinners'-'less than the least of all saints'-'though I be nothing.' Prostrate, where others exalt him; condemning, where others approve him; censuring, where others applaud him; humbling himself, where others have put upon him the greatest honor. Confessing in secret, and in the dust before God, the flaws, the imperfections, and the sins of those things which have dazzled the eyes, and awoke to trembling ecstasy the souls of the multitude. Look at him in the place he assumes among others-taking the low position; in honor preferring others; washing the disciples' feet; willing to serve, rather than be served; rejoicing in the distinction, the promotion, the gifts, the usefulness, and the honor put upon his fellow-saints; and ready himself to go up higher at his Master's bidding. Look at him under the hand of God-meek, patient, resigned, humbled, drinking the cup, blessing the hand that has smitten, justifying the wisdom, the love, and the gentleness which mark the discipline, and eager to learn the holy lessons it is sent to teach. Look at him before the cross-reposing all his gifts, attainments, and honors at its foot, and glorying only in the exhibition it presents of a holy God pardoning sin by the death of His Son, and as the hallowed instrument by which he becomes crucified to the world, and the world to him.
'Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and you shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.' Matthew 11:29, 30
HOW shall we array, in their strongest light, before you, the motives which urge the cultivation of this poverty of spirit? Is it not enough that this is the spiritual state on which Jehovah looks with an eye of exclusive, holy, and ineffable delight? 'To this man I will look.' Splendid gifts, brilliant attainments, costly sacrifices, are nothing to me. 'To this man will I look, that is poor and of a contrite spirit, and that trembles at my word.' To this would we add, if you value your safe, happy, and holy walk-if you prize the manifestations of God's presence-the 'kisses of His mouth, whose love is better than wine'- the teaching, guiding, and comforting influence of the Holy Spirit, seek it. If you would be a 'savor of Christ in every place'-if you would pray with more fervor, unction, and power-if you would labor with more zeal, devotedness, and success, seek it. By all that is dear, and precious, and holy, by your own happiness, by the honor of Christ, by the glory of God, by the hope of heaven, seek to be found among those who are 'poor and of a contrite spirit,' who, with filial, holy love, tremble at God's word, whom Jesus has pronounced blessed here, and meet for glory hereafter. And though in approaching the Great High Priest, you have no splendid and costly intellectual offerings to present, yet with the royal penitent you can say, 'You desire not sacrifice, else would I give it: you delight not in burned offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.' 'This, Lord, is all that I have to bring You.' Avoid a spurious humility. True humility consists not in denying the work of the Holy Spirit in our hearts, in under-rating the grace of God in our souls, in standing afar off from our heavenly Father, and in walking at a distance from Christ, always doubting the efficacy of His blood, the freeness of His salvation, the willingness of His heart, and the greatness of His power to save. Oh no! this is not the humility that God delights to look at, but is a false, a counterfeit humility, obnoxious in His sight. But to 'draw near with a true heart, in full assurance of faith,' in lowly dependence upon His blood and righteousness; to accept of salvation as the gift of His grace; to believe the promise because He has spoken it; gratefully and humbly to acknowledge our calling, our adoption, and our acceptance, and to live in the holy, transforming influence of this exalted state, giving to a Triune God all the praise and glory; this is the humility which is most pleasing to God, and is the true product of the Holy Spirit.
'My son, give me your heart.' Proverbs 23:26
THE human heart is naturally idolatrous. Its affections once supremely centered in God: but now, disjoined from Him, they go in quest of other objects of attachment, and we love and worship the creature rather than the Creator. The circle which our affections traverse may not indeed by a large one; there are, perchance, but few to whom we fully surrender our heart; no, so circumscribed may the circle be, that one object alone shall attract, absorb, and concentrate in itself our entire and undivided love-that one object to us as a universe of beings, and all others comparatively indifferent and insipid. Who cannot see that, in a case like this, the danger is imminent of transforming the heart-Christ's own sanctuary-into an idol's temple, where the creature is loved, and reverenced, and served more than He who gave it. But from all idolatry our God will cleanse us, and from all our idols Christ will wean us. The Lord is jealous, with a holy jealousy, of our love. Poor as our affection is, He asks its complete surrender. That He requires our love at the expense of all creature attachment, the Bible nowhere intimates. He created our affections, and He it is who provides for their proper and pleasant indulgence. There is not a single precept or command in the Scriptures that forbids their exercise, or that discourages their intensity. Husbands are exhorted to 'love their wives, even as Christ loved His church.' Parents are to cherish a like affection toward their children, and children are bound to render back a filial love not less intense to their parents. And we are to 'love our neighbors as ourselves.' Nor does the word of God furnish examples of Christian friendship less interesting and devoted. One of the choicest and tenderest blessings with which God can enrich us, next to Himself, is such a friend as Paul had in Epaphroditus, a 'brother and companion in labor, and fellow-soldier;' and such an affectionate friendship as John, the loving disciple, cherished for his well-beloved Gaius, whom he loved in the truth, and to whom, in the season of his sickness, he thus touchingly poured out his heart's affectionate sympathy: 'Beloved, I wish above all things that you may prosper and be in health, even as your soul prospers.' Count such a friend and such friendship among God's sweetest and holiest bestowments. The blessings of which it may be to you the sanctifying channel are immense. The tender sympathy-the jealous watchfulness-the confidential repose-the faithful admonition-above all, the intercessory prayer, connected with Christian friendship, may be placed in the inventory of our most inestimable and precious things.
It is not therefore the use, but the abuse, of our affections-not their legitimate exercise, but their idolatrous tendency-over which we have need to exercise the greatest vigilance. It is not our love to the creature against which God contends, but it is in not allowing our love to Himself to subordinate all other love. We may love the creature, but we may not love the creature more than the Creator. When the Giver is lost sight of and forgotten in the gift, then comes the painful process of weaning. When the heart burns its incense before some human shrine, and the cloud as it ascends veils from the eye the beauty and the excellence of Jesus, then comes the painful proves of weaning. When the absorbing claims and the engrossing attentions of some loved one are placed in competition and are allowed to clash with the claims of God, and the service due from us personally to His cause and truth, then comes the painful process of weaning. When creature devotion deadens our heart to the Lord, lessens our interest in His cause, congeals our zeal and love and liberality, detaches us from the public means of grace, withdraws from the closet, the Bible, and the communion of saints, thus propagating leanness of soul, and robbing God of His glory, then comes the painful process of weaning. Christ will be the first in our affections-God will be supreme in our service-and His kingdom and righteousness must take precedence of all other things.
'In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace.' Ephesians 1:7
LET not the reader be satisfied to rest upon the mere surface of the truth, that Christ has made an atonement for sin; this may be believed, and yet the full blessedness, peace, and sanctification of it not enjoyed. Any why? Because he enters not fully into the experience of the truth. Shall we not say, too, because his views of sin rest but on the surface of sin's exceeding sinfulness? Deep views of sin will ever result in deep views of the Sacrifice for sin; inadequate knowledge of sin, inadequate knowledge of Christ; low views of self, high views of Christ. Be satisfied, then, not to rest upon the surface of this wondrous truth. The completeness of Christ's atonement arises from the infinite dignity of His Person: His Godhead forms the basis of His perfect work. It guarantees, so to speak, the glorious result of His atonement. It was this that gave perfection to His obedience, and virtue to His atonement: it was this that made the blood He shed efficacious in the pardon of sin, and the righteousness He wrought out complete in the justification of the soul. His entire work would have been wanting but for His Godhead.
The pardon of a believer's sins is an entire pardon: it is the full pardon of all his sins. It were no pardon to him, if it were not an entire pardon. If it were but a partial blotting out of the thick cloud-if it were but a partial canceling of the bond-if it were but a forgiveness of some sins only, then the gospel were no glad tidings to his soul. The law of God has brought him in guilty of an entire violation. The justice of God demands a satisfaction equal to the enormity of the sins committed and of the guilt incurred. The Holy Spirit has convinced him of his utter helplessness, his entire bankruptcy. What rapture would kindle in his bosom at the announcement of a partial atonement-of a half Savior-of a part payment of the debt? Not one throb of joyous sensation would it produce. On the contrary, this very mockery of his woe would but deepen the anguish of his spirit. But, go to the soul, weary and heavy laden with sin, mourning over its vileness, its helplessness, and proclaim the gospel. Tell him that the atonement which Jesus offered on Calvary was a full satisfaction for his sins. That all his sins were borne and blotted out in that awful moment. That the bond which divine justice held against the sinner was fully cancelled by the obedience and sufferings of Christ, and that, appeased and satisfied, God was 'ready to pardon.' How beautiful will be the feet that convey to him tidings so transporting as these! And are not these statements perfectly accordant with the declarations of God's own word? Let us ascertain: what was the ark symbolical of, alluded to by the apostle in the ninth chapter of his Epistle to the Hebrews, which contained the manna, Aaron's rod, and the tables of the covenant, over which stood the Cherubim of glory, shadowing the mercy-seat? What, but the entire covering of sin? For, as the covering of the ark did hide the law and testimony, so did the Lord Jesus Christ hide the sins of His chosen, covenant people-not from the eye of God's omniscience, but from the eye of the law. They stand legally acquitted. So entire was the work of Jesus, so infinite and satisfactory His obedience, the law of God pronounces them acquitted, and can never bring them into condemnation. 'There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus.' 'Who is he that condemns? It is Christ that died.' How could the apostle, with any truth, have made a declaration so astounding, and uttered a challenge so dauntless as this, if the point we are now endeavoring to establish were not strictly as we affirm it to be?
'Even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all those who believe.' Romans 3:22
THE righteousness wrought out by the incarnation, obedience, sufferings, and death of Christ, is a most glorious righteousness. It took in the whole law of God. It did not soften down or ask for a compromise of its claims. It took the law in its utmost strictness, and honored it. It gave all the law demanded, all it could demand. And what stamped this righteousness with a glory so great? what enabled the Redeemer to offer an obedience so perfect?-what, but that He was God in our nature! The Law-giver became the Law-fulfiller. The God became the Substitute-the Judge became the Surety. Behold, then, the justification of a believing sinner! He stands accepted in the righteousness of Christ, with full and entire acceptance. What says the Holy Spirit? 'In the Lord shall all the seed of Israel by justified, and shall glory.' 'And by Him (the Lord Jesus) all that believe are justified from all things, from which you could not be justified by the law of Moses.' 'And you are complete in Him, which is the head of all principality and power.' 'Christ loved the Church, and gave Himself for it, that He might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the Word, that He might present it to Himself a glorious Church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish.' 'He has made Him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him.' Mark the expression, 'made the righteousness of God'! So called because the righteousness which Christ wrought out was a divine righteousness-not the righteousness of a created being, of an angel, or of a superior prophet, else it were blasphemy to call it 'the righteousness of GOD.' Oh no! the righteousness in which you stand, if you are 'accepted in the Beloved,' is a more costly and glorious righteousness than Adam's, or the highest angel's in glory: it is 'the righteousness of God.' The righteousness of the God-man-possessing all the infinite merit, and glory, and perfection of Deity. And what seems still more incredible, the believer is made the righteousness of God in Christ. So that beholding him in Christ, the Father can 'rest in His love, and rejoice over Him with singing.' Is it not then, we ask, a perfect, a complete justification? what can be more so? Do not the passages we have quoted prove it? Can any other meaning be given to them, without divesting them of their beauty and obvious sense? Would it not be to turn from God's word, to dishonor and grieve the Spirit, and to rob the believer of a most influential motive to holiness, were we to take a less expanded view of this subject than that which we have taken? Most assuredly it would. Then let the Christian reader welcome this truth. If it is God's truth-and we humbly believe we have proved it to be so-it is not less his privilege than his duty to receive it.
'To the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he has made us accepted in the beloved.' Ephesians 1:6
THE holy influence which a believer is called to exert around him will be greatly augmented, and powerfully felt, by an abiding realization of his full and entire acceptance in Christ. The child of God is 'the salt of the earth,' 'the light of the world,' surrounded by moral putrefaction and darkness. By his holy consistent example, he is to exert a counteracting influence. He is to be purity where there is corruption, he is to be light where there is darkness. And if his walk is consistent, if his life is holy, his example tells, and tells powerfully, upon an ungodly world. Saints of God catch, as it were, the contagion of his sanctity. The worldling acknowledges the reality of the gospel he professes, and the bold skeptic falls back abashed, and feels 'how awful goodness is!' What, then, will so elevate his own piety, and increase the power of his influence, as a realization of his justification by Christ? Oh how this commends the religion of Jesus! We will suppose a Christian parent surrounded by a large circle of unconverted children. They look to him as to a living gospel: they look to him for an exemplification of the truth he believes: they expect to see its influence upon his principles, his temper, his affections, his whole conduct. What, then, must be their impression of the gospel, if they behold their parent always indulging in doubts as to his acceptance, yielding to unbelieving fears as to his calling? Instead of walking in the full assurance of faith, saying with the apostle, 'I know whom I have believed'-instead of living in the holy liberty, peace, and comfort of acceptance, there is nothing but distrust, dread, and tormenting fear. How many a child has borne this testimony, 'the doubts and fears of my parent have been my great stumbling-block'! Oh, then, for the sake of those around you-for the sake of your children, your connections, your friends, your domestics-realize your full, free, and entire acceptance in Christ.
Is it any marvel, then, that in speaking of His beloved and justified people, God employs in His word language like this: 'You are all fair, my love: there is no spot in you.' 'He has not beheld iniquity in Jacob, neither has He seen perverseness in Israel'? Carry out this thought. Had there been no iniquity in Jacob? had there been no perverseness in Israel? Read their histories, and what do they develop but iniquity and perverseness of the most aggravated kind? And yet, that God should say He saw no iniquity in Jacob, and no perverseness in Israel, what does it set forth but the glorious work of the adorable Immanuel-the glory, the fitness, the perfection of that righteousness in which they stand 'without spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing'? In themselves vile and worthless, sinful and perverse, deeply conscious before God of possessing not a claim upon His regard, but worthy only of His just displeasure, yet counted righteous in the righteousness of another, fully and freely justified by Christ. Is this doctrine startling to some? Is it considered too great a truth to be received by others? Any other gospel than this, we solemnly affirm, will never save the soul! The obedience, sufferings, and death of the God-man, made over to the repenting, believing sinner, by an act of free and sovereign grace, is the only plank on which the soul can safely rest-let it attempt the passage across the cold river of death on any other, and it is gone! On this it may boldly venture, and on this it shall be safely and triumphantly carried into the quiet and peaceful haven of future and eternal blessedness. We acknowledge the magnitude of this doctrine; yet it is not to be rejected because of its greatness. It may be profound, almost too deeply so for an angel's mind-the cherubim may veil their faces, overpowered with its glory, while yet with eager longings they desire to look into it-still may the weakest saint of God receive it, live upon it, walk in it. It is 'a deep river, through which an elephant might swim, and which a lamb may ford.'
'And I will bring the third part through the fire, and will refine them as silver is refined, and will try them as gold is tried: they shall call on my name, and I will hear them: I will say, It is my people: and they shall say, The Lord is my God.' Zechariah 13:9
THE believer often commences his spiritual journey with shallow and defective views of the perfect fitness and glory of the Redeemer's justifying righteousness. There is, we admit, a degree of self-renunciation-there is a reception of Christ-and there is some sweet and blessed enjoyment of His acceptance. Yet his views of himself, and of the entire, absolute, supreme necessity, importance, and glory of Christ's finished work, are as nothing compared with his after experience of both. God will have the righteousness of His Son to be acknowledged and felt to be everything. It is a great work, a glorious work, a finished work, and He will cause His saints to know it. It is His only method of saving sinners; and the sinner that is saved shall acknowledge this, not in his judgment merely, but from a deep heartfelt experience of the truth, 'to the praise of the glory of His grace.'
It is, then, we say, in the successive stages of his experience, that the believer sees more distinctly, adores more profoundly, and grasps more firmly, the finished righteousness of Christ. And what is the school in which he learns his nothingness, his poverty, his utter destitution? the school of deep and sanctified affliction. In no other school is it learned, and under no other teacher but God. Here his high thoughts are brought low, and the Lord alone is exalted. Here he forms a just estimate of his attainments, his gifts, his knowledge, and that which he thought to be so valuable he now finds to be nothing worth. Here his proud spirit is abased, his rebellious spirit tamed, his restless, feverish spirit soothed into passive quietude; and here, the deep humbling acknowledgment is made, 'I am vile!' Thus is he led back to first principles. Thus the first step is retaken, and the first lesson is relearned. The believer, emptied entirely of self, of self-complacency, self-trust, self-glorying, stands ready for the full Savior. The blessed and eternal Spirit opens to him, in this posture, the fitness, the fullness, the glory, the infinite grandeur of Christ's finished righteousness; leads him to it afresh, puts it upon him anew, causes him to enter into it more fully, to rest upon it more entirely; breaks it up to the soul, and discloses its perfect fitness to his case. And what a glory he sees in it! He saw it before, but not as he beholds it now. And what a resting-place he finds beneath the cross! He rested there before, but not as he rests now. Such views has he now of Christ-such preciousness, such beauty, such tenderness he sees in Immanuel-that a new world of beauty and of glory seems to have opened before his view. A new Savior, a new righteousness, appear to have been brought to his soul. All this has been produced by the discipline of the covenant-the afflictions sent and sanctified by a good and covenant God and Father. Oh, you tried believers! murmur not at God's dispensations; repine not at His dealings. Has He seen fit to dash against you billow upon billow? Has He thought proper to place you in the furnace? Has He blasted the fair prospect-dried up the stream-called for the surrender of your Isaac? Oh, bless Him for the way He takes to empty you of self, and fill you with His own love. This is His method of teaching you, schooling you, and fitting you for the inheritance of the saints in light. Will you not allow Him to select His own plan-to adopt His own mode of cure? You are in His hands; and could you be in better? Are you now learning your own poverty, destitution, and helplessness? and is the blood and righteousness of Jesus more precious and glorious to the eye of your faith? Then praise Him for your afflictions, for all these cross dispensations are now, yes, at this moment, working together for your spiritual good.
'Charity suffers long, and is kind; charity envies not; charity boasts not itself, is not puffed up, does not behave itself unseemly, seeks not her own, is not easily provoked, thinks no evil; rejoices not in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.' 1 Corinthians 13:4-7
TRUE Christian love will excite in the mind a holy jealousy for the Christian reputation of other believers. How sadly is this overlooked by many professors! What sporting with reputation, what trifling with character, what unveiling to the eyes of others the weaknesses, the infirmities, and the stumblings of which they have become cognizant, marks many in our day. Oh! if the Lord had dealt with us as we have thoughtlessly and uncharitably dealt with our fellow-servants, what shame and confusion would cover us! We should blush to lift up our faces before men. But the exercise of this divine love in the heart will constrain us to abstain from all envious, suspicious feelings, from all evil surmisings, from all wrong construing of motives, from all tale-bearing-that fruitful cause of so much evil in the Christian Church-from slander, from unkind insinuations, and from going from house to house retailing evil, and making the imperfections, the errors, or the doings of others the theme of idle, sinful gossip-'busy-bodies in other men's matters.' All this is utterly inconsistent with our high and holy calling. It is degrading, dishonoring, lowering to our character as the children of God. It dims the luster of our piety. It impairs our moral influence in the world. Ought not the character of a Christian professor to be as dear to me as my own? And ought I not as vigilantly to watch over it, and as zealously to promote it, and as indignantly to vindicate it, when unjustly aspersed or maliciously assailed, as if I, and not he, were the sufferer? How can the reputation of a believer in Jesus be affected, and we not be affected? It is our common Lord who is wounded-it is our common salvation that is injured-it is our own family that is maligned. And our love to Jesus, to His truth, and to His people, should caution us to be as jealous of the honor, as tender of the feelings, and as watchful of the character and reputation, of each member of the Lord's family, be his denomination what it may, as of our own. 'Who is weak,' says the apostle, 'and I am not weak? who is offended, and I burn not?' Oh how graciously, how kindly does our God deal with His people! Laying His hand upon their many spots, He seems to say, 'No eye but mine shall see them.' Oh! let us in this particular be 'imitators of God, as dear children.' Thus shall we more clearly evidence to others, and be assured ourselves, that have 'passed from death unto life.'
'God, who quickens the dead.' Romans 4:17
THE commencement of spiritual life is sudden. We are far from confining the Spirit to a certain prescribed order in this or any other part of His work. He is a Sovereign, and therefore works according to His own will. But there are some methods He more frequently adopts than others. We would not say that all conversion is a sudden work. There is a knowledge of sin, conviction of its guilt, repentance before God on account of it; these are frequently slow and gradual in their advance. But the first communication of divine light and life to the soul is always sudden-sudden and instantaneous as was the creation of natural light-'God said, Let there be light, and there was light.' It was but a word, and in an instant chaos rolled away, and every object and scene in nature was bathed in light and glory-sudden as was the communication of life to Lazarus-'Jesus cried with a loud voice, Lazarus, come forth!' it was but a word, and in an instant 'he that was dead came forth, bound hand and foot with grave-clothes.' So is it in the first communication of divine light and life to the soul. The eternal Spirit says, 'Let there be light,' and in a moment there is light. He speaks again, 'Come forth,' and in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, the dead are raised.
Striking illustrations of the suddenness of the Spirit's operation are afforded in the cases of Saul of Tarsus and of the thief upon the cross. How sudden was the communication of light and life to their souls! It was no long and previous process of spiritual illumination-it was the result of no lengthened chain of reasoning-no labored argumentation. In a moment, and under circumstances most unfavorable to the change, as we should think-certainly, at a period when the rebellion of the heart rose the most fiercely against God, 'a light from heaven, above the brightness of the sun,' poured its transforming radiance into the mind of the enraged persecutor; and a voice, conveying life into the soul, reached the conscience of the dying thief. Both were translated from darkness into light, 'in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye.' How many who read this page may say, 'Thus it was with me!' God the Eternal Spirit arrested me when my heart's deep rebellion was most up in arms against Him. It was a sudden and a short work, but it was mighty and effectual. It was unexpected and rapid, but deep and thorough. In a moment the hidden evil was brought to view-the deep and dark fountain broken up; all my iniquities passed before me, and all my secret sins seemed placed in the light of God's countenance. My soul sank down in deep mire-yes, hell opened its mouth to receive me.'
Overlook not this wise and gracious method of the blessed Spirit's operation in regeneration. It is instantaneous. The means may have been simple; perhaps it was the loss of a friend-an alarming illness-a word of reproof or admonition dropped from a parent or a companion-the singing of a hymn-the hearing of a sermon-or some text of Scripture