DAILY WALKING WITH GOD
Behold, the eye of the Lord is upon those who fear him, upon those who hope in his mercy; To deliver their soul from death. Psalm 33:18-19
A FATHER’S eye beaming with tenderness upon a rebellious, wandering child, inviting, welcoming his return—what adamant can resist it? The deepest, bitterest, truest grief for sin is felt and expressed beneath God’s eye alone. When the wakeful pillow of midnight is moistened, when the heart unveils in secret to the eye of Jesus, when the chamber of privacy witnesses to the confidential confessions and pleadings of a contrite heart, there is then felt and expressed a sorrow for sin, so genuine, so touching, as cannot but draw down upon the soul a look from Christ the most tender in its expression, and the most forgiving in its language.
Let us always endeavor to realize the loving eye of Jesus resting upon us. In public and in private, in our temporal and spiritual callings, in prosperity and in adversity, in all places and on all occasions, and under all circumstances, oh! let us live as beneath its focal power. When our Lord was upon earth, “a man of sorrows,” His eyes were dim with grief; but now that He is in heaven, they are as “a flame of fire,”—to His saints not a burning, consuming flame, but a flame of inextinguishable love. Deem not yourself, then, secluded believer, a banished and an exiled one, lost to all sight. Other eyes may be withdrawn and closed, distance intercepting their view, or death darkening their vision; but the eye of Jesus, your Lord, rests upon you ever, with unslumbering affection. “I will guide you with mine eye,” is the gracious promise of your God. Be ever and intently gazing on that Eye—”looking unto Jesus.” He is the Fountain of Light; and in the light radiating from His eye you shall, in the gloomiest hour of your life, see light upon your onward way. “By His light I walked through darkness.”
“Bend not your light-desiring eyes below,
There your own shadow waits upon you ever;
But raise your looks to Heaven—and lo!
The shadeless sun rewards your weak endeavor.
Who sees the dark, is dark; but turns toward the light,
And you become like to that which fills your sight.”
“We all, with open face, beholding, as in a glass , the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord.”
Until the day break, and the shadows flee away, I will get me to the mountain of myrrh, and to the hill of frankincense. Song 4:6
THAT we dwell so much in the region of present clouds, and so little in the meridian of future glory, entails upon us a serious loss. We look too faintly beyond the midnight of time, into the daylight of eternity. We are slow of heart to believe all that is revealed of the bliss that awaits us, and do not sufficiently realize that in a little while—oh how soon!—the day will break, the will flee away, and we shall bathe our souls in heaven’s full, unclouded, endless light.
And when does this day begin to break, and the shadows to flee? Go, and stand by the side of that expiring believer in Jesus—the daybreak of glory is dawning upon his soul! He is nearing heaven; He will soon be there—in a few hours, perhaps moments—and oh! what wonders, what glories, what bliss will burst upon his emancipated spirit! Hark, how he exclaims to the loved ones who sincerely would detain him a little longer here—”Let me go, for the day breaks!” Oh blessed day now opening upon his view, as shadow after shadow is dispersed, revealing the wall of sapphire, and the gate of pearl, and the jasper throne, and Him who sits upon it, of the New Jerusalem, all inviting and beckoning him away.
But the noon-tide splendor of this day of glory will be at the SECOND COMING of our Lord in majesty and great power, to gather together His elect, and consummate the bliss of His Church. “He shall come to be glorified in His saints, and to be admired in all those who believe.” Precious in the sight of the Lord as is the death of His saints, and blissful to the saints themselves as will be the time of their departure, yet not our death, but the Redeemer’s glorious appearing, is the hope set before us in the Scriptures. “Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Savior Jesus Christ.” Suffering Christian! look rather to this blessed hope of the perfect day, than to the gloomy passage the dark valley. “I will come again,” says your gracious Lord, “and receive you to myself; that where I am, there you may be also.” Let our hearts respond, “Come, Lord Jesus, come quickly.”
And where shall we resort until then? Listen to her words: “Until the day break, and the shadows flee away, I will get me to the mountain of myrrh and to the hill off frankincense.” The Lord has fragrant places of safety and repose people until He comes to fetch them to glory. What a “mountain of myrrh” is Jesus!—in whom we may abide, to whom in all lowering clouds we may repair, “until the day break, and the shadows flee away.” Closer and closer let us cling to Christ, whose name is “as ointment poured forth ” to the Lord’s faint and weary ones—until we see Him face to face. And oh! how fragrant are these “hills of frankincense,” which the Lord has provided for His people, in the means of grace, to which He invites, and where He meets and communes with them “until the day break, and the shadows flee away.” Such is the secret place of prayer—the place of social prayer—the place and public prayer, where the incense of devotion and love ascends, so precious, so cheering and strengthening to the weary. And what is the ministration of the truth, and what is the word of God, but the “hills of frankincense,” to which we are privileged to betake ourselves until our Lord comes to us, or until we go to Him. To these fragrant hills of safety and repose let us constantly repair. “Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is, but exhorting one another; and so much the more, as you see the day approaching.”
But let every man prove his own work, and then shall he have rejoicing in himself alone, and not in another. Galatians 6:4
“OH that I were quite sure that I was more than a mere professor!” But why be in doubt? Never was so momentous a matter more easily and speedily settled. “He that believes in the Son of God has the witness in himself.” Thus from yourself you need not travel in order to ascertain your true spiritual condition. No one can be a substitute in this great matter for yourself: It is a thing which has too close and personal a relation to you as an individual, to admit of a transfer of its obligations to another. You must feel for yourself—you must experience for yourself—and you must decide for yourself alone. Thus may you come to a right and safe decision in a question involving interests as solemn and as deathless as eternity. Seek the inward witness of the Spirit. Witnessing to what? that your heart has been convinced of sin—that you have renounced your own righteousness—that you have fled to the Lord Jesus Christ—and that your soul is breathing after personal holiness. Do not, I beseech you, rest short of this. Do not be concerned about others; let your first and chief concern be about yourself.
Give all diligence in the use of the means of grace, if you desire a flourishing state of soul. They are the Divinely appointed channels of conveyance from the Fountain. They are the tributary streams from the great Ocean. You cannot possibly maintain a healthy, vigorous state of the inner life without them. You cannot neglect with impunity private prayer, meditation, and self examination—or public ordinances—the ministry of the word, the services of the sanctuary, the assemblies of the saints. A slight thrown upon these must entail a severe loss to your soul. It is in the way of diligent, prayerful waiting upon the means, that the Christian “goes from strength to strength, until he appears before God.” Search, oh search, for this living grace. No man shall wait upon the Lord in vain. “Those who wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength.” They who plough deeply the fallow ground, and in its furrows sow the precious seed, shall not lack the Holy Spirit’s descending influence, in silent dew by night, and in copious showers by day, to quicken and to fructify it. Only honor the God of grace in all the means of grace, and God will honor you by imparting to you grace through the means. “The diligent soul shall be made fat.”
Reader, examine yourself, prove your own self, and ascertain truly if you have “Christ in you the hope of glory.” Satisfy not yourself with external ceremonies, with the observance of days, of matins and vespers, and frequent communions—with alms-giving and charities. Is Christ dwelling in your heart by his Spirit? This, this is the great and momentous question which, in the near prospect of death, and of the judgment that follows death, it behooves you to decide. “He that has the Son has life, and he that has not the Son of God has not life. These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life, and that you may believe on the name of the Son of God.”
Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God. John 1:13.
THE real believer in Jesus is a gracious man. He is a “living soul.” He is the partaker of a new and a divine nature, and is the depository of a heavenly and a precious treasure. But grace is a thing foreign to the natural state of a man. His possession of it is not coeval with his birth, nor can it be his by right of hereditary law. No parent, however holy, can transmit a particle of that holiness to his posterity. But see how this mystery is cleared up in the conversation which Jesus held with the Samaritan woman, as He sat wearied upon the mouth of Jacob’s well: “Jesus answered and said unto her, If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that says to you, Give me to drink, you would have asked of him, and he would have given you living water.” This is the grace of which we speak, and this is the source from where it flows into the hearts of all the truly regenerate. It is in you, Christian reader, a “well of water,” a springing well, mounting upward, and ascending to the source from where it rises. Blessed words—”springing up into everlasting life”! As the first blush of morning is a part of the day, so the least dawn of grace in the soul is a portion of heaven.
What an exalted character, and what an enviable man, is the true Christian! All the resources of the Triune God unite to replenish this earthen vessel. No angel in heaven contains a treasure half so costly and so precious as that poor believing sinner, who getting near to the Savior’s feet, and bathing them with tears of penitence and love can look up and exclaim, “Whom have I in heaven but You? and there is none upon earth that I desire beside You.” But what deep humility ought to distinguish the true Christian, as a real professor of the grace of Christ Jesus! The grace which you possess is a communicated grace. All that is really holy and gracious in us springs not from our fallen nature, but, like “every good and perfect gift, comes down from the Father of lights.” It is the spontaneous outflowing of the heart of God—the free unmerited bestowment of his sovereign mercy. Then what meekness of heart, what profound humility of mind, ought to mark you! What a prostration of every form of self, self-confidence, self-seeking, self-boasting—should there be, as reasonably becomes those who have nothing but what they have received, and whom free and sovereign grace alone has distinguished from others!
Let us search and try our ways, and turn again to the Lord. Lamentations 3:40
LET the spiritual believer but take the history of a single week as the gauge of the general tenor of his life, and what a lesson does it read him of the downward, earthly tendency of his soul! Yes, in one short week how have the wheels lessened in their revolutions—how has the timepiece of his soul lost its power—how have the chords of his heart become unstrung! But his prayer is for Divine quickening. It is his anxious inquiry—What course am I to adopt when I find deadness in my soul, and cannot feel, nor weep, nor sigh, nor desire?—when to read and meditate, to hear and pray, seem an irksome task?—when I cannot see the Savior’s beauty, nor feel Him precious, nor labor as zealously, nor suffer as patiently, for Him as I would? The answer is at hand—Look again to Jesus. This is the only remedy that can meet your case. Go direct to Christ; He is the Fountain-head, He is the living Well. May the Holy Spirit open your eyes to see, that while all emptiness exists in you, all fullness dwells in Jesus—there is a fathomless depth in the heart of Christ—of love unchangeable, of grace all-sufficient, of truth immutable, of salvation from all sin and trial and sorrow—commensurate with your need and vast as His own infinity. Never can your grace be too low, nor your frame too depressed, nor your path too perplexing, nor your sorrow too keen, nor your sin too great, nor your condition too extreme, for Christ; because He is both Divine and human: thus uniting the nature that can relieve with the nature that can sympathize. “Son of God! Son of man! how wondrous and glorious are You!”
Be very honest and diligent in ascertaining the cause of your soul’s deadness. The correct knowledge of this is necessary to its removal; and its removal is essential to the effectual recovery of the inner life from its relapsed state. Is it indulged sin? Is it the neglect of private prayer? Is it worldliness, carnality, unwatchfulness? Any one of these would so grieve the Spirit of God within you, as to dry up the spirituality of your soul. Do not be beguiled with the belief that the real recovery has taken place, simply because that, conscious of your state, in meaningless regrets you acknowledge and deplore it. “The sluggard desires and has nothing.” Observe, He has his desires, but nothing more, because with them he is satisfied. Let not this be your state. Seek earnestly, importunately, believingly, until you possess more abundantly life from Christ. Seek a gracious revival of the life of God in your soul. Seek a clearer manifestation of Christ, a renewed baptism of the Spirit, a more undoubted evidence of your conversion, a surer, brighter hope of heaven. Thus seeking, you will find it; and finding it, your “peace will flow like a river, and your righteousness as the waves of the sea.” Oh the joy of a revived state of the inner life of God! It is the joy of spring succeeding to the gloom and chill of winter. It is the joy of the sunlight after a cloudy and dark day. “Lord, lift You up the light of Your countenance upon, us.” ” Turn us again, O Lord God of hosts; cause Your face to shine, and we shall be saved.”
Unto you it is given in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for his sake. Philippians 1:29
Such is the nature of Christ’s religion, and such the terms of His discipleship—suffering and self-denial. By those who are not initiated into the mysteries of the kingdom of grace, this is a truth hard to be understood. To them it is inexplicable how one whose person is loved by God, whose sins Christ has forgiven, whose life appears holy, useful, and honored, should be the subject of Divine correction, and perhaps in some instances should, more than others, seem smitten of God and afflicted. But to those who are students of Christ, who learn at the feet of Jesus, this is no insoluble problem. They understand, in a measure, why the most holy are frequently the most chastened. Ah! beloved, in the school where this truth is learned, all truth may be learned—at the feet of Jesus. In His light we shall see light. But men turn from the sun, and wonder that, in the study of divine truth, shadows should fall darkly upon their path. They study the Bible so little beneath the cross, with an eye intent upon Christ, from whom all truth emanates, of whom all truth testifies, and to whom all truth leads. What says “the Truth” himself? “This is life eternal, that they might know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.” The crisis in your life speeds on, when all knowledge, save the knowledge of Christ loving you, pardoning you as a guilty, saving you as a lost, sinner, and reconciling you to God as a rebellious sinner, will prove as unsubstantial as a shadow, as unreal and fleeting as a dream. Oh, let this be the one desire and earnest resolve of your soul, “That I may know Him.” “Yes, doubtless, and I count all things but loss, for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord.”
Such, then, as have learned of Christ can understand why a child of God should be a child of affliction. Why “the Lord tries the righteous.” Declarations such as these have a significance of meaning they can well comprehend—”I have chosen you in the furnace of affliction.” “Whom the Lord loves He chastens, and scourges every son whom He receives.” “As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten.” And when the present and hallowed results of the Divine dealings are in a measure realized—when some sheaves of the golden fruit of the precious seed sown in weeping are sickled—the heart awakened to more prayer, Christ more precious, sin more hated, self more loathed, holiness more endeared, and the soul brought into greater nearness to God—when the suffering Christian reviews the Divine supports he has experienced in his affliction, how God encircled him with the everlasting arms, how Christ pillowed his languid head, how the Holy Spirit comforted and soothed his anguish, by unfolding the sweetness and fullness of the Scriptures, sealing promise upon promise upon his smitten heart, his chastened spirit can well exclaim, “You have dealt well with Your servant, O Lord, according to Your word.” You have broken but to bind up, have wounded but to heal, have emptied but to replenish, have embittered but to sweeten, have removed one blessing but to bestow another and a greater.
“You do but take my lamp away,
To bless me with eternal day.”
“Whom have I in heaven but You? and there is none upon earth that I desire beside You.”
I shall be satisfied, when I awake, with your likeness. Psalm 17:15.
THE beatific vision has brought the believer’s whole soul into the most perfect harmony with God. He is satisfied with the character and perfections of God, which now unfold their grandeur without a cloud, and fill the soul without a limit. “Now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.” An angel’s sight, and an angel’s knowledge, enkindle an angel’s fervor; and as growing discoveries and endless illustrations of the Divine perfections increase with eternity, glory, honor, and thanksgiving to Him who sits upon the throne will be the saint’s undying song. He is satisfied, too, with all God’s providential dealings with him in the world he has passed. The present is the repose of faith—and faith can say, amid scenes of perplexity and peril, of obscurity and doubt, “It is well”, trusting in the wisdom and faithfulness of God. And yet how difficult often do we find it to trace God’s design, or connect His strange dealings with a wise purpose or a gracious end. We cannot unravel the web. Is it not so, my reader? Let faith look back upon the past of your life, not to revive its painful emotions, but that with steadier wing and bolder flight it may bear you forward. That dark cloud of sorrow that settled upon your fair prospects—that blast of adversity that swept away riches—that stroke of providence that tore from your sight the wife of your youth, or hurried the child of your hopes prematurely to the grave, or that placed the friend of your bosom, the companion of your hours, into darkness—or that came near to your own person, and arrested you with disease—you pause and inquire, Why is it thus? Ah! the full answer you may never have in this world—for faith must have scope; but, by and by, if not here, yet from a loftier position and beneath a brighter sky, and with a stronger vision, you shall look back and know and understand, and admire it all, and “shall be satisfied.” The glorified are satisfied, too, with the conduct of God’s grace. If there is often inexplicable mystery in providence, there is yet profounder mystery in grace. Loving him as God does, yet that He should hide Himself from His child; hating sin, yet allowing its existence, and permitting His children to fall under its influence; leaving them often to endure the fiery darts of Satan, and to tread dreary paths, cheerless, starless—the sensible presence of the heavenly Guide withdrawn, and not a voice to break the solemn stillness or to calm the swelling wave—ah! this is trying indeed!—But all, before long, will be satisfactorily explained. Now the glorified see how harmonious with every principle of infinite holiness and justice, truth and wisdom, was God’s scheme of redeeming mercy; and that it was electing love, and sovereign mercy, and free favor, that made him a subject of grace on earth, and an heir of glory in heaven. And as he bends back his glance upon all the way the Lord his God brought him the forty years’ travel in the wilderness—traces the ten thousand times ten thousand unfoldings of His love—the love that would not and the power that could not let him go—the faithful rebukes, the gentle dealings, the unwearied patience, and the inexhaustible sympathy of Jesus, with what depth of emotion and emphasis of meaning does he exclaim, “I am satisfied!” The saints are satisfied, too, with the heaven of glory to which they are brought. They awake up in God’s likeness. Positively and perfectly holy, positively and perfectly happy, actually with Christ, and contemplating, with an intellectual and moral perception all unclouded, the glory of God, how completely satisfied is he with the new world of purity and bliss, of light and splendor, into which his ransomed spirit sprung! The last earthly passion has died away, the last remnant of corruption is destroyed, the last moan of suffering and sigh of sorrow is hushed in the stillness of the tomb; the corruptible has put on incorruption, the mortal has put on immortality, and the glorified spirit stands amid the throng of holy and adoring ones who encircle the throne, and swells the universal an them—”He has done all things well.”
That like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. Rom. 6:4
THE resurrection of Christ is a vital doctrine of Christianity. It sustains an essential relation to the spiritual life of the believer. Viewing it in connection with the union of Christ and His people, the two facts become identical—standing in the relation of cause and effect. Our Lord, in His great atoning work, acted in a public or representative character. He represented in His person the whole elect of God, who virtually were in Him, each step that he took in working out their redemption. In His resurrection from the grave this was preeminently so. The Head could not be resuscitated apart from the body. Christ could not rise without the Church. Thus, then, the new or the resurrection life of Christ, and the inner or spiritual life of the believer, are one and indivisible. Now, when the resurrection of the Head is spiritually realized, when it is fully received into the heart by faith, it becomes a quickening, energizing, sanctifying truth to each member of His body. It transmits a power to the inmost soul, felt in all the actings and manifestations of the spiritual life. Blessed are they who feel, and who feel daily, that they are indeed “risen with Christ,” and who find every new perception of this great truth to act like a mighty lever to their souls—lifting them above this “present evil world”—a world passing away.
Perhaps no circumstance connected with the resurrection of Christ conveys to the mind a clearer idea of its bearings upon the happiness of the Church than the part which the Divine Father is represented as having taken in the illustrious event. His having committed Himself to the fact at once stamps it with all its saving interest. “Whom God has raised.” “Like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father.” “If the Spirit of Him that raised up Jesus from the dead.” By this act of raising up His Son from the grave, the Father manifested His delight in, and His full acceptance of, the sacrifice of Christ, as a finished and satisfactory expiation for the sins of His people. So long as Jesus remained in the grave, there was wanting the evidence of the acceptance of His death; the great seal of heaven, the signature of God, was needed to authenticate the fact. But when the Father released the Surety from the dominion of death, he annihilated, by that act, all legal claim against His Church, declaring the ransom accepted, and the debt cancelled. “He was taken from prison,”—as the prisoner of justice—the prisoner of death—and the prisoner of the grave; the Father, in the exercise of His glorious power, opens the prison door, and delivers the illustrious Captive—and by the door through which He emerges again to life, enters the full justification of His whole Church; for it is written—”He was delivered for our offences, and was raised again for our justification.”
A more important truth—where all are of infinite moment to the happiness of man—is not found in the Word of God. As it forms the keystone to the mighty arch of Christianity, so it constitutes the groundwork of spiritual life, upon the basis of which the Holy Spirit of God quickens the souls of all, who are “the called according to His purpose.” It was a knowledge of this truth which awoke the ardent desire of the apostle’s soul, “That I may know Him, and the power of His resurrection.”
And an highway shall be there, and a way, and it shall be called The way of holiness: the unclean shall not pass over it; …. but the redeemed shall walk there. Isaiah 35:8, 9
HEAVEN is the abode of a renewed people; it is a holy place, and the home of the holy; and before the sinner can have any real fitness for heaven, any well-grounded hope of glory, he must be a partaker of a nature harmonizing with the purity, and corresponding with the enjoyments, of heaven. Heaven would be no heaven to a carnal mind, to an unsanctified heart. Were it possible to translate an unconverted individual from this world to the abodes of eternal glory, overwhelmed with the effulgence of the place, and having no fellowship of feeling with the purity of its enjoyments, and the blessedness of its society, he would exclaim—”Take me hence—it is not the place for me—I have no sympathy with it—I have no fitness for it—I have no pleasure in it.” Solemn thought! But the Christian is a renewed creature—he is a partaker of the Divine nature; he has sympathies, affections, and desires, imparted to him by the Spirit, which assimilate him to the happiness and purity of heaven. It is impossible but that he must be there. He possesses a nature unfit for earth, and congenial only with heaven. He is the subject of a spiritual life that came from, and now ascends to, heaven. All its aspirations are heavenly—all its breathings are heavenly—all its longings are heavenly; and thus it is perpetually soaring towards that world of glory from where it came, and for which God is preparing it. So that it would seem utterly impossible but that a renewed man must be in heaven, since he is the partaker of a nature fitted only for the regions of eternal purity and bliss. But what is it that gives the Christian a valid deed, a right of possession, to eternal glory? It is his justification by faith through the imputed righteousness of Christ. This is the only valid title to eternal glory which God will admit—the righteousness of His dear Son imputed to him that believes. Here is the grand fitness of a poor, lost, polluted, undone sinner; the fitness that springs from the spotless righteousness of the Lord Jesus, “who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption.” “He has made Him to be sin for us, who knew no sin, that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him.” Behold, then, beloved, the high vantage-ground on which a saint of God stands, with regard to his hope of heaven. He stands out of his own righteousness in the righteousness of another. He stands accepted in the Accepted One, he stands justified in the Justified One, and justified, too, by God, the great Justifier.
The spiritual life which God has breathed into our souls will never rest until it reaches its full and perfect development. Deep as are its pulsations, holy as are its breathings, it is yet but in its infancy, compared with that state of perfection to which it is destined. The highest state of sanctification to which the believer can arrive here is but the first dawn of day, contrasted with the “far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory,” which will burst upon him in a world of perfect holiness. Heaven will complete the work which sovereign grace has begun upon earth. Heaven is the consummation of the spiritual life of the believer.
To present you holy and unblameable and unreproveable in his sight: if you continue in the faith grounded and settled. Colossians 1:22, 23.
NEXT to an ardent desire to be assured that he possesses the truth—the believer in Jesus will feel anxious for establishment in the truth. It will not suffice for him to know, upon evidence he may not gainsay, that he is a converted man; He will aim to be an advancing Christian. Just to have touched the border of the Savior’s righteousness, and obtained the healing, will not satisfy his conscience; with a strong and growing faith he will strive to wrap the robe more closely around him, in that full assurance of his “acceptance in the Beloved,” of his “completeness in Christ,” which supplies the strongest incentive to a walk worthy of his heavenly calling.
The Christian’s faith includes not merely what we are to believe, but also what we are to practice. It embraces not only the doctrines of Christ, but equally the precepts and commandments of Christ. The true Christian desires to stand “complete in all the will of God.” No longer under a covenant of works, but under the law of Christ, He aspires to be an obedient disciple, manifesting his love to Jesus by observing the commands of Jesus. He needs Christ to be his King, as he needs Him to be his Priest; to govern him, as to atone for him; to sanctify, as to save him. His faith is characterized by the apostle Jude as our “most holy faith.” Its nature is holy, its principle is holy, its actings are holy, its tendencies are holy, its fruits are holy. It seeks to “bring every thought into obedience to Christ;” nor will it cease its mighty work—opposed, thwarted, and foiled, though it be—until the soul it sanctifies takes its place “without fault before the throne,” perfected in the image of God and of the Lamb.
Establishment in the faith is a matter of great moment in the experience of a child of God. The relation of stability in the truth with progress in the Divine life, is the relation of cause and effect. It is impossible that there can be any progress of the inner life in connection with unsettledness and instability of opinion on the great points of the Christian faith. Hence the especial stress which the Spirit of truth has laid upon it. What says the Scripture? “As you have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk you in Him: rooted and built up in Him, and established in the faith, as you have been taught.” “Now He which establishes us with you in Christ, and has anointed us, is God.” “I long to see you, that I may impart unto you some spiritual gift, to the end you may be established.” Welcome all God’s dealings, as designed and as tending to build you up on your most holy faith, and thus advance the life of God in your soul. A hallowed possession of trial is a great mean of soul-advancement. Affliction is God’s school. Every true child of God has been placed in it. Every glorified saint has emerged from it. “Blessed is the man whom You chasten, O Lord, and teach him out of Your law.” Chastening—the school; instruction—the end. Humbling and painful though the process be, who, to secure such an end, would not meekly welcome the discipline?
This is my comfort in my affliction: for your word has quickened me. Psalm 119:50.
OH, how many a deeply-tried Christian has set his seal to this truth! What is the comfort sought by the worldling in his affliction? Alas! he seeks to drown his sorrow by plunging yet deeper into that which has created it. He goes to the world for his comfort; that world that has already belied him, betrayed him, and stung and wounded him more keenly and deeply than the adder. But turn to the man of God. What was the Psalmist’s comfort in his sorrow? Was it the lightness of his affliction? Was it the soothing tenderness and sympathy of the saints? Ah, no! it was none of these. It was the spiritual quickening his soul received through the truth of God! This healed his sorrow-stricken heart; this poured a tide of richer comfort into his deeply afflicted soul than the sweetest human balm, or even the entire removal of his trial, could have done. Oh, favored soul, who, when in deep and dark waters—when passing through the fiery furnace—are led to desire spiritual quickening above all other comforts beside—sweetly testifying, “This is my comfort in my affliction, Your word has quickened me.” That word, unfolding to us Jesus, leading us to Jesus, and transforming us into the image of Jesus, proves a reviving word in the hour of trial.
By bringing us into a closer acquaintance with the word, trial stimulates the inner life. We flee to the word for counsel or for comfort, and the word proves a quickening word. Divine correction not only teaches, but it stimulates our relish for the spiritual parts of God’s truth. In times of prosperity we are tempted to neglect the word. The world abates the keenness of the soul’s appetite. We taste no sweetness in its promises, and cannot receive its admonitions and rebukes. “The full soul loaths a honeycomb, but to the hungry soul every bitter thing is sweet.” Replenished with created good, and surfeited with earthly comfort, the soul, in its pride and self-sufficiency, loathes the divine honey of God’s word. But when the Lord removes the creature, and embitters the world—both proving cisterns that can hold no water—then how precious becomes the word of Jesus! Not its doctrines and its consolations only, but even its deepest searching and its severest rebukes—that which lays us the lowest in the dust of shame and self-abhorrence—are then sweet as the honey and the honeycomb to our renewed taste. Then in truth we exclaim—”How sweet are Your words to my taste! yes, sweeter than honey to my mouth!”
But God has revealed them unto us by his Spirit: for the Spirit searches all things, yes, the deep things of God. 1 Cor. 2:10
THERE is no darkness which God’s own Spirit cannot scatter, no difficulty which He cannot remove, no portion of the word which He cannot explain. All that is necessary to your salvation is revealed in the word, all that can be known of Jesus is there discovered; and all this the blessed Spirit stands prepared to snake known to you. He it is who leads you to Jesus; Jesus lifts the veil and reveals the Father; and the Father, when revealed, appears full of love, mercy, and forgiveness, to the poor returning prodigal, who, in penitence and lowliness, seeks an asylum in His heart. And, oh! how ready is the Spirit to instruct you! Such love and grace has He in His heart, the Heavenly Dove seems ever poised upon the wing, ready to fly to that soul who but sighs for His inward teaching. Does He see one oppressed with a sense of guilt, He hastens to apply the atoning blood of Jesus. Does He mark one weary with his fruitless toil? He seals the promise of the Savior on the heart, “Come unto me, all you that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give yore rest.” Does He observe one combating with temptation, tormented with fear, harassed with doubts, struggling with infirmity, halting through weakness? Oh, how ready is He to show that soul where its great strength, and comfort, and grace lie—even in the fullness of a most loving, precious, and all-sufficient Savior! Oh, then, in the name of Jesus, seek this glorious gift of God. Seek Him as a life-giving Spirit, as making Jesus known to you—as leading you into the deep things of God’s word—as deeply sanctifying you—as imparting to you the love, confidence, and consolation of an adopted child—as comforting you in every sorrow—as strengthening the divine life in your soul—as being to you the earnest and the seal of eternal glory.
Let it be your encouragement to remember that God knows His own work in your heart; and not only does He know, but He acknowledges it; and not only does He acknowledge, but He delights in it. Your faith may be feeble, your strength small, your grace but little, your knowledge limited, your experience defective; yet, if by the Eternal Spirit you have been led out of yourself, to take refuge in Christ, you are one over whom God rejoices with joy. Beauteous to His eye, and dear to His heart, is that mark of holiness in your soul. What is it but the product of His own power, the germ of His own grace, the fruit of His own Spirit, the outline of His own image? Will He, then, despise, overlook, or turn His back upon it? Never! never! Have you been made willing in the day of His power? Have you laid upon His altar the richest and the best of the sacrifice? Oh, honored servant you! Oh, rich, costly, and acceptable offering! Your God delights in it; yes, delights in you! Ask, and you shall receive a fuller teaching and anointing of the Holy Spirit. Possessing Him, your path to glory will grow brighter and brighter unto the perfect day. “If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him!”
Why let those who suffer according to the will of God commit the keeping of their souls to him in well-doing, as unto a faithful Creator. 1 Peter 4:19
THE God who is now dealing with you is love, all love—a God in Christ—your covenant God—your reconciled Father. All His thoughts towards you, peace; all His feelings, love; and all His dealings, mercy. Soon will you be in His heavenly presence, and behold His unveiled glory as it beams forth from the eternal throne. Soon will you be with Jesus, shall see Him, be like Him, and dwell with Him forever. Darkness, and conflict, and sickness, and death shall cease, because sin shall cease. Then, in your blessed experience, will be realized the beatific vision—”And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain; for the former things are passed away.” Let this prospect reconcile you patiently to wait all the days of your appointed time, until your change come. God is faithful. Christ, in whom you believe, is able to keep that which you have committed unto Him against that glorious day. He will perfect that which concerns you. Nothing shall be consumed in your present fiery trial, but the tin and dross. The precious and imperishable gold shall be “found unto praise, and honor, and glory, at the appearing of Jesus Christ.” Not more safe were Noah and his family, when they sailed in the ark through the storm, than is that soul who is shut up in Christ. If you have come out of yourself, have left all, and have fled to Jesus, this is your encouragement—not a soul ever perished whom the Father gave in covenant to his Son—whom the Son redeemed—whom the Spirit has regenerated, and in whom He dwells. A threefold cord keeps that precious saint—the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. “Kept by the power of God, through faith, unto salvation.” Oh, precious declaration! Press it with a stronger faith to your heart; for if God be for you, who can be against you? In your present state of suffering you find it difficult to think or to pray. But He, who formed you, knows your frame, “He remembers that we are dust.” There is One who thinks and prays for you. It is Jesus, your Elder Brother; the “brother born for adversity;” the great High Priest, wearing your nature, who has passed within the veil, “now to appear in the presence of God for us.” Jesus intercedes for you moment by moment. Your faith shall not fail, your grace shall not decline, your hope shall not make ashamed; for He who came down to earth, and was wounded for your transgression, and was bruised for your iniquities, rose again from the dead, and ascended on high, now to appear in the presence of God for you. Christ prays for you, and that, when by reason of confusion of mind and weakness of body you cannot pray for yourself. Precious Jesus! You are that gentle Shepherd, who over-drives not Your little ones. When they cannot run, You do permit them to walk; and when, through feebleness, they cannot walk, You do carry them. You are He of whom it is said, “He shall feed his flock like a shepherd, he shall gather the lambs with his arm, and carry them in his bosom.”
For every high priest taken from among men is ordained for men in things pertaining to God, that he may offer both gifts and sacrifices for sins: Who can have compassion on the ignorant, and on those who are out of the way; for that he himself also is compassed with infirmity. Hebrews 5:1-2
OVERLOOK not the fitness of the Lord Jesus to meet all the infirmities of His people. There are two touching and expressive passages bearing on this point. “Himself took our infirmities, and bare our sicknesses.” Wondrous view of the Incarnate God! That very infirmity, Christian reader, which now bogs you to the earth, by reason of which you can in no wise lift up yourself— your Savior bore. Is it sin? is it sorrow? is it sickness? is it want? It bowed Him to the dust, and brought the crimson drops to His brow. And is this no consolation? Does it not make your infirmity even pleasant, to remember that Jesus once bore it, and in sympathy bears it still? The other passage is—”We have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities.” Touched with my infirmity! What a thought! I reveal my grief to my friend, I discern the emotions of his soul. I mark the trembling lip, the sympathizing look, the moistened eye—my friend is touched with my sorrow. But what is this sympathy—tender, soothing, grateful as it is—to the sympathy with which the great High Priest in heaven enters into my case, is moved with my grief, is touched with the feeling of my infirmity?
Let us learn more tenderly to sympathize with the infirmities of our brethren. “We that are strong ought to bear the infirmities of the weak, and not to please ourselves.” Oh for more of this primitive Christianity! The infirmity of a Christian brother should by a heartfelt sympathy become in a measure our own. We ought to bear it. The rule of our conduct towards him should be the rule of our conduct towards our own selves. Who would feel bound or disposed to travel from house to house, proclaiming with trumpet tongue, and with evident satisfaction, his own weaknesses, failings, and infirmities? To God we may confess them, but no divine precept enjoins their confession to man. We unveil them to His eye, and He kindly and graciously veils them from all human eyes. Be this our spirit, and our conduct, towards a weak and erring brother. Let us rather part with our right hand than publish his infirmity to others, and thus wound the Head by an unkind and unholy exposure of the faults and frailties of a member of His body; and by so doing cause the enemies of Christ to blaspheme that worthy name by which we are called.
Honor and glorify the Spirit, who thus so graciously and so kindly sympathizes with our infirmities. Pay to Him divine worship, yield to Him divine homage; and let your unreserved obedience to His commands, your jealous regard for His honor, and your faithful hearkening to the gentle accents of His “still, small voice,” manifest how deeply sensible you are of His love, His grace, and His faithfulness, in sympathizing with your sorrows, in supplying your need, and in making your burdens and infirmities all and entirely His own.
Nor let us forget that, so condescending is Jesus, He regards Himself as honored by the confidence which reposes our sorrows upon His heart. The infirmity which we bring to His grace, and the sin which we bring to His atonement, and the trials which we bring to His sympathy, unfold Jesus as He is—and so He is glorified. Consequently, the oftener we come, the more welcome we are, and the more precious does Jesus become.
You are the salt of the earth. Matthew 5:13
WHEN our Lord reminds His people that they are “the salt of the earth,” He describes the gracious state of all real believers. The grace of God is that “salt,” apart from which all is moral corruption and spiritual decay. Where Divine grace exists not, there is nothing to stunt the growth, or to check the progress, or to restrain the power, of the soul’s depravity. The fountain pours out its streams of corruption and death, bidding defiance to all human efforts either to purify or restrain. But let one grain of the salt of God’s grace fall into this corrupt fountain, and there is deposited a counteracting and transforming element, which at once commences a healing, purifying, and saving process. And what parental restraint, and the long years of study, and human law, had failed to do, one hour’s deep repentance of sin, one believing glance at a crucified Savior, one moment’s realization of the love of God have effectually accomplished. Oh the intrinsic preciousness, the priceless value, the sovereign efficacy of this Divine salt—God’s converting, sanctifying grace! Effecting a lodgment in the most debased and corrupt heart, it revolutionizes the whole soul—changing its principles, purifying its affections, and assimilating it to the Divine holiness.
Thus all true believers in Jesus, from their gracious character, are denominated “the salt of the earth.” And why so? Because all that is divine, and holy, and precious, exists in them, and in them only. It is found in that nature which the Holy Spirit has renewed, in that heart which Divine grace has changed, in that soul humbled in the dust before God for sin, and now, in the exercise of faith which He has given, reposing on the atoning work of Jesus, exclaiming—
‘ Other refuge have I none,
Hangs my helpless soul on you.”
There, where God’s love is felt—there, where the Holy Spirit is possessed—there, where the Savior’s atonement is received, and His image is reflected—there is found the precious “salt of the earth.” The world does not know it, and even the lowly grace may be veiled from the eye of the Church—few mark the silent tear, or see the deep prostration of the Spirit before the Lord, or are cognizant of its hidden joy, or measure the extent of the holy influence, noiselessly yet effectually exerted; but God, looking from His throne of glory through the ranks of pure intelligences that encircle Him, beholds it; and in that humble mind, and in that believing heart, He sees the divine and precious “salt,” which beautifies, sanctifies, and preserves the world. He sees true holiness nowhere else; He recognizes His own moral image in no other. The Christian is emphatically “the salt of the earth.”
But if the salt have lost its savor, with which shall it be salted? Matthew 5:13
THE indestructibility of the divine life in the soul of man, the imperishable nature of real grace, is a truth so deeply involving the holiness and happiness of the Christian, and—what is of still greater moment—the glory of God, that we would place it in the fore-ground of the statement we are about to advance. In the most searching investigation we would make into the state of religion in the soul, we would never forget, that where there exists real grace, that grace is as imperishable as the God who implanted it; that where true faith has led your trembling footsteps to Jesus, to receive Him as all your salvation, that faith is as deathless as its author.
But with this broad and emphatic statement of a great and holy truth, we must proceed to justify the affecting declaration of the Savior’s words, that the salt may lose its savor. In what sense will this apply to the spiritual life of the believer? Most clearly and indisputably, in the sense of a relapsed state of grace, and of its consequent loss of vigorous influence. The first symptom of this state which appears may be a change which the individual detects in his own soul as to his actual, personal enjoyment of religion. Put to him the question—With all your observance of external religious duties and activities, what amount of spiritual enjoyment have you of vital religion in your soul? Have spiritual truths that holy savor and sweetness to your taste which indicate a healthy state of soul? Do you know habitually what close, filial, and confidential communion with God is?—the purifying power of confession?—the frequent sprinkling of the atoning blood?—the meek submissive temper of mind in trials sent by God, or under provocation received from man? Were he to reply to these close, searching interrogatories as a man honest with himself and to his God, he would perhaps unhesitatingly answer—”Alas! the salt has lost its savor! There was a period when all this was the happy experience of my soul. There was then a savor in the very name of Jesus—but it is gone! There was a reality in divine truth—but it is gone! There was an attraction in the throne of grace—but it is gone! I once walked filially with my Heavenly Father—I felt the power of godliness in my soul—I knew what heart religion was, what secret, closet religion was—but alas! the salt has lost its savor!”
But a solemn question is proposed—”With which shall it be salted?” In other words, how can such a relapsed state of the spiritual life be recovered? The recovery is not impossible, and the case, therefore, is not hopeless. The salt may again be salted; the waning strength may be restored. Impossible as this may be to man, with God it is possible. By infusing a new life into the renewed nature, a fresh impartation of grace to the heart, and thus by putting His hand again to the entire work of restoring and reviving the whole inner man, the salt, re-salted, may regain its former sweetness and power. The means by which this great and gracious recovery may be effected are such as His wisdom will suggest, and His sovereignty will adopt. But of this we may rest assured, all will be under the direction of unchangeable love. Whether it may be by the gentle gales of the Spirit, or by the severe tempest of trial, is but of little moment in comparison of the happy and glorious result. If the salt that has lost its savor be but re-salted, the mysterious process by which it is effected we will calmly and submissively leave in His hands. “This also comes forth from the Lord of Hosts, who is wonderful in counsel and excellent in working.”
Give ear, O Lord, unto my prayer; and attend to the voice of my supplications. In the day of my trouble I will call upon you: for you will answer me. Psalm 86:6-7
THE grace that is brought into exercise in the season of affliction must necessarily tend greatly to promote the revival of the life of God in the soul of the believer. How liable is grace to decay, when all things smile upon a path smooth and unruffled! But God sends affliction, and the grace that lay concealed is brought to view, and the grace that remained dormant is summoned to arms; the whole soul is awakened, and inspired as with new life. “The trial of faith works, patience.” Thus one tried grace stirs up another grace, until all the links in the golden chain feel the electric influence, and are set in motion. Oh blessed trouble, that so stirs up the life of God in the soul as to make each grace of the Spirit a “new sharp threshing instrument having teeth;” a weapon re-cast, and newly furbished in the furnace, and so coming forth with keener edge and more polished blade, to “fight the fight of faith” with mightier power and success.
But the influence of sanctified affliction upon the inner life is, perhaps, the most evident and powerful in the revival of the spirit of prayer. Strange, that to this, the highest, holiest, and sweetest privilege prepared for the Christian, he is often the most indifferent, and in its observance his feelings are the most chilled and sluggish. What an evidence—one more melancholy there cannot be—of the moral deadness of the soul by nature, that even after it is quickened with a life that brings it into union with the life of God, after the Spirit of God has entered and made it His abode there, ever dwelling and reigning and working in it, there should still remain so much deadness to that which is spiritual, especially the most spiritual of all duties, and the most precious of all privileges—communion with God.
But in the time of trouble we awake to the conviction that we are in possession of a mighty instrument, which when exerted brings all heaven and the God of heaven into our soul. We start as from a dream; and just at the identical moment when all creature assistance droops, and all earthly resources fail, we discover that we are furnished with a power of relief mightier than the mightiest angels—a power which, when exerted (we speak it with reverence), overcomes, like the wrestling patriarch, Omnipotence itself—the power of prayer! And what is prayer but God’s power in the soul of a poor, feeble worm of the dust over himself? It was no human might of Jacob which enabled him to wrestle with, and prevail with, the Angel of the Covenant; it was the power of the Holy Spirit in his soul; and when the Divine Angel yielded, He yielded but to himself; and so God had all the glory—and shall have, of all that He has wrought for us, and of all that we have wrought by Him, through eternity. Oh costly and precious privilege, that of prayer! “You people, pour out your heart before him; God is a refuge for us.”
I was dumb, I opened not my mouth, because you did it. Psalm 39:9.
THERE are few lessons taught in God’s school more difficult to learn, and yet, when really learned, more blessed and holy, than the lesson of filial submission to God’s will. There are some beautiful examples of this in God’s word. “And Aaron held his peace.” Since God was ” sanctified and gloried,” terrible as was the judgment, the holy priest mourned not at the way, nor complained of its severity, patient and resigned to the will of God. Thus, too, was it with Eli, when passing under the heavy hand of God: “It is the Lord, let Him do what seems Him good.” He bowed in deep submission to the will of his God. Job could exclaim, as the last sad tidings brimmed his cup of woe, “The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.” And David was “dumb and opened not his mouth, because God did it.” But how do all these instances of filial and holy submission to the Divine will—beautiful and touching as they are—fade before the illustrious example of our adorable and blessed Lord: “O my Father, if this cup may not pass away from me, except I drink it, your will be done.” Oh, how did Jesus, in the deepest depth of His unutterable sorrow, “behave and quiet himself as a child that is weaned of his mother: his soul was even as a weaned child.” Such, beloved, be the posture of your soul at this moment. “Be still!” Rest in your Father’s hands, calm and tranquil, quiet and submissive, weaned from all but Himself. Oh, the blessedness of so reposing!
“Sweet to lie passive in His hands,
And know no will but His.”
“God’s love!” It is written upon your dark cloud—it breathes from the lips of your bleeding wound—it is reflected in every fragment of your ruined treasure—it is penciled upon every withered leaf of your blighted flower—”God is love.” Adversity may have impoverished you—bereavement may have saddened you—calamity may have crushed you—sickness may have laid you low—but “God is love.” Gently falls the rod in its heaviest stroke—tenderly pierces the sword in its deepest thrust—smilingly bends the cloud in its darkest hues—for “God is love.”
Until the day dawn. 2 Peter 1:19.
THERE awaits the believer such a day as earth never saw, but as earth will surely see—the daybreak of glory. Oh, what a day is this! It will be “as the light of the morning, when the sun rises, even a morning without clouds.” Grace now yields its long-held empire, and glory begins its brilliant and endless reign. The way-worn “child of the day” has emerged from the shadows of his pilgrimage, and has entered that world of which it is said, “there shall be no night there.” Contemplate some of the attributes of this day of glory.
It will be a day of perfect knowledge. When it is said that there will be no night in heaven, it is equivalent to the assertion that there will be no intellectual darkness in heaven; consequently there will be perfect intellectual light. It is said that we shall then “know every as also we are known.” The entire history of God’s government will then be spread out before the glorified saint, luminous in its own unveiled and yet undazzling brightness. The mysteries of providence, and the yet profounder mysteries of grace, which obscured much of the glory of that government, will then be unfolded to the wonder and admiration of the adoring mind. The misconceptions we had formed, the mistakes we had made, the discrepancies we had imagined, the difficulties that impeded us, the controversies that agitated us, all, all will now be cleared up—the day has broken, and the shadows have fled forever. Oh, blessed day of perfect knowledge, which will then give me reason to see that all the way along which my God is now leading me, through a world of shadows, is a right way; and that where I most trembled, there I had most reason to stand firm; and that where I most yielded to fear, there I had the greatest ground for confidence; and that where my heart was the most collapsed with grief, there it had the greatest reason to awaken its strings to the most joyous melody.
It will be a day of perfect freedom from all sorrow. It must be so, since it is written, that “God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain; for the former things are passed away.” What a cluster of sweet hopes is there! What a collection of bright beams, throwing, in focal power, their splendor over that cloudless day! Child of sorrow! sick ones dear to Christ! bereaved mourners! hear you these precious words, and let music break from your lips! God will dry your tears. As the mother comforts her sorrowing one, so God will comfort His. Yes, child of grief, there will be no more weeping then; for—oh, ecstatic thought!—”God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes.” And “there shall be no more death.” No more rending asunder of affection’s close and tender ties; no more separations from the hearts we love; the mourners no more go about the streets; for death is now swallowed up in victory! “Neither sorrow, nor crying.” Grief cannot find existence or place in an atmosphere of such bliss. No frustrated plans, no bitter disappointments, no withered hopes, no corroding cares, there mingle with the deep sea of bliss, now pouring its tide of joyousness over the soul. “Neither shall there be any more pain.” Children of suffering! hear you this. There will be no more pain racking the frame, torturing the limbs, and sending its influence through the system, until every nerve and fibre quivers with an indescribable agony. “The former things are passed away.”
It will be a day of perfect freedom from all sins. Ah! this methinks will be the brightest and sweetest of all the joys of heaven. The Canaanite will no more dwell in the land. Inbred corruption will be done away; the conflict within us will have ceased; no evil heart will betray into inconsistencies and sorrows; not a cloud of guilt will tarnish the unsullied purity of the soul. You holy ones of God! weeping, mourning over indwelling and outbreaking sin, the last sigh you heave will be a glad adieu to pollution—to be tormented with it no more, to be free from it forever. “I shall be satisfied, when I awake, with your likeness.” This is heaven indeed.
How sweet are your words unto my taste! Yes, sweeter than honey to my mouth. Psalm 110:103
THIS similitude is one of frequent occurrence in the Bible. Moses says, that the Lord made his people to “suck honey out of the rock, and oil out of the flinty rock.” It is quite clear, then, that we may regard this species of food as the symbol of great spiritual blessings. The sources from where the Christian’s nourishment is derived are various. We should be grateful to God that He has not limited us to one secondary source of spiritual nourishment. It was proper, it was wise and gracious in God, that there should be but one Plant of Renown, but one Rose of Sharon, but one Lily of the Valley, but one Living Vine, in other words, that there should be but one Savior and Redeemer, but one Head and Reservoir of the Church. But there are offshoots from this divine plant, there are streams issuing from this sacred fountain-head, from each of which the believer may, by faith, extract the nourishment that strengthens and revives hone?
And what is the word of God but this honey? And from where does this honey fall, but from the heart of God? It is the unfolding of the heart of God. His mind conveys the word, but His heart dictates the word. Take the promises; how “exceeding great and precious” they are. Have you not often found them sweet to your taste as the honey and the honeycomb? When some portion of the word suited to your present need has been brought home to your heart by the sealing power of the Holy Spirit, how have all other sweets become bitter to your taste compared with this! Your Heavenly Father saw your grief, your Divine Captain beheld your conflict and your exhaustion, and bade His Spirit go and drop that sweet promise into your sad heart, and you found the entrance of God’s word gave light and comfort to your sad and gloomy spirit.
The love of God in Christ! Oh, it is sweeter than honey. The love that gave Christ—that chose us in Christ—that has blessed us in Christ—that gives us standing in Christ—surely it passes all knowledge. To see it traveling over all the opposition of our unbelieving minds, and the corruption of our depraved hearts, and meeting us at some peculiar stage of our journey, in some painful crisis of our history, in some bitter lonely trial through which we are passing, how does this exalt our views of its greatness, and bring us into the experience of its sweetness! Such too is the love of the Spirit, His love as tasted in His calling—in His comforting—in His sanctifying—in His witnessing, and in all His effectual and unwearied teaching. “God is love;” and on this truth—sweet in our present experience—we shall be living through eternity, “if so be we have tasted that the Lord is gracious.”
For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. John 3:16.
RICH is the provision which God has made for poor broken-hearted, humble, penitent sinners “God so loved the world.” Oh what love was that! This is the love to which, as a trembling sinner, I invite you. And what has this vast and astounding love provided? A “Savior and a great one.” Jesus is that Savior! Has the Spirit convinced you of sin? Do you feel guilt a burden, and does the law’s curse lie heavy upon you? Then He is your Savior. Believe in Him, embrace and welcome Him. See, how He points to His atoning blood, and bids you bathe in it! See, how He shows you His wounded side, and invites you to take refuge in it! Hear Him say, “Come unto me, all you that labor, and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Him that comes to me, I will in no wise cast out.” Oh come to Jesus! A full Christ, a willing and an able Christ, a precious Christ, a tender, compassionate, loving Christ is He. There is a fullness of pardon, a fullness of righteousness, a fullness off grace, a fullness of love in Jesus; enough for you, enough for me, enough for every poor, penniless comer. Your vileness, your unworthiness, your poverty, your age, are no hindrance to your coming to Jesus. Where can you take your guilt, your burden, your sorrow, but to Him? Go, then, nothing doubting of a welcome. “Only believe,” and you are saved. Free, free as God’s grace can make it, is the blessing of salvation. Your own righteousness will avail you nothing in the procurement of Divine forgiveness. Coming, building on any work of your own, you will be as surely rejected, as he who comes building on Christ’s work alone will be surely received. “Being justified freely by his grace, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.” “By grace you are saved, through faith.” Oh, glad announcement to a poor bankrupt sinner!—without works! without merit! without money! without worthiness! Of faith! By grace! The Spirit of comfort speaking these words to your broken heart, you may exclaim in an ecstasy of joy, “Then I am saved!” God is mine, Christ is mine, salvation is mine, heaven is mine! Such, my reader, is the Lord Jesus. Oh! for a thousand tongues to tell of His dying love to poor sinners—the readiness and the gentleness with which He heals a broken heart, binds up a wounded spirit, soothes a disconsolate mind, and gives the “oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness.” “Whoever believes on him shall not be ashamed.”
Let a man examine himself. 1 Cor. 11:28.
THERE is nothing clearer than this, that man must be a new creature if he would enjoy heaven. God could not make you happy, unless He made you like Himself. God must make you divine—He must give you new desires, new principles—He must create you “new creatures in Christ Jesus.” And you must ascertain whether this great change has passed over you. The question must be—Have I “passed from death unto life”? Has my heart been smitten for sin—broken by the Holy Spirit? Have I come as a poor guilty sinner to the Lord Jesus Christ? Do not take all this for granted, but examine yourself, and see whether your heart has been laid upon God’s altar—whether it is a “broken and contrite heart, which He will not despise.” Examine yourself to ascertain the existence of love to God, and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. It is a most certain truth that “love is the fulfilling of the law.” Enmity against God is the great characteristic of the carnal mind—love to God is the great characteristic of the renewed mind. Do you feel that the name of Jesus creates a thrill of joy in your soul? Do you love God because He is holy, and because He is righteous? Are you in love with His government and with His law? Is it your delight and do you desire to be conformed to its teachings? Is it the supreme wish of your heart that God should rule you—and that you should submit to Him? Do you love Him for sending Jesus—His “unspeakable gift”? Do you love God as your Father—and because He sent His dear Son to bleed and die for you? Examine your own heart on these matters.
Examine your heart also, as to its governing principles. There are many deceitful things in the world. The wind is deceitful—the ocean is deceitful; but the most deceitful thing of all is the human heart. God searches the heart, and looks at all the principles by which we are governed; and no service is acceptable in His sight which does not spring from right motives. And oh, what self-seeking, what self-complacency, what desire for human approval is there in all our actions! But ask yourself—Is my heart governed by love to the Lord Jesus, and by the fear of God? Can I unveil my heart in this transaction as under the eye of one who pierces my inmost thoughts? Can I appeal to God and say—Lord, sinful as I am, I desire to do all for Your glory, and to be governed only by love to You. Examine your heart then, and see what are the principles which actuate you. If they are false—oh cast them away, and ask God so to destroy the power of sin in you, and so to govern you by His love, that you shall only do that which is pleasing in His sight. No service can be acceptable, but that which springs from love to Him, and a simple desire for His glory. But oh how acceptable, then, is even the smallest offering! It may be only the “widow’s mite”—or the “cup of cold water,”—but it is pleasing in the sight of God. It may be a service trying to yourself, and perhaps despised by others; but God sees your motives, and will accept your offering, if it springs from a principle in harmony with His will: “For the Lord sees not as man sees; for man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.”
Commune with your own heart upon your bed, and be still. Psalm 4:4
How spiritual and solemn is the engagement of communing with our own hearts! The heathen nations have enunciated it as an essential principle, “Man, know yourself,”—but with how much greater power does the Gospel enforce the important duty of self-communion. Let me offer one or two suggestions, as to the manner of engaging in this great work.
There must be an earnest seeking of the Spirit’s grace, in this spiritual duty; and if you thus seek, the Holy Spirit will be given to aid you. He will help, and guide, and teach you, and then it shall prove a most delightful exercise. Oh, seek the influence of this promised Spirit—that Spirit of Light—that Spirit of Love—that Spirit of Jesus which is so ready to aid you—and you shall then reap the most blessed results.
“Commune with your own heart” in communion with the heart of God. Let this self-communion be maintained at the “mercy-seat,” in earnest prayer. Feel that God loves you, and that though your love may have waned and become cold, yet that His is unalterably the same—that there is not one thought or pulsation in God’s heart which is against you. Feel that you are communing with your Father in heaven, and that you are His child, who, though full of weakness and sin, are yet standing in the closest relationship to your God. “Commune with your own heart,” with your eye of faith constantly fixed on the cross. You will find nothing in the bleeding heart of Jesus but love. And though you may feel burdened under a sense of guilt, yet look to Christ, and rest all your hope on His finished work.
The blessings which will result from this self-communion are many and great. Such a process of self-investigation will keep you acquainted with the exact state of your own soul. You will know how matters stand between God and your conscience. The creature cannot then encroach on that affection which is due to God, and you not know it. The world shall not make advances, and you not be aware of it. Come away, then, from the family circle—from all the turmoil of the world—seek your chamber—let no one intrude, and there “commune with your heart;”—not with your brother’s, not with your sister’s heart—but with your own heart; for this is a personal matter. Let the voice of conscience be heard—I must die alone—I must stand at the judgment-seat alone—I am to be searched alone. Let me then draw away my heart from all those I love, and who perhaps too fondly love me, and let me see how I stand with God. Another blessing which will follow this self-communion will be the great promotion of personal sanctity, and increase in holiness. It is impossible for a child of God thus to commune with himself, and not “grow in grace.” Only converse with your own heart, and you will be prepared to meet all the temptations that surround you, to resist all the hindrances that beset you. This communion will endear Jesus to your soul. You cannot become more acquainted with your own heart, and not know more of His heart. He will become more precious who has said, “My blood has pardoned all your sin, my righteousness wraps you round, and I will present you faultless before my Father.”
When he had by himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high. Hebrews 1:3
WHAT a blessed declaration is this!—the words are inexpressibly sweet. Having finished His work, having made an end of sin, having brought in an everlasting righteousness, having risen from the grave, having ascended up on high, Christ has sat down at the right hand of God, reposing in the full satisfaction, glory, and expectancy of His redeeming work. And for what object is He there seated? Why is He thus presented to the eye of faith? That the Church of God might have visibly and constantly before its view a risen, living Christ. Oh how constantly is the Lord teaching us that there is but one Being who can meet our case, and but one Object on which our soul’s affections ought to be supremely placed—even a risen Savior. We have temptations various; trials the world know nothing of, crosses which those who know and love us the most, never suspect; for often the heart’s acutest sorrow is the least discoverable upon the surface.
But here is our great mercy—Christ is alive. What if we are unknown, tried, tempted, and sad; we yet have a risen Savior to go to, who, as Rutherford says, “sighs when I sigh, mourns when I mourn, and when I look up He rejoices.” How can I want for sympathy, when I have a risen Christ? how can I feel alone and sad, when I have the society and the soothing of a living and an ever present Jesus—a Jesus who loves me, who knows all my circumstances, all my feelings, and has His finger upon my every pulse—who sees all my tears, hears all my sighs, and records all my thoughts—who, go to Him when I will, and with what I will, will never say to me no, nor bid me depart unblest—who is risen, exalted, and is set down at the right hand of His Father and my Father, His God and my God, to administer to me all the blessings of the everlasting covenant, and to mete out, as I need them, all the riches of His grace and the supplies of His salvation? Why then should I despond at any circumstance, why despair at any emergency, or sink beneath any trial, when I have a risen, a living Christ to go to? Oh the amazing power of the Lord’s resurrection! Oh the preciousness of the fruit that springs from it! Communion with our heavenly Father, near walking with God, a life of faith in Christ, living on high—living not only on Christ’s fullness, but on Christ himself; not only on what He has, but on what He is, in His godhead, in His humanity, in the tenderness of His heart, as well as the fullness of His salvation; living in the blessed anticipation of glory, and honor, and immortality; rising in the morning and saying, “This day, and every day, I would consecrate to my God;”—these are some of the fadeless flowers and precious fruits that grow around the grave of Jesus, when faith, listening to the voice that issues from the vacant sepulcher—”He is not here, but is risen”—looks up and beholds Him alive, “seated at the right hand of the Majesty on high.” Then, oh then, it exclaims in a transport of joy, “Whom have I in heaven but you? and there is none upon earth I desire beside you,” you risen, living, and glorious Redeemer!
“Oh, there is nothing in yon bright sky,
Worthy this worthless heart to own;
On earth there’s nothing; friends, creatures, fly;
I pant, my Lord, for You alone.”
Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin. Rom. 6:6
THE great evil and power of sin lies in the sin of our nature, the body of death which we bear about with us. And herein consists true mortification—the slaying of the principle from where all sin proceeds; the subduing of the original corruption, the strength of which weakens the actings of grace, by impairing the principle of grace. Oh, then, be earnest in seeking this attainment! Do not be content to arrest the stream while the fountain runs, nor to sever the branches while the root remains. But going to the source of the evil, descending to the depth of the corruption, begin the holy work where the potency of sin mainly lies. What is your predominant sin?—lay the axe at its root. Seek its death and destruction, or it will be death and destruction to you as long as it prevails. It must bring a deathliness into the life of God within you, and prove the ruin of your peace and joy and happiness. “Therefore, brethren, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live after the flesh. For if you live after the flesh, you shall die; but if you through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, you shall live.” Oh, then, take this sin which seeks to have dominion over you, to the cross of Jesus, and transfix it there; and as it dies, your soul shall live. Nothing but the cross of Jesus will prove its death, and your life. “I am crucified with Christ, nevertheless I live.” There must be the crucifixion before the life; Christ’s death for sin must be our death unto sin: no mere outward mortification, no fastings, nor self-inflictions, nor painful austerities, will ever weaken the principle or mortify the root of sin; nothing but faith in the atoning blood of the Son of God can effectually meet the case. Far be it from me to speak indifferently of that aid to the mortification of in-being sin which God’s word encourages. I would not lightly esteem, as auxiliary to faith in the atonement, the diligent reading of the word—frequent meditation upon its truths—seasons of retirement from others, and from surrounding objects—private communion with God—self-examination—self-judging—and honest, minute confession of sin. Nor would I overlook the immense blessing which often flows from deep affliction, from painful, bitter trial, traced in the deeper mortification of sin in the temper, spirit, and life of the true believer. But in this great and solemn work our constant motto must be, ” Looking unto Jesus.” Without the eye of faith upon the cross, apart from the efficacy of the atoning blood and the power of the grace that is in Jesus, there can be no effectual progress in the real work of sanctification. One sight of a crucified Savior imparted by the Holy Spirit will more effectually weaken the power of in-dwelling sin than all other means combined. Oh the might of the cross! Oh the virtue of the blood! Oh the power of the grace of Jesus to crucify, cleanse, and subdue our iniquities! Suffer not any sin, then, to have power over you, seeing Jesus can enable you to oppose it, and will crown your sincere and persevering opposition with a certain and glorious victory. “He will subdue our iniquities.”
It is good for me that I have been afflicted; that I might learn your statutes. Psalm 119:71
THE believer, regarding all God’s dispensations in the light of needed discipline, cheerfully acquiesces in the wisdom and righteousness of the Divine procedure. Discipline by trial is an essential element in the Christian’s sanctification and instruction. Our adorable Lord, as man, exemplified this truth in His own personal history. We read that, “Though he were a Son, yet learned He obedience by the things which He suffered.” The lesson which Christ learned—to Him a new one—was the lesson of obedience—obedience to the will of His Father in suffering. As the curse dilated before Him into more perfect and awful proportion, He came to learn more of the evil of sin and more of the difficulties of redemption, and so more deeply the lesson of obedience—doing and suffering the will of God. It was thus our blessed Lord was perfected through suffering. And this, beloved, is the school in which the “many sons” Christ is bringing to glory learn submission to the Father’s will. The discipline which was becoming in the case of the Head, cannot be without its need and its blessing in the case of the members. There is much—many deep truths of God, and many holy lessons of practical Christianity—to be learned in the pathway trodden by the Savior, which can be learned in no other path—the path of afflictive discipline! But, oh, how needful and how wholesome this discipline! Who would be exempt from it, that has once plucked and tasted the fruit which clusters so richly on the blossoming rod? If submission to the Divine will is ever learned, beyond all question it is where Christ learned it—by the things which we suffer. And, oh, what holy fruit is this—the will of God accomplished in us! The pathway may be through the furnace, whitened seven-fold with the heat, but your will has become more pliant with the will of your Heavenly Father. If the Christian character has become purified, and the graces of the Holy Spirit have become strengthened, and a wider and freer scope has been given to faith, and hope, and love, then ought we not to rejoice in tribulation? The canker-worm has perhaps been busy at the root of your pleasant gourd, the cold east wind has blown rudely over the long-nurtured buds, and the fell hand of death has laid the cedar low, and in the anguish of your soul you exclaim, “Is it nothing to you, all you that pass by? behold and see if there be any sorrow like unto my sorrow, which is done unto me, with which the Lord has afflicted me in the day of his fierce anger.” But the Son of God drank a deeper and bitterer cup, and trod a more suffering path, than you, and yet could say, “My Father, not my will, but Your be done;” and shall you shrink from a training and a discipline through whose courses God led the Elder Brother and High Priest of our profession? “Oh, no!” you reply “the self-knowledge I have already attained unto has been so needful and so salutary, that I would not that the cup of sorrow had passed my lips untouched. I little thought I was so unbelieving until the Lord tried my faith. I little imagined that I was so impatient, self-willed, and restive, until God bade me wear the yoke and wait His will. I little supposed that my strength was so small, until the Lord laid upon me the burden. Little did I believe how limited was my knowledge of Christ, how deficient was my acquaintance with divine truth, and how estranged my heart was from true prayer, until the affliction of my God set me upon examining my resources to meet it. Then I discovered how shallow was my experience, and how low and meager was my Christianity. Thus when we trace the discipline to its necessity, the chastisement to the evil it was designed to correct, the meek and lowly heart can say, “It is good for me that I have been afflicted.”
Say you to the righteous, that it shall be well with him. Isaiah 3:10
IN all the spiritual exercises through which the believer in Jesus passes, it must in truth be well with him as to his real standing in Christ. You may be walking in darkness, or in light. You may be mourning in the valley, or rejoicing on the mount; now conquering, now foiled; now weeping, now rejoicing; yet it is still well with you as a pardoned, justified, saved sinner. Nothing can touch your interest in the Savior, or expel you from the covenant, or change the love of God towards you. There are tides in the faith and comfort of a child of God, even as there are in the ocean. The believer has his ebb and flow, his fluctuations of spiritual feeling. It is often low tide with his soul. The waves of spiritual joy and peace ebb, and all looks barren and cheerless. And now he begins to question the reality of all his former experience, and the sincerity of all his past professions. He abjures his adoption, doubts his interest in Christ, puts from him the promises, appropriates the judgments, keeps back from the ordinances, and his soul refuses to be comforted. But, beloved saint of God, is there no flow, as well as ebb, in the spiritual joy and comfort of the believer? Is there no return of the tide of faith and consolation and hope, in the Christian’s experience—the wave of love’s infinite ocean, of the soul’s perfect peace, of glory’s anticipated joy, rolling back again upon the shore, in sweet heavenly cadence? Oh yes! Listen to the Divine assurances of this: “I have loved you with an everlasting love.” “I have chosen you, and not cast you away.” “I will never leave you, nor forsake you.” “I have prayed for you, that your faith frill not.” “I will restore comforts unto you.” “I will not leave you comfortless.” You have a little strength.” “Therefore will the Lord wait that he may be gracious unto you.” “He will be very gracious unto you at the voice of your cry: when he shall hear it, he will answer you.” “He restores my soul.” All these exceeding great and precious promises, beloved, are yours. They are your Father’s epistles of love, and He bids you read, believe, and enjoy them.
Oh, it is, it must be, well with those whose sins are forgiven through Christ, whose people are accepted in the Beloved, whose God is the Lord, and upon whom His eye of love and delight rests from the beginning of the year to the end of the year. Say not it is ill with your soul, and not well, because the Holy Spirit is inserting the plough more deeply into your heart, thus discovering more of its hidden evil, detecting the lurking sin where its existence was not suspected, and discovering the flaw and the failure in the action, the principle, the motive, the end, which the fair surface, self-flattery, or specious reasoning had concealed. Oh say not that it is ill with your soul, and not well, because Jesus does not speak, God does not smile, and prayer is not answered. “For a small moment,” says God, ” have I hid myself from you; but with great mercies will I gather you.” In the dreary, lonely, trying path you now tread, trace you not the footsteps of the flock, and, yet more distinct and blessed than all, the footprints of the Shepherd of the flock? Do not be, then, cast down. The Lord will bring you through this night of weeping into a morning of joy. And your knowledge will be the deeper, and your faith the stronger, and your joy the fuller, and your hope the brighter, and your song the sweeter and the louder, for all the painful exercises through which your soul has passed, and with deeper emphasis you shall exclaim, “It is well.”
An inheritance among all those who are sanctified. Acts 20:32.
UNDER the figure of an inheritance, heaven is here presented to the mind. Nor is this the only passage in which the same similitude occurs. In the first chapter of the Ephesians, and the eleventh verse, we read—”In whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of Him who works all things after the counsel of His own will:” and in the thirteenth verse of the same chapter, it will be observed, we have a pledge or an earnest of this inheritance—”In whom, also, after you believed, you were sealed with that Holy Spirit of promise, which is the earnest of our inheritance, until the redemption of the purchased possession, to the praise of His glory.” And if it be inquired what the saints of God do thus inherit, the answer will be found in the twenty-first chapter of the Revelation by John, and the seventh verse: “He that overcomes shall inherit all things; and I will be his God, and he shall be my son.” How vast, how illimitable, then, the inheritance of the saints—inheriting “all things”! It is a beautiful idea of heaven; it is a lovely picture, on which the eye of faith delights to dwell. The earthly heir looks at his inheritance, surveys it, walks through it, luxuriates amid its beauties, and anticipates its full possession. The heir of glory has his inheritance too; it is heaven. He looks to it, he longs for it; and soon the Savior will come in personal glory, and institute him into its full and eternal possession. But whose is this inheritance? It is the inheritance of the Lord’s holy ones, of every nation and from every fold. They form the whole election of grace—the chosen, ransomed, called people of God, be their outward name among men what it may—all who are sanctified by God the Father—all who have been washed in the blood of the Lamb—all who are renewed by the Holy Spirit—all who have “the white stone” and the “new name” in that white stone—all who are living holy, godly lives, in whom dwells the Holy Spirit—and by whose grace the Lord is, day by day, step by step, carrying on that blessed kingdom of grace in their hearts, which will soon fit them for the full possession of eternal glory.
And what is the great end of all God’s dealings with His people? For what purpose is the Lord’s furnace in Zion, and His fire in Jerusalem? It is to purify, and sanctify, and fit the believer for “an inheritance among all those who are sanctified.” All your heaven-blessed trials, all your sanctified temptations, all the covenant transactions of God with you, beloved, in the way of afflictive providences, are designed but to fit you more thoroughly for your inheritance. In this point of view, who would not welcome the severest chastisement? who would not drink willingly the bitterest cup? who would not be willing to have the fetter unbound, the chain snapped, the bond severed, that gives liberty to his struggling and ascending spirit, and brings him in a state of holy fitness nearer and still nearer to heaven?
Who is a wise man and endued with knowledge among you? let him show out of a good conversation his works with meekness of wisdom. James 3:13
THE knowledge and the grace that God has given You, though for yourself primarily, are not for yourself exclusively. God, in making you a possessor of Divine grace, designed that, through the consistency of your walk, the holiness of your life, and the personal activity of your grace in the cause of God and of truth, it might be dispersed abroad for the benefit of others.
To the true believer it is given to know the mysteries of the kingdom, while from others they are hidden. Where may we look for an understanding of the revealed mind of God but to him? Who knows the secret of the Lord, and to whom does he show His covenant, but to those who fear Him? Having an “unction from the Holy One,” he knows all things. He knows something of that mystery, which no philosophy of man can teach him—the plague of his own heart. He knows something, too, of the value of Christ—His person, His work, His glory, His fullness, His tenderness, His sympathy, His preciousness. He knows something of the character and dealings of God—as a holy God, as a just God, and yet who blots out sin, and remembers it no more forever. He knows in some measure what the intricacies of the intricate way are; what the narrowness of the narrow path is; what are the difficulties of walking with God; what are the conflicts, the trials, the tribulations of the Christian life. The Spirit of holiness inhabiting him, despite the corrupt sediment of his fallen nature, he contains and dispenses abroad that stream of holy influence which carries with it a blessing wherever it flows. Where do we look for true holiness save in the soul born again of the Spirit? A holy man is earth’s greatest blessing—is the world’s richest ornament and shield. How full of compassion is the real Christian! He it is who, taught the priceless value of his own eternal happiness, has affections of compassion for the souls of others involved in like ruin with himself. “Oh that my head were waters, and mine eyes a fountain of tears!” says Jeremiah. “Rivers of water run down mine eyes, because they keep not Your law!” exclaims David. The Lord Jesus, the great Mourner, who wept not for Himself, but for others, has His bottle for the tears of those whose sympathies, prayers, and exertions flow forth for the conversion of sinners, for the salvation of souls. Full of charity, too, is the true Christian. Where shall we look for the Divine cement, the true bond, which unites the heart of man to man, but in the one Church of God? Who is the true peace-maker, the diligent sower of peace, the zealous promoter of love, charity, and good-will among men, but he in whose heart the love of God finds a home? Who has such sincere pity for the poor—whose hand is more ready to relieve their necessities, than he who himself is a conscious partaker of the benevolence of God? Such, dear reader, are some of the characteristics of true Christians.